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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Frodo in Caravaggio's 'Narcissus’, with jan-u-wine's "Unbroken”.

Posted on 2008.04.14 at 08:29
Tags: , , , ,
~*~







Warning: Long post, with many images, some quite large.


A year ago, scrolling through Caravaggio paintings, I saved files of his “Narcissus” as soon as I saw it. I was sure I’d want to make a manip of it one day. That day has come.

For this post, the discussion of the painting will come first, after which I will make a few reflections about Frodo in the finished manip. After the manip will come Jan-u-wine's poem, Unbroken, for which this manip was made. A "making of" section concludes the entry.


~*~




Introductory remarks.

Caravaggio's painting is one of the most well-known images of Narcissus in art. The myth of Narcissus survives in a few different versions. The synopses below come from the Narcissus entry in Wikipedia.

Pausanias tells a tale in which Narcissus falls in love with his twin sister. When she dies, he pines away, becoming engrossed in his reflection in the water by the reed beds, because it looks so much like her.

Pausanias tells another version that focuses on the more familiar theme of Narcissus: the story of a beautiful young man who spurns the love and desire of others, and dies as a result. Persons who held themselves aloof from love (and the common gene pool), were not looked on kindly by Aphrodite, or the Greeks. In that tale, Ameinias, one of the men in love with Narcissus, is rejected by the callous youth. Growing tired of his suitor’s affections, Narcissus sends him a gift of a sword. Ameinias kills himself with the sword, and, as he dies, calls down curses upon Narcissus. Later, Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection in a spring, and, in desperation, kills himself with the sword.

In the Roman poet Ovid's version, Narcissus is the son of a river god who seduces a nymph. Worried about the child’s future, the nymph consults the seer, Tiresias. The child will live to an old age, the seer says, “as long as it does not look at itself”. As he grows up, many fall in love with the beautiful boy, but he rejects them all. The nymph Echo falls, too. She becomes so distraught, she withdraws into a lonely spot and fades until all that is left is her plaintive whisper. The goddess Nemesis hears the prayers of the rejected suitors and arranges for Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection. At a pool in a reed bed, stooping to drink, he sees himself mirrored in the still water. He becomes so transfixed by the sight that he dies, unwilling to break the surface of the water to drink, since this would require destroying the image. As in Pausanias’ second version, a flower springs up in the reeds where Narcissus dies, after whom it is named.

I have not found a scholar who says which version of the myth Caravaggio was illustrating in his painting, but I am guessing that since there is no sword in the picture, it is the one in which Narcissus falls in love with his reflection and dies of thirst rather than break apart his image. Understood at a deeper level, it’s a profound myth.




~ Image from a Greek vase of Narcissus:







~*~





The source painting.

Caravaggio’s “Narcissus” (displayed at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Rome) was a challenge for me, not only because I had to put Frodo’s head and face into the painting twice, but because of odd aspects to the painting. The model appears to be Francesco “Cecco” Boneri, who appeared inThe Inspiration of St. Matthew, The Sacrifice of Isaac, and Love Victorious".

I hadn’t known it until doing the Caravaggio manips, but Caravaggio, unlike any of his contemporaries, did not apply paint to canvasses on which he had drawn preliminary sketches to guide his brush. X-rays of his canvases show no pencil work, just paint on canvas. He painted directly from life. The result is the characteristic vibrancy and immediacy of the likenesses, but also imperfections, especially in perspective. In “Narcissus”, the model’s head does not seem quite to match the neck in terms of fit. The head appears to be too small for the body, and the neck unnaturally long and stretched. Perhaps the modelling for the body was done at one time, and the head painted in later. Whatever the reason, the extra long, stretched neck increases, for me, an impression of yearning in Narcissus. The smallness of his head speaks of the smallness of his self-enclosed world, the whole painting moving about that small head with its slack, yet simultaneously entranced gaze. The open mouth conveys absorption, the mouth of someone so engrossed he is unaware his mouth has fallen open. With the myth in mind, the open mouth might betoken thirst. Perhaps it is both, the absorption in his image being the cause of the thirst.

A more striking anomaly in the picture is the difference between the two halves of the painting, top and bottom. The Narcissus looking back does not match the Narcissus above. The head is smaller still, darker, and almost ugly, as if its features had been smeared, giving it a bestial, unformed look. The clothes don’t quite match, either. I wondered if this was a technical fault, the result of Caravaggio not using preliminary sketches. No critic I read mentioned it.

I have decided it had to be an intentional artistic choice. Surely an artist as good as Caravaggio at painting from live models could paint a good mirror image of the top half of his own painting. Thus, if Narcissus sees in the still surface of the water a rather small, mean, muddied version of himself, it is meant to be significant, if in a subtle way (I didn’t notice the discrepancy at first). I wonder: did Caravaggio mean the lower Narcissus to show us the youth’s real self, or is the lower image meant to show what Narcissus saw: someone little and ugly and mean? The second reason would explain why Narcissus does not look at his reflection like someone in love, however transfixed he is, but like someone not particularly happy with what he sees.

This is a very enigmatic painting to me. At first glance the impression is one of still tranquillity and, but the more I look at it, the more disturbing and provocative it is.







~ Caravaggio's "Narcissus", ca. 1597-99 (actual painting 110 x 92 cm, or 36.2 x 43.3 in.):









~*~






The finished manip.

Following from my remarks on “Narcissus”, above, I think this painting is an excellent one in which to feature Frodo, both aesthetically and in terms of meaning. It said in the myth, that the seer Teiresias told Narcissus’ mother that he would live to be old "as long as he never looked at himself". Or, as another translator said, "as long as he never knew himself."

Was it life-threatening for Frodo to look at, to know, himself? In so far as he experienced himself after the Quest negatively, it would seem so. Part of the reason Frodo had difficulty going back to “normal” life, in my opinion, was positive, not negative. He had seen and known greatness: great spirits, great minds great deeds. He had known great suffering and horror, true, but also great goodness and beauty. He had gone where no hobbit had gone before, not even Bilbo, and had been changed by the experience. The change was good: he had been made a bigger person, inside. But the change made him less of a fit, back home. The Shire’s provincial ways might have been a comfort once, living life amid what seemed safe, cosy and familiar. Upon his return, Frodo might have experienced the Shire differently. If he had found the smallness of his neighbours’ minds discouraging and the narrowness of their concerns exasperating before he left (cf. his remarks to Gandalf in “The Shadow of the Past”), how much more might he feel this way upon his return? Yet his gain in stature was a good thing, however it might have set him apart from folk around him.

But Frodo’s failure to adjust and thrive after the war had negative causes, too. Very negative causes. Tolkien said it better than I could in his well-known 1963 letter-draft to Eileen Elgar (#246), which is full of thoughts on Frodo. Although The Fellowship of the Ring was published in 1954, the final draft was submitted to Allen and Unwin in 1948. In 1963, he’d had time to give the matter plenty of thought. She’d asked about Frodo’s failure on Mt. Doom. Yes, he agreed, Frodo had ‘failed’ as a hero by not throwing the Ring in at the end. But, Tolkien said, his was not a moral failure. “The breaking of [Frodo’s] mind and will under demonic pressure after torment” was no more a moral failure than the breaking of his body, by a boulder falling on him or by being throttled by Gollum. In the excerpt below, Tolkien speaks of Frodo’s feelings just after the Ring was destroyed:


"[Frodo] appears at first to have had no sense of guilt; he was restored to sanity and peace. But then he thought he had given his life in sacrifice: he expected to die very soon. But he did not, and one can observe the disquiet growing in him. Arwen was the first to observe the signs, and gave him her jewel for comfort, and thought of a way of healing him.* Slowly he fades ‘out of the picture’, saying and doing less and less. I think it is clear on reflection to an attentive reader that when his dark times came upon him and he was conscious of being ‘wounded by knife sting and tooth and a long burden’ it was not only nightmare memories of past horrors that afflicted him, but also unreasoning self-reproach: he saw himself and all that he had done as a broken failure. ‘Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same, for I shall not be the same.’ That was actually a temptation out of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a ‘hero’, not content with being a mere instrument of good. And it was mixed with another temptation, blacker and yet (in a sense) more merited, for however that may be explained, he had not in fact cast away the Ring by a voluntary act: he was tempted to regret its destruction, and still to desire it. ‘It is gone for ever, and now all is dark and empty’, he said as he wakened from his sickness in 1420.

"‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured’, said Gandalf – not in Middle-earth. Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him – if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to ‘pass away’: no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time. So he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of ‘Arda Unmarred’, the Earth unspoiled by evil.

* I have always wondered if it wasn’t what her mother, Celebrian, went through, unable to recover her joy in life in Middle-earth, finally sailing to the Undying Lands, that enable Arwen to see this in Frodo.



When I look at this manip, with Frodo gazing sadly at his dark reflection, what I see is his negative dwelling on his self-perceived failures, a vivid picture of him being subject to the “unreasoning self-reproach” Tolkien mentioned. Like Narcissus in the myth, he seems more and more unable to take his eyes from a vision of himself as a marred failure, unable to complete his task himself, and unable to stop regretting the loss of the Ring, the instrument of his torment. The more he looks, the more he feels bad, and the more he feels bad, the more he looks.

The original painting is meant to show Narcissus looking at his reflection on the surface of the water. But the way Caravaggio painted it, with the mirror image in the bottom half of the painting clearly not matching the top half, the impression is that he is looking not at his reflection on the water, but through it, at another, submerged self. As I noted above, the face of Narcissus in the water is not a mirror-image, but a smaller, darker, more bestial version of the face above. In the manip, Frodo’s face in the reflection is made from the same image as the one above, but to finesse it into the painting I had to make it smaller and darker, which brought up red undertones lurking in the original. When I look at the finished manip, it looks almost as though Frodo is looking at himself in hell. He might as well be looking into the river Styx at a submerged Hades, or seeing his own sorrowful face in the Dead Marshes, like those fallen warriors of long ago. “All dead, all rotten”. The words of Gollum echo.

Which is where Jan’s poem comes in. As dark as I see this piece, I did choose and make this manip with jan-u-wine’s poem, “Unbroken”, in mind. And I see her poem as a hopeful poem. So that I won’t give too much about the poem away before you read it, I’ll post my last remarks below the poem.


~*~







Frodo in Narcissus, with “Paint: Dry Brush” effect (reduced to 40% of full size):














Frodo in Narcissus, with “Eggshell Crackle” effect (reduced to 40% of full size):















Detail of Frodo’s face from “Dry Brush” version, at half size:













Detail of Frodo’s face from “Eggshell Crackle” version, at half size:














~ Full-size versions:


The file I worked from for this manip is so large (2024 x 2454 pixels, 14.2 MB) it is too big for Photobucket, so I can’t give it to you with a link. If anyone would like a copy for the purposes of making a print (the bigger the file the better quality the print), or just staring at, please email me. My email address is on my User Info page. I can send the file to you as an attachment.

To get an idea of the manip’s real size, I made the long, narrow image directly below from a full-size crop of the image, cut to Photobucket’s size limit. Click here to this detail shot at full size.. Be sure to open it up all the way, using Photobucket’s little button for full-size.









Detail, showing Frodo gazing at his reflection (about half-size):














Unbroken

~ by jan-u-wine


What is it like,
I wonder,
to have memory
lie
peaceful and complete
within one's mind....

peaceful,
like the still eye of the Anduin,

complete...

like the unbroken links of a fine chain.....


Oh, yes,
Sam,
yes,

I
found it.

I imagine
(if, in fact, you thought of it at all)

you thought
it lost,

buried,

like everything
else....

curtained
by rock
flowing like the Sea
in its anger.

Its mark is here,
about my neck,
and it

sings

Sam,

it resonates
still
with cold desire
if I touch it.

That is but the ghostly remainder
of it:

the fractured reality
lies,
like silver'd water,
within my hand.

I have not bothered
to wash
the blood from it.

It was made by the Elves,
you know,
and so,
even though it threaded
evil,
it itself survived,
shielded by grave beauty.

It is beautiful still,

silent,

winking back at the Sun,

broken length
spilling
from the small sanctuary of my hand.

It has no purpose
now,

no purpose
whatsoever.

No one save me would know
if it were to find
its resting place
among the pale lilies
that stay upon the river-bottom.

No one save me would regret
that a thing of such careful design
had met
such a careless end.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

It is long hours
since I visited the dark bank of the river.

I let it run out,
through that empty space
which mars my hand.

I watched it
settle,
shining still,
within the night
of the river bottom.

Nothing lies
within my hand
now....

nothing sings
within the shuttered
rooms
of my mind.

Nothing
but muted
colors
drift,
like music
I once might have known,
jagged
with half-held memory.

As it was in the beginning,
so it is at the end:

nothing....

there is.....

nothing.

And it is for that
I weep,
Sam,
for all the things
I cannot ever
explain to you
(and all the things
you know
without the explaining).

Those things grieve me even more.

Every bit of my life,
Sam,
whether large,
or small,
has all meant naught.....

it has all burnt away,
reduced
to a broken chain
of forgotten beauty,
lying beneath slanting silt.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

What
have I been
saying,
Sam?

You must not heed
me
when I've just
woken.

It is not me speaking,
then....

it is just

dreams

and
they will pass,
as all things must.

Do you think
they will let us
start for Home
soon,
Sam?

I should so like
to see the Hill
again,
dressed
in the soft fire
of Fall.






~*~





About Jan’s poem.


I chose Caravaggio’s Narcissus for “Unbroken” because it showed the subject gazing into the water, which I thought would convey the image of Frodo standing, stooping, or sitting by the Anduin to secretly drop in his chain, wishing it away, yet mourning the loss that letting it go made all the more real. But the more I have worked on the manip, the more profound I have found the connection between them and the poem.

What I love so much about Jan’s poem, whether she intended it this way or not, is the way he is not like Narcissus. He may be drawn into a negative picture of himself, but not enough to let himself die, unable to disturb the image on the water in order to drink and live. In the poem, when Frodo lets the chain fall from his grasp his feelings are undeniably bleak:


Nothing lies
within my hand
now....

nothing sings
within the shuttered
rooms
of my mind.

(…)

nothing....

there is.....

nothing.

Yet Jan’s poem makes me think—all the more from looking at the manip and knowing the story of the myth behind it—that in this small significant act, Frodo shows that he is able to break through the image of his negative self-perception. By letting go of the chain, the chain that bore the object that almost dragged him into death (of more than the body), the chain must enter the water. In the act of letting go he must break the surface of the water and destroy the image. I find Frodo dropping the chain in the Anduin a deeply hopeful act, even if he feels terrible doing it. I see the hope right in Frodo’s own words, in the poem. He’s speaking about the chain, of course: “It was made by the Elves, you know,” he begins. But what he goes on to say could be said of himself, if he but knew it:


and so,
even though it threaded
evil,
it itself survived,
shielded by grave beauty.

It is beautiful still

Frodo, like the chain, "threaded evil". He was "shielded by grave beauty". And, in spite of all the evil he bore, he survived, and was "beautiful still".

One day in the Undying Lands, learning of his ‘littleness and greatness’ in the order of things, thinking back on the sight of the chain dropping into the deep, “winking back at the Sun”, he’ll see that what he did that day was just the first of many acts of letting go. He’ll let go of hearth and home and friends and kin, sailing across the wide Sea. And finally, he will let go, link by link, in act by act, of “the broken length” that is himself. Spilling from the “small sanctuary” that is his hand—the agent of action—he will see the broken length of himself settle...

shining still
within the night
of the river bottom

...which, finally, is the depth of heart and mind of God. Or, if you prefer, Eru.

When Frodo looks and sees himself at last—his full self—unlike Narcisssus, he will not die, but live.




~*~





Behind the Manip:

For those who like this sort of thing, I made the manip in my usual way, although, with double faces, it was a bit more laborious.

After choosing a face and supplemental hair elements, I tweaked the painting for better contrast and sharpness, then began to apply the elements in layers, tweaking each in turn for a match in colour and brightness, until I got them into final position. I then saved the moveable png document to a jpg, for the final blending process. Using primarily the clone tool at various settings I did the brushwork for blending the face into the painting, erasing bad bits of hair and drawing in more, correcting collars and diminishing the cuts on his face. I decided to keep the dirt, which heightened the sense of pathos to me.

After all the tweaking and finessing was finished, using the selection tools, I applied filters to better match the photographic elements to the painting. I did many versions, liking many of the effects very much (all of them applied moderately). But, for the sake of posting, I forced myself to choose two. “Eggshell crackle” enhances the watery mood nicely, with its soft dappled bits of light. “Painting: Dry Brush” accentuates the chiaroscuro, which accentuates the drama.






~ Draft mock-up of face selection, with hair layers in place:







~ Screencap for face:







~ Hair for front “droop effect”:







~ Source for most of the top and back hair, also some front hair:








~ Mechtild




~*~





Other Caravaggio manips:


~ Caravaggio: 'The Cardsharps', plus jan-u-wine's "The Wager", 1-21-08.

~ Caravaggio: 'Bacchus', 12/19/06.

~ Caravaggio's 'The Lute Player' (includes the most about Caravaggio), 10/30/06.

~ Caravaggio's 'The Fortune Teller', 4/14/06.




Other Tables of Links:


~ Frodo Art Travesty LJ entries (entries that present selected manips, which may feature notes on the paintings and manip techniques, as well as essays or poems).


~ Album of all Frodo Art Travesties (a gallery of images only—be sure to enlarge images after opening).


~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


Comments:


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<<[1] [2] >>
Peachy
aussiepeach at 2008-04-14 14:12 (UTC) (Link)
Ooooooh, Mech, what a heartbreaking picture. It's terrible to see Frodo suffer with the Ring, but in some ways it's worse to see him after the Quest in this state. Grieving, despising himself, wounded... my sweet baby. :( Send him to Tol Eressea, quick.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-14 16:30 (UTC) (Link)
Doesn't it turn out to be a moving painting with Frodo in it? I love the Caravaggio, but the effect is entirely different for me. I find his painting enigmatic, even disturbing, but not moving. But with Frodo in it, oh, dear....

Thanks for you sweet comment, Peachy. (Maybe you should bring over your little glass of absinthe for grieving Frodo.)

Edited at 2008-04-14 04:30 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-14 22:50 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you are pleased, Luthien! There are so many ways this could have gone.
Whiteling
whiteling at 2008-04-14 18:19 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, Mechtild!
What a post - I'm blown away.

You are so right in saying that Caravaggio's painting is not very moving. It's a riddle... and just looking at the black and white contrasts, it reminds me almost of a Rorschach test picture. Very odd. I think it's a reflection on reflection. Caravaggio's Narcissus does not appear as an individual to me, but as the personification of the human need to recognise oneself by looking into a mirror (self-knowledge); it's more of an archetypical nature in my view.
With Frodo as protagonist, the beholder is suddenly concerned on a personal level and feels involved, and it's almost too painful to witness his agony. Such intensity!

I have to come back and read Jan's poem later... but my, you, Jan and Caravaggio are a helluva team!! It's incredibly moving!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-14 22:52 (UTC) (Link)
I love what you said about the original painting being archetypical, a personification (of the need for self-knowledge). It does seem a remarkably non-specific portrait for him. Usually the faces he produces are very distinct individuals. Perhaps part of Narcissus' condition is that he's not fully-formed as an individual, locked into self-absorption. It's such an interesting painting. Thanks for posting, Whiteling!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
alyrthia
alyrthia at 2008-04-14 19:35 (UTC) (Link)
I've only yet read part of the entry, but wanted to quickly comment. I literally gasped when I saw the image come up on my friends list. It stabbed me in the heart, with beauty and with sorrow.

BEautiful job. I've read half. I'll come back later.
I love the Caravagios you've done. Brilliant work, fitting to Frodo.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-14 22:53 (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, Alyon, thank you! It did turn out to be a very poignant image, thanks to "End of All Things" Frodo.
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-14 22:54 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Mews. I am so pleased the manip and poem works for you!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
theartoffic
theartoffic at 2008-04-15 01:55 (UTC) (Link)
ohhhhhh! Your manip is so utterly breathtaking! It so fits Frodo and his anguish and I just can't stop staring at it. I feel like my comment just doesn't do your work justice and wish you could know how it makes me feel when I look at, how utterly in awe I am of your talents!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-15 02:21 (UTC) (Link)
The Art of Fic, you are so good to say all this. :) Thank you so much! I love the way this came out. I think film Frodo and Caravaggio make beautiful [and soulful and moving] visual music together.
frodosweetstuff
frodosweetstuff at 2008-04-15 14:25 (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh, this is gorgeous and it speaks to me in more ways than just one. Firstly, it is a stunning manip with Frodo's expression different from the Narcissus one but more moving, I feel, since the emotion seems to run deeper. Narcissus looks more interested, which is not what you could call Frodo's look.

And secondly, the pic reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Thischarmingmansingle.PNG, which is the cover of one of my favourite songs ever. The pic is a still from the film Orphee by Jean Cocteau. :) Fandoms collide...

Thank you for this!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-16 00:12 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Frodosweetstuff, that is the COOLEST album cover! I don't know a thing about the band, but what a great piece of graphic design! You're right, the image from Jean Cockteau's 'Orphee' is very like a painting for the Narcissus myth.

I am so glad you liked the manip, for I know you are an artist yourself.
(Anonymous) at 2008-04-15 23:18 (UTC) (Link)
Another wonderful poem from Jan-u-wine. I don't recall the chain being mentioned again after the Ring went into the fire, but that Frodo would let it go ~ when he couldn't give up the evil thing that once encircled it ~ is profound.

What a stunning manip, Mechtild! That particular shot of Frodo seems to me the perfect choice. His anguished expression, and the tear ~ shed for Sam in the film, I think ~ speak of his pain, his sense of loss, and perhaps, in this
instance, his relief.

I love what you (and Jan-u-wine) said here:
_____________________________________________________

In the act of letting go he must break the surface of the water and destroy the image. I find Frodo dropping the chain in the Anduin a deeply hopeful act, even if he feels terrible doing it. I see the hope right in Frodo’s own words, in the poem. He’s speaking about the chain, of course: “It was made by the Elves, you know,” he begins. But what he goes on to say could be said of himself, if he but knew it:

and so,
even though it threaded
evil,
it itself survived,
shielded by grave beauty.

It is beautiful still
_______________________________________________________

'... if he but knew it.' Yes ~ he breaks my heart.

Thank you both.

By the way, I had saved your earlier versions of this manip, Mechtild, having wandered in here late last night, but with no time to comment. So now I have both sets! I do prefer Frodo's hair in the revised images, now that you point it out, but I marvelled at the original too ~ one of your very best works, IMO. Up there with my all-time favourite, Chatterton!

Hugs,
~ Blossom.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-16 00:54 (UTC) (Link)
Blossom, what a thrill to hear from you! I'm so glad you thought the face was a good choice. I tried several, but this one was the *clear* favourite.

You saved both versions? So did I. As I emailed jan-u-wine, it was terrible making up my mind which to post. As a work of craftsmanship, I much preferred the one with the hair revised. It really was a total blooper not to have done something with that area of the manip after I had reconstructed the collar under the original Narcissus' hanging lock of hair. But after I had done the revision, when I compared them, *even though the faces were exactly the same*, I found the one with the corrected hair missing to be the more poignant picture. Maybe because, like the dirt on his face, he looked more dishevelled? I don't know. But I settled on posting the revised version. Most viewers wouldn't even know there'd been a switch, I know. Just a compulsive, I guess. *g*

I am so pleased you enjoyed and valued this post, Blossom, manip and poem. I think it's one of this LJ's better contributions to Frodo Appreciation. *g*

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Mariole
mariole at 2008-04-16 00:35 (UTC) (Link)
How cool! I love to see how you put it all together. :)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-16 00:55 (UTC) (Link)
Mariole! Hello! Thanks for stopping in. I'm so glad you enjoyed the "behind the manip".
Maeglian
maeglian at 2008-04-16 20:56 (UTC) (Link)
Oh! Your posts are so very interesting, so filled with everything worthwhile - original art, manip and meaning thereof, poem, story behind painting including the original myth in various versions, interpretation of manip, and of poem, information on how manip was made....

It's all so very rich and fascinating and deserves a thorough read and subsequent reflection... and the risk is that there's not enough time. At least not right away. And that's how come I haven't commented before now.

It's a stunning manip, and so filled with layers of meaning. It's gorgeous and sorrowful and very angsty all at once - a psychological study in manip form! Everything, inclusive of the poem, fills out the picture, as it were. This post was a great read, and the manip certainly makes considerable impact. Thank you!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-16 21:07 (UTC) (Link)
Maeglian, thanks for commenting so generously. I got quite engrossed in this one. The more I worked on the post, writing it, and the more I worked on the painting, thinking of it all the while in relation to Jan's poem, the more involved I became. I always had liked the look of this painting, but had never given it real attention until using it for this manip. I love it when an art work--whether it's visual art, music or writing--never stops giving of itself. You can look and listen and read such works over and over again, and there's always something else to think about, some subtly different palette of emotions the thoughts provoke.

P.S. I love the way your image looks as an icon. It reads beautifully, even at such a small scale. I wonder if I might use it myself?
bagma
bagma at 2008-04-19 17:09 (UTC) (Link)
What an amazing coincidence! I've had this icon for ages, and I never used it. I remember I iconized the painting because it reminded me strongly of Frodo; it was a undefined feeling, though, so I can't thank you enough for expressing it so clearly and eloquently, and for reminding me, once again, the reasons why I love Frodo so much.

And as always, jan's poem brought tears in my eyes...

It is not me speaking,
then....

it is just

dreams

and
they will pass,
as all things must.

Do you think
they will let us
start for Home
soon,
Sam?

I should so like
to see the Hill
again,
dressed
in the soft fire
of Fall.


It's so beautiful... I'm speechless!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-19 17:42 (UTC) (Link)
What an amazing coincidence! I've had this icon for ages, and I never used it. I remember I iconized the painting because it reminded me strongly of Frodo

It's a fortunate coincidence, then. Perhaps a lot of us fans who have seen this painting have thought of Frodo? Caravaggio in general evokes his image, but this painting is so introspective, it begs for a connection to be made. I'm so glad you got to see this post, Bagma, since it was posted during what was for you the Horrible Week.

Thanks for the beautiful, generous remarks, too. Speaking of making connections with the painting, wasn't the poem an uncanny "connector"? I must remember to tell Jan to come and look at your comment. She is not on LJ and doesn't get notifications of reply.
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Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2008-04-19 19:23 (UTC) (Link)
I don't know what to say. I am taken aback by the beauty and angst of your manip, Mechling, and Jan's poetry.

Thank you both.

--Estë
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-19 21:10 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, Este! I was beginning to worry that you'd either missed this post or just didn't like it, poem or image. Thanks so much for commenting.

They turned out really well, I thought--the way they go together. I find it incredibly satisfying when Jan's pieces are enhanced by the images; her texts always make the images--whether manips or screencaps--more interesting and more meaningful.

P.S. Our new snow finally melted again. Now it's grey, chilly and rainy. I hope this means the REAL beginning of spring!

Edited at 2008-04-19 09:11 pm (UTC)
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Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-20 20:39 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, White Gull. I'm glad you appreciated the work done on the manip.

I hadn't meant to imply that Frodo was a "Narcissus", White Gull, at least not in the traditional sense of a cold, heartless young man who refuses to love anyone but himself. I did not write clearly enough, to have given that impression.

I merely thought that Caravaggio's illustration of the myth--which is so much more evocative and ambivalent than the version of the story I quoted above (about the vain young man who gets his come-uppance)--leant itself well to an image of Frodo contemplating his own inner demons. That Frodo had a dark image of himself after the Quest, which grew darker after he got back to the Shire, was what I meant him to be looking at in the water, giving him that sorrow that is in his face. I didn't mean for the manip to project an image of Frodo in love with himself, like Narcissus in the myth. Quite the opposite!

Well, at least you can enjoy the manip for Frodo's physical beauty, which is no small thing. *g*
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aliensouldream
aliensouldream at 2008-04-22 12:22 (UTC) (Link)
Mechtild, if you are not an art critic or teacher, you certainly could be. I love the sympathetic way you draw us into the world of the painting by comparing the mythologies behind its inspiration and of the artist's approach, and how you share your own emotional responses to it. Your reasons for choosing this painting as the basis to illustrate jan-u-wine's poem definitely enhanced my appreciation of both.

Your manip skills are really second to none and if it was not sacrilege I would suggest that you are improving on the original, in the digital realm. Is that due to Frolijah's great beauty compared to the (probably intentional) wasted and anaemic appearance of the original figure? Or the already strong resonance of the character of Frodo in our perceptions? Maybe a little of each is involved. But I think that you have an amazing talent for recognizing opportunities for the perfect integration of these images. I was about to say 'complementary images' but 'contrasting' may be better, as part of the wonder of these manips is the re-interpretation of mood and meaning they provoke.

Jan-u-wine's poem, as ever, was deeply moving. I loved the theme of water running throughout. The chain itself is like water

"the fractured reality
lies,
like silver'd water,
within my hand."


One cannot hold water within one's hand. Is that how Frodo now sees his fragile vision of self, spilling out helplessly from his broken grasp?

Frodo seems to refer to himself when he laments that

"It has no purpose
now,

no purpose
whatsoever.

No one save me would know
if it were to find
its resting place
among the pale lilies
that stay upon the river-bottom."


I see here the Ring's last lure, the temptation to suicide. Water is the opposite of Fire and the "still eye of the Anduin" must seem to Frodo the very opposite of the 'wheel of Fire', the naked eye. The fulfillment of a great endeavor, however it ends, can be an empty experience and Frodo's sense of meaninglessness is heartbreaking.

"Every bit of my life,
Sam,
whether large,
or small,
has all meant naught....."


The chain, so intimately connected with his burden, is a taunting reminder:

"it resonates
still
with cold desire
if I touch it."


Does even the chain itself, forged by the Elves, imbued with their protective blessings, 'desire' the evil it once held? Or is it a mere projection of Frodo's sense of perpetual loss?

Yet somehow, strongest of hobbits, he finds the strength to let it go:

"I let it run out,
through that empty space
which mars my hand."


Does he refer to his maimed finger, or is the 'empty space' the mocking absence of the Ring?

There is almost a sense of grim humor, the 'old Frodo', in his referring to the chain meeting a "careless end". No one could care more, or show more care, in its eventual destiny.

I like that Frodo commits the chain to the Anduin in a kind of heroic funeral which echoes that of Boromir. Boromir was held a friend and champion, despite his moral lapse under the Ring's power, and perhaps Frodo's act here is a step towards recognizing that no moral blame attaches to his ultimate seduction by the Ring, that all parts in the Fellowship were worthy of honor. It is characteristic that his 'rite' should be humble and solitary, on the dark bank of the river at night. He does not wash the blood from the chain, but commits it with its stain for the river to wash clean in its time.

Frodo says later

"It is not me speaking,
then....

it is just

dreams"


And perhaps after all it was a dream, a symbolically prophetic one, as Frodo's dreams have always been. The chain lies broken but the river is unbroken, flowing forever to the Sea. Although irretrievably altered in mind and body, Frodo's 'unchaining' is a symbolic release prior to his eventual journey across the Sea and towards serenity.

Another extremely beautiful and thought-provoking poem, jan-u-wine. The last two stanzas have such an ache of longing. They remind me of those First World War poems, with soldiers longing for home.

Thank you both, Mechtild and Jan-u-wine! What a great partnership and how lucky we are to share your work.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-23 02:21 (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, that was a really deeply reflective comment, AlienSoulDream. So many of your thoughts opened my understanding and deepened my appreciation of Jan's poem: likening the chain in his hand to water as it spills out, the note on the "still eye of the Anduin" (a parallel motif I didn't even catch), the multivalent meaning of the "empty space" on his hand, the comparison between the "funeral" of the chain and that of Boromir, both being released into the cleansing water of the river, which will run to the Sea. This was my favourite remark of all, if I had to choose only one:

"And perhaps after all it was a dream, a symbolically prophetic one, as Frodo's dreams have always been. The chain lies broken but the river is unbroken, flowing forever to the Sea. Although irretrievably altered in mind and body, Frodo's 'unchaining' is a symbolic release prior to his eventual journey across the Sea and towards serenity."

Guh.

Frodo might not have been able to will himself to let go of the Ring at the Crack of Doom, but he wills himself to let go of its chain. I think this is a tremendously meaningful act--meaningful for him, and for us readers. What brilliant use Jan makes of this conceit, this little incident that might have been.
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Cat Mallard
darklingwoods at 2008-05-03 03:21 (UTC) (Link)
I think I have a new favorite of your art work mechtild :)

Your thoughtful analogy of Frodo and Narcissus is very compelling. (and I have to add I agree with the thought of Arwen and Celebrian) I will always find this part of Frodo the most heartbreaking, that no one could reach him, and this manip captures that sense of lost Frodo so well.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-05-13 18:54 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Cat! I'm sorry to have taken so long. I am back from a trip and am starting to go through the mail. I am so glad this manip succeeded for you. It might be my favourite at this point as well.

To think I started out making these as tongue-in-cheek art pin-ups of Frodo, just for fun. They have turned into serious things, many of them, images that become windows into aspects of his character. I think the pairing of the manips with Jan's poems contributed to that. Her perspective on Frodo can wear a smile, a very loving one, and can even be sensual on the very rare occasion, but it is never silly, or "naughty". Just as her poems invite readers to look at Frodo with greater depth, making manips to complement them has produced Art Travesties that invite readers to do the same, but visually.
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