February 11, 2013

Drawing After Tintoretto's Narcissus

No study of the permutations of love would be complete without addressing the love of self. For this I feature a recent drawing I completed after Tintoretto’s painting of Narcissus. There was much to admire in this painting when I first made the sketch in front of the painting - the bold composition with Narcissus strategically placed in the lower left corner, his dramatically foreshortened arm vaulting into the direction of the landscape. The mystery, too, of his right hand concealed beneath the water’s surface, searching in vain for the man behind the reflection, attracted me to the painting. Some of the details of this drawing are invented, since I only made a general sketch of the composition. Instead of figures in the background I included a small collection of vessels. The invention helps make the drawing at least partly my own. Narcissus comes to mind as I come to grips with illness. There is no narcissism quite like the self-absorption of the unwell. It can become a beast looming almost as large as the illness itself, growing exponentially with symptoms that demand attention. The challenge becomes one of not feeding this growth and to try as much as possible to reconnect to others. Caring for and responding to the needs of others can be quite difficult in the face of being needy onself. “And how are YOU doing,” I would ask, the unoiled machinery of reciprocity and altruism grinding together. But with help and practice it is possible, however small the contribution, to care again for the welfare of others. It is better than spending one’s time chasing phantoms beneath the water’s surface like Narcissus.

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