Complicit looks

By Rmn-Grand Palais

Rmn-Grand Palais

Self-Portrait with a Friend (1518/1519) by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520) and Paris, Louvre MuseumOriginal Source: Paris, musée du Louvre

A sideways stare is often a sign of complicity.

Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891 (19th Century) by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Paris, Orsay museumOriginal Source: Agence photo de la Rmn-Grand Palais

Portrait of an unknown woman, incorrectly known as "La belle Ferronniere" (15th Century) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, musée du Louvre

Some portraits look at us out of the corner of their eye as if to make clear that our presence has been noticed.

Les Curieuses (1775/1780) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Paris, musée du Louvre and Paris, Louvre MuseumRmn-Grand Palais

However, often what is being observed by the characters cannot be seen by the onlooker, creating a feeling of curiosity and a sense of mystery.

The Fortune Teller (16th Century) by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre museum

When artistic compositions developed from the 17th century, attention was sometimes focused on another character. The glances being exchanged combined with a character's body language to make the relationships between the protagonists clear. Paintings could celebrate friendship or represent some kind of skullduggery.

In works by Caravaggio wealthy and credulous young men were ripped off by a bewitching and beautiful fortuneteller

The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds (17th Century) by Georges de La Tour (1493-1652), musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, musée du Louvre

In works by de La Tour, a trio of cheats whose glances and attitudes revealed their complicity.

Madame has a Guest (20th Century) by Remy Cogghe (1854-1935), Roubaix, La Piscine, musée d'Art et d'Industrie André DiligentOriginal Source: Roubaix, La Piscine, musée d'Art et d'Industrie André Diligen

In a later painting, wicked servants spy on their masters: one peering through the lock, the other with his ear to the door.

Credits: Story

We would like to thank:
- For design, illustrations, writing, and coordination of the RMN-Grand Palais project: Cécile Maisonneuve (Doctor of Art History, Policy Officer, Scientific Council), Nathalie Gathelier (National Museums Speaker), Annie Madec (Iconographer), Françoise Lombardi-Peissel (Project Manager) at RMN-Grand Palais.
- For reproductions: French museum collections represented by the Photo Agency of the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais:
Montpellier, Musée Fabre; Versailles, Musée Lambinet; Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Paris, The Louvre; Paris, Centre Pompidou (Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre de Création Industrielle).

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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