Musée d'Orsay: Edward Steichen Cyclamen

Edward Steichen

Cyclamen - Mrs Philip Lydig
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Cyclamen - Mrs Philip Lydig
Between 1905 and 1913
Photomechanical print (photogravure) from an original negative
H. 19.4; W. 15 cm
© Estate of Edward Steichen

Cyclamen - Mrs Philip Lydig

In a photograph from 1901, entitled The Mirror, Steichen was clearly inspired by Utamaro (1753-1806), a Japanese print maker and painter, particularly known for his portrayals of women. Steichen took inspiration from these prints again in 1905, but less literally, for this portrait of Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880-1929), an American famous for her wealth, elegance and beauty, and for her taste for objets d'art. He was becoming more and more interested in portraits of elegant women, and naturally turned to the prints as a perfect model of the genre when composing his image.

Here, the wonderful grace and fluidity with which Steichen frames the model and the superb, decorative arabesque of the cyclamen in the foreground, presupposes a profound knowledge of Utamaro's portraits of beautiful courtesans. Moreover, the association of the plant and Mrs Lydig is not random, as she was also known for her passion for flowers.
The only difference from Utamaro's style is in the thoughtful look directed towards the photographer and the spectator, a look that is rarely found in the models of the Japanese painter.

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