Marriage of the Angels Á la Mode, 2002Tony Natsoulas (American, born 1959)
In 2001–02, Anthony Natsoulas began a series of portraits of his wife and friend, but ordinary likeness would not do. Instead, Natsoulas envisioned everyone dressed in the opulent costumes of the 18th-century French court. The gathering he wanted to create would feature his friends with the frivolity and fun of one of Jean-Antonie Watteau's rococo romps. He found additional inspiration in period portraits by Hyacinthe Rigaud and the decorative flourishes of the painter François Boucher. Being a ceramist, he also looked to traditions in clay, first to Robert Arneson's self-portrait busts and then to early Meissen figurines.
Marriage of the Angels was featured in the Crocker's 2002 exhibition of this engaging series, which the artist titled Barococo, a comingling of baroque and rococo, just like the historical details he borrowed. The humor and play overarching this series and his career is purely derived from the ceramics program at the University of California, Davis, where Natsoulas was invited into the TB-9 ceramic studio as a teen. It was during his undergraduate studies that he made the figure the subject of his work, and it has engaged him for 30 years. In keeping with the Barococo theme, Natsoulas imbued this series with a refinement in his treatment. The model for the Crocker's bust was the wife of artist friend Steven Bradford, and while it presents us with a courtier, it also showcases Natsoulas' talent for rendering an exact likeness.