There’s this sentence that keeps popping up in my head – in fact almost every time I check the news:
"the extraordinary frailty of human affairs"
Arendt coined the phrase in the context of unpredictable human action and political affairs .
In my head it has turned into an incantation whenever despairing of human fragility, of the failings of our human condition.
It’s such a wonderful landscape painting (1) – a winding path, magnificent trees, a river, animals, loitering little figures, a hazy horizon with bluish mountains – a complete worldscape.
And in this worldscape Tobias and a companion-angel walk & talk animatedly, with a dog running joyously ahead. It’s a very helpful angel, too - a bit later, handily in the same picture space, he points out to the man how to catch a fish.
What more could one wish for, a friendly, solicitous angel accompanying us on our wanderings in the world.
Accompanied by three camels and one deer
Another painting shows the journey home of young Tobias through a wooded mountain scape.
He’s still accompanied by his angel and his dog.
But in his wake now also follows a magnificent party on camel back (carrying Tobias’ new found wife & servants & gifts).
The landscape reminds me of the Belgian Ardennes – and sure enough, a familiar deer can be spotted in the shadowy woods.
So that makes for three camels and one deer, quite improbably but joyously inhabiting the very same woods - (however , maybe not that improbable: some sources indicate that "both roe and fallow deer roamed widely through the Middle East during Biblical times").
References and a reality check
- Landscape with young Tobias and angel / Landschap met jonge Tobias en engel , Denis van Alsloot (Mechelen 1560/15802 – 1626/1628) en Hendrik de Clerck (ca 1560 – Brussel 1630) (KMSKA) (& how lovely to read that the painter found inspiration in the forêt de soignes/ Zoniënwoud, Groenendaal, Ter Kameren)
- Wooded mountain scape with the return journey of Tobias / Bebost berglandschap met de terugtocht van Tobias, David Vinckboons (Mechelen 1576 – Amsterdam <1633 dresden="" i="">both paintings are on show in the Rockox House in Antwerp :"The landscape in the Netherlands") 1633>