When Édouard Manet’s In the Conservatory debuted in Berlin, it caused scandal and controversy among audiences, and elicited a blush from the Prussian Empress. The painting shows a man and woman talking in a garden. She’s fashionably dressed; he holds a cigar, and leans over the bench upon which she’s seated. Both wear wedding rings. At first glance, the image is innocent enough. But a closer look brings ambiguity, and unanswered questions suspend viewers in the moment’s tension. Manet’s Olympia was met with outrage for its overt sexuality but here, eroticism is restrained. Is physical intimacy still warm in this marriage? Or have they arrived at a marital arrangement? This virtual exhibition explores the continuing questions posed by the painting. —C.J.F.
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