Neapolitan Meringue by Wayne Thiebaud

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Neapolitan Meringue 1

Art work identification

Title: Neapolitan meringue, 1986/1999, USA

Author: Wayne Thiebaud, 1920-

Technique: Pastel over litograph

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Theme: Descriptive figuration

Art work description

  • Undefined space
  • Object is presented with circle, vertical line, and 4 lines with 45° degrees angle.
  • Light coming from left and under, making long shadow.
  • Depicted object is food.
  • Stil life
  • Everyday life object (figuration)
  • Reduced color palette, dominated shades of white, object depicted with light colors except of shadow wich is purple
  • Texture exist. One can see ripples on the cake, but, because of structure of pastel, the surface of painting is unified.
  • Perspective is central, moved down (impossible in real life), like as whole cake is on odd way tilted (from above to down). This kind of perspective is characteristic to Thiebaud.
  • Because of that three dimension not exist
  • Contours marked from the very object color.
  • Background is green-blue from side to side of painting, without any details of context


Wayne Thiebaud endows his subjects with a sense of joy and eloquence. He created Neapolitan Meringue in 1999. as a pastel drawing over a lithograph from 1986. He has obliterated the lithographic lines under a dense layer of powdery pastel to transform a familiar composition into a sumptuous treat that simultaneously glows and reflects light.

Modest in any way, Thiebaud rarely speak about his art, but perhaps this word of him is the best description of this piece:

A conscious decision to eliminate certain details and include selective bits of personal experiences or perceptual nuances, gives the painting more of a multi-dimension than when it is done directly as a visual recording. This results in a kind of abstraction… and thus avoids the pitfalls of mere decoration.

And more:

Common objects become strangely uncommon when removed from their context and ordinary ways of being seen.

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