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The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame Analysis

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This work of art was done by Georges De La Tour and is titled The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame. It was done in the year 1640, using oil paint on canvas. La Tour did this painting in France. It is currently located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but is not currently being displayed to the public.

The lines in this work of art are of a large variety. On the right side of the painting a lot of the objects are horizontal. The woman though is sitting up vertically, along with the flame. There are a few diagonal lines also, for example; the position of the woman’s head, one of her legs, and her arm resting on the skull.

Everything in this painting is realistic and the shapes are organic. The texture in this painting is two-dimensional. Almost all of the objects seem to be smooth, for example; the books, the wall, the table, the woman’s skin and dress, and so on. Warm colors are used in this painting. The value in this shows the lightest point being the center and from that going outward, it gets darker.

The contrast in this painting is used to draw one’s attention to the center of the photo, where the light is illuminating the objects around it. The type of balance in this painting is radial, since the candle light radiates outward from the center in a circular fashion. The emphasis of the candle light makes it unavoidable to the viewer. Also, the woman’s deep gaze into the light draws attention to it as well. The space around the focal point allows the viewer to focus only on that, because it is plain with no distractions.

Some objects in the painting are a pregnant woman, a burning candle, a skull, and a cross lying on the table under some books. The way the woman’s head is rested on her hand and she is staring into the candle light, shows that she is in deep thought. I believe that the woman is reflecting upon her life.

She looks to be pregnant, which represents life. The unity of the objects in the painting all holds a meaning. The cross is representing her religion and faith, and one could assume that one of those books is the Bible which also represents that. The skull in this painting holds importance, especially because the woman has her hand placed on it, which shows that death could be in her thoughts. It could be assumed that the woman is contemplating suicide.

I enjoy this work of art. I feel that all parts of the work are interrelated perfectly with each other, for example; the woman being in deep thought and the dim candle light which symbolize peace and a tranquil mood. The idea communicated in this painting is contemplation over life and death. I think that everything in this picture is a symbol for how her life has been up until this point in time, and she is contemplating whether her life is worthy or not. I am moved by this piece because it has a very deep and realistic meaning.

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