La Reina Mora: Bold Painting, Proud Dancer

When first viewing Robert Henri’s painting, La Reina Mora, one notices a lone dancer, posing within a bright light emanating from an unseen source. Contrasted against the dark and obscure background, the woman stands boldly with her hands resting on her hips in an assertive stance, the only subject and focal point within the piece. Staring out past the viewer, she bares a complacent look upon her face, appearing as if she is posing for a portrait.

Dawned in mostly white, the dancer wears a fringed skirt that appears to shimmer and glint within the light. The long threads of the skirt mimic the threads coming from the luxurious silver-white shawl draping over her arms. Beneath the shawl, the dancer wears a floral shirt, speckled with soft, pastel-colored flowers with a single, dominant red rose on the front. Sporting the majority of the color within the portrait, her shirt becomes a focal point that lightly accentuates the blush upon her cheeks, the bright red lipstick upon her lips, and the flowers and ribbons entwined within her jet-black hair. With a white make-up powdered about her face, the dancer’s glossy, dark hair; strong, black eyebrows; and deep, abyss-like eyes stand out dramatically. Repeating the white of her face, white pantyhose covers her legs, leading the eye to her pointed feet laced within soft, white satin dancing shoes. Helping to accessorize and finalize her look, several rings can be spotted among her fingers along with a single, golden bracelet around one wrist and two decorative necklaces around her neck.

Existing within a fictive and unclear space, Henri’s dancer stands within a spot-lit foreground that contrasts sharply against a murky brown background, clearly demonstrating tenebrism. With little to take in, the faint change in value to a light, golden color near the bottom of the picture plane and the representation of cast shadows helps to establish a faint horizon line and a ground for the dancer to stand upon. With one leg held behind the other, overlapping occurs, adding a sense of depth to the scene. Within this space, the model is depicted realistically and appears to have three- dimensional form. Shading and modeling gives the dancer life and form, accenting her curvy, voluptuous figure while her proportions appear accurate. Though her face and skin are depicted realistically, upon closer inspection, the details within her clothing appear to be depicted more perceptually than from observation. Contrasting the more controlled gradations and sharp lines making up the woman’s skin, loose and seemingly-random brushstrokes make up the fringe and floral additions creating non-objective, abstract details.

As the only subject within the picture, the woman becomes the only focal point, but Henri’s use of the elements and principles of design help to actively move the viewer’s eyes about her and rest upon further details. Dawned with patterns of color, the dancer’s shirt becomes a point of interest that immediately catches one’s attention. From there, the triangular shape of the fabric as it hugs the woman’s curves help to lure the eye down her body towards her pointed foot, mimicking the triangular shape once more. This motion, along with her outstretched leg, creates a vertical line that cuts across the horizontal line created by the ground space and emphasizes the vertical lines within her shawl.

Standing proud as she poses for a portrait, a lone dancer shows off her figure and costume within Robert Henri’s painting, “La Reina Mora.” Depicted realistically within a bright and dramatic spotlight, she looks assertive and bold as she allows the viewer to glance over her. Because of the sharp contrast of the light foreground and the dark background making up this image, one may begin to inquire its artistic style or influence. With such tenebrism, one may research the Baroque period and further study the life of Robert Henri to learn more of his past and his artistic style. From this research one may discover artists that inspire Henri’s style, perhaps even Diego Velazquez, with his use of perceptual painting and abstract, non-objective details. Or one may simply search for the humanism within the painting and research the woman depicted and why she was chosen to be painted. With such a profound and audacious woman presented before the viewer, one is instantly inspired to take in and learn more about Robert Henri’s “Reina Mora.”

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