Friday, January 30, 2015

Princesse de Broglie (1853)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Princesse de Broglie

Although portraiture was a genre he increasingly came to dislike, Ingres depicted many of the leading personalities of his day. This splendid painting of Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassace de Béarn, princesse de Broglie, is his last commissioned portrait of a female sitter. The princesse, a member of the most cultivated circles of the Second Empire, was renowned for her great beauty as well as her reserve, both qualities captured in this portrait. Ingres's facility for brilliantly transcribing the material quality of objects is seen in the rich satin and lace of the sitter's gown, the silk damask upholstery, and the richly embroidered evening scarf draped across the chair. Also rendered in exquisite detail are the princesse's sumptuous jewels, which include the fashionable antique-inspired pendant around her neck.

The Princesse de Broglie died of consumption at the age of thirty-five. Her bereaved husband kept this portrait behind draperies in perpetual tribute to her memory. It remained in the family until shortly before it was acquired by Robert Lehman and retains the original, ornately carved frame that Ingres himself selected. [Metropolitan Museum]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1853)

Paul Delaroche: Assassination of the Duc de Guise

No picture displays the absolute ability of Paul Delaroche more than his Assassination of the Duke de Guise, though small: here, independent of almost perfect art, are dramatic unity and probability, developed to that extend that painting is forgotten, and one can think only of the infamous assassination; all art convention is utterly discarded: the large chamber compared with the small figures; the prostrate body, and the bed on one side; the great space between, and on the other the group of skulking assassins, with the cowardly king, still afraid of the duke though but a corpse. If such art is to be called genre, it is a genre of an altitude to which few historical painters indeed have ever attained. [Ralph Nicholson Wornum, The Epochs of Painting. A Biographical and Critical Essay on Paintings and Painters of All Times and Many Places, Chapman and Hall, London, 1864, p. 485]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gustave Courbet (1853)

 Houses at Chateau D'Ornans
 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his Children
 The Sleeping Spinner

La Fileuse will save Courbet’s exhibit,” wrote Champfleury to Max Buchon before the opening of the Salon of 1853. The picture did not meet with the same hostility as the other two and all those who were alive to the painter’s qualities seized the opportunity to pay him their compliments, all, however, more or less reserved.

“In this picture,” wrote Delacroix in his diary, ” there is all the accustomed vigour and imitative quality of this artist. If the dress and the armchair are heavy and clumsy, the spinning wheel and the distaff are admirable. “It is a sincere, frank piece of work,” wrote H. de la Madelène, “which cannot alarm anybody and must charm many. . . The girl is not a coquette and she is rather heavily wrapped up in her wide fichu and her red-flowered dress, but, thank God, she is not a Parisienne, and for that I applaud the painter. . Other people will complain no doubt that the Spinner is no more like a Greek or a Georgian woman. Good Heavens! We have only too many of your painters of Greek women and we are very lucky to have a man who is trying to paint peasant women as God made them! The eye can rest and gaze on this picture with the same pleasure that one finds in life when one leaves the company of artificial people and lights upon a simple, genuine human being.”

Proudhon also was delighted with the artist for having painted neither a goddess, nor a Greek, nor a fashionable doll, nor a Florian shepherdess, but a really “physiological beauty, full-blooded, alive, strong and tranquil.” With many philosophical divagations he admires the “magnificent creature. . . , The thread has fallen from her hand. Almost we can hear her slow breathing instead of the whirring of the wheel. Every day she rises early in the morning; she is the last to go to bed . . . It is in her spare moments that she takes her distaff, and turns to the gentle slow work, the slight noise of which is not enough to keep her, healthy countrywoman that she is, awake. Do you understand now why Courbet made his spinner a mere peasant ? There would be no sense in her otherwise; more than that, I say she would be indecent, . . . Only the truth, discarding every impure thought, could here suggest both an idea and an ideal, without which art is reduced to arbitrariness and insignificance and disappears.” [Yodelout!]
The Wrestlers

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Empress Eugénie (1853)

Etienne Billet: Empress Eugénie

Eugénie de Montijo was the last woman in France to have the title of Empress. She was the wife of Emperor Napoleon III.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1853)

 A Harvester in a Summer Landscape
View of the Isle of Capri

Harpignies was a painter in the Barbizon school. He was a particularly close friend of Corot; the two traveled to Italy together. These two canvases date to 1853.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Young Ladies of the Village (1852)

Gustave Courbet: The Young Ladies of the Village

This painting, which initiated a series of pictures devoted to the lives of women, shows Courbet's three sisters out for a walk in the Communal, a small valley near his native village of Ornans. Painted during the winter of 1851–52, Young Ladies of the Village was preceded by several studies, including an oil sketch (Leeds City Art Gallery) in which Courbet established the leading features of the Metropolitan's picture. In this, the final work, he gave the figures a more prominent role and altered the landscape, omitting the two large trees that in the study are silhouetted against the sky. He also repainted and enlarged the cattle.

When the work was exhibited in the Salon of 1852, critics bitterly attacked it, finding it tasteless and clumsy and berating the common features and countrified costumes of the three girls, the "ridiculous" little dog and cattle, and the painting's overall lack of unity, including traditional perspective and scale. Ironically, the very effects that Courbet worked hardest to achieve were the ones that proved most troublesome. [Metropolitan Museum]

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Human Comedy (1852)

Jean-Louis Hamon: The Human Comedy

[A] work by Hamon, The Human Comedy, was purchased by the government; first shown in 1851 and exhibited again at the 1855 World’s Fair, it enjoyed a popular success despite its somewhat puzzling subject. Hamon set his scene in the mythical Elysian Fields, the realm of the blessed heroes of the past, and invited his Salon audience to join the populace in contemplation of a diverting spectacle where “Love is hanged, Bacchus is thrashed, and Minerva, who eternally settles everyone’s accounts, provides plenty of amusement for the curious passers-by in the ideal abode…” The picture’s focus is an outdoor puppet show entitled Théâtre Guignol, the name of a real marionette show located at the Champs-Elysées, which inspired Hamon’s pun on the Elysian Fields. Like the Italian comedy, the outdoor entertainment was often referred to as a “petite comédie humaine,” where a few primal characters summed up the whole of human experience. [Albert Boime, Art and the Age of Civil Struggle, 1848-1871, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 610]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cossack Girls Finding Mazeppa's Body (1851)

Théodore Chassériau: Cossack Girls Finding Mazeppa's Body

Mazeppa was a figure of legend, a Ukrainian who became leader of the Cossacks.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Firemen Running to a Fire (1851)

Gustave Courbet: Firemen Running to a Fire

The Firemen is one of Courbet’s most enigmatic large-scale works. After the death of her brother, Juliette Courbet found this huge canvas rolled up in his studio and donated it to the City of Paris. The scene depicts the outbreak of a fire in a Parisian street at night.

A workman in overalls with his arm in the air has raised the alarm. The hand-drawn fire cart has been wheeled out of the fire station. Passers-by – a working-class mother, a staggering adolescent and a bourgeois couple – stand back to leave it room for maneuver. The firemen simulated setting off by torchlight for the painter, but the idea for the painting goes back to a trip Courbet made to Holland, which by his own admission was an important lesson in painting for him. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, which he saw in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, depicts the municipal guard setting off under the command of Captain Cocq. As in the Burial at Ornans, the wheeling movement performed by the firemen disrupts the longitudinal perspective of the composition in which all the figures are grouped in the lower half of the canvas. This movement, which is exaggerated by arm gestures, seems to extend beyond the canvas towards the visitor standing in front of it. Courbet reserved the upper half of the painting for the urban landscape, whose diagonal grounds punctuate the composition. In a striking form of shorthand, Courbet conjures up the urban renewal which is underway in the capital by juxtaposing a Gothic gate on the right, symbolizing the medieval town, with a gas lamp, symbolizing the City of Light under construction. [Le Petit Palais]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pardon Day in Brittany (1851)

Pierre-Charles Poussin: Pardon Day in Brittany

Pardon, from the Latin perdonare, — assimilated in form to donum, a gift, middle English, to the old French perdun and pardun, and modern French pardonner — signifies in Brittany the feast of the patron saint of a church or chapel, at which an indulgence is granted. Hence the origin of the word "Pardon" as used in Brittany. To these Breton Pardons come pilgrims from every side, clad in their best costumes which are only to be seen there and at a wedding. It is a pilgrimage of devotion and piety. The greater part of the day is spent in prayer and the Pardon begins with early Mass at 4 AM. Its observance, however, has actually commenced earlier, for the preceding evening is devoted to confession, and the rosary is generally recited by the pilgrims the whole way to the place of the Pardon. [Catholic Encyclopedia]

The subject of this painting is associated with the feast held in honor of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours at Guingamp, which takes place on the first Sunday in July and the preceding Saturday.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Angel of Death (1851)

Horace Vernet: The Angel of Death

Usually nowadays the phrase "Angel of Death" has a sinister overtone. But this Angel of Death looks pretty comforting.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Great Exhibition (1851)

These two paintings by Eugene Louis Lami are of England's Great Exhibition, which took place from May-October 1851 and featured as its centerpiece the Crystal Palace.

 The Inauguration of Crystal Palace
The Opening of the Great Exhibition

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Alfred Dehodencq (1851)

 A Confraternity in Procession along Calle Génova
A Gypsy Dance in the Gardens of the Alcázar in front of the Pavilion of Charles V