Carl Bloch - In a Roman Osteria

by Alexandra Tuschka


Three people sit at a table and make eye contact with the viewer. It seems as if the latter is interrupting a lunch or dinner to which a man and two women have gathered. However, they show completely different reactions to his presence. The man with the hat on the right is skeptical. His eyebrows have drawn together; apparently the intrusion of the observer disturbs him. He has a fork pressed down on the table almost belligerently, and a knife also protrudes from his trouser pocket. One hardly dares to take a step closer.

In contrast to him, the two ladies flirt all the more invitingly. The left woman opens her mouth with relish, but the knife and fork are empty and can be interpreted as a phallic symbol. The woman on the right playfully sips her wine glass and gives us an intense look. A cat sits next to them on the bench and stares just as insistently at the viewer. In the background, three fine gentlemen can be seen having an animated conversation.What a drastic juxtaposition!

What is actually happening here? The theme of the picture could not be clearly deciphered so far. But what is difficult to describe, is at least open to all kinds of interpretations.


Carl Bloch - In a Roman Osteria

Oil on canvas, 1866, 148.5 x 177.5 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen