El Jaleo, 1880, John Singer Sargent

'El Jaleo is about ecstasy. It celebrates the Dionysiac urge, a visceral joy in movement and music. If you added up all the nudes painted by American artists before this, they wouldn't amount to a tenth of El Jaleo's erotic charge. The title means the rush of spontaneous clapping, finger-snapping, and oles that flamenceros break into to encourage the single dancer. Her figure dominates the painting: leaning back in abandon, the chaotic silver mass of her skirt disciplined above by the precise right angle of her arms, the left hand stabbing out like a snake’s head, the foot stamping imperiously. One the left a group of three men in black, two hunched over their guitars, the third rasping out the syllables of the cante jondo with his eyes closed and head thrown back, his open mouth a brilliantly Goyesque sight…’