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Jean Francois Millet The Angelus, c.1859




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Commissioned by a wealthy American, Thomas G. Appleton, and completed during the summer of 1857, Millet added a steeple and changed the initial title of the work, "Prayer for the Potato Crop" to "The Angelus" when the purchaser failed to take possession in 1859. "The Angelus" was well-loved and reproduced frequently in the 19th and 20th centuries. Salvador Dali was fascinated by this work, and wrote an analysis of it, "The Tragic Myth of The Angelus of Millet." Rather than seeing it as a work of spiritual peace, Dali believed it held messages of repressed aggression. Dali was also of the opinion that the two figures were praying over their buried child, rather than to the Angelus. Dali was so insistent on this fact that eventually an X-ray was done of the canvas, confirming his suspicions: The painting contains a painted-over geometric shape strikingly similar to a coffin. However, it is unclear if or why Millet changed his mind on the meaning of the painting.

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