Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet, Tintoretto

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Priceless Painting in the Shipley Gallery, Bensham, Gateshead.

This is one artist I haven’t included in my book so I thought I’d post it here to give you an idea of how the book is structured. The idea is to have the poem on one page and the picture opposite followed by the criticism.

Not many people outside the region, realise that there is a priceless Renaissance masterpiece in the Shipley. It is Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto. It is a huge oil on canvas measuring 533 x 210cm. When you walk into the main exhibition space it is facing you at the far end. Many people ignore it as an ‘old-fashioned’ narrative painting no longer relevant to today! However, as well as its overt Christian story it is also a painting about humility and spiritual fellowship. Perhaps these are among the qualities the world could do with at the moment!

Tintoretto painted it for San Marcuola church in Venice and a copy was done some time later. It is not clear which is the original now as as another copy hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid!

The Shipley version ( which may well be the original) turned up in Paris in 1814 where it was sold at an auction to a collector by the name of Baring. He sold it the next day to Sir Mathew Ridley of Blagdon Hall in Northumberland. In 1818 he gave the painting to St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle. It came to the Shipley in 1986.

The composition is typical of Tintoretto’s style: he used diagonal compositions and dramatic gestures a lot. The disciples are in conversation and removing their boots and socks ready for Christ to wash their feet. Washing feet in public was a common sight in Italy in Tintoretto’s time. The large table dominating the composition is a reminder of the ‘last supper’. Judas, the much maligned disciple leans on a pillar at the back, left of centre.

Vasari the famous art historian of the day, who wrote The Lives of the Artists, was critical of Tintoretto’s quick way of working – he implied it was slapdash. In my poem I have imagined the artist replying to Vasari.

Tintoretto Replies to Giorgio Vasari

Oh Giorgio, as I stand before Jesus now

it’s no jest – I’m humbled by his kneeling

presence, dwarfed by such magnificence, impelled

to join in at the table. How could you pass

over my loyal dog; how could you pass

over the momentous moment I’ve depicted?

I’m admittedly fast and like to let the brush strokes

show but there’s nothing dashed off or haphazard

in my design; it’s partly ordained if you’ll pardon

the expression. Remember I had to stand on my own

two feet. I’d gladly have them washed too if I could

only reach over the canvas there, where Peter is.

See how I’ve used distance and separation to depict

destiny; Judas far gone and John close by. I’m down

to earth; no angels here or anything transfigured

and the betrayal only hinted at in dim light.

There are ghoulish doctors, with bird beaks, patrolling

outside as I speak. A plague on Venice – it’s an omen

so they say but I’d rather paint what I see: tables, wash tub

and Christ’s white apron, echoed in the bright tablecloth.

HUGH MACDIARMID, SCOTLAND’S REVOLUTIONARY POET

Hope you dont mind me reblogging this. On a Raised Beach is on a par with Eliot’s Four Quartets, in my opinion!

THE PHILIPPINES MATRIX PROJECT

HUGH MACDIARMID: Toward a Materialist Poetics

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

Only through the objectively unfolded richness of man’s essential being is the richness of subjective human sensibility (a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form–in short, senses capable of human gratifications, senses confirming themselves as essential powers of man) either cultivated or brought into being.  For not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses–the practical senses (will, love, etc.)–in a word, human sense–the humanness of the senses–comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanized nature.  The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present.
…The human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations.
–KARL MARX

Anyone daring for the first time to enter the massive and immense structure…

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Summer

nightingale

At our last Writer’s Group we took one of Bernadette Mayer’s prompts. Pick a phrase at random and let your mind play freely around it until a few ideas come up. Seize on one and begin to write. I took the anonymous poem ‘Sumer is icumin in’ and played around with representing bird song by using phonetic spelling which I hope is onamatopoeic!

Sumer

Apologies to Anonymous (mid 13th century)

Sumer is icumen in sing cuccu

cuccu summer is icumen sing

sing soprano nightin-gal nu-ipp

nu-ipp nu-ipp tweeeeeeeeee pi-oo!

Jug-jug-jug choc-choc zeeeeeee!

Summer is icumen in sing sing

cuccu cu-cucco cuccu cu-cucco!

70th Birthday Picnic

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It has been a while since I’ve posted here due to my working on my book. You can just make out some of us playing French cricket in the background! I had about twenty guests – not a bad turn out for a semi-recluse! The weather was sunny on Sat 6 August and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. Friends came from my Yoga group and Writers’ group.

The poem is a bit of intentional semi-doggerel, if there is such a thing! (I was rather pleased with the rhyme for ‘cricket’- in the last stanza.)

 

Birthday Poem at 70.

The day dawned like any other day;

I’m still standing and not yet lame.

Seventy circuits of the earth around the sun,

I hope I’ll never need a Zimmer frame!

*

My daughter asks what’s it like to be seventy,

I reply no different to being sixty nine.

A friend writes keep the child within alive,

keep writing poetry and you’ll be fine.

*

Lets give thanks and salute the sun today,

play French cricket in Saltwell Park

eat chocolate, Barack Obama and samosas

before our journey into the dark.

*

If I live to be a hundred, I wouldn’t want a plastic heart

In all honesty I don’t think I could stick it;

I wouldn’t want Botox or any replacement part;

I’d just like to be able, still to play French Cricket!

*

Note: Barack Obama is what I called barm brack cake.

Referendum

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Dear Agony Aunt

I believe I’m losing my mind

I’ve started to believe in nightmares

Boris as PM and Gove Deputy

These nightmares are becoming daily prayers

The first one landed on my bed and pinned me to the sheets

at precisely 6am on 24 June

Please can you prescribe an anti-inflammatory

Please can you section me

Please can you confine me

to this green and pleasant land

The Morning After

sf image

I am busy writing a book for publication so will not be posting so often from now on. I will try and post something once a month though! ‘Weddings’ was the topic for my writers’ group this week.

I can’t remember any church bell

but imagine we drank many a toast.

You danced and pranced like a young gazelle

but I recall snorting candy the most.

*

I can’t remember giving you a ring

but can see your purple wedding dress.

You said you didn’t want a freaky fling

I said these days we couldn’t care less.

*

I admired your beautiful blue eyes,

you said you’d travelled fast and so far,

I wondered if you often told lies,

we sped home in a spanking new car.

*

I caressed your shapely malachite ears

but wondered how you saw with three eyes,

you told me you’d travelled ninety light years

from a world of terrible red skies.

Paulo Uccello Replies to Vasari

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This is another in my Vasari series which I hope to include in a book. Giorgio Vasari published the 2nd edition of his famous book Lives of the Artists in 1568 in which he comments on 160 artists and architects. I can highly recommend the edited version published in Penguin Classics Translation by George Bull.

*

I knew you’d like my triads how I posed

three characters, made the cave triangular

and lanced the whole composition

into jousting triangles. I knew you’d like

my hint of supernatural powers broiling

in the cloud top right corner of the canvas.

Not forgetting the stylised dragon of course.

I knew you’d highlight my fallen soldier

deftly foreshortened; my speciality you wrote

and the way the lances disappear at a vanishing point.

* * *

But why must you spread rumours with your gossipy pen!

I didn’t stay up all hours unravelling the mysteries

of perspective and foreshortening; I didn’t tell my wife,

“What a sweet thing perspective is.”

And why did you go on and on about that abbot

feeding me cheese as if I was a mouse. Yes, I know

I wrote in my diary, “If he went on any more I wouldn’t

be Paulo Uccello, I’d be pure cheese.” But I don’t want

to be remembered as the ‘cheese artist,’ it was a joke!

* * *

Although I honour your veneration of artistic perfection

I find it difficult to forgive your epitaph – that throwaway

line after writing that Paulo painted animals, the first man

and woman in a beautiful accomplished style, that he depicted

ploughed fields, furrows, meadows, trees and other details

of country life, “in that dry and hard style of his.” In short

Giorgio, you’ve got things out of perspective: I’m shocked

you think I squandered my time and energy in obsessive

compulsive experiments with multiple vanishing points.

I’m disappointed you depict me in two dimensions living

in disgruntled old age in a hovel at the end. It’s just

not proportionate – not measured, not a balanced picture.