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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Witnesses

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Piero%2C_arezzo%2C_Head_of_an_Angel_03.jpg

Head of an angel: Piero della Francesca, 1460, San Francesco, Arezzo (image by Sailko, 2009)


He was, however, impersonal, not in his method only, as all great artists have to be, but he was what would be commonly called impassive, that is to say, unemotional, in his conceptions as well. He loved impersonality, the absence of expressed emotions, as a quality in things.
-- Bernard Berenson, Italian Painters of the Renaissance, 1897



These Piero
della Francesca angels
have choirboys'
soft ephebic faces
yet seem eternally detached
and unmoved
in their attention
to what unfolds before them
the faint
hint of a smile
of thoughtful contemplation
curls the edges
of their oval mouths
they take in the mystery
with steady eyes
and no fear
of error or trickery
as if they could
simply by witnessing it
make the world a radiant place




http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Piero_della_francesca%2C_san_giuliano.jpg

St. Julian: Piero della Francesca, 1455-1460, Pinacoteca Communale, Sansepolcro (image by Sailko, 2009)

2 comments:

phaneronoemikon said...

The lower image is wonderfully disturbing, or I am, but it looks like a marvelously detailed gryllus, a kind of winged wasp-stinger phalli, or better yet, a sort of syringa inhabiting the liminality of the ideas involved
in things like deus machina and avatarial agency.. It gives the image a kind of Black Sabbath edge.

TC/BTP said...

Lanny,

Yes, an eerie liminality. It's got to have to do with the light. What they used to call key lighting in movies--that beam upon the dreaming Constantine, which we can begin to understand only when we grasp that the strange winged figure must be the light source.

Vasari thought the Dream of Constantine the key image of Piero's wall paintings in the little church at Arezzo. "There... are frescos with many admirable qualities... best of all is the treatment of the dream of Constantine. An angel descends, head downward, bearing the insignia of victory to the Emperor asleep in his tent and guarded by armed men seen partially through the darkness. The light comes from the angel alone."

In 1964 I hitchhiked through Tuscany to see that little church. Nobody was in there save a couple of workmen puttering away on the restoration scaffolding. The scaffolding notwithstanding... glory!