At just 10 object deep, Wistful Beauties is far from blockbuster in scale. However, the intimate exhibition allows for a pensive contemplation of female beauty through some gems of the MFA Houston collection.

Wistful Beauties is a focused presentation celebrating and encircling Alfred Stevens’s rare and beautifully finished 1865 portrait drawing of Mademoiselle de Clermont-Tonnerre. This delightful example of the artist’s work demonstrates his keen interest in the subject of women from his era, mirroring the social milieu of late 19th-century Paris. Stevens portrays the young woman lost in reflection, languishing in an armchair within an exotic domestic interior. The room’s décor refers to the late-19th-century Parisian fashion of Japonisme, as Japan began to openly trade with Europe after more than 200 years of isolationism.

The drawings span from 1860 to 1920 and will remain on view through July 4, 2011.

More wistful beauty after the jump.

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