Thursday, 17 April 2014

Selling souls to the devil and decorative detail

Off to Faust this evening. An appropriate theme (perhaps) for Maundy Thursday: the temptation of selling your soul to the Devil. The loss of all moral compass.

A passage - fitting for the day - from Ruskin on San Marco, Venice: (found Stones of Venice: he would surely describe this as a 'word picture'.)
"Round the domes of its roof the light enters only through narrow apertures like large stars; and here and there a ray or two from some far away casement wanders into the darkness, and casts a narrow phosphoric stream upon the waves of marble that heave and fall in a thousand colours along the floor. What else there is of light is from torches, or silver lamps, burning ceaselessly in the recesses of the chapels; the roof sheeted with gold, and the polished walls covered with alabaster, give back at every curve and angle some feeble gleaming to the flames; and the glories round the heads of the sculptured saints flash out upon us as we pass them, and sink again into the gloom. Under foot and overhead, a continual succession of crowded images, one picture passing into another as in a dream; forms beautiful and terrible mix together; dragons and serpent, and ravening beasts of prey, and graceful birds that in the midst of them drink from running fountains and feed from vases of crystal; the passion and the pleasures of human life symbolised together, and the mystery of its redemption; for the mazes of interwoven lines and changeful pictures lead always at last to the Cross, lifted and carved in every place and upon every stone...."
Yesterday learned - from Ruskin - that there is an order in ornament. His list:
1. Abstract lines
2. Forms of earth (crystals)
3. Forms of water (waves)
4. Forms of fire (flames and rays)
5. Forms of air (clouds)
6. Organic forms (shells)
7. Fish
8. Reptiles and snakes
9. Vegetation A (stems and trunks)
10. Vegetation B (foliage)
11. Birds
12. Mammalian animals and man.

The power of lists. Particularly like 8. Reptiles and snakes. From reptiles and snakes come beauty and horror: the dragon a fusion of both (as above). Oddly symbolic to the Christian church, as Ruskin says.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy