Thursday, November 15, 2018

01 Paintings, Slavic mythology, by the Old Masters, with footnotes # 21

Hugues Merle, FRENCH, 1823 - 1881
Oil on canvas
41 by 57 1/2 in., 104.1 by 146 cm.
Private collection

"In a part of Austria there is a legend, of Slavic origin. It is the legend of the nocturnal dancer, known in Slavic countries as "willi". The willis are fiancées who died before the wedding day, poor young girls who can not remain quiet in the grave. In their dead hearts, in their dead feet still remains that love of dance that they could not satisfy during their lives; at midnight, they rise, gather in troops on the highway, and, woe to the young man who meets them! He must dance with them; they embrace him with frantic desire, and he dances with them until he falls dead. Adorned with their wedding clothes, wreaths of flowers on their heads, elves . Their faces, though of snow-white, are beautiful in youth; they laugh with such frightful joy, they call you with such seduction, their air has so sweet promises! These dead bacchantes are irresistible. " More on the legend

Hugues Merle (1823–1881) was a French painter who mostly depicted sentimental or moral subjects.

Hugues Merle was born in 1823 in Saint Martin. He studied painting with Léon Cogniet. Merle started exhibiting at the Salon (Paris) in 1847. He received second class prizes in 1861 and 1863. In 1866 he was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Hugues Merle became a friend of Paul Durand-Ruel in the early 1860s. Durand-Ruel had started buying paintings by Merle in 1862 and introduced the artist to painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Merle was later often compared to Bouguereau and “became a considerable rival of Bouguereau in subject and treatment”. In the mid-1860s, Merle painted several portraits of Paul Durand-Ruel, his wife, and their son, John.

Hugues Merle died in 1881 in Paris. His son Georges Merle also became a painter. More on Hugues Merle

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