The Amorous Proposal

The Amorous Proposal

Francois Lemoyne, French, 1688-1737


Oil on Canvas

A young woman, cooling herself with a damp handkerchief, is surprised by an older man wearing heavy, fur-lined clothes. He seems to be asking her a question, sometimes interpreted as a proposal, but the painting’s precise subject remains unclear. Lemoyne set up distinct contrasts of texture, color, and light, which could be appreciated from a distance. The elongated shape and slight forward tilt of the figures suggest that the painting was intended to be viewed from below, perhaps originally installed over a door in a domestic interior.

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What might the man be proposing in this painting?

How does ambiguity play a role in human interactions? Is the element of surprise an act of aggression in itself?

Would this be an acceptable interaction in today’s society?

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