A Summers Evening
Oil on mahogany panel
Image size: 8 ½ x 15 ¾ inches
Hand made gilt frame
On a summers evening the newly weds stroll back in the moonlight, from the fair that can be seen in the distance with white flag poles and red flags. It must be late summer as the tall crops are ready for harvest, with poppies dotted amongst them.
Painted in France in about 1860 at a time of the French Realist movement, which sought to convey a truthful and objective vision of contemporary life. The Realists democratized art by depicting modern subjects drawn from the everyday lives of the working class.
At this time a large portion of the French population was migrating from rural areas to the industrialized cities and subjects like this that harked back to rural life were very popular.
As the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire wrote in 1846, “Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling.”
1842 - 1934
Orpheus mourning the death of Eurydice
Oil on canvas, signed lower right
Image size: 24 x 19 ¾ inches
Contemporary gilt frame
Humbert was a painter, inter alia, of classical themes (one of the reasons he got the job to paint his celebrated history cycle in the Panthéon in Paris) - and see the example, below, on a Homeric theme; or look up his Deianira and the Centaur (1877) online.
The present picture is another of these paintings on the theme of Greek myth: the Orphic lyre prominent in the foreground is the giveaway. It’s an ancient Greek instrument, and particularly associated with either the god Apollo and Orpheus, his devotee and (in some accounts) priest. See the Roman mosaic of Orpheus, where in addition to his lyre he is depicted wearing another traditional attribute of Opheus, the red Phrygian cap (as is the figure in this painting).
Here we see Orpheus mourning the death of Eurydice and his failed attempt to rescue her from the Underworld. The mourning is suggested by the black cloth that has been discarded with the lyre, and the fact that Orpheus is bearded: not shaving was a sign of mourning in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds until the time of Hadrian. His tunic (or ‘chiton’) seems to be based on ancient Greek vase painting.
Around him, being comprehensively ignored, are the Ciconian women (from southern Thrace), the devotees of the rival god Dionysos. After Orpheus’s return from the Underworld, they tried unavailingly to seduce him and interest him in their orgiastic rites. Orpheus consistently spurned them. They would eventually kill him by tearing him to pieces. The river in the picture may be intended to be the River Hebrus, which flows through Thrace, and into which his dismembered body was thrown by his killers. The ominous figure in black creeping up behind him may well be an emblematic figure of imminent death.
Professor John Adamson
Jacques Fernand Humbert dit Ferdinand Humbert was a student at the École des Beaux-arts de Paris, trained under the direction of Alexandre Cabanel, François Edouard Picot and Eugène Fromentin. He exhibited regularly at the Salon where he was awarded
numerous medals. He received a number of commissions from the state for murals such as those from the Pantheon; he also executed decorative panels for the town hall of the 15th arrondissement of Paris as well as remarkable paintings on the ceiling of the Petit Palais.
Ferdinand Humbert will also have a highly regarded career as a social portrait painter. The portrait of Colette, then 23 years old, is undoubtedly the one that will remain the most famous.