More about A Box at the Theatre des Italiens

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A Box at the Theatre des Italiens is the best place to see a show, and maybe the opera too. 

Though often considered one of the foremost female Impressionist painters, Eva Gonzaléz never exhibited with the Impressionists. Much like her mentor, Édouard Manet, she depicted common Impressionist subjects, like rich people at the theater and young ladies chilling outdoors, but lacked the Impressionist color palette and brushstrokes. Her painterly style, as seen in A Box at the Theatre des Italiens,  more closely resembles Manet’s early “Spanish” paintings - filled with dark colors, a flattened image, creamy pigments, and a dash of mystery between the figures. In A Box at the Theatre des Italiens, the man and woman do not touch, do not even look at each other - they are about as emotionally connected as me and my dentist. Not only was Manet her mentor, but he also used Gonzaléz as a model for some of his own paintings, including a portrait of Gonzaléz at her easel.  

The setting of this work, the Theatre des Italiens, was a Parisian hot spot for seeing Italian operas, and for strutting one’s stuff in public. A packed audience with plush boxes, the theater provided prime sightseeing and social interaction for the middle to upper classes. At the time of this painting’s exhibition, a critic wrote of the male figure that, “His head is handsome, but cold and fatuous. The person carrying it is less concerned with seeing than being seen.” Boom, roasted. This critic also hints at the social reasons for attending the opera, which are pretty much the same as why Blair Waldorf sits on the steps of the Met - to see and be seen, little J!

Gonzaléz would eventually marry the man who posed for this figure, the engraver Henri Guérard. The female figure is Gonzaléz’s sister, Jeanne. Compared to male Impressionist paintings at the opera, Gonzaléz gives us an active and dominant female subject. Compositionally, Jeanne is the main focus, making the self-absorbed pretty boy subordinate. Additionally, she holds binoculars with her gaze focused in the direction of the stage, signifying her sophisticated and intellectual interest in the performance. Not only is she a beautiful sight - surrounded by flowers, wearing jewels and a fashionable dress, and revealing a bit of skin - but she also has brains! Revolutionary. Meanwhile, her companion stares off in another direction with little attention paid to the show, probably to check out who’s in the box next to theirs - XOXO Gossip Guérard.



Comments (1)


I like this painting because I really like the detail of the curtains and flowers