Still life with a bow and a drawing board by Vincent Van Gogh

Still life with a bow and a drawing board by Vincent Van Gogh

This cheerful still life was written shortly after Van Gogh left the hospital in Arles, where he entered after the first major psychomotor epileptic fit on December 25, 1888. The objects depicted have both allegorical and more personal significance.

The lighted candle that was used in the picture with Gauguin’s chair reflects the symbolic tradition of a still life and means light and life; its opposite, the extinct candle was used in the still-life “memento mori”, and Van Gogh included it in the still life with the books that he painted after his father’s death in 1885.

Despite this, an optimistic note sounded through the flame of a candle, which was underlined by bulbous bulbs taken from its yellow stool. On the other hand, Van Gogh added a pipe, tobacco and an empty bottle, possibly from absinthe, everything that threatens his health.

Modern studies have shown that absinthe itself can cause epileptic seizures. Van Gogh used this destructive drink in considerable quantities for a month in Arles, and many of his subsequent attacks coincide with the cases when he had access to it. The drawing board on which most of these objects are located indicates the resumption of Van Gogh’s work.

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