This is entry #90 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words series.
Philosopher: Ray Briggs (Stanford University)
Artwork: Self-Love and Sin, Gabrielle and Her Twin, Aaron Feltman, 2019 [Painting, Oil on Linen, 35 x 40 inches]
Words: This artwork re-interprets a 1594 painting of Gabrielle d’Estrées and her sister (artist unknown). Critics like Bonnie Zimmerman find lesbian undertones in the older painting, but to me its invasive gaze reads as straight and male: exposed female figures blankly regard the audience, one groping the other. In Feltman’s painting, the subject’s reflective downward gaze and self-directed touch invite empathy and inwardness. The shadow of their right hand mirrors the solidity of their left, suggesting that their imagination and interpretation play an active role in shaping the world of the painting.