The austere beauty of Domenico Veneziano’s Saint John in the Desert:  I wish there were a vacation package that offered this – that filled one’s longing for a spare, rocky desert.  Air as clear as thought, no cloud in the sky, peace in an orderly universe, with the nakedness optional though you have choices also between elegant finery and hairshirts according to your inclination.

A stream of crystalline purity runs through the dry land, and pleasant looking rocks lie scattered about willy-nilly.  And your own body has the sharpness and durability of a Platonic Idea. 

How much can an image be reduced to its essentials?  How much can a life be reduced to its hardest purity of alacrity and keen longing? St John is being remade into an elemental man, reduced to barest essentials, into stark simplicity.

[At the top:  Domenico Veneziano’s “St John in the Desert”  National Gallery of Art in Washington DC]


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