Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836-1904)
oil on canvas, Framed: 123.5 x 139.5 x 14 cm (48 9/16 x 54 7/8 x 5 1/2 in.); Unframed: 86.4 x 103.3 cm (34 x 40 5/8 in.). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1038
This painting is based on act I of Richard Wagner's 1845 opera Tannhäuser, a medieval tale of the struggle between sacred and profane love. Seduced by Venus, the deeply religious minstrel Tannhäuser is seen reveling in the pleasures of the goddess's court before guilt compels him to return to the real world. The sensuality of the story, and indeed of Wagner's music, is matched by Fantin-Latour's thick repetitive brushwork, which seems to draw a dreamy veil over figures and landcape. This painting was shown at the Paris Salon exhibition of 1886. An earlier version had been shown more than 20 years before.
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