|The Three Graces, moku-hanga woodcut; 8.5"x11.25" on Echizen Kozo washi||; edition 12|
I don't think it was irony or wry cynicism that led me to call my last print the Three Graces;
I think instead it really was just the way the three sets of hands and tilted heads rose to the surface from the memories of art classes of long ago and art visits of more recent times and reminded me as I sketched the three bags that would become the subject of this print. It was only later that I realized how apt a title it was.
Agliaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia; they represent the three Greek Charities or Graces;
They were the goddesses of joy, pleasure, grace, beauty, festivity, adornment, dance, and song. The daughters of Zeus and sea-nymph Eurynome-- they were also the handmaidens of Hera and Aphrodite, and hence, among other things the protectors of vegetation.
Here's the entire painting, from the Botticelli room of the Uffizi gallery in Florence:
It's big, beautiful painting and enigmatic in the way that lost symbols often are.
It's a complex work, and it's symbolism and thematic origins are still debated but it is reproduced everywhere and these three young women adorn posters, calenders, postcards, plates, trays, etc. and have become part of every Florentine's collective memory.
(Once, after a kindergarten class field trip; Sami stood in front of it and spent 15 minutes explaining to his grandmother (and a gathering of open-mouthed, American tourists) the complex symbolism and identity of the various figures: Zephry, Chloris, Venus, Eros, Mercury, the Three Graces, Flora.....))
But we've come a long way from Classical Greece or Renaissance Florence.....
I'm an American and can't claim to come from a culture that is synonymous with Art, or Creation, or any kind of Charity.
As one of the largest consumer societies in the world, we are responsible for the bulk of the consumption of needless crap, and the resulting mountain of packaging, paper, plastic wrap, cardboard, starch peanuts, styrofoam, injection-molded plastic all designed to safely envelope, package, transport stuff we never really needed into our homes and lives.
So instead of Grace, Joy, Mirth and Song we have Glad, Hefty and Kirkland. And we'll be remembered, perhaps in 2000 year's time by the accumulations of refuse we've left behind rather than some painted panel or chiseled relic.