Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stained Glass Woman


St Catherine, 1500-25 Stained-glass, 92 x 58 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


She is a simple woman, neither devastatingly beautiful nor perfect in size. However there is a mystical air about her when she walks alone. Before entering the windy and wet world that violently thrashes sin away by the kiss of the ever-falling rain, she peers up at the stained glass image of a woman on her knees praying with peaceful melancholy. This stained glass is no larger than the width of small hands folded in prayer and hangs just above the arched door she uses to take leave into the world outside, and will again come through to come home. With a flick of fascination she manages to stare into a daze at this curious image, though she has seen it a thousand times before. Full of colour and life, the scene depicts a way of thinking about devotion and desperation from another time for her. You see she does not subordinate herself to fall on her knees when she prays, she would much rather take the higher road by standing equally with her faith. The woman appears to be in some sort of desperation in the narration, her eyes are squeezed tightly and her body seems to be limp and broken. This reminds her of herself in another time, in another place – but she is no longer that image of weakened condition fallen from the hands of living grace.

As she steps into the outside world she buckles her knees together to remember not to be bow prey to all the vultures that will peer at her with temptation. She can see through the flames of hell and resist the taste of others fruits, even if they lick their grotesquely perfect lips and make her wet a little. As she walks with her head afloat above the simple minds, the noise that lifts and the sewage that rises to pollute the air into stale, she peers to the right of her to see the rain is about to subside. Only 32 steps from the arch of her door, then only 1 minute and 12 seconds from after the ceasing of the rain she sees a light form that attracts the tips of her eyes. The emergence of a rainbow, brighter than any she had seen before is like a vision. She is moved, she feels as though she is religious in that moment. Softly she begins to weep at her selfish misconception of the woman in the stained glass. Perhaps the woman is not as alien to her as the ancient past. She is awakening to realize the depiction is not of a woman desperate and in need, but that of a woman who sees evil and experiences ill intentions that longs for beauty to set her free. She now willingly falls to her knees.
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