The Red Carpet
Oil on canvas
100 x 66 cm
Received through the Jewish Agency, New York
JRSO Number: 21002/2
Accession number: B50.11.0016
In his works of the 1880s, Lesser Ury frequently portrayed women sewing, an activity familiar to him since childhood. He was barely eleven years old when his father died in Birnbaum, in Posen (formerly in Prussia, now Poznan, in Poland), and his mother was obliged to move to Berlin, the capital, with Lesser and his two brothers. Opening a small linen shop there, her earnings were sufficient to provide her sons with an education. Lesser Ury was thus raised in a domestic setting in which sewing was a daily labor. This biographical fact may explain why he returned again and again to the subject of seamstresses—a classic theme of genre painting at the time—in the first decade of his artistic activity.
In The Red Carpet, a young woman sits on a bench with her back to the viewer, taking advantage of the sunlight coming through the window to light her sewing. The fabric falls in long streams from her lap, making a pile on the carpet. The composition derives its life from the color contrasts. The light illuminates the red of the carpet and accentuates the silhouette of the woman in her dark dress.
The composition of The Red Carpet places it with a group of interiors that Lesser Ury painted at the end of the 1880s and in the 1890s. All these works share a narrow pictorial focus, allowing only a small portion of the room to be seen, which lends them a peaceful and intimately familial ambience. They show women at their everyday activities: reading, writing, and daydreaming by the fireplace. The pictures are like islands of domestic happiness in which time seems to stand still.