Published on Tuesday 17 january 2012 • Post by Mariano Tomatis • Permalink
Paris. Louvre Museum. Richelieu wing. Second floor. Room fourteen. "The Sheperds of Arcadia", the representation of four shepherds in front of a tomb, was created by Nicolas Poussin around 1640. Its symbolic meaning was transparent to man for over three centuries, but during the 20th century it was completely lost. From the 60s its image started to be looked at with intrigue: maybe it was hiding a secret. How do we explain the modern mania to analyze paintings like they are puzzles?
Written and directed by Mariano Tomatis
Inspired to "A Neglected Shadow in Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego" by Lawrence D. Steefel and "Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?" by James Elkins.
Harp: Catrin Finch - Voice: Steve Gorick - Many thanks to Marcus Williamson
Published on Monday 9 january 2012 • Post by Mariano Tomatis • Permalink
I love the idea of a redemption consisting in the construction of beautiful narratives. Here, the idea expressed at its best by Umberto Eco in a novel (The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana) and in a letter to the Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.
Jesus is the only evidence that at least us men are capable of being good. To tell the truth, I’m not sure Jesus was God’s son [...] I’m not even sure that Jesus really existed. Maybe we invented him ourselves, and that in itself would be a miracle, that our minds could come up with such a beautiful idea. Or maybe he did exist, was the best of men, and said he was the son of God with the best of intentions, to convince us that God was good. (1)
Try [...] to accept even if only for a moment the idea that there is no God; that man appeared in the world out of a blunder on the part of maladroit fate, delivered not only unto his mortal condition but also condemned to be aware of this, and for this reason the most imperfect of all creatures (if I may be permitted the echoes of Leopardi in this suggestion). This man, in order to find the courage to await death, would necessarily become a religious animal, and would aspire to the construction of narratives capable of providing him with an explanation and a model, an exemplary image. And among the many stories he imagines—some dazzling, some awe-inspiring, some pathetically comforting—in the fullness of time he has at a certain point the religious, moral, and poetic strength to conceive the model of Christ, of universal love, of forgiveness for enemies, of a life sacrificed that others may be saved. If I were a traveler from a distant galaxy and I found myself confronted with a species capable of proposing this model, I would be filled with admiration for such theogonic energy, and I would judge this wretched and vile species, which has committed so many horrors, redeemed were it only for the fact that it has managed to wish and to believe that all this is the truth. You are now free to leave the hypothesis to others: but admit that even if Christ were only the subject of a great story, the fact that this story could have been imagined and desired by humans, creatures who know only that they do not know, would be just as miraculous (miraculously mysterious) as the son of a real God’s being made flesh. This natural and worldly mystery would not cease to move and ennoble the hearts of those who do not believe. (2)
(1) Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana, 2004, page 351 [English translation 2005 by Geoffrey Brock]. See the Umberto Eco wiki.
(2) Umberto Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, In cosa crede chi non crede, Liberal sentieri, 1996. Translation of the chapter here.
Published on Sunday 1 january 2012 • Post by Mariano Tomatis • Permalink
This page from Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana has always (nostalgically) reminded me of my grandfather's Nativity scene, also using a mysterious "big bottle with no neck" to animate it.
At dinner, I asked Amalia about the Nativity scene. Indeed it had been my grandfather’s, and had meant a lot to him. He was not a churchgoer, but the Nativity scene was like royal soup: it was not Christmas without it, and even if he had had no grandchildren he might have set it up just for himself. He began working on it in early December, and if I looked around the attic I would find all the framework, which had supported the sky backdrop and contained lots of little bulbs in the front part that made the stars twinkle. «A thing of beauty it was, your dear grandfather’s Nativity scene, made me cry every year. And water truly flowed in the river, why in fact one year it overflowed and got the moss wet that had come in fresh that very year, and then the moss all bloomed with itty-bitty blue flowers, which it was truly a miracle of the Christ child, and even the parish priest came who couldn’t believe his eyes.» «But how did he make the water flow?» Amalia blushed and mumbled something, then made up her mind: «In that Nativity scene crate, which every year I helped to put it all away after Epiphany, there ought to be something, like a big bottle with no neck. You saw it? Well, I don’t know if folks still use them things or not, but it was a contraption, pardon my French, for giving enemas. Do you know what enemas are? Good, then I don’t have to explain, which that would embarrass me. And so your dear grandfather got the bright idea that if he put that enema contraption underneath the Nativity scene, and hooked up the tubes in the right places, the water would come up and then go back down again. That was something, I can tell you, forget the picture shows.» (1)
(1) Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana, 2004, pages 157-158 [English translation 2005 by Geoffrey Brock]. See the Umberto Eco wiki.