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

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Ambivalence

Artemisia Gentileschi Susanna and the Elders 1610 Oil on canvas Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden.
Image: WGA
The first known work of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – c. 1653) is a classic study of sexual harassment. Other painters often portrayed Susanna looking coy, sometimes willing, a starlet enjoying the attention of producers at the pool.
This Susanna is unambivalently saying NO

Some male painters visualized Susanna leading her old, fat, powerful voyeurs on to commit a completely consensual act of physical contact.

  Alessandro Allori Susanna and The Elders 1561 Oil on canvas, Musée Magnin, Dijon. Image: WGA.
No ambiguity here, jusr a compliant girl and a cute dog in a male abuser’s fantasy.

“I have been bullied by men and women, but the first to bully me were women.” Noelle Mackay #NotMeToo

hecate or the three fates blakeHecate or the Three Fates by William Blake, c. 1795. Tate Gallery London.
Image source: WGA

Hecate, sometimes on her own, sometimes three-headed, a triple deity, incarnates the ambivalence of all female power, from witchcraft to motherhood.

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

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

In 1611, when she was about 21, Artemisia Gentileschi was raped by her art teacher (Tassi). She and her father were not afraid of disclosure. During the trial, as part of checks on her virginity, Artemisia was tortured.

The abused women in her mature paintings are strong, introspective, assertive, independent.

Nothing frivolous intrudes on the monumental composition of her paintings, where a constant battle for light and dark is played out with unforgiving realism.

She painted women in moments of terrifying self-knowledge, finding reserves of violent, sometimes murderous, passion they had never guessed before. Her subjects are not victims or martyrs, projecting self-pity or self-promotion. They take responsibility for their actions and emotions. They are heroines, avengers and fighters for justice; they are autonomous women.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”
Jane Austen Mansfield Park 1814

 

 

Egocentrism before the Selfie Age

Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”
Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1895)

“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)

romneyrussell
George Romney, Portrait of Lady Barbara Anne Russell née Whitworth
holding her son, Sir Henry Russell, “on one of the pier tables, playing with the looking glass”
(quoted from Sir Henry Russell’s memoir about the commission of the painting)

Oil on canvas, 1786/87. Last exhibited in ‘On Reflection’ at the National Gallery in 1998.

That tragic, ruthless glance… is a question of his salvation…..
All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce
Kierkegaard (1813 -1855)

One of the mirrors in the house, an old pier glass inside a gilded oval frame that had lost its lustre a generation ago,
had cracked from too much self-reflection.
The more often they looked, the less clearly they saw themselves.

Noelle Mackay, All the Rest (2017)