Sweets

Cocktails With A Curator

Comtesse d’Haussonville, created in 1845 by Jean-August-Dominique Ingrés, is one of the most popular paintings at New York’s beautiful Frick Museum.

What might historical admirers drink whilst pondering her challenging gaze? Absinthe: the much-banned, heavily alcoholic green spirit first produced in Switzerland and crafted from a mix of botanicals that include green anise, wormwood flowers and sweet fennel.

We get this art-absinthe pairing from Frick Curator Aimee Ng who is featured in the museum’s online series: Cocktails with a Curator. Each Friday evening, a curator discusses one of the museum’s holdings and why it is paired with a particular cocktail. Mocktail options are also on offer.

Ng explains that Comtesse d’Haussonville  has been called ‘one of the greatest portraits of 19th Century France.’  However, its subject, the Comtesse, aka Louise de Broglie, was born and buried in Switzerland, birthplace of absinthe. Thought to provoke madness, engulf artists, and fuel addictions, absinthe – or ‘the Green Fairy’ as it is sometimes called’ – was banned in Switzerland on October 7th, 1910. The Swiss ban was not lifted until 2005.

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For the Comtesse’s cocktail, Ng is proposing The Jaded Countess, comprised of 1 ounce of absinthe, ½ ounce of vodka, some fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, strained and topped with champagne and a twist of lemon.

Jean-August-Dominique Ingrés, the  painter behind Comtesse d’Haussonville  was born 1780 in Montauban, France. Ingrés was busy doing seemingly more prestigious ‘history’ paintings, such as his wonderful, if tepidly received, 1806 portrait of Napoleon as Emperor.

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Frick curator Ng explains that Ingrés rejected most who came to him wanting their portraits painted. But, likely because the Comtesse was the daughter of a high-status duke, Ingrés daren’t say ‘no.’ It was a commission that, life intervening, took more than three years to complete. The Comtesse was a piano student of Chopin and a busy author, e.g.: of a biography of Lord Byron.

Ng describes how Ingrés spent hours sitting with his subjects, studying, sketching and refining details: the pale blue of Louise de Broglie’s eyes, the blonde of her eyelashes,  the curve of her nose. This, while also creating anatomically impossible elements of beauty, such as the position of the Comtesse’s right arm. The overall idea for this particular portrait scene was that the Comtesse had just returned home from the opera.

Her absinthe-fueled Jaded Comtesse in hand, Frick Curator Ng offers more fascinating insights into this Ingrés portrait that was so well received by Louise de Broglie and the public.

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The Cocktail Curating Frick have a number of their artworks paired with cocktails and analysis on their Youtube channel. Stay tuned for next Friday and, in the meantime, check out their past analyses, which include …

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Hans Holbein The Younger. Sir Thomas More. 1527 +
Bloody Mary

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Vermeer. Officer and a Laughing Girl. ~1657 +
Kopstootje = A shot of jenever plus Dutch lager

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Thomas Gainsborough. Grace Dalrymple Elliott. ~1782
Pimm’s Cup

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Velázquez. King Philip IV of Spain. 1644 +
Fiftififti – 1/2  fino dry sherry + 1/2 sweet sherry chilled

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Cocktails With A Curator @ The Frick.

Written by Elizabeth Newton
www.creatorsvancouver.com

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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton