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The Cover
November 26, 2003

Young Italian Woman at a Table

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(20):2639. doi:10.1001/jama.290.20.2639

In the autumn of 1907, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke was in Paris completing his book on Rodin. At the same time there was also a memorial exhibit at the annual Salon d'Automne of the works of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), who had died the previous October. Rilke had never seen anything quite like the paintings of this hermit from Aix. Clearly, Rilke was stunned. Each day for the duration of the exhibit he walked from his lodgings to the Grand Palais on the Champs-Elysees where the two rooms of paintings were on view. Each evening, after he had made the walk back to his own rooms, he wrote exuberant letters to his wife about his discoveries. The exhibit marked a watershed in his own artistic life. And while there is no evidence that Rilke either did or did not see Cézanne's Young Italian Woman at a Table (cover), his remarks to his wife in his letter of October 19, 1907, could have applied to this late work of Cézanne: ". . . how very much of one piece is everything we encounter, how related one thing is to the next, how it gave birth to itself and grows up and is educated in its own nature, and all we basically have to do is to be there, but simply, ardently, the way the earth simply is, consenting to the seasons, light and dark and altogether in space, not asking to rest upon anything other than the net of influences and forces in which the stars feel secure." (Letters on Cézanne, Agee J, trans. New York, NY: North Point Press; 2002.) This was Cézanne in the last decade of his life, when he was living and working among the chestnut trees at Jas de Bouffan, the estate he had inherited from his father a decade earlier (JAMA cover, February 19, 2003). Withdrawn from society, he had learned to consent to the light and dark and space.

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