Sunday, September 7, 2014

A single ray of sun cuts across his ashen cheek, leaving his eyes in the shadows

I sit down beside her, and brush a strand of hair from her damp forehead. Only now—by her pale face and the dark circles under her eyes—do I realize how exhausted she must be.
“Perhaps,” I say, thinking aloud, “I should be going.”
Pointing at the crib by her side, “Help me now,” says Bathsheba. “Give me the child.”
And so, leaning over the crib, I take a look at him. His face is perfect, angelic. A single ray of sun cuts across his ashen cheek, leaving his eyes in the shadows. Along its diagonal way, it touches the tips of his delicate, nearly transparent fingers. I lift the baby into a kiss. 
Then, very gently, I place him into her embrace. Standing back I watch the two of them, mother and child. 
She bares her breast and brings him in, tilting herself into his little mouth, but the baby is too sleepy, it seems, to suck her milk. 
I get up, and walk away to the sound of her voice singing a melodious lullaby, at the end of which it trails off, ever so tenderly, into sadness. 

This passage in my book is inspired by bible illustrations (published 1952-1860) by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, a German painter associated with the Nazerene movement, which sought to revive honesty and spirituality in Christian art. 

This particular illustration, Showing Bathsheba agonizing over her dying baby, has always amazed me because of this question: How did the artist manage to make the baby look sick? When drawing a baby, the cuteness gets in the way of showing anything else but hope and promise. I had to look closer, which is when I discovered that the artist used light, that cuts across the baby's cheek, which is equivalent to crossing him off. That idea is what I used in my description of the dying baby.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, David praying for the life of his son


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