A Night Scene With An Old Lady Holding A Basket And A Candle, A Young Boy At Her Side About To Light His Candle From Hers – A mouthful (also is that the title of the painting) the Mauritshuis says its An Old Woman and Boy with Candle… either way, either name, its a painting by Peter Paul Rubens. I’m hardly ever taken by the work of Rubens, they seem to have too much clarity in them… tech has ruined me. But in the Mauritshuis museum in the Hague is where my favourite Rubens resides.
This is a spectacular lesson in lighting. It depicts an old lady with a young lad, I want to think they are grandmama and grandson, he is reaching to light his candle from hers as she shields the light from going out. Lighting is the focal point of this panting and in many ways the most important. The background and the clothes are muted, light emanates from a single candle and is mirrored in their faces which is a reflection of the entire story; they see each other in each other. In her, he sees (he may not be looking but we are) his later years and in him she sees her yesteryears. They almost share the same smirk but you can sense a gentle chiding from her as he leans in with the impatience of youth, to light his candle and wander off possibly, but there is also an endearment from her towards him and in that respect their relationship is quite fond. In such a dark painting Rubens manages to show both subjects with such clarity, the weathered lines on her face, the chubby rounds of his face, old hands; graceful and slight against his young firm grip. Age and grace against youth and vibrancy; the future looking at the past, the present looking into the future. And if we are being entirely philosophical about it, passing on light and hope to those coming behind us because we need all the hope and light we can have and then some right now. Life is to be lived. When is a painting never philosophical eh?
The Mauritshuis in the Hague is temporarily closed because of the pandemic, but when it opens it is a train ride from Amsterdam and if the Girl is not on tour, if memory serves, they hang out in the same room. Go see it, and have your fill of both, the Old Lady might not have the same shine as the girl does, when compared, but it’s worth a few moments of your time if only to study a master stroke in lighting.