Sunday, February 12, 2017


6-3/4 x 16"
oil on panel

If there is ever a reason to visit an art museum to beeline to one of the most perfect paintings ever created, John Singer Sargent's Fumee d'Amber Gris (Smoke of Ambergris) is it.  This prime example of Orientalism 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.'

I've had the framed print in my home since the first day I saw it, about 30 years ago.  It is a perfect painting.  My painting will be included in my upcoming solo show opening March 3rd at Robert Lange Studios in Charleston.

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


SJF said...

I love this painting. I saw it at the Clark Museum in Williamstown many years ago and I have a framed print of it hanging in my home. My favorite Sargent painting.

Shawn Sullivan said...

I had a print of this painting hanging in my high school art classroom for thirty years (now retired). Whenever the day would get to be too much, I would glance over at it and it always somehow made me feel better. I think Sargent knew this was a great painting as he was making it, and you can sense the young artist saying "here's what I'm all about and this is what I can do!".