Callas and “The Sleeping Venus”

“Sleeping Venus,” the painting behind Maria Callas in the photo, is from the French School, c. 1800. It goes up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York on 10 June.

If I understand its description correctly, it belonged to Maria Callas and then changed hands. It was not offered in the 2000 Calmels Chambre Cohen auction of her belongings (at least according to my midnight gambol through the catalogue). Does anyone know whether it was sold at the first auction following Callas’s death?

Callas and Meneghini divided their art collection upon their separation, so presumably this is one of the pieces she claimed. She posed in front of it at least twice (in this photo, c. 1957, and in at least one other, c. 1954). The 2000 auction catalogue shows that Callas owned a number of works on mythological themes—Persephone, Heracles, and the like.

In honor of this French painting—and of a precious baby who recently came into the world (qu’elle soit heureuse !)—I offer you Callas in fragile voice but elegant form in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, a 1963 recording.

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