Showing 11 - 14 of 14 annotations contributed by Winkler, Mary
Summary:A man and a woman sit on a banquette in a restaurant or bar. Although there is no contact between them, the man turns from the woman, looking beyond to the right border of the painting. The woman stares dully before her, her arms slack at her sides. She does not even seem to notice the grass of absinthe that provides the title for the painting.
Rembrandt painted this interpretation of the story of David and Bathsheba in II Samuel: 11 in 1654. Although the Biblical narrative focuses on David and his relation to his people and his God, Rembrandt focuses on Bathsheba and her quandary. Rembrandt conflated two parts of the narrative to convey his message. Bathsheba is simultaneously completing her bath and contemplating David's summons--the summons that will lead to tragedy.
Many critics, particularly feminist critics, have commented on the role of the female nude in western art, noting that it is rare to find a representation of a nude woman that renders the woman as a whole person. Rembrandt's Bathsheba is beautiful and haunting--in part because she is a woman thinking. In The Nude, Kenneth Clark paid tribute to this work: "[Bathsheba] is one of those supreme works of art which cannot be forced into any classification . . . Rembrandt can give his Bathsheba an expression of reverie so complex that we follow her thoughts far beyond the moment depicted: and yet these thoughts are indissolubly part of her body, which speaks to us in its own language as truthfully as Chaucer or Burns" (p. 342).
Summary:In a dark, stone enclosure numerous figures of indeterminate age and gender huddle in shadow while others crawl or writhe toward the murky foreground light. The visual center of the painting is the fierce struggle of two naked men whose grappling is made more agitated by the flailing whip of a dark, fully-clothed figure. Opening above the pen-like enclosure and the tormented figures is broad, white space, glowing with intense light--a shocking contrast to the darkness of this 18th century "snake pit." (See film annotation of The Snake Pit.)
Goya has painted his own portrait as he was during an illness in his old age. The ailing artist sits upright in an olive-green dressing gown; his face is pale and is hands clutch at the sheet against which the carmine blanket glows as the most vivid color element in the painting. He is surrounded and supported by his physician who offers him medicine in a clear glass. The background is both dark and dense, revealing two shadowy figures behind Dr. Arrieta's elbow.
An inscription runs along the bottom border of the canvas, forming a kind of ledge or barrier. It reads in translation: "Goya thankful, to his friend Arrieta: for the skill and care with which he saved his life during his short and dangerous illness, endured at the end of 1819, at seventy-three years of age. He painted it in 1820."