Monday, March 20, 2023

The Yellow Gash: Sartre on Tintoretto

 I was reminded recently of a beautiful British documentary film from the 1980s, exploring the works of Jacopo Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice through the lens of the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre. Of the "Crucification" -- see here -- -- Sartre, in Qu'est-ce que la littérature?, writes:

"Cette déchirure jaune du ciel au-dessus du Golgotha, le Tintoret ne l'a pas choisie pour signifier l'angoisse, ni non plus la provoquer; elle est angoisse, et ciel jaune en même temps." (italics are by Sartre)

This translates into English as follows:

"Tintoretto did not choose that yellow rift in the sky above Golgotha to signify anguish or to provoke it. It is anguish and yellow sky at the same time." 

(italics corrected from the English translation linked below, to match Sartre's French original) Note that this version translates the French original as "rift", whilst the documentary title uses the more evocative "gash". The most literal translation may be "tear" or "rip".

Meanwhile, commenting on "The Miracle of the Slave" (or the "Miracle of Saint Mark:) -- see here -- -- Sartre raises the very pertinent question (paraphrasing), how do we know that the saint won't come crashing down to the ground? If her were levitating, his garment would be wrapped around him. Here, he seems to be in free fall. So, it's only faith that would lead us to believe that he won't fall to his death. Tintoretto, the subversive, per Sartre.

The documentary has a beautiful soundtrack, including the "Kyre" from the Mozart C minor Mass, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay, appearing at the end. If you'd like to listen, it's available here. .

As the documentary film puts it aptly, "In Tintoretto, Sartre recognizes a kindred spirit."

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