Friday, March 27, 2009

Renaissance Visited

I saw. I really and truly saw. With my own eyes.

I saw the Statue of David and the Pieta. I actually stood before them and looked at them. And thought of what the sculptor believed - that a form was always trapped in a stone, and the sculptors job was to liberate it from the stone!

I saw Buonnarotti’s aesthetic extravaganza on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and on the wall behind the altar.

As a child I had seen them in that gigantic hardbound album of classical art which I couldn’t lift. So heavy it was. My brother Vakkachayan had acquired it from somewhere and it was my favourite pastime turning its pages, from the first to the last and reading the captions and the explanatory notes. Every picture in that book of paintings from the 11th century to the 19th century had a long story behind it. My brother told me many of them, and I poured over those pages almost every day. The Sistine Chapel paintings and the statue of David, I remember, made me blush. I remember the domestic help once teased me for looking at ‘obscene’ pictures.

But last week I saw them all. In flesh and blood(!?). And I looked and looked.

No. I have no trained eye for art. But the idea. Yes. It is the idea that held me enthralled. The idea I had passed on to my students year after year when I introduced them to the Italian Renaissance, the precursor to the English.

Looking up, with my head at right angle to the body, at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the heavily crowded room where cameras were not permitted. I remembered the numerous stories about Michael Angelo. The Agony and the Ecstasy. The spirit of Renaissance reflected in the strange but exquisite co habitation of the Hellenic and Hebraic achieved in the paintings and sculptures of the period. The liberation of art from the straight-jacketed demands of an austere religion. All that I read (without fully comprehending) and taught as part of my profession came crowding into my mind. The feeling was strange. It was like a nostalgia for something I have never seen or experienced – perhaps a nostalgia for an imaginary world I was forced to inhabit as one of the imperatives of my occupation, and which eventually entered my soul and became part of me.

Maybe I’m not making sense.


  1. Lucky you! :)

    You made perfect sense and stirred the desires and cravings laid to rest long back :D

  2. :-)
    I had felt almost the same when i saw Pieta for the first fact I didnot feel any less enchanted when I saw it for the second time last year too..going to Vatican is worth the price!!

    btw I saw the statue of David in there one in Sistine chapel too ?? seems like i missed in that case.:-(

  3. @ Statue of David was in Florence. it's about seeing the great sculptor's creations that i wrote.

  4. you HAVE to upload snaps! :)

  5. straight-jacketed demands made me run for a dictionary and didn't find much luck with the straight.

  6. A trip to Italy? Wow! Sounds like you are having a great time.
    When do we get to see photos?

  7. @ calicutter
    straight-jacket is an accepted variant of strait-jacket.try reader's digests universal dictionary, or any dictionary that is not straight jacketed:-), and believes that it is usage that determines precepts and not the otherway round.
    i personally prefer straight for the lexical advantage it has.

  8. Amazing. Hopefully, one day, I too will crane my neck in wonderous gaze at the magic of art.

    The strokes of the brush that were left centuries ago; the chisel on rock that has etched through time... I'd love to do that.

    And of course, I'll be thinking - Dammit. Kochuthresiamma beat me to the punch.

  9. Yes, Websters has it. A corrupted form obviously. Not worn to straighten you up, but to
    straiten. Dictionaries are bound to give corrupted forms and careful users tend to avoid them.

    Would usage legitimise a corrupted form? Yes, it seems in this case. Not always, though. The Malayalam word യാദൃച്ഛികം is written/printed യാദൃശ്ചികം in 7/8 out of 10 cases. One of the most miswritten and misprinted words in Malayalam. But this doesn't lend even a wee bit of acceptability to it.

  10. sorry calicutter
    am not a stickler for language purity - particularly when i deal with the englis language. the reasons are many - i've blogged about it. so wont go into the reasons here.
    anyway, my mastery over english vocab is inadequate.the nuances - can never find the right words for them-so i indulge in gimmicks :-)
    after all this is blogsphere - -
    btw, i like ur observations.y dont u blog in english too?

  11. Hi!
    I checked for dictionaries with the entry 'straight jacket'. There were 18 general dictionaries. At least half of them (I believe) are dictionaries held in high esteem. And most, don't mention it is a corrupt variant of 'strait jacket'.
    (I think the variant has been so widely used, these lexicographers don't think it's relevant to mention it as 'corrupt' anymore.)I appreciates kt's frankness and humility when she says she's no master of the english vocab. As for Calicutter's observations on യാദ്‌റുച്‌ഛികം I strongly believe he's fighting a losing battle. 25 years from now യാദ്‌റുച്‌ഛികം will be like the fossil of the Neanderthal. 50 years from now there'll be no 'ഛ'left in Malayalam. 100 years from now, 'ദ' would have replaced 'ധ' and 'ഥ'. Such is the history of all world languages till now, and the process of simplification will continue notwithstanding stiff resistance from the purists.

  12. @ calicutter and Paul
    i think we non native users of english should realise that we live in times of englishes and not standard english. the concept of a stadard english is no longer acceptable anymore, particularly in great britain(!!) where the english spoken in scotland, wales , and the varieties spoken in the various districts all stake claim to standard. they resist the efforts to label their brand of english as dialects. So when the concept of standard english and RP are rejected by the very native speakers, why should we indians be paranoid about 'stanard'? had we not been still in the grip of colonial hangover which make us have this slavish attitude to the language of the coloniser, indian english would have gained th respectability and acceptance of american and australian.
    anyway, a living language always changes. that's what leeps it alive-or it'll meet the fate of sanskrit and latin.
    and english language has thru history been open to gigantic influences and rapid changes-which explains the fact that there are more exceptions to the rules than adherence to them.
    like paul aid, the purist is always fighting a losing battle - -


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