WORKS OF ART, PART 2

05/06/2020 16:52

I continue to revisit my collection of art cards and in these days when cities and towns are emptied by the Coronavirus I came to think of anonymous Renaissance depictions of ideal cities, inspired by the writings of classical writers like Vitruvius. Some kind of harmonious dream spaces, though to me they look somewhat eerie and cold. Predecessors to Chiricos´s empty piazzas?

La cittá ideale (1490-1500) in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie.

 

La cittá ideale (1490-1500) in Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

 

 

La cittá ideale (1480-1490) in Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino.

 

 

These were dreams made up from intense reading, which in those days was a pastime for the wealthy and privileged, like this little boy painted by Vincenzo Foppa in 1464, intended to depict the young Cicero, thereby representing the Renaissance feeling of youth and freshness, combined with something that was extremely ancient.

 

 

 

Most boys were far from being as privileged as the one reading a book in a Renaissance Palazzo, though a lucky few of these youngsters born under ”unfortunate circumstances” could nevertheless ”make it” and the erudition they achieved was often astonishing.

 

Jacopo Carucci, an orphaned ”melancholy and lonely boy” began his career as apprentice in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, though he soon ended up with another great Florentine artist, Andrea del Sarto. Under del Sarto’s guidance Carucci worked with the equally odd and anti-conformist Rosso Fiorentino, who I once wrote another blog entry about. Even if del Sarto eventually threw him out, Pontormo’s, as Carucci came to be called, great talent became generally appreciated. His reclusive nature and recurrent neuroses are not easy to detect in his bright and life affirmative art. Like the fresco lunette of Vertumnos and Pomona in a vault of the Medici country villa at Poggio a Caiano, which like so many other frescoes is placed in an awkward spot, rather damaged and too far from the floor to be properly admired. 

 

 

Pontormo’s sharply modelled, though slightly deformed figures appear as otherworldly apparitions, seemingly weightless and sometimes swirling within the somewhat flattened environment he creates around them. Most amazing are the brilliant, light colours that give  an almost rococo, pastel-like luminous impression. Like in his Deposition of Christ in the Church of Santa Felicita in Florence.

 

 

Pontormo shared his melancholic disposition and introvert nature with several other contemporary artists. Another example of this gloomy inclination is Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzolae, commonly, known as Parmagianino the ”Little One from Parma”. Like Pontormo, he was a prodigy whose talent became appreciated early on. However, like Rosso Fiorentino, Parmagianino suffered severely in the hands of Swiss and German mercenaries during the relentless Sack of Rome in 1527. Parmagianino appears to have had difficulties in recuperating from his traumatic experiences.

 

Like Pontormo and Fiorentino, Parmagianino was a great and permissive innovator who shaped his masterpieces in accordance with his own mind. His portrait of a well-dressed, young lady named Antea is neither distorted, nor unconventional, though this does not hinder the beautiful Antea from having an ominous air about her, almost as if she was a ghost.

 

 

Antea reminds me of da Vinci’s rendering of Saint Anne on the so called Burlington House Cartoon in London’s National Gallery. The lady in question does with her grey charisma, mysterious glance and enigmatic smile give the impression of being a ghostly twin sister, or even doppelgänger of Virgin Mary, which is quite odd considering if she is supposed to be her mother, Anne would at least have been twice as old as the Madonna.

 

 

Leonardo and his fellow artists were leaving realism behind and instead excelled in their maniera, specific skills and originality that came to be their trademark as painters priding themselves with their unbridled virtuosity. They make me think of audacious ”free” jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and Miles Davies who outstripped other performers through their complicated, though nevertheless firmly structured improvisations. Look for example at Parmagianino’s utterly strange Madonna with St. Zaccarhia, where she unexpectedly is placed among Roman ruins within a twilight landscape, while a prolonged shaped Jesus seems to avoid St. John the Baptist’s loving embrace. Here everything is bizarre and disproportioned, but nevertheless beautifully executed and unforgettable.

 

 

After the Sack of Rome Parmagianino became increasingly immersed in studies of magic and alchemy. It has been speculated that his interest in chemistry/alchemy might have been connected with efforts to find new means to produce etchings. He is known to have neglected his commitments and breach contracts for church paintings, something that resulted in a two months prison sentence. He did not improve his behaviour and in 1540 he died from ”a fever” at the age of 37 and was buried ”naked with a cross made of cypress wood on his chest.”

 

 

During his last time in life Parmagianino was working intensively with graphics. However, after his death more drawings than etchings were left behind. The printmaker Ugo da Carpi draw inspiration from Parmagianino’s drawings and among da Carpi’s etchings we find this picture of the Greek philosopher Diogenes sitting immersed in studies in front of the famous barrel he used as his living quarters.

 

 

I cannot discern what the philosopher is holding in his left hand, but I became intrigued by the plucked hen walking behind him. I had to read something about this odd character and found that Plato had called him ”a Socrates gone mad”, apparently not without reason. Diogenes scorned not only family and social organization, but also property rights and reputation. He even rejected normal, human decency; ate sitting on the ground in the marketplace, urinated on people he disliked, defecated in the theatre, and masturbated in public. The plucked chicken is a reference to Diogenes’s many attacks on the teachings of Plato, who once defined humans as ”featherless bipeds”, something that made Diogenes holding up a plucked chicken while he declared: ”Here is Plato´s man!”

 

 If Diogenes had lived today he would probably have been like a slovenly, unattractive homeless and homespun thinker like the one depicted by the Russian Vasily Shulzhenko.

 

 

Diogenes appears to have been a quite unsavoury character. Something a Swiss mercenary who participated in the Sack of Rome also might have been. Urs Graf was a well-known goldsmith, painter and printmaker, but that did not hinder him from occasionally joining Swiss mercenary armies. While living in Basel, Urs Graf came into conflict with the law for abusing his wife and consorting with prostitutes, culminating in accusations of attempted murder, which made him flee the city in 1518. However, his acknowledged skills allowed him to return the following year. Graf continued working in Basel as a master craftsman until the beginning of 1527, thereafter his exact whereabouts are unknown. Maybe he died during the Sack of Rome. His wife remarried in 1528, though some years later a drawing signed by Urs Graf in 1529 was found. Maybe he continued to ramble around the battle fields of Europe together with the infamous mercenary hordes. Urs Graf’s many and often overcrowded etchings regularly depict mercenaries strutting around in their finery, executing and killing their victims, or enjoying drinking bouts while carousing with prostitutes.

 

 

Brutal and disorganized hordes of cut-throats and mercenaries were probably a common sight in German and Swiss towns, maybe akin to the obnoxious gang of villains who has captured a hapless and distressed Jesus in Hans Hirz´s painting of an overcrowded, moonlit Gethsemane, where a desperate St. Peter in vain tries to cut through the mob to reach his master.

 

 

It is hard to imagine an existence like the one of Urs Graf. A man of letters, respected illustrator of bibles and religious tracts, who nevertheless appears to have been attracted by violent bar brawls and brothels, as well as prepared to willingly participate in the senseless slaughter on battle fields and execution squares. A life close to death, like the one depicted by Hans Baldung Grien where voluptuous ladies are courted by hideous, living, putrefied corpses.

The licentious looking nudes of German painters and graphic artists like Urs Graf, Hans Baldung Grien and Lucas Cranach make me think of the even more explicitly sensuous and rather racy nudes by the Flemish Bartholomeus Spranger, who ended up at the court of the eccentric Rudolf II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, who in Prague surrounded himself with scientists like Tycho Brahe, alchemists like John Dee, and the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who through his typical fruit and vegetable arrangements depicted the Emperor as the Roman Vertumnus, god of seasons, change and growth.

Bartholomeus Spranger responded to his patron's aesthetic preferences and developed a close personal relationship with him, spending days and late evenings engaged in conversations with the odd, but fascinating emperor. Spranger’s Vulcan and Venus is maybe a combination of Rudolf II’s interest in pornography and alchemy, with Venus as a mature dominatrix subduing the craftsman Vulcan.

Wealthy and eccentric Renaissance noblemen indulged in uncommon pastimes while exhibiting exotic belongings in their curiosa chambers, or menageries, like Count Ladislaus von Frauenberg, whose snow covered castle can be seen through the window in the background of the Bavarian artist Hans Muelich´s portrait of him. The leopard was given to the count by his brother-in-law Duke Ercole d´Este of Ferrara, a great patron of the arts.

The increasingly wealthy nobility and no less the emerging, powerful bourgeoisie, were important patrons of skilled artists. The nobility were capable of not only ordering stately, official portraits of themselves, their wives and mistresses, but could on rare occasions ask an artist to combine sensuality and homely cosiness as in François Clouet´s depiction of a naked, beautiful lady enjoying a bath and some snacks, surrounded by her children, while a satisfied looking wet-nurse gives her swelling breast to one of them and another servant is preparing a meal in front of the open fire.

Bartholomäus Bruyn spent his entire life as a respected citizen of Cologne and was engaged in civic affairs. He was elected to the City Council in 1549 and 1553, and died a wealthy man. His portrait of a burgher lady holding a carnation is a testimony of his skills as portraitist. An intimate and quite beautiful rendering of a dutifully posing woman, who nevertheless does not put on an imposing, self-centred air of superiority. Instead, she seems to be lost in her own thoughts, somewhat shy with her downward gaze.

Albrecht Dürer’s early portrait of his brother Hans, master craftsman and painter like himself, reveals an entirely different character than the one of the bourgeoisie housewife from Cologne. Hans Dürer is depicted as a representative of the enterprising, confident, highly professional artisans who through their literacy, and inspired by travels abroad and studies of an ever-expanding world contributed to the enormous transformation of the society of the time.

However, they were not harmonious times; social unrest, injustice and inequality, intolerance, violence and disease were deep-rooted. The individual came to move more to the centre of attention, but the road to equality was long and the walk had hardly begun. Occasionally a peasant, jester or beggar could emerge among contemporary portraits, for example by Pieter Breughel and Jean Fouquet. 

However, most portraits were still of wealthy people. Through these increasingly realistic portraits we meet persons who look like we could encounter them in the street today. Such down-to-earth depictions became increasingly prominent in religiously inspired paintings. The twenty-three-year-old Hans Holbein’s picture The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, now in Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel, presents Jesus Christ as a corpse with signs of putrefaction. The word is made flesh, and the flesh is dead. It is not remarkable that Fyodor Dostoevsky became utterly captivated when he was confronted with the painting during a visit to Basel in 1867. His wife had to drag him away from the panel, fearing that the impressive sight might induce an epileptic fit in the sensitive author. Dostoevsky saw in Holbein an impulse similar his own preoccupations; a desire to confront Christian faith with everything that negated it, for example a realization that suffering, unredeemable death, and putrefaction appeared to invalidate any hope of resurrection.

 

It is quite possible that Holbein’s depiction of the dead Jesus is reminiscent of the impression that Mathias Grünewald’s altarpiece had made upon him when his father Hans Holbein the Elder had brought his oldest son with him while he carried out a number of commissions at the hospice in the town of Isenheim.

The suffering Jesus of the Isenheim altar has since its completion in 1516 haunted the minds of several famous authors, who have been shocked by the stark realism of Jesus nailed to the cross as a simple, extremely suffering human being.

The painter hidden behind the name Mathias Grünewald comes down to us only in a few bare details. His name was probably Mathis Gothard Nithart, a melancholiac who died from the plague. Records stated that he in 1512 bought a house in Frankfurt and married Anna, a converted Jewess, who in 1523 was institutionalized with what is variously described as mental illness and demonic possession. From 1512 to 1515 Grünewald worked on the Isenheim altar, but he seems to have left the town in a hurry, returning to Frankfurt. His subsequent poverty suggests that Grünewald was not fully paid for the altarpiece.

Grünewald was a versatile painter and everything I have seen by him is impressive and thought-provoking. In Munich, I saw a painting by him depicting the black warrior saint St. Maurice engaged in a discussion with St. Erasmus of Formia, protector of seafarers, dressed in sumptuous bishop’s ornate and holding on to a windlass.

St. Maurice depicted as a military leader on equal footing with a bishop seems to mirror the Venetian general Othello in Shakespeare’s play. Here depicted by the Irish painter William Mulready when the African-American actor Ira Alridge performed as the black military leader in London in the 1850s. Ira was married to a Swedish woman and their two daughters became opera singers.

At the Metropolitan Museum in New York I once saw an equally impressive depiction of St. Maurice as a black soldier, equipped with luxurious armour. It was painted by Lucas Cranach intimate friend of and neighbour with Martin Luther in Wittenberg, where Cranach as a stout, smart and extremely successful businessman had a big workshop with an extraordinary output produced by the master himself and a workforce of apprentices and fully-trained artists.

However, as may be expected from a painter whose wife was interned for demonic possession and who eventually died in the plague, a merciless, infernal and suffering world is prevalent in Grünewald’s art and he painted the most gruesome picture of a plague victim I have ever come across.

Despite his obscurity, Grünewald’s work was enough to inspire an opera about his life: Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler.Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) could not have his opera performed in Nazi Germany, even if some of the more culturally interested Nazi coryphées nurtured some hope that Hindemith eventually would be able to combine traditional folk music with classical tonality. However, Hindemith was too much of an experimenter. Goebbles lost patience with him and finally declared Hindemith to be an ”atonal noisemaker”. Hindemith spent more and more time in Turkey where he was instrumental in reorganizing music education, supported the Ankara State Conservatory and was engaged in the establishment of the Turkish State Opera. Finally, he realized that he could not remain in Germany and moved to the U.S. The picture below is from Helmut Jürgens’s stage decor when Mathis der Maler was performed in Munich in 1948.

 

In the early 1930s Hindemith tried to engage several well-known writers, among them Gottfried Benn, in the development of his libretto for Mathis der Maler, but he gave up and wrote it himself. The opera deals with Grünewald’s struggles to keep himself out of the violent struggles in his contemporary Germany, especially the conflicts between various reformatory fractions and the peasant uprising. Grünewald is depicted as being appalled by the violent suppression of the desperate peasant rebellion (1524-1525), at the same time as he feels forced to work for various patrons while trying to maintain his artistic freedom of expression. The message was evident and the opera could of course not be performed. The final words of the warlord Albrecht to Mathis der Maler becomes the message of the opera. Art cannot make any comprises, an artist must do what he can do. ”Go forth and paint”. I have not seen the opera, but have a recording of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler Symphony and it is not all any ”atonal noise”.

Hindemith’s story reminds me of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev from 1966. An epic film about the icon painter Andrei Rublev who by the end of his life in 1430 painted the three angels who visited Abraham in the Terebinth Grove, a unique Byzantine masterpiece with a perfect, almost abstract harmony, where every detail perfectly fits into the unity of the work and a warm, muted and harmonious colouring creates a perfect image of heartfelt spirituality.

Tarkovsky’s film develops against the background of a tumultuous, cruel and conflictive late Medieval Russia and the development of popular, sincere Christianity, reflected through Rublev’s efforts to express it in his art. The last scene of the black-and-white film is fading into a full colour picture of Rublev’s Old Testament Trinity.

The quiet spirituality of Rublev’s icon makes me think of the art of the Netherlandish master Gerard David, his soft and subtle colours and almost dreamlike serenity. Like in this charming picture where the Madonna during her little family’s flight from the massacres in Palestine takes a break. The donkey rests in the shadow while Virgin Marie sits with Jesus in her lap, beside her is her small travel basket and Joseph is in the background trying to beat down some fruits from at tree.

A short time of rest within a world engulfed in violence and suffering, which were always close to the people during the early Renaissance and was made obvious in horrendous depictions of the Last Judgement where victims were individualized  in a manner never seen before, like in Hans Memling’s The Last Judgement from 1471 where condemned people are shoved together to be thrown into the flames of Hell, like the hapless victims who during World War II along the Eastern Front by Einsatz Kommandos were forced into death pits, or those who were herded to mass graves in Nanking.

Fear and anguish are also painfully and intrusively depicted on Rogier van der Weyden´s magnificent Beaune Altarpiece from 1450 where extremely anxious victims merciless are driven into Hell’s pit of eternal suffering.

People are also individualized in Tilman Riemenschneiders realistic and pliant wood carvings and marble statues. Riemenschneider was a prominent member of the town council of Würzburg but his brave refusal to approve of an attack on a peasants’ army before any negotiations earned him the wrath of Würzburg’s actual ruler, Prince-Bishop Konrad von Thüningen. After 8.000 badly equipped and armed peasants in June 1525 had been slaughtered by a formidable force just outside of Würzburg’s walls, Riemenschneider was incarcerated and tortured. It is said that his hands were crushed, something that is doubtful, though he could not regain his position and obtain any more prestigious work.

In these times of wartime and mass slaughter all over Europe, artists were able to capture the features of several warlords. In my opinion most impressive of them all is Antonello da Messina’s portrait of an unknown condottiere, an Italian mercenary.

Besides Urs Graf, another prominent Swiss painter, Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, did during several periods serve as a mercenary. He worked as a secretary for a certain warlord called Albrecht von Stern, but did apparently also participate in actual fighting, for example in Lombardy and against German Landsknechts in the Battle of Bicocca.

I am particularly fascinated by a strangely disharmonious nightly scene in which Niklaus Manuel Deutsch depicts how a scantly dressed Thisbe kills herself by the side of a Pyramus dressed like a mercenary. The drama takes place in a Swiss looking forest and the pallid maiden plunges a long broadsword into her abdomen.

Strangely lit sceneries are quite common in Renaissance painting and the brownish hues of Deutsch’s Pyramus and Thisbe remind me of a nativity scene by the Venetian painter Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, who as always invites the onlooker to a dynamic and entirely unforeseen view, angle and perspective of a scene which has been presented numerous times before. We see the stable where the holy family receives two ladies offering  them gifts that are brought to them from below, where the domestic animals are kept and two shepherds kneel in front of a lady who apparently will deliver their gifts to the family above them. Light is coming from the stable’s broken ceiling, on top of which three angels are looking down and it is their radiance that illuminates the entire scene.

Tintoretto’s paintings are dynamic and dramatic, entirely different from the illuminations in the Livre du cœur d'Amour épris, Book of the Loving Heart of Love, which in 1465 was written by a certain Renato d´Angio, duke of Angio, count of Provence and Forcaquier, and King of Naples. His looks do not indicate that he was the author of a passionate romance of courtly love.

I assume the text of the book does not provide the same fascination as its pictures. It appears to be a typical late medieval allegory with personified virtues and it tells an extremely convoluted story about how Cupid steals the heart of a poet while he is asleep and brings it to the sweet Lady of Mercy, imprisoned by Remorse, Shame and Fear. Let us forget all about that and instead admire the marvellously executed scene where a winged Cupid steals the poet’s heart in a room lit by an oil lamp close to the floor.

Or a moonlit night when a knight reads a poem inscribed on a black marble tablet erected by a spring, on top of which rests a bailer like the one I found by a spring in a forest not far from a cottage my parents owned in southern Sweden.

Scenes of such intimacy may also be found in religious paintings from the same time. For example by the Spanish painter Luis de Morales, who was known as El Divino, The Divine, due the profound spirituality his work transmitted, in spite of its often shocking realism, far removed from the often crowded and exaggerated emotional effects of Italian or German paintings. Here we meet couples like the mourning Maria embracing her dead son, or as a young virgin with the Jesus child feeling for her breast under her dress. Emotional intimacy and spirituality against a pitch-black background.

Quite, compassionate paintings, which nevertheless vibrate with underlying emotions, which explodes in the passionate, nervous, Spanish paintings by Doménikos Theotokópoulos, called El Greco. An icon painter who in 1560 arrived in Venice from Crete, but it was first in the fervent Catholic town of Toledo he found mentors able to appreciate the painted dramas that had puzzled the Venetians, but was liked by the Spaniards and of course adored by the last century’s expressionist painters.

El Grecos’s depiction of a classical theme, Laocoön’s and his sons´ death, is completely unexpected with its extended, compressed and distorted figures painted in murky shades of grey and chalky white, with some patches of green, brown, violet, cobalt blue and black. A mayhem of agonized human bodies in awkward, strangely detached choreographed positions and arching snakes against a sketchy background of Toledo on its hill with an orange, Trojan horse like a toy in front of it. It would take hundreds of years until something slightly similar would appear again.

The Italian scene was more balanced, though even here we could find strange, individualized, emotionally charged, devotional pictures presenting contrasts between black backgrounds and ghostly white bodies, within an offbeat environment, like in this chilly depiction of an exhausted, but apparently not dead Christ sitting on some stairs beside a cross, while an angel stands ready to cover his frozen body with a sheet. A cold picture painted by someone who strangely enough was called Il Moretto da Brescia, The Little Dark One from Brescia. 

Moretto painted alongside the famous Venetian artist Lorenzo Lotto in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. Lotto, whose intense colouring, nervous, eccentric posing and distortions were not particularly different from other Venetian masters, though he did nevertheless not find much appreciation in Venice and  frequently had  to move from town to town in search of patrons and commissions. By the end of his life, Lotto found it difficult to earn a living and 70 years old he entered a monastery where he died five years later.

A few years ago, a comprehensive exhibition of Lotto´s work was presented in Rome, where among other masterpieces his odd presentation of The Annunciation could be admired. Daylight falls into a darkened room where Virgin Mary, in beautifully coloured clothes, turns to us instead towards God and the angel who declares that she will carry the child of the Lord. A strange detail, and Lotto’s work are filled by such, is the cat who flees from the heavenly apparition.

Another peculiar and stunning artist with erudite, often humorous and insoluble associations to myths and even contemporary literary works is Dosso Dossi, a pseudonym for Giovanni Francesco di Niccolò Luteri, active at the Ferrarese court of Ercole d´Este, the same man who gave Count Ladislaus von Frauenberg his leopard.

Ercole d´Este was a highly cultivated man who around himself gathered a court of talented artists, musicians and authors, not least the accomplished Ludovico Arisoto whose Orlando Furioso still can be read with great enjoyment. Multifaceted, dynamic and unpredictable it is written with a verve and passion that remain captivating. Unfortunately is a portrait painted by a young Titian apparently not representing the witty Ariosto, something it for centuries was assumed to do.

Dosso Dossi was well adapted to the sophisticated and refined environment of the Ferrarese court and illustrated several episodes of Orlando Furioso. A few years ago I saw at an exposition Dossi’s Mythological Scene, which usually can be encountered  in The Paul Getty Museum in Malibu and in this context I cannot avoid mentioning Ridley Scott’s fascinating film about the greedy old man who founded that museum, magnificently played by Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World.

Dossi´s painting is simply called Mythological Scene, since no one is really sure about what it depicts. What first caught my attention was the beautiful colours – the leaves and the lemons, the green and red of the dress of the unidentified girl. The striking whiteness of the nude, said to be the nymph Echo. The fragmentary interpretation of the scene is based on the presence of the god Pan, identified through his goat legs and syrinx, flute. Since the old woman makes a protective gesture above the sleeping lady it has been assumed that she is Gea, the Earth, who protects her protégé, the nymph Echo who had spurned Pan for an unrequited love directed  towards the egocentric Narcissus. However, Pan does not look particularly threatening to me and I do not care so much any interpretation, because the painting is so intriguing and pleasurable as it is.

However, enigmatic paintings with hidden messages may nevertheless provide a thought-provoking stimulus. Giorgio de Castelfranco, called Giorgione, died thirty-two years old in the plague, but had a great importance not the least due to his close collaboration with Titian and it is believed that he, together with Sebastiano del Piombo, finished several of the only six surviving paintings by Giorgione, masterpieces which due to their poetic and elusive character are constantly studied, analysed and interpreted.

Giorgione’s last painting The Three Philosophers was commissioned by the Venetian nobleman Taddeo Contarini, a wealthy merchant known for his interest in alchemy. Like many Venetian paintings, not the least those made by Giorgione´s friend Sebastiano del Piombi, it is an image of something taking place at dusk. The three philosophers have met in a twilight zone in front of a dark area that might be the entrance to a cave. They have been identified as Plato, looking into the darkness. Mohammad and Moses (or the Greek/Egyptian alchemist Hernes Trismegistos). It is commonly assumed that they represent the three Magi preparing themselves for their meeting with the newborn Jesus.

That may all be correct, though I would like to consider the philosophers as representatives of the knowledge that have had such a great influence on  Occidental philosophy – the inheritance from Greek antiquity, represented by the seated man, the Oriental knowledge of among other things maths, astronomy and medicine mediated by Islam, represented by the man in a turban and the Judeo/Christian tradition, with elements from Syria and Egypt, represented by the Moses-like bearded man, oldest of the three and thus representing the most ancient wisdom. Accordingly, the three men sum up the philosophy that continuously contemplates and discusses the unknown, represented by the darkened area of the painting. This does probably not make any sense neither to experts, nor to any other, though it makes sense to me. This is what I consider to be the essential message of art – that it speaks to you as an individual. This is what all the works of art I have presented above has done for me and I hope I have conveyed some of this feeling to you as well – dear reader.

 

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