The chair, brazier, table, and the setting all show Vien’s interest in bringing archaeological accuracy to a new level of precision. Yet his delicate handling and graceful palette derive squarely from 18th-century French painting. The gesture of the melancholic figure, with her head on her hand, has roots going back to the Renaissance. Nonetheless, the painting has a wistful rather than tragic tone. Indeed, images of women in interiors, contemplating a letter with longing or sadness, derive from earlier Dutch paintings of daily life, here transformed into an ancient context.
(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).