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Henri Matisse
La Séance de Trois Heures
Metropolitan Museum of Art
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An Afternoon
at the Met

by Christopher Sweet

As wars sputter and flare and markets stagger downward and the fevered globe turns on its uneasy axis, art nonetheless continues to offer its more enduring consolations. Strolling through the Metropolitan Museum the other Sunday afternoon, I went for a quick last look at Morandi’s quivering bottles, bowls, and boxes, and then to see the newly acquired work by Valentin de Boulogne, The Lute Player (ca. 1626). The painting of a musician or, as the picture’s label states, "a soldier of fortune singing a love madrigal," resonates with Watteau’s Mezzetin (ca. 1718–20), in the next gallery, as well as the central figure of Caravaggio’s Musicians of ca. 1595, which I didn’t find on view that day. The Mezzetin is plaintive and full of yearning where Valentin’s musician is more intent in his purpose of seduction while Caravaggio’s lute player would appear to be the more passive object of seduction.