The Balcony is one Édouard Manet’s most popular paintings, but when it debuted it was the subject of much controversy. It is a study in contrasts: shadow and light, color, and types of fashionable dress in the late 1860s.
A highly successful artist in Amsterdam, Ferdinand Bol, much like Rembrandt, became known for the detailed characterization of his sitters–in particular his portraits of women. As is typical of a betrothal portraits, this image displays the sitter’s wealth through her lavish textiles and jewelry.
Maria Trip, painted by Dutch painter Rembrandt, wears very fashionable and costly 17th-century garments.
In Sargent’s most famous portrait, Virginie Gautreau, a celebrated American beauty living in Paris, dresses in daring advance of fashion–the unadorned simplicity of the dress makes it appear modern even today. Her apparent lack of underwear and daringly dropped shoulder strap (later repainted by Sargent) in combination with her heavy makeup and seeming indifference to the viewer provoked scandal when the work was first exhibited in the 1884 Paris Salon.
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