Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Joan of Arc

While my parents have been serving a mission in New York City, I've had the privilege of visiting them a few times. I love seeing where they live, where they work, and what their lives are like while they are there. I've also enjoyed the opportunity to explore New York City.

One of the places I've visited is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since I've never taken an art history class, I don't have the background to appreciate much of the art there. I enjoyed their exhibit of Superhero costumes, was tickled to see their huge roof-top statues that are enormous shiny metal versions of the long, skinny balloons that clowns twist into animal shapes, and laughed at their exhibit of a real shark (dead, of course) suspended in a glass box of formaldehyde, with the fun name "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living".

Other parts of the museum, though, I found downright boring and sometimes even depressing. I felt that way as I was walking through an area that had European paintings...many of them were dark and depressing, and many of them portrayed nude women, which I just don't enjoy seeing or find uplifting. In the middle of their European art section, however, I came across this painting that really caught my attention.

The first thing I noticed about the painting was the look on the young woman's face. I could see that something significant was going on here, but wasn't quite sure what it was. I read the description of the painting, and learned that it was a portrayal of Joan of Arc when she was hearing the voices that directed her to lead the French armies against the invading captors. Capturing the moment a person is receiving revelation in a painting seems like a very tough challenge; revelation is all about what 's going on inside of a person...not something easily portrayed visually. I liked the way Jules Bastien-Lepage did it here by including three almost transparent figures among the trees on the left side of the painting to represent the voices she heard. The thing that I kept coming back to was her face and the look of humility, enlightenment, and determination I saw on it. I loved it. I loved the uplifting nature of the moment it portrayed. I loved the fact that it portrayed a woman having this experience, making it resonate with me even more.

When I returned home, I thought about the painting several times and finally decided that I wanted to have a copy of it in my home. Not just because it was lovely, but because I wanted to use it as a reminder of how I desire to live my life...I want to be a person that seeks, receives, and then follows the revelation and inspiration of heaven for my life.

So, I searched the internet for a large print that I could hang above my staircase. I soon found that I could get an actual oil painting for about the same price as a print would cost, so I ordered one from Oceanbridge. A few months later, they began emailing pictures of the painting their people in China had done. At first, I didn't like their version of the painting...I think I had unrealistic expectations of how close they could come to the original....if I had wanted an exact copy, I should have gotten a print! Originally, it seemed that the artist didn't understand the meaning of the painting, and so the three angel figures were painted with no sense of transparency, and Joan's face just didn't show the inspiration I was looking for. But, we emailed back and forth several times, and they kindly adjusted the painting until I felt good about it.

It arrived a few weeks ago in a thick cardboard cylinder mailed from China, and is now hanging in my home. Here's a shot of the version that hangs above my staircase:

The artist definitely has a different style than Jules Bastien-Lepage, and his color choices are different also, but I felt that he was able to represent the message of the painting, and the message was my whole purpose for purchasing it. Here's a closeup of Joan and the angels:

I hope it will help me remember faithful, courageous women and men who have gone before, and will also help me remember the type of person I want to become.

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