Contemplating a Hole In My Underware


In 1767 Van Loo painted Diderot dressed comfortably in blue pajamas. The philosopher did not approve of the portrait, recognizing in himself an old coquette from the Court of Versailles; but by 1772 Diderot regretted his pajamas, writing a whole essay on the subject. “Why didn’t I keep my old pajamas? Their folds followed the lines of my body without ever making me uncomfortable. We were made for each other. When wearing them I looked both exotic and handsome. I used them to dust the books and to absorb the ink. Many a stain in their fabric bore witness of the services they had rendered me.”

As for Rousseau, he understood that painting him dressed in an Armenian attire, Allan Ramsay was going for exotic, which was not Rousseau’s idea of Romantic. This is how he described his posing sessions, “…stooping, propping myself against some coffee table, muscles tense and my facial features disfigured;” furthermore, Rousseau doubted the very possibility of a portrait that he himself would recognize, so used he was to his own idea of such a personal image. How should we interpret all this? I guess in the end there is no return to Naturalism. All we can do is sigh about it.

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