This painting by Alfred Stevens would have been in the category of contemporary art shortly after my family firm was founded. It shows a lady in a flounced white dress sitting in a Louis XVI style armchair with a pair of opera glasses and a bouquet of flowers lying on the stool beside her. The picture has been traditionally called “Avant Le Spectacle” or ‘Waiting for the Carriage”. But….. why not “After the Opera”?
To me it seems the lady has come home. She sits down in front of the fire and dreams about the evening she has just spent.
That is the wonderful thing about paintings, you don’t have to accept what is said about them by tradition. You can let your fantasy loose and enjoy them even more.
My wife would take the children to the Metropolitan Museum and not tell them what they were looking at, but ask them what the paintings were about. Try it. You will be amazed by the results.
Stevens was well known for his depiction of beautiful dresses, this being a particularly fine one. The scene was probably composed with a model posing surrounded by props in the artist’s studio. The gilded footstool reappears in a similar composition, adding grace to another model’s pose in Stevens’ painting The Blue Dress in the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
And what of the tapestry image in the background? Nobody has yet identified it . Does it have some symbolic meaning or is it merely a decoration? Any suggestions?
For more on this work, please click here.