Friday, November 07, 2008

"a naked green man astride a green horse"

Guillermo Pérez Villalta
"The Symbols of Love"

Dale Fuchs has published an article, "For Spanish tapestries, a 21st-century makeover," in the International Herald Tribune on Spain's Real Fábrica de Tapices (Royal Tapestry Factory), which was founded in 1721 by King Philip V and which sounds like a fascinating institution.

What caught my attention was a reference to an image from a painting by Guillermo Pérez Villalta that one of the tapestry makers is weaving into a tapestry:
Consider, for instance, the tapestry in progress by the veteran craftsman José Antonio Carbajal. He is weaving a Pérez Villalta composition depicting a naked green man astride a green horse, which trots into a flat horizon of multicolored Delaunay-style circles.
The "green man astride a green horse" could perhaps be a pictoral allusion to the the Green Knight in the Pearl Poet's story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but the IHT article offers no information on that possibility. I'm guessing that the scene depicted above is a detail from a larger painting by Villalta that would reveal the green man mentioned by Fuchs.

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about Villalta. For those who read Spanish, that edition of Wikipedia provides some information, but the English Wikipedia has no entry on him. I did find via BNET a short review by Kim Bradley for Art in America, "Guillermo Perez Villalta at Soledad Lorenzo, Madrid, Spain" (1997):
Nowhere is the artist's fondness for the Byzantine more apparent than in Faz (The Holy Face). Set against a primarily golden background, this sinewy Pantocrator with veined, marblelike flesh sports a halo of zigzaggy hair and an elaborately linear mustache and beard. His elongated face and thin lips and nose are offset by large amber-colored eyes which fix their piercing gaze on the viewer. Perez Villalta often freely intermingles Christian subjects and symbols, such as the Crucifixion, with pagan themes, gods and monsters. In Creacion (Creation), which takes both Dionysus and the Good Shepherd as its main topics, a host of satyrlike creatures and winged angels with fish tails cavort in a peculiar wilderness. Flawlessly executed, the work evidences Perez Villalta's increasingly refined technical skills as well as his highly developed personal mythology.
The free intermingling of "Christian subjects and symbols . . . with pagan themes, gods and monsters" recalls Medieval art and literature and might therefore suggest that Villalta has turned to artistic and literary sources from the Middle Ages. This intermingling is certainly consistent with the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Perhaps some reader happening upon this blog entry would also happen to know the answer -- or would at least be able to supply a link to Villalta's image of the "green man astride a green horse."

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At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are lots of jokes in Spanish about green horses, but I don't think they connect. Verde means indecent, which tends to cloud things.

The Moor Alfatami and his green horse are hidden under a hill somewhere in Valencia, Spain, awaiting an appropriate call to emerge and slaughter Christians, but I don't think he's a bodypainter.


At 4:45 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Trevor, thanks for the information. The possible pun between "green" and "indecent" might be lurking here (if puns lurk like a parenthetical remark).

I don't know much Spanish, by the way. I know that "indecente" means "indecent" . . . so does "verde" have a secondary meaning of "indecent"? As in the English "green" meaning the color green but also having a secondary meaning of "inexperienced"? Or are there two words "verde"? As in the words "cleave" (meaning "cut asunder") and "cleave" (meaning "cling together").

As for the apparently bloodthirsty Alfatami, his name (though not his horse) strikes a chord of memory, but only distantly. I checked online and found only one Googled reference to him with a green horse. I thus didn't learn much, but I did learn something, hence proving the old saw that one learns something new every day . . . even if merely a little bit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Verde = dirty is secondary. Green means different things to different people, but it's tempting to wonder if all these green men and beasts, who regenerate themselves by magical means, are not connected by a mouldering zombie motif.

Alfatami would be better known today if people could agree how to spell his name - al Fatami and al Fatemi are two other moderately popular variants.

At 3:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Or perhaps the zombie motif is a somewhat degraded form of a larger view about beings with the supernatural power to 'rise' from the dead. The Green Knight in the Sir Gawain story seems to derive his special power from the fact of being an elf-man (or fairy) . . . or possibly from bewitchment by Morgan le Fay (whose name means "Morgan the Fairy").

Alfatami's 'ability' to rise and fight again might be linked to the Muslim eschatological beliefs, with the Moor's revival being part of a more general resurrection. At the eschaton, even Isa (i.e., "Jesus") is supposed to return and fight against the Christians.

Anyway, thanks again. I'll check the other spellings of the Moor's name.

By the way, I've posted another blog entry on this issue of a green knight (giving you prominent mention).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why thank you!

It would be moderately interesting to speculate on the colour and the meaning of the horse Gadafy gave Aznar about five years ago.

At 5:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, it would be interesting. Perhaps Aznar was intended to be Alfatami recidivus. If so, then Ghaddafi backed the wrong horse . . . in more ways than one.

Jeffery Hodges

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