John Berger, Katya Berger
Lying Down to Sleep
Is oblivion nothingness? No. Nothingness is formless and oblivion is circular.
The clouds in the Oculus of the Bridal Chamber, painted by Andrea Mantegna at St George’s Castle in Mantua, are the starting point for an intimate dialogue between father and daughter John and Katya Berger, held as they observe the frescoes in the famous room. The conversation leads to a personal exploration of Mantegna’s masterpiece, the infinite complexity of the reality it represents and the human and artistic events that lie below the surface.
Behind the painted curtains which reveal and conceal a painted landscape, all is revealed and all is hidden. The Bridal Chamber offers Mantegna the opportunity to portray each detail from an unexpected angle that is inextricably bound up with his own profoundly Humanistic temporal perspective. Indeed, his dramatic foreshortening technique clearly displays his passion for classical art. Like a botanist collecting a sample of each of the plants he comes across, Mantegna notes and painstakingly assembles the countless events and instants that take place in daily life. In the Oculus it is almost as if he were personally blending into the unity he has created, forgetting everything to reach the essence of what remains by closing his eyes and abandoning himself to oblivion.
Publication is due to coincide with Mantua’s Festivaletteratura 2010 (8 - 12 September), where John and Katya Berger will be enacting their conversation.