France

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

Like or not, the holiday gift-giving season is upon us, the time of year we begin making a list and checking it twice. It’s a good thing that Christmas and Hanukkah only come around once a year, what with all the stress gift selection causes. In 17th- and 18th-century France, however, the fine art of gift giving was a yearlong endeavor.

Let Them Eat Turkey

Thanksgiving is the time when you get to use all the best stuff in your kitchen: the gravy boat, the fancy napkins, and, of course, the turkey deep fryer. Louis XIV and the other French monarchs who succeeded him obviously didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they did bring out the good stuff when setting the table. Some of the objects in Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, open through March 31, 2013 at the Legion of Honor, are examples of these items; they’re just like the things you set your table with, but with a “royal” twist.

You’ve probably moved past the first dining room set that you bought off Craigslist, but no matter how nice your table is, you likely didn’t have it custom-made to feature your royal markings. Louis XIV’s mosaic tabletop is made of semi-precious stones and features, among other things, some of his official emblems, like the lyre of Apollo and fleurs-de-lis. It was made by the Gobelins manufactory, a workshop responsible for many of the objects used to decorate Versailles and the other royal residences.

Louis XIV tabletop

Mosaic tabletop with emblems of Louis XIV, last quarter of the 17th century.
Gobelins Manufactory (France, established 1662)
Marble and pietre dure (hardstones)
©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY

FRAME|WORK: The Salon Doré at the Legion of Honor

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series highlighting an artwork in the Museums’ permanent collection. This week, we feature an unusual treasure in the Legion of Honor—it is unusual because it’s not a painting or a sculpture, but rather an entire room. The Salon Doré, an 18th-century French period room, is currently on view.

Word Gallery: Impressionism

Throughout art history, scholars have devised a special vocabulary to talk about art. These terms are very useful, but they are not always self-explanatory. Enter into the art historical word gallery, where we provide some definitions commonly used to describe artistic styles, techniques, or movements in art.

Impressionism

A Sneak Peek at Friday Nights at the de Young with Dr. James Housefield

Friday Nights at the de Young feature lectures related to current exhibitions at the de Young. This Friday, June 17, Public Programs presents Spaniards in France: Cristóbal Balenciaga and Pablo Picasso, a lecture by Dr. James Housefield, a scholar of modern art and design at U.C. Davis. In preparation for this fascinating lecture, Dr. Housefield has graciously answered a few questions to pique your interest!

FRAME|WORK: Third Class Carriage by Honorè Daumier

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, a painting by Honorè Daumier depicts an activity with which we are all too familiar: the commute. Third Class Carriage (Un Wagon de Troissieme Classe) is currently on display at the Legion of Honor in Gallery 17.


Honorè Daumier (French, 1808–1879)
Third Class Carriage (Un Wagon de Troisieme Classe), 1856–1858
Oil on panel
10 1/4 x 13 3/8 (26 x 33.9 cm)
Museum purchase, Whitney Warren, Jr. Bequest Fund in memory of Mrs. Adolph B. Spreckels, Bequest funds of Henry S. Williams in memory of H.K.S. Williams, Magnin Income Fund, Art Trust Fund, Alexander and Jean de Bretteville Fund, Art Acquisition Endowment Income Fund in honor of Mrs. John N. Rosekrans, 1996.51

New Acquisition on View: The Absinthe Drinkers by Jean-François Raffaëlli

The Absinthe Drinkers, 1881Visitors to the exhibition Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay can get a look at one of the Fine Arts Museum's newest acquisitions, The Absinthe Drinkers (Les buveurs d'absinthe), 1881, by Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850–1924). The Absinthe Drinkers is widely regarded as among Raffaëlli's most important and accomplished paintings. It can be viewed at the entrance to Birth of Impressionism this summer, but will eventually take up permanent residence in the Legion of Honor's gallery 19.

Although not counted among the Impressionists, the Realist Raffaëlli nonetheless exhibited The Absinthe Drinkers (at the invitation of Degas, who sought to increase the number of figural painters involved) at the sixth Impressionist group show in 1881.There it caused a sensation due to its gritty imagery and portrayal of the devastating effects of addiction to the potent drink absinthe.

John Buchanan and Guy Cogeval Discuss Birth of Impressionism on Forum

John Buchanan and Guy Cogeval

Yesterday morning FAMSF director John Buchanan and Musée d'Orsay president Guy Cogeval discussed the exhibition Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay, which opens at the de Young Museum tomorrow, May 22, 2010.

In case you missed what some commenters are calling "the best Forum episode ever", you can stil listen online. In fact, we've embedded it in this very blog post! You can access it after the jump.

Birth of Impressionism runs through September 6, 2010. Later on that month, the de Young will host a follow-up show, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay. That exhibition opens September 26 and runs through January 18, 2010.

Subscribe to France