Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits

Working Title/Artist: Gustavus Hamilton (1710-1746), Second Viscount Boyne, in Masquerade Costume
Department: European Paintings
HB/TOA Date Code: 
Working Date: 1730-31
photographed by mma in 2002, transparency 1a
scanned by film & media 7/24/03 (phc)

Date(s): Jul 26, 2017 – Oct 29, 2017
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA

Pastel portraiture flourished in 18th-century Europe owing to the medium’s distinctive optical properties—its brilliant colors and warm glow. The powdery nature of pastel crayons allowed artists to bathe their sitters in flattering light. The dual nature of the paintings—realistic yet ephemeral—inspired in viewers a sense of wonder.

This exhibition will draw from a small but important group of French, Italian, German, and British pastels in the Museum’s collection. Examining works by Rosalba Carriera, Charles Antoine Coypel, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, and other leading portraitists, it will explore the rising popularity of pastel in conjunction with artistic practices and technological advances of the day.

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