Mitsuru Watanabe, Ptolemaic Theory, 2019

By painting his daughters into his works, Watanabe explores childlike wonder and imagination. The girls wander through invented worlds full of references to art history, like this one, where his daughter Naoko inhabits a mythical land of the French Naïve painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). We see the lion and the mandolin from Rousseau’s 1897 painting The Sleeping Gypsy, while the footballer from his 1908 painting The Football Players repeats in the sky around Naoko. The title of Watanabe’s painting refers to ancient Egyptian mathematician Ptolemy and his geocentric model of the universe, meaning that the planets orbited around the earth. The footballers here orbit around Naoko, as she holds up her index finger in a hand gesture often seen in Byzantine images of Christ, signifying that he is about to speak. The angel from Rousseau’s 1905 painting Liberty Inviting Artists floats high above and blasts a spray of golden stars into the night sky.

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