Sunday, 19 October 2008

Forest Fire

Piero di Cosimo's A Forest Fire (1503). The more I look at this enigmatic painting, the more I feel there is something really weird about it. Di Cosimo was a pyrophobe who could scarcely stand to cook his food, and perhaps this externalising of a morbid fear accounts for something of the painting's nervy intensity. It's a bit like the Nerdrum paintings I was discussing below: here surely is allegory, but an allegory of what? Shades of Noah, shades of Orpheus. It's like an illustration of an episode from some strange Gnostic alternative Genesis: The Burning of Eden with the Expulsion of the Animals.

2.4 So the LORD God drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

2.5 And the LORD God bad the Cherubims to smite the tree, and it blazed up, with all the trees of Eden, with Cassia and Cedar, with the myrtle, with gopher wood and Olibanum.

2.6 And the fowls of the air arose thereat, and they fled with wings, fugitive and vagabond; and the beasts of the field also, and the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing of the earth after his kind.

2.7 And all of Eden was behind them as a flame of fire.

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