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The Cover
April 23 2008

Portrait of Marthe Marie Tronchin

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2008;299(16):1871. doi:10.1001/jama.299.16.1871

The 20th-century Czech abstract painter František Kupka painted solely from what he saw in his imagination (JAMAcover, April 16, 2008). His 18th-century Swiss predecessor Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789), on the other hand, was Kupka's polar opposite: he was able to paint only what was directly before his eyes. Indeed, according to Horace Walpole, author, art collector, 4th Earl of Oxford, and Liotard's English contemporary, the Swiss painter had not even the imagination to omit anything, let alone add anything. If it was there it was painted. If the sitter's complexion had a pock mark or even a freckle, the scar or the freckle took its place in the finished portrait. So true to appearance was Liotard's work, in fact, that often the finished portrait did not please the sitter. (See Daniel Catton Rich’s “A Portrait by Liotard” in the Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, November 1936.) (Not surprisingly, in this country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Realist portraitist Thomas Eakins had much the same problem with his finished portraits of “society” sitters, but whereas Eakins lost patrons Liotard seemed to thrive.)