- Museum number
Paradise and the Peri
- Production date
- 1894 (circa)
Height: 355 millimetres
Width: 403 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Label text (added 2003): Fantin-Latour was deeply absorbed in music and many of his compositions were inspired by the works of Wagner, Brahms, Berlioz and Schumann. 'Das Paradies und die Peri', Schumann's secular oratorio, is based on one of the four verse tales in Thomas Moore's oriental romance 'Lalla Rookh' (1817).
This drawing is a study for the lithograph of 1894 and illustrates the first scene of the poem where the Angel tells the Peri that she will be allowed to enter Heaven if she brings to it the 'most dear' gift (this will prove to be the tear of a repentant sinner).
Lit.: P. Stein, in exhib.cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, BM, `French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat`, 2005, no.87.
Since his own day Fantin-Latour's work has earned respect but resisted easy categorization. He exhibited in the Salon des Refusés of 1863 but did not take part in any of the Impressionist exhibitions. In his portraits, still lifes and interiors he maintained a meticulous, uninflected realism which earned him medals at the Academy. However, emerging in the early 1860s and co-existing with the realist strain in his oeuvre were subjects drawn from the imagination, often inspired by musical and literary sources, for which he developed an ethereal manner of broken strokes and dappled light. Although this technique had much in common with the Impressionist technique of brilliant colour and distinct strokes, the underlying sensibility is better characterized as Romantic revivalism. Exposed to Realism in his student years and having spent a brief period in 1861 in the studio of Courbet, Fantin-Latour viewed the Romanticism of Delacroix and the early nineteenth century with nostalgia and avidly collected their prints.
Fantin's discovery of the music of Richard Wagner (1813-83), who was considered a modern Romantic and had a devoted international following, was another factor in his development and choice of subjects. He was also introduced to the technique of transfer lithography in 1876, and these two interests would flourish in tandem, as his prints with their subjects often drawn from modern German music initiated a revival of the tradition of the painter-lithographer. He pushed the technique to create magnificently textured areas of tone capable of conveying luminous, other-worldly effects. Lithography became so central a concern to Fantin-Latour that his compositions were often first developed in this medium, and only later would they be treated in pastel or oil.
The subject of the BM drawing is taken from `Paradise and the Peri`, a tale in `Lalla Rookk`, Thomas Moore's (1779-1852) orientalizing narrative poem, which was set to music by Robert Schumann (1810-56). Based on Persian folklore, the Peris were a race descended from fallen angels who were forbidden to enter paradise. In Moore's poem the disconsolate Peri was told she could enter Heaven's gates only when she brought the gift preferred above all others. She succeeded at the third attempt when she brought the repentant tear of an old sinner mourning his lost innocence.
Fantin-Latour made lithographs of the subject twice, in 1884 and 1894.(n.1) The catalogue raisonné compiled by his widow lists three related drawings: two studies for the 1884 lithograph and a 'very summary' first idea for the 1894 version.(n.2) The present sheet is not listed but is undoubtedly a more developed study for the 1894 version (fig.1), worked in a manner anticipating his use of the lithographic crayon and scraper. The chief differences in the later lithograph are the more fractured treatment of light, lending the surface a scintillating quality and the more dynamic pose of the angel, rendered as if flying through the air. The angel's pose, full of movement and grace, has been seen as inspired by the Victory of Samothrace, discovered and brought to the Louvre in the 1860s when Fantin-Latour was a frequent visitor.(n.3)
Text by P. Stein, 2005 as cited above.
Fig.1 HENRI FANTIN-LATOUR, `Paradise and the Peri`, 1894, lithograph, 356 x 403 mm, BM (1899,0420.221).
1 G. Hediard, `Fantin-Latour: catalogue de l'oeuvre lithographique du maître`, Paris, 1906, p.52, no.50, and p.62, no.115.
2 V. Dubourg Fantin-Latour, `Catalogue de l'oeuvre complet de Fantin-Latour`, Paris, 1911, p.121, nos 1177-8, and p.160, no.1515.
3 F. Gibson, `The Art of Fantin-Latour: His Life and Work`, London, 1924, p.159.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1996, BM, French Drawings in the BM, (no cat.)
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 87
(2006 BM, French Drawings, no.87-not exhibited for lack of space)
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Paradise and the Peri
Associated Title: Lalla Rookh (1817)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired from Obach & Co in exchange for duplicates.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number