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Brueghal, Censor Brueghal, Censor
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2018-05-16 05:53:28
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BRUEGHAL, CENSOR
by Lawrence Nannery

I

Pieter Brueghal the Elder was the greatest painter in the history of the world.
He brought to light dark and vibrant corners of the human pageant, and showed
Us many secrets, good and bad, in the texture of the human heart.
His paintings moil with little figures, common people, gross and sometimes ugly,
Ensconced in nature, doing common and sometimes shameful things.

These landscapes of the human way of life lack any center, or geometric shape.
We find in him no pagan perspective, no pride or glory, no attempt to glorify the human figure:
There is no happy nude, only naked people bundled in shapeless clothes.
He refutes by way of his paintings his contemporaries, like the Master of Flemalle,
Who had provided rude scenes from the life of the Savior, in clean luxurious clothes.
Brueghal's paintings are childlike depictions of a human race loved despite themselves.
In the paintings is dancing life, God's way of being with us.
They make the viewer a child, they put him in his original condition, a child of God.

II

larry01_400In his very prime Pieter Brueghal was struck down by a heart attack
But lived on for another few days.
He lay there on the big bed in the big house he had managed to purchase there in Brussels,
Giving his wife instructions to destroy half his work.

Both sides in the religious wars were hypocrites, unChristian liars,
A collection of cutthroats, whoremongers, perverts and moneygrubbers.
Damn both their houses!
As though our perfect Savior ever counseled Christian to murder Christian,
As though exaggerated Pontiffs and sickly monks could ever be models for God's Faithful!

He had once been young, hot, had wanted to speak truth to power.
He was against denominationalism of any kind.
That was before he had a family.
What a fool he had been!
Now some questionable drawings and paintings would have to go.
If he didn't burn them, the authorities themselves would,
And probably, then they would burn all the rest, and then his wife and his children as well.
How he regretted now his early self-confidence!

III

Thanks Gott!  I am dying but not so suddenly that all my sins will cry out behind me.
Thanks Gott!  I have time to make it come out right, correct my errors, put things in order.

Burn them, Mayken, burn them as I direct.
It will be better for you and the babies.
You should never have married such a fool in the first place, my sweet!

I regret my own virtues.  I regret that I used my gifts for purposes the world cannot tolerate.
I suppose that true Christianity can not be expressed in this world and go unpunished.
What must I have been thinking!  Such wild optimism!  Burn them, burn them!
Thanks be to God the public has not seen most of these things. 

Husband and wife formed a little quick team.
She would fetch a painting, a drawing, and hold it up before him,
And he would nod yes or no.
The condemned ones went straight into the fire.
It was slower work than he desired.
He was in and out of consciousness, but the children were also helpful.

Oh, another attack!  I doubt I have enough time left.
That Martin Luther with shit on his ass.
Those Italians with their catamites.
Those cruel Spaniards, who didn't hesitate to murder children, all in the name of the Lord.
The world is full of these people.
It is not altogether a bad thing to leave this world.

Goodbye, Mayken, goodbye sweet children.
Your father loves you very much.  He has done what he could for you.
Remember me.  Be good to your mother.  Remember that I am watching you from above.
I am so regretful, so weary, that I did things I should not have.
But I always tried to do my best for you, though perhaps I have failed.
Children, I have one thing to say to you: love God always.
Farewell, we shall meet again in Heaven someday soon,
For the world in its present condition cannot go on much longer now.

IV

A catalogue of the paintings that Brueghal instructed his wife to destroy from his deathbed
Would include the following, and more besides.

larry02_400A scene in hell, much more hellish than Mad Meg, honoring all true Christians.
There is a Pope there, in all his pomp and his Court and his naked mistresses,
Whose bodies have decayed and are rotting or blistered with the heat.
Besides the Pope there is Martin Luther and some other reformers lying down
In the fires of hell, seeming contented, though all about are torturing devils
With their instruments of evil standing tall.

A triptych depicting the mocking of Christ, with the Jewish priests and high priests
Wearing the garb of the Church of Rome.
His agony in the garden, His capture, accusation, flogging, carrying of the cross 
All these in little circles around the edges, with an emphasis on the cruelty
Of those who captured and persecuted him.
The central panel is a simple crucifixion, but His naked body is so agonized
That it was known to shock those who had viewed it.
His body is emaciated, lacerated, a photo of pain.
There was no eroticism in that body, nor any symbolism.

A depiction of the Christ Child tumbling and cavorting in the shop of his carpenter father,
Inside of which there is a picture within the picture, hanging on the wall:
A hall of a sumptuous mansion in which the Princes of the Church enjoy a kingly repast.

A battle scene, in which more are dead than alive.
It had been said that some people could smell blood coming from it.
It is not clear why this painting had to be burnt.

Praying Hands, in imitation of Dürer.
But these are dirty peasant hands.
If these too earthly hands could be the very symbol of devotion,
Why then perhaps God Almighty might be a graven image too.

The execution of a Prince during the Peasant Wars,
An execution by means of hanging from a tree.
The strangled victim’s face and neck so clear,
The hatred on the faces of the executioners so fierce and happy …
Of course this would give offense.

A miniature with his wife as the Madonna, with a child on her lap.
She has the exact attitude of the Renaissance beauties who played this role
But she is no beauty.
She is dressed very simply, perhaps poorly and the Christ Child has defecated on her:
A Christ Child and a Mother Mary of the Earth    too much of this Earth.

V

Mayken herself, the hard-working beloved girl, worked with energy and economy.
She had always obeyed her husband in all things,
And wished often that he would just once obey her.
She had always said that he should paint like her father,
In order to make money, and stop moralizing all the time.
Now he saw she was right, and that gave her satisfaction.
She said of herself to herself: "I am the daughter of a famous craftsman-painter
And the wife of a painter and genius.
How come I can't tell a good painting from a bad one?"

In the middle of the hubbub and furious activity Pieter Brueghal
Sighed, as though catching his breath, and was gone in an instant.
Thus passed away the true Christian, true artist, lover of this world
Under the dispensation of God, and lover of God and His Appearances in this world
From this earth.

 


     
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