One angel, two angels





Here are two images of angels.  One is the original of the angel of the golden tresses presently in a museum in St. Pertersburg.  We don’t know where it came from originally but it spent some time in the bell tower of  the Kremlin during the reign of Ivan the Terrible.  The other is a modern copy.  I found both images in an interesting book about how to copy icons by two artists, Andre Fischer and Agnes Raynaud.  I picked it up in the gift shop of the Faberge Exhibition in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The book sets out in detail the technique of making a copy like the one below.  I want to discuss here what is appealing or not about both images.  If we look at the older icon, it has the beauty of the ages imprinted on it.  It is also, as far as we know, the original creation of an artist.  While it is true that iconography demands that the originality of the artist be subordinate to the requirements of rules, a “truth” about what is being depicted, if you will, still the artist here has imbued the subject with personality.  The large eyes are ringed with shadows.  Sadness?  Reflection?  The idea of a “bodiless power” having shadows under his? her? eyes is intriguing, is ‘t it?  I love the little jewel in the hair but the traditional ribbons are a faint vestige only appearing as a dark line on the left side.

if we look at the modern copy we have a totally different rendering of the subject.  Of course it is more vividly coloured. Somehow it seems more formal.  A new element is the naming of the angel.  High on the left the little oval that means saint and then on the right the two letters for archangel and his name Gabriel.  Once again, I am puzzled by that question, why is Gabriel a he?  I love the treatment of the hair and the obvious halo.  The tilt of the head is almost the same but to me the mouth and even the eyes are different.  To me the original is like an old friend whom we meet over and over again.  The new one reminds me of an introduction by name and with the vivid impression a new person can make.  Comparisons, are they so odious?



Man-made and unmade


Cars and houses and even an asphalt

street rolling on up that hill

wonders, real wonders for human beings

a whole world to fill.

Fashioning the world, drawn out, drawn, spun out

to some fantastic peak

Of art, of technology, of skill

of stubborn persistence, of flawless technique

Trial and error, over and over again

Rewarded by money, power and fame

By prestige, vanity and real interest too

The fullness of heart and intellect

That knows the triumph of doing it, getting it, knowing it through and through

Knowing that you can, that you do it

Better than anyone else.

Yes, Mr. Einstein, Mr. Edison, Mr. Faberge

Yes, cowboy, or doctor or builder of a great railway.

One who was called, “teacher, my teacher,”

by a student who got it, in whose eyes light dawned.

The acrobat, the soccer player, the toolmaker

Or are tools now made by laser?

A toolmaker as obsolete as an emperor.

But trees, no – trees live apart from us

Beside, parallel, apart from the asphalt street

From the wrist watch, the IPad, the latest sneakers on the feet

that walk the asphalt street.

Yes, clouds and trees

Look – a dark form, the early summer leaves

Oh, is it sun or rain or time that weaves

the formed dark silhouette or filigree pattern of the twigs

stenciled against the pale clouds?

Within the dark form, the trunk and branches

There creatures live, birds or squirrels, insects

Unobserved even at early morning

when the red-headed boy runs in the rain

that falls on the asphalt and down the city drain

The rain that falls into the river

on my red car or onto the muddy lane.

Come then, rain and wind.  Come clouds, come snow

Grow grass and trees, weeds, bushes, come seasons’ flow.

Fly birds, annoy me squirrels and mosquitos and flies

Charm me, butterflies and dragonflies and bees and wasps tight laced.

Live your lives, damn it.

Insist, as we insist on some crazy object

Arise moon behind the clouds.  Be perfect

As perfect as a Faberge egg?  Let’s troop to see that.

Let’s pay to see it, study it, marvel at it, guard it

photograph it, explain it.  Let’s just get it, shall we?

Do you get it?  Well, then, let’s lose it.

Let’s pick a leaf from some ragged lilac bush

Let’s stand and look at that dark shape.

An egg, a tree.  Where are we?

Faberge and the wild world







Gasping over a delicate Faberge dandelion clock

of rock crystal, gold, diamonds and asbestos fibre  mimicking

the fluffy down that we, as children picked and blew away into the careless world.

We prepare in our museum to show and to revere

the skill, the value and the beauty of this and other


The dark green leaves of nephrite

that look like those we picked on cool spring days

with a sharp knife and savoured as the first salad

of our salad days.

Look how the “water” in the crystal glass

looks just like water.

How can we marvel at this

object, ornament,  museum piece,

Yet scorn, hate, poison and destroy

the tender miracle that dots the lawn or brightens up the lane?

See how we shake out heads and hurry up to

do the weeding in the garden early in the day

For we must show this afternoon

the treasures of the master, Faberge.