CABANEL, Alexandre
(b. 1823, Montpellier, d. 1889, Paris)

Portrait of the Comtesse de Keller

c. 1873
Oil on canvas, 99 x 76 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Cabanel is inseparably associated with 'art pompier' - late French academicism that got its name from one or more of three sources: the similarity between the ancient helmets shown in its exponents' canvases and those worn by Parisian firemen (pompiers); its servile devotion to antiquity, one of whose symbols was Pompeii; or simply its tendency to treat any subject pompously. In this portrait of a Russian aristocrat, Comtesse de Keller (née Maria Ivanovna Riznich), the dramatic use of light and shade stresses the paleness of the model's skin and heightens her facial features, giving her the look of an actress strongly lit on stage.