“Temptation”, like a story concluded on canvas, poses a difficult moral question for the viewer.
The picture has a dark cramped room, poor furnishings, a single window. On the bed, covered with gray curtains, lies, turned away from the light, dried up old woman. Her face is covered with wrinkles, her hand covers her stomach, her handkerchief is on her gray hair - and although it is a white day outside, she does not get out of bed. She is seriously ill.
Next to her bed is a table at which her daughter works. She is a seamstress, a white rag thrown to the edge, which, perhaps, will be a wonderful dress for a rich woman. The girl herself is standing in the middle of the room. She is dressed neatly, but not richly, and a sparkling precious bracelet is shoved into her hands by a crafty looking old woman. The old woman is dressed in a dark dress and a lace scarf. Her face expresses a desire to lure, tempt, get the required. Behind her, in the doorway, looms a male face - a mustachioed, with a bulging eye. What is happening is as clear as day.
The old woman invites the girl to spend the night with the man, offering her a bracelet. The girl is poor, she needs money to pay for her mother’s medicines and for her food, her work is hard and she can’t earn much. The bracelet and the money raised for it could save her, but the girl's face expresses surprise and dislike. She recoils from the old woman, removes her with one thin hand, the second makes a disgusting gesture. Despite poverty, she has the honor, and she is not going to sell it for a piece of metal, no matter how much it costs.
In the foreground of the picture is the simplest allegory that helps to better understand the meaning. A spotted gray-white cat, crouched on the floor, waits until a mouse appears from under the sideboard. The cat's eyes are attentive, the back is arched, the tail is raised - the whole pose expresses tension.
So the crafty old woman wants to catch the girl and morally “eat” her.
Judith And Holofernes Picture