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Three Lovers
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Théodore Géricault
French, about 1817 - 1820
Oil on canvas
8 7/8 x 11 3/4 in.
95.PA.72

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Théodore Géricault's only known erotic painting, this small oil sketch depicts two lovers locked in a passionate embrace while their languid companion calmly watches from the left. The woman's nudity and relaxed pose evoke the classical tradition of representing repose after lovemaking, a tradition that is also evoked by the way her voluptuous figure complements the statue of Venus above. Encoiled in her lover's arms and with her legs provocatively exposed, the woman in white is an active participant in the amorous act rather than a passive object. With a modern directness, Géricault captured the intensity and energy of human sexuality in a manner very different from the idealizing conventions of his age.

Géricault 's expressive handling of line and paint accords with the passionate energy of the subject matter. Despite the small size and sketchy nature of this painting, Géricault made it as an independent work of art, intended for close private viewing.