Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Connections not Coincidences

Trim, where I live, has a statue on a column of the Duke of Wellington because his family owned land nearby and he may have been born here or on the way to Dublin or in Dublin. I didn't know Liverpool had a similar column in his honour until I visited last week. The plinth is inscribed with the names of his victorious battles including Waterloo where he defeated Napoleon.

When I visited the nearby Walker Art Gallery I saw a painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856). This was painted in response to the romantic picture of the same name by French artist Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) where Napoleon is idealised pointing the way forward on a rearing horse. In the Liverpool painting the great Emperor crosses the Great Saint Bernard Pass on a mule borrowed from a local and led by a Swiss peasant.

In Tate Liverpool the following day I saw René Magritte's The Future of Statues (1937). This sculpture consists of a commercial plaster reproduction of the death mask of Napoleon which has been painted with sky and clouds. Pupils' reaction to The Future of Statues.

And then that night in the Echo Arena Bob Dylan sang his song Like a Rolling Stone which included:

You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

And if you really want to continue the trail: in the eighties video made for Dylan's Jokerman song the final image is a reworking of Magritte’s work with an animation of Dylan’s muted profile, layered with Magritte-like clouds. You can see the video on YouTube here. Information about the making of the video here.

What does it all mean? Something about the infinite number of possible connections. I am never surprised by so-called coincidences.

No comments: