Friday, April 30, 2010

A Lovely Respite: Liotard's Portrait of Maria

One of the most delightful attributes of great art is its ability to make us forget the world we live in, and live - however temporarily - in a much better one.

To my eyes, there are few better examples of that than Jean Etienne Liotard's Portrait of Maria Frederike von Reede-Athlone, painted in 1756.

Much of Liotard's work is very dry, the output of a court painter who was simply making a living from the patronage of the day. But here he has really achieved something unusual. There's a life in her, a gentility, a reality that is rare in his work or any portraits of the genre.

Having visited the original J. Paul Getty museum in Malibu a dozen times, I was privileged to see it in person. It's one of the few portraits the Getty possessed I could stare at for hours and never get bored.

I hope you'll have the same reaction.

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