Monday, July 11, 2011

Pierrot, formerly known as Gilles

Do you ever look in the mirror at yourself and ponder about your life?  Standing there naked, completely vulnerable to everyone but no one, you face you without any other element of life to skew who you are, what you look like, where you are going, or where you have been.

It is difficult to not be philosophical in this moment.

Life is wrought with ups and downs.  Each of us moves along our own path through life and along the way, we will inevitably encounter others.  And in that course, we'll inevitably encounter others who have their own perspectives and "words of wisdom" based upon their experiences on their path.  I think one thing in common we all have are those moments where we stop to gaze upon ourselves to contemplate who we have become.  Questions about success, attractiveness, and appeal begin to swirl inside our heads and for some, it's enough to reach out to someone we trust to see if we can gain a new perspective.

For each of us, there will almost always be someone else who expresses true satisfaction with who he or she is.  But I find myself wondering, isn't he or she human just like me?  Doesn't he or she also doubt past choices?  Questions motives?  Wonders, what if?

What if?

Pierrot, formerly known as Gilles by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) is thought to be the painting of an Italian actor named Belloni though some scholars and critics have felt it was a self portrait of the artist himself.  The painting was originally titled Gilles but was later changed to Pierrot to better portray the subject matter.  It was bequeathed to the Louvre in 1869 where the indicated title was applied.

Standing awkwardly on a mound in the middle and just above the perspective of the viewer is a comic actor who is surrounded by his stage compatriots.  Each seems preoccupied either by the donkey, something off in the distance, or with the silliness of the circumstance.  This particular piece is yet another example of what you initially see isn't exactly what may truly be going on.  Upon first glance, one could surmise that the Pierrot in the middle is standing at stage attention as if about to enact a scene.  Of course, I'm one who has to take a deeper, more meaningful look at the man's face and eyes and I see something different.

I see a troubled man.  Someone who is not completely content with his life or being the center of attention.  His face seems to be puffed up as if to imply he's on the verge of tears.  And his eyes tell me he's desperate for relief.

This is an incredibly powerful, enigmatic, and provocative piece.  Though our subject seems to sport a slight grin, is wearing what could be determined as fine garments not meant for those with lesser success, and is surrounded by others who share in his accolades, I can't help but feel sorry for him based upon my own perspectives.  I am sure most who would encounter this man would cheer his accomplishments and praise his work but for me, I see the face of a man staring at himself naked in the mirror and wondering how he got to where he is.

And that's just it.  Levels of success will always be relative.  I cannot specifically recall ever meeting someone who has become what he or she truly wanted to be.  There might be some out there who claim to but honestly, we're all humans, we all make mistakes, and along the way, our paths could very well diverge in a new direction and away from what was originally desired.  In moments like the one captured in this painting, there is no sense of failure or depression, just a moment of utter disappointment and pondering of what could have become.  What would his life be had he done this or that?

What if?

1 comment:

  1. Pierrot, by nature, is sad; his emotions are meant to be written all over his face (and frankly I would be too if I had to wear that outfit). His role is that of the naive husband whilst his wife cheats with a devilish Harlequin. But you're right: Watteau does a fantastic job of capturing the moment when, in his inner turmoil, he pauses to take stock of himself and ponder what he did wrong. I'll be honest and say that I ask myself this very question often even though my answer is always the same. I've made many missteps in my life and while sometimes it's a stretch to interpret them as learning experiences, I've learned to be a duck and let it roll of my back. I am a product of all the assholes, kindred spirits and angels that have crossed my path in these 30 years. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and in their own time. I make no apologies for myself or what some would consider my lack of success; I am rich in so many other ways. To quote a very poignant character in my life: I yam what I yam. It's just a shame that it took me so long to figure it out. Now what time's Disney, again? :)