His Eminence Returnsc. Undated by
Vibert, Jehan-Georges 1840-1902
His Eminence Returns is one of Vibert's Spanish subjects lampooning clergymen. He painted many of them in the late 1860s and 1870s. This painting demonstrates Vibert's knack for theatrical and comic presentation. A cardinal, a favorite target of his wit, is the focal point of the little farce. In this case, Vibert also makes himself the butt of ridicule, since he used his own features and corpulent physique for the cleric. The dignitary has lost his agility through good living and is perhaps a bit tipsy as well. In any event, dismounting is a major operation, involving the help of an anxious abbe, a servant who stoops to provide footing, an attendant to balance his right foot, and another to steady the mule. Vibert heightens the humor by showing the strain of the bent-over man and the protruding tongue of the animal; both will be happy when relieved of their burden. The two women seem silently amused by the ordeal.
Vibert takes as many pains with the setting and costumes as he does with the staging of the figures. The artist may have based the architecture on studies he made on his own travels. To the right side of the courtyard is a well with ornate ironwork embellishment and a drawn back bucket of water waiting to refresh the weary traveler. In its steps the cardinal's travel-gear has been placed. Farther back is an arcade and tile-roofed balcony, while through the large stone arch on the left can be glimpsed a quiet inner garden. Vibert no doubt had models pose in the clerical and Spanish costumes he owned. Great care has been taken to describe the bows and tassels of the women's blouses and the buttons of the male servant's trousers, which seem to burst with the strain. The bright light illuminating the scene intensifies the colors and brings out the textures, such as the appliquéd felt skirt and blue stain bows of the woman holding the mule, and the gleaming buckle of the cardinal's right shoe. Red is given a central role in the costume of the cardinal, which on close inspection can be observed to include two different shades, crimson for coat and breaches, scarlet hose, gloves (peeping out of his pocket), and hat.
Size (inches): 39 1/2 x 29 1/2
Medium: Oil on Panel
Location: McKee Room