Art can never be old. It is a piece of work that transcends the subjectivity of time in the discovery of the universality of Taste and Reason in the eyes of all human creatures as regards the principles of judgment and sentiment common to all mankind. The beauty of art spreads through the mind of the beholder and stays there in such alterations that it almost feels physical. It is this kind of sensation when we look at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel that penetrates deeply into the fortress of Reason surrendering to the force of the Senses. And what if such sensual feast of beauty is doubled by more pleasure that will make it sound sybaritic, and sinful, even? But it is happening now and is happening in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, the Vatican has all 12 tapestries designed by the artist hung on the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. The tapestries were weaved and kept in an art studio in Brussels, and this time they are back in the Sistine Chapel, where they were when Michelangelo, Raphael’s contemporary rival, worked on the frescoes, which eclipsed the silky and shiny tapestries that allude to the affable and delicate nature of the creator. The tapestries are said to have been restored by Vatican Museum conservationists in the last 10 years. It is also said that the last time all of 13 tapestries were on display was in the late 1500s.
The magnificent display of Raphael’s tapestries was originally Pope Francis’s idea that the beauty of art should be shared and appreciated by all coming from all over the world, the low and the high, the ignored and the admired. Likewise, art should not be a prerogative of a few select or the haves who pride themselves on possessing and knowing a thing about art. Art is not a thing, but a way in life that nourishes our minds, imbuing us with a breath of artistic inspirations to create an art of our own. The Pope knows that through the power of art, the Mysteries of Faith will be understood in manifold ways, which chimes with Shakespeare’s view on art as thus: “The object of art is to give life a shape.” Right on. Rock on.
People tend to make an anachronistic mistake of assuming that their times are more culturally and socially superior to their previous generations’ times, whereas forty years on an evolutionary scale amounts to a million second on a twenty-four-hour clock, the amount so infinitesimal that it makes you smirk. What makes us set apart from the predecessors of our human civilization is not how they looked but how they looked at the landscapes surrounding their everyday lives, which led to the creation of the ethos of society peculiar to the different historical periods of time. This Thucydidean approach to history as a branch of social science as well as humanity strikes the chords with Ian Mortimer’s perspectives on his Elizabethan ancestors in his scintillating book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England.
Rich in details and splendid in descriptions that successfully and naturally resurrect the period, Mortimer’s vividly atmospheric accounts of the era transform the people and the landscapes of Elizabethan England from one-dimensional textual elements to animated figures in his engagingly vivacious narrative that strut in the mind’s theater of the reader, commanding attention in every chapter in a way that looks virtually real, evoking a phantasmagorical display of the periodical images. Mortimer is a knowledgeable and witty guide well versed in the English Renaissance with a practical sense of reality, which makes him something of Dr. Who, who pitchforks his wide-eyed volunteer reader to the subject time and then materializes when the reader is in a pickle. He shows the reader both the beauty and the beast of the Elizabethan society at its core with his wealth of knowledge drawn upon extensive research on the period and general erudition without putting a supercilious air of a highly learned man and stands in awe with the reader of the cultural and social progresses of Elizabethan England that began to define the “Englishness,” with which we tend to associate when the name “England” chimes the bell of literature, religion, and geography, all in the collective image of being “English.” Mortimore does this wonderfully with his engaging narrative skills that will not make you bored and skip a page.
Mortimer as a literary Dr. Who aims to bring the gaps of time and space between the reader and the populace of Elizabethan England to elucidate his stance on the truth about unchanging human nature wrapt in a periodical costume; in fact, history is a branch of literature made by artificers and artists with stories full of events, persons, and places that are woven into a tapestry of time, which also reflects how we have become what we are. In light of this, Mortimer is a cross between Herodotus with his entertaining narrative skills and Thucydides with his objective analysis of the historicity of society and culture. At the end of the book, the reader will find William Shakespeare, one of the most notable figures of Elizabethan England, holding up “a mirror to Mankind and shows people what they really are.” This is a cracking read packed full of interesting tidbits on the ways of life in Elizabethan England which he relates with wonderfully lucid insights into the turbulent but magnificent era that marks an indelible landmark in the history of England, and ultimately, of the world.
Author’sNotes: Writing is a solipsistic act of a self in an expense of a will, filling a page after page with eruptions of feelings, emotions, and thoughts. I strongly believe that our human faculty is rather instinctive than reasoning, rather physical than metaphysical. It’s a sovereign act of self will that yearns to manifest the buried hopes, anticipations, and desires that are denied to those whose existence in reality is invisible. I write for sheer egotism to let people know that I exist and for aesthetic pleasure to express the ecstasy of my soul when appreciating the beauty of arts. Therefore, I write and will continue to write despite my invisibility.
Great works of geniuses are contemporary with their time and ours; they transcend a great divide of time and space across cultural and racial boundaries and apply the universality of objective truths to any era of our human civilization. That is why William Shakespeare, an Elizabethan workaday dramatist and poet who also acted on stage himself, is a Universal Writer whose works are still widely read, told, re-told, and reenacted that magically resurrect the time he lived that seemed remote yet surprisingly familiar. For Shakespeare is all about humanity that continues to appeal with his rhetorical utility. Hence, I participate in a weekly #ShakespeareSunday on Twitter with different themes as provided by the host. Last Sunday’s theme was ‘ITALY & TRAVEL,’ and this is my tweet that I want to share on my blog with my Readers whom I also encourage to do the same.
'Great feast of fellowship, what a thing it is' The latest blog from the conference website from Stephanie Suh in Camrillo, California. Excellent unpicking of the roots of some classics and the beauty (and compexity) around class, creativity and thought. https://t.co/vY0EbnULyG
My Blog post about Working Class Academics Conference has been published on their website! I was asked to contribute my writing to their wonderful organization promoting the presence of academics with working-class backgrounds on Twitter two weeks ago. Although I am not even in the UK, I was flattered by their invitation. Here is my essay accompanied by the brilliant artwork by Dr. Peter Shukie himself, the founder of Working Class Academics Conference. Thank you very much!