The Life of Things

about 1438-42The Vision of Saint Eustace
Pisanello (c. 1395 – c. 1455)

 


When I Buy Pictures

or what is closer to the truth,
when I look at that of which I may regard myself as the imaginary possessor,
I fix upon what would give me pleasure in my average moments:
the satire upon curiousity in which no more is discernible
than the intensity of the mood;
or quite the opposite—the old thing, the medieval decorated hat-box,
in which there are hounds with waists diminishing like the waist of the hour-glass,
and deer and birds and seated people;
it may be no more than a square of parquetry; the literal biography perhaps,
in letters standing well apart upon a parchment-like expanse;
an artichoke in six varieties of blue; the snipe-legged hieroglyphic in three parts;
the silver fence protecting Adam’s grave, or Michael taking Adam by the wrist.
Too stern an intellectual emphasis upon this quality or that detracts from one’s enjoyment.
It must not wish to disarm anything; nor may the approved triumph easily be honored—
that which is great because something else is small.
It comes to this: of whatever sort it is,
it must be “lit with piercing glances into the life of things”;
it must acknowledge the spiritual forces which have made it.

 

Marianne Moore (1887 – 1972)
Quotation within poem from  The Poetry of the Old Testament by Alex R. Gordon (1872 – 1930)

 

Elegy

Pisanello StorkPisanello (c. 1395 – c. 1455)

 

Elegy

True, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to use no longer customs scarcely acquired,
not to interpret roses, and other things
that promise so much, in terms of human future;
to be no longer all that one used to be
in endlessly anxious hands, and to lay aside
even one’s proper name like a broken toy.
Strange, not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange,
to see all that was once relation so loosely fluttering
hither and thither in space. And it’s hard, being dead,
and full of retrieving before one begins to espy
a trace of eternity.—Yes, but all of the living
make the mistake of drawing to sharp distinctions.
Angels, (they say) are often unable to tell
whether they move among the living or the dead. the eternal
torrent whirls all the ages through either realm
for ever, and sounds above their voices in both.
They’ve finally no more need of us, the early-departed,
one’s gently weaned from terrestrial things as one mildly
outgrows the breasts of a mother. But we, that have need of
such mighty secrets, we, for whom sorrow’s so often
source of blessedest progress, could we exist without them?
Is the story in vain, how once, in the mourning for Linos,
venturing earliest music pierced barren numbness, and how,
in the horrified space an almost deified youth
suddenly quitted for ever, emptiness first
felt the vibration that now charms us and comforts and helps?

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) 

(translated from German by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender)

The American frontier

CapturePisanello (c. 1395 – c. 1455)

The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoliation of a continent which we once confused with progress.
Wildlife in America

We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.
The Snow Leopard

Wild northern Alaska is one of the last places on earth where a human being can kneel down and drink from a wild stream without being measurably more poisoned or polluted than before; its heart and essence is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  in the remote northeast corner of the state, the earth’s last sanctuary of the great Ice Age fauna that includes all three North American bears, gray wolves and wolverines, musk ox, moose, and, in the summer, the Porcupine River herd of caribou, 120,000 strong. Everywhere fly sandhill cranes and seabirds, myriad waterfowl and shorebirds, eagles, hawks, owls, shrikes and larks and longspurs, as well as a sprinkling of far-flung birds that migrate to the Arctic slope to breed and nest from every continent on earth. Yet we Americans, its caretakers, are still debating whether or not to destroy this precious place by turning it over to the oil industry for development.
The New York Review of Books, October 19, 2006  

There’s an elegiac quality in watching American wilderness go, because it’s our own myth, , that’s deteriorating before our eyes. I feel a deep sorrow that my kids will never get to see what I’ve seen, and their kids will see nothing; there’s a deep sadness whenever I look at nature now.
Wildlife in America


Peter Matthiessen
(May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014)

Drew Very Well

pisanello esteVery great is the advantage enjoyed by one who follows in the steps of a predecessor who has gained honour and fame by means of some rare talent, for the reason that, if only he follows to some extent the path prepared by his master, he seldom fails to arrive without much fatigue at an honourable goal; whereas, if he had to reach it by himself, he would have need of a much longer time and far greater labours.
Pisanello, a painter of Verona, having spent many years in Florence with Andrea dal Castagno, and having finished his works after his death, acquired so much credit by means of Andrea’s name, that Pope Martin V, coming to Florence, took him in his train to Rome, where he caused him to paint some scenes in fresco in S. Giovanni Laterano, which are very lovely and beautiful beyond belief, because he used therein a great abundance of a sort of ultramarine blue given to him by the said Pope, which was so beautiful in colour that it has never yet been equaled.

. . . . To return to Vittore Pisano; the account that has been given of him above was written by us, with nothing more, when this our book was printed for the first time, because we had not then received that information and knowledge of the works of this excellent craftsman which we have since gained from notices supplied by that very reverend and most learned Father, Fra Marco de’ Medici of Verona, of the Order of Preaching Friars, and from the narrative of Biondo da Forlì, where he speaks of Verona in his “Italia Illustrata.” Vittore was equal in excellence to any painter of his age; and to this, not to speak of the works enumerated above, most ample testimony is borne by many others that are seen in his most noble native city of Verona, although many are almost eaten away by time. And because he took particular delight in depicting animals, he painted in the Chapel of the Pellegrini family, in the Church of S. Anastasia at Verona, a S. Eustace caressing a dog spotted with white and tan, which, with its feet raised and leaning against the leg of the said Saint, is turning its head backwards as though it had heard some noise; and it is making this movement with so great vivacity, that a live dog could not do it better. Beneath this figure there is seen painted the name of Pisano, who used to call himself sometimes Pisano, and sometimes Pisanello, as may be seen from the pictures and the medals by his hand.

By reason of his fame and reputation in that art, this master gained the honour of being celebrated by very great men and rare writers; for, besides what Biondo wrote of him, as has been said, he was much extolled in a Latin poem by the elder Guerino, his compatriot and a very great scholar and writer of those times; of which poem, called, from the surname of its subject, “Il Pisano del Guerino,” honourable mention is made by Biondo. He was also celebrated by the elder Strozzi, Tito Vespasiano, father of the other Strozzi, both of whom were very rare poets in the Latin tongue. The father honoured the memory of Vittore Pisano with a very beautiful epigram, which is in print with the others. Such are the fruits that are borne by a worthy life.

Some say that when he was learning art in Florence in his youth, he painted in the old Church of the Temple, which stood where the old Citadel now is, the stories of that pilgrim who was going to S. Jacopo di Galizia, when the daughter of his host put a silver cup into his wallet, to the end that he might be punished as a robber; but he was rescued by S. Jacopo, who brought him back home in safety. In this Pisano gave promise of becoming, as he did, an excellent painter. Finally, having come to a good old age, he passed to a better life. And Gentile da Fabriano, after making many works in Città di Castello, became palsied, and was reduced to such a state that he could no longer do anything good; and at length, wasted away by old age, and having lived eighty years, he died. The portrait of Pisano I have not been able to find in any place whatsoever. Both these painters drew very well, as may be seen in our book.

Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects, by Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574)
tr. by Gaston du C. de Vere (1912-15)

Pisanello, known professionally as Antonio di Puccio Pisano or Antonio di Puccio da Cereto, also erroneously called Vittore Pisano by Giorgio Vasari, born between 1380 and 1395 and died between 1450 and 1455, was acclaimed by poets such as Guarino da Verona and praised by humanists of his time who compared him to such illustrious names as Cimabue, Phidias and Praxiteles.
W

Psalm

Pisanello (c. 1395 – probably 1455)Veritas sequitur …

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!
                              Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass
                              The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.
                              Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun
                              The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

George Oppen

Cheetah Leaping

pisanello-cheetah. leap jpg  Pisanello (c. 1395 – probably 1455)

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/26/fantastic-flow-motion-video-of.html