Wednesday, 6 January 2010
The composer's eyes are firmly closed; turned inwards, they refuse the distraction of sight. For him the trees, the bushes and the winding paths of the Luxembourg Gardens don't exist; He's intent on listening to his inner voice. It's October and I'm passing the time between a visit to the Zadkine Museum and a dealer in Rue Echaude. The bronze bust of Beethoven by Bourdelle .... I take his likeness on trust as I do Caesar's but only because I come to his greatness and suffering as I do the latter's martial grandeur with the preconceptions that their fame has fostered. There's such severity in his expression, a denial of ephemeral matters that is the hallmark of genius. He strains to transcend the boundary imposed by his deafness to create a dissonance that will break through the platitudes of his time.
The old painter's eyes are wide open, they gaze at you and through you. On the other side of the high vaulted room is his painting of blind Homer clothed in gold. Saskia is long since dead and Rembrandt will outlive his son Titus and his beloved Hendrikje Stoffels. He has known great success and finally a crippling bankruptcy; markets have always been fickle and he invested badly and extravagently. He looks very old yet he's barely sixty. Just look at the way he's painted this penultimate self-portrait; the brushstrokes are so slight yet their effect tremendous. The painter's eye is deeper than the well of Democritus; it tells the density of his experience and a harder won acceptance.
Both Rembrandt and Beethoven saw things clearly. They didn't pass over the world's pain with easy idealism; instead they welded their personal struggle into a vision of Man's transformation. That's why both the bronze head in the Luxembourg Gardens and the painted image in the Mauritshuis are my particular beacons in these difficult times.