Mark Lamster | Essays

A Bibliophile's Revelation


It would be nice if an author were somehow able to pick up Domenichino's St. John the Evangelist (c. 1627) when it comes up for auction at Christie's in London this December. The picture seems, as much as anything, a celebration of the act of writing and the ecstasy of the written word. True, the writing process sometimes feels more like torture than pleasure, but this is a picture about visions, so we can allow for artistic license. Here, Domenichino's rather effeminate and disheveled St. John composes the book of Revelation on the Greek island of Patmos (not a bad writer's retreat) and looks as if he's barely made it out of bed (typical writerly behavior). If this were painted today, his trusted eagle and putti would be replaced by an open laptop with a live Twitter feed, a half-eaten bagel, and a large mug of fair-trade coffee. As it is, the painting is likely to draw upward of $10 million, a bit stiff for any scribe, even one named Brown or Rowling.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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