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Famous Paintings Reviewed

Madame Cezanne Paintings

Posted by Susan Benford

Fans of Cezanne paintings recognize various motifs that recur in his work - arrays of fruit, a plaster cast of Cupid, the view of Mont Sainte-Victoire (see some of these famous Cezanne paintings). One frequent theme, however, has not received its due: portraits of his wife. Cezanne-paintings-Young-Woman-Loosened-Hair

This changed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition, Madame Cezanne, the first show of drawings, watercolors and paintings of his wife, Hortense Fiquet (1850-1922). 

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) created 29 Madame Cezanne portraits, more portraits than of any other model (except himself) during his prolific and lengthy career.  

An astounding 24 of these Madame Cezanne paintings are exhibited in this gem (a somewhat sleeper) of a show.

Paul Cezanne.  Young Woman with Loosened Hair, ca. 1873-74.  Oil on canvas, 4 3/8" by 6".  Private collection, on loan to Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen.

Why Has Madame Cezanne Been Unknown?

Cezanne met her in Paris in 1869, and three years later, she was modelling for him (see Young Woman with Loosened Hair, right). Fearing disapproval  and loss of financial support from his overbearing father, Cezanne closeted his relationship with Hortense and his out-of-wedlock son, Paul. It was 17 years later that they married.

madame-cezanne-leaning-on-a-tableHortense didn't fare well with her husband's friends or critics, either:

  • some referred to her as "La Boule" (the ball);
  • the art historian John Rewald contended that she neither influenced nor understood her husband's art; and
  • the English art historian Roger Fry dismissed "that sour bitch of a Madame" as the reason her husband's landscape paintings were unsuccessful.

(History doesn't record whether Fry gave Hortense credit for any of the successful paintings, but an educated guess suggests not). 

And then there were critics who cited her stiffness, impentrable gaze and unsmiling demeanor.

Paul Cezanne. Madame Cezanne  Leaning on a Table, ca. 1873-1874.  Oil on canvas, 18 1/8" by 15".  Private collection, care of Faggionato, London.

What the Exhibition Reveals

Because there are so few relics of Hortense Fiquet's life - for instance, only two letters she wrote have survived - there was ample room for conjecture.  

Even if Hortense did not comprehend her husband's aesthetics (and she was far from alone on that front), she deserves enormous credit for her commitment as a model, a sacrifice that was even acknowledged by John Rewald: 

Cezanne rarely painted any other woman, and it must have entailed considerable sacrifice on the part of his lively and talkative wife to lend herself to the endless sittings he inflicted on her. (1)

Further, we know through the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard that Cezanne would often pause 20 minutes between brushstokes.  

Who can hold a smile that long?

Madame Cezanne Paintings

Viewing these paintings, drawings and watercolors as a group reveals an inescapable tenderness in the attention taken in portraying her.  That he perceives form in terms of color relationships is clearly revealled in Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair.  


Paul Cezanne.  Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair, ca. 1877.  Oil on canvas, 28 1/2" by 22".  Museum of Fine Art, Boston.

Hues of blue, gray, green, violet and brown interrelate so freely in the canvas that Hortense's flesh tones hint of the same palette as her jacket bodice and the patterned wallpaper.  The loose, fluid quality of the brushstrokes are juxtaposed against her implacable, stoic gaze; with any other demeanor, she would compete with the other energy in the canvas.

Instead, she is secondary to the imposing red chair and her voluminous striped skirt. It feels more calculated than coincidental.


Which of these portraits do you find most complling - which reveals more of Hortense Fiquet's personality, if any do?


These three Madame Cezanne paintings alone are reason enough to visit this show, which runs through March 15, 2015.  (And if you're at the Met, use the ebook, Famous Paintings at the Met to explore other masterpieces there!)

Stay tuned for more reasons to see this show in the next post - the four "Red Dress" paintings, exhibited together for the first time since they left Cezanne's studio!

 (1) Madame Cezanne by Dita Amory, page 10.







Tags: Cezanne paintings

Famous Paintings: View From Toledo

Posted by Susan Benford

Born in Crete, El Greco (1541-1614) was trained as a Byzantine icon painter before moving to Venice.  There he worked in Titian's shop and studied famous paintings of the Renaissance, especially those by Veronese and Tintoretto.


The dramatic lighting typical of Tintoretto and the bold colors of Titian were lasting influences from this time. 

Domenikos Theotokopoulos.  Portrait of an Old Man, 1595-60. Oil on canvas, 20 3/4" by 18 3/8".  Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now considered a self-portrait.

After moving in 1570 to Rome, El Greco secured lodging in the palace of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the city's most influential art patrons.  Despite that prestigious connection, though, El Greco failed to receive even a single commission for an altarpiece during his six year tenure.


It seems it is ill-advised to assert that Michelangelo wasn't a skilled painter -- or to offer one's services in improving "The Last Judgement." 

Unfailingly confident, El Greco next tried Madrid, where his bid for patronage from Phillip II was turned down.  

Next up was Toledo. This ancient city was the capital of the Spanish empire until 1561, and remained its artistic, religious and intellectual center throughout the 16th century.  Toledo is memorialized in one of the most celebrated El Greco paintings, View of Toledo (most art history pros consider Burial of Count Orgaz to be his most famous painting). 


Domenikos Theotokopoulos.  View of Toledo, 1598-99.  Oil on canvas, 47 3/4" by 42 3/4".  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In View of Toledo, El Greco takes extensive topographical liberties with the foreground meadow and the placement of the Tagus River and Alcantara bridge.  But he was not striving for precise representation. Instead, this swirling canvas of color captures El Greco's emotional response to his adopted homeland.  The meadow is eerily illuminated; there are microscopic washerwomen in the Tagus and walkers on the riverbanks - all of whom are microscopic dots - beneath a threatening sky.  

Keith Christiansen, Department of European Paintings at the Met, astutely reminds us that El Greco was a contemporary of Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci (the three died in 1614, 1610 and 1609, respectively). Christiansen notes, important respects El Greco's art belonged to the past, not the future: to the world of Mannerism, with its emphasis on the artist's imagination rather than the reproduction of nature... No other great Western artist moved mentally - as El Greco did - from the flat symbolic world of Byzantine icons to the world-embracing, humanistic vision of Renaissance paintings, and then on to a predominatly conceptual kind of art.

How ironic that El Greco,with one eye to the past, would become a forerunner of modern art.






Goya Paintings: Duchess of Alba

Posted by Susan Benford

Over his long association with Spanish royalty - Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) worked under four monarchies, first starting in 1774 - Goya painted numerous royal portraits.  Among those he most often portrayed was the Duchess of Alba (1761-1802).

After her husband died in 1796, the Duchess retreated in mourning to a residence outside Cadiz, Spain. In his role as royal painter, Goya joined her there from July 1797 to March 1798.  

Rumors of romantic involvement between the Duchess and Goya haven't stopped since.



Francisco Goya.  The Duchess of Alba, 1797.  Oil on canvas, 6' 10 1/2" by 4' 10 1/6".  The Hispanic Society of America, New York.

This speculation is fueled by ambiguity in the portrait itself:

- the inscription on the ground to which she points are the words - only exposed after a modern cleaning - "Solo Goya", or "Only Goya";

- on her right hand are two rings, one reading "Alba" and the other "Goya"; and

- the painting was in Goya's personal possession at the time of his death.

And, I'd add, this Duchess has some serious attitude. She's oozes self-confidence.goya-paintings-white-duchess

Attired in the contemporary fashion of a maja and vieled in a black mantilla for mourning, the Duchess has an implacable expression, with a brazen stare at the viewer that feels almost like a dare. 

Francisco de Goya.  The White Duchess, 1795.  Oil on canvas, 6' 4 1/2" by 4' 3 1/4".  The Alba Collection, Madrid. 

The Duchess, officially Dona Maria de Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Alvarez de Toledo (1761-1802) was, in the hierarchy of Spanish society, directly after the Queen, Maria Luisa.  The widespread fame of her  beauty may be behind rumors that the Queen poisoned the Duchess, who died at 41; no evidence supports this allegation.

But speculation about a Duchess-Goya liaison can be readily countered by other theories:

-"Sola Goya" is the artist's immodest proclamation that he alone was capable of capturing the Duchess' spirit and beauty;

- the "Goya" and "Alba" rings were 19th century additions, according to some art historians; and

- Goya's possession of the Duchess at his death may be merely because she rejected the portrait, or simply that Goya opted to keep it himself - it remains one of his most famous paintings today.

Maneula Mena is the Goya specialist at the Prado, home to the most extensive collection of Goya paintings; in her book, The Duchess of Alba, Goya's Muse: Myth and History, she concludes that there was no romantic entanglement between the two.

Let's put the alleged affair to rest, and see the Duchess of Alba for what it is: a masterful portrait evoking the personality, beauty, and social stature of one of Spain's leading ladies.

Now that that's resolved... what's up with her fingerpointing?

The Duchess is on exhibition in Goya: Order and Disorder, on view at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts until January 19, 2015. 

More Goya paintings: see Goya's portrait of The Family of Charles IV.  Explore an overview of his work to understand he is one of Spain's most famous painters, still today.

Update: The present day Duchess of Alba - holder of more aristocratic titles than any other royalty - passed away on 20 November 2014.




Tags: Francisco de Goya

Goya Paintings: Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Posted by Susan Benford

A retrospective of Francisco Goya (1746-1828) - encompassing 170 Goya paintings, prints and drawing - is Goya-Portraitcurrently on view at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.  Goya: Order and Disorder, which will only be exhibited in Boston, offers a comprehensive review of Goya's work, the first American retrospective in over 25 years.

More on that later.

Francisco Goya initially established his reputation as a portrait painter, painting leading social figures, aristocrats, intellectuals and members of the Spanish royalty, like the Family of Charles IV. He was court painter for four successive kings, largely due to his unprecedented ability to capture his sitters' psychological and mental states.

Vicente Lopez y Portana.  Francisco Goya, 1827.  Oil on canvas, approximately 37" by 30".  Prado Museum, Madrid.

Nowhere is that seen more persuasively than in Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (below). 

After sickness in 1792 left him stone deaf, Goya again became quite ill in 1819.  He was convinced that attentive care by his physician, Eugenio Garc’a Arrieta, brought him back to health. In gratitude, Goya painted this double portrait and presented it to Arrieta.

This Goya painting nearly steals the show, Goya: Order and Disorder - and the competition is fierce.

Goya's fevered, sweating brow is palpably clammy; his bed clothes are damp and limp from hours of heavy perspiration.  A calm, persistent Doctor Arrieta insists that Goya drink the proffered liquid. There is no doubt Goya-paintings-Self-Portrait-Doctor-Arrietathat both patient and doctor wonder if one of Spain's most famous painters will perish.  The shadowy, anonymous faces behind them are murmuring their angst and worry; over Goya's left shoulder, an apparition like the angel of death is lurking.

Franciso Goya.  Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta, 1820.  Oil on canvas, 45 1/8" x 30 1/8".  Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis.

The words at the bottom of the frame read:

Goya gives thanks for his friend, Arrieta, for the expert care with which he saved his life from an acute and dangerous infection which he suffered at the close of the year 1819 when he was 73 years old.

With this inscription, Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta looks like an ex-voto painting.  From the Latin "ex voto suscepto", or "from the vow made", this type of religious work had origins in Mesopotamia and Egypt - it was an expression of gratitude for divine intercession and avoidance of calamity. 

For the record, Goya lived for eight years after finishing Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta.

Explore other famous paintings by Francisco de Goya, including Duchess of Alba (also in Goya: Order and Disorder) and The Third of May.



Famous Paintings: Blind Man's Buff

Posted by Susan Benford

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) interrupted his painting career to serve in Germany's army field medical corps during World War I.  When he returned, he abandoned the classical style of painting typical of his pre-war works in favor of a more expressive style.


Max Beckmann.  Blind Man's Buff, 1945.  Oil on canvas.  Overall, 6' 9" by 14' 5".  Left panel: 73 1/2" by 40"; center panel: 81 1/2" by 90 1/2"; right panel: 73 7/8" by 41 3/4".  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston.  Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The new style solidified his reputation, and catapulted him to fame. A New York exhibition of his work was organized in 1926, and retrospective exhibitions were held in Mannheim, Basel and Zurich during 1928-1930. Considered one of Germany's most famous painters, Beckmann was recognized by the government with a plum teaching position in Frankfurt.

How quickly times can change.

When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he comissioned construction of a Munich museum to showcase "ideal art." Concurrently, the National Socialists organized “Schandausstellungen”, or exhibitions of shame, to vilify modern art, including abstraction, Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism - in all cases, these damning shows included Max Beckmann paintings. 

In 1937, Hitler ordered creation of two exhibitions:

  • the "Great Germany Art Exhibition", showcasing this "ideal" artwork which was largely selected by the Fuhrer himself, and

  • the "Degenerate Art Show", in which some of 20,000 confiscated works of modern art were displayed to show their toxic influences on Germany culture (learn more about modern art in Nazi Germany).

590 paintings by Beckmann were confiscated from German museums in the National Socialists' purge of degenerate art; ten were featured in the Degenerate Art Show itself.  After being fired from his teaching post and hearing of plans to imprison and sterilize modern artists, Max Beckmann and his wife fled in exile to the Netherlands. 

During this Amsterdam tenure (1937-1947), he painted five triptychs, the most significant of which is Blind Man's Buff. This three paneled format, used often in medieval and Renaissance altarpieces, has overt religious associations.

One of Beckmann's most famous paintings, this triptych is a raucous cabaret scene in which participants pursue a variety of sensual pleasures, including music-making. On each side panel is a prominent kneeling figure.  Each is turned away from the background mayhem while occupying the MAx-Beckmann_blind_mans-buff-detailforeground position of honor traditionally accorded the donor of the altarpiece.

Both the kneeling woman and man grasp a candle - a symbol of truth and wisdom - but neither sees it: he is blindfolded, while she is blinded by attention from the fawning men around her.

Detail of right panel.  Blind Man's Buff, 1945.  Oil on canvas.  Overall, 6' 9" by 14' 5".  Left panel: 73 1/2" by 40"; center panel: 81 1/2" by 90 1/2"; right panel: 73 7/8" by 41 3/4".  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston.  Minneapolis Institute of Arts 

Truth and wisdom are present but unnoticed.

Although Beckmann rarely delved into the meaning of his work,  he did refer to the figures in the center panel as "gods" and the beast-headed man as the "minotaur."  Note the clock in the lower right of the central panel - it has neither a "XII" nor a "I".  Time lacks either a beginning or an end here. I speculate that Beckmann is suggesting that many human activites - including oblivion to chaos and relentless pursuit of pleasure - are forever timeless.

Do you agree with this interpretation? Don't be shy on me - please weigh in!

Read about other famous paintings by Max Beckmann here.  

Like reading the history behind influential paintings? Please join this blog, and a community of art history fans. 

Tags: modern art, Max Beckmann

Famous Painters: Diego Velazquez

Posted by Susan Benford

Inarguably, Diego Velazquez is one of the most famous painters in the entirety of Western art history. He lived and worked during the Golden Age of Spanish painting, and he ruled it. The history of Spanish painting is the simple lineage from El Greco to Velazquez to Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso.  

Diego Velazquez Waterseller of Seville resized 600Lesser known is that Diego Velazquez was also one of the most influential and talented curators who ever lived.

Diego Velazquez. Water Seller of Seville, 1618-1622.  Oil on canvas, 41" by 31".  Aspley House, London.

Results are in the Prado.  The Spanish king Philip IV sent Velazquez to Italy in 1649 - 1650 to purchase paintings for new apartments in the royal palace.  Velazquez returned with works by many of the famous painters he most admired, including Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. These, along with the Prado's Velazquez paintings, are among its grandest masterpieces.

But first some background on Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).  Born in Seville, Spain, as Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, he was apprenticed -- at age 12 - to Francisco Pacheco, a mediocre Mannerist painter who was Censor of Paintings for the Spanish Inquisition.  From Pacheco, Velazquez learned the naturalistic style and muted earth-toned palette which typified his earliest works like Water Seller of Seville (1618-1622).   One of three versions (the others are in the Uffizi and the Walters Art Museum), this Water Seller reveals his ability to capture minute detail and naturalness in figures.

After marrying Pacheco's daughter in 1618, Velazquez traveled to Madrid in 1622 to seek royal patronage from Philip IV.  The following year, Velazquez painted the portrait that would launch his career.

Portrait of Philip IV, 1623-1627

This is the first full-length portrait of the king painted by Velazquez during nearly four decades of affiliation.  Despite the limited palette of mostly browns, greys, and black, 
diego velazquez portrait philip iv prado resized 600Velazquez imbues Philip IV with remarkable humanity and elegance.  Here, Philip is surrounded by, or adorned with, references to his legacy and responsibilities:

  • his sword, for defense of Spain
  • the paper Philip grasps, representing administration;
  • the Golden Fleece, a recognized emblem of the Spanish monarchy; and
  • his desk, alluding to administration of justice.

Philip IV named Velazquez court painter that year, and as an indication of his esteem for the painter, provided Velazquez a workshop within the Royal Gallery.  In later years, Velazquez amended this Portrait of Philip IV by shortening his cloak and repainting his legs closer together.

Diego Velazquez.  Portrait of Philip IV, 1623-1627.  Oil on canvas, 76' 6" by 3' 4".  Prado Museum.

Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan, 1630.

Painted during his first trip to Italy in 1629, Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan reflects influences from Michelangelo and Greco-Roman statuary.  It portrays the moment from Ovid's Metamorphoses when Apollo informs Vulcan that his wife, Venus, is romantically involved with Mars.

Velazquez brilliantly captures dramatic expressions on all the workers, who are situated around the anvil in different poses designed to showcase his talent in portraying the male nude.  Thevelazquez apollo at forge of vulcan resized 600 tenebrism, or pronouced contrast between the lights and darks, is skillfully used to mold the workers' bodies and accentuate objects in the forge, as in a still life. 

Below left: Diego Velazquez.  Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan, 1630.  Oil on canvas, 7' 5" by 9' 6".  Prado.

Surrender at Breda (The Lances), 1634-1635

Here Velazquez captures the 1625 surrender of the city of Breda, the port of entry to Holland, after it was conquered by Spanish troops commanded by Ambrosio Spinola.  To emphasize the generosity and clemency of Spain, Spinola has dismounted; by disallowing Justin of Nassau, who governed Breda, to fall to his knee, Spinola demonstrates their equality.

Below right: Diego Velazquez.  Surrender at Breda (the Lances), 1634 - 1635.  Oil on canvs, 10' by 12'.  Prado.

Behind Spinola are a row of lances held by the conquering troops.  Designed to reinforce Spain's  power and order, their prominence has given Surrender at Breda its popular Spanish nickname, Las Lanzas.  

diego velazquez surrender at breda resized 600Note the paper in the lower right corner. 

Often used as a vehicle for a painter to sign his work, Velazquez has left the signature paper blank -- confident that all would know who created this masterpiece.

Juan de Pareja, 1648

Philip IV sent Velazquez back to Italy not only to purchase artwork but also to paint a portrait of Pope Innocent X.  For reasons that remain unclear, the Pope did not grant an immediate audience to Velazquez who, during his wait, painted a portrait of his loyal manservant, Juan de Pareja (ca. 1610-1670).  

Juan de Pareja is shown half-length, turned at a three-quarter view but gazing intently at the viewer. His lace collar is so thin and feathery it looks as if it just freshly landed; the folds and creases in his jacket are dense and well-worn.  But it's the hole in the sleeve that velazquez-juan-de-parejacommands attention - despite the elegance of the pose and painting, that simple tear belies his grandeur, telling us unequivocally that this is a lower class man, Velazquez portrait and all.

Diego Velazquez.  Juan de Pareja, 1648.  Oil on canvas, 32" by 27 1/2".  Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Rogers Fund, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton deGroot.

Learn more about this Valezquez masterpiece, and compare it to the Portrait of Pope Innocent X, which Velazquez painted the following year (and discover why the name "Innocent" was an astounding misnomer).

Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV, 1656. 

Las Meninas is both the most well-known painting by Diego Velazquez and in all of the Prado

During Velazquez's second Italy trip, Philip IV had remarried; the new queen, Mariana of Austria, and her children were new subjects the king wished Velaquez to paint.

Las Meninas appears to capture a moment in time akin to a snapshot, yet that overlooks the complexity of the space Velazquez concocted.  In the center foreground is the Infanta Margarita flanked by two meninas, or maids of honor.  One curtsies to the Infanta while the other offers water from a ceramic jug.  To the right and farther forward are two court jesters, a dwarf and a midget with his foot on the reclining mastiff.

Behind the curtsying menina are two other attendants, while Velazquez himself appears pensively painting at the left.  In the open, lit doorway is the royal chamberlain.


What is going on here?

Behind the Infanta's head is a mirror in which the king and queen are reflected, projecting them into the same physical space as the viewer.  

Diego Velazquez.  Las Meninas, or The Family of Philip IV.  Oil on canvas, 10' 5" by 9'.  Prado Museum.

One interpretation is that the Infanta unexpectedly entered the studio in which Velazquez is painting the royal couple.  Conversely, Velazquez may be working on this enormous canvas in which he is creating this very picture.  Or have the kind and queen just entered the room to find the Infanta and her entourage alread there?

It was not uncommon for painters of the 17th century to portray themselves in the company of nobility and patrons, but Velazquez's pride is unmistakeable -- he wears the red cross of the Order of Santiago, an ancient group of nobility to which he long sought membership.  It was awarded him two years after Las Meninas was finished (and only then by papal dispensation), fueling rumor that Philip IV had painted it there.

Below.  Detail of Las Meninas.

The truth is that Velazquez himself added the red cross, a prideful acknowledgement that he was in the same class as Spanish nobility.

velazquez las meninas detail resized 600There are only 120 known Velazquez paintings (and the Prado has fifty), and most are neither signed nor dated.  How astounding that the legacy of Diego Velzaquez remains so profound nearly four centuries later!

What qualities of Velazquez's work do you feel contribute to his fame, despite such limited output?

Tags: Velazquez paintings, Diego Velazquez

Famous Paintings: Garden of Earthly Delights

Posted by Susan Benford

Garden of Earthly Delights is a series of superlatives: the best-known work of Hieronymous Bosch (ca. 1450-1516), one of the most famous paintings in Western art history, and one of the most influential, inspirational works for Surrealist painters of the 20th century. 

Garden of earthly delights

Hieronymus Bosch (also spelled Jheronimus Bos) was born Jerome van Aeken in the small Netherland town of 's-Hertogenbosch, from which his name is derived.  A member of the third generation of a family of painters, Hieronymus Bosch was an orthodox Catholic whose style was anything but orthodox -- over five centuries later, it remains baffling how Bosch crafted a style so remote from the leading Netherlandish painters of his time, Jan van Eyck (ca. 1370/90-1441) and Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1400-1464).  Forty Hieronymous Bosch paintings are known to exist; none is dated, and only seven, including Garden of Earthly Delights, are signed. 

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel. Center panel is 7'2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4".  Each wing is 7'2 1/2" x 3'2".  Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Although painted in the triptych format often used for altarpieces, Garden of Earthly Delights is clearly a secular work - the imagery is (and remains) inappropriate for religious settings.  

When the wings of the triptych are closed (see bottom left), it shows a massive sphere depicting the world on the third day of Creation, before life of earthly delights left wing resized 600

When opened, though, Garden of Earthly Delights is a dizzying, dazzling array of enigmatic and provocative scenes best contemplated through the beliefs of its creator.  Hieronymus Bosch was a fundamentalist moralist who believed that mankind has been flawed and damned since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Left wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

Let's examine each of the three panels.

Left Wing

Here, Hieronymus Bosch portrays his vision of Paradise and the Garden of Eden on the last day of Creation

From top to bottom, one sees the first animals God fashioned and in the center, the Fountain of Life. Eve has just been created from Adam's rib; they are surrounded by a verdant landscape populated by imaginary and real animals including unicorns, giraffes and a three-headed bird, lingering by the pool.  Half way down on the right is the Tree of Knowledge, with a snake coiled around its trunk; this was the sole source of forbidden fruit in a landscape laden with other varieties. 

garden of earthly delights center

Note the hints of dissonance, even in Paradise: in the foreground, animals prey upon and devour those who are smaller and weaker. 

Central Panel

This panel in Garden of Earthly Delights is indisputably the most cryptic and baffling. 

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Central panel. 7' 2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4". Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The world’s four rivers are on the horizon, grounding this scene on Earth; note how the landscape is continuous across all panels of the triptych. 

The overarching theme appears to be hedonism, especially the seeking and satisfaction of sexual desires.  In the center is the Bath of Venus, a pool filled with naked, bathing women.  Encircling them is a procession of naked men and women who are gawking shamelessly while astride deer, camels, unicorns and horses. 

In medieval times, the phrase “riding a horse” was a metaphor for having sexual relations, while the “bath of Venus” referred to being in love. 

Overlooking the Bath of Venus is a fantastic castle-like tower housing five turrets.  Throughout, miniature, naked humans frolic, kiss and cavort among themselves and with marine animals, gigantic birds and flowers.  The landscape is populated by enormous strawberries and succulent grapes, some of which are being plucked and devoured.  Imaginary beasts wander around, seemingly oblivious to the carnality around them.

hieronymus bosch garden of earthly delights right panel resized 600 resized 600

In the bottom right corner are the sole clothed figures; they are Adam and Eve, seemingly hiding from the chaos around them. 

Right Wing

The rampant imagination of Hieronymous Bosch is on full display in this vision of the land of the damned. This depiction of an inferno – perhaps Hell itself – shows tiny humans receiving punishments and tortures matching their sins; they suffer below a sky filled with fire and brimstone.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Right wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid.

About mid-ground on the far right, for instance, is a rodent-bird-like creature sitting in an elevated chair and sporting a cauldron as its cap (see bottom right); it devours sinners, and later expels their remains into a pit of human waste and vomit. 

Such was the fate of those committing the sin of gluttony.

Those who indulged the pleasures of the flesh are impaled and crucified by musical instruments, classical symbols for lust and love.   Soldiers are impaled on spears; one in armor is consumed by a dragon.  All are suffering and are on the brink of death, but will suffer eternally because no one dies in Hell.

In the center is an off-white-broken-eggshell monster with a hauntingly evil human face and stubby legs; he appears to be the ringmaster orchestrating the suffering of these sinners.

Interpretations of Garden of Earthly Delights

The lack of information about Bosch's life has done nothing but fuel speculation about the meaning of Garden of Earthly Delights.

garden of earthly delights detail left resized 600To the extent that one can interpret Hieronymous Bosch at face value, Garden of Earthly Delights seems to be about the perils of hedonism and most particularly, the sin of lust.  Given that Bosch was a fundamentalist moralist, this is one compelling interpretation.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Detail of right wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

But various other interpretations abound.  Some consider Bosch a heretic guilty of horrific immorality, while others believe that the meaning of Garden of Earthly Delights was known only to the elite of Bosch's era.  Or that Hieronymous Bosch belonged to a secret sect of atheistic nudists.

A more recent interpretation is that Hieronymus Bosch, like Leonardo da Vinci, blended science and piety in his paintings.  In medieval times, the practice of science was considered a means of attaining salvation; alchemy, a precursor to chemistry, strove to transform matter through distillative processes into a perfect form, with divine intervention.

garden of earthly delights closedConsidering the bizarrely shaped vessel-objects in all panels of the Garden, it is plausible that they are flasks and funnels used in the distillation processes of alchemy. Add that to the prevalent fear in 1500 that the world was coming to an end, as detailed in the Book of Revelation, and you have another interpretation: Bosch believed that alchemy could "distill" the human race back to the innocence of Adam and Eve.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Closed view. 7' 2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

What is certain about Garden of Earthly Delights is this: although its enigmas have fascinated viewers (and baffled art historians) for over five centuries, definitive answers are unlikely to ever be known. 

Was Hieronymus Bosch such a genius that he intended this? Which interpretation of Garden of Earthly Delights do you find most persuasive? 





Tags: Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Famous Paintings: Smoke of Ambergris

Posted by Susan Benford

Smoke of Ambergris is a rarity in John Singer Sargent paintings - it is his take on Orientalist art.

John Singer Sargent paintingsThe Orient, encompassing present-day Greece, Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East, had captivated Western artists for centuries.  Famous painters like Giovanni Bellini (ca. 1430-1507) and Rembrandt (1606-1669) depicted figures in Middle Eastern garb, while Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) mastered Oriental genre scenes featuring harems.

John Singer Sargent.  Self Portrait, 1906.  Oil on canvas.  Uffizi Gallery, Florence. 

After Napoleon invaded and overtook Egypt in 1798, however, the French presence attracted Western visitors.  In 1809, the French government published the first volume of a 24 volume set title, Description de l'Egypte, fueling more fascination with the Orient.

Among those transfixed by Orientalism in art was John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), who began Smoke of Ambergris during his visit to North Africa in 1879-1880.  

A woman standing below a Moorish arch is draped in an elaborate garment and holds a shawl over her head to Sargent Smoke Ambergris resized 600capture ambergris smoke wafting out from a silver censer.  Ambergris, a gelatinous, intestinal substance from sperm whales, was used in the Near East as:

  • an alleged aphrodisiac;
  • a component in perfume; and
  • an alleged ward against evil spirits.

John Singer Sargent. Smoke of Ambergris, 1880.  Oil on canvas, 54 3/4" by 35 11/16".  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA.

These diverse uses add to the ambiguity in Smoke of Ambergris, which also blends an array of Oriental images and cultural details.  The woman's robes and mantle were typical dress for both genders living in North Africa, for example, but her jewelry and costume come from other areas.  

So this is an imaginary scene.

One of two John Singer Sargent paintings in the Paris Salon of 1880, Smoke of Ambergris merits its fame due to his masterful technique: it is a symphony of whites, creams, and beiges with discrete touches of orange and red.  Sargent's brushwork is so phenomenal - there isn't a superflous brushmark - that it becomes as secondary subject of the painting.

In an article about John Singer Sargent in Harper's New Monthly Magazine of October 1887, Henry James observed, 

"The picture is exquisite, a radiant effect of white upon white, of similar but discriminating tones."

Well said. 

Explore more John Singer Sargent paintings, Madame X and El Jaleo. And if you aren't a subscriber, please join our community of art history fans who enjoy famous paintings.

Tags: John Singer Sargent paintings, Smoke of Ambergris

20 Louvre Paintings Not to Miss

Posted by Susan Benford

With 9.2 million visitors in 2013, the Louvre was the most frequently visited art museum in the world. Although the Louvre collection consists of some 38,000 objects from prehistory through the 19th century, visitors primarily come to see the renowned collection of Louvre paintings in this 100 acre (40 hectare) art museum.

Uccello Battle San Romano Louvre resized 600Paolo Uccello.  The Battle of San Romano, ca. 1435-1440.  Wood, 71 1/2" by 125".  Louvre.

Enough facts and figures.  

I'm thinking about your feet; the limited timeframe most art museum visitors have; and choosing which Louvre paintings are must-see.  

Here are 20 of the most famous paintings in the Louvre (according to Masterpiece Cards' research):

1. Paolo Uccello.  The Battle of San Romano, ca. 1435 - 1440. One of the most famous Renaissance paintings anywhere, The Battle of San Romano was long believed to have been commissioned by the de Medicis.  Recent research, though, suggests that it was actually  commissioned by Lionardo Bartolini Salimbeni, who helped instigate the battle portrayed here.  This panel is one of three about the Battle of San Romano, which commemorates the 1432 victory of Florence over Siena; the other panels are in the National Gallery, London and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 

2. Enguerrand Quarton.  Pieta de Villeneuve d' Avignon, ca. 1450.  One of the most significant works in religious art, Quarton's Pieta is a standard Christian scene that seems to embody all human and spiritual grief.  This Pieta is not the typical idealized scene but instead features angular figures with abstracted faces highlighted against a luminous background.

3. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Virgin of the Rocks, ca. 1483-86. The largest painting Leonardo
da Vinci ever finished
, The Virgin is one of two versions of this theme; the other is in the National Gallery in London.  In this enigmatic Leonardo painting, the Virgin sits between the leonardo virgin child with saint anne resized 600 resized 600infants Christ and Saint John the Baptist in the care of an angel.

4. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, ca. 1503-1506. Although underpainting shows in this unfinished work, Virgin and Child demonstrates three pictorial techniques either created or perfected by Leonardo.

Left: Leonard da Vinci.  The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, ca. 1503-06.  Oil on wood, 66" by 44".  Louvre.

Additionally, the enigmatic smile of Saint Anne is reminiscent of that of Mona Lisa. Explore two more famous paintings by Leonardo, the Benois Madonna and the Madonna Litta

5. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Mona Lisa, ca. 1505.  The calm, wistful countenance of Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini, a/k/a Mona Lisa, is the most famous and mocked portrait in the entirety of Western history of art.  Read about an alleged newly discovered Leonardo painting that might be Mona Lisa's sister!

6. Titian.  Le Conceret Champetre (Pastoral Concert), ca. 1509-1510. A group of four are gathered in a verdant landscape, and are stumbled upon by a shepherd and his flock. Despite extensive art history research, no literary reference has been found for Pastoral Concert. Centuries later, its meaning remains uncertain, as does any record of its early ownership: its existence was first documents in 1671 when it was purchased by Louix XIV.  

Explore other Titian paintings not in the Louvre, including Rape of Europa, Man with a Gloveand Bacchus and Ariadne

7. School of Fontainebleau.  Diana the Huntress, mid-16th century. The first School of Fontainebleau consisted of mainly unidentifiable artists.  Diana the Huntress was created around the same time that a Hellenistic scuipture of Diana, goddess of the hunt, arrived in School Fontainebleau Diana Huntress resized 600France as a gift from Pope Paul IV Carafa to Henri II.  Many art historians believe that this Diana is the king's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, known for supporting the arts -- and dominating Henri II. 

Right: School of Fontainebleau.  Diana the Huntress, mid-16th century.  Oil on wood, transferred to canvas, approximately 75" by 52".  Louvre.

8. Peter Paul Rubens.  The Disembarkation of Maria de' Medici at the Port of Marseilles on November 3, 1600.  One of a series of 21 Rubens paintings commissioned by and about the life of the Queen of France, wife of Henry IV.  Completed between 1621 and 1625, these Rubens paintings all hang in the Louvre. Learn about another Rubens paintings, Venus and Adonis

9. Jusepe de Ribera.  The Club-Footed Boy, 1642. A Spaniard who worked all his life in Naples, Ribera introduced social realism in painting and the influence of Caravaggio to France. 

10. Hyacinthe Rigaud. Portrait of Louis XIV.  1701. This larger-than-life-sized portrait (it's 9' 2" tall) draws attention to the king's legs -- of which he was quite proud - and makes no effort to camoflage the red built-up heels he work to compensate for his short stature.  

11. Jean-Baptiste Greuze.  Betrothal in the Village, 1761.  From 1759 until the 1770s, Greuze's paintings of everyday life (genre scenes) were stars of the Paris Salons.  Betrothal in the Village, shown in the Salon of 1761, received rave reviews for its authenticity.

riguad portrait louis xiv resized 60012. Jacques-Louis David.  The Oath of the Horatii, ca. 1784.  David rejected the extravagance and opulence of the Baroque and Rococo eras, and with fellow 18th century painters, promoted Neoclassicism; now, painting was dominated by subject matter from ancient Greece and Rome, and by unadorned line and color. Later, David paintings became political propaganda about the French Revolution. Explore other Jacques-Louis David paintings not in the Louvre.

Hyacinthe Riguad.  Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701.  Oil on canvas, 9'2" by 7'10 3/4".  Louvre.

13. Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.  Self Portrait with Daughter, 1789. After her talent was discovered at an early age, Vigee-Brun became a popular portraitist for members of the aristocracy. After she was summoned to Versailles to paint Queen Marie Antoinette, Vigee-Lebrun was commissioned to paint over 20 portraits of the Queen and her family.  

14. Marie Benoist.   Portrait of a Negress, 1800. A student of both Jacques-Louis David and Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Benoist sealed her reputation with this Portrait when it was shown in the Salon of 1800, six years after slavery had been abolished in France.  After earning commissions from Napoleon and a gold medal in 1804, Benoist had to stop exhibiting when her husband was appointed to a public, high position of state.

15. Antoine-Jean Gros.  Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Victims of the Plague at Jaffa, 1804. Twenty-three feet long, this painting is pure political propaganda, commissioned to showcase Napoleon's brave and humanitarian sides as he compassionately touches the sore of a plague victim.  What is ignored here is that Napoleon poisoned these same men in his earlier retreat from Jaffa. 

16. Pierre-Paul Prud'Hon.  Empress Josephine, 1805. This portrait, commissioned by Napoleon, shows his beautiful and melancholic wife shortly after their coronation.  It seems as if Empress Josephine is contemplating her bleak future: she has failed to produce any heirs after sixteen years of marriage. As a consequence, Napoleon declared their union null and void, and remarried. 

17. Ingres.  Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1808. At the age of 20, Ingres was the pupil of, and aide to, Jacques-Louis David.  While Ingres portrays here the Greek myth about Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx, he also introduces distinctly unclassical elements, like Oedipus' muscled torso. 

Gericault Raft Medusa18. Ingres.  Valpincon Bather, 1808.  Ingres has a reputation of painting a woman's back as he feels it ought to be, rather than anatomically correctly; this is demonstrated by the extra vertebrae of Valpincon Bather and in his controversial Grande Odalisque, also in the Louvre. 

Theodore Gericault.  Raft of the "Medusa", 1819.  Oil on canvas, 16' by 23'6".  Louvre.

19. Theodore Gericault.  Raft of the Medusa, 1819.  After the French frigate Medusa hit a reef, its captain, selected passengers and senior officers comandeered all available lifeboats for themselves.  The remaining 149 passengers and crew were crammed onto a wooden raft which the captain cut loose from a lifeboat.  Only 15 of the 149 survived.  Through Raft of the Medusa, Gericault become instrumental in publicizing this scandal

20. Eugene Delacroix.  Dante and Virgil, 1822. Delacroix captures the Romantic revival of interest in Dante's Inferno.  In this Delacroix masterpiece, Dante and his guide, Virgil, are in a listing bark near the internal city of Dis;its burning towers are visible in the background. The viewers sees the backside of Charon, Hades' boatman, and the writhing bodies of damned souls grasping onto and biting the bark. Explore another Delacroix work, Liberty Leading the People

Although these twenty Louvre paintings are an infintesimal part of the Louvre collection, they nonetheless survey over 400 years of art history, showing works by some of the most renowned painters, then and now.

Like reading about famous works like these Louvre paintings?

Imagine "Famous Paintings in a Box", a set of art history cards that:

  • describe the imagereproduce 250 of the most influential paintings ever made; and
  • provide analysis of these famous works.  

All packed onto a 4" by 6" Card, ready to read, take with you to a museum, teach your children, learn yourself, referesh your memory, or...  

You get it. 






Tags: famous paintings, Louvre paintings, Louvre

Another Vermeer Painting?

Posted by Susan Benford

Art historians have generally agreed that there are 36 authenticated Vermeer paintings -- until this week, that is. Researchers from the Rijksmuseum and Vrije Universiteit have announced a new attribution to Johann Vermeer (1632-1675).

vermeer saint praxedis

Attributed to Johann Vermeer.  Saint Praxedis, 1655.  Oil on canvas, 40" by 32 1/2".

Credible 17th and 18th century sources reference at least six Vermeer paintings that are not presently accounted for.  Only one of these, Saint Praxedis, has in recent years been seriously considered for inclusion in the canon of Johann Vermeer.  

Many art historians consider Saint Praxedis to be the work of the 17-century Italian painter Ficherelli Saint Praxedis resized 600Felice Ficherelli, who painted a nearly identical version of the painting with the same title (right). In 1986, Arthur Wheelock, Jr., the esteemed curator of Northern Baroque painting at the National Gallery of Art, expressed full confidence that Saint Praxedis was indeed an authentic Vermeer.

The debate has not stopped since. (Read this excellent history about the history of authenticating Saint Praxedis).

Right.  Felice Ficherelli.  Saint Praxedis, ca. 1640-1645. Oil on canvas, 41" by 32". Collection Fergmani, Ferrarra.

Although Saint Praxedis is signed "Meer", its subject matter and style are atypical of Vermeer's.  

Saint Praxedis was painted when Vermeer was in his early 20s, a period in which he was heavily influenced by Italian art and had just converted to Christianity. That, coupled with tests indicating that the white lead paint of Saint Praxedis is identical to that in
Vermeer's Diane and Her Companions, has swayed some authorities. Others point out that the ultramarine blue is also typical of Vermeer paintings.

Vermeer diana and companionsI'm not an art historian; I'm not trained in authentication; and I'm not persuaded that Saint Praxedis is the real deal. 

Vermeer initially created history paintings, including biblical and mythological paintings, so
the theme of Saint Praxedis is unusual but not impossible.  When you look at the Vermeer painting previously considered the oldest, Diana and Her Companions, you are reminded what unites all Vermeer paintings, regardless of subject matter: the quality of his light.

Johann Vermeer.  Diana and her Companions, ca. 1653-1656.  Oil on canvas, 38 3/4" x 41 3/8". Mauritshuis, The Hague.

My case is simple: compare two other Vermeer paintings created at nearly the same time, Diana and her Companions and Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (left), with Saint Praxedis, and vermeer christ in house martha and mary resized 600it is nearly inconceivable that they were created by the same artist.

Johann Vermeer.  Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, ca. 1654-1655. Oil on canvas, 63" by 55 7/8".  National Gallery of Scotland.

Disbelief in a Vermeer attribution of Saint Praxedis was succintly expressed by Jon Boone in 2002:

In looking at Saint Praxedis, one does have a hard time understanding its attribution to Vermeer. It is a second-rate copy of a mediocre painting by an undistinguished artist, with certain features – such as the awkward wrap-around hands –antithetical to Vermeer’s sensibility as well as his draftsmanship. While the face itself is beautiful, certainly more charming than that of the original, it is still a facsimile face, a close copy of the source...

The simplest explanation covering all the facts of the case is that the painting is a copy executed either by the original painter, Ficherelli, in Florence, or by another artist in Ficherelli’s circle. The later signatures on the painting likely refer to one or several of the many artists at the time with the name of Meer or van der Meer, not Johannes Vermeer of Delft.

Do you believe that Saint Praxedis is by Vermeer? What persuades you so?

For a timeline of all fully attributed Vermeer paintings, check out

And stay tuned -- this is a story I'll be following!

Not a subscriber to this blog about famous paintings (and ones that may be)? We'd love your company. 

Tags: Vermeer paintings, Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Botticelli Primavera

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings 

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

Ghent Altarpiece via zoom

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums - ebooks

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces.

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

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Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Other

Art History Reading List: 50+ great reads in fiction and non-fiction

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Google Art ProjectArt Museums Up Close

Survey of Female Artists

Survey of Renaissance Paintings.

Art History Blogs

ArtDaily: daily breaking news about art museums and art history.

Art Blog by Bob: this brilliant art history blogger of Picture This on Big Think.

Art History Resources. Unwieldly but informative.

Marisol Roman.  A Spanish art history blog.

Mother of all Art & Art History Links: extensive list of online art history resources (including images, research resources, and art history depts.)

smARThistory. Think online art history textbook.  Brilliant. 

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors


Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

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