**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


by [?]

At Yale University there is a modest collection of good pictures. Among them is a “Botticelli”: not a great picture like the “Crowned Madonna” of the Uffizi, or “The Nativity” of the National Gallery, but still a picture painted by Sandro Botticelli, beyond a doubt. Recently, J. Pierpont Morgan, alumnus of Harvard, conceived the idea that the “Botticelli” at Yale would look quite as well and be safer if it were hung on the walls of the new granite fireproof Art- Gallery at Cambridge. Accordingly, he dispatched an agent to New Haven to buy the “Botticelli.” The agent offered fifty thousand dollars, seventy-five, one hundred–no. Then he proposed to build Yale a new art-gallery and stock it with Pan-American pictures, all complete, in exchange for that little, insignificant and faded “Botticelli.”. But no trade was consummated, and on the walls of Yale the picture still hangs. Each night a cot is carried in and placed beneath the picture. And there a watchman sleeps and dreams of that portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire by Gainsborough, stolen from its frame, lost for a quarter of a century, and then rescued by one Colonel Patrick Sheedy (philanthropist and friend of art), for a consideration, and sold to J. Pierpont Morgan, alumnus of Harvard (and a very alert, alive and active man).

A short time ago, there shot across the artistic firmament a comet of daring and dazzling brightness. Every comet is hurling onward to its death: destruction is its only end: and upon each line and tracery of the work of Aubrey Beardsley is the taint of decay.

To deny the genius of the man were vain–he had elements in his character that made him akin to Keats, Shelley, Burns, Byron, Chopin and Stephen Crane. With these his name will in brotherhood be forever linked. He was one made to suffer, sin and die–a few short summers, and autumn came with yellow leaves and he was gone. And the principal legacy he left us is the thought of wonder as to what he might have been had he only lived!

Aubrey Beardsley’s art was the art of the ugly. His countenances are so repulsive that they attract. The psychology of the looks, and leers, and grins, and hot, hectic desires on the faces of his women is a puzzle that we can not lay aside–we want to solve the riddle of this paradox of existence–the woman whose soul is mire and whose heart is hell. Many men have tried to fathom it at close range, but we devise a safer plan and follow the trail in books, art and imagination. Art shows you the thing you might have done or been. Burke says the ugly attracts us, because we congratulate ourselves that we are not it.

The Madonna pictures, multiplied without end, stand for peace, faith, hope, trustfulness and love. All that is fairest, holiest, purest, noblest, best, men have tried to portray in the face of the Madonna. All the good that is in the hearts of all the good women they know, all the good that is in their own hearts, they have made to shine forth from the “Mother of God.” Woman has been the symbol of righteousness and faith.

On the other hand, it was a woman–Louise de la Ramee–who said, “Woman is the instrument of lust.” Saint Chrysostom wrote, “She is the snare the Devil uses to lure men to their doom.” I am not quite ready to accept the dictum of that old, old story that it was the woman who collaborated with the serpent and first introduced sin and sorrow into the world. Or, should I believe this, I wish to give woman due credit for giving to man the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge–the best gift that ever came his way. But the first thought holds true in a poetic way: it has always been, is yet, and always will be true, that the very depths of degradation are sounded only by woman. As poets, painters and sculptors have ever chosen a woman to stand for what is best in humanity, so she has posed as their model when they wanted to reveal the worst.