Saturday, July 07, 2007

There's a fine line between a lot of things

How much do you need to know about "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa?"

First, I suppose it is worth noting that there are at least two significant works of art in the Western canon thus-titled. The first would be Bernini's sculpture in Rome. This, of course, would be that:



Or leastways, a detail.

The second, and in my humble opinion no less significant, of the duo is my painting of the same name. And the same subject. This, of course, would be that:



Mine, if that's an accurate way to describe what now more likely belongs to the world, is two panels, each measuring about five feet by seven. If you have enough room, it looks great above the sofa.

Teresa herself wrote:
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.
The secret is in the spear that the angel is using. You can see it here...



...in his right arm. What you can't tell is that instead of being pointed at her heart, it's pointed straight at her johnson.

Now, if you look back at (yours,) mine (and ours), you can see that at one time there was a left arm. The idea, going into the painting, was to have the left arm gripping the shaft of the spear, helping--if you will--with the ramming into and out of the entrails.

Hey, I don't make this stuff up. I'm just reporting.

Anyway, at some point, I decided I didn't like the spear and whited (blacked) out the arm. I knew I was allowed to do this because my father took me, as a small boy, to the National Gallery of Art and showed me a painting by Winslow Homer in which he did the same thing, more or less.

Nonetheless, the idea behind both works is the same. That being, of course, that there's a fine line between spiritual and physical ecstasy. Bernini showed it his way. I took a more literal approach and created the two panels, one celebrating the flesh (the right one), one celebrating the spirit.

It has been called one of the most sensual works of art in existance.

Bernini's sculpture has been similarly praised, fyi.

I bring this all up because Simon Schama's latest episode was about the Bernini. Kind of fun to watch; widely exhibited on the PBS family of stations. Barring this, you can read the Wikipedia article on it here.

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