Erigone and Carle Van Loo
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Carle Van Loo was an influential and successful artist of the eighteenth century who garnered the highest awards and attracted the most elite of patrons, yet, originally due to the disparagement of Rococo art with the rise of Neo-Classicism, there is an enduring scarcity of scholarship on Van Loo and his paintings. This thesis elucidates numerous aspects of Van Loo’s oeuvre through a thorough examination of Erigone, his 1747 bacchanalian painting housed in the High Museum of Art. This intriguing painting is an exemplar of the artist’s eclectic style, imbued with Rococo sexuality and influenced by Flemish art of the seventeenth century. The work was likely an amalgamation of various literary sources and visual precedents, which are explored in order to frame the scene within the mythology of the life and death of Erigone, a love of Bacchus. The amorous nature of the woman’s legend leads to a suggested model for the figure and prompts a discussion of the extent to which Van Loo’s female iconography was influenced by his family members. Finally, this thesis investigates the painting’s provenance and its known replications as indicators of the painting’s, and by extension Van Loo’s, contemporary esteem. In the end, this research is meant to negate Van Loo’s reputation within the history of art as solely representative of the frivolity and inanity associated with the Rococo.