It wasn’t until I looked through the photographs I took while visiting the Scottish National Gallery on Wednesday that I realised feet had bubbled to the surface as a theme of the visit. So the next few blog posts are going to be about ‘Edinburgh Feet’ although none of the owners of the feet in question ever actually set foot in Edinburgh.
Currently if you pop along to the National Gallery in Edinburgh (you will need to be quick) you will be able to marvel at The Kiss by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). He created it between 1901 and 1904 and I found it quite compelling especially when getting up close.
I found the parts that appeared incomplete fascinating, like Francesca’s hand which you can just see between the bodies and the unfinished book of Lancelot and Guinevere, unfinished both in Pentelic marble and in the reading as the kiss interrupts.
The sculpture depicts the first part of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, the captured adulterous kiss which brings about Paolo and Francesca’s death at the hand of Giovanni, Paolo’s older brother and Francesca’s husband. Were these unfinished touches left that way on purpose a sign of the incompleteness of the relationship and indeed of life?
I found myself returning time and time again to the right foot of Paolo:
His toes are so curled up almost wriggling in the hard marble as I might wriggle mine in soft sand. I don’t think the foot is graceful indeed to me there is a suggestion of a corn on the little toe and a bunion beginning with the positioning of the big toe position – surely Paolo didn’t wear high heels! Of course a photograph can’t fully convey the sense of coldness, hard work and a longingness to be cared for that I felt the foot emanated with. I was reminded of Maundy Thursday but then feet always do!
I know the forbidden kiss is the subject of this marble, indeed I overheard someone say ‘perfect love’ as they gazed upon it, eh? However it is the foot and the book which for me are the highlights of this incredible work of art. It was they in all their incompleteness and rawness, in their calling out for further attention that for me reflected the true beauty of sculptor and marble and spoke far more of the story that was being portrayed than the stone cold kiss.