19 May 2011

God is in the detail

It's not at all unusual for images on the web (or in other modes of publication, for that matter) to be cropped. It puzzles me, however, that Edward Leighton's very long painting The Syracusan bride is in every case that I have seen cropped to exactly the same very specific extent: removal of the right hand end. Almost everything is there except half a tree, an adult woman, and two children. In the illustration below, I've replaced the missing section (not great quality, but...) with a separating white line to show what is happening.

Why on earth would you cut off just that little bit?
I find the crop even more inexplicable because it vandalises what seems to me the most interesting part of the painting: that group of four bystanders in the bottom right hand corner.
I'm not knocking the painting as a whole. Different pictures do different things for different people. This one holds the key to many people's hearts, and I am pleased for them, but it doesn't, as a whole, float my boat.
That foursome at bottom right, however, are a different matter. They hold three small visual miracles, which call me back to my "Ambushed by simplicity" post a couple of weeks ago. I can't render those miracles here in sufficient quality to be worth bothering; if you are within reach of the Victoria and Albert Museum, any time between now and 12th July, go to the Cult of beauty: the aesthetic movement 1860-1900 exhibition and look at the original. I was there today and took the opportunity of standing in front of that corner of the painting (it's not usually on public show) for an hour.
The miracles are, from left to right: the right hand of the little girl on the left of this group; the man with the beard; and the face of the child on the far right.

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