Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Veils throughout History have Concealed, Tempted and Deceived

Veils have been with us almost since the beginning of time. Certainly they had religious significance. For example, in the Biblical story of Salome, Jezebel’s daughter, Salome danced with seven veils to seduce her father so she could ask for the head of John the Baptist. John had criticized her mother’s marriage to wicked King Ahab who had unlawfully taken his brother’s wife.

 In the Book of Genesis within the Hebrew Bible, the story goes that Jacob was tricked into marrying the homely Leah instead of his beloved Rachel, because Leah had hidden her flaws behind a veil.

Tradition had it that the groom could not lift the veil and look upon his bride until after they were married. When Jacob found out it was Leah, he honored her, but continued to love Rachel. He worked for her another seven years before she became his 2nd wife.

The Bridal veil has always provided a sense of mystery. A veil declared that the woman was spoken for; she was forbidden to any but her betrothed. It was also believed to be a holy covering.

A veil separated the Holy of Holy’s in the temple where only the High Priest could go to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. The veil in the temple signified it was forbidden to go beyond that point. The veil protected what was within and anyone without authority could be killed for crossing the forbidden barrier.

One of the most celebrated paintings of the Italian Renaissance by Raphael is “The Woman with the Veil (La Donna Velata),” c.1516 This irresistibly beautiful portrait was once considered the most famous painting in the world. Completed circa 1516 – four years before Raphael died at age 37 – the painting has had a profound influence on artists and writers both of his day and since. Not only is it beautifully painted, but a myth of intrigue envelops the work: there is a long-held belief that the sitter was Raphael's lover and muse.

Raphael developed in this portrait his own idea of female beauty and deportment. The sitter’s veil indicates that she is married, while the sleeve conveys both opulence and, in abstract terms, the sitter’s hidden but complex psychology. She appears as a model in many of Raphael's most important works.

“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer uses a veil to portray the young girl’s modesty and innocence.

"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas
The painting of fabric has always intrigued me. If done well, the illusion is so perfect that the viewer must touch it to see if it’s real. The creation of folds is a result of the undulating movement of the cloth as it rises and falls. Highlights are placed on the highest points, and shadows on the most recessed. Pulling the brush in the direction of the fold rather than vertically creates roundness.

"India Rising -- the Found" mixed-media on canvas
Many cultures and religions use veils and coverings to protect from harsh weather, provide concealment and modesty, and to create mystery and beauty.