Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855–1935)
Reclining Female Nude, 1920
Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 33 1/2 in.
There are few depictions of nude female figures in Deutsch’s known oeuvre, but he did paint two variants of this work. The earlier of these was finished in 1919 and shown at the Salon that same year under the name La Sonate au claire de lune (location unknown), while the variant in the Dahesh Museum was finished the following year in a more polished style. In the earlier version a supine woman listens raptly to an ethereal musician, who stands near a moonlight window. The title of the work, the musician, as well as the late 18th- or early 19th-century setting all evoke Beethoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata (completed in 1801 and known in French as Au clair de lune). This composition was famously dedicated to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, a beautiful student of Beethoven who many believed was his love interest. The Dahesh version, however, includes neither the spectral violinist nor the moonlight window and instead heightens the erotic tension within the image by replacing the musician with a statue of a female nude reminiscent of The Capitoline Venus (Capitoline Museum) or Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (Uffizi Gallery) and on the floor a book has been tossed aside, perhaps in a moment of passion.