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IIIF Actions
Peter de Francia, 1921–2012
Vespa Couple
ca. 1963
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
Overall: 48 × 72 inches (121.9 × 182.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Alix de Francia
Copyright Status:
© Estate of the Artist
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
abstract art | couple | genre subject | leisure | lovers | man | reclining | scooter | trunk | woman
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

As an ardent Socialist, Peter de Francia regarded painting as a form of political activism. Although best known for his striking depictions of contemporary events, such as the Bombing of Sakiet (1959)—in which sixty-eight Tunisian civilians died at the hands of French forces in an act of colonial repression, he also captured more subtly politicized subjects like this one. In Vespa Couple, a pair of young lovers bask in the Mediterranean sun with their shiny Vespa moped propped up beside them. However, the work hints at a socioeconomic reality that threatens their reverie. The sneakers worn by the man are a product of post-Second World War consumerism, in which brands like Adidas became market leaders while local economies all but collapsed. The bag of apples tied to a post indicate that the man might be a hired agricultural laborer, perhaps one of the thousands of migrant workers who flocked to the South of France from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria after liberation from French rule. The woman’s open gait and garish makeup suggest she might be a prostitute. The painting invites contemplation of this loving repose without forgetting the material conditions of the couple’s survival.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2020

Photographs | Contemporary Art: Recent Gifts and Acquisitions (Yale Center for British Art, 2019-06-20 - 2019-09-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

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