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Sweet Melancholy

1756
(French, 1716–1809)
Framed: 86.4 x 76.2 x 6.5 cm (34 x 30 x 2 9/16 in.); Unframed: 68 x 55 cm (26 3/4 x 21 5/8 in.)
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Did You Know?

Look closely—three strands of pearls appear in this painting.

Description

The chair, brazier, table, and the setting all show Vien's interest in bringing archaeological accuracy to a new level of precision. Yet his delicate handling and graceful palette derive squarely from 18th-century French painting. The gesture of the melancholic figure, with her head on her hand, has roots going back to the Renaissance. Nonetheless, the painting has a wistful rather than tragic tone. Indeed, images of women in interiors, contemplating a letter with longing or sadness, derive from earlier Dutch paintings of daily life, here transformed into an ancient context.
Sweet Melancholy

Sweet Melancholy

1756

Joseph-Marie Vien

(French, 1716–1809)
France, 18th century

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