While Jakub Schikaneder’s monumental-scale Murder in the House (painted in 1890) certainly makes for a striking composition, its narrative is unsatisfyingly open-ended.
It invites scrutiny, and even vain attempts at amateur sleuthing: does the broken, unlatched window represent a possible point of entry, or merely the ramshackle poverty of the little alley? Are the marks of blood on the far wall of the rounded arch and the ground before it signs of a struggle? The trail of a dumbfounded murderer staggering away, steadying himself with his bloodied hand once here, then once more there? Simply the vestiges of the victim’s own terrified flight out to the alley?
The reactions of the onlookers are a little more self-evident, but even their discussion remains a little ambiguous: it’s fully possible, for example, that the gesturing man witnessed the crime from his candle-lit window, and emerged through his door (now ajar) with his wife and daughter to tell the little crowd that formed. Or perhaps they’re just all trying to decide what they’re supposed to do about the body.
What about you, dear reader—any theories?