Month of Art: Day 8 Marcus Sextus, 1799

82_bce_The_Return_of_Marcus_Sextus_painted_by__Pierre-Narcisse_Guerin_1774-1833_Louvre_INV5180(Marcus Sextus 1799, Pierre- Marcisse Guérin)

{I sincerely apologize for how long it took me to post this. This is the first time I have sat down at a computer for days.}

Pierre- Marcisse Guérin, born 1774 in Paris, France, was the student of Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Grand Pix winner for his painting Alexandre and Diogène (1776). He was a relatively popular artist in his time, especially in France but suffered from poor health for much of his life. Though mostly unknown today, I find his paintings sad but at the same time bright.

He style matched most closely Neoclassicism which copied the “classical” artistic styles from Rome and Ancient Greece. It was a sort of rebirth of antiquity and its influence during the Renaissance. Though more refined than artworks made throughout the Renaissance, Neoclassical artists turned again to especially stories from antiquity. Somewhat of a rebellion against the sparatic styles of the Baroque era, Neoclassicists turned back to this “cleaner” and “purer” style to purge the influence of frivolous Rococo artists.

Now, this painting in particular shows Marcus Sextus returning to find his wife dead. Supposedly, this depicts a man contemplating the meaning of life with allusions to Mary Magdalene clinging to Christ’s leg in the form of his grieving daughter. I certainly did not know about all these things when I saw this painting in the Louvre. I did not even know its name. But several things about it I found striking.

Why do I like this painting? Firstly, I love how still this painting feels. The Baroque period certainly felt SOOOOO busy sometimes. (Especially architecture!) Here, I feel like the whole world just stopped after Sextus sat, shocked on his wife’s bed. This shows a moment of contemplation truly, but also I think it is one of silence. In an interview with Hayao Miyazaki, Roger Ebert observed that in Miyazaki-san’s films “sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.” Miyazaki-san responded to this saying, “We have a word for that in Japanese. It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.” This is the atmosphere of this painting, for it seems as if Guérin caught his subjects the moments in-between those of heavy action. Miyazaki-san further stated after clapping several times,

The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness, But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension.

I think the same principle can be attributed to canvas art, the great- father so to speak of 2D animation.

Secondly, the colors are very uncharacteristic of the more vibrant Neoclassicism style but do not truly turn Romantic or Baroque in their use. In fact, everything seems so . . . natural and bright. (There are times I WISH that I new more about art styles and techniques so I could explain this better.) This seems almost a mockery of the sadness of the moment. Perhaps it natural cheerful lighting show lookers that the world was still turning despite the tragedy. Regardless, this painting has caused me to sit and contemplate long and hard on its hidden meanings and purpose.

Lastly, this painting made me . . . stop. There are so many art works featured in the Louvre, some I passed by without a second thought. But others caught me in that fraction of a second I saw them and held me. If I recall correctly, this painting hangs in the same room, or at least near the room where the Mona Lisa sits. After quickly snapping a shot of De Vinci’s small painting, I passed by Marcos Sextus and turned back to it surprised. Sextus’ expression captivated me especially in the face of such tragedy. His grief-stricken and methodical face stuck with me for a long while I wandered the museum and has stayed with me ever since.

This is a work depicting grief, silently capturing a lost time in history. This painting does not make me gasp in wonder. It makes me stop and consider if I would be like him if I suddenly discovered my love had died.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s