My thing with these paintings: Every time I see them at the Nelson-Atkins, I’m dumbfounded by how strange the skewed space is; how odd the size/scale distortions; by how totally decadent and perverse the paintings are (all those leering old men and that one poor woman!). All these things that are sold as the exclusive province of contemporary painting/contemporary art and that make us feel so modern and superior are right here, 200 years old! I just can’t believe that these aren’t as super-ultra self aware as they appear to be. John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Peter Saul, Katherine Kuharic etc.—nothing on Traversi.
PS. The two paintings used to be hung facing each other. A guard once claimed that was the artist’s intention, as evidenced by the dog in The Drawing Lesson snarling at the cat in The Music Lesson.
There’s an Artemesia Gentileschi at the Met with a “phantom dog” emerging as the top paint film becomes more translucent. Always interesting to see the painter’s thought process come pack to haunt the picture.
These images do not do these paintings any justice. The paintings are incredible. Go to the museum and view them, you won’t regret it. A lot of great detail is missed this small. I found myself returning to them over and over last time I was there. So strange / beautiful / dark / funny.
Thanks, AP. It’s good to get some agreement that these are pretty fantastic paintings, flawed but fantastic nonetheless. I’ve found that going to the Nelson, I tend to gravitate toward the flawed-but-fantastic stuff they’ve got around—-Matta, Magnasco, Largilliere, as well as Traversi.
I just saw these paintings today for maybe the third or fourth time and was, again, completely blown away by how fresh and surprising they are. I love how the figures in the background, painted in almost a gray scale, formally and conceptually add texture and consequence to the people in the foreground, painted with more detail and brighter colors. I was just talking to students the other day about how the juxtaposition of different painting strategies/techniques can convey meaning/content. This is a great example!
I was at the museum with my third graders today. Of course they were LOVING the “ghost” the guide used a word to describe ghost… I would like to write the word on the board for my students to use in their reflections. Anyone know the word I speak of?
The Nelson has such awesome docents and does such a great job with kids. I think they should win some kind of a prize for it. My guess at the word your guide used might be “pentimento” which is a term for visible evidence of changes an artist made to a painting as s/he worked on it. Although I don’t know if that exactly applies to that ghost in this Traversi. I don’t know? Anybody else have a thought?
Can’t rule out that the painting’s haunted…as Deana Schuler’s schoolkids were told by one of the guards. Most likely the “ghost head” was painted over at some point. Traversi may have painted him as part of the scene, then changed his mind and “edited” him out of the painting. Over time, oil paints become more transparent, and so, 350 years later, Traversi’s vanished man can be seen again, weirding out everyone.