Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures (RTE)

Angelica Kauffmann, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures, 1785

Typically, one’s most valuable treasure consists of precious metals or gems. But, in Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures by Angelica Kauffmann, one women displays her variety of jewels, while Cornelia indicates that her children are what she considers her treasures. Once Cornelia brings out her children, the other woman seems embarrassed by her material treasure. Cornelia’s children, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, grew up to be political leaders. Even the most exquisite and rare jewels and other valuables are insignificant compared to children, who are the future and have the ability to positively impact the world. Cornelia Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures falls under the category of exemplum virtutis, since it depicts virtue. Also, Kauffmann’s painting exhibits the transition from lush scenery of Rococo art to the new era of art.

Angelica Kauffmann, originally from Switzerland, received a thorough education. Her father was a muralist who not only introduced art to Angelica, but also took her around Europe and exposed her to influential artists of that time such as Benjamin West, Winckelmann, Gavin Hamilton, and more. She was the first woman painter to challenge the masculine control over historic paintings, but also influenced other painters. Kauffmann’s accomplishments are particularly impressive due to her lack of training with nude models.

Kauffmann had a specific interest in society's portrayals of women. But, people at the time were not interested in her historic paintings. Instead, her portraits of affluent people had a higher demand, making them her main source of her income. The money earned from these portraits allowed her to paint what truly interested her: historic scenes. Shortly after her historic paintings were created, people declared Kauffmann and Benjamin West as the initiators of the Neoclassical style in England. Kauffmann was known for her originality with the impressive ability to transfer a real scene to a canvas with her clear brushwork and vivid colors.

Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures not only depicts treasures, but was also one of Angelica Kauffmann’s actual treasures.

  • 7:00 AM

Cupid and Psyche

Jacques Louis-David,Cupid and Psyche, 1817

Perhaps this is the first time the phrase "Mr. Steal-your-girl" was coined. Cupid has his body positioned around an unsuspecting Psyche, who wraps her hand around his upper thigh, unbeknownst to the sexual context already presented by his smirk and posture. He allows his bow to slip from his back onto the cold floor, sliding into the covers of the maiden. How appropriate of David, in the time of his exile, to paint something so visually pleasing, uncharacteristic of his persona and usual self.

The oil on canvas, standing at 184 cm by 241 cm, was painted by David shortly after the end of the French Revolution and during his early exile in Brussels. David was a successful political painter at this point, and despite his knack for inspiring propaganda, he decided to create this painting to show the government that he was making a transition away from his more somber, moralizing themes of his past. He completed the work in the early months of 1817. Originally, the painting incited a slight rebellion among art critics in Brussels, but as time went on, they found that the younger generation found it pleasing. I can't imagine why.

The story between Cupid and Psyche is strange in itself. Venus, overcome by her jealousy of Psyche's beauty, sends Cupid to make her fall in love with the most grotesque, despicable man she sees. However, upon seeing her, he himself falls in love with her. He snatches her away, locking her away in his palace, making love to her every night. The painting shows him on one of these nights, sneaking away just at the break of dawn, smirking, as she still doesn't know the identity of the man who sleeps with her every night. The painting is strange because in usual lore, Cupid is an adolescent. However, in the picture, he seems to be a grown up man, smirking, as he canoodles with a woman he quite fancies.

I was immediately drawn to the smirk, unbeknownst to me that that young man was Cupid. However, as I looked deeper into the painting, I found Psyche more and more attractive (in the least perverted way possible). Her flesh is pale, however, it exudes beauty and health. Unlike usual paleness which signifies death, her flesh seems lush and beautiful. David does an incredible job showing his fresh start to painting. Who can blame Cupid for being a little self-satisfied?

  • 7:00 AM

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1801-1805

Jacques-Louis David's oil on canvas painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, showcases the infamous French dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. The work features Bonaparte on horseback, assuming a confident pose, donning an extravagant red cape billowing in the wind. In the background, soldiers march up the rocky mountain.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps was one in a series of five versions made between the 1801 and 1805. The first version was commissioned by the French ambassador to Spain; however, once Bonaparte got word of his portrait, he asked David to make three more versions. The fifth and final version of the work was made purely for David's enjoyment to express his support and honor for Bonaparte. Each version seems to look approximately the same, with mainly only the color tone in the background changing. However, Napoleon's pose and location on the canvas remains the same throughout the series.

Napoleon's gesture pointing upward is a sort of motif that appears in other works by David, such as The Oath of the Horatii, and The Death of Socrates. The position in which Napoleon hand rests in suggests an extreme amount of confidence in achieving his goal, and may possibly have some religious connotations. In addition, Napoleon's ungloved hand symbolizes his position as a leader or peacemaker rather than a conqueror. The rock inscriptions on the bottom left of the painting feature Napoleon's name, as well as Hannibal and Charlemagne, two other historically notable figures who led troops across the Alps.

This piece conveys a mixture of emotions for the viewer. Napoleon's confident stature contradicts the feeling one may experience from the cold brutality of the mountainous background. However one may feel about this painting, it remains apparent that Jacques-Louis David definitely thought highly of the dictator and battle commander.
  • 7:00 AM

The Raft of Medusa

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1819

Perhaps one of the few paintings of the period that depicts an actual event as it really happened. The Raft of the Medusa depicts the survivors of a early 19th century version of the Titanic. The Medusa was a 40 gun frigate ferrying officials between France and Senegal. Because this was an age where someone with enough wealth could do just about anything they pleased, the captain had little prior naval experience and promptly ran the ship into a reef. The resulting wreck left around 400 people alive, 300 of which departed in life boats leaving the other 100 to fend for themselves on a raft. Eventually supplies ran out, which leftno choice but to cannibalize the dead, dying and lightly wounded. When the Argus discovered the raft days later only 15 survivors were rescued.

After reading about the disaster Gericault became obsessed with the event. Believing it to be the ultimate argument against the ruling class, an inept captain responsible for the death for tens of peasants. In fact Gericault refused to leave his studio while painting the tragic event, bringing survivors and rotting corpses from the morgue to get the correct amount of morbidity in the painting. Originally the Argus appeared in the right hand potion of the painting, but doing so would make the painting less depressing.
  • 7:00 AM

The Death of Socrates

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates, 1787

The gray-haired man bears off-white clothing that mirrors his attempted piety. Despite the harshness of his dark cell, a light reminiscent of Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saint Matthew engulfs the philosopher and his students. As the man reaches for the hemlock and seals his fate, his wife waves goodbye and exits the room, bringing depth to the painting. The man, Socrates, frees himself from earthly pain and rigid Athenian law by choosing death, and the unlocked shackle below his feet captures his liberation. With the exception of Plato and Crito, Socrates’ followers act hysterical, but their teacher is in complete control, emulating the painting’s severe lines. Only the clothing on Socrates and his pupils escapes the dim gray cell, and each man’s robe has a color as individual as his school of thought. In this painting, The Death of Socrates, David creates a technical masterpiece with realistic emotion, accurate anatomy, and perfect drapery. In this work – neoclassical in both subject and style – David calls upon the past to incite revolution.

Socrates claimed a personal connection to the gods through his Daimon, or messenger angel. The Athenian court saw this as an unlawful introduction of deities and charged Socrates with heresy as well as corruption of his young students. In David’s painting, Socrates points to the sky as he reaches for the hemlock. With these two final actions, the philosopher ends his life in complete control. Socrates used death as a message of strength for his students, and David sought the same effect amidst the instability of 1787 France.

Like in his famous Oath of the Horatii, David pictures a man choosing to die for allegiance to a concept in The Death of Socrates. Prominent political and artistic figures alike praised the strength of this painting. David revived the story of Socrates as a challenge to the French people to maintain their convictions and revolutionary spirit. The Death of Socrates conveys David’s belief that the fight for liberty exceeds all sacrifice, including death.

  • 7:00 AM

Madame Recamier

Jacques-Louis David, Madame Recamier, 1800

Jacques-Louis David used many of his paintings as political weapons, and he also had an active political career within the art world. Although he continuously opposed the Academy he still prepared for the salons hoping for his pieces to gain entry. He participated in the attempted disestablishment of the Academy and when it completely disintegrated David became an inaugural member of the Institut de France. Following the abolition of the Academy and the Prix de Rome, David felt like there needed to be some way of rewarding French students with exceptional merit. He worked on assembling a jury and soon after his pupil won the prize for painting. Although most of David's paintings attacked politics, he was an avid participator in the political arts.

The portrait of Madame Recamier appears to be a simple portrait, yet it still contains some political ideas. Not as majorly as some of his other works, such as The Death of Marat, but they are still ever present. The idea arising in this painting is that of feminine elegance. The layout of the painting differs from that of a traditional portrait style canvas. The room seems almost completely bare except for the sofa, stool, and candelbra. Madame Recamier's face appears from a distance because David wished to extenuate the "elegant arabesque" of Recamier's body.

The technique exhibited differs from that of later David paintings, with more vibrant brushstrokes rather than his later translucent colors. Madame Recamier wears only a light, white, antique-style dress, and no shoes and sits in an almost completely empty room. This usage of neoclassical ideas had been avant-garde for the 1800s. David's Madame Recamier remains unfinished, but why remains a mystery. While David painted it, Madame Recamier commissioned one of David's pupils to paint another portrait instead of David because she thought David took too long. David insisted on keeping the painting but it sat in his studio incomplete, publicly unseen until it went to the Louvre in 1826.

  • 7:00 AM

Paolo and Francesca

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Paolo and Francesca, 1819

Paolo and Francesca: lovers condemned to eternal damnation for their adultery. Told by Dante, Francesca was married to Gianciotto, brother of Paolo, for supposed political reasons. After finding Paolo sneaking out of Francesca’s window, Gianciotto attempts to stab him. Francesca throws herself in front of Gianciotto’s sword, killing her. Gianciotto then successfully kills Paolo as well.

The French Revolution brought a collection of new and daring ideals. The public began rejecting the past oppression and current demands of their rulers. Although Ingres held an odd desire to paint people such as Napoleon, even before portraits of him were commissioned. As his career continued he began experimenting with new techniques, ones that critics were not accepting of. The same drive that pushed Ingres to paint portraits of Napoleon might’ve been present in his decision to create Paolo and Francesca. Stylistically, the painting is nothing new. Although the couple displays affection towards one another despite both already being wed. The concept of adultery may not be a good one, but during the next hundred and fifty years it becomes a new normal, as do many of the ideas originating from the French Revolution.

The color scheme in which Paolo is dressed, all bright, vibrant colors represent passion. While the curtain, blood red, represents death. Francesca, who sacrifices herself to protect Paolo wears a lighter shade of red while the killer wears a much darker shade. The color is inescapable.
  • 7:00 AM

The Oath of the Horatii

Jacques-Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784

From the vibrancy of the red cloth to the shadows illuminating the powerful muscles of the parallel arms, the second I laid my eyes on this painting, the intensity became apparent. Just like how the passion and emotion sparks a fire of motivation in me while I read about David's accomplishments and my brightly-lit clock shows that a new day has rolled in, Jacques Louis David wanted this painting to spark a revolution in the minds of the moderate citizens who did not feel much for change. Jacques Louis David took his career past art and developed an interest in politics and societal transformation. Don’t just understand the revolution, but be willing to die for your country, pleads David through this painting of martyrdom.

The passion and strength of the men contrasts the despair of the women on the side. As with history, love always brings a twist. Not only do the Horatii brothers pledge their allegiance to Rome, but a sister of one of the brothers is in love with a rival member. “Boy meets girl until boy is killed by girl’s brother in a Roman war” creates a whole new dimension to this revolutionary painting. This woman is forced to choose between her brother who she has grown up with, or her true love who she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Contradicting this painting, Robespierre writes in his “Republic of Virtue,” that, “men of all countries are brothers, and the different peoples must help one another.” David’s painting shows three brothers chosen as representatives to fight until the death against another city’s men. If men of all countries are brothers, the men in the painting are clearly doing something wrong. Do not kill your enemies, but embrace them, says Robespierre, (though, I’m sure the many people guillotined by Robespierre would oppose his loyalty to this statement).

The men in this painting stand for martyrdom and dying for your country, something David respected. In 1794, David even created a ceremony for two martyrs, Barra and Viala. He organized the chain of events for the ceremony, creating a moment of silence followed by a unanimous cry of “They have died for their country!” three times. Then, at the end of the ceremony, the despair turns into rejoicing as the people cry out, “They are immortal!” David felt this martyrdom needed to be appreciated as a sign of love for their country and their people. This painting signifies David’s respect for martyrdom and the impact he felt this had on the revolution. While the focus is on the center of the painting, the will of the men to die for their country on one side, and the despair of the women illuminated by the light on the other side, draw in human emotion.

The Oath of the Horatii changed the ways of revolutionary paintings and created a new kind of art. Not only does David’s painting tell a story, but it also commemorates. For all the martyrs who have died for their country, he pledges allegiance. This painting lasts through the ages.

  • 7:00 AM

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Graces

Jacques-Louis David, Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Graces, 1824 

Take the David who painted Marat and leave him at the door. Enter with the older, sicker, and exiled version. Now we may begin. Feeling his impending death David, at 75, decides to depart the art world. With the notion of creating a final masterpiece or as we know Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Graces. The piece captures a conflicted David. His struggles between his well-known neoclassicism and the new wave of romanticism. This final piece represents more than an artist saying farewell but, a man reflecting on his life. His failures. His successes. His regrets.

To fully understand his final work we must first understand how he wanted us to see it. Transport yourself to a room filled with floor length green drapes. On one wall hangs “the masterpiece” and on the other hangs a mirror. Now stand in the center of the room. Get caught between the reflection of the painting and the true image. Let the dark clouds hovering above and below you consume the space. Embrace the tension as our dear Venus hesitates to crown Mars.

Look at the Graces. David paints them an almost with mannish quality, their faces and bodies not reflecting the absolute perfection usually attributed to them. Look at Cupid who instead of aiming his lustful arrows spends his time revering Mars’ sandal. With our previous knowledge of David we know he makes calculated decisions. Altering evidence in his interpretation of Death of Marat. So what does David want to say here?

In his final work David reminds his audience of the most important value summed up perfectly by Diderot in Encyclopedia, “All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.” His final gift for the world takes us back to his roots of neoclassicism but with the hesitation of Venus, a distracted Cupid, and comical Graces he in essence destroys the perfection of neoclassicism. Leading him to a final revelation. Perfection does not exist.

  • 7:00 AM

The Lictors Bring Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

Jacques-Louis David, The Lictors Bring Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1790 

Jacques-Louis David, born in France, 1748, was unlike other renowned painters. His brush strokes bring to life images of immense aesthetic beauty. However, David’s works also heavily propagated ideas for revolution and nationalistic duty during a period of turmoil in France. He later emerged as the most influential painter during the Neoclassical movement, which occurred when art depicted the “moral climate” of France prior to the French Revolution (Turner).

Art always surrounded David throughout his life. His mother’s family included architects and painters, which influenced his education. He tried for an apprenticeship with François Boucher, his mother’s cousin. After being declined, he ended up as a pupil of Joseph-Marie Vien. David’s early life as a painter consisted of many consecutive failures. Each of his entries for the Prix de Rome, an art competition, kept falling short, though David possessed suspicions of misconduct within the voting committee. Finally, he won in 1774 with his work Erasistratus Discovers the Case of the Illness of Antiochus. In 1775, Vien and him travelled to Rome to explore the studies of 17th century art (Turner). David grew fond of Roman principles and society, which influenced many of his later Neoclassical works, including The Lictors Bring Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.

In 1789, David was commissioned to paint for King Louis XVI. He composed the work The Lictors Bring Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, shorty after the storming of the Bastille, a significant event during the French Revolution (Turner). This painting depicts Brutus, who led the overthrow of the Roman monarchy and helped establish the Republic. After Brutus’ sons were caught attempting to restore the monarchy, Brutus testifies for their execution. Clouded by darkness, Brutus patiently sits with his back turned to his headless sons. There is barely any visible anguish in his demeanor and appearance. He sits in a symbolic shadow to illustrate the darkness behind his gruesome betrayal. To the right of the composition, his wife and daughters contrast him, depicting misery and sorrow. The picture is split through the middle by a basket of cloth and sheers, diving one side to death and darkness while the other is filled with grief. Artistically, David paints the setting masterfully with the usage of pillars and the somber green tarp in the background to emphasize the family. Brutus’ body and face create an emotional discomfort for the viewer. Upon staring at him, one can see his intense loyalty to his country allowed him to make such a heinous decision. Truly, this is a moving work.

Why is this painting relevant to the French Revolution? It demonstrates the idea one must not let anything jeopardize the future success of their nation, even if that implies sanctioning the death of their family. During the Revolution, the masses wanted to overthrow the monarchy, and to do so they needed to rally together and invest themselves in France, making it their duty to protect and reform the country. This painting provokes such ideas, igniting an urge to serve France in the name of saving the country as Brutus did with Rome, no matter the costs. However, David did not originally intend such a political interpretation of his painting (Turner). Still, The Lictors Bring Brutus the Bodies of His Sons illustrates Neoclassical revolutionary ideas that David would quickly immerse himself in throughout the later course of the French Revolution, as seen through his other influential works including Death of Marat and Oath of the Horatii.

Source: The Dictionary of Art, Jane Turner
  • 7:00 AM

Cleopatra Adorning the Tomb of Marc Anthony

Angelica Kauffmann, Cleopatra Adorning the Tomb of Marc Anthony, 1770

Love, may we all find it, feel it, and allow it to surround us. The story of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony is the most classic "real life" Romeo and Juliette story. Their love that spanned kingdoms has inspired countless films, plays, books, and works of art, including this interpretation by the lady of the Neoclassical world, Angelica Kauffmann.

Swiss child prodigy and son of an esteemed church painter, Angelica Kauffmann got her start early into the art world, and in her many travels around Europe, she had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of several truly great painters of her day. Their influence on her craft is unmistakeable, yet her works are different from theirs. They posess the feminine perspective, an element that the others could only hope to channel. While the great men of this time paint political statements about the revolution, such as Jacques Louis David's Death of Marat or Oath of the Horatii, Kauffmann focuses on the women's side, the familial closeness. Her work has the same trademark Roman-type faces and the stunning color scheme but there is a level of care in her subjects that sets her apart from the bold works of David. Even his images of family, like in The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, the audience sees of the women what is purely public. He shows the mother mourning boldly, as a man would, but reveals nothing of the secret, intimate tenderness between two people.

In an account of Dennis Diderot's travels to Tahiti, he recalls a man speaking scathingly of the differences in public sexuality between Tahitians and the Europeans. The angry Tahitian points out the outstanding level of guilt that cloaked the European idea of sex, and frankly still does. While Europe hides from their sexuality and outright ignores it in public, it does not diminish the heart that remains in the private moments. These men who try to paint families or love do little to capture that innocent, natural closeness that comes as part of love, not the public appearance of a relationship, but the sweet, devotional love that permeates all things living and dead. From this fundamental understanding the heart of this painting blossoms.

There is no harshness in this work. The spotlight-style lighting makes Cleopatra and the girls around her glow with warmth. Cleopatra's face is shadowed by grief but the sweetness is unmistakable in the flowers she drapes over her lover's casket, symbolizing her love. Her white robes and pale skin create a ghostlike feeling that hints at her impending suicide. Every eye in the room stares in her direction. From the girls assisting her to the mourning soldier, they seem drawn to her, observing her in this act. In Cleopatra's body posture and eyes, it is clear that she hardly sees anyone around her. Her eyes stay trained on Marc Anthony's resting place, totally devoted. The flame of their love continues to burn and illuminate her and those others lucky enough to be in her presence. This last intimate goodbye between lovers is the natural, unshakable, and affectionate quality that the Tahitian man claimed was absent in Europeans. This painting is a testament to the primal nature of this love, so strong that it can never truly be eradicated. Whether faced with death, or merely a guilt ridden society, love prevails in its most natural form as our greatest human desire: connection.
  • 7:00 AM

Self-Portrait with Her Daughter

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Self-Portrait with Her Daughter, 1789

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun’s Self-Portrait with Her Daughter embodies the compassion of the human spirit. Vigée-Lebrun captures a warm, gentle embrace between her subjects in a painting that exudes softness. Any buyer would want these two beautiful faces to grace his or her wall. Vigée-Lebrun, the painting’s mother in more ways than one, dons a costume reminiscent of classical times -- only one way that the artist alludes to painting’s past.

Vigée-Lebrun perfectly executes the triangular composition of artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and calls upon the Masters of the Italian Renaissance. Partnered with the anatomical accuracy of her subjects, this technique demonstrates the artist’s proficiency. Vigée-Lebrun possesses this knowledge and talent despite her restricted opportunity as a female painter. Her determination alone gives Vigée-Lebrun artistic merit and creates value in her work.

Known for her Rococo color palette, Vigée-Lebrun uses an emotional combination of warm and cool hues in Self-Portrait with Her Daughter. The green cloth over the mother’s lap represents fertility and renewal of herself through her child. The daughter’s blue dress symbolizes tranquility, loyalty, and trust -- emotions mirrored in her facial expression. Passionate red accents in the mother’s ensemble stand out and cut through the cool colors.

The painting’s empty gray background pushes its subjects forward -- Vigée-Lebrun masterfully creates depth and shape in a painting with no scene. Small details, such as the mother’s blush and curls, further illustrate the artist’s ability. More powerful than her composition, though, is the emotion that Vigée-Lebrun develops in this painting; the protective mother and trusting daughter share an undeniable, heart-warming closeness.

Vigée-Lebrun’s decision to include her daughter in a self-portrait indicates the importance of their relationship. Artists regularly look directly at their audiences when included in their own paintings; since she paints her daughter doing the same, Vigée-Lebrun represents her child as part of herself. Vigée-Lebrun’s daughter is a living self-portrait. The artist gives a circular shape to the embrace between child and parent, representing the stages of life clinging together in a perpetual cycle. In Self-Portrait with Her Daughter, Vigée-Lebrun communicates that she will live on through her children as well as her art.

  • 7:00 AM

Sappho Inspired by Love

Angelica Kauffman, Sappho Inspired by Love, 1775

Angelica Kauffman was one of few women artists during the Neoclassical Era. Originally from Switzerland, she travelled throughout Italy and Austria as she grew up. Her knack for art came from her father, Joseph Johann Kauffman. It was his work as a portrait painter, which influenced her the most. In fact, Angelica often helped Joseph with his paintings for churches and portraits. She was deemed a child prodigy and “in Rome she was accepted into the Accademia di S Luca at the age of 23 and in London she was a founder-member of the Royal Academy” (Turner). It was through this exposure to the art world that she met Benjamin West in Florence, Italy in 1762. West, another influential man in her life, is one reason she moved to London in 1766. Despite the importance of men in her life, she was a strong independent woman and constantly pushed boundaries. While she made most of her money by painting portraits, she loved history paintings. Though many frowned upon women who created history paintings because there was prejudice against women studying anatomy, Kauffman “substituted statuary for the living male model” (Turner). One of her most famous History paintings is Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Treasures (Art Through the Ages). Kauffman’s painting “of a virtuous Roman mother who presented her children to a visitor as her jewels exemplifies the Enlightenment fasciation with classical antiquity and with classical art” (Art Through the Ages).

Kauffman had two main lovers in her lifetime. The first, an adventurer named Brandt, died in 1781. The second, Antonio Zucchi, was an artist who specialized in interior decoration. Zucchi’s work influenced her own, as she started created interior decoration pieces. Zucchi also took over Joseph’s role of taking care of his daughter’s finances. They travelled around Italy while Kauffmann completed some of her most famous works (Turner).

Sappho pictures Sappho, the famous poet, with cupid. There is a spotlight focusing on Sappho and Cupid. The painting is darker and heavier on the left where there is a tree and where Sappho is writing a poem. Kauffman uses vibrant colors, green and red shawls covering Sappho and Cupid, to bring life to her painting. The poem pictured on the tablet is one her most famous, Ode to Aphrodite. The lines on the tablet read, “So come again and deliver me from intolerable pain.” Fuseli said, “Her heroines are herself.” So, is this painting hinting towards her similarities with Sappho? Sappho’s poetry is known as lesbian erotica. The poem on the tablet is an ode to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. With Cupid at her side, the painting hints to Sappho’s love of Aphrodite. Cupid even appears to be consulting the poet as she writes.

While there is no knowledge of Kauffman engaging in love affairs with other women, this painting does promote women. Kauffman, a feminist before her times, exemplified what it was like to be a female artist in a man’s world. Though she was told she should not create history paintings because she was a woman, she still did. She was one of the most famous painters from the Neoclassical Era, man or woman, proving that social norms were not going to limit her artistic abilities.

Turner, Jane. The Dictionary of Art. New York: Grove Dictionaries Inc., 1996.

  • 7:00 AM

The Lock

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Lock, 1779

'Clack'. The heavy wooden door is sealed from the inside. You are now witnessing a private yet ominous moment. The soft and pale damsel in distress half-heartedly fends off the man's advances. Her face shifts in limbo between curiosity and complete rejection, and her arm is at his throat like a knife, but he simply moves further.

The blood red fabric draped around the bed stands for a passion that isn't present at this moment. There is no passion at all, only lust from the man. An innocent apple sits alone on the table, but that's all it took from Eve. "Just one bite", said the snake. That same snake coils himself around her, constricting her freedom, ignoring her disapproval. On the floor in the lower right corner are some flowers and a vase, which symbolizes women and female genitals. They are knocked over and strewn onto the ground, lying helpless waiting for the darkness to overpower them. Way up high and in the focus of the light is the lock, symbolizing men and male genitals. It is prominent and can trap the woman into submission, it has more status. Lastly, the chair with its legs in the air. The cloth and table covers it up and keeps it hidden. Quite like the man concealing his devilish act from outsiders.

Why would you want this? Because it radiates the injustice of inequality. It will remind you of the evil in humanity, it will keep you weary. Or maybe you and the man in that picture have something in common, you both should be sent to prison. Whatever it may be, this painting is truly moving, and strikes a looming sense of concern into your heart.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.

  • 7:00 AM

The Dead Soldier

Joseph Wright of Derby, The Dead Soldier, 1789


Avid readers and devoted scholars of the arts, if you haven't already, I implore you to fill your homes with the paintings of a certain Joseph Wright of Derby. Named by F.D Klingender as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the industrial revolution", Wright's work demonstrates the coalescing of science, art, and religion during the 18th century. As a member of the Lunar Scociety, one of England's most progressive intellectual association, Wright bumped shoulders with the likes of Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin (father of Charles Darwin). Joseph Wright is truly a must-have for any budding amateur, and I promise, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you may find yourself subsequently enlightened just to know of him. If my assurance is not enough for you skeptics out there, I will use a single painting by our artist, M. Joseph Wight in hopes that you shall accept my solicitations. Thus, I give you 5 truths only Joseph Wright Understands, in such a manner that you may too.

1. An Enlightenment painting isn't an Enlightenment painting without a little Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro, the use of light (or lack thereof) to bring attention to certain aspects of a painting. Another word to throw about that's gaurenteed to make you sound like an A+ amateur. In all seriousness, modeled after the masters Rembrandt and Caravaggio, Wright's manipulation of light and dark is intrinsic to this paintings strength. In many of his paintings, Wright uses chiaroscuro to symbolize enlightenment. In his painting Lecture at the Orrery the faces of those listening and learning are lit with a knowledgable light while anyone else is, quite literally, left in the dark. In The Dead Soldier, however, Wright uses darkness paired with natural light to portray the lush greenery and richness of the landscape around the subject. The subject, however, is illuminated by a more artificial light source, coming from beyond the frame of reference. While typically denoting significance, the light here creates a bleakness to the vignette taking place. A deer-caught-in-headlights sort of feeling that gives the impression of a performance unfurling under a spotlight.

2. Soldiers in war are merely playthings and so too are people depicted in paintings
During this time, paintings of war were quite popular and usually fell into one of two categories. First, paintings that utilize the fine detail of portraiture to depict the relationship between officers and soldiers. And secondly, the use of military themes for the expression of sentiment and human emotion to bring the subject of war back to the feelings and thoughts of the enlightenment. Joseph Wright's The Dead Soldier falls into the latter category. As the child falls away from her mother's breast, we are invited into the scene. We see a mother and her husband faceless yet full of emotion. And we feel their emotion. In the same sense, the soldier here, like any other soldier in war, is not the main subject; proposing that men in war merely provide an occasion for the drama. And that's where the next truth comes into play.

3. Paintings don't have to be explicitly conceptualized to enlighten
In the beginning, artists used religion to portray certain aspects of human experience and emotion. As art became more secular, people began painting what they liked, what spoke to them. Self-portraits, still lives and pictures depicting people learning and being taught. What Wright achieved with The Dead Soldier is a conversion of the rationalism of the enlightenment with the birth of the modern age and emotion of the Romantic movement. We see this family torn a part and muted with grief and death. The fact that we are able to emphasize with these otherwise strangers shows the true power of not only Joseph Wright, but of this period in general.

4. When in doubt, contemporary literature is your best friend
Finally, I leave you with a tip from the great Joseph Wright of Derby himself. Bestowed unto me in a letter smelling of rosemary, M. Wright writes: There's no better illustration of modern times than modern literature. And with that, dear readers, I leave you with the following passage from John Langhorne's poem The Country Justice titled "Apology for Vagrants"

Perhaps on some inhospitable shore 

The houseless wretch a widow’d parent bore; 

Who, then no more by golden prospects led, 

Of the poor Indian begg’d a leafy bed. 

Cold on Canadian hills, or Minden’s plain, 

Perhaps that parent mourn’d her soldier slain; 

Bent o’er her babe, her eye dissolv’d in dew, 

The big drops mingling with the milk he drew, 

Gave the sad presage of his future years, 

The child of misery, baptiz’d in tears!

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.

  • 7:00 AM

Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight

Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight. Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768.

1. They ate and grew hungrier for it. Between meals the girls worked to neaten. To make pretty. But they had done it all before. The great armchair they dusted was barer than skin. The dishes they washed were born clean. Each edge was soiled in the holding.

Some days the girls got dressed up. Pretended they were going somewhere. Their dresses were brighter than their faces and twice as beautiful. The fabric felt the way a cloud looked. Unless Edith and Eva leaned the wrong way. Then their breaths faltered like wind growing stale. Then their cheeks tingled with decay. Stand up straight, said the silk, or drop dead. And so they lived on the verge of panic. Sisters of eleven and twelve. Trapped in the sweet nausea before a dream becomes a nightmare.

That evening they lit a candle. They sat at the table with their dolls. Edith pinned down a slew of plastic hair with a bow but the curls popped up one-by-one like grass unfurling after a storm.

“I wish there was enough for a braid,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be nice.”

Eva said nothing. She was watching the candle burn. The wax formed an eyeless socket. Oozing orange. The older girl followed its light out the window where an anonymous glow set the moon on fire. She smiled. The shadows sharpened her teeth.

Edith cleared her throat. “Wouldn’t that be nice.”

“I’m starving,” said Eva.

“We just had dinner.”

“Father told me there’s caramel apples.” She tasted the roof of her mouth. Probed the sores. The tender spots. “I could eat a whole one. Or five.”

“Could not,” said Edith. “And besides, if you ate all those sweets, who would marry you?”

Eva swallowed hard. Her own doll lay abandoned at one corner of the table. Its fingers were poised over the abyss. Arched without a care. Expecting to be saved.

She leaned left. Knocked the toy down. Listened for the thud. Its magnitude was mangled in the carpet and only a tremor remained. A soul-stirring memory of motion.

Then came the yelp.

Human, almost.

She leaned down and resurfaced with a kitten.

For an instant they faced each other. Its vertebrae pressed against her palm. She saw that it was dappled like autumn. It had a white belly. Its tail flickered against her wrist where her veins branched out. She saw its tongue. Saw taste buds receding into smooth pink. One ear reached tall. The other loped sideways. Little puffs of fur rose from the cavernous insides. Pulling in sound. At one point this animal had no fur. She remembered. Its eyes were sealed like buds. She remembered. The first thing it saw was an everything blur and that mind-shattering blast of color lived now in the flesh.

“Um,” said Edith. “That one’s Clayton.”

“I know which is which. Let’s dress him up.”

2. “What are you doing?”/ “Dressing him up.”/ “You’re hurting it.”/ “He likes it. He’s purring.”/ “They do that if they’re scared, too.”/ “No they don’t.”/ “Yes they do.”/ “No they don’t. Here, you try.”/ “I don’t want to hurt it.”/ “Just try.”/ “No.”/ “Just try. See. Isn’t it funny.”/ “A little. It’s a little funny.”/ “It’s very funny, Edith.”/ “Alright. It’s funny.”

3. When Father came home he yelled and pinched the candle out. Eva lit a new one at midnight. She crept from her bed and went downstairs. She killed with velocity the warmth that rose from the valleys of her body. She found the only caramel apple. Under the sweet crust there was a bruise. She took a full bite-- crrrrunch-- and prayed no one had heard. She looked at the furniture. At the armchair which in darkness adopted a predatory air. At the painting arranged delicately over peeling wallpaper. She looked at these things and then at herself.

Blood was running down her leg.

A whimper dribbled from her mouth.

The candle escaped her grasp.

The light, it multiplied.
  • 7:00 AM

The Death Of General Wolfe

Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe, 1770

Good day to you sir, how are you on this fine London morning? May I interest you in this exquisite artwork, The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West? It exemplifies the glory and majesty of Great Britain during the Seven Years’ War. Oh excuse me, you are French? Well then I am sorry but you lack the capability to fully appreciate the beauty and elegance of Benjamin West.

Observe how the General lays on the ground. He looks up to the clear sky, up to the heavens as Christ did when he was brought down from the cross. The British flag leans to the right, as did the Cross itself after Jesus’ crucifixion. His lieutenant sits by his side, dressed in a somber blue, clutching a starch white handkerchief to where the General appears to have suffered a grievous wound but take notice of how clean his shit remains. As Our Lord was crucified upon the cross, Roman soldiers skewered him several times in his abdomen but it is said that he bled clean, pure water. General Wolfe oddly enough lacks a suspicious amount of blood stains but perhaps he bleeds water.

While the dear General lays on the ground, his concerned soldiers surround him, eleven of them if I am correct, in addition to an enemy Indian. Each of the soldiers represent one of the Disciples of Christ while the Indian is Judas. The enemy becomes a friend. He first conspires and fights against General but ultimately is concerned about his well being.  They all share expressions of sorrow on their faces at the death of their general.  

Brooding clouds encroach upon the clear sky, surrounding the landscape in darkness at the death of General Wolfe.  What more could you ask for in a painting depicting the heart-wrenching death of the unsurpassed in prowess general.  Benjamin West portrays Wolfe as a martyr for Her Majesty's empire, much as Christ died in the name of his Father and for the sake of the people.  Normally, I would say to you, "Oh this piece would make a marvelous addition to your estate" but to you, my dear Frenchman, go back to your croissants and baguettes, leave the finery to the English.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.

  • 7:00 AM

Diana Leaving the Bath

Francois Boucher, Diana Leaving the Bath, 1742

Let's be honest. Upon encountering this scene, these ladies would make sure you would leave with a face full of arrows. Luckily for you, they won’t notice, as Francois Boucher has conveniently frozen them in place.

Boucher puts us in an awfully uncomfortable position. We peep in on an intimate scene meant to be shared by only Diana, an esteemed Roman goddess, and her assistant. Freshly bathed, they emerge from the waters to their repose on land. She poses, cross legged and relaxed. Her helper leans forward, examining the fair deity to assure her cleanliness. Remnants of today’s excursion hang off Diana’s bow – a not so subtle reference of her hunting excellence. Yet, even with that blunt reminder of the goddess’s ferocity, the Diana of the moment is unaware of our presence.

Though the two women are at the focal point of the picture, Diana takes precedence. She adheres to the bodily fashion of the times, an intentional gesture by Boucher to make the painting more appealing to collectors. It’s no wonder that his character was brought under scrutiny after he began producing paintings more on the bare side. Even more so, when he reduces divine women into vulnerable young girls. Diana Leaving the Bath is a prime example of this concept. Everything seems a smidge too perfect, especially from a man’s point of view. Her bow has been tossed aside to focus on her unblemished figure, a testament to her oath to remain pure. Rather than a goddess, she is reduced to an idealized symbol of virginity. Way to be gross, Boucher.

So why buy it? To show that you’ve tamed the goddess, of course. Sure, she’ll never take a man’s hand in marriage, but that doesn’t mean a man can’t own her. Put it up on your mantle and have a good laugh with the guys! Or, thoroughly upset your wife. Either way, this pervasive piece of art will make an unforgettable impression.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 7:00 AM

The Village Bride

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Village Bride, 1761

Tired of your basic paintings of wealthy royalty or ancient Goddesses? Well look no further, because Jean-Baptise Greuze The Village Bride of 1761 stands out from the crowd. The meager earnings of this rural middle-class family add to the allure and charm of the painting, setting his work apart from other great pieces of this time. Apparent from the doting couple’s intertwined arm, this young man and woman are definitely deep in love. While the men exchange the money, this marriage certainly does not appear forced. What better way to remind your significant other of the love that brought you two together than hanging this painting for all guests to observe. More than that, this painting tells a story. Every face represents another feeling towards this wedding. The bride looks somber, but the fact that she must leave her family causes this reaction. A skeptical sister sits behind her father, upset that she was not the first to get married in the family. On the bottom of the painting, the stray chick mirrors the fact that the bride walks away from the pack and goes on her own. Greuze splits the painting between men and women. The male side deals with the economic transaction, while the female side comforts the bride and seems to flow. Every inch of this 36 by 46-inch canvas tells a different story.

Aside from the unique and intricate story this painting tells, Greuze’s technique makes the painting worth a purchase. The dark, neutral tones contrasts with the stark white skin and apron of the bride, drawing the eye to the focal point. A balance of the rising staircase and the dark shadow on the upper right corner create a balanced composition. The symmetry of the people on each side makes the painting feel complete, and the painting seems to flow. The stonewall in the background adds a heaviness, and creates a bare spot that grounds the bottom half of the painting’s narrative. Overall, there is no disputation that Jean-Baptiste’s Greuze’s time at the Academy allowed him to master the skills needed to become a legendary painter. If not because of the intricate details, rich colors and balanced symmetry, you deserve this painting hanging on your wall out of a sign of love. Why try to smother your significant other with unsophisticated jewelry or redundant flowers when you could hold a piece of history in your home, all the while telling them how much you adore them. The young and pure couple illustrates this raw human emotion in its most innocent form and will light any room up with love.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 7:00 AM

Death on the Pale Horse

Benjamin West, Death on the Pale Horse, 1796

Take a moment. Gaze upon this masterpiece produced by the coveted, reputable Benjamin West. One cannot merely scrutinize Death on the Pale Horse’s artistic magnificence and proceed without delving into West’s glorious representation of doom and destruction. A painting of this magnitude deserves the ownership of solely worthy and appreciative buyers. Why this painting over any other? It excels in both inner meaning and artistic beauty.

Some of West’s works typically relate to or symbolize Christianity. The Death of General Wolfe, another work by West, illustrates the Lamentation of Christ through several identifiable hints including the number of men portrayed, the positioning, and colors. Death on the Pale Horse, however, needs no hints due to how West directly portrays an excerpt from the Bible: “I looked and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the Earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the Earth” (Revelations 6:8). In the painting, Death itself storms into battle, stampeding over Humankind in an epic manor, accompanied by the feared Hades. Fiends rage upon the valiant people, as West masterfully depicts forces of Hell and Beasts of Earth warring with Humans. Biblical truth leaks from this painting, perfect for Christian believers who desire a piece to exemplify their faith.

In aspects of artistic value, look closely at this painting. The darkness helps add to this obscure, dark depiction. The motion flows towards to the center, where West illustrates humans’ weakness and subjugation to the forces of death. The impeccable detail and time spent on this work adds to its value, making it a must for only knowledgeable collectors. Why hang a painting preaching such dark ideas? It demonstrates sophistication and expertise when one can tell of the true meanings behind it. Also, the crisp detail makes it a worthy décor piece. Do not be a square and buy simple, nature portraits. Be more, be a triangle, or a circle! Buy a Rococo work of art, and impress guests and family. Something as valuable as a Benjamin West work will never sit on the shelves for long before someone comes invests in such a venture. Make a swift choice, for time is ticking.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 7:00 AM

The Triumph of Venus

The Triumph of Venus, François Boucher, 1740

INTELLECT. ENCHANTMENT. ROMANCE. Look no further than François Boucher’s The Triumph of Venus. Obtaining such an exquisite painting not only displays knowledge of Greek mythology, but the importance of romance's commencement. Just a couple years before creating this masterpiece, the imaginative Boucher received the pristine honor of gaining a membership to The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. His artistic reputation speaks for itself as Boucher continues to be recognized for his large-scale historical and mythological paintings. Owning a Boucher is a must!

If you’re looking to keep up with the best Rococo trends, The Triumph of Venus’ composition contains a cool palette with shades of blue and turquoise, both belonging to the Rococo style of art. Amidst the seemingly erotic setting, amorous love prevails as Venus glows amongst the chaos. Movement spurs from wind as the cupids frolic and lift the pink and grey silk over the Goddess. Detailed voluptuous bodies, one of Boucher’s signatures, serve as branches for Venus’ doves to perch on. Boucher makes no effort to hide the human body rendering them exposed. This adds to themes of sensuality and fantasy in the painting. The scene’s relevance demands to be felt as Venus, and love itself, are being born.

This portrayal of mythologie galante invites an aura of sentimental love that fills any location this painting presides. Boucher combines natural and artificial subject matter in order to let pleasure and relaxation radiate to the viewer. Love spews from the swells of the ocean as Venus sits idle and calm. The sheer beauty of the Goddess of Love evokes a sort of romanticism that underlines human simplicity. Interests in pleasure and fantasy throb while Boucher’s intricate attention to detail proves his brilliant execution as an artist. With François Boucher’s works flourishing, and his career potential on the rise, owning The Triumph of Venus proves to, not only be a decision of refined taste, but a keen investment. Show off your passion for love while also impressing people with your intellect.

While supplies last…

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 7:00 AM

The Embarkation of Cythera

Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Embarkation of Cythera, 1717

The Embarkation to Cythera perfectly embodies of Rococo art. Watteau uses soft pastel colors, as well as his famed amorphous greenery, allowing the viewer to feel relaxed and at peace when admiring the work. With this in your house, you will experience tranquility and serenity, defusing stress after the inconveniences of the day. He also quite subtly uses cherubs, another characteristic of Rococo art, throughout the painting which implies a celestial nature.

The far right of the painting features three couples expressing their affection for one another. To give the viewer another inkling at the main theme of the work, Watteau uses cherubs throughout as a classic Rococo symbol of love. Another way Watteau implies romance is in the setting of the work, the island of Cythera as a part of the Ionian Islands in Greece. Cythera is known to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who is featured as a statue in the far right. By placing the piece at Aphrodite's birthplace, it symbolizes the creation of new love.

The Embarkation to Cythera would make the perfect gift as a wedding present for your beloved as it symbolizes your new-found nuptials. Placed next to the feet of one couple lies a black and white dog, sitting contentedly atop the small green hill. Dogs imply fidelity and loyalty, proving a ceaseless allegiance to one's beloved. Watteau's magnificent artwork will produce elation and the ultimate statement of status and love to you, the buyer.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 7:00 AM