4/16/10

Five Wounds: 'BARATTARE' IS TO 'BARARE' AS GABRIELLA IS TO CUCKOO


These two images appear on either side of a double page spread. The brief was as follows:

126-7: 2xB [Blow-up fragments of Bagatto, or redrawn images to exemplify the themes of banker / moneychanger (Gabriella) and gambler / trickster (Cuckoo). Whatever appears here should ‘rhyme’ with the Bagatto stand-alone. Don’t really want to just ‘quote’ the stand-alone pic. These two pix should probably also refer back in some way to the double Cuckoo pix at 60-61.]


This is the image of Bagatto used in the separate Plates section, which is referred to in the brief.


The brief Jon provided for the original Bagatto stand-alone illustration was to create a scene similar to the ones shown on these Bagatto playing cards, which were sent as reference material.
The three illustrations accompany a chapter in the book in which Gabriella and Cuckoo have their first conversation, a kind of ice breaker between the two, discussing the iconography on playing cards. Jon describes this as a 'seduction scene', but one carried out entirely through dialogue on an apparently unrelated subject.
In the narrative Cuckoo explains that the 'Bagatto' card, which Gabriella knows as the 'Magician' in the Tarot, has more than one meaning, or at least that its meaning is obscured by its name, which relates to two words: 'barattare', which means 'exchange' and 'barare' which means 'cheat'. Cuckoo believes that the image shows a money changer and/or a con-man playing the game where you have to guess which cup the ball is under (sometimes known as 'Three-card monte').


After some deliberation, I started work on 'Gabriella the banker' & 'Cuckoo the trickster', but losing the silly hats from my original doodles. The two figures and compositions in the new illustrations had to oppose or complement one another in a similar way to the figures in the original Bagatto stand-alone illustration.

'The Conjurer' Hieronymus Bosch -1500's.
This image was sent to me by Jon. The painting shows a 'fool' being distracted by a ball & cup game whilst having his purse stolen from behind by the trickster's accomplice. Tourists visiting Barcelona, who are obviously unaware of this painting, still fall for the same trick on the Ramblas, so much so that recently the council erected posters warning of the cup & ball trick, with the slogan in English 'This is Not a Game'.


'The Money Changer and His Wife' (on the left) Quentin Massys -1514 (on the right) Marinus van Reymerswaele -1539.



Cuckoo's gloves are taken off and laid on the table. Cuckoo always wears gloves whilst gambling, the fact that they are explicitly off reflects the beginning of intimacy in the narrative.
The facing card on the table is the 'knave of coins'. This card in Tarot (an interest of Gabriella) is related to prosperity and material wealth.
Cuckoo's finger is pointing to an empty space under the cup. As he says in the book: "the bean is never under the cup you choose, but you're always sure it'll be there next time...". His hand is turned as if he could also be pointing up into the cup. The position of the hand is contrary to Gabriella's, whose hand is turned the other way, pointing down to a book.

Gabriella, who is a crippled angel, is holding some scales, which in this case are also a reference to judgement, which is discussed in the text. She is surrounded by keys, coins and other paraphernalia associated with banking.
Gabriella is pointing to what appears to be an account book. What is on the pages however is associated with Gabriella's role as interpreter and her preoccupation with codes and ciphers, rather than banking or tricksters. Although both diagrams concern the values and qualities of numbers. The other diagrams below the main two are garbled generic diagrams.

On the left is a magic square taken, again, from Dürer's 'Melencolia I'. It can only be recognised in the illustration by a couple of numbers. Magic squares first appeared in China around 650 and were later known to Islamic mathematicians through contact with India in the seventh century.
The chart on the right, which is only recognisable by its diagonal dividing lines, actually has more to do with the science of letters than numbers. It is taken from Sufi, a philosophy in which letters have inherent qualities and values that are 'alive' when made into a word. Letters also have their corresponding numerical values. Numbers, it is said in Sufi, are the root of all sciences.
Perhaps Dürer's magic square represents Cuckoo's view of cards: "I look objectively. I count numbers". By contrast, the Sufi chart represents Gabriella's more subjective interpretations.
These diagrams along with some other elements, however are not essential to understand and appreciate the illustrations in context in relation to the text. I am just giving a further explication of my thoughts and the process involved in composing the images.

3 comments:

dan hallett said...

It is worth mentioning that the creation of these illustrations coincided with the credit crisis, collapse of the shadow banking system, the mortgage crisis and the revelation of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. 
It was at a moment when the boundaries blurred between bankers and tricksters; real assets seemed as elusive as the trickster's ball under the cups;  which in some cases turned out to have never been under any cup to begin with. 

La creación de estas ilustraciones coincidió con la crisis del crédito, la crisis de las hipotecas y la revelación de la estafa de Madoff.
Fue en un momento en que los diferencias estaban menos claros entre los banqueros y prestidigitadores; activos reales parecía tan elusiva como la pelota bajo las tazas; que en algunos casos resultó que no haber estado nunca la pelota desde el principio.

Jonathan Walker said...

The post title is the running head from the double page spread on which these images appear.

The interpretation of the iconography of the Tarot card in question here is my own. I have no idea whether or not it is supported by the current scholarship, although I did once run it by Michael Dummett (an Oxford philosopher who is, among other things, the world expert on Tarot card games), who thought it sounded more or less plausible. The title of 'The Magician', however, which is the usual translation for this card's name, and on which many of the occult interpretations of its meaning depend, is entirely erroneous.

Anonymous said...

Muy buen articulo, estoy casi 100% de acuerdo contigo :)