A. G. Leventis Gallery reopening & Cov19 safety instructions
Filled with incident, this charming scene presents society figures amidst characters from the ‘commedia dell’arte’, a genre of popular drama performed in Parisian theatres and street fairs, and lovingly portrayed by artists such as Claude Gillot and Antoine Watteau. But as Pierrot and Harlequin, easily identifiable by their characteristic costumes, seem to be entertaining the polite company that gazes upon them with rapt attention, the viewer’s eye is also caught by something other than the human presence in this scene – the spectacular plumage of the macaw parrot, neatly perched in the centre of the composition, and the exquisite rendering of the vivacious lapdog, struggling on its mistress’s lap. It is no surprise, perhaps, that the work is by an artist later to become France’s foremost animal painter: Jean-Baptiste Oudry, who is known for his expressive images of beasts of every kind. This is a particularly early work, dating to the period before 1710/1712 where Oudry was still an apprentice with Nicholas de Largillièrre. The painting depicts a composition he was to attempt several times. One striking detail, however, renders this painting unique among this group of works: the astonishing, life-size fly that appears to have landed in the centre of the composition, just below the woman in the blue gown. What could have been the purpose of this trompe-l’oeil detail? Could it be merely a little bit of fun, a young artist showing off his prodigious skill in the rendering of creatures great and small? But there is more to the mystery of the scene. Like actors in a play, Oudry sets his characters not in nature, but upon what looks like a shallow stage, against a painted backdrop. Ambiguity and innuendo are key as the artist seems to be probing into ‘the heart of the Italian comedy as Parisians understood it’, standing subversively between society’s accepted norms and the dictates of underlying, natural instincts. In this early work Oudry aligns himself with the Moderns, a position he would maintain resolutely, culminating in his triumphs at the Salons du Louvre in years to come. The target of the promotional video clip is to show through pantomime and music background the characters of this painting wandering around the permanent exhibition galleries of the A. G. Leventis Gallery. At a moment they all meet in front of the original painting, they look at each other and then they run again around the Gallery to meet at the Lobby and reproduce the painting for a snapshot. In an additional complementary film, the characters advise the visitors through pantomime about the new protocol and safety instructions they must follow during a museum visit. This video clip has been produced as the re-opening announcement teaser of the A. G. Leventis Gallery after the Covid-19 lockdown. The A. G. Leventis Gallery is reopening to the public in October 2020, after months of temporary closure. During the past months the A. G. Leventis Gallery has been available for the public only for limited-people visits previously arranged by appointment. Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s characters act as the media to invite and welcome the visitors back to the Gallery.