Still Life Anonymous


P4045622 (FILEminimizer)

This anonymous XVII century still life can be seen in the Louvre collection of French paintings, right before Georges de La Tour. At first the picture passes for a familiar allegorical representation of our five senses: sight — book, hearing — lute, touch — cards, smell — flowers, taste — bread; but on second thought, you see that the economy of such interpretation is disturbed by the multitude of objects echoing each other’s meaning: imagine that one of us leafs through the book while playing music; he picks the strings, while the other shuffles the deck, the third counts out the money; two more people are moving thoughtfully chess pieces, then all share food and drink and all the earthly pleasures represented by the three carnations. Then again, you catch yourself thinking that we should smell and examine our wine before drinking it; and obviously water is the opposite of wine; so, you begin to suspect that a certain hierarchy of meaning governs the objects. Notice the pearl earring on the table and the dead mirror on the wall — a woman is involved! The absence of reflection suggests blindness, or some kind of a blind spot. How to see this deck of cards — the game of fortune, or its reading? Perhaps the Jack of clubs will loose his money in some affair that concerns his heart?

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2 Responses to Still Life Anonymous

  1. James Rickabaugh says:

    That bread is untouched, the wine glass is full and it seems to me that that earring has been floating around there for a while. Gambling? No. This is a bachelor pad. There is a gorgeous woman in the bed just out of this frame. She keeps coming back. The earring was left some time in the past. Was it left on purpose? Not as an excuse to come back. No, she is too elegant for that. It is partly a claim on the room, and a thumb tack on the heart of this not so young man who is just as content nibbling on the earlobe of the brunette with porcelain skin as he is nibbling on that loaf of bread. The fact that the wine is on the table just shows that he is classy enough not to pour it into her belly button or play any other such silly game with his food. He takes his alimentation seriously. The cards? Anyone who plays a lute cannot be a serious card player. A harpsichordist perhaps, but never a lutist.

    • Thank you Jimmy! I will add some more still-life material for you to interpret. I have been teaching etc and consequently far more active on Pinterest, because there the range of subjects is wider and you don’t have to write as much — am I getting getting old or lazy? Wait, what did Fitzgerald say, “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

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