Friday, January 7, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

                 "Beauty is not caused. It is." - Emily Dickinson

"The Ball"
James Tissot
oil on canvas


Andrea Lucas as
"Spanish Chocolate"
 Tammy Sarchi, Digital Photo

     Look closely at these two images and note the  similarities;  Each woman basks in a golden glow, each  with the same facial expression. See the angle of the head and  back, the trailing bustle and flounces, and even the opened  fan in each image.

(Curious about the possible symbolism  of the opened fan, I found this reference to "Ladies and  Their Fans",  which made me most happy that  I was born in the 20th  Century. entire language based on one's fan? Sorry, I digress.)

The moment I saw this photo of my daughter (shown on the right), I knew that I'd seen a painting eerily similar to it long ago by one of my favorite painters, James Tissot.

"Self Portrait"
Reya Mellicker, Digital photo

"Head of a Young Girl"
Leonardo da Vinci c. 1500


Here is another example of similarly beautiful portraiture captured centuries apart. On the left is a sketch by da Vinci, a study of a young woman with hair cascading in tendrils around her face, eyes downcast, and just the barest hint of a smile on her face. The photo on the right, taken by my friend, Reya, has a nearly identical feel of classical beauty and style, right down to the faint smile on her face as she adjusts the camera.

What does this mean? Is it a mere coincidence that the eye of the painter and the eye of the photographer centuries apart capture the very same look? Do we have some special, innate way of identifying something pleasing to the eye?  Well, as Emily Dickinson said, maybe beauty isn't caused.
Maybe it just IS.

Maybe the very same formula for beauty is all around us in everything we see and everything we are; from the delicate microscopic strands of DNA in our bodies to the beautiful magnificence of the universe itself. Maybe it's mathematics.

It's called "The Golden Ratio," "The Golden Mean," and the "Divine Propertion," among other names.
It's in everything from the tiniest shells in the ocean, to the huge storms that upon that same ocean.
It's within the human body, and by extension, we humans have placed it within our own
masterworks of art and architecture through the ages.

Whether it is the fingerprint of God or the natural evolution of efficiency, it occurs within us and without us, and it is a clear indication of the connectivity of all things. A common thread binds us together with the universe and all that is within it.
This may be the truest meaning of beauty.

Emily could not have known about the "world's most beautiful number," phi, but she
understood the concept of its existence. Beauty is everywhere, within us and without.

Beauty IS.

May you see the beauty inside you and all around you today.


  1. Beautiful post, seriously, Jo. It's so exciting to come here every morning (not trying to pressure you to write every day, but ... YAY!!!) I love this blog.

    Beauty feeds me; I take it in at a visceral level. Sometimes beauty is so powerful I want to fall on my knees, sometimes beauty strengthens me and makes me stand taller. I'm lucky to be so "well fed" with beauty. It is all around me. You know that Indian chant, yes? 'Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to my left side, beauty to my right side, beauty above me, beauty below me, I have beauty surrounding my life.'

    Thank you for this.

  2. Thank you, Reya (the co-star of my blog today)!

    I think you may have visited while I was still tinkering with the word puzzle in my head, so my thoughts may come across a little better now (or maybe not).

    I agree that beauty is visceral, and I too, am nourished by it. I wasn't blessed with the ability to create great art, but I am blessed with the disposition to recognize it and appreciate it!

  3. So love both of your posts! What a great way to start my day! Just loverly~ thank you and love you both...

  4. Excellent! BBC clip so informative in 4 minutes! Wish our politicians and legislators better understood connectivity (and beauty). Thanks, Jo.

  5. Thank you, Vicki. Hearing from you is the very nicest way to start MY day. xoxo

  6. YES, Jan. Politicians and legislators seem to move from a position of being connected to community, constituents, and caring, into a 'collective disconnect' after being in office for a time. What causes it and what can be done about it?

    Glad you liked the video. There are hundreds upon hundreds of clips out there on this subject, and I must have seen most of them before deciding on this one. Great general overview of the subject.

    Many thanks for your comments, Jan.

  7. Lovely post Jo. I'm looking at a pine cone from my backyard right now & wondering if by counting the leaves I would come up a the Fibonacci sequence. Great video.

  8. Hi Lizzy...thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

    Yes, I's sure you would find the Fibonacci sequence in the pine cone, amazingly beautiful, isn't it?

  9. Hello Emily, er, I mean Jo. Beauty is Smiling Heart. Or is it Smiling Heart is Beauty? Can't remember why which one had to cross the road...I too digress (can we get a new symbol for a smiling face besides the colon and parenthesis?)

    The photos are astounding. Both pairs. I'm dizzy by studying the big picture of how they've been paired. I treasure the sensation that tingles through my body now. Not just by seeing Andrea at Tissot's Ball or the extraordinary Reya by da Vinci, but how the two pair have come here and how we are moved by seeing them in a blog about PHI. And by thanking the universe for creating someone who could put such a complicated color on such a huge canvas with such eloquence and ease of touch.

    Oh Thank Heaven for thirteen/twenty one (7-11 aren't Fibonacci numbers) hehe

  10. Thank you for the very kind words of support, Dubby.

    I was simply stunned by the similarities in the art forms. I'm certain we could find many more without much effort. I guess you could say we're all works of art!

  11. wow self potrait inspiration from leonardo


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