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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Yannis Ritsos: Supplementary Acquisitions


Tomb of William the Silent in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, with an Illusionistic curtain: Emanuel de Witte (1617-1692), 1653, oil on panel, 83 cm x 65 cm (private collection)

He didn't hear them at all as they came up the stairs.
He didn't have time to think about where they may have found the key.
That which he called duration was cut -- and he didn't even see
the incision on the floor. They drew
the huge black curtain in front of him, while above him
he could hear the scraping sound of the nickel rings --
high up, on the invisible wire, loosely stretched,
high up, in the clandestine sky that finally belonged to him.

Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990): Supplementary Acquisitions, 1971, from The Wall Inside the Mirror, 1974, in Exile and Return: Selected Poems 1967-1974, translated by Edmund Keeley, 1985

A Sermon in the Oude Kerk, Delft: Emanuel de Witte, 1651-52, oil on panel, 73 x 60 cm (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft: Emanuel de Witte, 1650-52, oil on panel, 48 x 35 cm (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft (detail): Emanuel de Witte, 1650-52 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft: Emanuel de Witte, 1664, oil on canvas, 79 x 67 cm (Residenzgalerie, Salzburg)

Interior of a Protestant Gothic Church: Emanuel de Witte, 1669, oil on panel, 45 x 34 cm (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

The Dutch painter Emanuel de Witte (1617-1672) was active in his native Alkmaar, then in Rotterdam (by 1639), Delft (by 1641), and Amsterdam (by 1652). His range was wide (he produced historical paintings, genre scenes, notably of markets, and portraits); but after settling in Amsterdam in the early 1650s he concentrated on architectural paintings, primarily church interiors, both real (see e.g. the third and fourth images in this post, Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft, 1650-52, with detail) and imaginary (e.g. the bottom image here, Interior of a Protestant Gothic Church, 1669). His paintings differ considerably in spirit from the sober views of better known Dutch architectural specialists, making dramatic use of the intricate play of light and shadow in the lofty interiors (while also providing a convincing answer to the worried question, did dogs ever piss in Reformation churches?). This artist's life was not happy (he was constantly in debt) and when his body was found in an Amsterdam canal it was generally supposed that he had committed suicide.


TC said...

The great Greek poet Ritsos has been an honoured guest here before:

Yannis Ritsos: Marpessa's Choice

Yannis Ritsos: The Time Dimension

And this one was posted in different two takes (other voices, other rooms, different conversations):

Yannis Ritsos: In the Depths

Yannis Ritsos: In the Depths (You Can't Take It With You)

Dalriada said...

A murder mystery? where the suspense is all with the reader and the victim only becomes aware of his dying as his life ebbs. There seems to be more "redemption" in this story than the Thomas. I get the sense that there is release here from a certain tawdriness of existence .... The beginning part to me is like an assemblage of key stills from a film noir. The ending like a cheaply made set that our main character is finally set free from ...

Jonathan Chant said...

Tragic way for a creative soul to go.
Beautiful paintings and words. Soothing on the eye after burning the candle late last night.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

One can never get enough of this great poet.

Nin Andrews said...

Ritsos was the first poet I totally fell in love with. I was working at a bookstore--13 or 14 years old I'd guess. His book didn't sell, so the shop keeper gave it to me. I love how he ends his poems--as if he is always pulling me back into the poem, just as I think I am leaving . . .

as he left, almost arrogantly,
one could hear something like the sound of cloth ripping (a strange sound):
a corner of the flag was held back, trapped by the god's foot.

Anonymous said...

interesting poem..."clandestine sky"...I am thinking about that!

TC said...

This poem was writ during the ten-year dictatorship of Colonel George Papadopoulos, a period during which the poet suffered much. As a longtime Communist, he was arrested immediately after the 1967 coup, sent to an island prison camp; and thence to another. There followed hospitalization in Athens, and then, in 1968, exile, under house arrest at his wife's home on the island of Samos (she was a practising physician there). He was permitted to return to his Athens apartment in 1970. It was during these latter years that this poem was written.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I was not free.
Nobody else
spoke up.
I was not really alone.
I went along
with the others
acted older
all grown up.
That's what they wanted.

I drew a little face
for them to see
right where they would sit.
It was a mirror. It was devilish
later erased.
Now it speaks.

L'Enfant de la Haute Mer said...

Mary Stathato-Kyris Keeley

TC said...


Many thanks for this -- sad passing, but it is important that those who have contributed to the things we value be acknowledged.

My college Greek teachers came out of that Princeton program. Their instruction was inspiring. There are lineages.

Here's the clickable link to that obit.

Mary Stathato-Kyris Keeley