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Friday, 29 March 2013

The Good Man


Dead Christ supported by the Madonna and St John (Pietà) (detail): Giovanni Bellini, 1460, tempera on panel (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)

''I do not know these good men," replied the prisoner.

''Is that the truth?"

''It is."

''And now tell me why you always use that expression 'good men'? Is that what you call everybody?"

''Yes, everybody," answered the prisoner. "There are no evil people on earth."

Yeshua and Pontius Pilate conversing, in Book One of Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, 1967 (translation by Diana Burgin and Katherine O'Connor)


Anonymous said...

simple and touching reasoning...!!

TC said...

"Is it me that you are calling a good man?"

Anonymous said...

thanks Tom !

Wooden Boy said...

The intimacy that Bellini paints is unbearable; the nearness of the lips.

"I'm beginning to be afraid that this confusion may go on for a very long time".

So it has. God bless the idiot witnesses - they know not what they do.

Wooden Boy said...

There is something in witnessing - testimony can never be adequate to the event itself. Myth and rhetoric come to be relied on; something must be said with those realigned tongues.

The Synoptic Gospels are an odd mixture of the ordinary and the fabulous.

Anonymous said...

I agree ....and I wonder if the words of the video are real...(I mean official)

TC said...

The dialogue in the video is that of Mikhail Bulgakov, whose version does much to humanize the story, and make it real for us.

The interrogation of the prisoner Yeshua by the Procurator takes a fatal turn when Yeshua explains himself, repeating his conviction that there are no evil men. An irony arises now, as his honesty provokes his interrogator, sealing the judgment:

Master and Margarita, Book One, 4: "And all authority is violence upon the people... and the kingdom of truth shall come".

The magnificent Bellini -- almost unbearable to look upon, indeed, as WB suggests -- evokes a full sense of the suffering that comes with being human.

Here is the complete work:

Giovanni Bellini: Dead Christ Supported by the Madonna and St John (Pietà), 1460

"On the parapet on which Christ is held by the Madonna and St. John is the inscription: HAEC FERE QUUM GEMITUS TURGENTIA LUMINA PROMANT: BELLINI POTERAT FLERE IOANNIS OPUS (When these swelling eyes evoke groans, this work of Giovanni Bellini could shed tears). This is a fragment of a hymn from the first book of Propertius's 'Elegies', whose presence at the base of the painting affirms the artist's religious education.

"The Pietà is rightly considered one of the most moving paintings in the history of art. Deep feeling is expressed throughout, from the landscape that recalls Flemish antecedents to the lucid architectonic composition of the group and the abstract geometry of their movements, deriving from Piero della Francesca. A passionate feeling that is not so much religious as human and psychological pervades the actors in the drama. The rendering of grief has here its most universal expression and, at the same time, its most private and conscious dimension. The mother's pathetic gesture is reflected in St John's turning away. The construction of the work shows careful thought. The figures, borrowed from popular imagery, are grouped in the foreground against an infinite horizon. The pentagonal arm of Christ ending in a closed fist is that of a fallen but unvanquished athlete. The barely glimpsed landscape, with its road wandering up a height and its torrent coursing below, pulsates with earthly life.

"The figures stand out against a leaden dreamlike sky. The painting retains a strong Paduan element that is evident in the contours, adjusting gestures and figures to the strong expressive requirements of the drama. The silent exchange of emotions in the faces is reflected in the masterly play of the hands. The landscape behind them, empty and metallic in the cold, shining greys of the painful dawn of rebirth, accentuates the sense of the scene's anguish. Both the Donatello of the altar of St Anthony of Padua and, once again, Mantegna and the Flemish masters are the influences which spurred Bellini along the path of a sad and bitter pathos."

TC said...

The implication of all humans in all suffering -- the inevitable fate of the human -- is addressed by George Herbert in his poem "Good Friday":

O my chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?

Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.

Anonymous said...

I was focused on Jesus denying his mother...