Friday, December 10, 2010

An oddly affectionate gesture

We're all wondering what's up with the nipple pinching right? The following provides a  rundown of the provenance of this ol' painting from the curators at the Louvre:

Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters, unattributed, c. 1594, Oil on panel, H. 0.96 m; W. 1.25 m. Louvre, Paris.

"The candid gesture may be an allusion to Gabrielle's pregnancy and the birth in 1594 of César de Vendôme, the illegitimate son of Henry IV.

... Although very much in the style of the second school of Fontainebleau, this work remains anonymous. It shows the influence of Italian Renaissance art in the sensual contours of the bodies of the two young women, but also contains references to Flemish art, such as the intimacy of the background scene.

Italian influence: The trompe-l'oeil technique
The artist has made skillful use of the trompe-l'oeil technique, using an imitative, realistic style for on the sheet in the bath and the two curtains framing the scene. The trompe-l'oeil effect is accentuated by the view of what is taking place in the background room. Richly colored, unsettling in its presentation of two women in their bath, and mysterious in its use of symbol - the ring being shown by Gabrielle d'Estrées, for example - the sensuality of the painting made it a popular success. Sensuous yet marvelously delicate, the contours of the two naked bodies are highlighted by the lighting of the two women from the left and the contrast with the shadowy background.

An oddly affectionate gesture
The models have been identified as Gabrielle d'Estrées (1571-99), the favorite of Henry IV (1553-1610), and one of her sisters: the Duchess de Villars or Madame de Balagny. The oddly affectionate way in which the sister is pinching Gabrielle d'Estrées' right breast has often been taken as symbolizing the latter's pregnancy with the illegitimate child of Henry IV. This interpretation would seem to be confirmed by the scene of the young woman sewing - perhaps preparing a layette for the coming child - in the background. The picture was acquired by the Louvre in 1937".

The Louvre website, retrieved on 8 December 2010

And that ol' term for a picture within a picture:

Las Meninas, DiegoVelázquez. 1656, Oil on canvas, 318 cm × 276 cm (125.2 in × 108.7 in), Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Mise-en-abyme: Literally, "placement en abyme," where "en abîme" itself refers to the habit of representing a small shield inside a larger one in traditional heralds and coats-of-arms. This device is often part of the text's self-reflexivity. By extension, most any "story-within-a-story" situations can be called an example of mise-en-abyme. The device is especially common in modern literature, television and films, but it occasionally appears in art.
The Literary Link, retrieved on 8 December 2010

And while we're at it:

mise en scène |ˌmēz ˌä n ˈsen|
noun [usu. in sing. ]
the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play.
• the setting or surroundings of an event or action.
ORIGIN French, literally ‘putting on stage.’

Putting on stage...behind the infinity...

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