Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reader Appreciation Day and a New Woman Artist (new to me, that is)

charpentier Constance Marie Charpentier, Mlle. Charlotte du Val-D’Ognes.  ca. 1801

I’d like to thank all my readers who have been over here recently and contributed to wonderful discussions on everything from the black dog of depression to dancing in one’s undies with the curtains closed. 

I have not come to your blogs as often as I’d like, due to the requirements of non-blogging life.  What’s a person to do except send all the following lovely people my heartfelt appreciation!  (Extending, of course to those who visit “under the radar.”  You know who you are.)  

Purest Green, Fat Frumpy and Fifty, Imogen, jinksy, Anonymous, Protege, Suburbia, Jane, The Dotterel, Nota Bene, FrumpyGibbon, Stephanie N., Ms Lucy, Mardel, Hazel at The Clever Pup, Belette, Suecae Sounds, notSupermum, Lola, Ingrid, Duchesse, Poetikat, drollgirl, Lilith, Penney, ethelmaepotter, tiffany, Midlife Jobhunter, Angela Recada, Cynthia, Doreen, Working Mum, Chris A, Seeker, Ribbon, Jennifer, Velveteen Rabbit, Catherine at A Thousand Clapping Hands, Sugar Cain, Pamela Terry and Edward, Jamtart, Lakeviewer, Sher, sarah, Woman in a Window, Kayleigh, Sparkling Red, Marilynne, vicki archer, Pyzahn, Lorna, Moannie, Lori Ann, Innerspace Yoga, Alette Siri Ane, Audrey, Maria. 

You deserve something nice today.  So I’m going to share a book I found at a thrift store recently called Women and Art by Elsa Honig Fine.  It’s subtitled:  “A History of Women Painters and Sculptors from the Renaissance to the 20th century.” 

Here’s a photo of my beat-up copy, which cost me $1.25 but which has a wealth of information and inspiration on women artists.


The painting at the top of the post is the work of Constance Marie Charpentier.  She lived in Paris from 1767-1849 and was a student of the master Jacques-Louis David.  (The white spots on the right top corner are not in the painting.  They seem to be there because someone at my house got white-out on the scanner.)

I was rather surprised to note that this was painted in about 1800 1801.  Though I’m not especially versed in art history, the simple lines of the window in the corner remind me of more modern work—I was thinking of Edward Hopper. 

In 1917 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the painting, assuming it was by David.  It was one of the museum’s favorite attractions.  In 1951, though, the foreign adviser to the museum concluded that Charpentier was the artist. 

TIME Magazine printed this story on February 19, 1951:  

“One of the most popular paintings in the Metropolitan Museum is a portrait of a pretty art student, Mlle. Charlotte du Val d'Ognes. Scholars have always assumed that Jacques Louis David painted it and surpassed himself in doing so; last week the scholars were proved wrong.

Charles Sterling, Louvre curator and foreign adviser to the Met, did the proving. In the Met's current Bulletin, Sterling confessed he had always viewed Mlle. Charlotte with "a mixture of admiration and skepticism." The complex background, the lighting from behind, the modeling and drawing are all unlike David. Painter-prophet of the French Revolution, David was the sort of man who could and did express disappointment that only 80 aristocrats were guillotined in one morning. Mlle. Charlotte's atmosphere of sweetness & light hardly typifies his work.

What's more, says Sterling severely: "The articulation of the shoulder and the wrist lacks correctness. The legs, of excessive length, betray a mannerism such as David never exhibits in his portraits, and in no such degree as here even in his figure compositions. And when did [David] paint flesh as pink as this and as transparent?"

Finally, Sterling turned up the fact that the painting is reproduced in an engraving of the Paris Salon of 1801—which David boycotted. The Salon catalogue for that year does, however, list several portraits by an obscure follower of David named Constance Marie Charpentier, and a contemporary clipping describes one of them as "a young lady almost entirely in shadow." That one, Sterling reasons, is probably the Met's picture.

His conclusion vastly lowers the portrait's market value (estimated at $100,000), but Mlle. Charlotte remains as springlike and serene as ever.”

Thanks again to all of you…you’re the best.


Jamtart said...

You are lovely!

The story behind the painting of Mlle Charlotte is fascinating. Mr Sterling is right - but he controversy and mystery just makes her even more intriguing.
Hugs to you - I hope you get well soon xx

Saz said...

Cracking post Sallymandy!!! ANd the self portrait of Artemesia Gentileschi on the front cover is one of my favourites..


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! I love that you thanked your new followers by offering a book suggestion - that is one of the most wonderful gestures that I have ever seen! Thank you!
Very interesting story about the painting. It makes me wonder a few things:
- how often is the wrong artist given credit for great works?
- did Mlle Charpentier ever receive due credit for her work?

Great post. Now I am off to track down the book!

Ingrid Mida said...

I'm sorry to hear that you are ill. Get better soon!
Thank you for the mention and also for showcasing women artists! It is sad how women artists were and still are largely unappreciated.

Frugal Scholar said...

I haven't left many comments, but know that I am an APPRECIATIVE reader of your wonderful writing.

Pyzahn said...

Thank you, sallymandy. Lovely as usual. I like soaking in your words and always appreciate learning new things.

Bronwyn said...

Hmmmm....very interesting. I think a lot of woman artists didn't get the credit or recognition they deserved.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Sallymandy. Please get better soon.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Thanks so much for this introduction to a new painter! I loved it.

I missed out on the "dancing in your undies with the curtains closed" post! One question....If the curtains are closed, why do I need undies??

Kat Mortensen said...

Lovely looking book. I wish we had the capability of opening up the pages to have a sneak peek.

Hope the non-blogging world is treating you well! Thanks for thinking of me(us).


La Belette Rouge said...

You are a very generous blogger. I send my appreciation back to you. And, thanks for sharing the new art find with us. The magazine looks great but it would be better still if you had the painting and sold it and shared the proceeds with all your devoted readers.;-)

Take good care and feel better soon.xo

angela recada said...

What a wonderful post! I love learning about women artists of any kind. And aren't thrift stores and used book stores the best? Some of my most cherished books are from these kinds of stores.

Thank you for this, and for all the thought and effort you put into all your posts and comments.

You are very special!


Working Mum said...

Thank you for that post. You are right it does look more modern.

Do you think it was popular because it was a lovely picture, or because they thought it was by David? Surely it is the inherent beauty of the picture that is most important?

Jean said...

What a lovely, generous post. I LOVE your blog, it's so eclectic. I always enjoy your posts, so thank *you* for all your hard work.

sallymandy said...

Jamtart: thanks, feeling better already.

FFF: It's cool that you knew this artist on the cover--not surprising though since you're the art historian. I did not, but I love the self-portrait.

Audrey: thank you so much. I'm not sure if Charpentier got credit for her work in her life. I know she did for other pieces. I believe this piece was presented at a salon in 1801 with another work attributed to her--so maybe the mixup came long after both artists were dead..? Fascinating to contemplate how that happened.

Ingrid: Thank you. I will continue to showcase women artists! I have a really interesting one in mind from Montana for a post soon...

Frugal and Pyzahn: thank you both. I appreciate you.

Sarah: I think you're right.

Thank you, Moannie. I do feel better today.

Pamela: See the post before this one. Very good point, though. I hadn't thought of that. You brave soul.

Poetikat: I think of you more than you know.

Belette: You're so funny. You'll be the first to know if I suddenly come into money. Don't hold your breath.

Angela: thank you very much! I appreciate you.

Working Mum: That's a good question, but clearly the fact that it was presumed to be by the master made it more valuable.

notSupermum: being called eclectic is about as good as it gets for me. Thank you for saying that. ♥

Tiffany said...

Fabulous post - and a fascinating story. Like you, I was surprised to see the date of the painting, as I also thought it looked more modern (although her clothes are definitely of the era). I also have to say I loved the phrase from Sterling 'The legs, of excessive length ...' - I don't know why, but it made me chuckle. Thanks!!

Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

Awww thanks - and happy to come and read your interesting posts.

She's lovely and intriguing.


The Clever Pup said...

Cool, thanks for introducing me to Mlle. Charpentier. Don't get me started - I feel another "muse" blog coming up.

Woman in a Window said...

It's a beautiful and soft painting. Wonderful light in it. But here's what I'm wondering. I'm wondering what you were doing in a thrift store...hmmmmm.

Don't fret. I justified $200 at the thrift store a couple weeks ago.

Woman in a Window said...

Geesh, and thank you, Sallymandy.

ceecee said...

Can it really be Saturday already?

It is I who should be thanking you! Your posts always make me think, or smile, or cheer! You must be feeling better, Sallymandy - I see some shoes up there on the first post! Wishing you a happy weekend -

Stephanie N. said...

Just returned from a trip to Canada, and now doing blog catch-up, so sorry for the tardy commenting -

How funny that they thought the painting was by Louis David for so long! He's one of my favorite painters (you may notice I have a scaled-down print of his "La Sacre" in the background of many of my outfit photos), and right away, I thought "no, no, no, that's not his style at all."

The sitter's gown and hairstyle (and even the idealization of her face - heart-shaped, with big, almond-shaped eyes, and a little cupie-doll mouth) are a dead giveaway for ca. 1800 (I'm useless when it comes to art history, but costume history on the other hand... well, dating a portrait based on what the sitter is wearing is one of my favorite things to do in a museum!); but you're so right - there is something very Hopper about this painting, not just the clean lines, but also the luminiscent qualities. It's fascinating. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sallymandy!

sallymandy said...

Thank you, everyone. I sincerely appreciate you!