Paul Cadmus, Le Ruban Dénoué: Hommage à Reynaldo Hahn, 1963, tempera on gessoed masonite. Columbus Museum of Art
From the Smithsonian Institution’s website:
The musician Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) was a child prodigy, both as a performer (of the piano) and a composer; he wrote his first songs when he was eight. Hahn adapted many of his songs from the poetry of Victor Hugo and Paul Verlaine and composed exquisite love songs that embodied the neo-romanticism of belle-epoque France. In Cadmus’s flamboyantly romantic work, Hahn is visited and seduced by Pan, who lies on the steps while a sprite kisses Hahn, the ribbon (“le ruban dénoué”) unfurling like musical notes into the air.
Paul Cadmus’ dreamlike painting is indeed filled with elements of seduction and (homo)eroticism. William Poundstone wrote about the painting in 2010, comparing its homoerotic content to the Columbus Museum of Arts’ then-recently deaccessioned Thomas Eakins painting of The Wrestlers (now at LACMA). Regardless of the artist’s sexual orientation, I like to read the painting as representing the struggle for artistic inspiration, the confrontation between carnal and heavenly desires. The use of color, light, and line contribute to the narrative content of the painting and together combine to allow the viewer to experience a purely aesthetic depiction of beauty.