The subject is very simple, it’s just Magritte having a meal; but the detail of the four arms somehow gives me a feeling of agitation and concern.
Like Magritte said: “Anyone crazy about movement or its opposite will not enjoy this picture.” I agree with Magritte because this painting is simultaneously static and generates a lot of movement. It looks static because Magritte seems to be frozen: the way he’s chewing, cutting the meat and poring the wine all seem like frozen actions. Despite this, having four arms and hands doing something at the same time inevitably creates movement. Magritte created a masterpiece with very fragile balance.
It’s hard to explain this “static-movement” relation because we only see it on a painting, as a picture. We have then try to imagine how this would look in real life, we have to imagine as if a person was eating with four hands in front of us. Here is a video that portrays this. I think it expresses really well that sense of agitation and concern that the painting makes me feel.
What Magritte is eating seems like a pretty simple meal. The painting was made and set in 1952. In this period Europe was in its economic boom and restoration after WWII. Therefore, food was largely available to people. The shortage of food that Europe had had during the war, was now only history. Magritte here eats a meal that was probably common to many people: meat, vegetables, bread and wine.