Visual Philosophy

(Month of September, Series 2020)

Mere Beauty In Truth

Mere Beauty In Truth (click link for Instagram) is my theory of the Aesthetic. Influenced by the late Sir Roger Scruton I aim to use art, nature, architecture, and other mediums to witness a higher form, reality and truth about life through perception. 

Beauty requires us to recognize the ugly, the profane, and the false through a keen sense of what is true beauty i.e. that which strikes a profoundness inside us all putting us at its mercy. We do so by training our heart on the full range of emotions experienced in our lives. Fear, anger, happiness, and anxiety all mean something deeper within us. A friend once explained that to recognize a forgery one must study the real thing in complete and absolute detail. Mere Beauty In Truth is the study of the real thing we call beauty.

My ultimate hope it to show the Transcendence and the Immense of God through beauty and design, the ugly and the broken, so as to help us grasp truth and ultimate reality to the best of our limited ability. 

Aesthetic value is not merely art. Art is simply one principled medium of interpretation. We would not necessarily call a person or nature art but each can serve as an expression through a medium. Aesthetics targets the full range of expression through taste, smell, sound, sight, and intuition. 

Please enjoy.

The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David

Overview: Prior to the Roman Republic, Rome was founded by Romulus (753-715 B.C.) Rome’s first King as myth would have it and of which there would be Seven Kings total. Of the Seven Kings the third, King Tullus Hostilius (673-641 B.C.), would commission the three Horatii sons (triplets) to save Rome from a costly war the king commanded them to fight another group of brothers, the Curiatii Alban. Rather having war after war, per their agreement, whomever wins the battle between the brothers settles the dispute. Out of love for their country, the three Horatii brothers swear an oath before their father to save Rome or die.

Patriotism is the central theme of this work of art.

There are three central themes within this piece: The Three Brothers, The Women and Children, and The Father.

At First Glance: The Three Brothers. Nothing about war is beautiful; war is rift with bloodshed and gore, screams and fear, chaos and uncertainty. War eventually exhausts the soul of a people. Even the best of men comprehend its deepest and darkest repercussions. What the three Horatii brothers submit themselves before is not merely heroic, courageous, and dutiful but sacrificial and righteous and just as they symbolically represent Rome yet literally put forth their lives. The tension of the moment is expressively seen in the gripping hands between two of the brothers:

The arm wrapped around the waist of one brother, his hand hardly relaxed rather tense and prepared with a hint of healthy fear as they prepare themselves for battle. And the hand of the brother at the foreground, gripping his pilum, knowing full well his life is dependent upon its durability and the dexterity of his brothers.

Notice the brother’s forearms. Strong, resilient, determined; those are the arms of real men; men set on saving a kingdom and her people from despair. The gradual rising of each arm, one, two, three as each hand slightly rises above another, one, two, three in oath but equal in cause, purpose, and rank. Three marks the divine, the triunity of brothers whose willpower can overcome even the gods in this glorious moment. Divine! Nothing can lay asunder a brotherhood founded on ideals above themselves. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done! It is patriotism personified. Not a brainwashing or a corrupt cause this is courage on a canvas.

Feet of fortitude, aligned nearly perfectly as they unify with the foot of their father. Their shadows even marking the moment as if it were transposing on sacred ground before the feet of hero’s. Those are feet that march and run toward their enemy never turning their backs for defeat. And the foot of a father who bestows his sons as worthy. Standing alone, simply studying the feet of these men, tells the story of a sacrum testimonium; a testimony of an oath that all hero’s must give.

Two of three brothers would die, however, the third would be triumphant and bringing a long line of glory for Rome.

Key Point: Patriotic duty can be a sacred cause but it must be a worthy and just cause. And duty requires an oath of commitment by righteous men who know the difference between right and wrong; good and evil.

At First Glance: The Women and the Children. Woe and sorrow befall on the family; the brothers cannot show their tears; the father must not weep so as to keep their spirits soaring; and so the women take on the brave cause of shedding what is felt by all in the room. Hardly weak, it should be said that the woman and children are the strongest as their emotions rightly rise to the occasion. Perhaps even demanding before slumping into a tearful surrender that they can go fight for them! No, that would not be honorable to the men who desire to fight. Our modern distaste for good men revolts at the idea that women were not allowed to fight in war. But we fail to consider the preciousness of this act and that no Roman nor Greek nor Jew nor American would simply say that all women are incapable of fighting; no they knew better, they each understood the strength of one woman, a woman who bears life itself, can kill a thousand men if they had to in the name of their family and countrymen. Vessels meaning worthy of protecting not objects nor property to be abused, these women had real men who respected womanhood and the power of the feminine. Make no mistake about it.

Together they share grief. Perhaps these are wives of two brothers, now sisters, sharing in their pain. If a feminine epistemology exists, this exemplifies it because only women can share such eternal bonds of birth and deep love and a heavy sorrow for their men. The woman in white, her arms dangling lifelessly to her side, faint and unnerved, her white stola represents purity, loyalty, and chastity. She wears her feelings on her sleeve.

The woman in red, symbolic of war and battle, her body drained by the event as her arms also lay lifeless, she weeps with her sister-in-law. Nothing more to do but pray and shed tears that will water the grounds of the land and people they love.

Alas a different strength appears. A grandmother of comfort, a dutiful wife, and a mother who loves her sons. Draped in purple, an aristocrat, she has seen much and done even more for her family. Now as her daughters cry over their men, she comforts their children. She knows this pain all too well.

Innocence, the eyes of a boy whose father must go into battle; the eyes of a child who has seen nothing that life offers him either good or bad; that is a terrified boy who dare not cry for the sake of his baby brother. That boy will one day be a man, a man of honor who cares for his younger brother, his mother, and his grandparents.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church blindfolds a child each time they choose their pope during the final selection, that child then picks a name from a bag; an act representing a child’s innocence and goodness from God. Indeed, this boy carries that innocence; an unknowing goodness that loves his mother, his father, his grandmother, his grandfather, his uncles, and his aunts. However, the striking look of the older boys face pierces the soul of all who dare peer into his eyes. Perhaps an innocence too holy for us all?

Key Point: The Women and Children are examples of real and justifiable emotions. They are not in the background hiding away from the men and their oath; they are part of the sacred oath to protect and serve their nation in need.

At First Glance: The Father. Likely in his sixties, wearing a red cloak as a means of bonding with his sons in preparation for war, the father bestows upon them three swords; a Triumvirate whose power is to decide the fate of Rome through a single battle. This Triumvirate would be prophetic yet very different from those of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus (60 B.C.) and Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian (43 B.C.). Nothing political was being held that day, no rhetoric, no false appearances. Simply a proud father speaking boastfully with clarity so his sons knew what awaited them. An oath he had likely said generations ago, words even today that hold a sacred tone; “I do solemnly swear before God and before Man…” words that have meaning and purpose, words that reign true for all eternity. Nothing could make a father more proud than to see his sons fighting for a just cause. Notice no helmet is to be found, those days are gone for an old man but his spirit remains. He fought and lived. Now he sends forth the next generation.

Though two of his sons would never return the man knew a greater good would be accomplished should they succeed. Like the waiting of the prodigal son this father was waiting for their return in preparation to celebrate. He had faith in his sons.

Key Point: Fatherhood is a servants role in raising children, caring for your wife, and in service to your country.

Published by

E. Kyle Richey

A Christian, a Philosopher, and a Writer.

4 thoughts on “Visual Philosophy”

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