Two Allegories

Peter und Dorothy Allegories are very risky subjects. Either they live up to the traditional notions, which everybody is familiar with, like the blindfolded lady with scales and sword, or nobody will recognize them because they never heard of them. In the following case I did not conceive the two women as allegories in the first place, but when their true nature came out, I did not mind.

First there was this somewhat ironical wing of the Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece from London with the saints Peter and Dorothy. Lovely Dorothy confuses Peter in such a way that he has to fumble to support his books and enormous keys, even the spectacles seem to slip out of his hand.

Now, this frivolous scene by the old master prompted me to make it into an allegory of painting: Saint Peter has become a painter who steps out of a house which is decorated with several masterpieces by Vermeer, Piero, Picasso and Giorgione. He carries with him his painting utensils in a suitcase, a small lay figure, and some books, which might be Vasari’s Lives, Leonardo’s Tractatus and Kandinsky’s "On the Spiritual in Art". Obviously he too has some problems to keep his things together, including his spectacles, at the sight of lovely Dorothy, who instead of a flower offers Peter a strawberry - fruit of the blessed - linking temptation to a promise of paradise.You may wonder what the stork has got to do with it: Well, it might pass as a harbinger of creativity – if you do not regard such a connotation as too silly.

pollock The next allegory ‘Woman in front of a Mirror’ is probably more difficult to recognize. My problem with the piece was that the original concept included an abstract painting as a kind of background tapestry, which should show the viewer how drab and dreary art may be if its main subject, the human figure, is missing. Well, it was not easy to find an abstract painting of high value which suited my purpose and might serve as a background wallpaper.

At length I came across a fine painting by Jackson Pollock, which I had to rotate by 90 Grad to adapt it to my composition. But that was not enough. Due to the master’s unorthodox painting method some patches of the naked canvas penetrated the colour surface as white spots which did not agree with my idea of an unobtrusive rather calm backdrop setting off the beauty of the girl in front of the mirror. Thus I dropped the white spots altogether and the original pattern was no longer recognizable. What you now see is just the attractive female body sourrounded by objects like a camera, a mirror, brushes, and an easel that might be used to render the woman’s beauty in a reflection, a photo or a painting.

Both paintings have become something like allegories of painting, a subject matter I am rather concerned with. I have a special liking for the second of the two pictures, Woman in front of a Mirror,in which the different methods of rendering beauty are contrasted. Unfortunately it belongs to the kind of allegories that probably nobody will recognize. But does that matter ?

Three nudes, pencil