Magdalen With The Smoking Flame Analysis Essay

This work of art was done by Georges De La Tour and is titled The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame. It was done in the year 1640, using oil paint on canvas. La Tour did this painting in France. It is currently located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but is not currently being displayed to the public.

are of a large variety. On the right side of the painting a lot of the objects are horizontal. The woman though is sitting up vertically, along with the flame. There are a few diagonal lines also, for example; the position of the woman’s head, one of her legs, and her arm resting on the skull.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Everything in this painting is realistic and the shapes are organic. The texture in this painting is two-dimensional. Almost all of the objects seem to be smooth, for example; the books, the wall, the table, the woman’s skin and dress, and so on. Warm colors are used in this painting. The value in this shows the lightest point being the center and from that going outward, it gets darker.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The contrast in this painting is used to draw one’s attention to the center of the photo, where the light is illuminating the objects around it. The type of balance in this painting is radial, since the candle light radiates outward from the center in a circular fashion. The emphasis of the candle light makes it unavoidable to the viewer. Also, the woman’s deep gaze into the light draws attention to it as well. The space around the focal point allows the viewer to focus only on that, because it is plain with no distractions.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Some objects in the painting are a pregnant woman, a burning candle, a skull, and a cross lying on the table under some books. The way the woman’s head is rested on her hand and she is staring into the candle light, shows that she is in deep thought. I believe that the woman is reflecting upon her life.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">She looks to be pregnant, which represents life. The unity of the objects in the painting all holds a meaning. The cross is representing her religion and faith, and one could assume that one of those books is the Bible which also represents that. The skull in this painting holds importance, especially because the woman has her hand placed on it, which shows that death could be in her thoughts. It could be assumed that the woman is contemplating suicide.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">I enjoy this work of art. I feel that all parts of the work are interrelated perfectly with each other, for example; the woman being in deep thought and the dim candle light which symbolize peace and a tranquil mood. The idea communicated in this painting is contemplation over life and death. I think that everything in this picture is a symbol for how her life has been up until this point in time, and she is contemplating whether her life is worthy or not. I am moved by this piece because it has a very deep and realistic meaning.</p>

The piece that I have chosen for this week is The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by Georges de La Tour. This painting was completed in France between the years 1638 and 1640.

Although La Tour spent most of his life in the Duchy of Lorraine, his works could be said to have been influenced by the Council of Trent’s decisions. One of the goals of the Council of Trent was to enforce the use of art to teach religious stories and virtues. La Tour is best known for his genre paintings depicting Bible scenes and characters. He also used a great deal of Tenebrism and his pieces were amazingly lifelike.

The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, one of La Tour’s nocturnes, is an excellent example of all these points. Magdelene, a character from the Bible, sits in solitude, gazing into a simple flame lamp. She seems to be contemplating something, but we the viewers may never know what.

I like this piece because of its use of light and the subject matter. As the light reflects off of her pale skin and modest possessions,  I have to wonder – why the skull? What are you thinking about, Magdelene? We can probably assume that one of the books on her desk is the Bible, but the title and content of the other book will never be known to us. This painting raises a great deal of questions in my mind, and that is why I am so attracted to it, I think.

Also, when I first saw this painting, I thought it looked familiar, and hark, a scene from my childhood…

"What's a fire, and why does it - what's the word - burn?"


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