Friday, October 26, 2012

Old Man of Crete...Symbolism



So the Old Man’s body is turned toward Damietta (thanks to some research, I found that Damietta is an old Egyptian seaport) and his face is turned toward Rome (where the Pope lives.) He is off balance, placing more weight on his right terra cotta foot, which isn’t a sturdy material compared the other metals that make up his body.  The image I see, is a dude who’s about to turn around perhaps in the direction of Rome. It may represent the struggle between the old and (relative) new cultures, also paganism verses Christianity.  Any other thoughts on why he’s facing Rome but turned toward Egypt?

Also he is crying on hell, above of hell (on Earth), presumably because of the suffering in the world.  Sinners cause suffering, sorrow and pain in this world and the next.  I say the next, meaning hell, because you’re damned to hell as a sinner and the metaphorical tears that drains down to hell translate into sorrow as it they could be part of your punishment. thoughts?

4 comments:

Madeline Davis said...

I totally agree that the Old Man of Crete being turned toward Egypt but facing Rome signifies the fusion of Classical and Christian traditions. Rather than a struggle between the two, I think the right foot forward means the man is about to turn to face Rome completely, finding the "rightful" direction of Christianity and leaving behind the older, Classical/pagan beliefs.

As for his tears flowing to the rivers of Hell, I think it signifies how incontinence, violence, and fraud not only directly affect the sinners and their specific punishments in Hell, but cause the entire world, nature included, to lament for mankind's sins and misdoings.

Grant Reggio said...

I think one could also argue that the head symbolizes the point at which humanity had been closest to perfection: when Adam and Eve lived in Eden. Gold is generally a metal which is coveted, representing our intrinsic desire to return to such greatness, and gold is also a lighter metal and if I'm correct, those further away from hell and therefore sin are lighter and less corporal. I guess its just ironic that gold represents perfection when it is in fact a separate representation of materialistic wealth. But let's just ignore that little detail so that my argument sounds flawless.

Grant Reggio said...

Likewise, I think that we could think of the head as the peak of humanity, whether it came before anything or not. Obviously we started in perfection, and have gradually declined with original and subsequently pervasive sin, as depicted by the decline of metal quality as we go down the man's body, so for now that is the peak of humanity, which would actually, now that I think about it, come after something: The nothingness of humanity when nothing but God existed.

So we'll say that the lowest place of humanity was in fact its nothingness, which, upon the advent of humanity, dissolved and gave way for the infinitely sharp increase towards the peak of humanity with our concurrent placement within near perfection. This then went away with original sin and went further with future sin.

wkuehne said...

I agree. The terra cotta foot of the old man of crete probably symbolizes original sin, which is why it is placed toward the bottom of the man. The lower elements are