Still Life with Checked Tablecloth, 1915. Juan Gris. Oil and graphite on canvas. Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2014.
Gris, a master of disguised images, presents a table brimming with coffee cups, stemmed wineglasses, a large white-footed fruit compote (seen from the side and from above) containing thickly painted grapes, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of Bass extra stout ale with its distinctive red diamond logo, a newspaper, and a guitar. Yet this painting has another equally compelling identity: a bull’s head. The coffee cup at lower center doubles as the animal’s snout, a black-and-white concentric circle at left is a “bull’s eye,” the bottle of ale is an ear, and the sinuous edge of the guitar is a horn. The letters “EAU” on the wine label, which ostensibly stand for “bEAUjolais” can just as easily represent “taurEAU” (bull).