Pierre Auguste Cot – Printemps (Springtime) – 1873
[Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA – on loan from Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s coll.]
I deeply appreciate this painting since I was very young (still a kid). It figured in one of the many books of art of my father, and I looked at it so often that soon after my discovery, the book began to open by itself just at the right page… The illustration amazed me and I could not put my eyes aside of it; it made my body behave “strange”… grow goosebumps, get aroused and ready for things I did not figure out rightly (or perhaps not at all, yet); it made me sigh and, of course, wonder.
Moreover, it puzzled me that I was feeling “from both sides” all the confidence and cosy desire expressed there; the warmth, the tenderness, the expectations… Often I wished I was the girl and had those eyes and tities and soft skin, and hotly hug that older handsome boy like she does. I tried to imagine his response. And my own follow-up (what would I do?…). But sometimes I also wished she hugged me and looked at me that way, and did to me some pleasurable things I clumsily began to discover or, at least figure out some time later. (Needless to say, I was to become physically quite more closer to the depicted boy –and I still am in several aspects– but my mind was dual and already aware of it.)
That painting, at that time, meant much to me, perhaps more than any other erotic image I had access to in our library. I showed it to a very good friend of mine and we talked about it, asking questions to each other; like “who of them would you prefer to be?”, “what would you do next?”, “do you like the boy?”, “do you think he is wearing some undercloth?”, “would you lift his cloak to see it?”, “how soon do you think they are going to kiss each other”?… etc.
Someday, some questions, or some answers, would lead to playing or pretending, to kissing and successive mutual iniciatives. Other things read and other images watched by me converged into that process, but that particular one got stuck to my mind forever, and when I recently found this excellent, high resolution copy online (so much better that the one I had at home), I became emotional –besides aroused again, as it could not be otherwise.
Past and present, memory and desire, doubts and knowledge, fantasies and actual experience, persons found and persons lost…, all came together and joined in a long, moving –I would say even enlightening– experience.
I am aware that while writing these last words I have been loosely recalling verses of T. S. Eliot which are somehow related with this illustration and this portion of memories I have told here. So, I end with these verses:
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
— T. S. Eliot: Burnt Norton I, 44-46.
Notes on the painting
Regarding the quality of the work, what can I say?… It is technically unsurpassable, a prodigy of competence in every single aspect that you may consider. A wonder.
Clothes, skins, facial expressions, play of light and shadow, textures of any kind, elegance of composition… are seldom achieved as perfectly as here in paintings of any epoch. Moreover, this oil is large (with natural size, or probably bigger, figures), appealing, positive, convincing; it projects an exquisite and powerful emotion. In a word: it has what I name inside me Grace.
That it has been often called too academic, untimely classicistic, overdone, old fashioned, cloying, overerotic (given the apparent short age of the couple), etc… makes me laugh, and also question whether some art-criticism has interest or value for any sensible, moderately educated and intelligent viewer. If you really like very much a painting, if it touches your heart, what the heck does a know-all “expert” counter-opinion matter to you?
I hope you enjoy this painting as much as I do ✨ 🦄 .
Li Fontrodona, 2018