Thursday, June 14, 2007

Giuseppe de Nittis: "The Place de Carrousel and the Ruins of the Tuileries Palace in 1882


What draws me to this painting is the sense of desolation coupled with contradictory signs of life that continues despite everything. The vast open space, taking up to half of the canvas, may evoke feeling of alienation and even fear of the ruins that border it. The palace was utterly ruined from the inside by fire set on by Paris Commune in 1871, yet the outer shell remained; it was demolished completely at the year of the birth of this painting. Wikipedia notes that the palace was considered the symbol of aristocratic decadent way of life. De Nittis might have wanted to pass on that vision: the woman wearing an elegant black dress and a hat (probably a sign of a noble descent) seems to be leaving the scene, whereas the figures of the man and the woman who enter it seem distinctively working class. Notably, the man is pulling a cart - he is pulling, bringing forth his own baggage of social and political interests.

The treatment of light is also particularly interesting here: the palace is over abundantly lit, which gives it a somewhat fantastical appearance, which in turn provides a distancing effect from the moving people in the foreground. The physical distance is enhanced even more by the lighting - rendering the construction a remoteness of another kind, that of time. Indeed, it may seem somewhat Roman and ancient to the uninitiated. However, even without such a hypothesis, there seems to be an implication that the painting encompasses two historical periods, that of the monarchy and that of industrial progress and capitalism. There is no reconciliation, but clear, even violent separation - perhaps, violent political events demand appropriate artistic effects.

*after one more work by de Nittis, I hope to begin looking at "one painting a day"

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