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Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. DETAIL

“Les Confidences” By Edmond-François Aman-Jean – A Close Look

Sometimes you come across a painting that keeps you looking beyond a cursory – oh-that’s-wonderful thought. I especially love when the deeper looking involves a painting (and artist) previously unknown to me. This is true of today’s close look blog post. Check out Les Confidences by Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean (b. 13 January 1858, Chevry-Cossigny, France – d. 25 January 1936, Paris, France). I love both the technique of pastel painting and application AND the psychological overtones.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I first encountered this painting years a few years ago in Ellen Eagle’s beautiful and practical book, Pastel Painting Atelier. She talks briefly about the painting, mentioning the daring division of the composition into two parts, each half with its own colour, both colours being complements (red and green). She also speaks of how the light shapes of the figure in the upper right connects to the bench and the other figure which in turn creates a fluidity that reflects the idea of confidences. I LOVE these notes and now will build on them.

(By the way, I’ve linked to Ellen’s book after the post. It is definitely one I recommend for pastel practitioners!!)

Before I continue, first off, I want to point out the size of Les Confidences. It’s LARGE!! Keep that size in mind as we continue.

First, let’s look at how the artist leads us around the piece. I feel as if, unusually, there are three possibilities. Have a look at the three annotated images below. I’m curious to know which path is the one your eyes take. Or perhaps there’s a further option!

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," Annotated 1. Two heads always connect easily and so the path you take can first connect the heads and move from there.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” Annotated 1. Two heads always connect easily and so the path you take can first connect the heads and move from there.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," Annotated2. In this version, you follow the direction of the right figure's eyes. They seem to be looking at the fan. And then we see the hat and circle back up. Thus the path takes us in the opposite direction.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” Annotated 2. In this version, you follow the direction of the right figure’s eyes. They seem to be looking at the fan. And then we see the hat, and the vertical posts of the bench, and circle back up. Thus the path takes us in the opposite direction from the first version.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," Annotated3. In this third  version, you again follow the direction of the right figure's eyes. From the fan though, we move to the head of the other woman and then circle our way around her.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” Annotated3. In this third version, you again follow the direction of the right figure’s eyes. From the fan though, this time we move to the head of the other woman and then circle our way around her. This route is more of a zigzag rather than a circular path.

So, let’s look more closely at Les Confidences. First, the diagonal line between the two heads, can you see how it’s subtly reinforced by the darker shading in the background? Can you see how there’s almost a line created in the foliage itself underscoring this connection between the two women?

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco -Detail
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco -Detail

Going back to the complementary red/green colour scheme, you can see how the artist played with it, placing the pink blouse against the green background and the green bench back alongside the red of the dress. Interestingly, there’s another set of complementary colours – the colours of their shawls – mauve and yellow. These are the only places these two colours are seen in the painting and suggest the individuality and thus separation of these two characters whereas the red/green colours tie them together.

The curving lines of the figures and their clothing are set off by the straighter, harder lines of the bench, a device that pretty much divides the piece in half. Each figure is placed on either side of this bench. The women are like neighbours sharing confidences over a garden fence.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Detail.

The artist was obviously very comfortable with the use of soft pastel and influenced by the Impressionists of the time. Look at the sea of a red created by the dress’s skirt. We can easily read it as a dress but seen disconnected from context, it becomes a field of varying colour shifts and marks of reds – mid-value and dark values, short lines and longer lines, layers built over layers.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Detail of the red skirt
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Detail of the red skirt

Look too at the pink blouse below, at the variety of line in various shades of red and pink. I love those two squiggly lines of almost white highlights. Also, take a look at the blocks of subtle colour shifts in the mauve shawl.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco -Detail of pink sleeve
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco -Detail of pink sleeve
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.

Although the space within the painting reads as believable, when you spend some time with the work you realize there’s a flatness to the green space behind the women – it’s more decorative than real. The close cropping of the figures emphasises this flatness. The background green appears all around the painting behind the women. It circles the hat in a bright but undefined way and shows through the bench slats.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Detail.

The same goes for what appears to be a standing woman. She’s believable, standing and leaning on the back of the bench back. Yet, when you consider the space and where the rest of her body must be in that space, it’s difficult to understand how she can be leaning against the bench-back so nonchalantly. The bench would have to be exceedingly high or her legs very short and yet this height discrepancy is not visually apparent to a viewer on a cursory look. Is she possibly sitting on the other side of the bench? Would that explain how this all works?

Despite the spatial anomalies (that sounds like something out of Star Trek!), the artist is fully capable when it comes to rendering the human form. The seated woman’s body twists on the bench. We see the tops of her shoulders, the top of her chest with collar bone, the neck that emerges foreshortened, the flesh of the back as its pushed up by the pressure of her leaning against the bench back. And look at the hand sitting in her lap. Beautiful!

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail.

The woman on the bench wears a strapless dress. Her shawl has slipped. All this gives the opportunity to show-off the artist’s skill as mentioned above. It also adds to the narrative. Do these bare shoulders in addition to the colour of her dress express something about this character in the narrative?

Her shadowed face is hidden. She looks away from the woman on the right. All this has us wondering: what is going on here? Is it this woman who shares confidences and has a secret to share? And what is the context of her confidence?  Shame? Embarrassment? Yet she seems at ease on the bench despite the twist in her body. Could she be sharing confidences about a love affair?

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail

And who is the standing woman? Friend? sister? mother? Peer at her and she seems not to be looking at the seated woman. Instead, she looks at the fan or perhaps she gazes at a spot beyond the picture plane, listening to the whispered confidences shared by the seated woman. Her face seems blank, smiling slightly, perhaps with compassion. Certainly no harsh judgement is apparent. Rather there’s a feeling of acceptance.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Detail

And just because you know me and value (!), I’m including a de-saturated version of the painting so you can see it in greys.

Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, "Les Confidences," ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In black and white.
Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898, pastel on blue-grey mounted paper on canvas, 48 1/16 x 38 in, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In black and white.

There’s more I could say but I’m going to leave some of that for you to fill in. Soooooo talk to me! Give me some of your ideas about what’s going on. And also, what strikes you about the piece. For instance, what about the hat? What does it tell us? How does it work as a visual device in the picture? Please also let us know if you’ve seen the painting in the real. It must be stunning (remember its large size?)!

Do please leave a comment telling me your thoughts! I’d LOVE to hear from you.

Until next time!

~ Gail

PS. This is Ellen Eagle’s fabulous book!

PPS. Curious about this artist’s life? Born in France, Edmond-François Aman-Jean attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where apparently he shared a workshop with George Seurat. Along with Seurat, he worked as an assistant to Puvis de Chauvannes (a fav of mine!) helping with several of his murals. In 1923, he co-founded the Salon des Tuileries, an annual exhibition of paintings and sculptures.

You can read more about the artist on Wikipedia. You can see more of his art here. And…check out this cool portrait of him by Seurat!

Georges Seurat, "Aman-Jean," 1882-83, Conté crayon on Michallet  paper, 24 1/2 x 18 11/16 in (62.2 x 47.5cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This was the first work to be exhibited by the 23-year old Seurat.
Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean,” 1882-83, Conté crayon on Michallet paper, 24 1/2 x 18 11/16 in (62.2 x 47.5cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This was the first work to be exhibited by the 23-year old Seurat.

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Comments

40 thoughts on ““Les Confidences” By Edmond-François Aman-Jean – A Close Look”

  1. Dear Gail,
    This is a spectacularly interesting post and I can’t believe I have never heard of this artist, either! I live near SF, so will be going to either the De Young or Legion of Honor to see this pastel in person.

    Your analysis is so perceptive and made me enjoy the painting even more, though when I opened your blog and saw it, I was hooked at first glace. I found myself first looking at the woman on the right because of the light color of her dress and face and then dropping down to the other woman on the left. This painting has a sense of mystery to me and the way the hat is drawn, it appears to float in the green background. Another incongruity that works and keeps you looking at the painting.

    I will be at IAPS and will come by and say “hi.”
    Thank you for sharing this!
    Cynthia

    1. Ohhhhhh love hearing that Cynthia. Isn’t it amazing how many fabulous artists there out there who we’ve never heard of? I hope you do see this pastel in real life. It says it’s not on display at the moment but perhaps, with notice, you will be able to get a look at it.

      Yes, so interesting about that hat and how it floats against and becomes part of the green background. One of the things I was going to suggest in the blog post but held back was this…cover the hat with your hand and see what a difference it makes. It’s the hat, I think, that helps the viewer to travel all over the painting. It also adds another piece to the mystery.

      See you at IAPS! (Can you not make the HTP gathering on Thursday?)

  2. Hi Gail—
    What a wonderful painting to examine! Just a thought: there is a type of garden bench that I believe was popular during this artist’s lifetime, that has a seat on both sides. Seen from above, it is almost S shaped; a curved backrest forming a central sort of spine for two seats that face partly toward each other and partly out toward the view. I don’t have a picture of one at hand, and would have to go digging for it in books of antique furniture. It does have a specific name, but unfortunately my memory is not dredging it up! So I believe that the figure on the right of the painting is seated on one side of the bench, and the reclining woman on the left is on the other. It does make the spatial relationships make more sense! 🙂

    1. Hi Alexia, glad you enjoyed the painting.
      And yes, I know the seat you mean -it’s often called a courting bench. This furniture was a way for couples to interact but still be kept separate! I certainly considered it as an option except for two things – 1) can you see on the far right where it looks like the bench is curving out towards us thus giving the impression of a regular bench and 2) the red-dressed lady is rather spread out whereas courting seats used to be more confined (or at least the ones I have seen). Also, perspective-wise, if the woman on the right was seated, she’d be more level with the other woman. A conundrum for sure!

  3. Such interesting observations ! To me the woman in pink is sitting, her gaze to me is on the roses sitting on a…. Rattan table?…..and what is she thinking ?…
    …why her not me ?….
    ….Oh my daughter this behaviour is too bad !!!…..
    ….Madam, you are so outrage”ss
    Such a beautiful painting 🌹

    1. Hah hah – love those thoughts Adrianne!! 😀 Thanks for sharing your imaginations with us.

      One thing though, the roses are, I believe, on a hat. In the blog, I was going to mention the black ribbon that winds its way around the bench slats…do you see? (In our day it could be a cool handbag!) That black ribbon links to the fan and the left woman’s dark hair and shadowed face.

  4. Edmond-Francois Aman-Jean, “Les Confidences,” ca. 1898,
    I see a different eye travel: right face to shawl to left face to flowers on hat then swirl to fan. A back and forth movement from right face to fan suddenly occurs. And then from fan to left face.
    I am puzzled by the green background becomes middle ground in the lap of right girl and also encroaches over the rim of the hat! This feature separates the two girls and splits the subject of their confidence. They are both looking towards the fan which symbolizes a pending solution.

    1. Heinz, thanks for adding your interpretation as how an eye might travel. Certainly as one looks beyond a cursory glance, one’s eye travels all over. I like how you describe that back and forth movement from face to fan – it adds movement and intrigue!

      And yes, that green background! It certainly seems to act as a metaphorical container for the whole swirling situation. And I like the idea of the fan representing a solution.

  5. I agree this is a wonderful painting and wish to thank you for the lucid explanation of the technical details. For me the picture invokes a feeling of ennui and a little sadness. I don’t see much empathy between the two women but get the impression that they are each in a reverie of their own thoughts, which are not happy. I could imagine a number of scenarios to explain their unhappiness despite their privileged situation (judging from their clothing and the garden setting), but the lack of an obvious explanation is part of the interest of the picture. The background greenery seems oppressive. Are they hiding in a corner? Is the garden part of a gilded cage which traps them? The picture immediately brought to my mind a saying of my mother’s “Money can’t buy you happiness, but at least you can be miserable in comfort.” I have little doubt that looking at the painting on a different day could produce different thoughts – an attribute that sets a really good picture apart.

    1. Eddie thank you for your interpretation about what you read in the situation. Yes, I too was struck by the lack of feeling between the two women. Love that you brought out the sensation of ennui and unhappiness. There certainly seems to be a lull in the proceedings, as if Les Confidences have been shared and now there’s time to absorb with little reaction …yet. Thanks too for reminding of us of that saying your Mum used to quote! Seems to suit this picture very well!!

      The green, yes, it’s all-encompassing. Love your interpretations of it!

      And I’d love to hear your narrative coming back to it another day!

  6. I think this might be my favorite blog of yours ever. I love the critique and analysis of this painting. I am trying to think more about composition, structure, what I trying to communicate and how those all tie together. This is so helpful and I’d love more!

    1. Ohhhh Katy, LOVE hearing that!! And I’m glad all that is said about this painting is helpful in the evolution of your own work.

      I have another one up my sleeve…. 🙂

  7. I LOVE this painting.

    About the bench, it could be one that has seats on both sides, usually for courting couples to keep them together but apart. We just don’t see the arm on the right, which would be behind the woman in the pink dress. These benches were very common in those days, although usually not as wide and more like chairs with a s-curve back.

    1. Yay Katie!!!
      Yes, I had thought about it being a courting bench but as I said to Alexis above, we can see the edge of the back starting to curve out towards us again, rather than turning in the other direction. I think it would be a perfect device for this scene with its sharing of confidences. Still, even if it was a courting bench, the woman on the right appears so much higher than the woman on the left. She looks down on the red-dressed woman who admittedly is slightly slumped down on the bench.
      I try to see her sitting but there is so little to show that. It’s not easy to believe her legs, her knees, are poking into space on the other side!

  8. I love how the seated woman body rests on the bench, so relaxed, even though the tilting of her torso gives some movement to the composition. I think the woman in the background is seating on the other side of the bench and the painter exaggerated her height to achieve a pyramidal composition and the diagonal line that forms the two women’s heads. The red colour (even one of them is redhead) connects them and the redhead arm guides us to the other woman. It seems that the older one is listening carefully to give some advice to the other…. I loved your description of this very interesting artwork ( I didn’t know the artist either)

    1. I think you may have hit the nail on the head Susana, that the artist used exaggeration to achieve a compositional need and outcome. The same way, for instance, Baroque artists like Pontormo elongated and shifted body parts to achieve a certain look. I mean, even the right woman’s arm along the bench doesn’t read quite correctly!

      Thanks too for pointing out that the woman on the right is a red-head which adds to the whole red side of things!

  9. Thanks so much, Gail, for showing us this work. Wow – 3 feet by 4 feet! It’s so inspiring. I’ve been reading up on Delacroix, (and his use of colour, colour theory and pastel work) and his influence on ‘modern’ painting, so Aman Jean fits into that progression. In Aman Jean’s work, my eye is never encouraged to leave the work, nor get stuck anywhere. At the same time, there’s lots and lots of entertainment on the surface – wonderful marks everywhere. Oh, to see the original.

    1. I know – such a large pastel painting!! I can’t wait to see it in the flesh so to speak!
      And definitely, you can see Delacroix’s influence here. He certainly used the idea of complements for instance in “The Death of Sardanapalus with its large field of red colour punctuated here and there by various greens.

      And agreed, my eye never wants to leave the painting but also doesn’t stop moving. And allll that mark-making …. Maybe one day the painting will be on public view so we can all go see it!!!

  10. Hi Gail,

    I don’t know what HTP is, but I did sign up for the dinner on the patio at the Albuquerque Hotel on Thursday evening. Maybe I will see you there?

    When I cover the hat with my hand, the women and bench seem to be floating, so the hat really does ground the piece. Thanks for calling that to my attention.
    Cynthia

    1. Hi Cynthia, Sorry – HTP is HowToPastel! We are having a gathering 4:30-5:30 Thursday before the Paint Around. I will have a notice on the board near registration desks with location.

      Glad you can see what the hat does!!

  11. My eyes are drawn from the red headed woman’s eyes down to the bowed head of the seated woman, to the fan, and from there they follow the light and shadow patterns of the dress back to the hat (or basket?) with the two roses. The white rose symbolizes purity, the other is difficult. If the intention was to paint a salmon colored rose, it would mean desire. Two roses together generally symbolized marriage or perhaps two lovers. So, the confidence is probably about the seated woman’s lover. The closed fan, from what I have read, means “Do you love me?” So, it would seem the seated woman is talking with the other woman about a lover and her doubts about him. Though I might be reading too much into this, too!

    1. Ohhhhh Maria, thanks for sharing your in-depth reading of the painting. LOVE what you have read into it. I too wondered about the two roses and colours. I wondered if they represented the two women (red=passion and white= pure). And yes, the reading into the closed fan is cool.

      Thanks for playing along!!

  12. I love the pink shoulder that you extracted — such light strokes of color and marks.

    As for the story, I read it differently. If you change the title to “The Confession” or “Betrayal,” it reads like this: Bottom figure: ” OK, I admit it, I’ve been sleeping with your husband — go ahead and hit me” (see how the bottom figure’s face looks as if she’s been struck?). Top figure then says: ” Well, I sort of guessed it all along. How could I, a wheelchair-bound invalid, ever hope to compete with you, a gorgeous, exotic dancer? What’s going to happen to me now?”

    By the way, I’m ordering the book — looks great, via Amazon reviews.

    1. Oh RG, you certainly made me laugh!! Please, more!!! Don’t keep us in suspense! What happens next??

      Thanks for ordering the book. You won’t regret it!

  13. Gail, I so enjoy and appreciate your perspective. I learn so much from your writings and your videos. Thank you for helping me grow as a relatively new artist!

  14. The seated woman’s left arm hanging over the top of the bench gives me the impression of a cavalier attitude as if “I’ve done this and I’m not sorry about it”.
    The standing woman doesn’t seem to be looking directly at the fan but merely has eyes lowered as if she has just heard the confession and lowers her eyes to take it all in before making a response.

    1. Another smile-making interpretation!! Thanks Barbara! I love how you picked up on the trailing left arm of the seated woman and how that gives her the attitude you describe. And yes, the standing woman sort of looks in reverie, in her own thoughts, and yes, taking in the words of the seated woman.

      And so what’s that hint of a smile on her face mean??

  15. I have always felt that a good painting is more than “painting good”. It leads the viewer in so the imagination creates its own story. Thank you all for sharing your story.

  16. Hi Gail,
    This painting makes me think of a frequent theme end of 19th century in France; a prostitute and her madam. What leads my thoughts? The red dress, the naked shoulders, the fan, the laid back attitude, the shadowed face. The madam seems older and her expression could be her concern over a client, maybe becoming a serious lover! She would then lose her gain on this girl!
    Well, that was fun interpreting ! Keeps my eyes on the ball. Ha ha.

    1. Oh my gosh yes, that was a fun interpretation!! Thank you for sharing yet another take on this curious painting Margareth. LOVED IT!!

  17. I agree with much of the description of the painting. But a little focus on the shortcomings of the work is also educational. The impressionists strengths without question were the understanding of light and its effect and the bold use of colour. But they fell short of accuracy in regards anatomy and form. I find it difficult to appreciate a work that has some obvious anatomical flaws that impede the full enjoyment of the work. One of the more obvious problems is the red head’s broken nose & overly distanced eyes and a neck that does not have the long elegance that female necks have.

    The woman with the dark hair has some serious issues also. Her left arm actually looks broken and the beautifully painted hand on the skirt is connected to the forearm at a rather strange angle. Fabric follows the hollows and peaks of the body and that subtlety which shows mastery is missing. The mystery of the painting is there, it is unfortunate that the mastery of anatomy was not there to support it. Other issues include a lack of the subtle shadows that occur with overlap of fabric, etc. The face of the dark haired woman which I assume was to depict mystery, lack of detail, etc. unfortunately has the look of a pale white mask. Some of this may just be the aging of the painting over time where the whites increase in intensity. It may not have been painted this way. I do not wish to dampen the enthusiasm show this work, but if it is to be treated as a master painting, we need to look at it critically as well as optimistically.

    1. Hi Joanne, thank you for your in-depth viewing of this painting. I agree there are some shortcomings in anatomy but for me, there is an overall feel of the painting being about colour and line and story rather than anatomical correctness. We still appreciate, for instance, the paintings of the Italian Mannerists like Pontormo and Parmigianino with their paintings of figures with elongated and sometimes not-quite-right anatomy. (Just take a look at the crazily wonderful “Madonna with the Long Neck“!) I can see all that you mention and agree (and disagree) in varying degrees. What really impresses me, however, is your thoroughness in engaging with every part of figures in the painting! Love that! Thank you!

    1. Argh Cynthia, how did we not meet at IAPS?? And yes, IAPS, as always, was a marvellous experience! Hope to see you there next year 🙂

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