February 26, 2013

The Progress of Love: The Love Letters

The fourth piece to complete Fragonard's The Progress of Love (this title for the series is more recently given) is a piece we now call The Love Letters.  If you have not already, check out the other posts in this series, linked at the bottom of this post.  This panel may have been located across from The Pursuit and next to The Lover Crowned at Louveciennes.  Guest at Louveciennes would see this piece at best when returning from the gardens and entering through the large glass doorway.

Two youths sit in the center of this garden, in a close embrace and wearing soft elegant clothing.  The boy's hand is placed in a suggestive spot, so you can imagine the intense sexual attraction between them.  Moving up to his face, you will see an passionate gaze fixed only on the young lady.  He appears to only see her as she reads through letter after letter, written in his own hand (we can safely assume!).  The letters are piled up on the stone pillar next to her, the red sealing wax still attached.  She is perched so high on the stone element it would be feasible that he placed her there, and stuck her parasol in the vines to free his hands. 

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, European, The Progress of Love (Love Letters). 1771-73, oil on canvas. The Frick Collection.
Flowers spill across the grass around them and a small spaniel sits patiently on the girls side.  Dogs in paintings such as this would stand for fidelity, and we can read it as such.  So we have a couple, loyal to each other, recalling the past. They are framed by foliage, and sunlight shines through a heart shaped opening, highlighting them.  Author Mary Sheriff points out that the couple is perched on and against a pedestal, much like the one the sculptures stand on to their left.  Rather than the couple imitating the near by sculptures such as in The Pursuit, they are now truly the focus of the scene, in the spotlight.

The sculpture of Venus appears as Friendship, many see sculpture as dominating the painting.  She looms over the scene withholding an object of desire from the little cupid (the heart!).  This has been read differently by a variety of historians, and a popular theory is that the girl is only offering friendship now that things have cooled.  Is she withholding something from her lover? What do you think?

After a romp in the park with the duc or comtesse you just met, you will be pleased to see The Love Letters on the wall across from you.  As you sip down some ratafia you might smile to see the two lovers engage in memories of their past affair.  You will, no doubt, blush as you recall your own recent affairs!

The full series:
  1. The Progress of Love: The Pursuit 
  2. The Progress of Love: The Meeting
  3. The Progress of Love: The Lover Crowned

February 14, 2013

Historical Influences! Fashion Week 2013

There are some surprising ensembles coming out of fashion week, and I thought I would share some of those from Oscar de la Renta's collection! Check out the designs that reminds us of 18th century (and earlier!) decorative arts and tapestry!

 images from Vogue

What do you think of the designs?

February 01, 2013

Can't have a Revolution if the Music Isn't Right

Antonie Vestier, Portrait de
François-Joseph Gossec, 1791
Francois Joseph Gossec was a talented musician and his own worst critic.  He was born in 1734 and would develop a true talent and passion for symphonies.  Unfortunately for the young Gossec, France was not in the market for symphonies.  In fact, quite opposite, there was a general disdain for a symphony, and lyrics were in.  Le Opera was all the rage.

Gossec turned to writing Operas Comiques.  His brief career in the new medium proved short, only two years! His career did not take another turn until 1773 when he became the director of Concert Spirtuel. All the while he was well known, and a very strong composer.

In his new position he wrote music for the church, and experienced success. He had never been truly unsuccessful, but because he was not producing grand symphonies, he never felt fully accomplished.   His Grand Messe des Morts was written in 1760 and remained popular for decades.  He continued to work on tragédies-lyrique which were operas on serious subjects.

In 1774 he wrote a historical opera, Sabinus. It was a hit! It premiered in Paris and was all people talked about, for two short months. Gluck had soon after premiered his  Iphigénie en Aulide, instantly pushing Sabinus down the charts. Bittersweet. 

Possibly by Jacques-Louis David, Gossec. Via
At the end of 1789 there was a demand to commemorate the Bastille with a festival. the National Festival of the Federation was planned to be held on July 14, 1790.  Still known for his Concert Spirituel he was picked to compose a piece for the Thanksgiving Mass to be held the day of the festival. He composed Le Triomphe De La République. Although he was not writing his beloved symphonies he enjoyed well known reputation from his pieces composed for the state.

 Here are some of his works, recognize any?

Le Triomphe De La République
Grand Messe des Morts