For art history majors Ann Lislegaard’s Untitled (Fountainbleu) might look strangely familiar. Can’t put your finger on it? Give up?
If you guessed the famously enigmatic School of Fontainebleau painting Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters (1595, Louvre), you’re doing your professors proud.
Like many artists, Ann Lislegaard (Dutch b. 1962) takes inspiration from well-known works or art, adding her own interpretation and technique.
In the original School of Fontainebleau painting, the models have been identified as Gabrielle d’Estrées, a favorite of Henry IV (1553-1610), and one of her sisters, the Duchess de Villars or Madame de Balagny. The oddly affectionate way in which the duchess pinches Gabrielle d’Estrées’ right breast has been thought to symbolize the latter’s pregnancy with the illegitimate child of Henry IV. Ultimately, however, a strict interpretation eludes art historians.
Lislegaard’s photographic portrait upends the convention of the portrait as an image that reveals a sitter’s personality or character traits. Shot against a plain white background, Lislegaard’s subjects’ simple clothing and lack of accessories provide few clues to their identity or character.
Posed in a similar fashion to Gabrielle d’Estrées and the duchess, Lislegaard’s models pay tribute to the older work as well as the often ambiguous history of art.