NMAA Director's Choice

Inner Ardor under Fierce Control

detail from Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler Below the sofa line, powerful shapes of black ball gown and restless pillow patterns contend for dominance in a deeper, churning space. These forces are barely held in check by tightly locked hands and arms. They are symbolically vanquished by a Renaissance jewel. One pillow is pinned by an elbow, creating a "bull's-eye" and a ripple effect in the pattern. Sleeve puffs threaten to escape into the upper register.

William Kloss best captured these tensions when he wrote of the young woman's "inner ardor under fierce control…her strength of purpose and nervous strain."

Pictured: John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, 1893; oil, 49 3/8 x 40 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chanler A. Chapman.

Part 2
Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler

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