Musée d'Orsay: Edouard Vuillard Interior with Three Lamps

Edouard Vuillard
Interior with Three Lamps

Interior with Three Lamps, rue Saint- Florentin
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Interior with Three Lamps, rue Saint- Florentin
Tempera on paper glued on canvas
H. 59; W. 95 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Michèle Bellot

Le salon aux trois lampes, rue Saint-Florentin [Interior with Three Lamps, rue Saint- Florentin]

From 1893, Vuillard entered into close, daily contact with Thadée Natanson, the editor in chief of La Revue blanche, and his wife Misia. The painter was a regular visitor to the couple's apartment in the rue Saint-Florentin, near the place de la Concorde.

Here the sitting room is characterised by its surfeit of decoration. The walls, covered with intrusive, patterned wallpaper, provide a geometric frame to the room. To the right stands the grand piano of Misia, an excellent musician. An oil lamp with a yellow shade stands on top of the piano, which is covered with a coloured shawl. Two more lamps are harmoniously arranged around the room. These three sources of light give the painting its title.

The choice of diffused lighting endows the scene with a poetic dimension, and renders the decoration as intensely present as the characters. The absence of a hierarchy between objects and living beings is typical of the Nabi aesthetic, and in particular of Vuillard's style. The artist liked to paint confined, stifling interiors, as if reflecting internal tensions. In this ambiguous space, very much like a theatre set, the protagonists pose informally. On the left, Misia, seated near the table, is flicking through an album. Her husband, on the right, is reading a book. The playwright Romain Coolus, contributor to the Revue blanche, sits in a Thonet rocking chair in the centre. They seem a peaceful trio, but around these immobile figures, absorbed in their own little worlds, the coloured flickering of the wallpaper together with the carpet and the curtains, animate this scene of shadows and ghostly apparitions.

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