I’ll start out here, Painter of the World.
On the first and second days
Right up to the last day of rest,
From confused and shadowy chaos you brought
A happy face to light from out of the deep;
And the bright shining heavenly throne
Of most varied and perfect painting,
Which decks the sky with purple tints,
So distant from our human bustle,
And with different flaming lights
Adorns the shining sovereign enamel:
You show your skilful and mighty hand
When you so marvellously paint
The great signs of the ethereal cloister
On the western and the southern sides.
Here I offer you two verses from Pablo de Céspedes Poem on Painting from Teoría de la Pintura del Siglo de Oro edited by Francisco Calvo Serraller (Madrid: Cátedra, 1991).
The Siglo de Oro is the Spanish Golden Age and there are many treatises in this collection that give valuable biographical and technical information about artistic practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I find the debate about the nobility of painting fascinating and, even after studying the period in depth, I am continually struck by the paradoxes.
For example, it is Velázquez’s work that makes him of interest to me, not his nobility. I could really give a fig whether he was a knight of the Order of Santiago or not. Yet painters were keen to make the point that they were not mere craftsmen and that their work should be considered alongside poetry, music and philosophy, not sculpture, ceramics and textiles.
This poem gives us the image of God painting the world. It is a loose translation. Although I generally prefer to stick closely to the original the involuted phrases just sounded pompous in English. The Spanish is lively, varied and intriguing. Maybe I’ll put some more of it up when I have the time.
I did the painting on a cold day at the weekend. A wren came down and hopped in front of me contre-jour to provide me with the main motif!