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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rounder Than The O, parts 1956 - 1959

 1956. Pietro, being by nature upright and honest, took it ill that the prior should distrust him, and thought how he could shame him out of it. So he took a basin of water, and setting himself to his work, for every two brushfuls that he took he washed his brush in the basin, so that there was more color left in the water than he put into his work. The prior, seeing his bag of color getting empty, and the picture not getting on, kept saying, “Oh, how much ultramarine that plaster consumes!”

1957. But when the prior was gone, Pietro collected the ultramarine that was at the bottom of the basin; and when the time seemed to him to be come, he gave it back to the prior, saying, “Father, this is yours; learn to trust honest men who never deceive those who trust in them, but know how to deceive, when they choose, suspicious men like you.”

1958. This is just one of hundreds of such stories in which an artist makes a fool of a simpleminded prior, and perhaps these stories, all of them, make us aware of what life was like for these enormously inventive and creative artists forced to bend all of their talents and skills to the pleasure of men who actually understood nothing about the art they were inspired somehow to commission.

1959. The above store of the ultramarine blue also reminds us that, here also we see Vasari the artist, pointing out that the artist, who spends his life wordlessly manipulating materials, knows things that the prior could not know or even imagine. The artist knows that the pigment can be retrieved from the water, and so he can steal the pigment right before the watchful eyes of his employer.

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