Robert E. Townsend, 1996. Resist-ground etching and engraving on BFK-Rives paper, 24 x 38 inches (618 x 965 mm), full margins. Signed, titled, dated and numbered 61/175 in pencil, lower margin. A brilliant, inky impression with luminous, gradient tones. In excellent condition with one extremely minor and superficial spot of light tan adhesive residue on the verso, unobtrusive and not visible on the recto, with no other visible defects.
In this masterful composition Milton juxtaposes ghostly images of a young Vaslav Nijinsky against those of Mary Cassatt, and Edgar Degas, all of whom appear in the Fifth Tier of la Scala opera house. Cassatt and Degas appear multiple times in the image, each in various stages of their long, productive lives; Cassatt is pictured giggling as a youth with her sister, peering over the balcony, and again, aged, and seated, far from the stage, in the rear of the tier. Degas is seen with dark hair, standing next to himself as an old man with a white beard. An allegory to the privilege of long life. While also in the foreground we see Nijinsky leaping, ascending upward, and disappearing from the image, still in the prime of his youth. Nijinsky danced his last dance in 1918, at the age 31 years, and he spent the remainder of his life subject to the constant storm of severe mental illness. In the background we see dancers, acrobats, soldiers and patrons, all taking part in a macabre dance of death, as this moving image merges audience and performer. Milton continued to burnish out the image of Nijinsky as the edition progressed, and in later impressions his leaping form doesn't exist at all.
Item number: 443