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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Infinite density.

I was recently reminded of an amusing experience I had while looking at a painting in what I think was the Louvre. I initially wanted to share this on Twitter but I could not sufficiently condense the anecdote so I share it here. Incidentally, I have done a quick virtual tour of the Louvre in search of the painting that lies at the heart of this anecdote but I was unsuccessful. Upon consideration I've decided that it's perhaps best if this story lacks visual illustration. It will become clear why this is so.

A number of years ago I was leisurely strolling through a museum, glancing at paintings, knowledgeably reading the descriptions, attempting to look more cultured that I really am; you know, the usual. My memory is vague on which museum this might have been but I do remember the people I was there with, which places this particular anecdote in the Louvre in Paris, a few days before New Years 2007.

I came upon a room that held a number of paintings, one of which drew my attention by virtue of its large size. It depicted, if memory serves me, some anonymous (or not, I don't remember reading the description) battlefield on which a battle had just taken place. Corpses, trampled fields, various types of weaponry, etc. all over the place. Now, I know nothing about the art of painting so I shall refrain from attempting to guess what style, or even what period, it was painted it. It was big, it was old, it had dead people; I was intrigued.

I'd strolled ahead of my companions and had lost sight of them so this large piece offered me a chance to linger and wait for them to catch up. I adopted the required stance -right elbow in left hand, chin resting in right hand, feigning erudition- and inspected the piece in front of me in great detail. It was when my companions had nearly caught up with me that I noticed something both disturbing and amazing on the left-hand side of the painting.

Said left-hand side depicted two figures, presumably survivors or perhaps even winners of the battle, on horseback travelling away from us, the viewers. Due to the size of the painting (it filled the wall completely; a good 15ft high and 35 to 40ft wide) the figures strolling away from the battlefield were very large themselves; literally larger than life. This includes the horses. One of these two horses had a tail that was jauntily pointing upwards, the animal presumably content with winning or at the very least surviving a vicious battle. With the tail out of the way there was nothing to conceal what lay beneath, and this was the very thing that, if not shocked me, definitely drew my morbid attention: a horse's asshole the size of my head.

The thought processes occupying my brain when it registered this gaping orifice in the backside of this horse were numerous and varied and after several seconds these impressions coalesced into a number of specific thoughts:
  • Firstly, I was impressed with this painter's dedication to anatomical correctness; while the equine anus was frightningly large it was in proportion to the size of the animal depicted;
  • Secondly, I could not help but wonder why this particular painter had decided to paint such a jaunty tail on the one horse knowing full well that as a result of this he'd have to spend time and effort on painting what can only be described as a horse's ass;
  • And thirdly, finally, and most bafflingly, I then realised with startling clarity that this painter, this anonymous visual chronicler of history, spent an unreasonable amount of time and effort on, say, deciding which exact shade of brown he'd use to paint this asshole, or contemplating how the light of the sun would hit this animal's rectum, and so on and so forth.
The sheer single-mindedness of this painter -so determined to show reality in all its incarnations, to reveal where others would obscure- seized me and while I was looking into an unacceptably large equine arsehole I was in fact seeing, with distinct clarity, the mind of this artist, his passion and his fearlessness, his agony, his ecstasy, his rage and his folly. My eyes saw a horse's ass but my mind saw the artist in a way that an MRI scan sees a brain, through and through. I was touched by this display of honesty, bravery and artistry.

When I tried to point this out to my companions it was promptly ignored and I was dragged along to go look at a statue of a man with an abnormally small penis, which made us giggle.


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