Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Posts Tagged ‘ageism’

The Old Woman in the Mirror: A Case of An Art Critic’s Erroneous View of Age

In from The Dangerous Old Woman manucript on April 25, 2010 at 12:51 AM

The art critic says of this work by Bernardo Strozzi:

Here, he portrays an old woman with jaded skin and white hair who is denying herself the dignity of old age. She is having her hair sumptuously styled and ornamented with ribbons and feathers, is wearing a youthful, low-cut dress and admiring herself with pleasure in the mirror.

“The theme of this painting has a long tradition: the old woman who has not learned to give her life any other meaning but that of ornament and vanity, and who is unable to see the truth or recognize her true self in the mirror. Strozzi’s formulation, however, is both individual and new. It makes the most of the surface values, deliberately contrasting the wrinkled skin of the old woman with the fresh complexion of her servant and juxtaposing the firm and rounded forms of youth with the withered slackness of old age. He reveals in the mirror that the old woman’s red cheeks are painted with rouge, and he places a blossoming, scented rose in her wrinkled hand. He also shows us the uncriticizing complacency on her face, leaving it up to the spectator to deduce a sense of embarrassment, emptiness, transparent illusion and moral warning.”

But, Dr. Estés, disagrees and offers the following:

Stand back Critic! I’d just offer this, with a gentler eye and a care for storyline…  This painting, called “Old Woman in the Mirror,” was painted 400 years ago.

I personally do not see what the “art critic” sees, although that could be true for some. Rather, I look at the evidence of love the artist has put into his brush strokes…

This is not a painting of a vain nor vile woman. This is a painting of a woman who has presence. I see her feathered fan, and I feel drawn to love her quiet boldness, and admire her mein and want to know all about her life.

The “art critic’s” commentary tells nothing of what a woman who loves color and artfulness would think or feel– nor a man, as she/ he comes into her/his years. The interpretation is clearly exactly the vapid  view the overculture teaches some to see in age, cheaply that is… as my grandmother used to say, “with so narrow a point of view the person can see through a keyhole with both eyes.”

This time of age is a poignant time for being, dressing, acting, learning, living artfuly. Not in spite of age, but BECAUSE of it. This is our time to flower in any and every way we wish. Not in spite of our challenges, but BECAUSE of them. It is laughable that the overculture would like to define what ‘coming to terms’ with each stage of our lives ought look like, act like… when the overculture still thinks the answer to most challenges is war.

I believe this is a portrait of the artist’s mother whom the artist protected and loved. And she protected him. Note in the mirror, the eye of the younger woman is the same shape as the old woman’s eyes. This is not a painting about vanity; it’s a painting about resonance. about generations.  The painting says she is as gentle, tender, lovely scented, and fresh as the flower she holds, that though the flower is cut, there are more where that came from, and in seasons… Read the rest of this entry »