This panel is from the series Camacho’s Wedding, painted by Sert for one of the gala dining rooms in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
Trapeze acts, tightrope walking and acrobatics were among the circus acts that were particularly popular in 1920s Paris and which Sert undoubtedly enjoyed to judge from the numerous occasions on which they appear in his work. In addition, these acts were also performed in popular and street fiestas of the type that he particularly appreciated. Sert’s eye was always his greatest source of inspiration. His work is instinctive, based on emotions, sensations and observation. He always placed the greatest emphasis on the decorative nature of the subject represented, setting it above lifelikeness or significance. It could be said that his principal aim was to please, delight and seduce.
The arrangement of the composition in this panel is characteristic of Sert and offers a particularly fine summary of the sources and nature of his work. Sert chose the motif of a figure engaged in acrobatic action for its overall appeal and pleasing visual aspect. In addition, this figure is the central motif in the composition and the one to which the viewer’s gaze is principally attracted. A group of figures people around this figure and look on, attracted by the performance. The viewer thus watches people watching, creating a confusion between the reality depicted and our own reality in a backwards and forwards motion of the gaze that diminishes the limits of the pictorial frame and makes us participants in the scene depicted (an effect heightened by the closeness to the viewer of the figures in the immediate foreground). At the same time, we remain within the field of contemplation. It might seem far-fetched within the context of painting to suggest that Sert’s work demands the viewer’s gaze but this may be correct given that this was not the primary idea of many of his contemporaries.