Tuesday 5 April 2022

The Art of the Portrait

Another post from when we were in Greece in the summer and autumn.

The Art of the Portrait - from the Louvre Collections

at the National Gallery in Athens.

The selection of works in this exhibition brings together painted or sculpted portraits from the Mesopotamian civilisation to the Western 19th century. It explores the different functions that the portrait has served over the years: how to demonstrate power, social rank, status of an intellectual, an artist, the head of a family? From Antiquity and from the late Middle Ages onwards, these factors have contributed to making the portrait a vast field of artistic experimentation.

The portrait was born from the desire to tame death. To ward off the distressing disappearance of the deceased by natural decomposition, ancient societies relied on two techniques: on the one hand the embalming of the whole body, and on the other the making of a mask applied over the face of the dead.

In the West, the portrait became increasingly secularised and from the 18th century onwards, sentiment was introduced in images of children and families. The late 18th century saw the emergence of portraits of children from lower social classes, often associated with a pet; the artist sought to translate the innocence, spontaneity, vivacity and smile of children whose character now took precedence over their social origin.

Fayoum, Portrait of a Woman, from Thebes, Egypt, 2nd half of the 2nd century AD, (encaustic painting on lime wood)

Face from a Coffin, Egypt, 8th Dynasty, (wood, black and white stones, blue glass)

Three Fragments of Funerary Mosaic, Edessa, late 2nd century-3rd century

Statue of a couple, (probably from a Memphis necropolis), Old Kingdom, Fifth Dynasty, circa 2440-2415 BC

Draped Kouros, statue dedicated by Dionysermos, son of Antenor, Samor or Miletos, circa 530-520 BC (marble)

Attic votive relief, dedicated by Sosippos to the hero Theseus, Athens circa 400 BC

Antoine-Jean Gros, Bonaparte au Pont d'Arcole, 1796, (oil on canvas)

Jacques-Louis David, and studio, The Death of Marat, 1794, (oil on canvas)


Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Venus and Cupid, 1657, (oil on canvas)

Eugene Delacroix, Portrait of painter Leon Riesener, the artist's cousin, 1835, (oil on canvas)

The Old Governess, England, circa 1800-1810, (oil on canvas)

French School, Woman with Pansies, 15th century, (tempera on panel)

Paolo Callari, known as Veronese, Portrait of a Woman, known as 'La Bella Mani', circa 1560, (oil on canvas)

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Francis George Hare, 1788-89, (oil on canvas)

Attributed to Claude Arnoux, known as Lulier, Portrait of a Young Girl, circa 1560, (polychrome terracotta)

Eurene Delacroix, Portrait of Lucile-Virginie Le Guillou, daughter of the artist's governess, circa 1840, (oil on canvas)

Francisco de Goya, Portrait of Luis Maria de Cistue y Martinez, (oil on canvas)

Eugene Delacroix, Portrait of painter Leon Riesener, the artist's cousin, 1835, (oil on canvas)

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