A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Ladies of the Chariots”

James Tissot’s The Ladies of the Chariots (Ces dames des chars), also called The Circus, was exhibited in Paris in 1885 and in London in 1886.  It is the second in his La Femme à Paris series, painted sometime before mid-1884.

The Ladies of the Chariots (c. 1883-85), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 57 ½ by 39 5/8” (146 by 100.65 cm). Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence. (Photo: WIkiart.org)

The women are performers at the Hippodrome de l’Alma, a huge iron and glass structure built in 1877 at the corner of avenues Josephine and Alma.  Up to eight thousand spectators could view races around the thirteen-meter track, circus animals whose cages were beneath the ring, and special effects such as mist and fireworks in the grand arena with a sliding roof that could be opened to the sky.  Electric lighting made evening performances possible, such as the chariot race pictured, with charioteers known as Amazons wearing glittering costumes.  Their diadems are similar to the crown on Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s new statue, Liberty Illuminating the World, which was presented to the United States in a ceremony in Paris on July 4, 1884; it soon would be installed in New York Harbor.

Lucy 2 (2)The Ladies of the Chariots was sold by Julius H. Weitzner (1896 – 1986), a leading dealer in Old Master paintings in New York and London, to Walter Lowry, who gifted it to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1958.

Previously hanging in the RISD museum director’s office and not on public display, The Ladies of the Chariots currently is the centerpiece of “Circus,” an exhibition open through Sunday, February 22, 2015.

Go if you can, because this painting really is lovely and rarely can be seen.  If you can’t make it (or if you can’t brave New England in the dead of winter), enjoy these photos I took on my recent visit!

 

Ladies 1 (2)

 

Ladies 8

 

Ladies 5

Ladies 6

Ladies 7

 

Ladies 3

 

Ladies 4

 

Ladies 11 (2)

 

Related posts:

Tissot’s La Femme à Paris series

Tissot in the U.S.: New England

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Artists’ Wives”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Ball on Shipboard”

©  2014 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

 

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