I recently viewed a painting of a sixteenth or seventeenth century artist detailing a scene of a wedding party. It was painted by an Italian artist whose name I cannot remember, nor is it important.
After a short period of glancing at the painting and saying to myself, “That’s a nice picture,” I decided to really spend time studying the entire painting and all its detail. I tried to imagine what the thoughts of the people in the painting might have been and what they might have been saying to themselves or others who were also in the painting.
I first looked at Sophia, the mother of the bride, who wore a brocaded, yellow-beaded dress with a long, white necklace. She was not smiling in the picture and seemed to be saying (in my mind, anyway), “I really am not thrilled about my daughter Lilann marrying Leonardo. My husband, Tonne, agrees with me that, at age sixteen, Lilann is too young to be married to that man, not because of his potential wealth, his handsome looks, and his personality, but because he is twenty-six years old and already a man of the world. That, along with his family, is part of the reason for our displeasure.”
I then looked at the faces of Leonardo’s family. His mother Maria, father Antonio, and sister Orna were all dressed as if they were going to a funeral. A dark blue, double-breasted, striped business suit for Antonio with a red carnation in his suit buttonhole and his white shirt was sticking out somewhat from his obese belly. Maria was wearing one of her grandmother’s lace heirlooms. Unfortunately, moth holes appeared at the bottom of her dress, which was the color of a dark purple that had been left out in the sun too long.
As for Orna, she had come dressed in her Sunday best: an outfit any nun would appreciate. It was a dark black skirt with a white blouse and an even darker jacket that was about two sizes too small for her. It had an insignia of a horse embroidered on it.
The mother looked to be around forty-five years old, and her protruding stomach indicated that she was either fat or with child. But it was the eyes of these three that bothered me as I looked at them. They were shifty and cold looking—the kind of eyes that say, “I am tough, so don’t cross me in any manner, shape, or form.”
Looking back at the bride’s parents, I noticed them viewing Leonardo’s friends with disgust, for they all appeared to be rather drunk and noisy. The guests were enjoying the hospitality of Leonardo’s parents, who had supplied the wedding party with a great deal of their own homemade fermented whiskey.
Then I glanced to the side of the painting and saw a trio of people who I guessed was the bride’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. They were seated at the corner table and the sister was smiling and probably saying to herself, “Good for you, girl. You are so lucky to be getting out of our parents’ house. Mom didn’t like my husband, Alfredo, either, but now that I have a child, they are thrilled for the three of us and have stopped complaining about the amount of liras that my wedding cost.”
Leonardo’s drinking buddies, the ones whom the bride’s mother did not think too much of, were a group of young men enjoying themselves and wishing Leonardo many good wishes and many good children. They declared that they would gift the newlyweds with many liras.
In front of this crowd were the musicians, a mixed lot, who looked like they had recently come together to perform at this wedding as they each wore a variety of clothing. All were in short pants and puffed white shirts, none alike or matching another’s, so that they looked like a musical polka band, but they were smiling and focused on the bride.
The bride, Lilann, looked exactly as she should have: smiling, bright-eyed, alert, radiant, and above all very happy. She wore a dazzling white wedding gown with subdued sparkles and it had a high neck with a long white train. She, of course, was in the center of the picture and was probably saying to herself, “Ah, Leonardo, my husband, my hero… soon I will bear you many children and attend to all your needs for the rest of our lives, and we will always be together and in love.”
Leonardo was standing beside her in his wedding outfit and smiling, for he evidently was happy as he had captured a fine rosebud for his wife, one who would bear him many children. And his father had promised him that one day after his marriage to Lilann, he, Antonio, would turn over his metal shop business to Leonardo and retire completely. It was a double blessing for Leonardo.
The next time you look at a painting at an art gallery or at someone’s home, try to imagine what all the people in the picture might be thinking or saying to themselves about every object and all the others in the painting.