Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Novella d'Andrea (exhibited 1843)

Marie-Éléonore Godefroid: Novella d'Andrea

The subject of the painting, Novella d'Andrea (born in 1312), was an Italian legal scholar and professor in law at the University of Bologna.

As the daughter of Giovanni d'Andrea, professor in Canon law at the University of Bologna, she was educated by her father and reportedly took over his lectures at the university during his absence. According to Christine de Pisan, she talked to the students through a curtain so they would not be distracted by her beauty. Her sister, Bettina d'Andrea, is reported to have taught law and philosophy at the university at Padua, where her husband Giovanni Da Sangiorgio was also employed, until her death in 1335. A family of unusually accomplished women, for the 14th century.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Portrait of Marie d'Agoult (1843)

Henri Lehmann: Portrait of Marie d'Agoult

This interesting lady was an author who published under a male name ("Daniel Stern"); among her works is a three-volume history of the French Revolution. She was also a long-term mistress of Franz Liszt and had three children by him.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reception in Honor of Queen Victoria (1843)

Eugène Lami: Reception in Honor of Queen Victoria in the Family Room at the Chateau d'Eu

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Childhood of Pico della Mirandola (1842)

Paul Delaroche: The Childhood of Pico della Mirandola

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was an Italian Renaissance philosopher, and a prodigious scholar and author who lived in the 15th century. He fell prey to the political instability of the times, falling under the sway of the radical monk Savonarola and dying of poison.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Odalisque with Slave (1842)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Odalisque with Slave

Here is Ingres's most famous painting, previously seen as a drawing here. This is the second version of this painting that he did; the previous one was entirely indoors, while this version has a garden in the background. This painting was commissioned by King Wilhelm I of Württemberg and was executed by Ingres with the assistance of his pupil Paul Flandrin.

Ingres was known publicly as the great upholder of le pur classique as well as the most vociferous opponent of Romanticism and its excesses, personified by Ingres’ arch-rival and opponent Delacroix, painter of rape and murder and affray, in the hues of blood and fire. “I smell brimstone,” Ingres used to say, whenever Delacroix walked into the room. But the picture reproduced here, a dreamily erotic, sensually overloaded fantasy of a concubine’s life in some imaginary Near Eastern harem, shows that Ingres himself was a more passionate and romantic artist than he cared to admit. As the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire perceptively noted, “one of the things that distinguishes Monsieur Ingres is his love of women: his libertinism is serious and full of conviction.”

Odalisque with Slave is an Aladdin’s cave of sensual enticements, set in a space decorated by a proliferation of dancing patterns and designs, painted in such a profusion of sharp and bright colors that it has an almost narcotic intensity of effect. At the center of it all, semi-swathed in a bolt of white drapery and posed amid extravagant crumples of blue and gold satin, like a half-unwrapped gift, the painter has arranged the reclining form of an oriental Venus.  The startling, pearly whiteness of her skin is made to seem all the more emphatic by contrast with the duskier complexions of her two attendants, a black eunuch and a turbaned slave playing a Turkish lute. The cheeks of Ingres’ odalisque are slightly flushed and her long golden hair flows across her striped pillow and down to the floor like a river. Apart from these two traces of color, and the delicate touches of pink that define her nipples, she is a marmoreally pale object of desire. Posed like a classical sculpture, she rather resembles a statue in the process of coming to life. Ingres may have intended this effect, meaning it to suggest a woman’s gradual awakening from languorous torpor to a more passionate mood. The eunuch looks pointedly away and out of the scene, an expression which could merely express deference to his mistress, or indicate the imminent arrival of a guest. Perhaps she is indeed expecting a visitor. The bold red column in the background is an interestingly phallic addition to the scene, while the slight turn of the odalisque’s head and the movement of her eyes heightens the air of sexual anticipation.

The image has its origins in a study drawn from life some months earlier, just before the artist had taken up his post in Italy. On that drawing, which still survives, Ingres made a note of the name and address of his Parisian model, a certain Madame Felix of 4 Rue du Chaume. He also jotted down several alternative titles for a finished painting to be based on it – “Sleep”, “The Siesta”, “The Sultana at Rest” and “Italian Woman Taking a Siesta”. His mind was made up by a re-reading of one of his favorite books, the so-called “Embassy Letters”, describing life in Turkey, written by the eighteenth-century traveller and author Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ingres’ notebooks contain a passage copied verbatim, describing the Englishwoman’s visit to the house of a Turkish concubine: “One entered into a vestibule paved with marble whose design formed the most beautiful mosaic. From there, one proceeded to a room surrounded by sofas, on which one could rest before entering the bath… Around this bed there burned, in golden censers, the most agreeable aromatics of the East, and here several women devoted to this purpose awaited the sultana’s exit from the bath to dry her beautiful body and rub it with the sweetest oils; and it was here that she subsequently took her voluptuous relaxation…” [Andrew Graham-Dixon Archive]

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Plague of Thebes (1842)

Charles Francois Jalabert: The Plague of Thebes

The "Plague of Thebes" was referenced in Oedipus Rex, the great play by Sophocles. Modern disease detectives have tried to figure out what it was.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wife of Admiral Duperré and Her Daughters (1841)

Théodore Chassériau: Portrait of the Wife of Admiral Duperré and Her Daughters
Wikipedia has an article about the admiral; his wife and daughters are not mentioned.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hemicycle of the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1841)

 Paul Delaroche: Hémicycle of the Ecole des Beaux Arts (left panel)
 (central panel)
(right panel)

In 1837 Delaroche received the commission for the great picture that came to be known as the Hémicycle, a Raphaelesque tableau influenced by The School of Athens. This was a mural 27 metres (88.5 ft) long, in the hemicycle of the award theatre of the École des Beaux Arts. The commission came from the École's architect, Félix Duban. The painting represents seventy-five great artists of all ages, in conversation, assembled in groups on either hand of a central elevation of white marble steps, on the topmost of which are three thrones filled by the creators of the Parthenon: architect Phidias, sculptor Ictinus, and painter Apelles, symbolizing the unity of these arts.

To supply the female element in this vast composition he introduced the genii or muses, who symbolize or reign over the arts, leaning against the balustrade of the steps, depicted as idealized female figures. The painting is not fresco but done directly on the wall in oil. Delaroche finished the work in 1841, but it was considerably damaged by a fire in 1855. He immediately set about trying to re-paint and restore the work, but died on 4 November 1856, before he had accomplished much of this. The restoration was finished by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury. [Wikipedia]

A contemporary paean to the Hémicycle was printed in The Crayon in 1855.

Monday, July 14, 2014

La comtesse de La Tour-Maubourg (1841)

Théodore Chassériau: La comtesse de La Tour-Maubourg 
(née Marie-Louise-Charlotte-Gabrielle Thomas de Pange)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1841)

Eugène Delacroix: A Jewish Wedding in Morocco

As a musician I used to play for weddings periodically. I can tell you that Jewish weddings were always the most fun - people really enjoyed themselves.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Napoleon at Wagram (1841)

Joseph Louis Hippolyte Bellangé: Napoleon at Wagram, July 1809

The Battle of Wagram was a decisive (but not complete) victory for the French over the forces of the Fifth Coalition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Homer (1841)

Jean-Baptiste Auguste Leloir: Homer

This makes an interesting contrast with the rather more pompous Apotheosis of Homer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Turkish Boys Let Out of School (1841)

Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps: Turkish Boys Let Out of School

Decamps was born in Paris. In his youth he traveled in the East, and reproduced Oriental life and scenery with a bold fidelity to nature that puzzled conventional critics. His powers, however, soon came to be recognized, and he was ranked along with Delacroix and Ingres as one of the leaders of the French Orientalist school. At the Paris Exhibition of 1855 he received the grand or council medal. 

This painting shows that some things truly are universal.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014