With The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, David's official work for Napoleon ended, and now he undertook private commissions. The painting Sappho and Phaon was commissioned by the wealthy Russian diplomat and art collector Prince Nicolas Yusupov, who lived in Paris from 1808 to 1811.
Sappho was a poetess on the Greek island of Lesbos and her affection for the young women of the cult of Aphrodite was the origin of the word 'lesbian'. However, she fell in love with the beautiful youth Phaon, the protégé of Venus, and when he only briefly reciprocated her love, she leapt to her death from the rocks at Leucadia.
Though this theme of legendary or mythological lovers was similar to that of The Loves of Paris and Helen of 1788, in this painting the couple are not totally self-absorbed and instead look out at the viewer, Phaon staring intensely and Sappho intoxicated with delight at her lover's touch. Indeed, so transported is she that she still believes herself to be playing the lyre that is now held by Cupid. For this picture about the power of physical love and its effect on the individual, David gave his lovers an almost portrait-like degree of characterization, placing them very close to the edge of the picture plane and near to the spectator. To add to the almost unreal sense of mythology come to life he also bathed the scene in harsh daylight and used bright colours and hard contours.
The detail from the central panel depicts the sin of Gluttony and its punishment. Around the corner, a fat glutton is forced to drink from a barrel held by two devils; the source of his dubious refreshment can be seen squatting in the window overhead.
The success of the Apollo had taken Delacroix somewhat unaware; he was not used to a favourable critical consensus. He made the most of it by applying for and obtaining the commission to decorate one of the Salons of the new Hotel de Ville. This was to be his last work of non-religious monumental painting. It is also the only one not to have survived; it perished when the town hall burnt down during the Commune in 1871. Of the two Salons of this new building, the north facing Salon de la Paix fell to Delacroix; the south salon was commissioned from Ingres. We know little about Delacroix's scheme of decoration, only that it took him two years of what he described as "titanic" labours. We also know that the room was very badly illuminated and that he had to rework the tonality of his entire composition.
All that remains today are some sketches and a certain number of preparatory drawings. The ceiling was to have been occupied by a huge allegory. Peace Descends to Earth, of which nothing has survived but a sketch.
El Greco treated this subject of Christ on the Cross several times throughout his career. The present version is one of only three surviving large-scale versions of this composition. In it El Greco has chosen to use the 'Cristo Vivo' iconography, in which the Christ figure is shown alive and without indication of His suffering or wounds. The original source for the figure is almost certainly a drawing by Michelangelo that was commissioned by Vittoria Colonna and is today in the British Museum. He most probably knew this particular design from a print, a notion supported by the reversal of the figure of Christ in the painting from the original drawing.
The present painting exists in numerous autograph and studio versions in both large and reduced format.
Catalogue numbers: F 156, JH 569.
In December 1884 van Gogh set himself the task of painting and drawing a large series of portraits of the peasants in Brabant. In this group of works he did not want to portray individuals but sought to characterize a type: the peasant. Rather than seeking beauty, he was looking for models that had rough, flat faces with low foreheads and thick lips.
The present bust-length portrait is a good example of the type of portraits van Gogh was envisioning. It shows a woman with heavy features dressed in a white cap and blue jacket typical for the peasant women of the time and region. Van Gogh appreciated the opportunity of painting the white caps of the women which he found difficult to do but extremely beautiful. Due to the change in the varnish of this painting, the originally strong blue jacket is discoloured.
Generations of visitors to the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden have been deeply impressed by the way in which Raphael portrayed the Madonna in this painting. It has been reproduced over and over again, and almost everyone is familiar with the putti leaning on the balustrade.
Painted for the side altar on the Epistle side (right) of the church, and still in place. Probably painted 1578-79, following the completion of the High Altarpiece. The presence of Saint Ildefonso, the patron Saint of Toledo, was stipulated in the documents. Diego de Castilla, the Dean of Toledo Cathedral, is probably represented in this figure, which certainly is a portrait. The figure assists in setting an ideal plane for the enacting of the mystic event. El Greco has eliminated the intrusion of an incongruous space. The ground running parallel with the plane of the action produces no conflict. The rhythm of the passages of colour and light over the surface helps to hold together the composition, with its dramatic split revealing the figure of the Risen Christ. What suggestions remain of an ordinary conception of space, of corporeality and of a schematic quality of composition, disappear in his final version of the subject (painted in 1596-1600, now in the Prado, Madrid).