Monday, January 21, 2013

Less than a feast on the e-table

     The following recent conversation was instructive. I've been pondering my lack of education in many areas anyway. And my Olympic ability to humiliate myself. Still, I am resolved to go ahead with life and laugh at myself as I keep on learning.

     On Friday, Jan 4, 2013, at 6:56 AM,  I received an email from Steve F.:
Just read this piece on Caravaggio - painting and the mystery of faith. Thought you would appreciate it, too.
Steve F.
Here's a link to Caravaggio's painting:
The Denial of St. Peter by Caravaggio
     At 11:35 AM Margie wrote:
     Thank you, Steve.
As I read the piece and hadn't as yet looked at the painting itself, I thought perhaps the servant girl would be looking toward the source of light, but I see, as Meis describes, she is not. Possibly this reveals my own desire for spiritual recognition to be that simple and straightforward for people. Turn to Jesus. It isn't. I agree she has gone interior and something is happening. Perhaps she recognizes a crossroad. A dawning light. And her choice is to turn from it, but we don't know in the next second what her choice will be.

I enjoyed the essay and wish I could see the painting in real space and time.
The mysteries of faith continue.

     At 2:52 P.M Drew T. wrote:
Sorry, I don't buy any of it. Bad painting with an unintentionally cross-eyed girl in it. Peter looks like Plato reasoning with a student. This painting is deservedly one of his least interesting.

     At 3:23 PM, Denis Haack wrote:
I hesitated to say anything, but since Drew has spoken, I'll add my one and
half cents. That Caravaggio was technically superb is not debatable, as is the
fact that he had a huge influence on artists that followed him. My main
problem with this painting, though, has been that it seems to kowtow to
Rome, a propagandistic use for Caravaggio's art and skills. In Scripture
Peter denies aggressively, eventually with swearing, yet Caravaggio pictures
him as taciturn and meek, even mild and shy. Caravaggio was a violent drunk,
on the run for murder and headed to Rome near the end of his life where he
hoped to be pardoned by the pope so as to avert the punishment for his
crime. (Actually more than one violent crime: he also assaulted another man
but had escaped from prison.) This painting was done in the last year of his
life just at this juncture. I've always thought it the work of man trying to
make Rome like him by depicting St Peter the way he does--Caravaggio's
trying to weasel out of the trouble he's brought on himself by a lifetime of
decadent living. One of his weaker works, because of the use to which he
uses his skills.

     At 4:02 p.m. Andy C. wrote:
I have to admit, I need more than that article gave me to convince me that
1) this is a great painting
2) it is about what the writer thinks it's about
3) it converted the entire Western tradition of painting (ahem.)

But it's an interesting reading and there's no doubt there are some
interesting things going on in the work.

     At 4:41 PM Margie wrote:
Denis, Drew, Andy, Steve,
I think someone made a comment in my name….
Really, I don't know who since I don't know that much about
Caravaggio. But I'm quite sure I don't like him.

(By this time I felt very sorry I’d said anything at all.)

When I asked permission to publish our conversation and they all said yes, Steve F. confessed the following: (Which I admired and made me feel much better about myself. But not totally because I missed the Trent/Reformation thing.)

“I share your e-red-faced horror after I discovered in my colossal ignorance I had put something on the e-table that was less than a feast…. But I learned a lot... and was very glad to learn.

What I found intriguing is that no one commented on what I think was the theological idea at the center of the article – the contrasting Trent/Reformation perspectives on art.  If the author is to be trusted (and that is now in question after the barrage of anti-Caravaggio criticism elicited by my email), I find myself landing more on the side of Trent (gasp!)”


Denis Haack said...


I always read your blog with great interest, even though I seldom leave a comment. In this case, I feel I must comment. You write, "When I asked permission to publish our conversation and they all said yes..."

But, I was never asked. Is there a reason?

Love always,

Margie Haack said...

Of course. That's one thing I do know: You'd say yes AND I didn't want to BOTHER you with pointless requests.

Anonymous said...

Careful, Steve F., or they'll revoke your Reformed credentials. --DGus

Sam Van Eman said...

Hilarious. I mean the whole exchange with the comment icing on top.