A Moment in Life of Juan da Silva y Ribera


El Greco was born as Doménikos Theotokópoulos in 1541 on the island of Crete. At about 20 he went to Italy and later to Spain. They nicknamed him El Greco, the Greek, because his proper name was too difficult to pronounce. He painted mostly religious scenes, rarely did he touch upon secular subject matter. He lived in Toledo, the capital of catholic Spain and the former centre of Sephardic Jews.

I saw El Caballero in Vienna, on a hot August Sunday in 2001. The Kunstrhistorisches Museum was full of people. My attention was captured by his face, particularly his eyes. And his direct eye contact with a viewer. People were passing between us. I don't remember their voices, just seeing them pass, almost hover noiselessly. I remember being sucked into his eyes, slowly drowning into their amber melancholy. The white lace kept dancing in my peripheral vision. 

He's serious, austere and melancholy. He stands slightly off centre, partly turned towards the viewer, with his right hand resting on his chest. The colours are solemn brown and grey, he wears black with white lace around his neck and wrists. There's a golden watch chain and a sword, perhaps a symbol of his position. Who is he? A soldier or a lover, a nobleman of his time or no one in particular? According to some art historians, this painting could be artist's self-portrait. Others seem to think it depicts Juan da Silva y Ribera, the warden of the Alcázar in Toledo. Many scholars have tried to interpret El Caballero's hand gesture, mainly focusing on it being either a form of Jewish secret sign or a form of Jesuit penance, showing moral pain of a sinner. Is it a ritual sign, understandable only to the initiate? An oath, strengthened by the position of the hand on the heart? A form of showing regret?

Or is it just a moment in life of Juan da Silva y Ribera, when he stopped in front of a mirror in a dark room just after he closed the shutters blocking the light out. The room is dark, but at the same time there's enough light for him to see his reflection. His eyes slowly travel from white lace around his neck down to the hilt of his sword. It strikes him that it looks more like a piece of jewellery than a weapon. He hides the watch on a chain, the family inheritance, into the folds of his clothes. Pensively he strokes the dark fabric feeling the cloth beneath his fingers. The warden of the Alcázar, he says quietly. His voice sinks into the dark air. With measured steps he leaves the room leaving darkness and silence behind him.


El Greco, El caballero de la mano al pecho, 1580-1582, oil on canvas / olje na platnu, 82 cm x 66 cm, 
Museo Nacional Del Prado

*

El Greco se je rodil na Kreti, kot Doménikos Theotokópoulos. Pri dvajsetih je odšel v Italijo in kasneje v Španijo. Menda so ga klicali El Greco, Grk, ker nihče ni znal izgovoriti njegovega imena. Večinoma je slikal verske prizore, redko kdaj se je loteval posvetne tematike. Živel je Toledu, prestolnici katoliške Španije in nekdanjem središču sefardskih Judov.

Viteza sem videla na Dunaju, neke vroče nedelje v avgustu leta 2001. Umetnostno-zgodovinski muzej je bil poln ljudi. Mojo pozornost je pritegnil njegov obraz, pravzaprav še bolj kot obraz, oči, pogled, ki ga direktno upira v gledalca. Ljudje so se sprehajali med nama. Ne spominjam se njihovih glasov, samo kako so počasi hodili, skoraj neslišno lebdeli, medtem ko sem se izgubila v jantarni melanholičnosti njegovih oči. Bela čipka mi je plesala ob robu vidnega polja.

Resen je, strog in melanholičen. Stoji rahlo iz centra, deloma je obrnjen k gledalcu, desna roka mu počiva na prsih. Barve so resne rjave in sive, nosi črno z belo čipko okoli vratu in zapestij. Med gubami oblačila vidimo zlato verižico z uro in blizu roba slike držalo meča, morda simbol njegovega položaja. Kdo je bil? Vojak ali ljubimec, plemič svojega časa? Nekateri umetnostni zgodovinarji menijo, da gre za avtoportret, drugi, da slika upodablja Juana da Silva y Ribero, poveljnika Alcázarja v Toledu. Mnogi učenjaki so skušali pojasniti pomen njegove desne roke. Razlage se gibljejo od judovskega tajnega znamenja do prikaza obžalovanja, neke vrste pokore za grehe. Je res obredno znamenje, ki ga razumejo samo posvečeni? Ali prisega, ki jo človek poudari tako, da položi roko na srce? Ali pa je samo način izkazovanja obžalovanja?

Morda pa je samo trenutek v življenju Juana da Silva y Ribere, ko je obstal pred ogledalom in temačni sobi, takoj po tem, ko je zaprl naoknice in pustil svetlobo zunaj. Soba je temačna, hkrati pa ni pretemno, da ne bi mogel videti svojega odseva. Z očmi se počasi premika od bele čipke, ki mu obkroža brado do držala meča. Prešine ga, da je bolj podoben nakitu kot orožju. Uro, ki jo je podedoval od očeta, skrije med gube oblačila. Zamišljeno pogladi temno tkanino. Poveljnik Alcázarja, reče polglasno. Njegov glas potone v temačen zrak. Z odmerjenimi koraki zapusti sobo, njeno temačnost in tišino.

Komentarji

Priljubljene objave iz tega spletnega dnevnika

Unciala, okvirji in omejitve

Gotske refleksije

La Biennale di Venezia - Viva Arte Viva