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Henri Fantin-Latour

Display of Enchantment


Henri Fantin-Latour
Grenoble 1836 – Buré, France, 1904


Display of Enchantment




Oil on canvas


98.5 x 131.5 cm


Purchase, John W. Tempest Fund, inv. 1936.658


Western Art

This ambitious canvas represents, according to the artist’s widow, “a young fairytale princess” who “descends the steps of a fantasy palace and sees before her a young prince charming with his retinue, offering her precious gifts.” What was viewed as the painting’s unfinished appearance – created by its sketchy brushwork – kept it out of the official exhibitions, but it was included in the famous Salon des Refusés in 1863 alongside avant-garde works by the future Impressionists. Among those misunderstood artists were Manet, Cézanne, Pissarro and the american McNeill Whistler, who became the owner of this picture. Fantin-Latour objected to being labelled an Impressionist. His work is at once belatedly Romantic and Symbolist before the fact, and refers to past masters, like the Venetian painters Titian and Veronese, and the Rococo artist Watteau. Neither mythological nor realist, the subject falls in line with the “art for art’s sake” decree of Théophile Gautier. The artist borrowed the flamboyant colouring of Delacroix. Fantin-Latour infused this canvas with a uniquely misty atmosphere. His poetically musical lyricism drew inspiration from the music of Richard Wagner, which he encountered in 1857, putting him well in advance of the craze for Wagnerian opera.

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