Child Under the Stars
Graham’s cast of angels, fools, kings and voyagers are innocents adrift in a world we view with a sense of wonder, because he enables us see it as they do. While their bodies are presented as frail and schematic, their gravely beautiful faces with downcast eyes and tremulous smiles are lovingly rendered. He knows what to invest with detail and what to leave out. In the painting above, the monk-like hood drawn closely around the child’s head pulls the viewer in to marvel at the tenderness the painter shows for his subject. The faintest flush of colour warms the skin in the wintry night. The child is sphinx-like, the smile inward. It’s a clever trick on the painter’s part, because whatever lies behind the expression must forever be a mystery. (As Leonardo knew!) It can mean whatever we want it to, and that’s what repeatedly draws us back to it, to wonder and to speculate.
Graham and I share a love of the Romanesque. We’ve never discussed this, but I know it to be true. (I recognise his love of it in his work.) So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when yesterday he sent me this image:
He writes of it :
‘Having just looked at your new posting
) I wanted to send this image to you. It is in the crypt museum of Santiago de Compostela cathedral, and is one of the few surviving fragments of Matteo’s original stone choir, made around the time that the Portico da Gloria was carved. It is the remaining section of ‘The Cortege of the Magi’. I adore the conundrum of its incompleteness, and of the disparity between the size of the horses and the tower from which they emerge. I also love their heads bent in supplication, and the fact that there are still traces of polychrome on their bodies. Whether the figures of the magi were ever carved is something we will never know, but to me it is as enigmatic and wonderful as Giselbertus’ amazing relief at Autun of the three kings asleep in bed being visited by the angel; you will, of course, know this.’
(I did know it, and found this image to post here.)
‘I think that, were I ever to be on ‘Desert Island Discs’ (unlikely, don’t you think?), along with my hard-considered playlist, I suspect that this above so much else, just might be my unabashed luxury item: and of course, it would make a wonderful windbreak!’
Two final images to end this post, illustrating how tenderly Graham captures animals in his paintings.
Black Dog at Walsingham
Bird with Amphora