Interpretation 1: Degas’ Interior

Degas_Intérieur_Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art_1986-26-10

How do we make sense of the world? How do we interpret things? What makes us think in a certain way and not the other way? I love this painting because of its ambiguity. The neutral title of this painting is Interior. Yet, this painting is also called The Rape…which is quite extreme I think. But that’s how interpretation is at work here. Of course we can always learn more about the painting, its context when it was painted, the background of the painter, etc. However, if we just see it for the very first time…what do you see? A man and a woman…in a compromising situation maybe? A couple arguing? Great mise-en-scene though (to borrow the term from the movie making practice). Look how Degas positioned the man and the woman: the man standing with his hands inside his pockets; the woman – in a lower position crouching on the floor, their facial expression, the distance, etc. Although this painting seems to promise us a great deal of story…yet, we must admit that it also provides us with very little details…hence we must fill in the blanks ourselves…:-).

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