'Hounded by those on my tail,' wrote Ensor, 'I joyfully took refuge in the land of the fools where the mask, with its violence, its brightness and brilliance, reigns supreme. The mask meant to me: freshness of colour, extravagant decoration, wild generous gestures, strident expressions, exquisite turbulence' (quoted in C. Brown (intro.), exh. cat., James Ensor - Theatre of Masks, London, 1997, p. 12).
In Nature Morte au Chou Rouge Ensor assembles his typically irreverent cast of characters like a hissing chorus around a humble Flemish still-life of fruit, plates and a red cabbage. In so doing, two perennial themes of his art - the gaudy, grotesque carnival masks, illustrated in this work hanging on the wall, and the commonplace clutter of his home and studio - are conflated in one work, a bewitching riot of abundant colour and tumbling form.
Red cabbages was a subject Ensor favoured very much. He Painted several still-lifes with the cabbages as main subject. (See: Tricot, no. 316, 392, 406, 509, 520, 526)
The painting depicted in the upper right corner is 'Pierrot and skelton in yellow robe' of 1893 (Tricot, no.351) of which Ensor painted a replica circa 1925 (no. 1925).(fig I)