Duck-Egg Blue, Navy and Prussian
Nudity and the Missing Knickers
Sister Conleth was a cultured, refined woman. She talked to us about nudity in art, about Déjuner Sur L’Herbe and why the Parisian bourgeousie got THEIR knickers in a twist. I never really understood why. To my pre-teen eyes all nudity was the same. But what about Jesus on the Cross? All the books said he was naked but in all the pictures, his loins were covered. For all the other nuns besides Conleth, nudity was the same as perfidity.
This is a latter-day interpretation of the same motif:
I was curious. Once when I was about eight, I saw a naked man returning bare-assed from the bathroom to his room late one Saturday night. He was a wrinkled toothless man but his buttocks were round and firm, his body slim and strong. He slipped quietly into his room, never imagining that I was watching.
Prussian Blue is a strange colour, full of mystery and unexplored potential.
When Sr Conleth first introduced me to it in art class I thought it was kind of a second-rate colour. It seemed drab and inconsequential, unlike the inky ultramarine blue that I wanted to drown in, the blue of a starry, starry night.
And this is ultramarine. I love ultramarine unashamedly. I don’t have the same reservations as I do with Prussian blue which somehow seems “less than” but in fact you can do much more with it and more beautiful things too.
The sea is reflecting something close to you and all around you but you can’t see it yourself, only its murky reflection. The yellow tells of light and life.
The mountains are hard and cold but at their feet, the lights of the town beckon with their warmth.
And that thing in the top left-hand corner. Is it celestial or terrestrial?
It is drawing something out of the unconscious, maybe the summit of a matterhorn-like mountain or maybe it’s just a trick of the light in the night sky, a break in the clouds that catches the light from a distant source.
Sr Conleth insisted that I use prussian blue for the sky and against my better judgement, I did. I soon observed the exquisite delicacy of the light prussian blue as it got closer and closer to the horizon and to my amazement, looked like a sky colour. Who would have guessed?
I remember her talking about the Marriage of Arnolfini. We rattled off all the symbols in her art class.
I still remember her talking about the dog, symbolizing faithfulness and love, the significance of the green (was it fecundity?), the discarded sandals symbolizing the sanctity of marriage and of course the mirrored image of the artist himself, accompanied by another figure, probably a witness. (maybe a Modest Witness)
She gave me a love and a reverence for art that I have kept with me all these years. I think about her when I enter art museums in New York, Barcelona, London and soon, very soon, the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Here is the Baroque Las Meninas which I soon hope to see “in the flesh”. I would go to the Prado just to see this picture. I read recently that it holds some indiscernible-to-the-conscous-mind secret about the end of life.
Duck-egg blue is for pretty and delicate stuff, silk underwear and cakes. I just found a cake in duck-egg blue. See it here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, isn’t the internet fucking amazing?