Venus Sleeps

Venus Sleeps

The Sleeping Venus, by Giorgione. 1510

 The loss of art and the wonder of its survival. Giorgione (1477-1510) left us less than ten paintings that can be attributed to him with certainty, or something close to that. The Sleeping Venus is one of them, though even this great work of art was finished by Titian, not Giorgione, who died before its completion. The subject, an erotically charged, reclining female nude, was revolutionary for its time, though earlier cultures had far less angst when it came to portraying similar subject matter. In many ways, we lag behind them still.

Restoration. Of the soul, of treasures left to us, passed down by geniuses, madmen and saints. Restoration of the golden age that came before, that never was, the goddesses and gods and heroes who once walked the earth, larger than life, bigger than the average dream, but dreamed of by humans larger than life in their own way. Stunning artists, obsessed with their visions of something beyond the norm, the everyday, the banal. Obsessed with creating the space needed for the ancient gods and goddesses to return.

So much in those ancient myths and legends connects us with the idea of returning home, after endless journeys, after endless trials and tribulations. The divine guides us home, helps us through the various forms of Scylla and Charybdis. Gets us to the other side. Gets some of us through, that is.

If everyone made it through, there would be no stories worth telling.

And they worked with the shadows, the lines, the diagonals of desire, the forms and colors of remorse. They worked with the divine implosion granted few. They matched their colors and placed them here and there. They painted symbols and allegories to keep people guessing for centuries. And then they disappeared.

We stop for a moment, we look, we question. If we’re smart, we remember as much of what came before us as we can. Travel their roads. Follow their signs. Sing the trails they took. And rejoice. Rejoice at least in the thought that others before us had visions of things that have left this world. That may have been better, more beautiful, sweeter, lighter, greater — thunderous, perhaps.

There is something fundamentally innocent and untainted in the contemplation of certain kinds of beauty. The goddess of love, on a bed, on canvas, five hundred years ago, is fundamentally innocent. A girl running across the meadow when she sees her man for the first time in months is primordially innocent. Flinging her arms around his neck as she all but tackles him and they fall laughing to the ground in kinetic innocence. Smiles. Laughter. Wide eyes.

The goddess of love sees that, even when sleeping. Giorgione saw her dreaming of lovers playing in meadows across the world, through time, out of their minds. He followed her so we could.

 

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