Alexandre Cabanel French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 800

In Greek mythology, the beautiful nymph Echo is cursed by the goddess Hera and can only repeat the last words said to her. Unable to communicate with the man she loves, Echo retreats to the mountains and pines away until just her voice remains. This painting depicts the nymph with her mouth agape and her hands at her ears as if startled by reverberating sounds. The mannered elegance and polished handling of the figure epitomize the style promoted by the influential French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Nineteenth-century critics often deemed such idealized portrayals of the nude unconvincing, but many viewers preferred them to more realistic depictions, which seemed shockingly indecorous.

Echo, Alexandre Cabanel (French, Montpellier 1823–1889 Paris), Oil on canvas

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