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.

 

 

 

 

#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.

 

Amorphous Macron’s LaREM in identity crisis?

Anna van Densky OPINION All new political parties and movements, who have not yet declared their intentions are categorised as “other” in the first chart of the European Parliament projection for the composition of the upcoming in May 2019 assembly. The Movement of the President of France Emmanuel Macron LaRem is among “others” – the political entities, who have not decided upon their political family 100 days before the European elections.

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Monsieur Macron has an ambition to lead Europe, but he is not able to decide his political color?... An identity crisis or “felix culpa”?

The European Parliament has published a first set of projections on how the next chamber would look like based on national polling data taken up to the beginning of February 2019.

However Macron’s LaREM “En Marche” is not the only”amorphous” European political entity: the other indecisive congregation is the Italian Five Star Movement  (M5S) also labeled with grey color on the chart. However one should not conclude that the grey color in Europe is a disadvantage: Europeans have a penchant for grey since it was noted once upon a time by Marquis de Custine. And even within grey they are able to distinguish many sophisticated shades:)

Undoubtedly there will be voters dropping ballots for amorphous entities, which allow them to stay in grey  zone of comfort, avoiding clear choice between classical political right and left, but in the end with the UK leaving the bloc, the identity crisis of the President of France political party is not a major challenge for the EU27. The turn out will be the major indicator for the life expectancy of the bloc. Will it stay or decline? Up to the European to decide.

France: Mutilation of democracy

Anna van Densky OPINION The images of a Yellow Vest protester with a ripped off hand agonizing in arms of street medics, attempting to deliver first aid, is hundred times more shocking, because of the place of the incident – the National Assembly of France – the parliament, the democratic institution, representing citizens.

If such an image had come from Venezuela there would have been an immediate call for a Security Council meeting for discussing the violations with human rights there, and most probably to make the resolution more convincing, the Americans would sent there a couple of missiles, just to be sure the warning is taken seriously.

However if the events are taking place in a country which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and founding member of the European Unionthere is nobody to remind the French government about the respect of human rights. Equally silent is the European Union, proudly celebrating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a milestone document, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10.12.1948) at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.

While Europe is celebrating the Declaration, it is also carefully watching the compliance, but mainly in oil-rich countries, like Venezuela, where you have to be careful with human rights, or you are risking to lose everything like it happened with the leaders of Iraq or Libya after the riot in Benghazi…

Benghazi. The most striking is the silence of the leading French human rights defenders like Bernard-Henry Lévy, known as BHL, who was promoting the intervention to Libya without the UN resolution, insisting the international organisations are far too slow to react adequately on ongoing human tragedy there. But nowadays who from famous French human rights defenders is  standing against mutilation of citizens, manifesting their indignation with the government’s policies?..

Mid-January the LCI TV channel has revealed statistics pointing at 1700 wounded, among them around 100 people with serious injuries.

Among grave injuries the most common were head wounds,  and often with serious consequences, leaving people with lifelong disabilities: 13 have lost an eye since the beginning of the movement as a result of police shooting. There were are 9 (+1) hand injuries caused by grenades; 5 in the leg, one in the reproductive organs, and one in the foot. The wounded are mostly men. There are 10 women out of 93 cases, according to BFMTV assembling data mid-January.

Nevertheless the numbers of injured and mutilated don’t motivate international organisations, obliged to defend human rights, to say a word on French government repressions, reducing the human rights to a tool of foreign policy, a reason to interfere in home affairs of the other countries, especially those which are oil-rich…

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French hypocrites versus Yellow Vests

In prime time indignant Prime minister Edouard Philippe ensures audiences that hundreds of thousands of people in the streets would be not allowed to overthrow the French institutions. He called for new tough laws against the Yellow Vests protesters.

But why French  are so DOUBLE passionately supporting protest movements elsewhere, immediately blaming the leaders in oppression of their citizens? Why cheering at violence of Maidan revolution in Kiev, overthrowing the legitimate, but unpopular President Viktor Yanukovych? He was elected in the procedures, which were acknowledged across the world as democratic.  In Ukraine in the capital the uprising was performed by minority groups, who were actively supported by French government in their fight to overthrow the legitimate head of the state, and the government.  Subsequently the coup d’état in Ukraine was ‘legitimate‘ because it brought to power the pro-Western candidate.

It would be interesting to hear the comment of the oust President Yanoukovich on intention of French government to crush the protests of the Yellow Vests. Does he think the Ukraine history would have taken a different cause, if he had not listen the French hypocrites, applying double standards to themselves, and the rest of the world?..

Quod licet Iovinon licet bovi”,  Romans said, enshrining double standard for the God Jupiter, and his bull. But in XXI century this arrogance of playing Jupiter in guided palace will certainly not pass, serving as a seance of an aversion therapy vis-à-vis French leadership.

Macron-Philippe might scorn the grievances of people, and wrestle down the discontent of Yellow Vest, but they will certainly lose respect of European, despising pretensions hypocrites, claiming leadership: false democrats, false republicans, false human beings.

 

Yellow Vests: downfall of ‘Jupiter’

Anna van Densky OPINION The fumes of riots of Yellow Vests don’t distort the clarity of the picture – the working France could not bear any more the policy of successive governments pressing them as lemon to fund their ambitious European and international agenda. The plans of the President Macron to go global came in clash with local: the gasoline tax became the last straw that broke the back of many, especially “working poor“.

Following their ‘Jupiter’, or like French say it, ‘the elected King‘, French people had to continue to actively participate in footing the EU cohesion of Eastern Europe, flows of migrants and refugees,  who have right to live in dignity, the aid to the other continents for their development, climate change, and many other noble causes in the world, sacrificing their own needs. “Americans First!” gave them some eyeopening ideas. Are French really responsible for all the grief in the world?..Don’t they deserve to benefit from the advantages of technological revolution?..

Doubtfully the EU aggressive foreign policy added a huge portion of combustible: the Enlargement shifting borders to the East came to its logical end in a Donbass conflict.  The following war of sanctions with Russia had negative effects on French economy, although not direct, but long lasting,  when the exports being replaced without reverse by the other countries like Turkey, Morocco, or Argentina. In spite of the shrinking agricultural exports, and related difficulties the President declared the increase of the 2019 defense budget by €1.7 billion – up five percent from the present year, the move made under pressure of the Pentagon hawks to meet NATO target military spending.

Detached from working France in his gilded office of the impératrice Josephine palace – Elysée in his rigid role of an ‘elected KingEmmanuel Macron looks archaic, like a relic of another epoch, next to the leaders of the other democracies in Europe, framed in their actions by national parliaments. The modernization of the Fifth Republic, shifting powers from President to Parliament could restore the coherence of French society, while conservation of the archaic forms of governance will  continue to provoke the archaic forms of answers – insurrections.

However the uprising of the Yellow Vests is just the first act. The real tectonic shift in politics will take place in upcoming elections to European parliament: the downfall of ‘Jupiter’.

Citizens versus ‘United States of Europe’

According to the YouGov poll published 30% of Germans and 28% of French support the idea of the United States of Europe, while 33% and 26¨% respectively, disagree. In other countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and the UK, the population largely opposed the proposal, with around half of the respondents speaking against the idea.

Earlier this month in Germany an SPD party convention  former president of European parliament Schulz suggested transformation the European Union  into a the “United States of Europe” by 2025 and adopting a constitution, realising the dream of the block’s forefathers: Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet.