Sunday, January 10, 2010

Of Teeth and Dents

Over the past several months I've been preparing to take a German language certification exam, which has led me to sacrifice posting here with any regularity (unless "not at all" is considered regular).

I've also been dealing with personal issues, specifically the illness of my mother. She has been in the hospital since December 21 as the result of an awful reaction to one of her medications. This reaction cascaded into a host of other problems, including a "mild" heart attack.

Thankfully, she seems to be mending, albeit very slowly. Visiting her in the hospital/rehab center has meant a lot of driving for me, which has left virtually no time for fun things like blogging. Hence, my mom's illness has put a "dent" (see the title of the post) in my plans to post here.

Back to the German exam, though. My process has been to find articles in German and translate them into reasonably coherent English. Recently, I worked with one article, actually a blog post, on the lack of teeth in medieval art. The writer is Tobias Meier, and he's not really a fan of most medieval art.

Mit Kunst aus dem Mittelalter geht es mir wie mit mittelaltem Weichkäse. In Maßen genießbar, aber nichts, was ich mir selbst in meiner Wohnung an die Wände hängen würde.
Meier observes that not only do we rarely see teeth represented in paintings, but when we do - as in a tryptich by Bosch - the mouths may not contain a full set. Meier notes - although I am not sure based on what - that it would have been improper to paint an image of holy and important figures in which they were smiling broadly or showing their teeth. Meier leaves us with the suggestion that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa with a closed mouth (but at least with a smile) for mysteriousness or to hide her gap-toothedness:

Wie es um die Gebisshygiene der Mona Lisa bestellt war lässt sich dann leider auch nicht mehr feststellen. Aber immerhin lächelt sie - wenn auch mit geschlossenem Mund. Mysteriös oder einfach weil sie ein paar Zahnlücken hatte.


Pat said...

Is this going to lead to the argument that medieval art came from West Virginia?

theswain said...

Pat, you mean it didn't?