R149 – Jeune fille au piano – Ouverture de Tannhaüser, 1869-1870 (FWN600)
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In Jeune fille au piano–ouverture de Tannhäuser, Cézanne sets out to solve the problem of incorporating two figures that are at very different distances from the painter into a flat, tapestry-like composition ; he succeeds admirably in this, the third version of the subject (the other two exist only in descriptions). Two figures are made to appear the same size by a simple and discreet expedient: if we discount the bottom of the pianist’s skirt, they occupy about the same space, leaning away from each other on opposite sides of a clear midline. The whole is also kept flat by an emphatic symmetry: the black piano mimics the white chair opposite. It is a sober arrangement, like the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna, and equally monumental. It is lightened somewhat by the arabesques of the wallpaper, but only barely; they seem very earnest in their purpose, which is to incorporate the young woman’s head into the plane of the decorative pattern.
Source: Machotka, Cézanne: the Eye and the Mind.