Caravaggio à la Flamande

Anna van Densky OPINION from Brussels. Discovered in attic in a house in Toulouse (2014) canvas depicting a Biblical story of the decapitation of Holofernes by Judith  is not universally attributed to Italian genius Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, but some consider it to be a copy of his contemporary, a Franco-Flemish artist Louis Finson, who was well acquainted with Caravaggio‘s masterpieces.

Those days artists had no notion of copyright©, and making of a copy of a masterpiece was not seen as a violation of author’s rights, so someone, who was sincerely impressed by a canvas of Caravaggio was doing his absolute best to share his experience with the other audiences, especially foreign ones, without feeling of guilt. It would also be logical to make an adaptation of the canvas copy to a foreign taste, translating drama into preferred visual  language of the audience.

To my eye the painting to be auctioned on June 27 in Toulouse, France, looks like an interpretation of the story by a Flemish baroque artist, acquainted with Caravaggio masterpiece, and eager to share his special experience back at home in Antwerp, or Brugge. However he is adapting it to the lavish tastes of Flemish art collectors, shaping their preferences  in tradition of luxury of legendary Burgundy. 

The unknown (Finson?) artist depicted Judith as a burger’s wife, dressed in rich black silk, decorated with Flemish lace. With a prosecutor’s eyes, she executes the enemy to fulfill her moral duty.  Judith‘s gaze escapes spectators, underlining the profoundly introvert nature of her act, motivated by her conscious. She is self-confident and stable, convinced of making the ultimate right choice.

The other protagonists, are subordinate to Judith: servants face is reminding of a dry fruit, lacking vivid emotion, and obviously is designed to create a contrast with the widow’s porcelain skin, and full, peach-like round cheeks. Almost decapitated general Holofernes body is in convulsions,  and his served head with imprinted grimace of pain, and open mouth exposing sharp teeth, and white eyeballs – all of them are hinting on his bestial nature.

The tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes is decorated by the traditional “drappo rosso” – rich purple curtain, but it is far too intense in color, too heavy and has too many folds in comparison with light floating draperies of Caravaggio, touched with subtle shades of red,  which are creating backdrop a dramatic understatement, never competing for attention with the human figures in the front.

However they are just purely visual elements of ‘Toulouse‘ canvas, while the major challenge is to explain the message of the painting, which has an atypical of Caravaggio didactic tone, while the Italian genius was never interested in morality or ethics as such. Caravaggio is an obsessive investigator of the darkness of human soul, fascinated by desires, passions, searching and exposing paradoxes, without intention to rationalise them.

The acknowledged canvas on the same subject of Judith and Holofernes, attributed to Caravaggio exposes drama, full of passion and mystery. The master is definitely not seduced by an idea to depict one more illustration of the well-known Biblical story, but he presents his unique view on turbulent lives of the widow and the general, fascinated with the depth of characters and infinite complexity of feelings.

Young Judith of angelic beauty disgusted, and taken aback by her own deed: she, herself, is definitely traumatized by the act of beheading, continuing almost mechanically to cut through Holofernes neck. While the general is searching for the eye contact with her in disbelief that a women with angel’s face is his murderess. Holofernes is definitely not ugly, he his not vile, or bestial, still alive he desperately searching for an answer in Judith‘s eyes, in vain…

Nobody can assemble the pieces of the puzzle – why? Why an idea of committing such a gruesome murder occurred in a such an angelic head?.. Why the army general Holofernes was trapped by Judith’s beauty, and femininity to such an extent that he paid a price of his live for the perception of a beauty incapable of evil?..  Caravaggio does not give the answers, there is no lesson to learn, just an endless wandering in a labyrinth of reflections, feelings and hints. Eros and Thanatos, love and death. Assassination as a sacrifice. Caravaggio has no slightest intention to structure the world around him, on contrary he enjoys it as it is – troubled, impulsive and erratic, being a rebel as he is.

 

 

 

 

Zelensky NATO performance

Anna van Densky OPINION UkrainePresident Volodimir Zelensky declarations at NATO headquaters could be hardly considered as good news for inhabitants of Donbass – joint drills in July with Alliance vessels in Black Sea can not be mistaken for a flight of a dove with an olive branch.

Zelensky is ready to negotiate Donbass conflicts, but only in the context of NATO integration. It means to continue imposing on Russians in Donbass the vector of development they had initially rejected – to choice a camp of Russia’s foes. But not only, it means the complete submission to a totalitarian Ukraine language law, stripping Donbass of their minority national and linguistic rights, destroying their identity.

National identity became a huge problem for ethnic Russian on the terrotries of the former USSR, when a number of former Soviet Republics have chosen for openly anti-Russian policy, eradicating Russian language and identity in contradiction with international law, and European values. Ukraine has taken an aggressive stance against Russian minority, who voted for its independence unaware it would be the beginning of the end of their national identity profile.

President Putin promise to facilitate the procedure of issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens of Russian origin, based on widely used practiced of jus sanguinis, accepted by the majority of the NATO allies, has caused concerns of the Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He said it would ”destabiliseUkraine, omitting the fact, that the opposite, namely the attempt to eradicate Russian identity is behind the political turbulence of Ukraine, degrading into an armed conflict.

The denial of the fact that the Ukrainian state, being composed in different political contexts from different territories with autochtone populations, causes tensions fueling into conflict. In rejection of human rights, identity rights, linguistic rights of Russian, Hungarian and other minorities, Ukraine weakens the state, wasting a great deal of time and energy for suppressing the justified claims.

The declared by Jens Stoltenberg Ukraine-NATO drills in Black Sea in July, will serve as demonstration of power to Moscow, senseless and dangerous, enhancing Russia, the nuclear superpower to protect its borders, and assume it role as a guarantor of psychical survival of Donbass populations, threatened to be exterminated by Ukrainian neo-nazi as it happened in Odessa massacre (2014),  where they cremated Russians alive.

The official restoration of fascism in Ukraine took place in 2010, when President Yushchenko attributed status of national hero of Ukraine to a nazi criminal and terrorist Stepan Bandera, who led extermination of 300 000 Jews in Ukraine in a number of huge pogroms.

Jens Stoltenberg underlined that NATO is an alliance of democracies, subsequently the West should require respect of democratic values first, before undertaking rapprochement with Ukraine, contaminated by neo-nazis. The enforcement of Kiev  by NATO without demanding authorities to assume their responsibilities to respect democratic values, and minority rights will also nourish the most marginal political forces, interpreting the rapprochement as la carte blanche to return to Stepan Bandera ideology of Ukrainian nationalism.

May departure opens Brexit battlefield

Anna van Densky OPINION The decision of resignation of the British Prime minister Theresa May next day after the European elections indicates the severe loss of Conservatives attempting to deliver negotiated departure from the EU. It is also an indicator of highly likely  big win of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, uniting under his flags all those who are discontent with Brexit protracted crisis.

May stepping down is definitely bad news for the European Union, meaning the radical Brexit forces are taking over, leading to much feared no-deal Brexit on the 31st of October. Tearful good-bye of May, a compromise figure, is much more than a personal failure, but equally the EU leadership fiasco to achieve a reasonable agreement, which could be accepted by the majority in the Westminster.

Many considered a over demanding position of the EU as a tactic to create crisis, leading to the impossibility of the departure, and subsequent second referendum  “helpingBritons to correct their ‘historic mistake’. However this risky Russian roulette of the European Commission, including the rejection to re-open the endorsed deal to help May out of the impasse, will now backfire. Instead of the return under guidance of Brussels Shepherds, Britons, morally exhausted by the protracted Brexit argument will follow Farageclean break‘ plan.

Leaving the EU without a deal to start the negociations next day after departure will put Brussels at disadvantage, depriving of instruments of influence, but strengthen the position of the UK, striking trade deals across the world. It will be a considerable blow for many sectors, in first place for the European agriculture, losing a substantial share of the UK market to the other players, which leads to further decline of the EU popularity among Europeans.

The tears of May, while announcing her resignation, are highly symbolical. They are much more about lamenting compromise with Europe, than about her personal fate. Profound sorrow for the end of the EU era, which will never come back.

From the beginning of May this year Japanese call their new era – Reiwa, meaning “harmony“. Using Japanese analogy, after May’s leaving historic arena,  the new European period of history will look like ‘Kenka‘ era, meaning “quarrel“.

Ukrainian linguistic totalitarianism

Ukrainian representative to UN Oleg Nikolenko called Russian request for UN Security Council meeting an “absurd”, insisting recent language law imposing Ukrainian unique status is no different to similar legislation in the other countries. Is it?

Ten years of prison for an attempt to establish multilingualism, and three year sentence for failure to use Ukrainian language in public institutions. Where language laws amount to such a Draconian practice? In what modern state there is such a supervising instance of powerful language inspectors, resembling Inquisition with extraordinary powers to repress?

However the totalitarianism of language  law is impossible to understand without the context of the contemporary Ukrainian nationalist ideology, resurrecting  fascist collaborator, and terrorist Stepan Bandera, glorified by President Yushchenko (2010) claiming his “sanctity“.

The “resurrection” of Nazi criminal Bandera has drawn the vector of development for contemporary Ukrainian nationalist idea, opening the tragic sequence of events from violent Maidan coup d’état, to Donbass conflict, and Odessa massacre.

The imposition of Bandera cult, marked a clean break from the humanist tradition of Ukrainian national idea of the XIX century, reflected in poetry of Taras Shevchenko and Lesya Ukrainka. Modern Ukrainian political elites could turn for inspiration to their heritage, developing national idea through creative spiritual growth, but they have chosen otherwise.

Ukrainian language law nr. 5670 enters open confrontation with the  Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  announcing individuals of linguistic minorities cannot be denied the right to use their own language.

Linguistic rights were first included as an international human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

 

Ukraine: triumph of tele-guided democracy

Anna van Densky, OPINION Election of Vladimir Zelensky demonstrates huge disappointment of the Ukrainians with their political class, even more, than their hopes for a meaningful change of the malfunctioning system. Ukrainian politics, run by a group of oligarchs has been a vaudeville for sufficiently long time to make a comedian look appropriate in the President’s office.

The decadence hit a new low, indicating there is a complete loss of confidence in the establishment, unable to produce any leader with a relevant background convincing enough to be worthy of dropping a ballot. Zelensky wins not because his programme opens new perspectives, but because the Ukrainians wish to trash their political Pantheon, plagued by corruption, and indulging in demagogy.

However change from Poroshenko to Zelensky perceived by many as a revolution, is nothing more than a change of head on Emperor‘s sculpture in times of declining Rome: they succeeded too often, leaving insufficient time to carve the entire figure in marble, and the clever local governors  in provinces adapted by removing the detached heads.

In particular case of showman Zelensky elections, one can conclude the Ukraine is true to itself: predictable in is instability, grotesque, and volatile.

Ascending to presidency due to his popularity as an actor, Zelensky has no political force behind him, – a convenient disposition for clans at power, who are content with a President starring in TV sequel, while they continue business as usual, enriching themselves in reality.

Considered by experts as the ninth most corrupt nation in the world, with almost $50 billion gross external debt, and public debt around 70% of  GDP, Ukrainian kleptocracy is comfortable with a comedian as a head of state – weaker is the president easier is to continue their own way.  Ukraine ‘Semper idem‘ – always the same…

Nevertheless the change is coming,  but not due to the new President of Ukraine, but the context: both the US, and the EU have to revise their foreign policy vis-à-vis Kiev, although for different reasons. While Europe is growing increasingly Euro skeptic, demanding from Brussels to put the EU citizens interests first, before pursuing the Enlargement, and poring  billions on integration of neighboring states. The US has to resolve the problem of contribution to NATO of the European allies: among 29 members, just five meet 2% GDP defence spending target: Greece, Estonia, the UK, Latvia, and the US. 

Without any perspective to enter the EU or NATO, immense debts, endemic corruption, ongoing conflict in Donbass, protracted argument with Russia over gas transit, huge migration rising up to one million a year leaving the country – plagued with multiple setbacks, Ukraine slides into further decline, searching for refuge in a world of illusory – voting a man, who incarnated their dream of an honest president in a TV sequel.  Zelensky victory – is a triumph of tele-guided democracy, fusion of reality and fiction, dreams and frustrations, a political jest, an idle tale. A human comedy…

Video below: Vladimir Zelensky dancing in a show:

 

 

 

 

#YellowVests: reporter Gaspard Glanz handcuffed

Anna van Densky: According to reports from Paris reporter Gaspard Glanz has been handcuffed. Arrests have multiplied, also a journalist from French newspaper Le Figaro has been taken to custody by an agent of anti-riot police during 23 week of protests of Yellow Vests named Acte XXIII. The Vth Republic under Macron‘s leadership swiftly degenerates into Banana Republic, using police batons to oppress wide-spread public discontent. Citizens with shot off eyes, ripped off limbs, and reporters handcuffed – is that EuropeanRenaissanceMacron’s party “En Marche” is marching to?..

“I adore to inhale the smell of tear gas in the morning“, wrote Gaspar Glanz on his Twitter micro blog page. “Ideals are peaceful history is violent” is the second line, defining his vision.

One tries to prevent independent journalists by fear. The censorship of absence on spot” Gaspard Glanz writes, explaining governments’s policy towards independent press, covering Yellow Vests protests against Macron‘s presidency.

 

Brexit by defalut looming

There are no reasons for optimism in Brussels, where the heads of states and governments are meeting for the European Union Summit on March 21-22: there is hardly anyone who believes that the Westminster will endorse Theresa May‘s Article 50 Agreement.

In absence of any changes in the text of the negotiated for two years deal itself, it is only context that changes, the perception of losses endorsing the deal, or preferring no-deal damages.However it is unlikely the MPs will change their minds, vote for the Agreement they have rejected two times already.

On the Brexit, we need to be clear about ourselves, our British friends and our peoples. The withdrawal agreement cannot be renegotiated. In case of a British negative vote, we would go to a no-deal” explains Emmanuel Macron. At his arrival to the #EUCO the President ensured that France is ready for no-deal scenario, and will support enterprises, especially small businesses, but also fishery.

However in case the Westminster decides to accept May’s deal next week, the EU is ready to extend the Brexit deadline to 22 May, a day before the European elections vote will start. The top EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said, while arriving to the Council, that a short extension can be only “conditional”.