William Bouguereau: Le Guêpier [The Wasp's Nest]
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Friday, November 17, 2017
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Jean-Jules Antoine Lecomte du Noüy: Mordecai, second in power to the King
The present work depicts Mordecai, from the Book of Esther. Mordecai was the adoptive father of Esther, the beautiful Jewess who became queen to the king Ahasuerus. Mordecai held an office in the king's court. After Esther was chosen as queen, he exposed a plot to assassinate the king. Later, Haman the Agagite was appointed to the highest position in the kingdom, but Mordecai refused to bow to him. Haman became so infuriated that he devised a plan to destroy not only Mordecai, but all of the Judeans in the empire. The king was unaware of the nationality of his beloved queen and gave Haman the authority to execute his plan. Haman had letters sent to every governor of every province that on a certain day they would coordinate the total annihilation of every Judean man, woman and child. Mordecai learned of this evil plan and notified Esther of Haman’s plot. Esther revealed the plot to the king and Haman was hanged and the plot stopped.
The subject is unusual for Lecomte du Noüy, who is primarily known for his Orientalist subjects. Although he exhibited religious and historical paintings at the Salon beginning in 1863, after 1872 when Lecomte du Noüy made an extended trip to Greece, Egypt, Turkey and Asia Minor, Orientalist themes dominated his oeuvre. Even among his religious compositions, Jewish themes were rare. He did complete an image of Judith (1875), depicting the profile of a woman in exotic dress and the traditional head-dress worn by married women from Bethlehem, as well as a composition Rabbis Commenting on the Bible on Saturday (1882). Additionally, Lecomte du Noüy’s first wife was the grand-daughter of Adolphe Crémieux, the former French Minister of Justice who withdrew from political office to become president of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in the 1860s. Lecomte du Noüy painted a portrait of Crémieux (1878), now at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris. [Schiller and Bodo]
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Monday, November 13, 2017
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Friday, November 10, 2017
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Monday, November 6, 2017
Etienne Dinet: The Bathers
Etienne Dinet (March 28, 1861 - Paris, December 24, 1929) was a French orientalist painter. Compared to modernist painters such as Henri Matisse, who also visited northern Africa in the first decade of the 20th century, Dinet's paintings are extremely conservative. They are highly mimetic, indeed ethnographic, in their treatment of their subject. Dinet's understanding of Arab culture and language set him apart from other orientalist artists. Surprisingly, he was able to find nude models in rural Algeria. [Gandalf’s Gallery]
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Jules Joseph Lefebvre: Lady Godiva
Exhibited at the 1890 Salon (official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris), this immense (6.2 x 3.9m) oil painting dated 1891 portrays the story of Lady Godiva, a famous 11th century English princess. Married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and lord of Coventry, she begged her husband to relieve the townspeople of the oppressive taxes and tolls. He refused, unless she agree to ride through the town naked on horseback. Out of respect for their lady, it is said, the townspeople stayed indoors during her ride. Jules Lefebvre’s painting shows Lady Godiva during her ride through the deserted town. [Amiens]
Friday, October 27, 2017
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Émile Friant: Cast Shadows
In 1891, Friant presented four paintings at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. One of these was Cast Shadows which he was careful to place prominently when submitting his works. He had already depicted young couples, outdoors and indoors, always carefully building his composition around an interplay of looks and hands. He did the same in 1891 but in a much more radical way. The protagonists are placed in front of a wall. The frontal light source, directed upwards, highlights the hands and faces. Beneath the dark clothes, their bodies are reduced to silhouettes. This treatment recalls an extract from Pliny's Natural History recounting how painting was invented: "[Dibutade] was in love with a young man; when he left for foreign lands, she traced the shadow of his face, projected on to a wall by the light of a lantern".
But Friant equally turned to the current research of the time. Degas' work in particular comes to mind, with the effects he achieved using unusual light sources, capable of changing the perception of colour and chromatic harmony. [Musée d’Orsay]
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Jean-Paul Laurens: The Reception of Louis XVI at the
Hotel de Ville by the Parisian Municipality in 1789
Friday, October 20, 2017
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Edouard Detaille: Vive L'Empereur. The Charge of the French 4th Hussar
Regiment at the Battle of Friedland, June 14th 1807
The Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807) was a major confrontation of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.
The engagement at Friedland was a strategic necessity after the Battle of Eylau earlier in 1807 had failed to yield a decisive verdict for either side. The battle began when Bennigsen noticed the seemingly isolated corps of Marshal Lannes at the town of Friedland. Thinking he had a good chance of destroying these isolated French units, Bennigsen ordered his entire army over the Alle River. Lannes held his ground against determined Russian attacks until Napoleon could bring additional forces onto the field. By late afternoon, the French had amassed a force of 80,000 troops on the battlefield. Relying on superior numbers, Napoleon concluded that the moment had come and ordered a massive assault against the Russian left flank. The sustained French attack pushed back the Russian army and pressed them against the river behind. Unable to withstand the pressure, the Russians broke and started escaping across the Alle, where an unknown number of them died from drowning. The Russian army suffered horrific casualties at Friedland–losing over 40% of its soldiers on the battlefield. [Wikipedia]
Monday, October 16, 2017
Édouard Dantan: A Restoration
Dantan was especially drawn to painting the interiors of the artist's studio. His father, Antoine-Laurent Dantan, was a well-known and acclaimed sculptor and would have involved him in his studio practice and, consequently, fostered an ambition for Edouard to develop his own. He would go on to document the professional artistic landscape of the late nineteenth century and is most celebrated for his paintings of working studios and exhibition spaces. His submissions to the Paris Salon in 1880 (L'Atelier de mon père), 1887 (Un moulage sur nature) and in 1891 (Une restauration, the present lot) depicted the interiors of an artist's studio. Of these, Une restauration shows Dantan at his very best through the virtuosity of paint handling, attention to detail, complexity of compositional arrangement and relative monumentality. It would later be exhibited at Chicago's Columbian World's Exposition in 1893.
There is a longstanding tradition of presenting the artist's studio as either allegory or anecdote. Masterpieces like Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas (1656), which later influenced Gustave Courbet's The Artist's Studio (1855), set important precedents that Dantan, and innumerable other artists, would draw from. The Salon jury would have been especially receptive to this subject, and because his 1880 submission was well-received and much talked about, Dantan would have been prompted to submit more of the same genre.
Immediately evident in this painting is the tremendous attention to detail, as Dantan is careful to convey a vision of the artists' studio while he is in the act of creation. Marble is prized for its malleability and skin-like translucency but remains an extremely unforgiving medium given that it is a subtractive process. One foul blow of the mallet or careless placement of the chisel could spell ruin for a masterpiece.
The sculpture is likely based on Antoine Houdon's masterpiece, La frileuse (1787), which is an allegory for winter and translates to a woman who is susceptible to the cold. As in many of his works, Dantan maintains a sense of humor and play of irony. Here, the artist's fully clothed sculpture is an exaggeration of Houdon's half naked Frileuse, and while the bare branches seen through the window indicate winter, his bared model shows no susceptibility to the cold.
In the present work, Dantan's artist is chiseling at the drapery of his subject which is carefully propped on a series of wood blocks so that his area of occupation is at eye level and close to his body. Chisels and spatulas are carefully hung and ordered under shelves that house studies and maquettes, as well as incomplete works and broken fragments. Friezes hang on the walls and earthenware vessels and woven baskets sit on the floor. Interestingly, and a sign of Dantan's ambition, there are two light sources implied in the artist's bright studio. The window shown diffuses light that illuminates the model from behind, and the drapery that she is enveloped in seems to glow. The surfaces of each object are given an extreme amount of consideration, and the result is an artistic tour de force. [Sotheby’s]
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Monday, October 2, 2017
Sunday, October 1, 2017
William Bouguereau: The Bohemian Girl
The Bohemian is a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau completed in 1890. It depicts a barefooted young woman sitting on a concrete bench on the south bank of the Seine across from Notre Dame de Paris resting a violin in her lap. Her right arm is resting on her thigh while the palm of her left hand is pressed down on her left knee so that she does not lean on the violin. Her hands are clasped with the fingers pointing forward while her shoulders are wrapped in a shawl dyed maroon and light green, and she is wearing a gray dress that extends to her ankles. The bow of the violin has been stuck through diagonally under the fingerboard. To her right is a maple tree. [Wikipedia]
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Philippe Pavy: A Cairo Market
Philippe Pavy and his brother Eugène specialized in Orientalist paintings after traveling to North Africa and the Near East in the 1870s and 1880s. Pavy produced various Orientalist themes of costumed natives practicing their trade or in their characteristic ethnic settings, which he regularly exhibited in Paris and London. He usually painted compositions of Nubian soldiers, water-carriers, orange vendors, processions, and market scenes on wood panel, like this painting. Pavy’s talent for light and color is evident in this immensely detailed image, featuring sellers, basket, bread, oranges, pigeons, water jugs, two figures playing a board game, and another playing the lute. [Dahesh Museum]
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Louis Béroud: The Central Dome at the Universal Exposition of 1889
The Fourth World Exposition held in France celebrated the centenary of the French Revolution. 1889 was a decisive year, in the words of Agulhon, for a Republican France that had found its place among the great powers. This event can be considered a massive campaign of the government and the City of Paris for the exaltation of republican values. Before becoming "conservative", the new republic showed the results of its founding years: having built a colonial empire therefore it has overshadowed the Prussian invasion and the Commune, overcame a deep economic crisis and is always capable of offering the world the fruits of its many artistic talents.
A project of Joseph Bouvard (architect of the City, a regular collaborator of Alphand), the "central dome" was built on the major axis of Mars, punctuating the garden of the background vis-à-vis the Eiffel Tower. It gave access to the galleries of "varied industries" and especially the "30 meter gallery" that led to the spectacular Palace of Machines. The dome became the main link between the various buildings of the Exhibition; not used for the presentation of works, it was intended, according to Alphand, "to capture the imagination of the visitor, to serve, to some extent, the frontispiece to the splendours that were to unfold before his eyes." Béroud shows that vestibule seen since the "gallery of 30 meters." The foreground hints at some of the works in this "grand avenue of the domestic industry." The monumental arch that separates the dome has a walkway allowing visitors to go all round the pavilion and forms a balcony where they have an overview of the gallery as, in contrast, the prospect of Champ de Mars visible through the glass wall that closes the dome next to the Eiffel Tower - the painter hints at in the bottom of his composition. The warm colors of the table Béroud evoke the sumptuous setting of the dome, very influenced by Orientalism. [L’Histoire par L’Image]
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Monday, September 25, 2017
Jean-Léon Gérôme: Working in Marble (aka The Artist Sculpting Tanagra)
This complex self-portrait is a summation of Gérôme’s remarkable career as both painter and sculptor. It is also a commemoration of his famous sculpture Tanagra (1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), a stately nude personification of the ancient Greek city, who holds one of the small painted figurines for which the artisans of that city were known. These figurines were discovered and exhibited widely in the late 19th century, reinforcing the notion that classical sculpture was originally vividly colored. Inspired by his characteristic desire for both archaeological accuracy and realism, Gérôme delicately tinted the skin, hair, lips, and nipples of his Tanagra, causing a sensation at the Salon of 1890.
Like most 19th-century sculptors, Gérôme did not carve the marble himself but furnished professional marble cutters with a full-size plaster to use as a guide. It is this intermediate step that is depicted in Working in Marble, a title that refers to the overall creative process. Gérôme portrays himself on a turn stand putting the finishing touches on the plaster version of Tanagra, carefully judging the accuracy of his work against the live model. He is in his second-floor painting studio (which could not actually have housed an unfinished marble of that size), described by a contemporary as a “splendid room, with its great sculptures and paintings, some still unfinished, and a famous collection of barbaric arms and costumes.” Indeed, this painting includes many of these props—quiver, saddle, armor, drums, waterpipes, flag, textiles, masks—used regularly by Gérôme to enhance the authenticity of his Orientalist and classical scenes. It also contains several of his finished works: the Tanagra-inspired Hoop Dancer; Selene the moon goddess; and his painting Pygmalion and Galatea (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). This small image of a marble sculpture transformed into female flesh provides a mythological gloss on Gérôme’s own activity in Working in Marble, powerfully evoking the continuous interplay between painting and sculpture, reality and artifice, as well as highlighting the inherently theatrical nature of the artist’s studio. [Dahesh Museum]
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Friday, September 22, 2017
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Monday, September 11, 2017
Jean-Léon Gérôme: Pygmalion and Galatea
Between 1890 and 1892, Gérôme made both painted and sculpted variations on the theme of Pygmalion and Galatea, the tale recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book X, lines 243–97). All depict the moment when the sculpture of Galatea was brought to life by the goddess Venus, in fulfillment of Pygmalion’s wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created. Gérôme’s correspondence with his biographer Fanny Field Hering provides information about the origins of the present picture. In 1890 the artist remarked that he had begun painting Pygmalion and Galatea, stating that he was trying to rejuvenate the subject, which he thought very hackneyed, and adding that the picture would depict the statue coming to life. In November 1890, he mentioned Pygmalion and Galatea among several pictures that he had painted the prior summer, which were nearly finished. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]
Friday, September 8, 2017
Jean Béraud: Harlequine
In the 1890s, Béraud departed (like so many artists and writers at this time) from his earlier naturalism in favor of more symbolic content, as if discontented with mere surface appearances. He did not totally renounce street scenes, but he experimented with new subjects, such as his contemporized versions of biblical stories and costume pieces like Harlequine, in which a single figure is the sole focus of the painting.
This conventionally pretty woman is dressed for costume ball as the female counterpart of the stock figure Harlequin. Her costume adopts elements of the traditional commedia dell'arte character: the diamond pattern, the bicorne hat, the stage sword whose harmlessness is coquettishly demonstrated by the model. But Béraud discards the half-mask so that her porcelain-smooth profile is fully visible. The traditional multicolored costume is exchanged for stylish pink and black.
Elegant she may be, but she is also a vivacious coquette. Béraud emphasizes her desirability through her coy behavior and exposed legs. Her painfully tight corset, which achieves the fashionable 18-inch waist, adds to her seductive charms. [The Haggin Museum]