Scene from 'The Devil upon Two Sticks', by Augustus Leopold Egg. 1844. Oil on canvas, 186.4 x 111.8 cm. Tate Britain. Accession number N00444. Presented by Robert Vernon 1847. Click on image to enlarge it.
The artist’s use of the large open window to illuminate the right two thirds of the painting allows him to avoid the conventional lighting taught at the Royal Academy schools, and the wine bottle and cloth on the floor in the right lower corner anticipates the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s filling in corners with carefully depicted details. Egg generously supported the young painters, several times providing William Holman Hunt financial assistance to complete his works for exhibition.
The 1851 Art-Journal, which reproduced this painting, explains that the artist has illustrated Le Sage's “clever satire on men and manners, entitled ‘Le Diable Boiteux’” — a work that contains “numerous scenes . . . full of nature, and demonstrative of every character and passion whereof man is susceptible, both grave and gay. Mr. Egg has selected one of the latter. Patricio, a citizen of Madrid, more generous than prudent, has treated two acquaintances to a costly breakfast.— Before they went out of the tavern, there was a necessity for paying the vintner, who mounted the bill to fifty reals. The citizen put his hand into his pocket, where finding but thirty reals, he was forced to pawn his beads, garnished with silver medals, for the rest. . . . There is a moral in the story which shows the wisdom of counting the costs of a pleasure before entering upon it. The picture, exhibited in 1844, is excellently painted, in a subdued tone yet with no deficiency of colour, and with great firmness and care” (216).
Details from the painting
- Food, glassware, and plates on the table
- Heads of the two young women
- Wine bottle and cloth on the floor lower right
- The Art Journal’s steel engraving of the painting
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Last modified 17 August 2021