Sunday, September 06, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #4 - Broken Eggs

Broken Eggs, 1756, Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725–1805), Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 37 in. (73 x 94 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love Greuze! What a genre painter he was! His paintings were didactic and moralizing - with plenty of drama. Greuze was accepted into the Academy and painted this piece, Broken Eggs, while studying in the French Royal Academy in Rome. He wanted to achieve the status of history painter, but it was not to be - during his career he never broke free of genre painter. This really upset him! Because he could not achieve the higher level with the Academy, he refused to exhibit his work at the Salons for over thirty years! Take that!

Let's get to the drama.....the scene is set inside a lower class home, there is little furniture and the walls and floor are unpainted and cracked. A young girl is in the foreground, and she looks forlorn. The basket next to her is filled with eggs, but a few have spilled out of the basket and one is broken on the floor. She has just returned from trying to sell her eggs. The young man behind her also appears to have just entered the house from the street and he is removing his hat.

The old woman is not happy. She is grasping the young man's hand and pointing to the broken egg as though he is to blame, but he has a bewildered look on his face. The young boy tries to reassemble the egg in a fruitless gesture. The scene is about much more than the actual broken egg - the broken egg was also symbolic for a young girl's lost virtue. The older woman demands that the young man be accountable, but it's unclear how the scene will resolve itself. Greuze has captured a moment of drama and the viewer is given the opportunity to be the judge of the situation (and perhaps use the scene as a moralizing tale for young people in their own households!).

Self-Portrait, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1780s, Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

1 comment:

christiana apau said...

Hey Ms.Miller thanks. I'm writing a four page essay about it and this really helped.