Fantasy Interior with Jan Steen and the Family of Gerrit Schouten
"Interior scene with two dogs in center foreground, foot warmer, right middle ground, left to right: Negro placing silver pot in marble basin; velvet-covered side chair holding belt with sheathed sword; bowing boy offering peeled lemon on round salver to seated woman in gray with open book in lap; standing man behind her in front of fireplace addressing seated man; standing woman at clavichord with elaborately carved pedestal; another woman beyond clavichord playing lute, facing left. Tapestries on wall, rear, drawn aside at door, left, through which is seen woman laying table in front of leaded windows; octagonal table bearing tray and pitcher; gray stone fireplace, center, with column on each side, motto "discite mori" on top face, be hatted skull with arrow on mantelpiece, above painting of warriors and elephants; right, tall cupboard with sculpture atop of Venus and putto flanked left, by infant Bacchus and right, Eros sharpening his bow."
Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse
Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun
Vigée Le Brun was one of the most popular portraitists of 18th-century Europe. Though her rapid rise to fame was both resisted and resented by jealous rivals, she became Painter to Queen Marie Antoinette of France, whom she first portrayed in 1778. This painting is one of a series of early masterpieces created by the artist in the decade prior to the Revolution. In terms of style and technique it is largely dependent on the example of the great Flemish artists of the 17th century, Rubens and Van Dyck, whose works Vigée Le Brun had studied in detail while traveling through the Low Countries in the early 1780s. The sitter's costume of red, black and white is based on that of the peasant women of Brittany--a precious affectation, on the part of a duchess, but one which was fashionable among the aristocracy at precisely this moment in French history. When the painting was first exhibited at the Salon of 1785, the Duchesse de Caderousse was an instant success with both critics and the public. One of the artist's most celebrated works, it remained in the possession of the sitter's descendants until November 1984.
Still Life, 1638
The 17th-century Dutch viewer would have recognized this softly illuminated still life as a representation of wealth and prosperity. The artist demonstrates his skill at depicting the various textures and reflections on the surfaces of these luxury items: a half-filled wine vessel; a silver or pewter platter and overturned cup-on-stand; a small, Chinese porcelain bowl; and a lemon, with its elegantly spiraling peel. In the porcelain bowl are wild strawberries, a delicacy typically enjoyed with French wine. The recent and seemingly abrupt departure of the person enjoying this light meal suggests the theme of vanitas, reminding us of the fleeting nature of all wealth and pleasure in our mortal state.