Portrait of a woman with a cat attributed to Ambrosius Benson

This portrait of an unknown woman with a cat on her lap is usually attributed to Ambrosius Benson, who was born in Lombardy but active in Flanders between 1519 and 1550, hence his un-Italian name, which was probably originally Bensoni or Benzoni.

A couple of portraits with cats from the first half of the 16th century have survived, but in none of them the cat is painted as well as here.

Meda’s Wreath from the tomb of Philip II

This gold myrtle wreath with some 80 leaves and 112 flowers is amongst the most precious objects found 1977 in the antechamber of a tomb at Vergina generally thought to be Philipp II’s, the father of Alexander the Great. However, like most artefacts found at this place, it is dated to around 310 BC, a generation after Philipp’s assassination. It is known as Meda’s Wreath, from his wife, the Thracian princess Meda.

Photograph by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, from the press release for an exhibition in spring/summer 2011.

Peter Paul Rubens: The Fall of Man (1628-29)

Peter Paul Rubens: The Fall of Man (1628-29)

Rubens studied Titian carefully throughout his career, copying many of his paintings. This copy of The Fall of Man in the Prado was done when he was once again in Madrid for eight months in 1628–29. He was at the height of his diplomatic career, trying to negotiate a peace between the Spanish Netherlands and the United Provinces. Philip IV had knighted him in 1624, and he was treated as a peer by the nobility.

It was not a simple copy. Rubens added some details, like the parrot at the left. He changed Adam’s position for a more harmonious composition (Titian’s pictures tilts somewhat to the left), makes his expression more intense. He also makes him older. Flemish and Dutch painters often show a strange fascination with the bodies of older, even old men.

The comparison with Rubens’ own earlier Adam and Eve from the beginning of his career is interesting as well. His style sure developed over those thirty years!

Portrait of José Zorilla y Moral

Portrait of José Zorilla y Moral, no further details known. Since it shows him as a fairly young man, it may well have been made when he wrote his greatest success, Don Juan Tenorio, 1844. He was twenty-seven at that time.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Song

WHY are you here,
Katrina dear,
In daylight clear,
At your lover’s door?
No, no! When,
It will let in,
A maid, and then,
Let out a maid no more!

Take care for once
It’s over and done,
And it’s all gone,
Goodnight to you, poor thing!
Keep your love’s belief,
And the pleasure brief,
From every thief,
Unless you’ve a wedding ring.


From Faust, Part I, Scene XIX. Translation by A. S. Kline.

Pierre Auguste Cot: The Storm (1880)

One day, while descending from the mountaintop, I saw Virginie running from one end of the garden toward the house, her head covered by her overskirt, which she had lifted from behind her in order to gain shelter from a rain-shower. From a distance I had thought she was alone; but upon coming closer to help her walk I saw that by the arm she held Paul who was almost entirely covered by the same blanket. Both were laughing together in the shelter of this umbrella of their own invention.

This passage from Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie may have furnished the direct inspiration for Pierre Auguste Cot’s life-size painting The Storm, which was commissioned by Catharine Lorillard Wolfe and exhibited at the Salon in 1880. She bequeathed it with her whole collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

There are many similarities between this painting and the artists earlier Spring, they are about the same size and feature the same couple. The model for the girl was obviously a different one, but the hair colors and hair styles are identical in both pictures. Since Spring was owned by Catharine’s cousin John Wolfe, so it is likely that she wanted a similar, or matching, painting.

Pierre Auguste Cot: Dionysia (1870)

Pierre Auguste Cot: Dionysia, 1870, Chi-Mei Museum, Taiwan.

Charles Baudelaire: The Eyes of Beauty

YOU are a sky of autumn, pale and rose;
But all the sea of sadness in my blood
Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose,
Salt with the memory of the bitter flood.

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o’er,
That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate
By woman’s tooth and talon; ah, no more
Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate.

It is a ruin where the jackals rest,
And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay–
A perfume swims about your naked breast!

Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way!
With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared
Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!

Martinus Lengele: Het uittrekken van officieren en vaandrig van het Haagse Oranjevendel, c. 1660

One of the peculiarities of the Dutch Golden Age (and beyond) is the schuttersstuk. It is the group portrait of a city militia as they existed all over the Dutch Republic. The most famous schutterstuk, of course, is Rembrandt’s so-called Night Watch. This piece from the Haags Historisch Museum is not particularly significant, except that it is the only traceable (on the Web, anyway) painting by Martinus Lengele, whose sister Anna married the far more remarkable Jacob van Loo in 1643.

The full Dutch name of this piece is Het uittrekken van officieren en vaandrig van het Haagse Oranjevendel, which might be translated as “The officers and ensign of the Orange Company of the Hague setting out,” where setting out may refer to a social custom rather than to a military maneuver. It was painted around 1660, the year Jacob van Loo fled to Paris after killing a notorious ruffian in a brawl.

Update: There’s also this drawing.

Portrait of Louis XV by Jean-Baptiste van Loo, c. 1727

When Jean-Baptiste van Loo painted Louis XV around 1727—the exact date is not known—the king was a teenager, officially an adult, crowned king and married to the eight year older Marie Leszczyńska, but the actual control of the kingdom was still in the hands of his chief minister, Cardinal de Fleury.

Jean-Baptiste van Loo was the grandson of Jacob van Loo, who fled from the Dutch Republic to France in 1660, and a sought-after portraitist in his time.

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