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The Hierarchical Social Structure in Velasquez’s The Water Seller, Picasso’s Acrobat’s Family with a Monkey,Wood’s American Gothic, and Goyez’s The Third of May

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The pyramidal structures in Velasquez’s The Water Seller, Picasso’s Acrobat’s Family with a Monkey, Wood’s American Gothic, Goyez’s The Third of May reflects the components of society.

At the top of the pyramid is the single individual, as presented by Diego Velasquez in “The Waterseller of Seville,” which portrays the three images of a boy and old man in the foreground and the shadowy figure in the background, whom stand in a circle. A clear cup filled with water, like the water of life that quenched the dying man’s thirst in a hot desert, is suspended in the center. The young boy, in his school uniform of a black jacket and white dress shirt, looks at the glass as would a child at a chocolate chip cookie, craving and yearning for that bit of sweet chocolate encased by a soft sugary dough. The old man on his right is wearing a very bright red cloak that reflects off onto his hands and face, giving them a red glow as well, while his other hand rests on a large water jug. Behind the two men is a more mysterious figure, like a spirit from the netherworld whose face is transparent. He, too, holds a glass in his hand, but unlike the other two, he is actually drinking from it.The centralized cup and its movement a circular pattern represents the completion of a life cycle. It begins with the boy, who is transformed, by the knowledge gained in life that is symbolized by the water, to an older man before entering his final stage of death. The large water jug in the forefront, however, is a reminder that the amount of knowledge that can be found in life is infinitely larger than people can possibly consume in their lifetime.

On the middle tier of the structure is the basic family unit that can be divided into the intermediate, as portrayed by Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and the extended, as in Picasso’s The Acrobat’s Family with a Monkey. In the former, the immediate family is portrayed as the “old family”, since the couple present in the picture are elderly. The old man, holding a pitch fork, and his sister, who stands behind him, share the same grave look as parents would give their children while scolding them.

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