Similarities Between the Twelfth-night Feast and the Le Perspective

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective, both of which are at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, possess different genres, are creations of different cultures, and they depict different scenes. However, beyond their differences, the two paintings are similar in that they both represent families doing everyday actions within their class group.

The Twelfth-Night Feast is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch artist Jan Havicksz. Steen. It is observed in early January towards the end of the Christmas season, at the beginning of Epiphany, commonly known as Three Kings’ Day, which celebrates the arrival of the three kings. In the painting Steen depicts a prosperous Dutch family celebrating the holiday through exquisite detail and expression.

One may assume that this piece is representative of a celebration through the expressive qualities of the characters’ or family members’ faces. On the floor we see two young children joyfully playing with candles, behind them sits a couple being teased by what appears to be a jester, dressed in a pointy cap, who is enthusiastically sticking his tongue out in a taunting mood and hovering a rod above the happy couple’s heads. Next to the Jester is another performer, a musician, who seems to be jauntily playing music for the family seated around the table, below him appears to be a couple joyously tossing their hands and laughing, while near by a maid looks as though she is giving a toddler a sip of alcohol from a chalice, and attending to the young boys close by, one of whom seems to be attempting to feed the toddler an already eaten waffle. Other iconographic evidence that suggests this scene is a celebration includes the overall disorder of the scene, such as the broken egg shells scattered along the floor, a pitcher of alcohol ready to be poured, ladles thrown on the ground, half eaten food, cleared serving dishes, and the most telling of all, glasses of ale and chalices of some sort of alcohol, probably wine. It is also apparent that the celebration is probably taking place in the evening, for lighting presented in the piece gives the sense of candle light/light from a form of fire such as a fire place, due to the soft hues, shadows, and dimness throughout the entire work. We also get a sense of evening and candle light from the candles set on the floor, and what appears to be firewood in the lower right corner, directing the eye to a light source, which dimly reflects off both the floor and white column, possibly suggesting a moveable light such as fire.

Le Perspective is also an oil canvas painting created by the French painter Antoine Watteau. This painting depicts the fête galante style, where ladies and gentlemen appear to converse, flirt, and create music in beautiful outdoor settings. In the distance of this painting appears to be Château de Montmorency, which is the home of Watteau’s friend and patron, Pierre Crozat. Watteau successfully illustrates a fantasy world evocative of the backdrop in theatre and graceful characters in elaborate old-fashioned garb.

Although this piece has no defining moment or central character, one may observe that it a peaceful setting in which wealthy couples promenade through a serene and tranquil garden. The element of wealth in expressed through the elegant and decorative costumes, the divine garden with towering trees and the colossal planters, but most importantly the private residence softly depicted in the background expresses wealth. Since it is clear that a patron of the arts owns the structure at the end of garden, it is suggested that those strolling through the garden are not merely strangers, but guests, invited to the summer villa to stay.

It is also clear within the painting that the couples are enjoying themselves during the lovely after noon, which is expressed through the gestures and actions of the characters. On the far left one observes an elegantly dressed man gesturing to his silken clad partner to explore the garden further, while beneath them another beautifully clothed couple enjoys the strumming of a guitar. Behind the couple enjoying the music, sits a woman conversing with a man who seems to be her husband and next to the woman sits what appears to be a young girl who looks over her shoulder distracted by the music. Across the field sits two more young girls, potentially daughters of the woman sitting behind the musician, who are enveloped in the act of picking flowers. Finally, further down the field, the viewer observes another couple and their dog casually strolling back to the house. Each of these elements suggests a state of tranquility and peacefulness.

Although The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective are contextually, culturally, and stylistically different, there are still some apparent similarities between the two works. For example, both works are of upper-class citizens partaking in some form of event. In the Twelfth-Night Feast one can observe forms of wealth through the employment of entertainment, the elegant garb such as the blue dress the young girl is wearing and the fur cuffs the woman behind her is sporting, as well as through the employment of servants and wait staff. Similarly, Le Perspective expresses symbols of wealth through elegant clothing, the large and pristine garden, and the beautiful summer villa in the background. Both paintings also express forms of enjoyment, one a celebration, whereas the other is a peaceful walk through a beautiful garden. Lastly, both paintings express elements of the culture and the stylistic choices of each culture. In The Twelfth-Night Feast, one observes Dutch culture through the clothing, the food, and the extravagant celebration. One also observes Dutch stylistic choices through the busy setting, the emphasis on light and tonality, as well as through the expressive faces and gestures. Whereas in Le Perspective, one observes French culture through the simple upper-class privilege of walking through a garden, and observes French stylistic choices through the large emphasis of a serene landscape and a de-emphasis of expression and gesture and more on proportion and anatomy.

Although The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective are vastly different in culture, genre, and scenery, there are still some apparent similarities between the two works and their compositions.

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