Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ancient Orgy 3: Romains de la décadence (1847) by Thomas Couture



Here we have a nineteenth century interpretation of a Roman orgy by the French painter Thomas Couture (1815-1879).  A largely historical painter who trained in Paris, this painting is very much his greatest work.  It is a vast painting, some 4.7 by 7.7 meters and now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay, although for the previous hundred years it was in the Louvre.

The Roman decadence depicted, while being first displayed alongside a quote from Juvenal: "Crueller than war, vice fell upon Rome and avenged the conquered world", is actually more a comment on what he saw as the moral decadence in France at the time, under the July Monarchy of Louis-Phillipe I, which was eventually ended by the Revolution of 1848.

Couture had an uncomfortable relationship with the artistic elite in Paris and espoused his particular teaching methods from his own atelier.  His pupils included, Chavannes, Fantin-Latour and Degas.

This painting very much followed the classical tradition of men being dressed and the ladies largely naked and includes the inevitable, unconscious, post bacchanalian figure.

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