Le Premier Ball by Charles Conder

 ‘Le Premier Bal’ by Charles Conder

1890. Watercolour on silk. Currently on display at the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, Scotland.

Reproduced in 1903 by the Swan Engraving Company, for The Pageant (vol. 2, p. 175) by halftone process. Published by Messrs. Henry and Company, edited by C. Hazelwood Shannon (art) and Gleeson White (literature).

                Hyperlink: https://archive.org/stream/Pageant1897#page/n193/mode/2up

                Translated as ‘The First Ball’, the work is an impressionist watercolour painted towards the end of the nineteenth century. The figure on the right is a young woman, whose alabaster white skin and delicate features are the most well lit in both the original and reproduction. The woman stands next to a drawn curtain, beneath an archway at a masquerade ball (indicated by the mask the woman holds). Opposite her, is a man dressed in flowing robes, who appears to have some sort of garland around his neck. Neither the woman or the man are looking at each other, their attention being drawn off the page to the left and right respectively. Combined with the title, this suggests that there are more people vicinity. The scene is not pensive or tense, the woman's body language is relaxed enough to suggest that this is a common scene for her.

                A notable difference with the reproduction is the contrast of the background. While the household hallway beyond the curtain (suggesting that the woman and man are at the edge of a ball, perhaps the first of the season), the reproduction’s starker colour scheme initially looked as if the pair stood backstage as the black and whites add a depth which made the flower vases appear to be standing on a large wooden platform (rather than a bench).

Original image source: Wikimedia Commons

Additional image/ artist background: Artist Footsteps.com

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