“Bad News”

Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (1714-1789)
18th century
Oil on canvas
H. 23.5; W. 18.5
Inv. CAM 706
© Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / photo: Jean Tholance

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Eighteenth-century artists turned their attention to mankind and human sensibility, and strove to depict the torments of the soul, paying particular attention to the joys and sorrows of love. The symbolism of the lost and found bird – open to various interpretions – was a popular theme on clocks in the late eighteenth century; a famous example was owned by Marie Antoinette. In the painting called “Bad News”, the young woman’s grief on reading her letter is matched by the vast expanse of her morning dress.

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