“There, but for the grace of God…”- words attributed to a man martyred in the 16th century; burned alive, under the orders of a catholic queen. This was because the man, John Bradford, was a die-hard protestant minister and the official crime accused him of inciting civil unrest in the streets. Supposedly, Mr. Bradford said those words while in the tower of London, watching as the executioner led criminals to their death. It is hard to imagine such drastic crimes and punishments invented in the name of faith.
Ever since I have moved to Miami, the first urban area I have lived in for a while, the sight of those less fortunate panhandling just a few feet away from me has struck me fiercely. I feel very, very lucky not to be in their shoes but I can also imagine that, with few small turns of events, we all could be reduced to that level. It is with the grace of God I am not in that predicament now.
I don’t mean to incite unrest in the streets, but I have a thought to help the beggars in their plight by giving them culturally enhanced signs to work with! Who better to start with than Giotto? He is one of my favorite artists for his transcendent exploration of a new perspective in painting. Nobody else seemed to be using his or her eyes before his time. From his paintings, especially the frescoes in a chapel in Italy, you can see he studied optical illusion and human emotion. His methods for rendering depth moved western painting away from the prevalent decorative and symbolic techniques of the ancients.
This scene is from the Lamentation fresco in the Arena Chapel in Padua. It might benefit all of us… the observers as well… to understand what “lamentation” really means.