He’s an old (but wealthy) fart
So, for her he is a start.
Yes, this blog’s about art,
And to matters of the heart
Now will this post depart.
(My first experience in English poetry, don’t be too critical)
What do you feel when looking at this photograph?
Men: “lucky old bastard” (envy), “old fool” (pity), “nice plane” (inadequacy), “too bad two bunnies are out of focus” (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
Women: “lucky bitch” (envy), “stupid barbie” (pity), “cool shades”/”gorgeous hair”/”show me the wedding ring!” (inadequacy), “is he able?” (curiosity), “no, that’s not worth it” (melancholy), “would she be birthing a child from him?” (Real-Housewives Disorder).
Well, anyone can tell you that women are more emotional than men.
Yet, whatever the strongest feeling, anyone sane, upon seeing these two smiling faces would think of f***ing slavery (statistics show it’s temporary, for 3 to 5 years only), where both words proudly stand for their literal meaning like Hugh Hefner’s on three Viagras. The French word “mesalliance” has been invented to soften the blow of the English “ill-matched pair”. These two people are smiling because they see nothing wrong about what they are doing, and they are happy about their personal gain from this enterprise. They are a celebrity couple, which means the notions of love, honesty, devotion and loyalty are not applicable. Well, this is the world for you today. Presidents can get frivolous with interns, secretaries, striptease dancers, teenage models and acrobats, to name a few professions. It is OK, and in some countries the crowds even hurrah these adventures, hailing the virility of their leaders. How come the humankind went down so fast to the Stone Age values? Shall we now watch not debates but fights among candidates, and let the strongest and cruellest win (and get a Miss Universe to bed as a bonus)?
Mesalliance is nothing new, but it has always been looked upon with a bit of unease. Not today. Today any shrink would tell you men are interested to follow any old+young story because they imagine themselves in place of the old guy. Thank you, but no, Hugh Hefner is the last man I would be imagining myself to be. I don’t want my children to be as mentally and morally damaged as his kids seem to be, that’s for sure. And I can’t imagine myself with Crystal. Primarily, for hygienic reasons.
Just some 100 years ago, the view on
f***ing slavery “mesalliance” (pardon my French) was very critical, but mass media fuelled by money from luxury brands has made it an “attractive” option for both sexes. Cinderella today is not about marrying the young prince, she’s about becoming his step-mother. And zillions zealously follow this new fairytale.
So, how did visual artists of the past treat ill-matched pairs?
I am not sure I can remember any mesalliance paintings before Lucas Cranach the Elder, that is before 1520-30s. Perhaps, he was first to unload his pile of sarcastic fun about it.
He was poignantly good, and over 40 different versions of his ill-matched pairs are known. His view, perhaps, describes the current situation best of all and is the closest to Hugh & Crystal photograph you see here. We don’t see what she’s doing with her hands, but metaphorically, just like in Cranach paintings, her hand is obviously rummaging through Hugh’s pockets.
Men here are so ugly that no one wants to self-identify with them or envy them. No one pities the girls as well, the girls know what they do and some of those who were pitying Crystal are even happy for them. Where’s the logic? It is the same story!
In the 16th century, Cranach was running this profitable moralising line for a couple of decades, and many Dutch painters picked it up later.
But the two most powerful paintings on mesalliance I’ve seen are Francisco de Goya‘s and Pukirev’s.
In Goya’s painting the old man is so weak he can barely hold the candle. He is incapable as a man, but the young buddy behind the bride (mirroring her posture) will, perhaps, provide some consolation to the young lady. We can’t see her emotions, we can’t read her thoughts, but.. we can pity the old fool. Today, no man feels any envy or inadequacy related to this man, even though he is not different from Hugh. Where’s the logic again?
And my favourite is this one. The Mesalliance by Vassily Pukirev, painted in 1862. This painting made him famous, and then, alas, he didn’t paint anything that would be even remotedly as powerful.
As it often happens, this great piece of art was based on a personal tragedy. The bride was a girl the artist loved and wanted to marry, but, being a fresh graduate without any means he had been rejected by her parents. He painted himself standing behind the bride with a dejected look on his face. All the other “guests” do not care much, they are just curious. The bride is so sad, her candle is barely held, her skin is so white she can faint any moment. Her new “owner” is proud, but cautious.
Isn’t it ironic that this painting made the artist famous and relatively rich?
But, coming back to our feelings. Men, whom I’ve asked about their feelings while looking at this painting, say they do not envy the old guy, do not pity him, and do not feel inadequate. Most pity the bride, but in a very light-hearted way. Women feel deep pity, profound sorrow; become sad, very angry, and mad angry.
You see, a totally different spectrum of emotions to the celebrity couple photograph of Hugh & Crystal. We still can feel the right thing, but today’s media substitutes our natural reflex with envy and inadequacy. This way, we’d buy more of cool shades, stupid captain hats, dream of personal planes and multicarat wedding rings.
Pray tell me, who are the most ill-matched celebrity couple? I’d love to see them pasted over Crahach or Pukirev )
UPD, after studying Cranach’s old men, one can only marvel at modern dental care.