The Cholmondeley Ladies

The Cholmondeley Ladies
circa 1600-10
Oil on wood support:
886 x 1723 mm frame:
1074 x 1914 x 100 mm painting Presented anonymously 1955 T00069
Tate Britain, London

According to the inscription (bottom left), this painting shows ‘Two Ladies of the Cholmondeley Family, Who were born the same day, Married the same day, And brought to Bed [gave birth] the same day’. To mark this dynastic event, they are formally presented in bed, their babies wrapped in scarlet fabric. Identical at a superficial glance, the lace, jewellery and eye colours of the ladies and infants are in fact carefully differentiated. The format echoes tomb sculpture of the period. The ladies, whose precise identities are unclear, were probably painted by an artist based in Chester, near the Cholmondeley estates.

I adore this picture. Adore. Look at the stiff twins in their paperdolly poses. I guess, honestly, I love this primitive stuff (note Ammi Phillips this summer>>) and want to wallow in it. I actually was thinking about this picture when it came to the first Mary and the little baby, Jesus picture I made yesterday and wanted to refresh what I had imagined I remembered. And, after tweaking around on the web, found that this image is so significantly better than I remembered.

I was also looking at lovely byzantine Madonnas and fell back into Giotto and his gloriously flat and yet sculpted nativities. For as almost medieval as Giotto's stagesetty nativity is--with the odd perspectives and almost rubberstampy angels, the emotion and pathos that is expressed in the face of the Virgin is stunning. I love the flat, but this pop and glimmer of humanity in the hero of this picture takes Giotto out of the Middle Ages and plops him up front and center as very fresh and new...even today.

I think this adoration I have for these very flat people is going to manifest itself into a body of work-- I just need to draw, watch and wait. Something will bubble up. I think this knowledge of the idea bubbling up is one of the greatest gifts that my time at the Hartford Art School provided. I used to be stunned by the idea of artists waiting for "inspiration" to hit them. Doesnt seem to jive with the way I work. My belief follows Andrew Carnegie's motto of "My heart is in the work". I have to put my heart and energies on the doing (which I love) and the planning around an image. Staying on tract, staying focused and generating work. Some of it inspired. Some of it rote. But the continual motion of the pen or pencil on the paper or on the tablet drives the work unconsciously forward. At least, that is what it does for me. And the physical process of hand on pen on paper sometimes engages the brain which, when entertained and happy, engages the subconscious to begin to spin on other things. And from the hand driving the brain, and the brain driving the subconscious, new ideas emerge and from that a new direction. The minute the hand stops, everything else does too.

Holiday and illustration musings aside...we have snow. I am going to Rochester on a pressrun Friday and will need to compact the week a bit. Am planning food etc. for Saturdays Yankee Swap. Iced Cream Sandwiches are sounding perfect...Maybe roll them in a little crushed candycane?