Picasso Hid a Sword in Nazi Loot

Sometimes I do no work at all. Things just pop in my face. I suppose I'm so used to looking for certain features that my eyes know what to look for subconsciously. That's what appeared to happen last week as I read the news that the Germans had confiscated a trove of paintings stolen by the Nazis. The illustration above, a detail from a Picasso painting, was the lead image and my eyes immediately went to the man's head where I saw several themes at work simultaneously. The picture is unidentified but it resembles one of Picasso's many variations after Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (1863). The man is obviously a painter. And right there in his mind, or rather imprinted on his forehead, are five themes or characteristics often mentioned on EPPH but all conveyed in just 2 or 3 lines and a dot. (After I posted this entry, as you will see below, I discovered two more.)

Left: Detail of Picasso painting discovered in Munich
Center and right: Details of swords from two bull-fight paintings by Picasso

On the surface the lines on his forehead (far left) convey a frown which, as I have shown frequently, is a symbol for the deep thought of an artist. The lines, though, are also intended to convey the shape of a sword, a very common but little-known metaphor in art for a paintbrush. Picasso probably never depicted a sword which does not have that content. Two examples from his Bull-fight scenes are above, one already explained on EPPH. In addition, the crossguard of the "sword" (ie., the crease in his forehead on either side of the vertical line) are shaped like wings to signify the flight of his imagination unfettered by the weight of his body.

Detail of Picasso's re-discovered painting with a selection of his signatures.
 

In addition, just as the two other swords illustrated above are shaped like P's for Picasso, so is this one. It's less obvious perhaps but Picasso often drew the P of his name as a line with a dot on top as can be seen in the variety of signatures above. Embedded with even more meaning, the lines also form a Cross to suggest the divinity of his artistic mind and how, in line with artistic tradition and esoteric Christianity, the artist's soul on creating a masterpiece reveals itself as Christ or Christ-like even for a presumed atheist like Picasso.

Three lines and a dot, then, convey in its frown the deep thought of an artist, in its sword the symbol of the painter's craft, in its wings the flight of his imagination, in its lettering the P of his name and in its Cross the divinity of the creative mind. These five themes, rarely seen by those who do not paint, have been consistently used by great artists for centuries. Become familiar with them and, one day, your brain will work on that level too, waking you up when it has something to show you.

 

ADDENDUM

Soon after posting the entry above, I saw yet two more themes in the same lines and a dot. That dot is also the painter's inner eye, the eye of his imagination, which is black to symbolize how it sees, not by the light of the exterior world, but from looking inwards into the dark depths of his own soul. 

Renaissance diagram of the brain. The doctrine of the cell from Albertus Magnus' Philosophia pauperum (1506)

In early Renaissance diagrams of the brain, the inner eye is often shown on the forehead as circular and it regularly appears like that in later art right up to the twentieth century.

Detail and diagram of Picasso's painting between a photographic detail of Picasso

The black dot must be the man's inner eye because - and this is the second theme I noticed after posting - it's Picasso's own eye in a veiled self-portrait (see diagram at right). His facial profile is delineated in the back of the artist's head like a Janus-face. However, he also looks upwards towards the imagination's metaphoric location in the sky. So, though I'll continue to look for more, that's 7 poetic themes in a few lines and a dot. Amazing! There's so much undiscovered in art; it's like a gold mine.

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