Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quijote in blue

Pablo Picasso. Don Quijote y Sancho Panza. 1955.

El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha
In Paris, in August of 1955, there appeared in a weekly journal a drawing by Pablo Picasso. Now, Paris was the cultural capital of the world; Picasso the most celebrated artist of his time; Cervantes' Quijote the world's first novel (romance), and arguably still the greatest. Now, that drawing appeared in a shade of grey; it has been near universally reprinted in black and white. Last year in Tblisi, Georgia, there was discovered the original painted sketch, and it was in a blue green, and faded black (not supra which is a weakly computer manipulated from the black and white icon). Does a bit of color change matter? It was to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Quijote's appearance.

But what does Quijote mean to us? And who is us? Quijote and Cervantes were Spaniards, i am not, and if you are reading this in english, probably not you either. Now, that i am not a young man, Quijote is even more dear. Quijote has gone mad and pursues his illusions. Quijote wants to be the perfect christian. He takes as a model the role of the knight. Spain is the power of the world. The time of knights and chivalry are gone. The spaniards conquered the world, and spread the Gospel, but not in a gracious manner.

Quijote is an old haggard man (bordering on fifty), with a pure soul. The complete book, if it were to fall on your foot, would hurt. One does not have to read far, before one is brought to tears.
... Youth is gone. Now in these four hundred years, our average life spans have increased. Still, youth is gone. Try to get hired at this age. We have a clause, ignored, in our contract, that, says a shop must have a certain percentage of men above this age. Unions have suffered in this country, even beyond the current malaise, we have seen management growing too onerous, and we have had poor leadership that has easily compromised the men for ease of relationship.

Now, our hero was an hidalgo (gentry, minor nobility,
fijo d'algo, son of something). He identified as a gentleman of the blood, hidalgo de sangre, though impoverished. He saw himself as the redresser of wrongs. Love and justice were one in him. Others saw him as a crazy fool, and treated him this way. That is the poignancy. He ought to know better, but he suffers honourably. Did not Jesus suffer? Quijote had read the medæval romances and used them as manuals. He was bound to do right, no matter the outcome. A canny man would not.

Getting back to the Picasso drawing, see how large Quijote is. He dwarfs the windmill that defeats him. His loyal companion also is under scaled. The stature of Quijote in the print suggest his importance. His steed, Rocinante, is flesh bare. His armour is rusty and ridiculous. His bearing is as magnificent as he can muster.

Quijote is an existential hero. He knows he is a character in a book, but beyond that; doing good in a cruel world, has what value for us? How are we to act? What is the price of wisdom and discernment?
Gustave Doré. Don Quichotte et Sancho Panza. 1863. The previous iconic Quijote.

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