During the late 19th century, the French system of government, known as the Third Republic, began to distance itself from the Latin church. As a result, artists at French academies of art began to produce works known as “cardinal paintings”, which were satirical renderings of church dignitaries dressed in vibrant red robes, enjoying their privileged lifestyles. This particular oil on board painting by Emile Meyer is entitled The Unveiling and depicts a cardinal viewing a portrait for the first time.
The clarity of this 19th-century painting is quite amazing: notice the vitality of the vestments of the three clergy members, two clad in red, with the third in purple. Each of the men has a large smile, indicating that the viewing was a success. Also of note are the boiserie panels that line the salon, mostly “French gray” with gilded accents that feel as if you could physically touch them. Other items of decadence can be seen within the room, such as the large gold, gray, and red rug that covers the parquetry floor. There is a large painting next to a gilded clock above the mantel, some ornate side chairs, and a gold center table behind the seated cardinal (his chair is immaculate as well!) that has a Delft-style vase full of paintbrushes next to paint tubes and vials of liquid. Even the ebonized and highly carved easel displaying the portrait is opulent, despite it being partly obscured by the red and gold fabric that covered the portrait before the viewing.
Emile Meyer was a French painter, born in 1823, known for his genre paintings and portraits. He studied with the likes of Alfred-Alexandre Delauney, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Emile Levy, all well-known 19th-century French artists. Meyer first exhibited in Paris at the inaugural Salon des Artistes Francais in 1880, later receiving several awards for his efforts.
CONDITION: Very good antique condition with a small touchup to the board for a minor rub. Light age separations to the giltwood frame, with some loss of gilding, resulting in the highly sought-after visible red bole. Full cradling in back and rigged to hang. Signed “Emile Meyer” in the lower right, with a placard on the bottom of frame reading “Emile Meyer French Circa Late 19th Century”.