Jul 9, 2007

The Curious One

The Curious One


Antoine Pierre Mongin

(French, 1761–1827)

Oil on paper mounted to canvas

Unframed: 43.5 x 34.6 cm (17 1/8 x 13 5/8 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noah L. Butkin 1977.116



Here a young man uses a ladder to climb over a garden wall. The sign at his right translates into "School for Young Ladies under the Direction of Mrs. Wachsam"—wachsam being the German word for "watchful." Apparently, overcome by curiosity, the man cannot resist his desire to see the young women concealed behind the wall. Scenes with amorous, sometimes voyeuristic overtones are common in the work of Mongin. The artist also seems fascinated with depicting the exact details of his settings. In 1824, a critic who saw The Curious One wrote that Mongin's paintings are "portraits of houses coated in plaster, garden trees, almost trivial details, and this pleases me greatly. Full of naiveté, this is what I need in a landscape, as in a representation of man's actions." The critic's comments clearly demonstrate his appreciation for Mongin's work, as well as the artist's belief in the inherent relationship between nature and man.

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