We walk the near deserted streets wearing protective masks. The nurses and doctors of the health services wear protective equipment: safety clothing, harnesses, visors, gloves and helmets fit for heroes. Our leaders speak of a battle, of a war in which we are engaged, with daily losses being counted of our loved ones. The leaders' speeches laden with hope for victory, talk of better times after the defeat of the scourge, the enemy, and all of us constitute an army fighting an invisible force.
The war-like analogies emphasise the predicament in which we find ourselves; our culture is under attack, our families threatened. We look to the rising toll which C-19 inflicts upon us, and prepare once again to sally forth into life and, one day, to finally bury our dead.
These somewhat sombre thoughts bring us to this Corinthian helmet, another kind of protective device, used in war and worn by a warrior similar to that shown on our recent post of the Greek black-figure hydria. Rather than masking, it emphasises the hidden face it protects. The elongated openings would have concentrated your opponent's gaze on your own eyes: wide open, fearful, staring, intensely determined almost to madness, to slaughter. Now, after two and a half thousand years we confront it on more aesthetic terms; its owner reduced to dust, the beauty of its brutal simplicity is all that survives.
In a parallel, more innocent world without the virus, right now TEFAF New York Spring will have just opened its doors, and we would be standing in our booth waiting to say 'hi'. Everything placed just so, everything lit just so, looking forward to talking to the visitors about the artworks we have shipped across the Atlantic; the perfect civilised space, a long way from the arena of war. That world doesn't exist however, and TEFAF Spring is not going ahead - we are at war remember. But should the battle be won, the smaller skirmishes reduced, we shall be there again in November for TEFAF New York.
We will meet again.
Greek helmet of Corinthian type, c.550-500 BC
Private collection Germany; acquired 1960s