austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

What am I supposed to be?

So what were the Treasures of the Vatican which were too precious to be photographed but which were transportable enough to be sent to a large midwestern state? The first one I noticed was a painting dubbed the ``Madonna Del Sassoferraro'', which was billed as the first public exhibition of this piece. The Madonna, you may remember, was the subject matter of approximately one of every three drawings done by western Europeans between 319 AD and 1582, and while the audio tour was clear about instructing me that this was a powerful and moving image, what struck me was that the artist wasn't aware that there's roughly as much human head above the eyes as there is below it, so the Holy Mary, Mother Of God, etc, came out looking like she was missing part of her head.

That's a recurring problem with pre-Renaissance imagery, really: they weren't too rigorous about having the human heads be very representational. As a result and despite the audio tour's instructions I wasn't moved by the Mandylion Of Edessa. This is a hand towel-sized print of a human face, albeit with a very narrow nose, and the legend is that some king sent off to Jesus asking for a visit, and Jesus was busy that week or whatnot and so put a cloth to his face so that an impression of his face could be sent instead. I find on looking this up on Wikipedia that apparently the actual original Mandylion of Edessa, whatever it was, went missing from Constantinople when the Fourth Crusade decided that whole liberating-the-Holy-Land thing was too much bother, reappeared for France's King Louis IX, and disappeared again in the French Revolution. What it looks like I was looking at was the Holy Face Of San Silvestro, and the earliest record of its existence was 1517 when nuns were prohibited from exhibiting it.

The Treasures also showed off a reliquary sporting various tiny chips identified as the bones of various Saints, including Saint Peter. Since this came before the Mandylion, that would make it the first Relic that I know I've seen, although since I'd been to an archeological exhibit decades ago about first- and second-century Christianity odds are I saw something there and have forgotten it. Anyway, Saint Peter seemed to be uncomplaining and was tucked in the center of a sort of clock face of Saint chips.

Trivia: One of the 70 hatch bolts on Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule was misaligned, something discovered 45 minutes before the scheduled launch time. During the thirty-minute hold engineers judged the remaining 69 bolts were enough to blow the hatch open should that prove necessary. Source: This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, Loyd S Swenson Jr, James M Grimwood, Charles C Alexander. NASA SP-4201.

Currently Reading: The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession, Virginia Scott Jenkins. It's very hard to describe but somehow the text makes me feel like this is a thesis which escaped into the real world.


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