The secret of the painting “Changed with his wife” Masseys
“Changed with my wife” – a picture of Quentin Masseys with a moralizing religious connotation, contains the most important and popular attribute in the painting of Flanders and the Netherlands – a mirror. In this picture, this subject reflected not only the worldview of the heroes, but also the history of an entire era.
The Flemish artist Quentin Masseys is known for genre scenes with moralizing content, with a satirical and religious accent. He is considered the founder of the Antwerp School of Painting, which became the leading school of painting in Flanders in the 16th century. Massey introduced new artistic techniques and motifs, as well as moral subjects. Like most Flemish artists of the time, he paid great attention to jewelry, clothing fringing and jewelry in general. Of particular admiration for the artist’s masterful embodiment of various textures, including on the “Changed with My Wife” paintings: glass vessels, a metal tray, shiny coins, a pronounced mirror, patterned pages of a prayer book, folds on fabrics – to paint all this clearly gives Massey a real pleasure. The works of Massey, who was greatly influenced by Dutch masters of the 15th century, are filled with peace and admiration for the objective world.
Who is that changing?
“Changed with his wife” (1514) – one of the early works of the master and his first genre picture. On the original frame of the picture there is an inscription: “Let the scales be faithful and the weight accurate.”
From the name of the picture, the profession of a man and his occupation in the picture become clear. Has changed the period of the Middle Ages – this is a person who exchanges coins of one state for coins of another country. The profession was quite popular at the time, given that Antwerp became a wealthy, wealthy city with growing international trade. Portuguese and Spanish merchants and influential Italian bankers developed their trade relations with Antwerp, turning the busy city into the economic capital of Europe. One consequence of the presence of merchants from all over Europe using various currencies was the growth of exchange points. Therefore, the demand for exchangers has also been actively increasing.
Husband and wife
The picture shows a husband and wife weighing scales with coins. The status of the heroes is confirmed by rings on the fingers. The robe is quite simple: the husband and wife are not poor, but not too wealthy. It is quite possible that these are middle-class Antwerp burghers.
On a green tablecloth is a pile of coins. The man is completely busy with his business, while his wife is busy with spiritual pastime.
The money changer’s wife sits on her husband’s left hand and reads a prayer book (watch book) in elegant leather binding. The full-page image of the Mother of God with the Baby Christ proves the religious theme of the book. A woman is completely immersed in her reading and even with a quick look at the scales, her thin fingers continue to hold the page in the air, and the body is completely devoted to the book (even when looking at the scales, her body has maintained its position – this indicates that she is fully occupied his reading).
Material and spiritual
The contrast is traced in the picture: a man is occupied with material monetary affairs, and a woman is engaged in spirituality. Concern for increasing the money changer’s income is opposed to the desire for religious contemplation of his wife. The picture is partly reminiscent of “The Woman Holding the Scales,” which Jan Vermeer painted almost 150 years after Massey’s colleague. The main idea of the artist Vermeer lies in the fact that the scales, like the Last Judgment, awaiting in the end everyone, weigh the good and sinful actions of man. Quentin Massey’s thought is identical with his money changer: the man weighs (evaluates) his life and actions, and his wife reminds him of the spiritual world.
Symbolism of the painting
The scales in both paintings are an allegory of weighing their actions, a metaphor for the choice between good and evil. Glass utensils in the interior (a jug behind the backs of the heroes and a vessel on the table) recalls the mortality of life and its transience. Glass is as fragile as human life. An extinguished candle and fruit on a shelf are symbols of imminent death and the futility of being. A carafe of water and a rosary hanging from a shelf symbolize the purity of faith.
If the money changer’s gaze is fixed on the scales, then his wife’s gaze says more: it’s an extinct glance of a man who is tired of troubles and difficulties and looking for joy and hope in religion (that which is reflected in the mirror). The mirror has two meanings: on the one hand, it is a symbol of the vanity of a man’s occupation, and on the other, the mirror reflects the ideal that the heroes strive for, and especially the woman. Church steeple, calm and peaceful pastime, reading a prayer book and no vital life difficulties. A traditional feature of the society of the Middle Ages: to hope and hope for life after death, for religious peace. And only the subsequent Renaissance played the role of a trigger, after which people freed themselves from orthodox fetters and began to live their real lives.