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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Poetry Friday--"Pentimenti"

"AnunciaciĆ³n" by Nosadella (Giovanni Francesco Bezzi), courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Can you see the earlier dove? It is barely visible below the one in the finished painting.

I've had a renewed interest in art over the past year and have spent many hours on YouTube watching how-to videos, and art history courses. We also have several recently-purchased art videos in our collection. One, that I found fascinating is Understanding Art: Hidden Lives of Masterpieces [DVD 700 UND]. The two disk set explores what may be underneath great paintings and how they may have been altered over hundreds of years. Many times the term pentimenti is used.

The dictionary.com definition:
pentimento
[pen-tuh-men-toh]

Word Origin

noun, plural pentimenti
[pen-tuh-men-tee] Painting.
1. the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over.

As often happens, I found a great little poem while looking for something else. The poem by Kay Ryan is found in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems [811.54 RYA], and, its title is "Pentimenti":

"Pentimenti of an earlier position of the arm may be seen."
--Frick Museum

It's not simply
that the top image
wears off or
goes translucent;
things underneath
come back up,
having enjoyed the
advantages of rest.
That's the hardest
part to bear, how
the decided-against
fattens one layer down,
free of the tests
applied to final choices.
In this painting,
for instance, see how
a third arm--
long ago repented
by the artist--
is revealed,
working a flap
into the surface
through which
who knows what
exiled cat or
extra child
might steal.

Head over to Keri Recommends for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up!


14 comments:

  1. Looking forward to your gallery debut, Diane. Watch out for random exiled cats and extra children!

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    Replies
    1. Gallery debut? That doesn't seem within the realm of possibility at this point.

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  2. When I was in Rome this summer, we talked about pentimenti with a tour guide. It's fascinating to think that iconic images are hiding something, that they have a secret past.

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    Replies
    1. When I was a kid, I always thought artists never made mistakes. I find the idea of pentimenti liberating. Even masters made mistakes or changed their minds.

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  3. Diane, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of your knowledge and the variety of topics you continue to explore. I am fascinated by the hidden object in paintings created long ago and wonder why an artist would have done that.

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    Replies
    1. See my comment to Laura above--artists make mistakes and/or change their minds. They're just like normal people!

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  4. Ohh, I love that...

    "That's the hardest
    part to bear, how
    the decided-against
    fattens one layer down,
    free of the tests
    applied to final choices."

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    Replies
    1. I feel bad for the artist who really, really regretted something and painted over it thinking that it was gone forever!

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  5. Thank you for introducing me to this art phenomenon. "..the hardest part to bear" truly is so sad! Reminds me of a practice I'm so glad teachers have gotten their red pens slapped for...rewriting or reinterpreting a student's text "bleeding over it," as my writing instructor described. ...I'll never be able to look at a classic work of art without wondering what was that might be surface again. Amazing! Thank you so very much for sharing. God bless you! p.s. I'm not sure I saw the dove--yet.

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    Replies
    1. Try clicking on the image above--it should open a larger view.

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  6. I love this subject and need to check out that set of videos! The poem evokes so many images, and made me smile to think the decided-against forms are plotting their comeback! In a bit of synchronicity, while I was out of town, I happened upon an independent bookstore named Pentimento! (And bought 3 books I hope to share on the blog soon!)

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    Replies
    1. Interesting word, isn't it. I swear I heard pepperminto and was a little confused at first!

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  7. Love this section:

    "...how
    the decided-against
    fattens one layer down,
    free of the tests
    applied to final choices."

    Kay Ryan was certainly an astute observer of life and people and then cleverly segued that into an ekphrastic poem!

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  8. That is simply fascinating. I have a special affinity towards all things creative - and I've always wanted to be an art historian, and a librarian, and a yoga instructor. If only I can be all at the same time - but Pentimento. Huh. That is my word for the day. Thank you for sharing.

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