When Emily K. Rafferty was president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, she was once asked by The New York Times how she coped with the stress of the job. She said she would take five minutes and go into one of the galleries to look at art. That gave her the escape and nourishment she needed.
While we can’t go to The Met or any museum at present as we strive to contain COVID-19, we can always take a break with art, particularly with the works in The Met’s collection, many of which are in the public domain and can be downloaded at metmuseum.org.
One of our favorites is Marie Denise Villers’ portrait of Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes (1801), a Neoclassically cool oil on canvas created in a tumultuous time, the Napoleonic era. Villers was a pupil of the great male artist Anne-Louis Girodet, women not being able to attend art school until 1862. The painting has a wonderful sense of mystery and lucent hope. Outside the subject’s window, some romantic intrigue appears to be taking place. But the sitter has other interests. She’s focused on her sketchbook. Is she looking at her subject or perhaps at us for interrupting her?
Who knows? Maybe she’s drawing us.
– Georgette Gouveia