sexta-feira, outubro 16, 2009

Two representations of real people

Two likeness images are presented on Figure 1 and 2, presenting Pieter Cornelisz van der Morsch and Joan of Arc. Morsch was portrayed by the Dutch artist Franz Hals as a middle aged man dressed in dark with a luxurious ornament on his neck, very popular in the upper class of European protestant countries in the XVIIth century. The dimensions of the body and the tones of the face reveal good health according to the standards of the time. The sitter is holding a straw basket with herrings and a herring on one hand. The tone of wit, humor and joy in the sitter’s facial expression suggest a satiric facet.

Figure 1 Painting of Pieter Cornelisz van der Morsch by Franz Hals (1616), Dutch (Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh). The sitter is a high rank court clerk from Leiden with renowned literary talent among the city cultural elite, where he played the role of a buffoon. One hand is holding a herring and the other a straw basket filled with herrings. In the left it is written ‘WIE BEGEERT”, meaning “who desires (one)”. At the level of his head, in the right, a coat of arms with a unicorn and the date are presented.

The inscription “who desires” implies that herrings may be thrown at individuals. Contemporary to Franz Hals, the US American Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1910-1915) portrays a sculpture of Joan of Arc resembling a statue (1874) by Emmanuel Frémiet located in Paris near the Louvre or as replicas in other relevant places, like Compiègne where the English army captured her. Contrary to Frémiet’s portrait, where the sitter is commemorating victory holding a banner with the helm removed from her head and facing the future with perseverance and optimism, Anna Huntington represents the sitter before battle, tense and clamming for divine intervention towards success, maybe being followed by hordes of men as an intermediate between them and God.
Both sitters present different roles in society. Even after an assumed divorce between the modern era and the past, Joan of Arc is among the few French nationalist symbols that survived the Revolution. Joan of Arc did not sit for any portrait that inspired Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington during her research trip to France. Contemporary to Joan of Arc, Morsch would never be known if he hadn’t set for Franz Hals. Morsch was famous in Leiden for the constant mockery of individuals through his talented writing. At the time, throwing herrings was a synonym of witty moral depreciation of the actions of an individual. Contrarily to Joan of Arc and other historical figures that still inspire humanity as I write these lines, Morsch is among that class of individuals that were lucky for paying the right person to perform their portrait. Similar to most celebrities of today, Morsch’s wit and popularity faded through time giving place to those who contradicted the norm and rose above the absurd and the banal.

Figure 2 Sculpture of Joan of Arc by Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1910-1915), US American (Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh). This sculpture was performed as a study for the copper statue located at Riverside Drive and 93rd Street in New York City Manhattan as a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc. The sitter is riding a horse and wearing a metal armor as her gaze and sword are pointed towards the sky.

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