Monday, October 06, 2008

A Mouth Gone Dry & An Aching Neck*

If you looked, you could see the cuts of the stone-cutting tool the sculptor must have used. On this very piece of stone in front of you, some 2000 years ago, the man had chopped and sliced. With delicate cuts, maybe afraid of a mistake, or perhaps with daring strong strokes, the sign of a master, he had worked days and nights to produce this face.

If you looked deeply, you would ask yourself, what face did he see to make this one? How would he know what Dionysus looked like? Did he let anyone see it while he worked, or did he keep it away from outside eyes? Did he have a glorious vision of a god before him, or was he copying from others?

If you looked, you could see the effects of 2000 years on the surface of the stone. You could see lines and cracks across the ridges. You could see chips of stone missing and the difference in color in the chipped sides.

The lords had ordered the piece themselves, spoken to him in person. He would make a great commission of it, he knew. But that wasn't what was making him smile now. After working for 6 months without a pause, he was going to be done today. And it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

He turned it around, using his fingers delicately on the stone surface to feel for bumps or broken "skin".


It was perfect.

He wiped droplets of sweat off his brow and gazed into the face that had occupied his mind and thoughts for so many months now. He didn't know if he had done it intentionally some day, or did it just seem so real to him now, but he almost felt he could see the veins on Dionysus' forehead gushing strong blood into a mighty mind. An image of strength, force of will and sheer power, brought out by a mortal's work on eternal stone.

They would know his name now. He would be famous. His work would make him immortal for the ages and many years later when he was dead, they would remember his name.

His name...

If you looked closely, it seemed as if soft fingertips had caressed and carved those wild tassles of hair. No hammer and punch could be that perfect. Was it clay that the sculptor had modelled and somehow turned to hard stone? Had he known all the while the disastrous effects of one chip too big or one knock too strong? Or had his hands become one with the hammer and to the punch such that he didn't know where one stopped and the other ended?

If you cared enough, you could read the plaque giving information about the bust. It mentioned the approximate year of completion, off by only about 40 years. The sculptor had died by then, but no matter. The rest of the plaque spoke of the team that had found this magnificent but flawed reproduction of Dionysus. Modern historians and myth-experts now knew Dionysus had a longer face and less prominent forehead. It was but a common mistake of sculptors of that era. Such a pity, really.

But the point is, you wouldn't look so closely. You couldn't care so much. There was little time and clearly no patience for a closer look. Because a sign ahead pointed towards the Cappella Sistina. And The Last Judgment. And The Creation of Man.

* noticeable symptoms after leaving the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.

1 comment:

Dhruv said...

Oh aha! Yes, yes Divine!