Monday, October 14, 2019

"Intoxicating'

8 x 10"
oil on panel


I've said this before and I'll say it again, the most perfect painting ever created is John Singer Sargent's Fumee d'Amber Gris (Smoke of Ambergris) which hangs in the Clark Museum in Boston - painted in 1880 and inspired by Sargent's trip to North Africa.

The painting depicts a woman creating a tent with her veil, catching the smoke and fumes from the smoldering ambergris in the silver censer.  Known and used for its unique aroma, ambergris was used in some religious rituals, also thought to have aphrodisiac qualities and be a safeguard from evil spirits.  Sargent's painting is a combination of Moroccan objects and customs he observed while in Tangier and Terouan.

In 1887, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Henry James wrote, 'I know not who this stately Mohammedan may be, nor in what mysterious domestic or religious rite she may be engaged; but in her plastered arcade, which shines in the Eastern light, she is beautiful and memorable.  The picture is exquisite, a radiant effect of white upon white, of similar but discriminated tones.'

You ask what is Ambergris?  A fascinating write-up about Sargent's painting and a deep dive into exactly what this mysterious element is can be found here.


Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.

~ thanks to Stefan Draschan for his photo reference.


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