Dreams of the Past
Jehan-Georges Vibert (1840–1902)
Watercolor and gouache on paper
43 ¼ x 34 in.
Bequest of Elizabeth Elwyn Langdon
Vibert was a Frenchman famous for scenes of richly dressed Catholic priests behaving badly. His prestige was especially high in America, where upper-class Protestant collectors harbored anti-Catholic sentiments. This scene’s title suggests there is a backstory to this cardinal, who seems to have been re-reading some letters. A faint smile crosses his dreaming face, which is being studied by a well-dressed demon whose malice is underscored by the fireplace’s flames.
The artist, whose initials appear in the cardinal’s inkwell, invented products for painters, including the pigment “Vibert’s red,” a vibrant color used in many of his works.