Thursday, 8 October 2015

'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin


Now, this piece will confound a few of you: La Belle Heaulmiere by Rodin, also known as 'She who was once the Helmet-Makers Beautiful Wife,' or 'The Old Courtesan.'

You might see this work by Rodin and ask, “WTF?” "Why the ugliness?” “Who would want to look at that old crone?"

In answer, let me quote the words of two masters.

An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body.
~ R. Heinlein via Jubal Harshaw, speaking about on 'La Belle Heaulmiere' in Stranger From a Strange Land.
Or you might consider the sentiments of Shakespeare from his Sonnet 73, apposite here, in which he spoke of:
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west…

So, d'you think Rodin has pulled it off the task described by Harshaw?

Or do you have the sensitivity of an armadillo?

(Or, perhaps, are you just not letting on . . . )

[Previously posted in 2007]

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