portrait of Gabrielle d’Éstrées and her Sister in a Bath
Watching visitors encounter the portrait of Gabrielle d’Éstrées and her Sister in a Bath in Room 10 of the Louvre’s Richelieu wing provides priceless entertainment – a WTF moment (almost) every time. The opened curtains invite many a tableau vivant to break out in the gallery (admit it, you’ve done it or you want to do it with someone close by as you read).
As always, art historians have an explanation for everything: the woman receiving the nipple pinch is most likely Gabrielle d’Éstrées, favorite mistress of King Henry IV, and the act of nipple-pinching probably alludes to her pregnancy; the nipple-pincher is one of her sisters. I don’t know about you, readers, but anyone who has ever had his/her nipple pinched by another knows that is can be seductively erotic (ok, it can also be painful if some jerk gives you a titty-twister).
The erotic quality of this painting is heightened by the fact that the sisters are in a bathtub. Nice! There’s also a partially covered painting in the background in which the legs and torso of a semi-nude figure lie next to another figure that is clothed. Even the flames in the fireplace scream trés erotique! The owner of this painting must have felt that he was witnessing an act with erotic undertones – and I’m not referring to lesbian foreplay. Other paintings of similar themes also (supposedly) picturing Gabrielle d’Éstrées exist today at the Uffizi, at the Musée Condé (Chantilly), and in Montpellier; a related image hangs in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.