Death and the Maiden (La Jeune Fille et la Mort)


Painting Title: Death and the Maiden (La Jeune Fille et la Mort)
Artist: Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)

I was skimming through my really sad Facebook account months ago when this painting caught my eye and upon reading the title, I knew I had to blog Death and the Maiden one way or another. It has taken months, yes, because I slack a lot plus my plate’s always full. I am much obligated to work and rarely have time to delve into the dark abyss of the Internet.

The title alone is enough to give you goosebumps. If I hadn’t seen the image first, I would have imagined a young girl (a virgin, of course) getting raped by Death; or a maiden snatched by a malevolent creature of darkness (think Hades and Persephone).

In an unexpected turn of events, Death in the painting is depicted as a woman, dressed in black, with dark wings I am quite infatuated with. The young girl across her appears to have suddenly awoken – the sight of Death obviously scaring the shit out of her. Her face is a cocktail of fear and “what the fuck?!” – curiosity looming over her in a why-am-I-seeing-this fashion.

Now there are two ways I’d like to interpret this masterpiece:

  1. Death and the girl could be the same person. Something really fucked up happened while she was sleeping and she “woke up” face to face with her own “Death” self. Notice how Goth chick holds her hand up like, “Chill, it’s just me – I mean you, but dead.”

The painting kinda suggests the sudden death of the girl, but in a dreamlike sequence.

  1. Maybe Death is a girl… all this time. The maiden, unable to absorb the unexpected plot twist, holds the blanket to her chest and whispers, “NOOOO SHIT.”

Between the two I kinda like number one. The latter sounds more fun but the former seems to me makes a lot of sense.

How would you interpret the painting?

Hey lemons – fuck you.

“When life gives you lemons, just say ‘Fuck the lemons,’ and bail.” – I fucking love this. Paul Rudd said this in Forgetting Sarah Marshall on a surf board, talking to this always-depressed-looking-actor-I-know-of-but-dare-not-Google-his-name-for-the-sake-of-saving-myself-from-embarrassment…. –self-embarrassment (deal with it).

It’s probably because I always find myself bailing out countless times. Fuck challenges. I hate them. I am too lazy to handle those things. I am more of a, “yeah… imma let this one pass” type of person and I like it. When I feel like things are about take a turn for the worse I withdraw myself almost immediately. I don’t even care about the whole situation – I just do it. When the consequences arrive I think of the stupidest ways to forget or get away with it, and more often, it hurts a lot of people. Like the really important ones. But let a day pass or two (or even sooner), I forget about the whole thing. I have this incredible superpower of getting over and moving on real quick. I’m a maniac.

My mom always told me I am heartless. My dad believes otherwise. To him, I am the sweetest, most fragile girl. To mom, I am the girl without any emotion at all – cold as dry ice. I remember one time mom told me she’d rather not be with me because she feels like there’s nobody around anyway. She likes the fact that I’m fascinated with books and find contentment in our house reading or writing. But at the same time she loathes it because I don’t talk much… at least around her anyway. With dad, there are a lot of things to talk about – he is the smartest man I know. I swear I could listen to him the whole day. I’m not saying that I hate my mom. In fact, it is safe to say that we’re pretty close. She would go with me on gigs unminding the noise, smoke, sweat, puke, and occasional blood in the rowdy bars I once frequented. Yes, I am a home buddy – but I am in a band (was once anyway) and the only time I let myself out into the blasted streets around sweaty motherfuckers is during band rehearsals and gigs. But mom and I, we’re not in the same wavelength, you know. I took to dad more often than not, and maybe that’s why I am what I am today.

Getting back to the “lemons”, I bail because I don’t like the commotion and the stress of handling it. You see, I am toughie and a weakling at the same time. I don’t cry a lot, not because I don’t want people to see me as a sissy, but because I am too lazy to do it. Crying is a bitch, seriously. Not the kind of cry girls make while watching The Notebook. I am talking about the kind of cry where you can’t fucking stop no matter how hard you try to. The kind that that makes that awful sobbing sound it confuses the shit out of you that you’re actually capable of making that nonhuman noise. The one where your chest aches too much it’s as if your heart is being ripped out; it drains you out completely you can’t fucking move and no matter how hard you try to be still to regain the strength you lost, your body betrays you. That kind of crying is a bad bitch.

My dad, he is a silent man. He doesn’t believe in aggressive reactions whatsoever. When life gives him lemons, he bails. He bails so he could think, maybe find answers. If not, maybe just so he can carry on with his life without us seeing him in pain, or in anger. I sometimes think he is depressed, but I dare not know the truth for fear it might be true. I am scared one of these days he’ll wallow into depression and just completely lose it, you know? I hope that all the smarts he’s got will save him, I need him to because I can’t right now. I live far away and I just can’t go back home out of whim. I am broke as fuck and living off in a minimum-wage salary. I have that job that I truly love with a salary I truly hate. Some of you here might be really familiar with this.

This bailing habit clearly I got from dad. It is both a blessing and a curse. It is easy to misinterpret bailing as an act of cowardice, but to us, the “fuck the lemons” kind of people, it is the best way to avoid doing something regrettable in the future. You know what they say about silent people, how they run deep and all, I think that shit’s true. It is easy to be violent, you know, but we’d rather not resort to it. That’s what separates or stops us from becoming psychopaths, full-on criminals without conscience because why not. We can easily bail, not minding the pain we caused. I am not gonna disclose now all the shit I thought of doing to people who caused to me to fucking bail, because it scares the shit outta me.

Maybe, you are just like me, or you know a “fuck the lemons” guy. The whole thing I wrote might shed light or confuse you otherwise. I don’t know. I don’t care. But if you’re reading this, thanks. For now, I’m bailing.



Devil’s Bridge in the Schoellenen

Painting Title: Devil’s Bridge in the Schoellenen
Artist: Caspar Wolf (1735-1783)
Location: Private Collection

Swiss painter Caspar Wolf was known primarily for his landscape paintings, those with the Alps to be precise. Wolf’s imagery of glaciers, waterfalls, caves or creeks are epic, and so much so that with the aid of the grey tone of colorization in his paintings, those natural formations seem cold and impervious- a lurking hostility that welcomes not the viewers’ ready absorption. One can imagine standing before a grand painting by Wolf and not awed by its overwhelming magnificence but woefully dwarfed by its monstrosity.

Seen here the 1777 painting titled, Devil’s Bridge in the Schoellenen. A precipitous bridge straddles between the gorges, which magnitude dominates the majority of the canvas, and reduces the sky to merely a conical view. A rumbling stream of water races to its still pool, and the boisterous spirit within, reluctant to be transmuted abruptly to insipid sedateness, bubbles still white and frothy.

The travelers, possibly trudging up to the summit, and down through all the creaks and crevices untrammeled, suddenly encounter this bridge, which, thanks to the white vapor of the waterfall, is made only dimly visible. One can almost feel the palpitation of the travelers’, when the deafening din of the rushing water only contributes to their growingly fainter hearts. Finally, an audacious one takes a tentative step on the wobbly-looking bridge, and nimbly he crosses to the safe side all in one breathe. Triumphantly the victor raises his horse and beckons his companions to come trotting through.

For me the painting is an embodiment of courage, a whipping-up of the collective morale, and a shaft of hopeful light through the heavily encompassing mist of desolation and danger. It is also a pictorial evidence of the underestimated power of men, which is often preternaturally augmented when facing their toughest moment.