I wanted a 1849 painting for today, and this came up. My reading certainly doesn't jive with the Wikipedia description; I must be wrong because who can argue with Wikipedia? We do agree on the dramatic tension and the hostility masked behind the theoretical conviviality of the dinner table.
I can, however, get some rules to live by out of this painting:
1) Never accept food from a guy who's that intense. Apparently, it's even worse if the food symbolizes decapitation. (Frankly, I thought oranges were supposed to symbolize jealousy, but maybe it had shifted.)
2. Don't wear white footie pajamas. Seriously. I don't care if they're satin or whatever that guy in the front is wearing; if you could see the bottoms of his feet, they'd be ugly gray. (I'm not sure I buy that he's kicking the dog either, though he certainly gets nice extension on his toe pointing--how much force could it have from that far away? I honestly thought he was just kind of tickling it in the ribs, which would probably be annoying, but not too vicious.)
3. Don't wear a hat that's almost as tall as your head. I have to admit, though, that one guy on the left looks almost dorky enough to be cute in that hat. When did guys start taking their hats off at the table, anyhow? Is that how we're supposed to know he's a bad guy?
4. If you're the 13th person in the painting, nobody can see your face. Everybody else, sure, their faces are spectacularly on display in a way that never happens in actual shots of people eating at dinner, but whoever's in the back left must've drawn the short straw.
5. If you're a servant, you may have to wear yellow tights, but even then, you might be able to do something a little better with your hair than leave it hanging down lankly. Just a suggestion.
6. If your breasts are as close to your chin as the woman in green's, everybody will know you're wearing a push-up.
7. If you're a dog, lying under the chair can be dangerous--it doesn't hurt so much when somebody tips it forward, but when it comes back down, naptime is over.
8. If you use a nutcracker at the table, try not to look psychotic.
9. If the wallpaper is gold and silver, it's rather daring of you to wear a similar pattern to dinner.
10. Spilled salt is bad luck--for somebody, anyhow.