Francisco de Zurbarán, Still Life with Four Pots

© Museo Nacional del Prado 

Thinking about this painting recently I wrote:

These.  Are.  My.  Pots.

This phrasing was not one that I mulled over at great length.  It was one of those spontaneous moments that write themselves and which I very nearly deleted several times.  I tried to resist it: does it sound too self-conscious, too engineered?  But I couldn’t quite bring myself to erase those words.  Somehow, as I read and re-read them, the slow, regular and staccato rhythm of the phrasing felt right. Their visual appearance on the page, separated by four dark circles was how it should be.  It was something about the brevity of these four words and their sheer ordinariness.  The phrase felt powerful and useless; encapsulating nothing and everything; echoing  the rhythm, form and presentation of the pots themselves –  four discrete units (I am taking the plates together with the two flanking vessels under which they lie – of humble pots presented in a drama of starkness and light.  The pots are separated by the dark recesses, space and shadows that lie below and beside them.  The words hang on the page, detached from each other in a sea of white background, and further severed by the finality of four full stops.

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