Tag Archives: mystic

Marc Chagall – The Mystical Seven

10 Feb

1913. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers is an oil painting by Belarusian painter Marc Chagall,Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1913

Despite the luminous yellows and deep red colours dominant in Chagall’s self-portrait, it’s impossible not to notice that his left hand has seven fingers, which means there’s two fingers too many, unless you’re in a psychedelic state of mind. There are many interpretations that explain why he painted seven fingers, but truth is, only Chagall knew. I believe it is connected to his fondness of number seven, and belief it its mystic qualities. Officially, Marc Chagall was born in Liozna, near Vitebsk, on 7 July 1887.

It’s likely that Chagall’s father modified the year of Chagall’s birth, changing it from 1889 to 1887, because in that case Chagall’s older brother would receive some kind of benefits. Chagall himself wrote that he was seventeen years old when he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1906, which could serve as an argument for this thesis, but he eventually decided to keep the year of his birth which was written in his passport, 1887 that is. And I believe that he modified his date of birth just for the additional number seven. I think he was actually born on 6 July, but wilfully changed it to 7 July. His real name was Moishe Segal, but, upon changing it, he added a second ‘l’ – Chagall, which makes it seven letters long. That mystical seven!!!

Marc Chagall painted this self-portrait during his ‘Paris Years’, in times when he ‘flirted’ with Cubism and tried to incorporate its elements, such as geometrical shapes and multiple points of view, in his work. Still, the mood of the painting isn’t Cubist. Warm, vibrant colours evoke his childhood, and his home town Vitebsk, a ‘picturesque city of churches and synagogues’. We can see Eiffel Tower through the window, while the right side shows a scene from Vitebsk, small wooden houses and a synagogue. Torn between two worlds, he even inscribed ‘Paris’ and ‘Russia’ in Hebrew letters on the top of the canvas, right above his head. Belorussia and his family were in his mind always. Even if we didn’t know that this was Chagall’s ‘official’ self-portrait, we could recognise his slightly feminine features, his curly hair, large eyes and long nose.

In this orgy of colours, yellow stands out. Luminous, radiant, translucent yellow. This potent yellow could only be compared to Vincent van Gogh’s yellow. Whereas his yellow had an undertow of franticness, like an eerie laughter, Chagall’s yellow is energetic and cheerful. And it dominates, almost shining through the artist, peeking from his shirt, appearing on his trousers, invading the palette. An the most beautiful wooden floor; a bit crooked and surreal luminous yellow floor. Cover 0f Syd Barrett’s ‘The Madcap Laughs’ evokes the allure of Chagall’s floor.

And if you’re wondering which painting is Chagall pictured painting, it’s the one called ‘To Russia, Donkeys and Others’, painted in 1911.

Marc Chagall, To Russia, Donkeys and Others, 1911

…more of that luminous, radiant, translucent yellow…

1950-52. La Danse by Marc ChagallMarc Chagall, La Danse, 1950-52

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Golden Hair – James Joyce and Syd Barrett

2 Jun

1858. William Powell Frith - The signal1858. The signal – William Powell Frith

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Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair,
I hear you singing
A merry air.

My book was closed,
I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
On the floor.

I have left my book,
I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
Through the gloom.

Singing and singing
A merry air,
Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair.

Poem ‘Golden Hair’ is part of the collection of poems ‘Chamber Music’ by James Joyce, published in May 1907. Chamber Music is a collection of lyrical meditations. Main motifs of the thirty-six poems that the collection contains are yearning for love, disappointment, and beauty and universality of music. Poems are also characterised by their musicality, for they were written more like lyrics for songs than the usual poems.

syd 115

It’s not surprising that Syd Barrett was inspired by this beautiful poem – Golden Hair – and decided to put it to music. Even though it appeared on Syd’s debut album ‘The Madcap Laughs‘, which is part of Syd’s solo work after the Pink Floyd, Golden Hair is one of Syd’s first songs, made at the time he experimented with setting poetry to music, during the cannabis idyll at Earlham Street in 1966.

In ‘Golden Hair’, culled from Chamber Music, a slim verse Joyce wrote in 1907, a troubadour yearns for a Rapunzel locked in a tower. With simple barre chords, Barrett conjured a solemn air akin to a medieval madrigal. Its cadence is pure plainsong, chanted words over bare chords, with the first of his thrilling downward octave leaps at the end.‘ (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd – Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

Syd’s rendition of ‘Golden Hair’ leaves the listener engulfed in a world of shadows, longings and mysticism, in a wistful and melancholic mood, denuded of earlier psychedelia and its vividness; decadence of the 1960s finally exposed.