August 1, 2014


        A while ago I saw this wood block print by Dutch artist Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita in an exhibition at the mfa, and it seems appropriate today.  I’ve had plenty of housework to do recently, including getting down on my hands and knees and washing the kitchen floor this morning.  Here are some of the things I find especially interesting and appealing about this piece from 1898:
     - much of the image is very simply white outlines on black, and yet such skillful outlines, especially the folds and wrinkles that depict the fabric of the woman’s dress
     - the contrast between those plain, simple outlines and the detailed texture of the wood floor
     - the dots on the dress have a nice sparkle, too
     - that dress!  Can you imagine having to get down on your knees and work in such voluminous skirts?
     - I love how the wet portion of the floor is darkened so simply and effectively by not carving out the woodgrain pattern there
     - with her face turned down the woman is anonymous, as if perhaps she’s just part of the faceless machinery of the bar or restaurant where she works, yet at the same time her anonymity makes her universal: she’s every woman who’s ever had to scrub a floor
        I don’t think I’m ever likely to enjoy house-cleaning, but the magic of art is that it can bring beauty to this, too. 

[Picture: Schoonmaak, Dienstbode (Cleaning, Maidservant), wood block print by Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, 1898 (Image from the Museum of Fine Arts).]

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