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  • Mantiklos "Apollo"

    about 700–675 B.C.

    Description

    A votive statuette of Apollo evidenced by the inscription on the front of the thighs of this standing nude male figure; inscribed in archaic Boeotian characters "Mantiklos donated me as a tithe to the far shooter, the bearer of the Silver Bow. You, Phoebus (Apollo) give something pleasing in return." There are marks of attachment on the top of the head and a hole for attachment in the forehead. The hole in the left hand has been identified as support for a bow. It has been suggested also that the figure was a warrior, wearing a helmet and carrying a spear in the left hand and a shield on the right arm.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 20.3 cm (8 in.)

    Medium

    Bronze

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    03.997

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Three-sided relief

    about 450–440 B.C.

    Description

    A three-sided relief cut from a single block. Seated on the right is Demeter with her head veiled in mourning for her daughter Persephone. Aphrodite is seated opposite consulting with her son Eros at the center who holds the scales (made from a separate piece of marble) to determine how long Persephone will stay in the Underworld.
    Short sides: a boy with a lyre; an old nurse.
    Perhaps, the relief served as an enclosure for an outdoor altar.

    "Sculpture in Stone" no. 30, pp. 20-25

    Portions of the surface have been carefully cleaned, but some incrustation remains, especially on the garment of the figure on the left wing, and marks left by the roots of plants are visible in places. The Ludovisi relief and the Warren relief show similar flaws and the same light grayish-brown patina.

    The reliefs themselves have suffered comparatively slight injuries. On the left wing the lower temination of the scroll, which in this case projected beyond the end of the slab, is lost, together with the ends of the old woman's feet. The edges of the palmettes at the corners are broken off, and there are small breaks along the lower edges at the three sides, especially at the angles. The noses of all five figures, the toes of the winged youth, the plectron of the lyre-player, and the pegs of the lyre are damaged.

    Certain other changes were produced, partly by accident and partly by design, in Roman times, when the relief was removed from its original position. As on the Ludovisi relief, marks made by crowbars, used to pry the monument from its pedestal, are visible at several places along the bottom, on both the outer and the inner faces. On the left wing an irregular groove runs across the bottom surface close to the corner, and continues obliquely upward across the face of the relief.

    Scientific Analysis:
    Marble has been scientifically tested with X-Ray Diffraction and determined to be Dolomitic.
    Harvard Lab No. HI090: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.48 / delta18O -3.06, Attribution - Thasos-Cape Vathy, Justification - Dolomitic by XRD.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 82 x 161 cm (32 5/16 x 63 3/8 in.) Framed (Rolling steel pedestal/ removable top steel pallet): 100.3 x 186.7 x 95.3 cm (39 1/2 x 73 1/2 x 37 1/2 in.) Weight: 1587.59 kg (3500 lb.)

    Medium

    Marble, Dolomitic from the Greek island of Thasos

    Classification

    Architectural elements

    Accession Number

    08.205

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Bust of a man

    about 50 B.C.

    Description

    This life-size portrait of a man was perhaps based on a death-mask, which accounts for the individualized features of a mature man. It was skillfully retouched by the artist, who added clay and used modeling instruments- most obviously in the hair and the pupils of the eyes. It may have been a study for a marble or bronze bust.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 35.7 (14 1/16) in.); depth: 18 cm (7 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Terracotta

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    01.8008

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of a priest (The Boston Green Head)

    380–332 B.C.

    Description

    This head of a priest, called the Boston Green Head, is the best portrait sculpture known from the Late Period. The face is wonderfully lifelike and individual. Light wavy lines indicate the furrows of his brow, and crow’s feet radiate from the outer corners of his eyes. The top of his nose has a pronounced bony ridge. Deep creases run from the edges of his nose to the corners of his mouth. Thin lips and a downturned mouth impart an expression of strength and determination. The slight wart on his left cheek is unique in Egyptian art and also introduces an element of asymmetry dear to the artists of the Late Period.

    The head has an illustrious provenance. In the spring of 1857, Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, a cousin of Emperor Napoleon III known as Prince Plonplon, announced his intention to visit Egypt. Archduke Maximilian of Austria had recently returned from a Nile excursion with a handsome collection of Egyptian art, and the prince vowed to surpass him. Said Pasha, the passionately pro-French viceroy of Egypt, was determined to please his imperial guest. He charged Auguste Mariette, famed discoverer of the Serapeum, the burial place of the sacred Apis bulls, with the task of building a collection. To save time, Mariette was to explore the proposed itinerary, dig for antiquities, and then rebury them, thus facilitating their rediscovery by the prince. In the end, Plonplon canceled his reservations, but nonetheless received a selection of choice objects — including the Green Head as a souvenir of the trip that never was. Yet there were happy consequences, for as a result of his efforts and through the prince’s influence, Mariette was appointed Egypt’s first director of antiquities, a milestone in the care and protection of Egypt’s monuments.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 10.5 x 8.5 x 11.3 cm (4 1/8 x 3 3/8 x 4 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    04.1749

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Commode

    1809

    Made by Thomas Seymour (American (born in England), 1771–1848)

    Description

    Thomas Seymour sold this spectacular commode to Elizabeth Derby West, daughter of the wealthy merchant Elias Hasket Derby, for her home, Oak Hill, in South Danvers, Massachusetts. The son of English immigrant cabinetmaker John Seymour, Thomas Seymour had strong connections to a network of native and immigrant craftsmen. The commode was the ambitious collaborative undertaking of highly skilled artisans offering the finest level of materials and craftsmanship available in Boston, rivaling any in the United States.

    Seymour's design is a sophisticated interpretation of the English style. Although the bright, highly figured veneers are flamboyant, the form is restrained and elegant. Shaped fronts were common on case furniture of this period, but the semielliptical plan of this commode presented an unusual challenge. The eight wedge-shaped side drawers swing open on hinges, with no interior space wasted. Each one added a considerable amount of work and expense, demonstrating that Seymour lavished attention on even the smallest details of construction, making this piece one of the finest examples of his craft.

    The commode's rounded top offered an opportunity for a showy radial display of contrasting mahogany and birch veneers. The highlight, however, is the design of seashells and leaves skillfully rendered by the decorative painter John Ritto Penniman. A receipt dated 1809 documents the work: "Large Mahogany Comode, [$]80.00. / Paid Mr. Penniman's Bill, for Painting Shels on Top of Do [ditto] [$]10.00." The crisp, confident carving of the blossoms at the tops of the colonettes and the patterned lower edge of the case is attributed to another English immigrant craftsman, Thomas Wightman, who is mentioned on the same receipt. Thomas Seymour and his partner James Cogswell brought together their best resources to make this outstanding example of American Neoclassical furniture, and Elizabeth Derby West spared no expense in obtaining it.

    This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 105.4 x 62.5 x 127 cm (41 1/2 x 24 5/8 x 50 in.)

    Medium

    Mahogany; mahogany, crotch-mahogany, crotch-birch, rosewood, and bird's-eye-maple veneers; satinwood and rosewood crossbanding; eastern white pine, white ash, maple; brass

    Classification

    Furniture, Case Furniture and Boxes

    Accession Number

    23.19

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Fog Warning

    1885

    Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910 American)

    Description

    Winslow Homer made his reputation in the 1860s with images of the Union troops during the Civil War and of the returning veterans afterward. In the late 1860s and 1870s he turned to lighter subject matter and found an equally enthusiastic audience for his paintings of healthy, handsome children playing in the country or at the seashore, and of adults enjoying leisure-time pursuits. However, perhaps feeling the need for more important subjects in his art, Homer spent 1881–82 in Cullercoats, England. Both a fishing village and an artists’ colony, Cullercoats provided Homer with more profound themes: the arduous lives of fishermen and their families. Shortly after returning to the United States late in 1882, he settled in Prout’s Neck, Maine, similarly both a fishing community and a pleasant summer resort, where he painted the local population and their work. The Fog Warning is one of three paintings he produced at Prout’s Neck in 1885 describing the lives of the North Atlantic fishermen.
    Like many of Homer’s 1870s images featuring farm children, The Fog Warning is a painting with a narrative, though its tale is disturbing rather than charming. As indicated by the halibut in his dory, the fisherman in this picture has been successful. But the hardest task of the day, the return to the main ship, is still ahead of him. He turns to look at the horizon, measuring the distance to the mother ship, and to safety. The seas are choppy and the dory rocks high on the waves, making it clear that the journey home will require considerable physical effort. But more threatening is the approaching fog bank, whose streamers echo, even mock, the fisherman’s profile. Contemporary descriptions of the fishing industry in New England make clear that the protagonist’s plight—the danger of losing sight of his vessel—was an all-too-familiar event.

    The dramatic tension of The Fog Warning is all the greater because Homer does not specify the fisherman’s fate. However, Lost on the Grand Banks (1885, private collection), another painting in the Prout’s Neck series, shows that the fishermen’s peril was a deadly one. An account related in the 1876 history The Fisheries of Gloucester tells of the insidious horrors to which fishermen were prey and could well have served as a description of The Fog Warning: “His frail boat rides like a shell upon the surface of the sea . . . a moment of carelessness or inattention, or a slight miscalculation, may cost him his life. And a greater foe than carelessness lies in wait for its prey. The stealthy fog enwraps him in its folds, blinds his vision, cuts off all marks to guide his course, and leaves him afloat in a measureless void.”[1]

    Notes
    1. The Fisheries of Gloucester from the First Catch by the English in 1623, to the Centennial Year, 1876 (Gloucester, Mass.: Procter Brothers, 1876), 58.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    76.83 x 123.19 cm (30 1/4 x 48 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    94.72

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Mixing bowl (bell krater)

    about 470 B.C.

    the Pan Painter

    Description

    Two sided red-figure bell krater used for mixing wine and water.
    Side A: Artemis shooting an arrow at Aktaion who has fallen to the ground attacked by his hunting dogs. Aktaion was a hunter, and the goddess of the hunt killed him by turning him into a stag, so that his own dogs tore him to pieces. This elegant rendering of the myth, with Artemis drawing her bow for the coup de grace, and the helpless hero sinking beneath the onslaught of the hounds, is considered one of the greatest of all Athenian vase paintings.

    Side B: The artist is named the Pan Painter after this scene of the goat-god Pan chasing a young shepherd wearing a fawn-skin (nebris), and a rustic sun hat. The god of flocks obviously has love on his mind, perhaps inspired by the ithyphallic herm standing on a hill in the background. Herms were stone or wooden shafts with the head of the god Hermes, rudimentary arms, and a large carved phallos. Apart from their religious significance, which is poorly understood, they often served to mark boundaries and the intersections of roads. The rustic setting of this herm relates it to Priapos, or some other god of fertility.

    Pan is not represented in Athenian art until after the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., when he was said to have caused a "panic" in the Persian ranks. When one remembers that, like the Persians, Aktaion was punished for his pride, and that his death occurred on the slopes of Mt. Kithairon, the site of the Persian defeat at Plataia, the entire vase becomes a symbol and a memorial of triumph of Athens over Persians.

    Condition: Broken and repaired.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 37 cm (14 9/16 in.); diameter: 42.5 cm (16 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Ceramic, Red Figure

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    10.185

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Sarcophagus and lid with husband and wife

    350–300 B.C.

    Description

    The top of the cover takes the form of a bed with pillows, and a man and his wife embrace under a large sheet. She wears a complex earring and he a bracelet of twisted strands. There is no costume visible.

    On the long side below the man is a frieze with four pairs of Greeks and Amazons in combat. A bead-and-reel molding appears above, and simple pilasters frame the scenes on the corners. The other side, the long panel below the woman, has only a plain fillet molding above, suggesting it was the back of the sarcophagus proper. The frieze features two pairs of horsemen and foot soldiers in combat, with a warrior in fighting pose on foot in the center.

    On the left end (facing the frieze with Greeks and Amazons), two lions bring down a bull. The bead-and-reel molding is seen above. On the right end, two griffins are tearing into a fallen horse.

    The condition is, generally speaking, excellent, with some traces of a dark brown deposit and an overall light brown to yellow patina.

    The sarcophagus is inscribed for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies, son of Arnth Tetnies and Ramtha Vishnai.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width x length: 93.3 x 117.4 x 213.8 cm (36 3/4 x 46 1/4 x 84 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Travertine

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Models

    Accession Number

    86.145a-b

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Statue of Lady Sennuwy

    1971–1926 B.C.

    Description

    Egyptian officials of the Middle Kingdom continued the practice of equipping their tombs with statues to house the ka of the tomb owner and to provide a focal point for the offering cult. Highly ranked officials also dedicated statues of themselves at sanctuaries of gods and deified ancestors. Following the experimental and idiosyncratic interlude of the First Intermediate Period, sculptors once again produced large-scale stone statues, returning to the basic forms and poses established in the Old Kingdom.

    This elegant seated statue of Lady Sennuwy of Asyut is one of the most superbly carved and beautifully proportioned sculptures from the Middle Kingdom. The unknown artist shaped and polished the hard, gray granodiorite with extraordinary skill, suggesting that he was trained in a royal workshop. He has portrayed Sennuwy as a slender, graceful young woman, dressed in the tightly fitting sheath dress that was fashionable at the time. The carefully modeled planes of the face, framed by a long, thick, striated wig, convey a serene confidence and timeless beauty. Such idealized, youthful, and placid images characterize the first half of Dynasty 12 and hark back to the art of the Old Kingdom. Sennuwy sits poised and attentive on a solid, blocklike chair, with her left hand resting flat on her lap and her right hand holding a lotus blossom, a symbol of rebirth. Inscribed on the sides and base of the chair are hieroglyphic texts declaring that she is venerated in the presence of Osiris and other deities associated with the afterlife.

    Sennuwy was the wife of a powerful provincial governor, Djefaihapi of Asyut, whose rock-cut tomb is the largest nonroyal tomb of the Middle Kingdom. Clearly, the couple had access to the finest artists and materials available. It is likely that this statue, along with a similar sculpture of Djefaihapi, was originally set up in the tomb chapel, although they may also have stood in a sanctuary. Both statues were discovered, however, far to the south at Kerma in Nubia, where they had been buried in the royal tumulus of a Nubian king who lived generations after Sennuwy's death. They must have been removed from their original location and exported to Nubia some three hundred years after they were made. Exactly how, why, and when these pieces of sculpture, along with numerous other Egyptian statues, found their way to Kerma, however, is still unknown.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Framed (The object sits on epoxy bed /structural steel pallet tubing): 21.6 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (8 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Mount (Steel channel base with cross bracing 3" x 3/16"): 30.5 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (12 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Overall (steel pallet and object, weighed): 170.2 x 116.2 x 47 cm, 1224.71 kg (67 x 45 3/4 x 18 1/2 in., 2700 lb.) Weight (Object and steel pallet with attaching steel base, estimate): 1319.97 kg (2910 lb.) Weight (Object (calculated by subtracting estimate of pallet weight)): 1079.56 kg (2380 lb.)

    Medium

    Granodiorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    14.720

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Front side panel of outer coffin of Djehutynakht

    2010–1961 B.C.

    Description

    The outer coffin of the local governor Djehutynakht of Deir el-Bersha is perhaps the finest Middle Kingdom coffin in existence. Like the second coffin that once nested inside it, the rectangular outer coffin was made of massive planks of imported cedar, pegged together and decorated on both its inner and outer faces. The paintings and inscribed funerary texts were intended to facilitate Djehutynakht's passage to the afterlife and to sustain his ka in eternity.

    While coffins of later periods would feature elaborate exterior decoration, those of the early Middle Kingdom were relatively plain on the outside, but beautifully embellished inside, where the offering scenes often parallel those seen in painted tombs. The paintings on the interior of Djehutynakht's coffin are masterpieces, exquisitely detailed in thick, vividly colored paint. The artist's painstaking brush strokes and eloquent use of shading produced a level of realism rarely surpassed in Egyptian art. The primary scene is on the left side of the coffin at the location where Djehutynakht's head once faced. The focal point is an intricately decorated false door through which the ka could pass between the afterlife and the world of the living. Djehutynakht sits in front of the false door and receives an offering of incense. Before and beneath him is a vast wealth of neatly piled offerings, including an oversized ceremonial wine jar, sacred oils, the legs and heads of spotted cattle, tables laden with fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, and magnificently detailed geese. The two rows of large painted hieroglyphs above the scene contain a funerary prayer requesting offerings from the king and the funerary god Osiris on festival days. At the far right is the beginning of a menu giving a full list of desired offerings. Inscribed below in neat columns of tiny, cursive hieroglyphs are the Coffin Texts, a collection of funerary rituals and spells intended to protect and guide the dead on their way to the afterlife. These texts continue around the coffin's interior.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 115 x 263 cm (45 1/4 x 103 9/16 in.)

    Medium

    Cedar

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Coffins, Sarcophagi

    Accession Number

    20.1822

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

    1897–98

    Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)

    Description

    In 1891, Gauguin left France for Tahiti, seeking in the South Seas a society that was simpler and more elemental than that of his homeland. In Tahiti, he created paintings that express a highly personal mythology. He considered this work—created in 1897, at a time of great personal crisis—to be his masterpiece and the summation of his ideas. Gauguin's letters suggest that the fresco-like painting should be read from right to left, beginning with the sleeping infant. He describes the various figures as pondering the questions of human existence given in the title; the blue idol represents "the Beyond." The old woman at the far left, "close to death," accepts her fate with resignation.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 139.1 x 374.6 cm (54 3/4 x 147 1/2 in.) Framed: 171.5 x 406.4 x 8.9 cm (67 1/2 x 160 x 3 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    36.270

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Dance at Bougival

    1883

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919)

    Description

    The open-air cafés of suburban Bougival, on the Seine outside Paris, were popular recreation spots for city dwellers, including the Impressionist painters. Renoir, who was primarily a figure painter, uses intense color and lush brushwork to heighten the sense of pleasure conveyed by the whirling couple who dominate the composition. The woman's face, framed by her red bonnet, is the focus of attention, both ours and her companion's.

    Details

    Dimensions

    181.9 x 98.1 cm (71 5/8 x 38 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    37.375

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Rehearsal of the Pasdeloup Orchestra at the Cirque d'Hiver

    about 1879–80

    John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925)

    Description

    Jules Etienne Pasdeloup (1819–1887) conducted an orchestra in Paris for nearly three decades in the latter half of the nineteenth century and was a champion of controversial modern composers. He rehearsed his orchestra at the Cirque d’Hiver, an ornate Second Empire indoor amphitheater. Sargent, an ardent amateur musician, frequently attended Pasdeloup’s concerts and depicted them several times. This picture is his most abstract treatment of the subject and represents one of his boldest experimentations with Impressionism. The picture’s monochrome palette, painterly execution, and energetic composition suggest both the dance of musical notes across a page and the vital sound of the music itself. This canvas was first owned by another expatriate American painter, Henry Bacon [13.1692], who reproduced it in his 1883 book Parisian Art and Artists; it may have been painted for him.
    In addition to this remarkable small painting, executed in Paris early in Sargent’s career, a larger version exists at the Art Institute of Chicago (on loan from a private collection). Both works represent Pasdeloup’s“Concerts Populaires,” held on Sunday afternoons in Paris from November to May between 1861 and 1887. The indoor amphitheater in which they took place stands in proximity to the place de la République in Paris’s eleventh arrondissement and still exists. Originally known as the Cirque Napoléon, the structure was built in 1852 under the charge of Jacques-Ignace Hittorff (1792–1867), who also directed the creation of the Gare du Nord and the decoration of the place de la Concorde. Although used primarily for the circus, then and now, the building also hosted other indoor entertainments. Pasdeloups’s program was an adventurous one, and many artists besides Sargent were attracted to his concerts, including Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Sérusier, and Frédéric Bazille, [1]as well as the Americans Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Thomas Eakins. Paris’s music scene was vibrant, with both expensive operas and inexpensive cabarets attracting patrons. Musical events were particularly popular with expatriate Americans in the city, perhaps in part due to the irrelevance of the language barrier for the enjoyment of music; Pasdeloup’s inexpensive concerts facilitated their enjoyment of the Parisian cultural scene. Sargent himself was a gifted musician, perhaps even a brilliant one, with many musician friends; as Stanley Olson wrote, “music was John’s consuming interest, after painting. It was his chief pleasure and it became the nucleus of his social life.”[2] Sargent shared with Pasdeloup a special enthusiasm for Richard Wagner, Gabriel Fauré, and other progressive and sometimes controversial modern composers; the paintings he made of Pasdeloup’s orchestra confirm Sargent’s awareness of current trends in music, as do numerous textual sources.

    The American painter and critic William A. Coffin recalled going to the Pasdeloup concerts with Sargent: “Sargent, who dearly loved the music, was struck by the odd picturesqueness of the orchestra . . . seen in the middle of the amphitheater, the musician’s figures foreshortened from the high point of view on the rising benches, the necks of the bass-viols sticking up above their heads, the white sheets of music illuminated by little lamps on the racks . . . While he listened he looked, and . . . one day he took a canvas and painted his impression. He made an effective picture of it, broad, and full of color.”[3] This account must refer to the Chicago picture, which includes three colorfully dressed clowns seated in a balcony in the foreground of the composition. Earlier, the painter had made several quick pencil sketches [28.50] of the orchestra during a concert; [4]certain details of the sketches, including the timpanist and the conductor, were repeated in the two paintings.

    In the Boston picture, the painter reduced his palette to pure monochrome and condensed the composition by eliminating the foreground figures as well as two rows of the arena in the background; these unusual qualities render the painting unique in Sargent’s oeuvre, particularly when combined with his striking technique in the painting. Quickly executing thin washes of gray and black over a warm gray ground, rapidly adding touches of white for the sheets of music and the highlights on certain instruments, Sargent captured the ragged energy and motion—almost a sound—of the orchestra in an Impressionist experiment he would rarely repeat. Despite his limited use of such techniques, Sargent became interested in the work of a variety of avant-garde artists, perhaps facilitated by his teacher, Carolus-Duran, early in his career. By this time Sargent would have had many chances to see the work of Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and other painters depicting the various cultural attraction provided by Paris’s sophisticated urban society. Degas was well known for his many works depicting audiences, musicians, and performers. His grisaille The Dance Class (Répétition d’un ballet sur la scène, 1874, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) provides a precedent for the young American’s experiment. Sargent made a drawing after Degas’s 1876 pastel L’Etoile (Sketch after Degas’s “L’Etoile,” about 1877, Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts), which he must have seen at the third Impressionist exhibition of 1877, confirming his interest in Degas’s work. Similar, if less pronounced, uses of avant-garde formal techniques (compressed perspective, oblique lighting, and others) continue in Sargent’s informal work and testify to his genuine interest in the painting of modern life practiced by his Impressionist contemporaries.

    Neither the Boston painting nor the larger Chicago version attracted much critical attention until recent years, and their dates and the order in which they were executed have puzzled scholars. Coffin arrived in Paris in 1877, and thus Stanley Olson’s dating of the Chicago version to November 1878, following Sargent’s trip to Naples and Capri, seems plausible. Though Sargent’s two early biographers, William Howe Downes (1925) and Evan Charteris (1927), both date the Boston picture to 1876, it seems much more likely—given its more confident handling and greater compositional sophistication—that it followed the Chicago picture and thus dates from 1879–80.

    Notes
    1. Elaine Brody, Paris: The Musical Kaleidoscope, 1870–1925 (New York: G. Braziller, 1987), 118, 131, 134.
    2. Stanley Olson, John Singer Sargent: His Portraits (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), 71.
    3. Quoted in Olson, John Singer Sargent, 54, and “Sargent and His Painting,” Century Magazine, June 1896.
    4. See Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1874–1882 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 189–93.

    This text was adapted and expanded by Carolyn J. Trench from Theodore E. Stebbins Jr.’s entry in John Singer Sargent, ed. ElaineKilmurray and Richard Ormond, exh. cat. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998).

    Details

    Dimensions

    57.15 x 46.04 cm (22 1/2 x 18 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    22.598

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Nine dragons

    dated 1244

    Chen Rong (Chinese, first half of the 13th century Chinese)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 46.8 x 1496.5 cm (18 7/16 x 589 3/16 in.) Image: 46.2 x 958.4 cm (18 3/16 x 377 5/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.1697

    Collections

    Asia

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  • Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Nicholas of Tolentino

    1523–24

    Lorenzo Lotto (Italian (Venetian), about 1480–1556 Italian...

    Description

    The vibrant colors and deep, atmospheric landscape of this painting are hallmarks of the painting of Lotto, a Venetian contemporary of Titian. The small coffin on which the Christ child sits foretells his death, as does the crucifix held by the weeping Saint Jerome. Meditation on the death of Christ was encouraged as a way of understanding Christ's suffering and man's redemption. Lotto's sensitivity to human emotion is evident in the expressions of the saints who flank the Virgin and Child.

    Details

    Dimensions

    94.3 x 77.8 cm (37 1/8 x 30 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    60.154

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  • The Dead Christ with Angels

    about 1524–27

    Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo) (Italian...

    Description

    Rosso Fiorentino was one of the primary practitioners of the highly refined and decorative sixteenth-century style now known as Mannerism. It is characterized by strong, unusual colors; crowded or ambiguous space; and elongated, often twisting figures. Rosso painted this altarpiece in Rome for his friend Leonardo Tornabuoni, the bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro. Rosso's admiration of Michelangelo's recently painted frescoes on the Sistine Ceiling is reflected in the muscular nude body of Christ. One of very few surviving works by this exceptional artist, the painting is also unusually well preserved.

    Details

    Dimensions

    133.4 x 104.1 cm (52 1/2 x 41 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Panels

    Accession Number

    58.527

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    Europe

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  • Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome

    1757

    Giovanni Paolo Pannini (Italian (Roman), 1691–1765 Italian (Roman))

    Description

    This extravagant souvenir was one of four similar paintings commissioned by the Duc de Choiseul to commemorate his stay in Rome as the French ambassador to the Vatican. Pannini, who became the most celebrated view painter in Rome, had been trained in a school of stage designers in Bologna. He depicted the duke seated in the center of a fantastic art gallery, surrounded by sculptures by Michelangelo and Bernini. Around him hang Pannini's meticulously detailed views of Roman buildings, fountains, and monuments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including Saint Peter's Square, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

    Details

    Dimensions

    170.2 x 244.5 cm (67 x 96 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1975.805

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    Europe

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  • Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino

    1609

    El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek (active in Spain),...

    Description

    El Greco was born on Crete and trained in Italy before emigrating in his thirties to Spain. Best known for his intense and spiritual religious paintings, El Greco was also a perceptive and powerful portraitist. Paravicino, a close friend of the artist, was an important theologian, orator, and poet. Limiting the colors almost entirely to the black and white of the friar's habit, El Greco created a subtle and compelling image that emphasizes psychological rather than physical presence. The work was purchased in 1904 on the recommendation of John Singer Sargent, another great portraitist and an admirer of Spanish art.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 112.1 x 86.1cm (44 1/8 x 33 7/8in.) Framed: 152.4 x 125.1 cm (60 x 49 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    04.234

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  • Artist in his Studio

    about 1628

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)

    Description

    In this small painting, the young Rembrandt seems to represent the daunting moments of conception and decision necessary to the creation of a work of art. An artist confronts his easel in a studio bare of everything except his essential tools. This drama, with its emphasis on thought rather than action, is intensified by the expressive use of light and shadow. The painting's daring perspective is also important: the distant figure of the painter seems dwarfed by his work, looming large in the foreground.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 24.8 x 31.7cm (9 3/4 x 12 1/2in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    38.1838

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  • The Sower

    1850

    Jean-François Millet (French, 1814–1875 French)

    Description

    Jean-François Millet was the artist that van Gogh most revered. Although he never saw Millet's famous Sower - already in a Boston collection before he was born - van Gogh admired Millet's other treatments of the theme, and sought to emulate them. At the very beginning of his career, he wrote that "I must draw diggers, sowers, men & women at the plough, without cease. . . I no longer stand as helpless before nature as I used to do."

    Details

    Dimensions

    101.6 x 82.6 cm (40 x 32 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.1485

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  • Women of Paris: The Circus Lover

    1885

    James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836–1902 French)

    Description

    Like the Impressionists, particularly his friend Edgar Degas, Tissot chose his subjects from modern urban life. His precise, detailed, and anecdotal style, however, was more closely related to conservative academic painting. This work belongs to a series called La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris), eighteen large paintings that depict women of different social classes encountered as if by chance at various occupations and amusements. Here, the woman engages the viewer as a participant in the action by her direct glance out of the picture. The event is a "high-life circus," in which the amateur performers were members of the aristocracy.

    Details

    Dimensions

    147.3 x 101.6 cm (58 x 40 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.45

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  • Mixed Flowers in an Earthenware Pot

    about 1869

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    64.8 x 54.3 cm (25 1/2 x 21 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on paperboard mounted on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.592

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    Europe

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  • La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume)

    1876

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description

    Monet exhibited this work at the second group show of the Impressionist painters in 1876, where it attracted much attention. Large-scale figure paintings had traditionally been considered the most significant challenge for an artist. Using this format, Monet created a virtuoso display of brilliant color that is also a witty comment on the current Paris fad for all things Japanese. The woman shown wrapped in a splendid kimono and surrounded by fans is Monet's wife, Camille, wearing a blond wig to emphasize her Western identity.

    Details

    Dimensions

    231.8 x 142.3 cm (91 1/4 x 56 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    56.147

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    Europe

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  • Houses at Auvers

    1890

    Vincent van Gogh (Dutch (worked in France), 1853–1890)

    Description

    In May 1890, van Gogh moved from the south of France to Auvers, northwest of Paris, painting many of his finest pictures there in a feverish spurt of activity before his suicide in July. Houses at Auvers shows the landscape of early summer. The view from above creates a flattened tapestry of shapes in which the tiled and thatched roofs of the houses form a mesmerizing patchwork of color.

    Details

    Dimensions

    75.6 x 61.9 cm (29 3/4 x 24 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.549

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  • Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying,...

    1840

    Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)

    Description

    When Turner exhibited this picture at the Royal Academy in 1840 he paired it with the following extract from his unfinished and unpublished poem "Fallacies of Hope" (1812):

    "Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
    Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
    Declare the Typhon's coming.
    Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
    The dead and dying - ne'er heed their chains
    Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
    Where is thy market now?"

    For the full text of Turner's verse see A. J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2nd ed., 1961, p. 474

    Details

    Dimensions

    90.8 x 122.6 cm (35 3/4 x 48 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    99.22

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    Europe

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  • Watson and the Shark

    1778

    John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815)

    Description

    John Singleton Copley departed from Boston in 1774 and traveled to Europe, where he spent a year studying Renaissance and baroque paintings and classical sculpture. After settling in London in 1775, he continued to paint portraits, but he also attempted more complex compositions. Watson and the Shark was the first large-scale history painting he executed. The dramatic composition depicts the attack of a shark on fourteen-year-old cabin boy Brook Watson in the waters of Havana Harbor in 1749. The heroic rescue was ultimately successful, but only after the youth lost the lower part of his right leg; Watson went on to become a prosperous merchant and hold numerous important political posts in London. Copley’s choice of subject was innovative, for tradition limited history paintings to themes from the Bible or mythology. Even when artists selected subjects outside the bounds of religious or classical narrative, they typically celebrated events of national rather than personal significance, such as military victories.

    Copley’s boldness paid off, and Watson and the Shark established his reputation in England. His dramatic rendering of the climax of Watson’s story—the sailor thrusting a boat hook at the shark lunging with jaws agape at the helpless, terrified boy in the water while other sailors struggle to reach him—appealed to the English public. That Copley drew on old-master paintings by Raphael and Rubens for his composition, echoing their grandeur and themes of salvation, likewise found favor with his contemporaries. He was elected to full membership in the Royal Academy in 1779. His popular painting was made into a print for wider distribution to the public in 1779 and, proud of his accomplishments, Copley painted a second full-scale version of the painting that he kept to display in his studio. That version is the MFA’s picture.

    This text was adapted from Elliot BostwickDavis et al.,American Painting[http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    183.51 x 229.55 cm (72 1/4 x 90 3/8 l

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    89.481

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    Americas

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  • The Bone Player

    1856

    William Sidney Mount (American, 1807–1868)

    Description

    William Sidney Mount’s The Bone Player combines elements of portraiture and genre painting, both fields for which he was well known. Born on Long Island, Mount apprenticed with his brother, a portrait and sign painter, and then studied at the National Academy of Design in New York; by 1856 he was well established as one of America’s leading artists. Mount painted The Bone Player after receiving a commission from the printers Goupil and Company for two pictures of African American musicians, to be lithographed for the European market. These became the last in a series of five life-size likenesses of musicians that Mount executed between 1849 and 1856.
    Scholars have differed over whether this image, painted just five years before the Civil War when tensions over slavery were high, is a typical nineteenth-century stereotyped depiction of an African American or a sensitive portrait of an individual. On the one hand, Mount titled the picture The Bone Player, indicating that it was his sitter’s musical skill, rather than his individual identity, that was the painting’s subject. The bones [1989.132a-d]—bars of ivory, wood, or bone clicked together—were an instrument associated with African American minstrels, a type recognizable to American and European audiences. Popular theories of evolution considered African Americans more intuitive than Caucasians and therefore more in touch with their natural musical talents. Mount knew that pictures of such African American types would sell: they appealed to Europeans because of their exoticism and to Americans because they were considered distinctly American. Moreover, Mount was not an abolitionist and so unlikely to challenge African American stereotypes.

    On the other hand, Mount carefully delineated his subject’s distinctive physical characteristics, such as his high cheekbones, white teeth, and neat mustache, treating him as an individual and not a type. Unlike the depictions of African Americans in contemporary genre painting, which often employed caricature, this sitter is life-size, making the viewer relate to him as a fellow human being. Mount himself played the violin and loved music. His personal interest in the subject may explain his portraits of musicians, the first of which depicts a Caucasian subject and thus does not involve African American stereotypes.

    In the end, the most convincing conclusion about this painting is that both interpretations have merit. Mount was walking a fine line between stereotyping and individualism, between genre painting and portraiture. His equivocation makes sense, for he executed the work when debate over slavery was intense. Whatever his political affiliations, Mount was primarily a painter trying to support himself through his art. In The Bone Player, he created a work that could be interpreted in different ways and thus appeal to buyers in both the North and the South, as well as abroad. Yet despite its ambiguity, the painting is still unprecedented in the humanity it affords its African American subject.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    91.76 x 73.98 cm (36 1/8 x 29 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.461

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  • The Tea

    about 1880

    Mary Stevenson Cassatt (American, 1844–1926)

    Description

    Cassatt’s paintings often document the social interactions of well-to-do women like herself. The activities they depict—tea drinking, going to the theatre, tending children—fall within the normal routine for Cassatt’s sex and class. Yet the painter’s insistence upon representing such episodes from the modern world (even a sheltered segment of it), her dislike for narrative, and her devotion to surface arrangement and color, all evident in The Tea, mark Cassatt’s dedication to the most advanced artistic principles of her day. In 1877 Cassatt had been invited by Edgar Degas to join a group of independent artists, later known as the Impressionists. “I accepted with joy,” she later recalled. “I hated conventional art.” [1]She was one of just a few women, and the only American, to exhibit with the group.

    In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Cassatt made a number of images that show women participating in the domestic and social ritual of drinking tea. Among these works are two related oils, The Cup of Tea (about 1880–81) and Lady at the Tea Table (1883–85), both in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and a number of prints, among them the MFA’s Tea [M25007] and Afternoon Tea Party [41.811]. Cassatt’s painting The Tea is set in a contemporary drawing room, sometimes described as Cassatt’s own. The fine striped wallpaper and carved marble fireplace, ornamented with an elaborately framed painting and a porcelain jar, are typical of an upper-middle class Parisian interior, and the antique silver tea service on the foreground table implies a distinguished family history. The two women play the traditional roles of hostess and guest, although it appears that their conversation has lapsed: the hostess (on the left, in a simple brown day dress) rests her hand on her chin while her guest (wearing the hat, scarf, and gloves that indicate she has stepped in from outside) sips her tea. The hostess is often identified as Cassatt’s sister Lydia and the guest as a family friend, but it is equally likely the women were Cassatt’s usual models, one brunette and one blonde; the women appear in several of Cassatt’s contemporary scenes of women at the opera.

    Despite these conservative and tasteful surroundings, Cassatt’s painting is a declaration of modernity that demonstrates her rejection of several traditional artistic conventions. First, Cassatt denies the human form its usual compositional primacy: the tea service seems larger in scale than the women themselves. This pictorial conceit of giving inanimate objects equal priority with figures was sometimes employed by Cassatt’s friend Degas. Cassatt further defies custom by obscuring the face of her subject, rendering the guest in the transitory act of drinking. The guest’s pose is a momentary one, for she will soon lift the delicate cup from her lips and replace it on the saucer she balances in her left hand. By selecting the only point in the action when her subject’s face is almost completely hidden by the teacup, Cassatt reiterates her modernist creed that her painting is not only about representing likeness, but also about design and color. She uses the oval shapes of cups and saucers, trays, hats, and faces as repetitive patterns, offsetting the strict graphic geometry of the gray and rose striped wallpaper.

    Cassatt’s concentration upon the formal elements of her composition earned her disapproval from contemporary critics when the painting was first shown in Paris during the fifth Impressionist exhibition of 1880. Paul Mantz, generally a conservative writer, called it “poorly drawn” and commented upon the “wretched sugar bowl [which] remains floating in the air like a dream,”[2] while Philippe Burty, a respected critic who often supported the Impressionists, regretted her “partially completed image[s].” [3]Responding perhaps both to the custom of tea drinking and to the proper, bourgeois interior represented here, the sympathetic commentator J.-K. Huysmans wrote, “Miss Cassatt is evidently also a pupil of English painters” and concluded that The Tea was an “excellent canvas.”[4]

    Cassatt’s painting was quickly purchased by the great French art collector Henri Rouart, who hung it in a small salon in his home, not far from a pastel of women at a milliner’s shop made by their mutual friend Degas (At the Milliner’s, 1882, MuseoThyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid). After Rouart’s death in 1912, his collection was dispersed at auction in Paris; another important connoisseur, Dikran Kelekian, an internationally renowned dealer in near eastern antiquities and a staunch supporter of modern French art, acquired The Tea soon thereafter. The silver tea service Cassatt depicted was part of a family set made in Philadelphia about 1813, of which six pieces (but not the tray) are now in the MFA’s collection [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?credit_line=Anonymous%20gift%20in%20honor%20of%20Eugenia%20Cassatt%20Madeira].

    Notes
    1. Achille Segard, Mary Cassatt: Un peintre des enfants et des mères (Paris: Librairie Paul Ollendorff,1913), 8.
    2. Paul Mantz, “Exposition des Oeuvres des Artistes Indépendants,” Le Temps, April 14, 1880,
    3. Philippe Burty, “Exposition des Oeuvres des Artistes Indépendants,” La République Française, April 10, 1880, 2.
    4. Joris-Karl Huysmans, “L’exposition des Indépendants en 1880,” in L’art moderne (Paris, 1883), 110.

    Erica E. Hirshler

    Details

    Dimensions

    64.77 x 92.07 cm (25 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    42.178

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  • Boston Common at Twilight

    1885–86

    Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935)

    Description

    Childe Hassam, the son of a Dorchester hardware merchant, had made only one trip to Europe before painting Boston Common at Twilight. He studied French art in Boston collections, and he was familiar with the popular work of painters active in Paris, like Jean Béraud and Giuseppe de Nittis, who took modern life as their main subject and frequently depicted fashionable young women in urban settings. Hassam adapted their French aesthetic to his native city and began a series of large canvases representing several of Boston’s developing neighborhoods: Back Bay, the South End, and Park Square.
    Originally an open field for cattle grazing and military parades, the Boston Common had been transformed into an oasis of elm trees and graceful promenades by the time Hassam painted it in the mid-1880s. He chose a view of the Tremont Street Mall, one of five broad tree-lined walkways that provided Boston pedestrians with an elegant alternative to the city’s noisy thoroughfares. The artist doubtless enjoyed it himself, for his studio was just across the street.

    Despite the old-fashioned charm Boston Common at Twilight presents to viewers today, in Hassam’s time this scene was distinctly modern. Once an area of elegant residential row houses, many of the streets around the Boston Common recently had been transformed into a lively business district. The red brick buildings visible at left were mostly new; the traffic of trolley cars and carriages on the road marks the bustling commerce of late afternoon; and artificial light glows from streetlights and storefronts. Hassam enhanced his impression of the fast pace of city life by using a perspective scheme in which the vertical lines of the fence, the lampposts, and the trees recede rapidly into the distance, coming closer and closer together.

    Hassam contrasted the hurried movement at left with the calm quiet of the snowy park. A stylishly dressed young mother and her child pause to feed the birds while other figures stroll through the rosy dusk. Hassam used a variety of reds to unify his composition, bringing the rusty brick buildings, the glow of the lamps, and even the brilliant end of a lit cigarette in the hand of a passerby into harmony with the sunset sky and the pinkish snow. The artist’s interest in contemporary subjects and in different kinds of light allies this painting with Impressionism, but in Hassam’s gentle vision of the city, nature humanizes the modern world.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    106.68 x 152.4 cm (42 x 60 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    31.952

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  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

    1882

    John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925)

    Description

    The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit was painted in Paris in the autumn of 1882, one of a number of portraits of members of the American expatriate community that Sargent made in the French capital in the late 1870s and early 1880s. While the exact circumstances of this commission remain unknown, Sargent was a friend of the girls’ parents, Edward Darley Boit and Mary Louisa Cushing Boit [63.268]. Ned Boit was from Boston, a Harvard-trained lawyer who turned away from his profession in order to pursue a career as a painter [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Edward%20Darley%20Boit]. His wife Mary Louisa, called Isa, was a vivacious and social woman who preferred Europe to America; her inheritance, a legacy of Boston’s China Trade, allowed the family to live abroad. They kept elegant quarters on the avenue de Friedland in the eighth arrondissement, a luxurious neighborhood much preferred by wealthy Americans. The foyer of their apartment served as the setting for Sargent’s portrait, a shadowy space in which the painter arranged the Boits’ four daughters: Mary Louisa (eight years old when Sargent painted her), Florence (age fourteen), Jane (twelve), and Julia (four).
    While Ned and Isa may have initially approached Sargent to make a traditional portrait, they supported his ambition to create something more unusual, a painting that is half a portrait and half an interior scene. Each of the girls is presented individually, but the features of two are obscured, an attribute antithetical to conventional portraiture and one that, combined with the lack of connection between the girls, stymied critics when the painting was first displayed. Its unusual format was inspired by the art of both the past and the present, a characteristic approach that Sargent employed to make paintings that seemed simultaneously traditional and modern. The historical precedent for the Boit portrait can be found in the work of the seventeenth-century Spanish master Diego Velázquez, an artist greatly admired in nineteenth-century France. Sargent had traveled to Madrid in 1879 to make copies after Velázquez at the MuseoNacional del Prado; among the paintings he studied was Las Meninas (about 1656), a large and famous portrait of the young Spanish infanta with her maids in a great shadowed room. Sargent adapted Velázquez’s mysterious space, his dark subdued palette, and the manner in which his self-possessed princess directly confronts the viewer. At the same time, Sargent must have been thinking of the unusual portraits and oddly centrifugal compositions of his French contemporary Edgar Degas. The Daughters of Edward DarleyBoit shares some of Degas’s strategies: the asymmetrical composition with an almost empty center, the sense of disconnection between family members, and a feeling of modern life interrupted.

    Sargent placed the Boit girls in an indeterminate space—the entrance hall, neither entirely public nor entirely private—that is brightly lit in the foreground but recedes into a vaguely defined drawing room half-lit with mirrors and reflections. The two tall Japanese vases [1997.211], made in Arita in the late nineteenth century specifically for export to the West, were prized family possessions; their unusual size in relation to the girls makes the interior seem strange and magical. The sisters are dressed almost alike, in the sort of casual clothes they would have worn in the schoolroom or at play. Their white pinafores gave Sargent an opportunity to demonstrate his mastery at painting white in different conditions of light. Only the youngest girl, Julia, engages the viewer, while the older girls recede progressively into the shadows, becoming increasingly indistinct.

    Sargent titled the painting Portraits of Children and displayed it in December 1882 in an exhibition at the gallery of the French dealer Georges Petit, who specialized in works by an international group of artists who were more modern than many of the painters who showed at the Salon, but less innovative than the Impressionists. The picture received generally good reviews, and Sargent decided to display it again the following spring, this time at the Salon, the annual state-run exhibition in Paris that was an important venue for artists seeking to build their reputations. While some critics praised Sargent’s technical abilities, most found the composition troubling for its unconventional approach to portraiture. One unidentified writer even described it as “four corners and a void.” While some have interpreted Sargent’s strategy as a poignant comment on the fickle nature of childhood and adolescence, writer Henry James, a friend of both the Boits and Sargent, described the picture as a “happy play-world of a family of charming children.”[1] With this painting, Sargent masterfully transcended portraiture, providing a continuously evocative meditation on openness and enigma, public and private, light and shadow.

    Notes
    1. Henry James, “John S. Sargent,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 75 (October 1887), 688.

    For more information about this painting, see Erica E. Hirshler, Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/780878467426.html] (Boston: MFA Publications, 2009).

    Erica E. Hirshler

    Details

    Dimensions

    221.93 x 222.57 cm (87 3/8 x 87 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    19.124

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  • Harpsichord

    probably 1736

    Henri Hemsch (French (born in Germany), 1700–1769 French (born...

    Description

    Music: Les Tendres Plaintes by Jean-Phillippe Rameau, 1724 (performed by Peter Sykes)

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 238 cm, width 89 cm, case height 28.3 cm, height 92.5 cm (Length 93 11/16 in., width 35 1/16 in., case height 11 1/8 in., height 36 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Poplar

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1981.747

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

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  • Lyre guitar

    1810

    Joseph Pons (French, born in 1776 French)

    Description

    Two-piece back and ribs of satinwood. Belly of fine-grain spruce with binding of ebony. Triple-line stringing along edges of belly and encircling soundholes. Two rosettes composed of gilded eight-petal flowers and leaves. Engraved and monogrammed shield of pearl inlaid into belly. Moldings of ebony along base of body. Neck of ebonized wood. Fluted columns of mahogany supporting yoke of gilded wood, terminating in carved spirals with acanthus leaves and pineapple at center. Tuning pegs of ebony. Fingerboard of ebony with fifteen frets of nickel silver (?). Nut of ivory. Bridge of ebonized wood and pearl, terminating in "moustaches." Bridge pins of ebony. Imitation gemstones at center of rosettes, yoke spirals, bridge pins, and tuning pegs. Buttons of ebony and pearl at heel of neck base of body for player's strap. Original coffin-type case of wood lined with green wool, bearing same monogram as on instrument.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 87.5 cm, width 45.8 cm (Length 34 7/16 in., width 18 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Satinwood, spruce, mahogany, ebony, ivory, mother-of-pearl, nickel silver, sheep gut, silver, semi-precious stones, paste

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    2000.972

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

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  • Pictorial quilt

    1895–98

    Harriet Powers (American, 1837–1910)

    Description

    Appliqué quilt, dyed and printed cotton fabrics applied to cotton. The quilt is divided into fifteen pictorial rectangles. Worked with pieces of beige, pink, mauve, orange, dark red, gray-green and shades of blue cotton.

    This extraordinary quilt was created by Harriet Powers, an African American woman who was born a slave in Georgia in 1837. Powers is thought to have orally dictated a description of each square of her quilt to Jennie Smith, who had purchased the first quilt Powers made, and arranged for it to be exhibited at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. This second quilt is thought to have been commissioned by a group of "faculty ladies" at Atlanta University, and given (together with Powers's descriptions) as a gift to a retiring trustee. What follows is Powers' descriptions of all fifteen blocks starting in the upper left and moving to the right.

    FIRST ROW:

    1. Job praying for his enemies. Job crosses. Job's coffin.

    2. The dark day of May 19, 1780. The seven stars were seen 12 N. in the day. The cattle wall went to bed, chickens to roost and the trumpet was blown. The sun went off to a small spot and then to darkness.

    3. The serpent lifted up by Moses and women bringing their children to look upon it to be healed.

    4. Adam and Eve in the garden. Eve tempted by the serpent. Adam's rib by which Eve was made. The sun and the moon. God's all-seeing eye and God's merciful hand.

    5. John baptizing Christ and the spirit of God descending and resting upon his shoulder like a dove.

    SECOND ROW:

    6. Jonah cast over board of the ship and swallowed by a whale. Turtles.

    7. God created two of every kind, male and female.

    8. The falling of the stars on Nov. 13, 1833. The people were frightened and thought that the end had come. God's hand staid the stars. The varmints rushed out of their beds.

    9. Two of every kind of animal continued...camels, elephants, "gheraffs," lions, etc.

    10. The angels of wrath and the seven vials. The blood of fornications. Seven-headed beast and 10 horns which arose of the water.

    THIRD ROW:

    11. Cold Thursday, 10 of February, 1895. A woman frozen while at prayer. A woman frozen at a gateway. A man with a sack of meal frozen. Icicles formed from the breath of a mule. All blue birds killed. A man frozen at his jug of liquor.

    12. The red light night of 1846. A man tolling the bell to notify the people of the wonder. Women, children and fowls frightened by God's merciful hand caused no harm to them.

    13. Rich people who were taught nothing of God. Bob Johnson and Kate Bell of Virginia. They told their parents to stop the clock at one and tomorrow it would strike one and so it did. This was the signal that they had entered everlasting punishment. The independent hog which ran 500 miles from Georgia to Virginia, her name was Betts.

    14. The creation of animals continues.

    15. The crucifixion of Christ between the two theives. The sun went into darkness. Mary and Martha weeping at his feet. The blood and water run from his right side.

    Details

    Dimensions

    175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.)

    Medium

    Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted

    Classification

    Textiles

    Accession Number

    64.619

    Collections

    Americas, Textiles and Fashion Arts

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  • Painter's Honeymoon

    about 1864

    Frederic, Lord Leighton (English, 1830–1896 English)

    Description

    Love is equated with art in this romantic image which -- in its evocation of the past and its precise, controlled style -- epitomizes officially sanctioned academic practice in the late nineteenth century. Leighton, who was elected president of the Royal Academy in London in 1879, spent many years studying in Germany, France, and Italy. The composition and glowing color of Painter's Honeymoon reflect the influence of such sixteenth-century Venetian painters as Giorgione and Titian.

    Details

    Dimensions

    83.8 x 76.8 cm (33 x 30 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1981.258

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Fisherman's Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville

    1882

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description

    Summertime often drew Monet to the English Channel coast, and in 1881 and 1882 he explored the area around Dieppe, situated about ninety-six kilometers to the east along the coast from Le Havre. For the purpose of giving focus to the scenes he painted in Pourville and Varengeville, west of Dieppe, Monet liked the stone cabins that had been built during the Napoleonic era as posts from which to observe coastal traffic. In Monet's day they were used by fishermen for storage. The door and flanking windows anthropomorphize the cottage, giving it a nose and two eyes. We may see the cottage, but we cannot reach it, for there is no path. Indeed, all we can do is admire the view out to sea. The Channel, dotted with recreational yachts, sparkles in the distance. The cottage, especially its roof, is given an orange hue, which it may truly have possessed but which makes a striking contrast of complementaries with the blue of the water on the horizon.

    Details

    Dimensions

    60.6 x 81.6 cm (23 7/8 x 32 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    21.1331

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Water Lilies

    1907

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    96.8 x 98.4 cm (38 1/8 x 38 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    19.170

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Meadow with Poplars

    about 1875

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    54.6 x 65.4 cm (21 1/2 x 25 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    23.505

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Grainstack (Sunset)

    1891

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description

    In 1890 and 1891, Monet painted a group of pictures of the stacks of wheat (referred to as grainstacks or haystacks) in the fields near his home, exhibiting them as a series to great critical acclaim in 1891. Traditionally, the motifs in Monet's series paintings have been seen merely as vehicles through which he could explore the interaction of light, color, and form over the course of the day and in different weather conditions. But scholars have recently proposed that Monet was equally interested in the meaning and significance of the motifs themselves. Grainstacks, for example, are traditional symbols of the land's fertility, the local farmers' material wealth, and the region's prosperity.

    Details

    Dimensions

    73.3 x 92.7 cm (28 7/8 x 36 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    25.112

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Camille Monet and a Child in the Artist's Garden in Argenteuil

    1875

    Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)

    Description

    Camille, Monet's first wife, is shown with a child in the garden of their house in Argenteuil, near Paris, where they lived between 1872 and 1877. The shimmering reds, blues, greens, and white that capture the brilliance of a sun-drenched day are applied with many small brushstrokes, whose varied shapes create the different textures of flowers, grass, and clothing.

    Details

    Dimensions

    55.3 x 64.7 cm (21 3/4 x 25 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1976.833

    Collections

    Europe

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  • King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and queen

    2490–2472 B.C.

    Description

    At twilight on January 10, 1910, a young boy beckoned George Reisner to the Menkaura Valley Temple. There, emerging from a robbers' pit into which they had been discarded were the tops of two heads, perfectly preserved and nearly life-size. This was the modern world's first glimpse of one of humankind's artistic masterworks, the statue of Menkaura and queen.

    The two figures stand side-by-side, gazing into eternity. He represents the epitome of kingship and the ideal human male form. She is the ideal female. He wears the nemes on his head, a long artificial beard, and a wraparound kilt with central tab, all of which identify him as king. In his hand he clasps what may be abbreviated forms of the symbols of his office. His high cheekbones, bulbous nose, slight furrows running diagonally from his nose to the corners of his mouth, and lower lip thrust out in a slight pout, may be seen on her as well, although her face has a feminine fleshiness, which his lacks. Traces of red paint remain on his face and black paint on her wig.

    His broad shoulders, taut torso, and muscular arms and legs, all modeled with subtlety and restraint, convey a latent strength. In contrast, her narrow shoulders and slim body, whose contours are apparent under her tight-fitting sheath dress, represent the Egyptian ideal of femininity. As is standard for sculptures of Egyptian men, his left foot is advanced, although all his weight remains on the right foot. Typically, Egyptian females are shown with both feet together, but here, the left foot is shown slightly forward. Although they stand together sharing a common base and back slab, and she embraces him, they remain aloof and share no emotion, either with the viewer or each other.

    Who is represented here? The base of the statue which is usually inscribed with the names and titles of the subject represented, was left unfinished and never received the final polish of most of the rest of the statue. Because it was found in Menkaura's Valley Temple and because it resembles other statues from the same findspot bearing his name, there is no doubt that the male figure is King Menkaura. Reisner suggested that the woman was Queen Kamerernebty II, the only of Menkaura's queens known by name. She, however, had only a mastaba tomb, while two unidentified queens of Menkaura had small pyramids. Others have suggested that she represents the goddess Hathor, although she exhibits no divine attributes. Because later kings are often shown with their mothers, still other scholars have suggested that the woman by Menkaura's side may be his mother. However, in private sculptures when a man and woman are shown together and their relationship is indicated, they are most often husband and wife. Because private sculpture is modeled after royal examples, this suggests that she is indeed one of Menkaura's queens, but ultimately, the name of the woman represented in this splendid sculpture may never be known.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 142.2 x 57.1 x 55.2 cm, 676.8 kg (56 x 22 1/2 x 21 3/4 in., 1492.1 lb.) Block (Wooden skirts and two top): 53.3 x 180 x 179.7 cm (21 x 70 7/8 x 70 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    11.1738

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki nami-ura), also known...

    about 1830–31 (Tenpô 1–2)

    Artist Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849)

    Description

    MFA impressions: 06.1153, 06.1283, 06.2548, 11.17652, 21.6764, 21.6765, 34.317

    Details

    Dimensions

    Horizontal ôban; 25.8 x 38 cm (10 3/16 x 14 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    21.6765

    Collections

    Asia, Prints and Drawings

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  • Dancers Resting

    1881–85

    Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    49.8 x 58.4 cm (19 5/8 x 23 in.)

    Medium

    Pastel on paper mounted on cardboard

    Classification

    Pastels

    Accession Number

    39.669

    Collections

    Europe, Prints and Drawings

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  • Boys in a Pasture

    1874

    Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910 American)

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    40.32 x 58.1 cm (15 7/8 x 22 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    53.2552

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Fruit Displayed on a Stand

    about 1881–82

    Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894 French)

    Description

    Caillebotte delighted in unusual vantage points and compositions. This close-up view of fruit stacked on a market stand creates a bold pattern of repeated forms and colors, while the sensuous brushstrokes suggest the lusciousness of the fruit. A loyal and well-to-do member of the Impressionist group, Caillebotte bequeathed his extensive painting collection to the state. It became the nucleus of the Impressionist collection now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

    Details

    Dimensions

    76.5 x 100.6 cm (30 1/8 x 39 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1979.196

    Collections

    Europe

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  • The Questioner of the Sphinx

    1863

    Elihu Vedder (American, 1836–1923 American)

    Description

    Elihu Vedder first studied art in his native New York but traveled to Europe in 1856, enhancing his education in both Italy and France and beginning a life-long fascination with European art and literature. He eventually established his studio in Rome and lived as an expatriate in Italy for over sixty years. A poet and writer as well as a painter, Vedder had been fascinated with ancient myths and fantastic tales from the very beginning of his career. He developed a particularly strong following in Boston, which since the early part of the century had cultivated a taste for Romantic, literary paintings. The Questioner of the Sphinx was exhibited in New York in 1863 and was purchased immediately by a Boston collector, Martin Brimmer, for $500.
    Vedder, then in his twenties, had not yet visited Egypt when he painted this mysterious work. Depictions of the Great Sphinx at Giza (or Gizeh) had appeared in a number of travel books by the mid-nineteenth century, when imagery of the Near East became increasingly popular; Vedder seems to have used such an illustration as a source. However, the subject of an Arab wayfarer questioning the mysterious monument came from Vedder’s fertile imagination, although it does recall the ancient Greek myth of the sphinx that protected the road to Thebes by challenging passing travelers with riddles. Vedder’s pilgrim, in his ragged robes, appears to have made a long and difficult journey through an inhospitable wilderness in the hope of hearing some great truth from the implacable statue. His success is uncertain, for the skull of another questioner lies in the foreground, a mute witness to the occasion. Broken columns, remnants of human activity, lie strewn in ruins, almost buried by the shifting sands. Vedder wrote that, in this painting, he sought to portray the hopelessness of man before the laws of nature; to the modern viewer, it also resonates with the uncertainty that accompanied the Civil War. Vedder continued to be haunted by this subject and he produced a number of other images of the sphinx over the course of his long career.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    92.07 x 107.31 cm (36 1/4 x 42 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    06.2430

    Collections

    Americas

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  • In the Loge

    1878

    Mary Stevenson Cassatt (American, 1844–1926)

    Description

    Mary Stevenson Cassatt, raised near Pittsburgh and first trained as a painter in Philadelphia, became nineteenth-century America’s most modern painter. Like many of her contemporaries, Cassatt felt that her artistic education in the United States was inadequate, and she traveled to Europe soon after the Civil War. She studied in both Italy and France, and by 1873 she had made Paris her home. While most of her compatriots were proud of the education they received in the art schools of the French capital, Cassatt soon tired of the conservative approach taught in those academies and perpetuated by the exhibitions they organized. She felt strongly that painting needed to break free of old methods and adapt to the modern world.
    Cassatt found the answer to her demand for a new kind of painting in the work of the Impressionists, a small circle of independent French artists. She approved of their disdain for juried exhibitions and soon adopted their experimental techniques and their preference for images of contemporary life. In 1877 Edgar Degas invited her to show her work with the group. Cassatt thus became one of only three women, and the only American, ever to join the French Impressionists.

    In the Loge was the first of Cassatt’s Impressionist paintings to be displayed in the United States. When it was shown in Boston in 1878, critics described the picture as “striking,” adding that Cassatt’s painting “surpassed the strength of most men.” [1]The canvas, then entitled At the Français—A Sketch, depicts a fashionable lady dressed for an afternoon performance at the Comedie Français, a theater in Paris. Entertainments like the theater, the opera, and the racetrack were extremely popular among Parisians, who enjoyed such diversions not only for the show, but also for the opportunity to see—and to be seen by—their peers. The Impressionists took delight in painting these spectacles of modern life, and the theater, with its dazzling variety of lights and reflections, was an especially appealing subject. Many male artists, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Degas, had painted beautiful women in theater boxes, where they appeared as if they were on display in a gilded frame. Cassatt gave her female figure a noticeably more dynamic role, for she peers avidly through her opera glasses at the row of seats across from her. In the background at upper left, a man trains his gaze upon her. The viewer, who sees them both, completes the circle. Cassatt’s painting explores the very act of looking, breaking down the traditional boundaries between the observer and the observed, the audience and the performer.

    Notes
    1. “The M.C.M.A. [Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association] Exhibition,” Daily Evening Transcript (Boston), September 3, 1878, 4.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    81.28 x 66.04 cm (32 x 26 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    10.35

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Torn Hat

    1820

    Thomas Sully (American (born in England), 1783–1872)

    Description

    Thomas Sully was Philadelphia’s leading portraitist in the early nineteenth century. This work displays his characteristically fluid use of paint, a skill he learned in London in emulation of his mentor, the British Romantic portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence. Even in an era devoted to showing children as truly childlike, Sully’s portrait of his nine-year old son, Thomas Wilcocks Sully, is unusually informal. The young Thomas is situated off-center, creating a feeling of movement and immediacy. He wears an open shirt, rumpled jacket, and straw hat. Such less restrictive costume was becoming more usual for children as it was acknowledged that play was beneficial and healthful for young people.
    The detail of the torn hat suggests some real, human mischief on the part of the subject that is not apparent in the rosy sweetness of his face. The viewer wonders how the hat got torn, suggesting an element of narrative rare in a portrait and tying the picture to genre painting. The tear in the hat brim also afforded Sully the opportunity to show off his ability to paint a face under a complex pattern of light and shadow. Like Copley in A Boy with a Flying Squirrel (Henry Pelham)[1978.297], Sully felt free to experiment in a portrait that was not a commissioned work.

    Sully’s experimentation with such unusual effects may reflect the disappointing turn of events in his career. By 1820 his painting sales had been down for several years, and he was uncertain whether he would be able to continue making his living as a portraitist. Sully may have thought that a more informal kind of portrait might sell. Although the artist referred to the painting as “a study” and completed it in three days, he signed and dated it as he did his finished works. He also priced it at $100, twice the amount he usually asked for a picture of its size. [1]

    Sully’s gamble paid off. He sold the painting for his asking price just a year later, to Boston merchant and art collector John Hubbard. The artist went on to be much admired for his natural portrayals of children. Young Thomas Wilcocks Sully grew up to become a well-regarded portraitist in his own right.

    Notes
    1. “Account of Pictures by Thomas Sully,” roll N18, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. The listing for July 11, 1820, notes “Head size. Thos. Sully, my son, a study.”

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    48.58 x 37.15 cm (19 1/8 x 14 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    16.104

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Colossal statue of King Menkaura (Mycerinus)

    2490–2472 B.C.

    Description

    This colossal statue is one of the largest sculptures of the Pyramid Age. With a height of nearly 2.35 meters (8 feet), as restored, it features King Menkaura, who built the smallest of the three pyramids at Giza. His clothing and headgear clearly identify him as the ruler. He wears a wraparound kilt with a central projection, a garment worn only by kings until the end of the Old Kingdom. On his head is a royal kerchief, called a nemes. A cobra, known as a ureaus, is at his brow. This serpent was considered a deity and charged with protecting the king by wrapping itself around the royal brow and spitting its poisonous venom at the king's enemies. Menkaura's long straight beard, another symbol of royalty, was attached by means of a strap that was once painted on the statue's head. His right hand is clasped around a folded cloth, the ends of which extend onto his thigh.

    The king's expression is one of regal composure and supreme control. With its slightly bulging eyes, bulbous nose, painted moustache (now barely visible), set mouth with pouting lower lip and firm chin, the face is distinctive, but whether or not it represents a true portrait of Menkaura can never be known. This is the face of a mature adult, although neither face nor body displays any signs of aging. It has often been remarked that the head is unusually small for the king's body. Whatever the artist's reason for doing this, it certainly emphasizes the breadth of the figure's torso and enhances its image as omnipotent king.

    This statue sat in the deep niche at the back of Menkaura's Pyramid Temple located at the base of the eastern face of his pyramid until, for reasons unknown, it was deliberately destroyed. In January 1907, George Reisner found fragments from the shoulder and torso in a pit in that room and the large fragment comprising the hands, legs, and throne base in an adjacent corridor. Two months later, while excavating what proved to be a robber's trench nearby, Reisner found the head in nearly perfect condition.

    The different installations of Menkaura atthe MFA reflect the changing aesthetics of the Museum audience. When the fragments first arrived in the Museum, only the head and leg were exhibited. Two years later, additional torso pieces were added, and an abstract restoration of the missing torso elements was attempted. In 1925, at Reisner's request, the well-known watercolorist and artist for the expedition, Joseph Lindon Smith, sculpted the torso and buttocks in a more naturalistic manner. The restoration that visitors see today was accomplished in 1935 by Smith, assisted by Museum School student Charles Muskavitch.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 243.8 x 115.6 x 83.8 cm (96 x 45 1/2 x 33 in.) Other (head): 37.5 x 47cm (14 3/4 x 18 1/2in.)

    Medium

    Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    09.204

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of Aphrodite ("The Bartlett Head" )

    about 330–300 B.C.

    Description

    So-called Bartlett Head of Aphrodite, associated with the style of Praxiteles. Important and rare original example of late Classical or early Hellenistic sculpture. Neck is worked for insertion into a full length statue, now lost. Well preserved except for a small break at the tip of the nose.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Head without socle: 28.8 x 18.1 x 24.8 cm (11 5/16 x 7 1/8 x 9 3/4 in.) Head on socle: 42 cm (16 9/16 in) Historic socle: 13.8 x 13.8 cm (5 7/16 x 5 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Parian marble

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    03.743

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of a goddess ("The Chios Head")

    about 300 B.C.

    Description

    The head, neck, and part of the shoulders were fashioned for insertion in a draped statue. The top of the head was covered by an end of the mantle drawn up to form a veil. This mantle fell closer to the left cheek than the right and projected over the brow, casting a shadow down to the eyebrows.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 36 cm (14 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, probably from the Greek island of Paros

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    10.70

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Mixing bowl (calyx krater) with scenes from the fall of Troy

    about 470–460 B.C.

    the Altamura Painter

    Description

    Ilioupersis (Sack of Troy)

    Side A: Cassandra at the Palladion, an attendant hastening with a box to the left. Cassandra is being menaced by Ajax the Less. To the right, Neoptolemos prepares to hurl Astyanax (son of Hector) from the walls of Troy. Priam is seated on the altar. At the extreme right, two warriors fighting or quarreling.
    Side B: Aeneas carrying his aged father Anchises from Troy. Creusa follows behind and a warrior leads the way. He may be Ascanius or Hermes in the guise of Aeneas's son.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 48 cm (18 7/8 in.); diameter: 49 cm (19 5/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ceramic, Red Figure

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    59.178

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Mixing bowl (calyx krater) with the killing of Agamemnon

    about 460 B.C.

    the Dokimasia Painter

    Description

    Both sides of this vase illustrate tragic scenes from the story of King Agamemnon's return to Mycenae after the fall of Troy.

    While Agamemnon was away at war, his wife Klytemnestra took as her lover Agamemnon's cousin Aegisthos. On the king's return home, Aegisthos and Klytemnestra plotted to kill Agamemnon. In one scene, Aegisthos gets ready to plunge a sword into Agamemnon, wet from the bath and trapped in a net. Klytemnestra carries an ax to assist her lover. Three other women witness the horrific crime. These women are perhaps Chrysothemis and Elektra, Agamemnon's younger and older daughters, and Kassandra, his slave.

    Following the first brutal murder, the honorable children of Klytemnestra and Agamemnon avenged the death of their father. Orestes, whipped to action by his sister Elektra, enters the palace to kill Aegisthos who was seated playing the lyre (barbitos). Elektra stands to the right encouraging her brother's actions, while her mother Klytemnestra rushes in with a double axe aimed at her son's head.

    The Aeolic columns under the handles suggest the palace of Agamemnon and Klytemnestra at Mycenae.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 51 cm (20 1/16 in.); diameter: 51 cm (20 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ceramic, Red Figure

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    63.1246

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Statue of Athena Parthenos (the Virgin Goddess)

    2nd or 3rd century A.D.

    Description

    Roman-period replica of the cult statue that once stood within the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis, a chryselephantine (gold and ivory) colossal statue designed by the master sculptor Phidias and . dedicated in 438 B.C. The goddess wears a helmet on which are remains of Pegasoi on either side flanking a sphinx of which only the paws remain; above the visor are parts of protomes, probably deer; griffins in relief on the cheek pieces. Curls frame the face, tresses fall on her shoulders. Gorgon on aegis which is edged by snakes; snakes encircle her waist forming knot at the center.

    Condition:
    The head and neck were carved of a lighter marble than the rest of the figure. Joins are confirmed by matching curls above the left shoulder and the hair below the helmet and on back of aegis. Restored areas include a small part of the left eyelid, tip of the nose and left nostril, much of the lower lip and the end of the chin, and the curl of hair on the right side of her neck, including a small portion of the curved lower end of the helmet. There are no restorations on the body. Traces of paint remain on the lower curls on Athena's left shoulder. Ancient iron pegs are visible in the troughs of the arms, along with larger dowel holes for fitting the arms and the weight they supported. Some surfaces were carefully cleaned long ago; others preserve good root marks.

    Scientific Analysis:
    Harvard Lab No. HI752: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.76 / delta18O -8.63, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - Sparkling, fine grained marble.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 154 cm, 232.7 kg (60 5/8 in., 513 lb.) Stone (Dry mounted recessed 3 3/8" deep into Concrete base): 69.9 x 55.9 x 51.4 cm (27 1/2 x 22 x 20 1/4 in.) Mount (Concrete base dry mounted onto wooden pallet): 22.9 x 105.4 x 89.5 cm (9 x 41 1/2 x 35 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1980.196

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Cameo with Livia holding a bust of Augustus (?)

    A.D. 14–37

    Description

    Bust of Livia in the guise of Venus Genetrix, with closely clinging drapery slipping off her left shoulder. Beside her is a youthful male head, which must originally have belonged to a bust or full-length figure, alternately identified as a bust of the deified Augustus, or as one of her sons, Tiberius or Drusus I.

    The cameo has been set into a modern setting. The lower part of the gem is damaged, and a portion of the original has clearly been lost.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 3.1 x 3.8 x 1.6 cm (1 1/4 x 1 1/2 x 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Turquoise

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment, Cameos

    Accession Number

    99.109

    Collections

    Jewelry, The Ancient World

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  • Two-handled jar (amphora) with Herakles driving a bull to sacrifice

    about 525–520 B.C.

    the Andokides Painter

    Description

    This amphora is decorated on both sides but in different painting techniques. One side has a scene depicted in the Red Figure style, and the other side shows the same scene in the Black Figure style. This type of decoration puts the vase into the so-called Bilingual group.
    The traditional attributions for the painter is: the Black Figure (side A) is by the Lysippides Painter, and the Red Figure (side B) is by the Andokides Painter.

    Both sides depict Herakles driving a bull to sacrifice, past a tree, holding his club in his right hand, and in his left the rope fastened round the horns of the bull, also a bundle of spits. He wears a short tunic (chitoniskos), a lionskin, a belt, has sword and quiver slung, by crossbands, at his left flank, carries two small wineskins, apparently empty, over his left arm. The bull's head is filleted with colorful ribbons, and the woollen fillet has the form commonly used for this purpose as for others, tied at intervals and the ends splayed.

    Condition: Considerably restored.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 53.2 cm (20 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ceramic, Black Figure and Red Figure (Bilingual)

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    99.538

    Collections

    The Ancient World

    Not On View
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  • Sarcophagus with triumph of Dionysos

    about A.D. 215–225

    Description

    The god of wine and dramatic festivals, in full choral attitude, steps into a biga drawn by two Indian elephants with fringed cloths on their backs. He is supported by his companion the satyr Ampelos and attended by the complete Dionysiac train of Sileni, pans, satyrs, maenads, and the exotic animals of his triumph in India.

    The inscription reads :M~VIBIO~M~FIL~LIBERALI~PRAET~M~VIBIVS~AGESILAVS~IVNIOR~NVTRICIO~SUO~FEC ("Marcus Vibius Agesilaus junior made (it) for Marcus Vibius Liberalis, son of Marcus, the praetor, his foster-father" ).

    The condition is, generally speaking, superb, with the small breaks, missing limbs, and absent attributes apparent from illustrations. The surfaces, particularly of the nude or seminude figures, retain their high polish. There are no restorations of the kind that ruin so many sarcophagi. The sections cracked or broken through have been carefully rejoined, and the missing pieces of the lid hardly detract from the visual sweep and rhythm of the triumphal procession. The three-volume corpus of Dionysiac sarcophagi reveals that very few of these monuments of Greek art in the Roman Empire have their original (or any) lids preserved in any form or condition.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 77.5 x 208cm (30 1/2 x 81 7/8in.) Other (Body): 59cm (23 1/4in.) Other (lid): 18.5cm (7 5/16in.) Case (Rolling steel pedestal with wooden skirts/plex-bonnet): 77.5 x 228.6 x 76.5 cm (30 1/2 x 90 x 30 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, from the island of Proconnesus in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1972.650

    Collections

    The Ancient World

    Not On View
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  • Hathor-headed crystal pendant

    743–712 B.C.

    Description

    Crystal ball amulet surmounted by gold head of Hathor crowned with disc and horns. The ball is bored vertically and has a gold disc at the base on which it stands. Probably contained substances believed to be magical. Ring at back of head. Base loose.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 5.3 x 3.3 cm (2 1/16 x 1 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Gold, rock crystal

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment, Pendants

    Accession Number

    21.321

    Collections

    Jewelry, The Ancient World

    Not On View
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  • Colossal statue of King Aspelta

    593–568 B.C.

    Description

    Inscribed down column at back.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 332.1 cm (130 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Granite gneiss

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    23.730

    Collections

    The Ancient World

    Not On View
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  • Statue of King Senkamanisken

    643–623 B.C.

    Description

    Standing statue of Senkamanisken with the left foot striding forward and arms at his sides, with the fists clenched. Inscription in column at back. Crown, kilt, sandals and ornaments were originally covered in gold sheet.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 147.8 x 50.1 cm (58 3/16 x 19 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Granite gneiss

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    23.731

    Collections

    The Ancient World

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  • Head of Gudea

    2144–2124 B.C.

    Description

    Head of Gudea in smooth, polished diorite, wearing a turban surrounded by tight, stylized curls.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 23.18 cm (9 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Diorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    26.289

    Collections

    The Ancient World

    Not On View
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  • Head of a nobleman (The Josephson Head)

    1878–1841 B.C.

    Description

    Reddish brown quartzite head of an official, with distinctive features of late dynasty 12, including large ears, heavily-lidded and sunken eyes, furrowed brow, hollow cheeks and downcurved mouth. Nose broken.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Width x height x depth: 24 x 18.5 x 21 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/16 x 8 1/4 in.) Width x height x depth (base): 16.5 x 16 x 14 cm (6 1/2 x 6 5/16 x 5 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Quartzite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2003.244

    Collections

    The Ancient World

    Not On View
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