Wilhelm Amberg - The Maid (1862)
Gyzis Nikolaos - Pastry Man (1898)
Today's December Double is a nod to the ill-starred hired help. 'The Maid' by German painter Wilhelm Amberg and 'Pastry Man' by Greek painter Gyzis Nikolaos both depict service staff in a less than admirable light. In the former it appears our maid is helping herself to a beverage, probably unbeknownst to her employer, while the latter shows a waiter who has apparently mishandled a couple bottles of wine, for which he'll probably be reprimanded. I must admit, these both strike me as curious subjects to dedicate to canvas, and I ponder the artists' intentions for these works and the audiences they had in mind. Do these painting simply reinforce a viewpoint of service staff as being either untrustworthy or incompetent, or were they meant for us to sympathize with their subjects, encouraging the viewer to reflect on their hardships? Who knows.
That said, while the expression of our poor fellow in the Nikolaos painting is absolutely priceless, if I had to choose between these two works I would have to pick Amberg's 'Maid'. I really enjoy the painterly quality throughout this piece, and the floor tiles have a marvelous depth of field, adding dimension to the work as crisply detailed element recede into soft focus. Observing the cabinet, stairway, and floor tiles, Amberg's perspective is precise and mathematical, demonstrating a realistic sense of space and an orderly framework within which our subject should feel obliged to help herself to another round.