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Louis Anquetin
1889-93
Courtesy of the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum
Louis Anquetin
1889-93
Courtesy of the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum
Art

The Musée d’Orsay’s “Splendor and Misery”

By Camelia Echchihab

October 22, 2015

The Musée d’Orsay is shedding some new light on a mysterious unspoken underworld in the show “Splendor and Misery,” which opened last month. It is the first exhibition to tackle themes of prostitution, elucidating the fantasies and myths that the collective imagination has built around multiple figures of desire during the 19th-century in France.

Right away, what strikes the visitor is the effort made to provide historical materials about the functioning of the phenomenon of prostitution. The viewer is guided into thematic rooms, exploring the daily lives of its protagonists. The variety of representations is remarkable: paintings, sculptures, photography, and also the reconstitution of a brothel room in the middle of the gallery. Different points of views are adopted, showing the ambiguity of the status of prostitute, the intimacy of brothels, the ambivalence of the relationships with clients, along with the evolution of the official legislation. Toulouse Lautrec is a central artist in the show, but artists such as Edgar Degas or Edouard Manet are also great contributors. There is an important role played by photographs and videos as well, exploring the origins of erotic movies.

Open Gallery

Louis Anquetin
1889-93
Courtesy of the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum

“Splendor and Misery” offers a product of both historical and artistic investigation, leaving the viewers with a truly a unique experience.

“Splendor and Misery” is on view through January 17, 2016.

Edgar DegasEdouard ManetMusee d'OrsayToulouse Lautrec

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