Today’s selection, ‘The Masked Ball’ by Swiss painter Frédéric Dufaux II, caught my attention for a couple reasons. First off, it’s a beautiful painting with vibrant colors and a lively atmosphere. The narrative is simple yet this work very pleasing to view and easily guides the eye though its composition. I especially enjoy how the pink of the roses complement the ballroom curtains in the distance. And the light casting down on the fashionable woman, causing her to stand out against the dark shadows in the background, gives this work a very chic and glamorous vibe. I’m sure you’ll agree that ‘Masked Ball’ epitomizes a successful, rock star level party.
Secondly, this piece retains its classiness in spite of what I perceive to be its bawdy subtext. I’ve never attended a masquerade function, and though many people regard them a typical costume parties, I tend to associate them with a particular naughtiness, probably due to movies like ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ and ‘Masked Ball’ does little do to counter that notion.
The title identifies the theme of the event but leaves us to ponder the situation between our three subjects in the foreground. This ambiguity, of course, raises all sorts of questions as to what might be taking place. I’m intrigued by the couple seated on the couch who have their backs turned toward us, leaving their identities a mystery—perhaps for good reason. The man appears to be leaning in toward the lady, maybe to give her a kiss or share something ribald, much to the approval of their companion, the beautiful woman who seems unabashed and relaxed as she seats herself on the table. Wouldn’t it be more mannerly of her to use the nearby chair? Oh, nevermind. Perhaps she is the hostess of the party, but anyway I love how she’s portrayed—proud, somewhat brazen, and above all, confident.
That said, out of all the people in ‘Masked Ball,’ I find myself identifying not with the beautiful woman at the table but rather the lady seen at a distance in the ballroom. Her face is indistinguishable, yet she is obviously looking in the direction of our three lounging subjects, perhaps attempting to spy on their activities, if not only out of innocent curiosity. Even given our more intimate vantage point of the scene, I feel more connection with her perspective as an outsider.
Ah, yes. To quote Oingo Boingo, I’ve always been “on the outside looking in.”
On a final note, I really enjoy the ambiance of this relatively empty room, sectioned off from the rest of the party for reasons unbeknownst to the viewer. I’m most drawn to the painting in the upper right which depicts a mythological scene occupied by several nude women and a cupid. This is a really nice touch which contributes to the suggestive atmosphere of the room. ‘Masked Ball’ is far from a masterpiece but it achieves something significant in creating a vivid environment for its occupants.
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