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Posts Tagged ‘David’

Whenever we get to DC for any appreciable time, we try to get to the National Gallery.  We can spend hour after meandering through the maze of viewing rooms, taking a vurtual tour through the timeline of art history.  There’s so much to see that we never see it in its entirety, often leaving out entire eras and movements.  But one section that we never miss is that area that features the Byzantine and early Italian Renaissance art.  Maybe it’s the beauty of the gold-leafed backgrounds that give the religious scenes an iconlike feeling or maybe it’s the thought of all the history that many of these pieces had witnessed and how amazing it is that they have weathered the vagaries of many wars to survive in such beautiful condition.

Take for example, the painting above, St.. Jerome Reading from one of my favorite artists of this era, Giovanni Bellini.  The surface and colors of this piece are stunningly pristine looking even though it was painted in the 1480’s.  It looks as fresh as a newly painted work.  I don’t know how much conservation this painting has underwent but one of Bellini’s masterpieces and another of my favorites, St. Francis in the Desert, which is in the Frick Collection in NYC, underwent conservation last year and they said it basically just needed a good dusting off.  Even if it has underwent a little plastic surgery, which I doubt, it is incredible to see it’s surface.

Another favorite is a piece from Andrea del Castagno made from leather stretched over a wooden  frame called The Youthful David that features the image of the biblical David with his sling in hand and the head of Goliath at his feet.  The piece was painted as a shield for probably some wealthy Florentine family to brandish during  the festivals and parades of the time.  I love the color and action of this piece as well as the thought of how many events it has been witness to over the ages, how many parades in which it was carried since it was painted in the 1450’s.

I could go on and on about some of the work there, so many pieces that stop me in my tracks in awe.  I thought I would just mention these two because they hit me most the other day and continually inspire in ways that are not always evident.

Just plain good stuff…

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Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth.

Archimedes

^^^^^^^^^^^^

This is actually a condensed and long accepted version of  Archimedes‘  words.  It was really about the power of lever in physics.  He actually said: Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand  and I will move the Earth.  But the lever has been dropped over the 2200 or so  years since he lived and has come to signify something more than a statement about physical mechanics.  It is an almost existential statement about the power of the individual in changing the world.  The small somehow defeating  the overwhelming forces set against them.

David versus Goliath. 

 David’s lever was the sling and stone he used to take down the giant.  Every underdog has somehow identified a strategic advantage that has enabled them to triumph against all odds.  Something that plays to their own strengths and magnifies their greater opponent’s weaknesses. 

What is the lever you will use to move the Earth?

I call the painting above A Place to Stand after these words of Archimedes.  It is a new piece that is a 24″ by 30″ canvas that is a very simple composition that relies on the juxtaposition of the single Red Tree set against a powerfully set sky that seems ready to overwhelm the diminuative tree.  Yet, against all the elemental force  of wind and weather that  the sky can muster, the tree perseveres.  It uses the flexibility of its trunk and limbs to absorb the wind and its bark protects it against the heat and cold. 

It stands alone, without protection.  Yet it stands.   Just standing  strong where you are is a lever powerful enough to change the world. 

Perseverance is often its own victory.

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