Works from the Louvre

The 10th of August marks the opening of the Louvre Museum. It was first opened in 1793 with an exhibition consisting of 537 paintings and the amount of works presented has been growing ever since.

Louvre’s immense collection of 35,000 artworks makes picking just a few works for highlighting difficult. I was looking through their collections in Europeana and came across the ones below. I remember seeing them for the first time in my high school history of arts lessons and decided to share them with you.

Quentin Matsys (1466-1529) was a Flemish painter. His genre painting Moneylenders portrays a man and his wife at a table inspecting coins. The objects scattered all around the painting make it interesting: the detailed goblet in the lower left, the mirror with the reflection of a person dressed in red and the narrowly opened door to the right through which two men having a conversation can be seen. The way the objects are treated is highly reminiscent of still life paintings.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) painted two versions of The Fortune Teller. This is the second version (painted in 1595, the first one was finished in 1594), which is slightly more detailed than the first one. You can see it particularly well in the background of the painting. The interesting use of lights gives a suitable frame for the portrayal of a gypsy fortune teller and an upper class youth. Flirty yet mocking looks are being exchanged. According to the story, the gypsy is less interested in the gullible young man than the ring in his right hand. From their facial expressions it is clear who is in control.

The French Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) painted one of his finest works, Pierrot (sometimes also called Gilles), in 1718-1719. The motive of the picture is a commedia dell’arte  actor, who is often portrayed as a naive, trustful and amorous, seeking the love of the harlequin’s mistress Columbine. It originates from the performances of Italian troupes in Paris. The Pierrot (“Little Pete”) theme was evident not only in the 18th-century French art, it appeared in various forms and countries from as early as the 16th century. The popularity of the character expanded its use from troupe performances to cover the whole spectrum of arts from poetry to visual arts, from theatre and pantomime.

In Watteau’s painting the character’s white clothing and boyish face make him look extremely vulnerable. The painting curiously gives the spotlight to the Pierrot who, in traditional 17th-18th century context, usually gets only a minor role. He looks completely helpless and out of place in his frontal position with the others behind him paying attention to the man arriving on a donkey from the left.

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