Indoor scene, the game of art, circa 1820
Oil on canvas, 44 x 53 cm, with frame 63 x 72 cm.
Signed and located "Behaeghel, Paris", inscribed upside down on a note dropped on the ground below on the right of the painting.
Theophile Behaeghel is young in Paris; he attended the workshops of Jacques-Louis David, Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, Jean-Louis Demarne, Jean-Bernard Duvivier and more specifically Pierre Prévost. He is called to lead the Academy of Lectoure (Gers) in 1822. The painter is, among others, the portrait of Charles X and the German poet and theorist Friedrich von Schiller. It lends itself to the exercise of the self-portrait in some etchings.
The scene takes place in a bourgeois interior. The piece is arranged according to a sensitivity to beautiful objects. Furniture of the taste of the time and objects of art rub shoulders and harmonize the symmetrical composition: a sculpture (quote of the Apollo Belvedere) rests on the edge of the fireplace, a vase sits on a secretary, two paintings suspended in height flank the window. Attention to detail evokes the minutia of Dutch painting.
Two figures punctuate the whole. The first is sitting at his desk, the second is on a chair. The girl is working in watercolor, the boy, balancing on a chair, looking through a long view to the outside. She raises her head and looks at us, as if a parent or a servant had entered the room and diverted her from her job - as if the girl, painted on a blackboard, was becoming aware of her fictional nature. Spectator of the painting simulacrum, she observes the amateur spectator and invites her to enter the work.
The window structures the work and gives it its meaning: it is as much the sign of the separation between the interior space and the external space, as that of the opening towards a landscape inaccessible to the eye of the spectator. The boy is the interpreter of his eyes: turned to the outside, he offers us to see what we do not see. In the spirit of Friedrich's romanticism, the painter paints the window to construct the void that gives way to our imagination.
. Salon de Lille: Salon of 1822, No. 528, Interior of a village kitchen; Salon de 1825, No. 817, A hospital sister teaching children.
. Douai Salon: 1826, No. 18, The entry of César's baths at Cauterets, No. 19, An old man doing his cooking, effect of light collected in the Pyrenees.
. Bernard Palissy in his studio, n.d., Museum of Fine Arts, Agen.
. Portrait of a prosecutor, 1834, coll. p., Paris.
. Emmanuel Bénézit, Dictionary of painters, sculptors, draughtsmen and engravers, t. II, Gründ Bookstore, reissue. 1976, p. 579
. Paul Mesplé, "Behaeghel, lecturer painter? Bulletin of the Archaeological and Historical Society of the Gers, October 1964, p. 473
. The Founded Salons, Shards of the artistic life in Northern France, 1815-1848, II, cat. exp. city ??of lace and fashion, museum of fine arts, museum of Chartreuse, Calais, Dunkirk, Douai, 1993, p. 11