Max Švabinský – Paradise Sonata IV – Early Spring (1918)
It’s almost impossible to glimpse this and not think it depicts Adam going down on Eve.
The presence of ‘paradise’ in the title reenforces such implication. As do the undeniable influence of Albrecht Dürer, William Blake & Dante Gabriel Rossetti on Švabinský’s work.
But it reminds me of two curatorial comments I encountered in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. One referred to altar pieces’ heavily favoring a vertical compositional orientation. Another underscored the horizontal orientation of Venetian narrative painting (istorie).
It’s almost as if the mechanics of a vertical composition draw the eye heavenward while the eye scans across that which is horizontal–sacred vs. profane.
I am certain a great many humanist artists knew this and purposely executed profane work in a secular style as a subtle subversion.
I think there’s a bit of that at play here. And while I almost want to criticize Švabinský for his ambivalence towards a definitive context, I feel the work was a little too slippery for even him to completely control in much the same way the customary atheist proverb isn’t wonder enough? conveniently misses the truth that the experience of wonder is the experience of being in the presence of God. Just not the god as placeholder for transcendent experience that bear names like Allah, praise be upon him, Yahweh, Krishna, Buddha, etc; names and obtuse back stories that facilitate parallel reciprocity at the expense of relationship.