Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who is the Laughing Peasant?

The Laughing Peasant is a pencil drawing by Durer. I don't know if he ever used it in a painting. He may have used it slightly changed. In those days artists collected characters in their sketchbooks - as indeed good artists have done up to modern times - but unlike modern times sketches then had a remarkable degree of finish. They needed so many faces for their vast crowd scenes, you see, and their viewers knew how to scan those pictures intensely. And perhaps the relatively high price of paper then meant they would not use it wantonly.

I like this drawing because the face is genuinely good humoured, not beautiful but certainly healthy looking. I can see this woman in the fields, happily pulling beets, with the sun burning the back of her neck and a couple of children tugging at her skirts. She looks capable. She's in this life to enjoy it. And if one day a poncy artist spots her looking healthy and happy and having a laugh, well, let him draw her. She likes a bit of art, likes to look at it in the church. Beauty always touches her.

I bear something of a resemblance to this woman - same shaped face, same nose, same chin. I would like to look as healthy and even half as happy. I'd like my default expression to be that broad grin. By God's grace, it will be, some day.

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