Spanish Art

01.03.13

Juan Do Paints a Puzzle Picture

The Daily Pic: Could a Baroque artist have painted a cross-dressing, heartbroken lover?

A wonderful, brooding painting attributed to the Spanish painter Juan Do, who was a student and then colleague of his compatriot Giuseppe Ribera in Naples, and may have died in the great plague of 1646. The painting is at the Metropolitan Museum, which considers it an allegory of the sense of sight. That could be right, but there seems to be a lot of other stuff going on: The plangent mood, the shirt pierced over the heart, even the strangely feminine look of the figure, masculinized in its mirror reflection. Is it a puzzle to be solved, or is the ambiguity meant to stand, irresolvable?

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