Archive for the Painting Category
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
oil on canvas, c. 1758-59
For, it is said that while Saul of Tarsus was carrying out his duties as Commissar of Truth, the Messiah he had been denying appeared before him and convinced him of his error. So, after a bit of soul searching, he quit his job and thereafter dedicated himself to the task of preaching the very doctrine he had been denouncing. And because he was now the persecuted rather than the persecutor, he was effective; everywhere he went he found willing listeners, even in Rome itself. More important than their numbers was the conviction of his converts that in the eyes of God the lowliest in society was equal unto Caesar. The psalm of freedom — of the dignity of the individual — reawakened their souls. Neither the lash nor the dungeon vile nor the wild beasts in the arena could rob them of their self-esteem. By their very suffering and death they transmitted their faith to others, the sect grew, and at long last Caesar capitulated.
From the story of Saul, who came to be known as Paul, we draw the lesson: that when people want freedom they will get it. When the desire of the business man for “free enterprise” is so strong that he will risk bankruptcy for it, he cannot be denied. When youth prefers prison to the barracks, when a job in the bureaucracy is considered leprous, when the tax collector is stamped a legalized thief, when handouts from the politician are contemptuously rejected, when work on a government project is considered degrading, when, in short, the state is recognized to be the enemy of society, then only will freedom come, and the citadel of power collapse.
Considering the temper of the times, the emergence of such a public state of mind would indeed be a miracle. But, in some degree it has happened before and therefore we may hope. When the organized religion of power, known as communism (more properly called statism), shall have destroyed all values, and reduced the individual to a nonentity, will its overthrow by moral force be accomplished. In degrading the individual it destroys itself, simply because the degraded individual loses interest in production and ceases to provide the wherewithal for the state. As the state rots away from malnutrition, the individual begins to reassert himself in something called civil disobedience, passive resistance, or some other kind of revolution, and the contest is all in his favor. Freedom comes when Caesar is no longer able to maintain his legions.
Text: Frank Chodorov, Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist. New York: Devin-Adair, 1962 via
Image: Caravaggio, Conversione di San Paolo, 1601, Santa Maria del Popolo, Roma
“…morality and spirit, in my view, express specific and contrary vital interests, as in politics. To assert that one such political or vital interest, say the Jewish or the Anglo-Saxon, coincides with the total inspiration of the universe, is egotism in excelsis, and a plain illusion of animal vanity and egotism. Banish that illusion: the vital and political interest concerned remains standing, but only as one local and temporary movement of animal life on earth. It is its own excuse for being, but it leaves the speculative spirit free to transcend it and to admit equally, in their places, all the other vital and political interests that may arise. I would relax English prejudices in the Catholic and naturalistic direction by a single and consistent insight, not by casual contrary sympathies. Catholicism is paganism spiritualised: it is fundamentally naturalistic; and the transcendental spirit and the wise statesman may accept Catholicism, where it naturally arises, as a good poetic symbol for the forces and the issues of human life in that phase; not, however, as a scientific revelation of reality or a history of literal facts. Religion is valid poetry infused into common life. It is not a revelation truer than perception or than science. Nature, where it breeds life, is undoubtedly animated by a spirit kindred to man’s and to human morality; hence the dramatic sympathy in us with all real or imagined vitality in the universe. Yet this sympathy should chasten rather than inflate us, because it reveals to us how accidental are the objects of our love.”
Text: George Santayana, My Host the World. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953
Image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Allegoria dei pianeti e continenti, 1752, Metropolitan Museum
“I felt more joyful and breathed more freely, when I passed to the southern coast, and saw something Greek. Agrigentum, in its desolation, left much to the imagination, but stirred it deeply. Not so much the ruins as the magnificent site, as if all the seven hills of Rome had been linked together in a chain, doubled in height, and been made to overhang the forum and the lower town in a broad curve. That vast acropolis must have been a sublime thing. Outwards, on the convex side, it is a sheer precipice; inwards its horns descend to the plain and make it accessible. One of these horns is occupied by what remains of the town. I climbed to the top, partly by steps. There was a little square, with a café, but no vestiges of the temples that must have stood there: for a reward I saw some large white goats, apparently clean as lambs, browsing among the steep lanes or perched upon the stone enclosures that bordered them. These ancient fortresses, in the days of peace, must have been very domestic and country-like in the simplicity and monotony of their ways. Dull, except for the recurring festivals and the frequent wars, yet well fitted, in both aspects, to fix the character of tragedy and comedy, as the Greeks fixed it, limited, monotonous, liturgical, but intensely felt, profoundly human, wonderfully central and final.
Agrigentum was a colony, suddenly rich, like an American mushroom city, short-lived and ruined even more suddenly than it had grown up; but for its day it was enormous, and it gave birth to a great poet-philosopher, the literary model of Lucretius, and a grander personage, with his tragic end soon enveloped in legend. Both Lucretius and Empedocles are said to have killed themselves, or voluntarily become gods: in any case they saw the world as the gods would: that is to say, as we all should, if we could surmount our accidental humanity and let the pure spirit in us speak through our mouths. I wonder if a mushroom civilisation, by its very thinness and sudden brilliancy, like fire in straw, may not be easier for the spirit to profit by and to transcend than a more deeply rooted tradition.”
Text: George Santayana, My Host the World. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953
Image: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, L’ancienne ville d’Agrigente, 1787, Musée du Louvre
Puois nostre temps comens’a brunezir,
E li verjan son de lor fuelhas blos,
E del solelh vei tant bayssatz los rays,
Per que·l jorn son escur e tenebros
Et hom non au d’auzelhs ni chans ni lays,
Per joy d’Amor nos devem esbaudir.
Aquest Amor no pot hom tan servir
Que mil aitans no·n doble·l gazardos:
Que Pretz e Joys e tot quant es, e mays,
N’auran aisselh qu’en seran poderos;
Qu’anc non passet covinens ni·ls enfrays;
Mas per semblan greus er a conquerir.
Per lieys deu hom esperar e sofrir,
Tant es sos pretz valens e cabalos,
Qu’anc non ac suenh dels amadors savays,
De ric escars ni de paubr’ ergulhos;
Qu’en plus de mil no·n a dos tan verays
Que fin’Amors los deja obezir.
Ist trobador, entre ver e mentir,
Afollon drutz e molhers et espos,
E van dizen qu’Amors vay en biays,
Per que’l marit endevenon gilos,
E dompnas son intradas en pantays,
Cui mout vol hom escoutar et auzir.
Cist sirven fals fan a plusors gequir
Pretz e Joven e lonhar ad estros,
Don Proeza no·n cug que sia mais,
Qu’Escarsetaz ten las claus dels baros,
Manhs n’a serratz dins las ciutat d’Abais,
Don Malvestatz no·n laissa un issir.
Ves manhtas partz vei lo segle faillir,
Per qu’ieu n’estauc marritz e cossiros,
Que soudadiers non truep ab cui s’apays,
Per lauzengiers qu’an bec malahuros,
Qui son pejor que Judas, qui Dieu trays;
Ardre·ls degr’om o totz vius sebellir.
Nos no·ls podem castiar ni cobrir;
Tollam nos d’elhs e dieus acosselh nos!
Qu’us joys d’Amor me reverdis e·m pays,
E puesc jurar qu’anc ta bella no fos:
Petit la vey, mas per ella suy gays
Et jauzions, e Dieus m’en do jauzir.
Ara·s pot hom lavar et esclarzir
De gran blasme, silh qu’en son encombros;
E si es pros yssira ves Roays,
E gurpira lo segle perilhos,
Et ab aitan pot si liurar del fays
Qu’assatz en fai trabucar e perir.
Cercamon dis: «Qi vas Amors s’irais
Meravill’es com pot l’ira suffrir.»
Q’ira d’amor es paors et esglais
E no·n pot hom trop viure ni murir.
Fagz es lo vers, e non deu veillezir,
Segon aisso qe monstra la razos,
Q’anc bon’Amors non galiet ni trais,
Anz dona joi als arditz amoros.
Text: Cercamon (fl. c. 1135-1145) via trobar.org (with English translation)
Image: Anonymous, Le Roman de la Rose, Harley MS 4425, f. 133r, British Library
Madame Sabatier en Bacchante
Apollonie Sabatier ‘La Présidente’
mixed media on paper, c. 1848?
Musée National du Château de Compiègne
Baudelaire et la Présidente Sabatier
Thomas Couture (attributed)
oil on canvas, c. 1850
Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot, Clermont-Ferrand
La Dame au Petit Chien
oil on canvas, 1850
photograph, c. 1860
The model for Clésinger’s sublime Bacchante couchée and Femme piquée par un serpent, mistress and muse of Baudelaire, Apollonie Sabatier was one of the great femmes inspiratrices of mid-19th century Paris. In her salon in the Rue Frochot, Sabatier was host to the great artists and bohemians of the age; Nerval, Gautier, Berlioz, Manet, Doré, Hugo and many others. Such was her majesty that she was known as “La Présidente”