In a letter to the head curator of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Louis Thevenet’s friend René Lyr writes that the painting The Map Reader (De kaartlezer) should in fact be called The Honeymoon (De huwelijksreis). “On the map, the man is pointing to the Aalst region, the land of delicious local beers. He has promised himself that this will be his honeymoon destination. That is, at least, if he can find a girlfriend, just like his friend Louis has done”, explains Lyr. The figure is the brother-in-law of a friend, the artist Charles Dehoy, with whom Thevenet and his wife Emma shared a house in Drogenbos.
Geographical wall maps of the kind used in classrooms are virtually never found in ordinary bourgeois interiors. Oddly enough, in earlier discussions of the painting, although the map is sometimes mentioned, there is never any suggestion that its presence is out of the ordinary. Similar wall maps occasionally appear in 17th century paintings from the northern Netherlands, such as in the work of Vermeer. However, they remain a remarkable and very rare feature. At the age of 18, Thevenet signed on as an assistant cook on an English freighter and made four trips around the world. Although the map depicts only Belgium and the then Belgian Congo, it perhaps symbolises an unconscious longing for the faraway, exotic lands that would have been sorely absent from the narrow country life.
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