Smoke of Ambergris: John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent: Smoke of Ambergris

Smoke of Ambergris (or Fumee d’Ambre Gris in French) by Impressionist artist John Singer Sargent shows a woman wearing a broad-rimmed hat inhaling ambergris. The picture, which was begin in Morocco in 1880 during Sargent’s travels across the Middle East and North Africa, is painted in the Realist style.

Ambergris is a substance extracted from whales and was said to have aphrodisiac qualities as well as being used in rituals. The picture seems to centralize both functions in the standing woman.

John Singer Sargent’s Smoke of Ambergris is in the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts.

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