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The only thing heard is the rosary of two other monks
who, seated on low taborets,
pass their infinite hours
looking at the brush of the painter
resuscitating with patience the divine story.
as soon as Ionas started to paint
out of the cave of Bethlehem
the little shepherd who seats on a rock
and plays the flute to his sheeps,
suddenly he remembered of his enemy...
The blood flooded in his head.
He remembered the hagiograph Ambrosios from the Kafsokalyvia monastery,
who often paints the Birth of the Lord in a quite different way,
with bizzare faces and many animals, as Europeans do.
He can't stand this man...
What was this now,
in the silence of his work, to remember of him?
Vexed, he began to talk about him,
while he was painting.
- The things consecrated by time, he was saying to the others, while he was leaning on his painting,
us, the painters we have the duty to keep,
because through us the believers can see
the mysteries of the Orthodoxy.
Nevertheless, yesterday Ambrosios sold to the island of Tinos
one Birth with two shepherds
who play musical instruments made with animal skin.
Are you listening? With three dogs within the flock!
And next to the other things he also painted a little black goat,
that goes and eats small twigs
from the hand of Joseph.
As if this can ever happen!
And then, what about the bath of the infant?
What are those things? How did she get there that woman
who plunges the baby in the water?
Jesus was born in the barn
and as His only treatment, he received
the breathing of the animals
that were leaning over Him and warmed Him up.
This must be depicted by the worthy orthodox painter!
Not the foreignisms of the Italians and of the Russians...
Then he showed signs of life,
from the shadow of the corner where he was immersed
and seated on the chest, the old monk Seraphem.
- You are angry, Ionas! he told him with paternal air.
- I am astonished, replied the painter,
without changing his posture,
because they want us these antichrists
to adulterate the hagiography of Mount Athos,
that is in itself our orthodox faith,
and they are inventing opposite things than those that were delivered to us
by the holy script of the monk Dionyssios of Fourna.
Thus he said. But the deepest truth is
that this monk takes from him the good orders!
And now indeed he feels that his brush is shaking
due to the passion against his fellow artist.
He is human! How could he hide it!
Humans live with the wrath.
And the monks, without it, that keeps them remain humans,
they would be corpses.
- But since you are painting the sacred, said father Seraphem,
wait until you find again peace in your soul.
- I shall paint just this, the cloth of the shepherd,
because I must finish it.
Father Seraphem rose from his seat,
he came near the painting
and looked for some time at the painted little shepherd.
- With the melody of the flute
the lambs graze better!
he said. And he smiled.
- Its from the tradition... replied Ionas.
«Song accompanied by shepherd flutes, an army of angels was singing.»
The most ancient pictures depict this flute playing.
But the foreignisms that Ambrosios is painting, you know what I mean...
Three guardian dogs in the flock!
Musicians playing bagpipes!
Josef feeding the little goat!...
These things are up side down
and they must be ashamed the ignorant committees, who send him orders...
At this point he paled.
The pupils of his eyes,
small like dots, trembled restlessly.
He realised it and he leaned over towards the painting,
for his thoughts not to be shown.
But old Seraphem saw these thoughts of his!
His seventy-five years of age had learned a lot.
And when he saw them,
he folded his hands on his knees,
as he was on his low taboret that he was seated,
- There was once, already four centuries ago,
a famous painter in Italy,
who was called Andrea Castagnio,
and he enjoyed a great reputation from lords,
kings, and popes of his time.
Wherever he happened to be,
he was lurking the humans and the animals,
in order to conceive them in the execution of bad or good deeds, of their hidden or apparent purposes,
indifferent which ones.
He was not interested in the deeds, but in the forms.
He was studying naked beggars, laden porters,
drunkards in the taverns,
as well as handicapped in the asylums.
And when they were asking him to describe the divine,
he used to place sometimes in the painting such people
but disguised as saints.
And because they liked it, as it seems,
the lords of that time to see
that mix of carnal filth and of sanctity,
Castagnio had become very famous all over Florence.
while he was enjoying the fame and the money,
there appeared an opponent of his,
who started to receive important orders,
namely, Domenico Veneziano.
It was said that he knows well the art of the colors
and also that he paints
with sweetness and respect the divine scenes,
holding many angels on the air,
as if they are floating with their white wings
for the glory of the Lord and God.
The celestial incidents can be depicted
only by painters who are pure and without self-interest.
They find these scenes within their soul,
before they transfer them on the painting.
They say that, because Veneziano was a pure and clean soul,
who hated to conceive evil into his mind against a fellow artist
or to utter improper and poisonous words,
for this reason his imagination could form these exquisite virgin forms
and the postures that he presented in his paintings.
These forms were like angelic psalms, you could say,
that arrived from the clouds
and he would conceive them and he would see them like celestial faces
and his brush would depict them with patience in the painting,
as if he had them in front of him,
so that the suffering mortals, looking at his paintings, they would feel that they represented
all that they perfectly visualised during their prayers and their daydreamings.
Fortunate are the artists, who can see beyond the clouds!
Blessed is their imagination,
which bring to us messages from the divine!
Thanks to them, the intelligible becomes visible!
There were living in the materialistic Italy of that epoch some people,
who were tired from the pleasures and from the crime, who,
by seeing the seraphic art by Veneziano,
they felt as if becoming free from the chains of the earth.
His name was famous together with the name of Castagnio.
There were people from Florence who loved the one
and people from Florence who prefered the other,
according their way of being.
Each one takes the painting
that serves his character.
What? Is he going to allow glory to exit out of his door?
Is glory perhaps like his cat ?
Fame and reputation that slips away once won't come back.
Ah! No! Castagnio was not a kind of man that accepts such things.
He won his fame with toil and patience, he would keep it.
Every day he was attentive to see:
Maybe some other artist had made a small step to success?
He intented to turn him back. He would trip him up!
He would conspire against him, he would discredit him,
he would pay footlers and jabberers,
in order to put to him obstacles on the road.
The same way he turned arround all the others as soon as they were starting
and thus he preserved his own fame.
He had his eyes wide open:
lest some talent had sprouted, or ambition or beautifoul soul?
He would dirty it immediately by any means that he could.
The centres of Florence, from where it initiated the public opinion,
he had them under his control by diabolical means, for that reason.
He was saying that art is not only the good aesthetics,
but also the conspiration and the passion,
because otherwise the artist is incapable of safeguarding his work.
He had the time to study the people in the taverns,
to skin dead animals in his laboratory
and to persecute his fellow artists.
how could he resist to this unexpected that he had heard?
They told him that Domenico Veneziano keeps a big secret...
Some never before seen liquid, that makes the colors very shiny like precious stones,
and maintains them for ever
and permits to the image many imaginations.
The colors of Venezianos
get fermented, they say, with the oil.
They become solid like the steel.
They shine like the sapphire and like the ruby.
That secret he brought back from Flanders
the great painter Antonello di Messina and, on his return to Italy,
he trusted it to his favorite disciple Vaneciano.
But he conjured him never to disclose it to no one until his grave.
And Venezianos considered his promise sacred and he kept it.
Therefore he didn't loose his sleep without a reason Castagnio!...
He doesn't wriggle on his bed, he doesn't drink wine
and he doesn't lose weight without a reason.
He is thinking that no conspiracy can bring a cure in this case...
Here, the colors are fighting with colors,
the matter with matter, the science with sciense.
The egg and the glue that he is using
are dry and dark
compared with the admirable vernice of Venezianos...
Every time he would twitch from his scarce sleep,
a voice was telling him:
«The secret! You must learn the secret!»
at the tavern where he painted poor workers and beggars,
on the streets where he followed old women and crippled people,
at the hospital where he studied sick and dead people,
the same voice was haunting him:
«You are losing yourself! The glory escapes from you! Catch up!»
I shall go to see him! he said one day. And he set out.
To haste to see his adversary!...
Like ten deaths were his first ten steps.
But then he took the decision.
At the Saint Maria of the Charitas, a small church of a lord, inside a deep garden,
the young disciple was at the door and with a knife
was scraping from the surface of a thin piece of wood some thick colors.
Castagnio looked at them for quite some time.
Then he asked to see the painter.
«He is inside my master», said the boy,
«and he is working on the Birth of Jesus.»
«I wanted to see him to order from him a painting.»
«The master is at your disposal», replied the boy;
«I go now to bring a tool, as he commanded me.»
And he went on towards the city that young disciple.
He kneeled. He made the sign of the Cross with reverence
and slowly he approached at the place, where,
near the clear light, that poured from the window,
crouched the painter was working.
«I don't know this art, master», he said to him;
«and its the first time that I see from so close someone to paint.
But it's a wonderful art!
In what way it shines the little child in the cave!
How gentle are the forms in the fluttering of the angels!
Someone who sees such painting,
becomes a shepherd in Bethlehem.»
What he said he believed it.
They were biting him the things that he was saying,
but they were dictated by his consious.
He had to say something, to justify his curiosity
and he said the bitter truth.
The beauty of the painting upset him.
Why himself, with so many studies,
cannot reach to the pure and to the virginal fantasies?
Openly he curses at the virtue and at the kindness.
But secretly he is burning for not having them.
What secret bites he suffers! What hell!
How jealous he is of his enemies!
How well he knows what he is missing
and how much he fights against nature,
that made him the way he is!
How much he wanted to lift himself up from the taverns of Florence
until he could paint such «hymn to God»?
Venezianos raised his head toward the stranger,
he greeted him, he put some color to his brush
and he stopped for a moment,
looking both at him and at the picture.
«It is bold», said Castagnio,
«to talk about paintings ourselves the ignorants,
but I say what I feel.»
Venezianos looked at him with sweet smile and sympathy.
«Ohh!» he replied.
«Those who do not know the art
don't they allegedly see better?
How much blurred it must be
the judgment of those who possess it!
I often consult the young disciples and the sacristans in order to enlighten myself.»
And he bowed again towards the painting.
What a position! The devil prepared it!
Castagnio, as he was behind the painter,
he dived in his shoulder a knife
from those that can not be removed afterwards.
The angels, the same angels that he had painted,
took his soul and, chanting wonderful melodies,
led it to the Lord to be recompensed.
The young disciple had not returned yet.
Castagnio snatched some colors,
wrapped them up in a cloth and, without being seen, he left to his studio,
impatient to find out the secret.
He didn't learn anything. He only satisfied his villainous nature
and applied his axiom,
that crime is the same with art.
The same believed other artists as well at that time.
But is it true that the conspiration and the villainous feeling
are justified in the artist?
This was proposed by villain natures, the ones that seek refuge in art
in order to beautify with it their hideous instincts.
The art is one and the same with virtue.
The purpose of both is the divine.
For this reason Andrea Castagnio was panished...
You might say: How was he punished?
With paralysis maybe? No.
With the art of painting itself and with his own character itself.
The Divine Providence let him live for much more,
strong and powerful, without loosing his fame. But it condemned him
to paint the objects as they are!
According to that curse,
the religious images that he left behind
are suffering within the reality,
full of scarred and wasted faces,
turbulent, naked bodies,
where the muscles and the tendons and the shapes of the bones
are distinguished one by one.
Stormy anatomy and miserable truth,
that cannot reach a little above the ground!
There is not one ray of peace or of prayer at that work!
Nothing! Only spasms.
Thus it was punished the villainous nature of that artist,
that believed that the purpose of art is himself alone,
as if he wanted to be the chief of a whole generation of such pitiful low humans,
those who wish to have the divine discipline of art making
as a servant, whatsoever, of their little passions,
and when they don't kill with the knife,
they slunder with the aspersion.
The last moment, seeing that this world has an end,
«Know that I killed that angelic Venezianos
out of inability to be like him!»
After listening to the narration Ionas, looked within himself...
And he let go immediately the brush.
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