The Artist’s Eye
Is there a sculpture or painting you’re drawn to? Why?
Twenty-five years ago, my oldest son took me on a trip to England. One of the places we visited was the Royal British Museum of Art. Fabulous place, full of notable and amazing art.
The one that stays with me, though, is the painting of the execution of the Lady Jane Grey, one of Henry VIII’s hapless victims. Because she was blessed or cursed with great beauty, however you want to see it, Henry married her. She was unable to present him with an heir, which was her only crime. She was very young, helpless in a society in which the King had absolute authority and lopped off heads as easily as he downed a tankard of ale.
I remember standing in front of this painting for a long time. Look at the utter despair of the ladies-in-waiting, knowing there is nothing that can be done to save their innocent mistress and that their own futures are at stake. Look at the man guiding her to the block, seeming to want to protect her. Look at the great irony of the cushion for her knees as she prepares to bend for the executioner. Look at the executioner, whose trade is a bloody one that does not allow him to show compassion. I believe he is unhappy about what he will do in just a few moments.
Seeing this painting was a profound experience for me. It’s huge, and you have to stand back from it to get the whole scene. I walked up close, as well, absorbing small details.
Art, good art, should stir something in our hearts. This one certainly did, for me.