A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers.
A vase overflowing with a bouquet of summer flowers dominates this composition. A pitcher of water stands beside a pair of gloves on the table. A woman leans on her elbow and brings her hand to her jaw. She fixes her gaze on something outside the picture frame.
The viewer has a dynamic experience when looking at this painting. At first, the abundant flowers are arresting, but once one's focus moves to the woman it is hard to turn back to the flowers.
Is this a portrait that marginalizes its human subject? Is it a genre painting with hints at a narrative? Is it a still life? Degas' painting provokes these and other intriguing questions. By placing the woman at the margin, Degas challenges the category of portraiture, which typically directs the viewer toward the sitter. By stretching the boundaries of portraiture, introducing an element of still life and a suggestion of narrative, Degas creates a painting open to a variety of interpretations.
Ask your students to write a story describing the woman in the painting. Who is she? What is she feeling and thinking? What happened before she sat down? What will happen next?
Carolyn Halpin-Healy, independent museum educator on the teaching staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||GalleryCard: Interpretation; Edgar Degas|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Saint Roch, early 16th century, France, Normandy (Manche), said to have come from the cathedral at Cherbourg.|
|Next Article:||The scientific method and art criticism.|