Maurice Denis. Ladder in Foliage, or Poetic Arabesques for the Decoration of a Ceiling, 1892. Oil on canvas, mounted on cardboard. Musée Départemental Maurice Denis "Le Prieuré," St.-Germain-en-Laye (cat. no. 14)

Originally commissioned by the artist and musician Henry Lerolle as a ceiling painting but later hung vertically as an easel painting, Ladder in Foliage can be seen as Maurice Denis’s meditation on the musical and ornamental concept of the arabesque, or S-curve. The use of sinuous and organic lines dominates the canvas, apparent in the swirling skirts and wavy tresses of the women as well as in the curling leaves of the trees. The four women were modeled after the artist’s future wife, Marthe, who assisted Denis by executing the border of the painting. The work now hangs in the artist’s former home, a restored convent (Le Prieuré) outside of Paris, which, in 1980, was converted to a museum devoted to works of Denis and the Nabis.

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