Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ingres - Drawings (1859)

 Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Madame Charles Gounod, nee Anna Zimmermann
Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Madame Charles Simart, nee Amelie Baltard

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Charles Giraud (1859)

 Charles Giraud: Interior of the Office of Alfred Emilien, Count of Nieuwerkerke, 
Director General of the Imperial Museums, at the Louvre
Charles Giraud: The Salon of Princesse Mathilde, rue de Courcelles

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Zeuxis Choosing a Model for Helen (1858)

Victor Mottez: Zeuxis Choosing a Model for Helen

Zeuxis was an ancient Greek painter of acclaimed skill. This painting depicts the story that, in searching for a model for his painting of Helen of Troy, he decided no one woman has all the qualities of beauty he was looking for, so he used five different models, selecting the best points from each to make his painting of an ideal beauty.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Caen Lorne Cours Caffardelli (1858)

Stanislas Lepine: Caen Lorne Cours Caffardelli

The title of this is pretty unclear. I'm guessing it's a painting of the harbor at Caen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Empress Eugenie at Biarritz (1858)

E. Defonds: Empress Eugenie at Biarritz

Biarritz is a city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department in southwestern France. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers. Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). European royalty, including British monarchs Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, were frequent visitors. [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Madame de Lamballe reading to Marie Antoinette (1858)

Joseph Caraud: Madame de Lamballe reading to Marie Antoinette 
and her daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Still Life with a Pipe and Matches (1858)

Alexandre Gabriel Decamps: Still Life with a Pipe and Matches

The Latin epigram "utere ne abutere" translates as "do not overdo."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Young Ladies by the River Seine (1856-57)

Gustave Courbet: Young Ladies by the River Seine

One of Courbet's most famous works, this canvas was rather shocking to the viewing public of the late 1850s, with its depiction of idling city girls, one boldly displaying her undergarments (ironically, this would likely have been seen at the time as more titillating than total nudity), and its (seen by some, anyway) insinuations of lesbianism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Duel after the Masquerade Ball (1857)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Duel after the Masquerade Ball

Duel After the Masquerade, painted in 1857, is one of the most remarkable and haunting pictures in Gérôme’s oeuvre.  The picture depicts the aftermath of a duel after a costume ball – a foggy morning in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris.  Pierrot is dying in the arms of the Duc de Guise; a man in the costume of a Venetian doge examines the wound while Domino behind them is overcome with emotion and remorse.  To the right, the victor, in the costume of an American Indian, leaves alongside Harlequin.

What is it about Duel After the Masquerade that is so suggestive, so disquieting, so evocative?  Is it the fact that we are looking at the last moments of Pierrot’s life?  Surely not, as we have seen hundreds of pictures featuring men dying.  Is it the look of concern and consternation of his fellows?  Or is it simply the fact that a man in clown’s makeup is always both more-and-less than human…?

The point of the duel can be deduced by Gérôme’s clever use of costume.  Pierrot is a pantomime character; a sad clown in love with Columbine, who usually leaves him for Harlequin.  Pierrot is the quintessential loser – he is too naive for his own good, is the butt of pranks, and invariably trusts the wrong person.  Harlequin, who is leading the winning duelist away, on the other hand, is a servant of the devil, helping chase the souls of the damned to hell.   Clearly, these two men have not tried to kill each other over a point of honor, but over a woman and, in Gérôme’s picture, evil has triumphed.

And perhaps it is that – the clear triumph of evil – that is so haunting in this picture.  The doomed Pierrot is clearly not a villain, and probably not the aggressor, either.  Those supporting his body during his final moments are too horrified, too gentle, too dismayed for the dying man to have been an agent of evil.  Indeed, Harlequin leads the Indian away (as he leads away damned souls) with their backs to us, as if we are unworthy of their regard. [The Jade Sphinx]

Monday, April 6, 2015

Édouard Louis Dubufe (1857)

 Édouard Louis Dubufe: Portrait of the Countess of Hallez-Claparede
Édouard Louis Dubufe: Rosa Bonheur with Bull

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Colossos of Memnon (1857)

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Colossos of Memnon

This is one of a pair of massive statues built by ancient Egyptians in honor of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. A modern photo is below. Gérôme's painting appears to be of the one on the right.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Gleaners (1857)

Jean-François Millet: The Gleaners

Millet first unveiled The Gleaners at the Salon in 1857. It immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes, who viewed the topic with suspicion: one art critic, speaking for other Parisians, perceived in it an alarming intimation of "the scaffolds of 1793." Having recently come out of the French Revolution of 1848, these prosperous classes saw the painting as glorifying the lower-class worker. To them, it was a reminder that French society was built upon the labor of the working masses, and landowners linked this working class with the growing movement of Socialism. The depiction of the working class in The Gleaners made the upper classes feel uneasy about their status. The masses of workers drastically outnumbered the members of the upper class. The drastic differences in numbers meant that if the lower class was to revolt the upper class would be overturned. With the French Revolution still fresh on the upper class' minds, this painting was not perceived well at all.

Millet's The Gleaners was also not perceived well due to its enormous size. The size of the painting is 33 inches by 44 inches or 2.75 feet by 3.7 feet. This is huge for a painting depicting labor. Normally this size of a canvas was reserved for religious or mythological style paintings. Millet's work did not depict anything religiously affiliated, nor was there any reference to any mythological beliefs. The painting illustrated a realistic view of poverty and the working class. One critic commented that "his three gleaners have gigantic pretensions, they pose as the Three Fates of Poverty…their ugliness and their grossness unrelieved." While the act of gleaning was not a new topic—representations of Ruth had existed in art—this new work was a statement on rural poverty and not Biblical piety: there is no touch of the Biblical sense of community and compassion in the contrasting embodiments of grinding poverty in the foreground and the rich harvest in the sunlit distance beyond. The implicit irony was unsettling. [Wikipedia]

[More on the painting from Musée d'Orsay] [Video commentary on the painting]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Combat of the Thirty (1857)

Octave Penguilly L'Haridon: The Combat of the Thirty

M. L'Haridon was a Breton painter. His most notable work is the historical painting Combat des Trente (1857, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper). The elaborate frieze-like composition portrays the Combat of the Thirty, a famous episode in medieval chivalry during the Breton War of Succession. It depicts a late stage in the battle, when the dazed and exhausted combatants continue to hack away at one another on the verge of total collapse. The Revue française saw it as an example of L'Haridon's genuine interest in medieval culture, but objected that,
This is not history herself: living, human, full-blooded [...]. Skillful, ingenious, knowledgeable, well informed about all matters medieval... it lacks the most important quality - life.