LA TOUR, Georges de
(b. 1593, Vic-sur-Seille, d. 1652, Luneville)

Job Mocked by his Wife

Oil on canvas, 145 x 97 cm
Musée Départemental des Vosges, Épinal

There was a change in La Tour's style from the morbidity and mystery of such pictures as the penitent Magdalen contemplating a skull and a monk watching over his dead or dying companion, to works of a much calmer and more distilled air. The transitional pictures, also datable to the 1630s, are Job Mocked by his Wife at Épinal and the so-called 'Woman with the Flea' at Nancy.

The composition of the Job is immediately striking. There is the same flickering movement that is found in the Payment of Dues, even though there are only two figures. It is derived from Bellange's etching of The Annunciation. an unexpected source, especially when it is considered that The Annunciation by Caravaggio was already in the ducal collection at Nancy by 1616 (this much-damaged picture is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts at Nancy where it is accepted by most authorities as authentic). No influence on La Tour is discernible in the Caravaggio, although it is virtually certain that he knew it.

The subject is a rare one, and La Tour has introduced a special pathos into Job's sufferings.

Although its composition is a complex amalgam of the Bellange Annunciation, the mood of the Job is entirely original. La Tour has concentrated on a dialogue between the unfortunate Job and his ill-tempered wife, and has allowed us a glimpse of a rarely painted subject, a husband tormented by his wife. Her cruel mockery of him comes over with great force as Job sits helplessly contemplating his sores (the potsherd he uses to scrape them is on the ground). The spectator is forced to realize that this painter's genius lies chiefly in his ability to observe the human condition; his skill in painting candlelight is only part of the brilliance. Such a depiction of the complex relationship between two people is rare indeed in French art of the period, and in his maturity La Tour was to develop the concept of dialogue between people to ever-increasing heights of subtlety.