Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wimsey Seated on A Woman Seated on a Bench

Woman Seated on a Bench (Claude Monet, 1874, Tate Museum, London). While it is always refreshing to see a Monet painting that does not involve water lilies, I must confess that this painting has always struck me as odd. The woman in question looks so immobile and static. Also there is so much unoccupied room on the bench considering it is such a nice day (notice how strongly the loose, imprecise brush strokes convey the lushness of a summer’s day and the dappling of sunlight on the bench). But with the insertion of a magnificent (if somewhat rude) Hound, all is explained! The woman is not immobile by choice. She cannot move with the heavy burden of a Hound on her legs. We sense that at any moment the Hound will sprawl across her lap and settle in for a satisfying chew on her parasol, an element which adds drama to this otherwise rather placid scene. Wimsey Seated on A Woman Seated on a Bench.

Girl with a Wimsey

Girl With An Ermine (Leonardo da Vinci, 1489, Czartoryski Museum, Krakow, Poland). Now this a very beautiful painting of an extraordinary young woman (she was 17 when this was painted), Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan. She was highly educated, spoke Latin, wrote poetry played music and hosted one of the first salons in Europe. And Leonardo infuses the painting with a dynamic quality as evidenced by the fact that he seems to catch the sitter just in the act of turning--perhaps to listen to what someone is saying. Although the title of the painting would lead one to believe that the woman is holding an ermine, it is really a white ferret, which to me somehow lacks the same cachet. But in any case, as a beautiful and refined woman she should really be holding a beautiful and refined Hound! See how much better she looks cuddling this diminutive, yet somehow haughty Hound. And the presence of the Hound also makes the painting more clear as she is probably turning to acknowledge someone who is greatly admiring him. Girl With A Wimsey.