looking for companions (a phrase, an angel, three camels & a deer)

A companion-phrase  

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.

A companion-angel

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

  1.   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)
  2.  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")

  • Checking out the Old Testament story on the web, I learn that Tobias’ father was “Tobit, a pious man living in exile in Nineveh (modern Mosul, Iraq)”.   Mosul  : unexpectedly behind the scenes of an age-old story of angelic succour (lovingly painted in the Low  Countries ), these days a city trapped in the miseries of war. 

  • No comments: