…or a visit with the work of the old masters.
I tend, when viewing art at the National Gallery in DC, to spend a short time with the painting then take a picture of it and the title so that I can look it up again and spend more time with it when I get home. Like so:
The painting caught my eye. I studied it for its shapes; the spindle and the sharply pointed stick in counterpoint with the rounded barrel and bowl and pitcher, and for its colour; dun but for the glow of the little girl’s face, plate of food, and the wine glass. The expressions intrigued me and I chose to spend a little longer than usual in front of this painting, trying to figure out the story. There are three sitting around the barrel with one plate of food with only a few bites taken. Other than the boy who looks engaged but slightly skeptical, the other characters seem to be focused inside their own heads; the man as he tells his story, watching it in his mind’s eye as it evolves, the girl left to watch the fire lost in her own thoughts, and the mother, what? Disgusted by having her day interrupted? Why else would she be sitting socializing with the spindle under her arm? Or was she taken by surprise by the bearer of some news which provoked a gentle sadness. Why else would the visitor still be wearing his coat and holding his hat – he has to move along to share the news with others, and that’s why he only had that bit of biscuit; he has already been to two houses and had cake and tart and has a few more houses to go. Why is the boy hanging onto the wine? Is he surmising that the fellow has already had more than his share? The glass looks pretty rich compared to the wooden bowl in the old man’s lap. And what is with that sharp stick betwixt his legs? Is that a spindle too? Is he a spindle salesman? Why did the painter place it there for heaven’s sake? And would they bring out their best wine and glassware for a traveling salesman? I googled Louis le Nain and saw that this arrangement is typical of many of his paintings (the placement of the figures, not the stick): a group of peasants posed around a central table or, in one case, an anvil. Perhaps he had to feed the old fellow wine to get him to pose for him and the wine loosened his lip and he became maudlin and started telling tales which the little fellow found a tad exaggerated. And the mother, just waiting for it to be over so she could get back to her spinning. Perhaps it was trendy in the mid 1600s to own a painting of a bunch of unhappy peasants and it is like a few of those poems we used to analyze in college; trying to find meaning in them when the author just liked the sound of the words strung together. . .but now I am just showing my ignorance.
When I got home from the gallery and looked at my pictures I realized that a huge proportion of them were titled “Still Life with….something or another” Must have been getting hungry:
Wish I could paint like that but it would be hard to paint a still life in this house without having a cat or two in it. Perhaps that’s what happened here:
Looks like the cat is a little uncomfortable. Perhaps thinking “Don’t look at me, I’m not responsible for their behaviour” or perhaps he too is just posing.
Click on any picture for a larger view.