There are many reasons to like this painting for a “Victorian” woman such as myself: the gentle dining room scene where a lovely woman sits at a table reading the daily newspaper, her sweetly floral morning dress, the green potted plants indoors as well as the green woods beyond the plate glass window, and of course, the well-laid breakfast table. All of these touches remind me of the placid way of taking breakfast that many of us still enjoy on unhurried mornings at home. But after doing a little research on Andersen Ring, I uncovered a very charming love tale about this very favorite work of art.
Ring appears to have been a romantic man having taken for his own, the surname of “Ring”, after the beloved village in Denmark where he was born as simply Lauritis Andersen. He became known as the preeminent painter of Danish symbolism and “At Breakfast” appears filled with subtle symbols of love for the woman reading the newspaper, his wife, Sigrid Kahler.
Married just two years when Ring painted “At Breakfast”, he was unafraid to show his affection for his wife by the use of the myrtle branches above Sigrid’s head. According to Ancient Greeks, myrtle is a symbol of Aprhodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality, and was often used to adorn Danish brides on their wedding day.
The blue dining set has been said to be a symbol of the couple’s bedroom as blue was the most common color in that room and rare in the dining area. The snowy cloth, a symbol of Andersen Ring’s bride and yet, her pink dress an indication that the marriage had been happily fulfilled. The plants, emblems of an exultant growing love.
Sigrid Kahler’s somewhat untidy hair depicts tenderness for a woman who perhaps had just risen from the marital bed.
For all these reasons, it is hard not to think of Andersen Ring as a sweetheart of a man, a lover of women, in particular his lovely wife at the breakfast table. How rare to find a man who is willing to show his love for his woman in such delicate and quiet cipher, perhaps revealed at the time, only to her.
I am not an art historian or connoisseur – I just know what I like. This painting appealed to me because of its harmonious domestic scene that seemed created just for a woman’s heart. Gladly, I discovered that there is much more to “At Breakfast” than its charming breakfast scene. There was a man behind the painting who adored a woman so and then in his own quiet way, told the world how much.