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The Lost Mind

Artist:
Elihu Vedder (American, New York 1836–1923 Rome)
Date:
1864–65
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
39 1/8 x 23 1/4 in. (99.4 x 59.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Bequest of Helen L. Bullard, in memory of Laura Curtis Bullard, 1921
Accession Number:
21.132.1
Not on view
Painted shortly after Vedder completed the first version of "The Lair of the Sea Serpent" (1864, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), this canvas combines the artist's experience of Italian plein-air painting with his developing visionary style. Vedder spent the years from 1857 to 1860 in northern Italy, where he worked in the company of the Macchiaioli, or "spot" painters. The influence of their distinctive approach to landscape paintings is apparent here in the broad rendering of the background as a series of flat, subtly related patches of color. Vedder had painted the same striking Tuscan terrain-which was known as the Balze, or Badlands, of Volterra-in Italy in 1860. The lone woman in the landscape remains an enigma, although she may relate to contemporary Pre-Raphaelite depictions of solitary, meditative figures. Her costume, however, is recognizably similar to that of monks in several of Vedder's Italian works. The peculiarity of the heavily clad figure led the artist's friends, who included Homer Dodge Martin, to christen to painting "The Idiot in the Bath Towel."
Signature: [at lower right]: 18 V 64--518
Jeremiah Curtis, New York, 1865–died 1881; his daughter, Laura Curtis Bullard, Brooklyn, 1881–died 1912; her daughter-in-law, Helen Lister (Mrs. Harold Curtis) Bullard, New York, 1912–1921
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