I love asparagus and I love still life paintings—put the two together and I am over the moon! I also adore the paintings of the French artist Edouard Manet (1832-83), so you can only imagine my delight when I saw his Asparagus Still Life while visiting the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany.
Edouard Manet, A Bunch of Asparagus (1880), oil on canvas. Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.
Manet’s asparagus are not the skinny specimens that fill the grocery store shelves during the off-season, but are big and beefy and seem ready to burst from their bindings. The painting is intimate and close to life size, so it draws the viewer in to revel in the purples, greens, mauves, and whites that enliven the stalks. Manet’s prowess with color is on display here in the asparagus, the greens that provide a ground, and the white table that is the base.
Edouard Manet, Asparagus (1880), oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Manet also painted a still life that pictured only one asparagus. I always visit this painting at the Musée d’Orsay when I’m in Paris and never knew that the two paintings were related. Apparently when Manet sold A Bunch of Asparagus, his client sent him 1000 francs instead of the asking price of 800 francs. Rather than return the 200 francs, Manet sent him the Orsay painting of the single stalk with the note: “There was one missing from your bunch.”
Last year I had the pleasure of being in Paris in June and was able to shop the local market for my own bunches of asparagus. Here is my Still Life with Asparagus. I couldn’t resist adding a few other treasures from the market.
Veronese, The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The Italian artist Veronese painted the spectacular Wedding Feast at Cana in 1563. This massive work—measuring over 22 feet high and 32 feet long—hangs in one of the busiest galleries of the Louvre in Paris, yet despite it’s size and magnificence, it is often missed and/or ignored. More than 6 million visitors each year turn their backs to Veronese’s masterpiece as they jostle for position and gaze through the bulletproof glass and take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Michaux
Here is my version of the Mona Lisa Selfie—you can see all the other cameras raised in the air and have to wonder at the quality of those photos! I especially love that the “Do Not Touch” signs on either side of the painting are almost as big as it is!
By contrast, here is the crowd in front of the Wedding Feast at Cana. You can even see one photographer on the right focusing on the Mona Lisa located on the opposite wall.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Michaux
It is sad to think that all these people crowded in front of the Mona Lisa missed The Wedding Feast, a fabulous work that contains 130 people as well as several dogs, a parakeet, and even a playful cat. Veronese crossed the time continuum and we see Jesus, his Mother Mary, and a couple of apostles dressed in traditional biblical garb in the center of the work, while the rest of the guests at this fabulous feast are decked head to toe in contemporary 16th century Venetian fashion.