Fortitude in high heels

SerpottaFortitude
Fortitude Sculpture by Serpotta in white stucco and gilding, height 200 cm, 1710-17.
Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico, Palermo. Image: WGA

Elegantly dressed for the life she wants,
in her favourite high-heeled shoes, breastplate bodice and plumed headdress,
Fortitude leans her elbow on the pillar of patience,
never keeping her eyes off the longest battle.

She doesn’t like what she sees, but she will never give in, she will never be part of it, even when other people make snarky remarks about her posing in her Rococo niche.

She exemplifies the moral courage of sticking to her post “because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

Keeping true to herself, and her fashion sense,
without bragging or lecturing, she puts the fun back into virtue.

“Patience is the pillar which nothing can soften.”
St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Music composed by Hildegard of Bingen

“She sat like Patience on a monument, Smiling at grief”
Viola in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (1601)

Smile sung by Judy Garland (1963)

Fortitude is one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Christianity, recommended in a life skills course dating back to the 4th century, based on Aristotelian and Platonic ethics.

Aristotle defined fortitude as courage governed by reason (or temperance) in circumstances of fear or over-confidence: “Courage….chooses its course and sticks to its post because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

St Augustine of Hippo defined fortitude as “love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object”.

Kant: “Virtue is the moral strength of the will in obeying the dictates of duty, never developing into a custom but always springing freshly and directly from the mind.”

Fortitude has become rarer in the modern world where license has chained us to new tyrannies, and freedom is as elusive as ever.

The advantages of self-control in adverse circumstances have been forgotten in the revolt against the misunderstood stiff upper lip. It’s adorable. The straighter the face, the better the joke.

The primary importance of sincerity in human intercourse – “speak what you feel, not what you ought to say” – has been effaced by knee-jerk opinion polls and social media group anxiety – Like to be Liked, Follow and Ye Will Be Followed – which have compromised Freedom of Speech and promulgated the nonsense that passes for wisdom nowadays.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a modest disclaimer: yes, I’m as foolish as you.

The most self-expressive of Romantic poets would not have predicted humanity blogging itself to death.

The people who died for Democracy did not expect the Voice of the People would come from Babel.

Fortitude rests on her broken pillar, not on popularity.
Fortitude does not betray her soul, which to her is virtue, which to us is self-identity.
She fights on.
She wears the shoes she wants.

She?

All four of the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence (or Wisdom), Fortitude (or Courage), Temperance (or Self-control) and Justice (or Fairness) were allegorized as female.

Figure_des_quatre_Vertus_from_Ballet_comique_de_la_reine

Figures of the Four Virtues from Ballet Comique de la Reine, 1582, one of the court entertainments commissioned by Catherine de Medici from which classical ballet, and political satire, developed. Image: Wikipedia

Fortitude lives up to her reputation for cheerfulness in adversity by playing the lute and holding a pillar at the same time.

“Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did,
backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves, Fred and Ernest comic strip, 1982

Step By Step
Poster for Top Hat, 1935

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Bette Midler
(often misattributed to Marilyn Monroe)

SerpottaFortitudeHigh Heels

USE DEMOCRACY AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE. SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE’S VOTE TO STOP BREXIT DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY.

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The Levee of the Great High King

The Universe, O my brothers, is flinging wide its portals for the Levee of the GREAT HIGH KING.
Thomas Carlyle, THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

After the attrition of thirty humdrum years, he no longer loved her for her human qualities. He still found her attractive because she was as self-possessed as a cat. Observed or unobserved, wherever she was, she behaved the same, with the same rhythm and attention, a graceful kind of selfishness, true to herself, if not to him.

Watching her brushing her hair, applying ineffable creams to her face and body, swiping her tablet as if it were a mirror to her other, secret selves, or eating her small helpings of balanced meals at the same table as him without once looking at him, he felt he barely existed. He was not offended. He admired her independence and indifference to other people’s petty jealousies. When she came home in the small hours, without telling him where she had been, he knew better than to ask.
She was her own damned cat.

On balance, he suspected that she wasn’t having sex with anyone else. She felt entitled to go where she pleased and would despise him for thinking badly of her. Honi soit qui mal y pense. Showing his age, he preferred to think of the ancient chivalric motto in Sellar and Yeatman’s translation: “Honey, your silk stocking’s hanging down”. So that’s what he said to her, and she smiled.
Noëlle Mackay, HUMAN RITES

….anything self-conscious is lousy.
You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
Ray Bradbury

Well, it all comes to this, there’s no use trying to live in other people’s opinions. The only thing to do is to live in our own.
L.M. Montgomery, EMILY CLIMBS

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF KING CAT

A woman defined by war

“This is the true story of a woman whose life was defined by war. Like many of her generation, the freedoms that we take for granted were forged fitfully and painfully by their lives.
There were no guidelines for them.
They were modern women in a not yet modern age.”

from War Changes Everything by Melanie Hughes


In her new novel, Melanie Hughes gently lifts the barriers to our understanding of other people in other times, places and cultures, reminding us that in moments of crisis, the personal and political are indivisible. We have to choose how to respond; we are all witnesses, however differently we perceive events, whether we run from them or confront them. Sometimes we have to play a part.

Melanie Hughes writes traditional novels with a faultless sense of period and a modern consciousness of the impact of violence and prejudice on private lives from childhood to maturity.

The story of Nita and the great loves of her life spans continents, from London during the Second World War to the climax of Indian Independence in the ambitious sequel, Midnight Legacy, is told with the author’s boldness of vision and lifelong belief in equality, liberty and diversity.

I’ve known Melanie since I was sixteen; I’ve known her integrity, intelligence and passionate attachment to the people and ideals she loves. Her latest novels, War Changes Everything and Midnight Legacy, published by Patrician Press, are available in print and digital editions, which can be bought from Waterstones or Amazon.

Melanie is very modest, so I hope she forgives me posting in praise of her….

Arcane Bully

The Special Meaning of Being Whipped in the British Parliament

The Conservative Party enforcers put the screws on elected representatives known to be in support of the Repeal Bill that begins the unravelling of the UK’s laws from EU legislation.

The parliamentary party Whips are euphemistically described as “team managers”, which must explain the reluctance of this blogger to be a member of anything.

During the current fight to Britain’s death, aka Brexit, the ruling party Whips reduced “a female MP to tears”. That’s how it’s reported in all the press, from blue to pink to red. Not “reduced an MP to tears” but a “female” MP.

#MeToo?
Don’t take me there, the trampled shrine where the true victims lie speechless and forgotten.

“Calm down, dear?”
Artemesia corrected you years ago.

judithgentileschijpgArtemisia Gentileschi Judith Beheading Holofernes 1611-12 Oil on canvas Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples. Image source: WGA

DON’T WHIP ME AGAIN

History will condemn this period

“My God. History will condemn this period. It will condemn those who’ve sat back and kept their view to themselves, who haven’t stood up and tried to stop all this nonsense.”

Read the full interview with Anna Soubry – a rare black swan in the dismal swamp of British “Brexit” politics – in The Observer.

“I am simply not prepared to stand back and watch my country fall off a cliff edge. If that means voting against my party, so be it.”

“It’s like the counter-revolutionary forces of Chairman Mao or Joe Stalin. It’s not enough that you went against everything you ever believed in; you have to sign up in blood. It’s like Orwell’s thought police and the reign of terror combined”

I’m not just a lonely Fringe Cassandra, after all…..My country needs saving. Nobody chancing to visit this seldom visited place should underestimate the severity of Britain’s self-inflicted wound by Withdrawing from the European Union. Britain is killing itself. HELP

Hamlet: ….why was he sent into England?

First Clown: Why, because ‘a was mad. ‘A shall recover his wits there;
or, if ‘a do not, ’tis no great matter there.

Hamlet: Why?

First Clown: ‘Twill not he seen in him there. There the men are as mad as
he.

STOP THE MADNESS

The Autonomous Woman

I’m still looking at her. I lied in the previous post about ambivalence. I know very well that she is informed, not defined, by other people’s abuse.  This post is too long for comfort, but if you want to see Artemisia Gentileschi meet Jane Austen, read on.

marymagdaleneArtemesiaG The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

“Till this moment I never knew myself”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

Of all women, why should the Magdalene repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a triumphant victim of patriarchy who earned her own living, became a player in global religion, and a legendary heroine of romance, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not patronize her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account. We are looking at her at the moment she knows herself.

Gentileschi also cast Mary Magdalene, the sinning woman, as the personification of  Melancholy, an ambivalent attribute.

ArtemisiaGentileschiMaryMagdaleneMelancholy

Artemisia Gentileschi, Maria Maddalena come la Malinconia 1621 -25.
Oil on canvas. Museo del Soumaya, Mexico City. Image: Wikipedia.

The Renaissance began the modern cultivation of melancholy, or predisposition to depression, as a desirable creative condition, on the dubious premise that the more you suffer, the better your art. This has been proved true only in cases where there is pre-existing talent and a strong technique. Intensity of feeling alone never wrote a good book or painted a great picture. greatest struggle is to transmute personal experience into art

Gentileschi’s interpretation of a passive Temperament is characteristically unromantic: the sensual, dishevelled Magdalene is slumped in her chair, looking like a lethargic and sulky teenager, the opposite of her usually dynamic heroines.

Gentileschi (the daughter, not the father, the overshadowed Orazio, a dutiful father and fine painter in his own right) is a colussus straddling art and gender history. Continue reading