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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Christina Georgina Rossetti: A House of Cards


 The House of Cards: Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779), 1736-1737, oil on canvas, 60 x 72 cm (National Gallery, London)

A house of cards
...Is neat and small:
Shake the table,
...It must fall. 

Find the Court cards
...One by one;
Raise it, roof it, --
...Now it's done: --
Shake the table!
...That's the fun.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894): A House of Cards, from Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872)

 The House of Cards: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), 1737, oil on canvas, 82 x 66 cm (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)


TC said...

One grows more and more to appreciate those mildly engaging here-today-gone-tomorrow pastimes which make no pretense to permanence, like building castles in the sand, erecting houses of cards... or for that matter blogging.

Child's play, such activities, yes -- but, in that, happily free of the sort of concrete armouring of self-importance that currently envelops every licensed enterprise within the monolithic domain of the administratively-sanctioned "post-modern".

Christina Georgina Rossetti, of course, penned her lovely children's verses before any of that rubbish had lumbered toward the Museum of Dead Things to be "curated".

This little poem (like the many others along the same lines by the same talented hand) is not much enjoyed these days alas. However it was cheering to note recently that some proud English parent(s) had posted a sweet short clip of their child reading it aloud (the lad appears to be just about the age of those readers to whom Christina was directing her poem... evidently in her time children were actually able to enjoy a bit of English now and then).

James Reads "A House of Cards"

The bad news (reality check) was that in the six weeks since it was posted, no one had looked at the clip till I did. And then when I went back a short time later, I found that I had just become the second viewer. Last time I checked, the hit-count was still stuck on two.

Two is sufficient for Tango, but for James and Christina, surely we can do a bit better than that, can't we, people? After all, this is only a twenty-five second challenge.

OK, Two was starting to feel like it was replacing One as the loneliest number... so I've just now clicked it up to Three. A small crowd. And we've only just begun to build this little private House of Cards.

Meanwhile, about the Chardins, what is there to say beyond, Total Genius? With a staying power perhaps somewhat more extensive than that of card houses or sand castles. (Or of course humble blog posts like this one!)

Chardin is the master of the gentle, modestly scaled domestic scene, reflecting in a softly luminous handling of paint the tranquility and good feeling of those ephemeral moments whose best quality is the quality of being quickly forgotten.

Like blowing bubbles, say:

The Faculty of Oblivion

Or playing simple children's games:

Girl with Racket

We get a pretty good sense of the unassuming person of this painter through his paintings. That sense is confirmed by the disarming honesty of the self-portrait which is the top image here.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Number six says "What a splendid reading of a splendid children's poem by a splendid-looking youngster."



Ah Chardin, such a master, from "The House of Cards" to "The Faculty of Oblivion" to "Girl with Racket" (what good sense, what a pleasure to see them here and hear young James read CR's poem (9 views now, some of them mine), and Keats' "A Sleep, O Sleep" (8 views now, and counting).


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, motion of green grasses in field
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

thought about, in a certain
sense thinking “about”

eventual version of picture,
other walls, in words

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
fog on horizon to the left of the point

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, and I love listening to children read poems. Never mind that I had to do it as a child and often despised the poems I recited . . . those yet untraveled roads and suns rising a ribbon and wanderings lonely as a cloud and on and on. So annoying.

TC said...

Whoa, James is now up to fourteen. One hopes his parents don't begin to worry.

A star is born!

Jonathan Chant said...

Thanks for this ephemeral moment. Beautiful paintings.

Nora said...

I just watched and 'liked' the video. (Liked in both the social media and old-fashioned senses). The next Justin Beiber! (perish the thought)

Wooden Boy said...

20 views now.

She catches that true child's delight in building up and smashing down. Simple and direct - no fat on it at all.

I wish I'd come across this poem when I was a kid.

The Chardins are such perfectly framed worlds. On seeing them, I often feel as if I'm pressing my nose against the glass, looking in.


Marie W said...

25 views :-)) we are getting there. Unfortunately the green hand / red hand ratio isn't doing great, that's a bit sad...

Dalriada said...

This post Tom agitated the remaining brain cell with a memory of the board game Ludo which I was surprised to see can still be purchased. A mere 99 dollars for a solid wooden board version.

Tiddlywinks ... Snakes and ladders ..?

Monopoly seems to be as popular as ever

The playing of cards of a Sunday was strictly verboten as a child (We were a religious family?) Nor could we cut our nails or hair on that day .... something to do with the potency of spells made from such parings and clippings should they fall into witchy hands

And I was deluding myself that the world went mad somewhat recently!?

TC said...

Not for our James it hasn't.

(Ohh that James, so earnest -- let us hope the large cold world, that great house of cards, does not disappoint him by collapsing entirely.)

But not all card games are quite so innocent.