Feb 13, 2012

Young Woman with a Mandolin, Portrait of Louison Köhler

Young Woman with a Mandolin, Portrait of Louison Köhler

c. 1873–1874

François Bonvin

(French, 1817–1887)

Oil on fabric

Framed: 70.5 x 62.2 x 7.6 cm (27 3/4 x 24 1/2 x 3 in.); Unframed: 54.9 x 46 cm (21 5/8 x 18 1/8 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noah L. Butkin 1977.124



Bonvin was fascinated by the realism of 17th-century Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish still life paintings. He was also aware of the French Realist movement, a highly candid, straightforward style with political overtones. This work embodies both the realism for which Bonvin was famous and the still life paintings of earlier periods. The woman in the painting is Louison Köhler (1850–?), the artist's mistress. After two failed marriages, Bonvin met her in 1870, and she remained with him until his death, appearing in several of his paintings. The image of the reclining woman hanging directly over Louison's head probably suggests the carnal nature of their relationship. Bonvin borrowed this image—a swooning, overjoyed female—from the famous painting Bacchanal by Titian (1485–1576), now in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

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