About This Artwork

Constant Mayer
American, born France, 1832–1911

Love's Melancholy, 1866

Oil on canvas
51.4 x 35.6 cm (20 1/4 x 14 in.)
Signed, lower right: "Constant Mayer / 1866"

Restricted gift of Mrs. Herbert Alexander Vance, 1994.6

The young woman’s black dress, solemn disposition, and wedding ring signal a state of mourning. A church steeple in the background symbolizes the woman’s faith and purity, while the vegetation in the foreground suggests that she stands near her loved one’s grave. The golden lighting, low vantage point, and the figure’s windblown hair contribute to the composition’s air of introspection. Constant Mayer specialized in sentimental scenes of everyday life, yet he also displayed a fidelity to nature that harmonized with the work of the British Pre-Raphaelite painters. Executed just after the Civil War, Love’s Melancholy resonated with the American public. A color reproduction of the painting, called a chromolithograph, was produced and distributed by 1869.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Philadelphia, Centennial International Exhibition, 1876, cat. 28.

Publication History

Eric Foner, “The Civil War and the Story of American Freedom,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 27, 1 (2001), p. 24, pl. 6.

Ownership History

The artist, New York. S. M. Schafer, by 1876. Private collection, Long Island; D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York, by 1994; sold to The Art Institute, 1994.

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