Elective Affinities XXXI: Knife in the head

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou


Screenshot 2016-08-29 23.24.24

Kazimir Malevich, Girl with a Comb in her Hair, 1932, oil on canvas, 35.5 х 31, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (partial view)



Lorenzo Lotto, Friar Angelo Ferretti as Saint Peter Martyr, 1549, oil on canvas, 89.9 x 69.4 cm, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts


[I had never seen Malevich’s painting before Gerasimos Mamonas posted it, a couple of days ago, in Aimez-vous Brahms, a Facebook page dedicated to classical music and painting. Needless to say, the association was instantaneous: Lorenzo Lotto’s versions are among the most well-known representations of the saint, as well as Cima da Conegliano’s. We are so used to seeing saints depicted with their attributes of martyrdom in otherwise realistic scenes, especially in the type of painting known as a ‘sacra conversazione’, that we rarely think about how weird and ‘unnatural’ the whole thing is. Comparing it to the kind of modern art that places little value on realistic representation, makes it even more obvious – but the parallel also serves as a kind of visual joke.]