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An object of mystery

Two AGO Assistant Curators of European Art are spearheading a new web series dedicated to shedding light on our latest mystery.

Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom

Unknown, European. Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom, mid-18th century. Oil on canvas, 80 × 56.2 cm. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 2019/2437.

Just before our mid-March closure, one of the AGO’s most exciting new acquisitions was generating quite the stir among visitors. Though it comes with little to no background information, Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom is a striking depiction that affords new complexity to the face of European art – and our employees are raring to discover more about it.

With that in mind, AGO Assistant Curators of European Art, Monique Johnson and Adam Levine have created a web series that will allow you to get up close and personal with our mystery lady from the comfort of your own home. A Portrait of Possibilities is a web series featuring Monique and Adam in conversation with specialists on topics as diverse as race, botany, fashion, gender and art conservation. Together, they aim to better understand the world that produced this enigmatic portrait of a woman of colour. 

In this week’s premiere episode, Adam welcomes Maria Sullivan, Head of Conservation at the AGO. Over the course of their chat, Sullivan provides fascinating insight into the painting as a physical object, speaks to the condition of the work and previous restoration treatments, the possible pigments used by the artist and plans for future analysis.

A Portrait of Possibilities - The Painting as a Physical Object

Stay tuned for new episodes of A Portrait of Possibilities. Upcoming episodes include: a closer look at costume and dress with Dr. Ingrid Mida (Art Historian and Dress Detective) and Dr. Alexandra Palmer (Nora E. Vaughan Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles, at the Royal Ontario Museum); a focus on the orange blossom with Deborah Metsger (Assistant Curator of Botany at the ROM); and a discussion on race and representation with Dr. Charmaine Nelson (Professor of Art History at McGill University).

Looking for more art news from the AGO and beyond? Stay tuned to the AGOinsider.       


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