A few weeks ago I took a friend of mine from Madrid to a local museum: Boijmans Van Beuningen. One of my favourite paintings there is one that depicts a glass of beer, bread, a lemon and a fish. We were close to it when all of a sudden a little troupe of kids came into the same room we were in. I sat down to listen to the guided tour they were getting. They stopped in front of a still life of shells and a single butterfly. While the child minders were telling the kids to hold their hands behind their backs the guide started telling a little story about the butterfly called "Flierefluiter", how she was flying down to one of the shells which she had made her home. The reason she liked to live in the shell was because in it she could hear the sea. Then the guide handed around a couple of beautiful big shells for the children to put to their ears to hear the waves of the sea.
What I liked about the explanation of the painting is that it was adapted to make a 6 year old interested in it. I would not have interpreted the painting like that, so this was a completely new angle for me, and that was enlightning.
A few minutes later we stood in front of the painting I was looking for. But this wasn't it. I wasn't sure if my memory or my imagination was kidding me, but in this painting I saw a broken glass (and not the glass of beer). I'm convinced my favourite painting was in storage or on the road at the time. However seeing this particular painting had an impact. I realised that the broken glass in itself was fascinating. It represented the fact that still life painting broke from the tradition of religious and romantic images of icons, landscapes and important people. To me it represented the idea that experience is subjective and context driven. And that everyday things can be wonderful too.
PS, one of the English translations of "flierefluiter" is "carefree"