Human emotions would provide the inspiration, and even the actual title, to a number of famous Edvard Munch paintings. Jealousy was, therefore, just one of a number in this series, which also included Despair, Anxiety and Melancholy. Munch used symbolism in much of his work, within the constraints of an Expressionist approach, but the composition displayed in this painting is immediately obvious. He places a young man to the right hand side of the scene, looking discontented by the romantic pairing in the background.
Is it the artist himself reflecting on his own problems with his personal life? Quite probably, you might think, but actually is is believed by most to have been Stainislaw Przybyszewski, a well known poet and friend to the artist. That said, there is further symbolism found here which is much more subtle a required a closer look in order to be unearthed. Whilst the fundamental meaning of the painting is clear for all to see, smaller details can be gleaned by examining the couple in the background.
Whilst we recognise the figure in the foreground, those at the back are deliberately left anonymous. There is a small apple tree which the artist uses as a play on the story of Adam and Eve which features prominently in religious scripture. The apple that the lady takes from the tree would therefore be to her cost, if Munch is indeed recreating this scene from the Bible. The artist uses nudity here which modernises an old story and did so again in several other paintings from his extensive career.