Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) by Georges Seurat

Charlotte Hale, conservator in the Department of Paintings Conservation, experiments with the effect of gaslight to present Seurat's Circus Sideshow in a new light.

Produced in association with Seurat's Circus Sideshow, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from February 17 through May 29, 2017.

Charlotte Hale: This is Georges Seurat's first painting of nighttime entertainment, a theme that he continued to paint the rest of his short life. This was a parade, or circus sideshow, a way of getting people to come into the circus. Like, "roll up, roll up, come in through the door."

We know he's evoking gaslight in a nighttime setting. But what light did he intend the picture to be viewed under? We're going to try to simulate the effect of gaslight, and see what it does to the painting. 

What we're seeing now is the painting the way we normally see it every day in a gallery light. We are going to gradually lower the lights. We're going to create a warmer color temperature, and we know that gaslight had a slight flicker to it, and so something that we were interested in adding onto this effect was to see what a flicker would do. And I think you may see that it's really very different. It's very exciting.

We're seeing a great deal more contrast in the painting, and all the illumination in the painting is enhanced. The yellow of the trombone is much more pronounced. The glow that's coming through from the illuminated tent inside is warmer and more alluring. And there's just a feel of greater depth and mystery about the picture under gaslight.

Director: Christopher Noey
Producer: Kate Farrell
Curatorial Consultant: Susan Stein
Camera: Wayne De La Roche, Dia Felix
Editor: Dia Felix
Lighting: Ned Hallick, Mary Ellen Stebbins
Original Music: Austin Fisher
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Production Assistants: Sarah Cowan, Karlie Efinger, Stephanie Wuertz

© 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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