Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815–1891),
Young Man Playing the Cello
oil on panel, 14 x 10 ½ in.; 35.56 x 26.67 cm
Gift of Francis T. B. Martin, 1995.39
Meissonier enjoyed worldwide renown, great wealth, and official honors for his small historical genre paintings. Like this work, they are historically accurate, precisely described, and masterfully executed. Frequently, they depict gentlemen — smokers, art lovers, chess players, and musicians — in realistically recreated seventeenth- and eighteenth-century interiors. In the 1850s, Meissonier turned to larger historical compositions, notably Napoleonic military events, which he executed with customary attention to detail. However, his lasting influence was as a leader of anecdotal history painting. His precise technique and stylish subjects set the standard for all other practitioners of the type, from Fichel to Fortuny and Gérôme.