The guest work
2006-10-09 • 2007-01-28
Depicted in the painting is the interior of a shop which has been interpreted on occasions as a simple "warehouse of fabrics" or as an antique shop. In front of the counter, a young woman wearing a white mantilla absent-mindedly contemplates a lace fan which she is holding in her hands. At her side, a servant is holding a little boy in her arms and on the other side a gentleman seated on a footstool appears to be paying the owner. Other characters behind the counter appear to be browsing and one is reaching up to put a piece of cloth in a cupboard.
In the lists of Prince Luis de Borbón's family, from which the painting comes, it is known as La tienda de Geniani – Geniani's shop, where Geniani is, most probably, an Italian salesman of fashionable articles, like the many there were in Madrid at the time. It is without doubt one of Paret's masterpieces and has been widely recognised as such. It is brimming with liveliness, the spirit of observation of everyday life and the delicate charm which form part of the essence of his style.
When commenting on the canvas, Gaya Nuño emphasized that the subject matter "had to be especially beloved by Paret, who liked all that was lavish, beautiful and unusual, with a difference of spirit well above that of his peers." When commenting on the possible relationship between Watteau's famous canvas, L'Ensegne de Gerssaint, which was similar and to which Paret's painting had often been linked, María Luisa Caturla highlighted the subtle differences saying that, in her opinion, in Watteau's painting "there is a human intercommunication between the characters...there is an intensity in the interest they show in what they look at, what they see and what they show, which one may seek in vain in Paret's little picture, the theme of which is shopping of no significance, where the relationship between the characters goes no further than the mere curiosity of an observer and where soul plays no part". She also underlines that the French artist who is "a painter of dreams full of hope and nostalgia", is different from Paret inasmuch as the Spaniard "in his own way cheerful for the refinements of the epoch, is a realist with his feet set firmly on the ground and Spanish in this and in the modesty which distinguishes his work from the frivolous character of his French counterparts". However, Xavier de Salas believes that a "possibly picaresque feel" may be found in the painting, interpreting perhaps that the lady is being "entertained" by the gentleman who is paying.
All insist on something which appears to be evident: the extraordinary quality of the painting which is generally referred to as the artist's "masterpiece". The technical refinement with its precise, light brushwork achieves a lively sparkle which admirably highlights the different qualities of the fabrics and the exquisite quality of its silvery tone. In Gaya Nuño's opinion, "The painting in the Lazarus Museum has a rightful place in any ideal anthology of precious art".
Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez
Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799)
The Antique Store, 1772
Oil on wood. 50 x 58 cm