Deep in Thought with Philippe Jacquot

Philippe Jacquot

Philippe Jacquot is a French painter specializing in glass work and metal painting. Focusing on portraits and nudes, Jacquot enjoys exploring themes of light, mystery, and illusion. Several of his works show identical or similarly dressed figures with slight differences in posture, position, or facial features. The painting titled “Double regard” above is one among many ‘duos.’ The two women appear in the foreground, peering slightly to their left in nearly identical knelt positions. Their pale brown skin contrasts with the vivid white and red of their painted faces. Though mostly nude, they have cloth wrapped over their heads and around their arm and waist. A vertically streaked background of matching colors surrounds them.

In a way, Jacquot appears to pick up where his predecessors left off. Following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Egypt and Syria in the early 19th century, the French pioneered Orientalist art, a study of ‘Eastern’ cultures in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Artists like Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme depicted their subjects in exotic, sensual, and often stereotyped ways. Although Jacquot seems to borrow from Oriental themes – as evidenced by the styles of clothing and body paint, as well as the body language, of some of his subjects – he brings in a 21st century sensitivity. Rather than sensationalizing the exoticism of these foreign cultures, he integrates them more subtly into traditional nude and portrait styles.

This painting is an enigma, inviting viewers to contemplate the two women. We wonder about the significance of the head cloths, especially in contrast to the women’s nudity: perhaps it is a statement on the struggle of the modern ethnic woman, faced with reconciling her progressive sexuality with the conservative traditions of her culture. We wonder about the personalities of these two women as well. Despite the vulnerability of their bare skin, their faces seem relaxed, and they fold their limbs with a poised, confident sort of delicacy. What are they thinking? What are they doing? Are these two different women crouched in camaraderie, or is it the same woman captured at two different moments of suspended motion? Neither of the two subjects is looking at their audience, instead casting their gaze to their left. They seem lost in deep thought, as if contemplating some third party unavailable to the viewer. Only by being comfortable in their own skins are they able to turn their observation outwards. In this way, the painting also seems to make a commentary on the status of woman as an object of observation: although women have historically been the passive receivers of an outside gaze, they are more and more embracing their own identities and subverting that power back onto others.

What do you think of this piece?