What says you, dear PF community? As Lovely Lady–or as poet–how are you inclined to respond to the question?
My knee-jerk reaction/musing in Shakespearean, Hamletian terms: Alas, have you have come “[t]o sleep, perchance to dream–“?
Which, incidentally, makes no sense in terms of the happy looking fair maiden, although I do see what looks like a cross, which equals, in Shakepearean, Hamletian terms “a rub” in my fair-maiden-escapes-from-the-imprisoned-constraints-of-the art-gallery-to-enjoy-the-fresh-air-poem supposition ….
So…Curious if what appears to be a cross was, in fact, intended to be a cross, I set out to research the painting–which I had no original intention of doing. Without knowing Hungarian, here is all I have been able to learn. The oil painting is titled “Sitting [not praying] Woman with Violet Parasol,” and was painted in 1909 by Hungarian artist János Vaszary, whose works included those with “social messages” and whose later paintings reflected his Catholic religious expressions. Period.
The landscape doesn’t look like a cemetery; World War I is not yet under way. I’m at a loss for a “social message.”
“Armed” with this information, my response now reads: “Are you here to pray, to commune with God?”
That’s it for me. And so, more plaintively than curiously, I repeat:
What says you, dear PF community? As Lovely Lady–or as poet–how are you inclined to respond to the question?
Phase 1 Reflections: The commentary that appeared above this line constitutes the original post composed the weekend of February 27th, a post that I decided to “hold” until I could do more research.
Phase 2 Reflections: The commentary that follows constitutes afterthoughts, composed the weekend of March 19th, when I was ready–after Easter–to let the post go live.
Not content with not knowing more about the meaning of the painting, I have been reaching out via email to libraries and art museums here and in Hungary. Although disappointed that I have not yet learned anything about the painting, I have made peace with that lack of knowledge and understanding, and! I have even formulated my own insight about the presence of the cross.
Here’s what I think. The artist included the simple wooden cross, resting peacefully (at first almost unseen) against the leg of the woman, engaged in a peaceful conscious repose to remind us that conscious of it or not, our crosses always are with us, and that further, they are not inconsistent or out-of-place, even in the midst of beauty and peacefulness. In fact, there are many Gospel passages that call for us to carry our crosses with joy.
That’s it. I’m at peace with this painting, even without expert input.
What do you think?
Phase 3 Reflections: …Just when I had come to peace with not hearing, surprise! March 22nd, and I heard!…The commentary that follows constitutes the surprising revelation, received by email that sheds light on the painting.
Here, from the Senior Museologist-Art Historian, Hungarian National Gallery, is the answer to my query about the interpretation of the painting, including my wondering about the meaning of the cross. Ready? (One last chance to give your own interpretation before finding out…)
“The painting was made at Tata ( a small town which is at 60 km distance from Budapest), where János Vaszary had a studio and where he would spend the summers. The small town’s lake and its natural enviroment [sic] was often subject of the paintings he made there. This impressionist painting depicts his wife on a wooden folding chair, which is not an actual cross, so the picture has no religious meaning. I send you attached some English data on artist.”
No..no! It can’t be true…Just when I had it all figured out…no cross? Let’s look again…
Amazing, isn’t it? (Unless you knew all along; unless you cleverly figured out that which totally escaped me about the “cross” being a chair. I do admit having wondered how the lady remained seated like that, but I imagined her seated on something natural to the environs, like a large rock (boulder) or a tree stump.)
Thanks to the English-language attachments, which included the artist’s chronology, I can tell you the name of the woman: “Mary,” called “Mimi,” and that she and the artist were married four years before this painting was created.
Finally, in a weird sort of irony, going back to my cross wondering, the artist was buried in Tata, scene of this painting, a death, I am sure that was a manifestation of the cross in the life of his beloved wife, who lived three years longer than her husband.
For me, then, the timing of the email revelation was perfect vis a vis the message I had derived on my own just three days earlier. Life lesson: it’s good to know that what looks like or seems to be a cross necessarily isn’t! And yet, when the “real” crosses come, it’s good to naturally integrate them with the fabric of life, still finding beauty, peace, joy, serenity etc. not in spite of the cross, but right along with it!
Your turn:) Please share your observations and thoughts! ..Thank you!
p.s. When I commented on Irene’s post last week, I realized, in retrospect, that perhaps the title of her site (Live Your Poem) had influenced the premise for this poem; perhaps, subliminally, that is where I got the idea that the parasoled woman could be alive in a poem in a way she never could be alive when she was entrapped on canvas.
Thank you, Irene! Yes! At the start of Poetry Month, let’s make a commitment to live our poems–all year round.
In a painting, she speaks with her pose. Perhaps she didn’t want to sit still for her husband (again) so he could paint her? It’s a beautiful painting (those colors!) but I do get the feeling she wants to move around 🙂
Thank you for gifting us with your insights:)…I love the notion of her not wanting to sit still (again) for her husband, only to end up statically on canvas. I love the contrasting notion of freedom to move in the poem. (Something was leaning on the keyboard, making the comment bar scroll. The first time I quickly read your comment as it was getting away form me, I misread “pose” for “prose.” I need to think about that.) God bless you, and thank you! The painting really is beautiful, I think, just as you said. p.s. Did you know right away that the “cross” was the chair?
A beautiful painting. We all see what we want in a painting, and often we see things the artist didn’t intend. Perhaps he didn’t consciously paint the chair as a cross, but certainly it could be seen as an “X” or a cross.
:)…Thank you for taking time to read the post and to share your observations..I’m thinking the same is true for a poem and a song….seeing/hearing what the artist didn’t (intentionally/consciously) intend…Bet you often find (as I do) that it’s such a blessing to see one’s own work through other eyes, isn’t it? Thank you again ! God bless you!
Ideally the listener/reader bring their experiences to the table. Then the poem, song or story is going to be the richer for being seen through another lens. That’s why having a critique group is so helpful, because you get to take other perspectives into account, think about other ways words can be interpreted before you even publish. Warmly, Brenda
Amen. Well said! Thank you for every reflection and criticism you’ve shared with me! God bless you.
This IS a beautiful painting, and I so admire the research you did! I almost wonder if she realizes that as a painter’s model, she will one day be studied and discussed just as we are doing now. Perhaps she wishes to come here, to the future, to tell us her story. Immortal model! Happy Poetry Friday! xo
Thank you so very much for taking time from your hostessing to read and comment on what is, as you confirmed, a beautiful painting. I love your reflection about the immortal model–she lives to tell her story in different venues. No joke today. I appreciate, too, your kind words about the research, which both curiosity and tenacity drive me to do:) Thank you again for hosting this very special April 1st PF. God bless you! Thank you!
I love bringing fine art portraits into schools for poetry writing workshops. With younger kids, I often break down the “facts” of the picture (what we can see with our eyes) and our guesses — what could be happening in the person’s life or mind at the moment of the picture. I’m curious about the cross leaning against her legs and how it is part of her story.
What a blessing for your school audiences that you introduce and incorporate fine art portraits into your poetry writing workshops. A few years ago, one of our elementary schools received a grant to collaborate with an art museum to foster visual thinking skills utilizing fine art. As the LMS, I could see how much students learned and transferred whenever we previewed a book cover or predicted the plot by taking a picture walk through the book. It was a wonderful program that absolutely heightened students’ attention to detail, as well as increased their ability to articulate what they saw/inferred, referring to elements in the art piece. I’m sure that your poetry workshops–even if they are one day’s duration– have lasting impact, with much transference.
Thank you so much for taking time to read the post and to lend your expertise in sharing how we might better see and intuit in response to a visual work of fine art. Thank you for all the good pointers, which I am going to more purposely, consciously use next time I respond to a painting with a poem. On a personal note, I’m gratified that you, too, see a cross and wonder how it is part of her story! Even though the art historian said it isn’t a cross, I’m still seeing it as such, weaving it into–actually projecting it as a foreshadowing–into her life’s story. Thank you again so very much for your most generous feedback!
I’ve continued thinking about what you wrote about breaking down the “facts” of the picture, and I realize something that I had realized, but didn’t really focus on. I found the portrait because I was searching for “parasols.” The title of the painting is ““Sitting Woman with Violet Parasol,” and yet the parasol is not shading the lady; it’s not central focus in my eye. So, that got me wondering. There’s a bit of a mischievous look on the wife’s face. Perhaps she got tired of holding the parasol over her head as her husband painted. Perhaps, as model with certain privileges, she told her husband, “Forget it…My arm is aching. I’m not holding it open one minute longer. You’re the artist, either imagine it over my head, or paint it where it is…I’m enjoying the sunlight.” (Of course, she said all that in Hungarian!:) …I’m sure, using your techniques, I’ll see many other “facts” leading to many other “guesses.” Continued thanks to you for shedding new light! God bless you!
Extraordinary! I love that this can so totally be seen in a number of ways. My first thought on seeing the image was “why is there a large wooden cross by her side?”. It looked out of place and deliberately placed there. The explanation given by you last, satisfied me well. But then the reality of the small folding chair changed the picture totally. I could then see the chair supporting her. Hmm. But perhaps it is a little of both cross and chair – of burden and support…unbeknownst to the artist, he was given a richer image than he knew.
Thank you so very much for sharing your insights. (I’m so glad I wasn’t alone in seeing a cross:) What is especially energizing to me is the way you married the cross and the chair, recognizing the contributions of both images, seeing: “a little of both cross and chair – of burden and support.” ..”of burden and support”…I was so busy trying to find meaning in the cross, it never occurred to me to look for meaning in the chair. Thank you for that gift on this first day of Poetry Month. It is amazing, isn’t it, that the artist created so much unspoken poetry in his art–poetry for folks like you to discover and to articulate. Every blessing! Thank you!
Your insights must have been percolating in my brain all Friday night; woke up Saturday morning with this Scripture thought. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). You did it! Burden and Support/Rest! Thank you for opening up new ways of thinking about the image. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!
Wow. What an interesting journey you’ve made with this beautiful painting. I can imagine her saying, “Enough, my dear. Come sit here and I’ll read you a poem.”
Thank you! That’s the best line I’ve read. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!…My brain doesn’t stop. So now I think…I wonder what poem she will read.
I’ve got to be more like you’re thinking and kindly suggesting. I’ve got to imagine sitting and resting; staying silent in brain and mouth long enough to really be listening!!!!!!! What a gift that would be to myself. Thank you!
Can you believe it, I didn’t see the cross until the third time I looked at the picture. I think I was just caught up in the colors. I can honestly say I thought the woman was simply sitting, lost in the warmth of a spring day.
Yes! I can believe it, because I can’t tell you how many times I looked before I saw! Yours is a beautiful way of seeing. I can use some simply sitting time, lost in the warmth of a spring day. Thank you for that gift this Sunday morning. God bless you! Thank you for taking time to look and to share what you saw!
Wow. So many thoughts to think. I didn’t see the cross either – and then was curious as to why… and smiling once we knew. The colours and serenity caught me.
It took a lot of “lookings” before I noticed the cross. I, too, was drawn in by the colors; I could look at that painting forever–I think you’ve explained why: there is a serenity. What strikes me most of all is that the photo of such a painting is so easily accessible. We are very blessed! Thank you for sharing your observations. God bless you!
Wow, cb. That’s some trip you took! I have no additional reflections since I am perfectly content being a witness to your own journey of discovery. Thank you for sharing that road to understanding… seems to me there were several interesting stops along the way! Also, I really like how you presented your wandering wonderings as an illustrated poem.
Thank you so much for taking time to read the post (which I know was long), and to share your affirming comments, which I very much appreciate. “wandering wonderings”–wander and wonder caught my attention first in Violet’s comment; thank you for reinforcing that pairing. …Also, thanks to Laura’s comment, I’ve given voice to another question: Given the title of the portrait, why isn’t the parasol open? …Hmmm… I suspect there are many other questions, too. Someone else (who didn’t leave a written comment) told me she thought that the woman might have been giggling, since she sees her hand over her mouth. (That got me thinking..(more)…Perhaps she’s stifling saying something to her husband she’ll regret, or perhaps her husband dropped some paint on himself and she’s trying not to laugh openly.) Thank you again so much for sharing the journey of discovery! …God bless you!
Fascinating wander into the world of art. I have read some books that explain poems in a similar heavy-with-significance way, and wondered, did the poet really mean for all that to be read into the work? I like your taking art appreciator’s license, just as we give ourselves permission to take reader’s license when we read poems.
Thank you for sharing all your insights. I’m returning to the second word: “wander” and your later word “wondered.” “wander” and “wonder”– just one letter apart. And there was a song, as I recall, titled “I wonder as I wander.” I wonder: do we need to wander–as least in our thoughts, in not in our physical adventures–in order to initiate or to follow-through on a sense of wonder? …Enough of that..Thank you for connecting poetic (artist’s) license with reader’s/art appreciator’s license. (I admit I take “poetic license” a lot–even when I’m not writing poetry. God bless you for taking time to read and to respond, lending your graceful thoughts!
Fascinating to read how your thoughts changed as you continued to ponder this painting. I didn’t even SEE the cross/chair and had to go back and inspect the picture with my nose against the computer screen!
The last few days have felt “heavy.” Thank you for the much-needed comic relief this morning! I love how you expressed your not seeing. Thank you for voicing my experience so perfectly–and humorously! (I appreciate that gift of yours!) Thank you, too, for reading my ponderings. I appreciate your kindness. God bless you!