Sargent returns to the Prado

<em>Las hijas de Edward Darley Boit</em>. John Singer Sargent. Óleo sobre lienzo. 1882. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts. Gift of Mary Louisa Boit, Julia Overing Boit, Jane Hubbard Boit, and Florence D. Boit in memory of their father, Edward Darley Boit *Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Las hijas de Edward Darley Boit. John Singer Sargent. Óleo sobre lienzo. 1882. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts. Gift of Mary Louisa Boit, Julia Overing Boit, Jane Hubbard Boit, and Florence D. Boit in memory of their father, Edward Darley Boit *Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    From tomorrow, the Museo del Prado will be offering visitors the unique and probably unrepeatable chance to see Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) alongside The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) by John Singer Sargent. The latter has been loaned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and is presented at the Museum as part of the “Invited Work” programme, which is sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado. The direct comparison established between the two masterpieces emphasises the evident influence of Velázquez’s celebrated painting on Sargent’s work. The two paintings can be seen together side by side for the next two and a half months.

    Monday 15 March 2010

    From tomorrow and until 30 May, the Prado’s “Invited Work” exhibition programme will allow visitors the exceptional opportunity to see John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, one of the most outstanding paintings in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), alongside Las Meninas, its direct source of inspiration, which Sargent copied in the Prado during his first trip to Madrid. This is the first time that the two paintings have been displayed together.

    Sargent profoundly admired Velázquez’s work and studied and copied a number of his paintings during his trip to Spain of 1879, as recorded in the Prado’s Copyists Book. This book is displayed in the present exhibition next to the painting and includes Sargent’s entry and his registration of his copy of Las Meninas along with his copies of other works by Velázquez that he studied at first hand in the Prado.

    Sargent’s copy of Las Meninas, which is much smaller than the original, reveals how he faithfully captured the underlying composition and its structure as well as the placement and lighting of the individual figures, all elements that he brilliantly adapted in his family portrait of the Boit sisters painted only three years later. The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) was commissioned by the girls’ father, Edward Darley Boit, an American collector and himself a painter, whom Sargent met in Paris.

    In order to come still closer to Velázquez’s original, Sargent recreated the mysterious character of the spatial setting and its chromatic range as well as the interplay of gazes with the viewer. In addition to a purely formal similarity, the paintings have a thematic connection. The principal figure in Velázquez’s painting is the five-year-old princess, the Infanta Margarita, who is almost the mirror image of Julia Boit, aged four. In addition, the Infanta is shown encircled by members of her court while Julia is surrounded by her older sisters.

    The presence in Spain of Sargent’s masterpiece is a unique event and one of great importance given that the painting has almost never left the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, to which it was donated by the Boit sisters in 1919. This is the first occasion since Sargent’s death that the painting is being shown in a European city other than London, where Sargent lived in his later years.

    The exhibition of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit at the Prado is part of the “Invited Work” programme, which has previously allowed the Museum to show two other major, loaned works that have also fulfilled the programme’s aim of establishing comparisons that allow for reflections on different paintings in its own permanent collection.

    Decoration awarded to the Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

    Malcolm Rogers, the Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, has come to Madrid to be present at this metaphorical re-encounter between Sargent and the Museo del Prado. At the same time, the President of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Museum, Plácido Arango, will tonight present Mr Rogers with the medal of the Order of Isabel la Católica, a distinction recently awarded to him by HM the King of Spain.

     
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