Mary Blume reports in the International Herald Tribune: “If, as André Malraux said, museums do not simply exhibit masterpieces but create them, Sassoon adds that they need to be written about, publicized, to reach iconic status and in mid-19th-century France, more than anywhere else, men and women of letters wrote extensively on the arts. In Sassoon’s words, Mona Lisa was repositioned, one might almost say re-branded, by the poet and respected art critic Théophile Gautier, who wrote about her as a disturbing smiling sphinx – ‘the sinuous, serpentine mouth, turned up at the corners in a violet penumbra’ – and transformed her into the voguish figure of decades to come: the femme fatale. ‘This canvas attracts me, revolts me, consumes me, and I go to her in spite of myself, as the bird to the snake,’ breathed the historian Jules Michelet. Read more.
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