In the series Dialectics of the Sexes: no. 10
And that moment when the bird sings very close
to the music of what happens…
Seamus Heaney, Song
Above the mantelpiece in my study hangs a painted panel, not all that well done, however as an image interesting and also held in a nice frame.
It seems to be glossed with a varnish that is used in the construction industry. Making a photograph and avoiding the reflection of the light from behind was a pain in the ass and an art in itself. Who painted it and who is the one portrayed – no idea. I bought it long ago at an auction, purely for its ‘narrative content’.
Thematically, it is a masterpiece. A decidedly ‘attractive nude’ stands between two trees. She puts one arm around a small trunk, her other hand is gracefully holding on to a branch. This pose is optimally showing off her body – she does indeed present herself and dazzles.
The shadow of the foliage on her right partly hides the face from our view. Thus the painter spared himself a portrait, the face so much more difficult to paint than a naked body. But perhaps, he was as good in doing a face as he was in representing this beauty.
He is playing a trick upon who observes it, teasing the male gaze in a superb and naughty manner. The painter makes of me a voyeur – a peeping Tom, in spite of myself. By masking her head from the nose up, by beheading her erotically with a razor blade the painting suggests the voyeur that he, supposedly unobserved, can feast his eye on her carnal excellence.
A date with Madame Guillotine – the blade of light and darkness falls. The spy does not realize, or does it too late, that he is not spying on her, but that she is spying on him.
This beauty has nothing of Rembrandt’s Susanna, with her rather chaste and silly face bathing in a radiant light, naively intending to bath that delicately white body, oblivious to the gaze of lecherous old men who hide in the bushes to watch her.
Rembrandt, Susanna in the Bath
By contrast, the anonymous Lady depicted on my panel chuckles silently over the silly man whose eyes are now licking her body. She is the real voyeur. Beheaded, she seems to come from another world, as all entities on paintings always seem to be keeping that eerie haze of unreality.
On this 1st of November – All Saints it is – with her both elevated and depraved beauty she is lecturing this sinner.
Sierksma – Haarlem, November 1, 2014