Paul Gavarni (French, 1804-1866)1855-1857

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

Highly ambiguous, this drawing can be read in a number of ways, and the caption only serves to make the image more enigmatic. The central character of this vignette wears an elaborate costume and covers his mouth in a gesture of deep contemplation. We are given access to his thoughts: "I have hurt Pamela." But if the dancing girl behind him is Pamela, she looks anything but hurt! Either Pamela is not really hurt, and the man is presumptuous in his belief that she is, or this woman is the object of Pamela's disaffection. The lack of any setting further enhances the mystery. Although it is called "Actors," a title curators assigned it when they originally catalogued it into the collection in the 1930s, there is nothing to indicate that this is a scene from a play, and it could just as easily represent an event during carnival season or a masquerade ball.

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  • Title: Actors
  • Creator: Paul Gavarni (French, 1804-1866)
  • Date Created: 1855-1857
  • Subject Keywords: man; woman; literature
  • External Link: For more information about this and thousands of other works of art in the Walters Art Museum collection, please visit art.thewalters.org
  • Roles: Artist: Paul Gavarni (French, 1804-1866)
  • Provenance: Purchased by William T. Walters (through George A. Lucas as agent), Baltimore, 1865 [1]; inherited by Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931. [1] The Diary of George A. Lucas, p. 146.
  • Object Type: watercolors
  • Medium: transparent watercolor with graphite underdrawing, brown iron gall ink and red ink on cream, moderately thick, smooth wove paper
  • Inscriptions: [Signed] Lower right, in iron gall ink: Gavarni; [Inscription] Bottom, in iron gall in: J'ai fait de la peine à Pamèla; [Translation] I have hurt Pamela
  • Exhibitions: Watercolors and Drawings by Gavarni. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 1953-1954., The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma. 2005-2006., A Supple Brush: The Flowering of Continental Watercolors. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1979., A Connoisseur's Portfolio: Nineteenth-century Drawings and Watercolors in the Walters Art Gallery. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1983.
  • Dimensions: H: 13 1/8 x W: 8 3/8 in. (33.3 x 21.2 cm)
  • Credit Line: Acquired by William T. Walters, 1865
  • Classification: Painting & Drawing
  • Accession Number: 37.1455