Sunday, May 21, 2017

Arriving at the Pardon of Saint Anne (1887)

Alfred Guillou: Arriving at the Pardon of Saint Anne de Fouesnant at Concarneau

In France the term “pardon” is used for religious ceremonies when icons from the church are paraded to celebrate the saint’s day or another important occasion. Usually these involve men carrying heavy icons through the streets but in Brittany apparently it was common to bring the saints in by small boats.

Translating the sign posted by the painting entitled The Arrival of the Pardon of Sainte-Anne: “The pardon is one of the manifestations of the faith in Brittany. In holiday dress, carrying banners and statues men, women and children return by land and sea [the statue of Saint Anne of Fouesnant] to the sanctuary.” Saint Anne is the patron saint of sailors. The next image is similar. [In My Suitcase]

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Casting From Life (1887)

Édouard Joseph Dantan: A Casting From Life

Édouard Joseph Dantan’s naturalistic painting A Casting From Life depicts the moment when a painter and his assistant remove the plaster negative from the leg of a female nude. Dantan’s painting thematizes the technological creation of a perfect human representation according to a classical aesthetic of elegance and beauty. Not without blatant gender implications, it narrates the positive story of a media negative, the plaster cast. However, this snapshot from an artist’s studio ultimately withholds the final aesthetic product for which the cast was made (if it is not the female nude or the painting itself), so that the story the painting tells offers viewers the  hope but not the certainty that the technological process glorified by the image will eventually generate an exceptionally beautiful naturalistic artwork. [A. Dana Weber, “Vivifying the Uncanny,” in Fact and Fiction: Literary and Scientific Cultures in Germany and Britain, ed. Christine Lehleiter, University of Toronto Press, 2016, p. 309]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Émile Friant (1887)

Émile Friant: Portrait of the artist's mother peeling a turnip, in front of a window
Émile Friant: Young Woman of Nancy in a Winter Landscape

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Judith (1887)

Charles Landelle: Judith

Judith by Charles Landelle, one of the most successful French artists of his age, was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1887. It is uncertain when the painting entered the Russell-Cotes collection. However, as an old photograph testifies, Sir Merton Russell-Cotes must have held the work in high esteem as he hung it in a prominent position in the entrance hall to his home East Cliff Hall. In keeping with Russell-Cotes' taste, this exotic painting's subject aptly combines two meanings. While Judith was widely regarded as a symbol of womanly virtue, from the Renaissance (a period Landelle was particularly interested in) Judith also came to be regarded as an allegory of man's misfortunes at the hands of scheming woman. In this painting, as an early curator of the museum describes her: Judith is represented as a magnificent woman standing like a pillar, fierce as a panther; with eyes dark and penetrating, beautiful yet cruel in expression. Her story is drawn from the Old Testament apocryphal book, Judith, in which she is described as rich Jewish widow, who in an act of selfless patriotism saved her city of Bethulia, which was under siege by the Assyrian army. By posing as a turn-coat, dressed so as to catch the eye of any man, Judith gained the confidence of the enemy General Holofernes, who after a banquet in her honor planned to seduce her. However, being overcome by alcohol he collapsed on his bed, vulnerable to his fate. Landelle represents Judith drawing back the bed's curtain and clasping the sword with which she smote him twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head. [VADS]