Friday, June 8

in what that beauty consisted

I have often tried to determine in what that beauty consisted, and how it would be possible for me to describe it if I wished to disclose the secret to another mind. "What!" someone will say, "do you mean that external objects, without color or shape, in disorder and unlighted, can take on an aspect that appeals to the eyes and the mind?" None but a painter could ever say to me: "Yes, I understand." He would recall Rembrandt's Philosopher in His Study: that enormous room, three-fourths in darkness, those endless stairways which wind no one knows how; those vague lights (which blaze up and go out, you know not why, in different parts) of the picture; that whole scene, indefinite yet clear; that powerful coloring, which after all is only light brown and dark brown; that magical use of chiaroscuro, that play of light and shadow on the most trivial objects, a chair, a jug, a copper urn; and lo! those objects which do not deserve to be glanced at, much less to be painted, become so interesting, so beautiful after their manner, that you cannot take your eyes from them. They have received the breath of life, they exist.

-- George Sand Consuelo
Translated by George Burnham Ives

Rembrandt's Philosopher in His Study