Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Halo Effect

Mother, put those boobs away!  I'm already too wise & saintly for them.  
I have always been a big fan of European Medieval painting.
Back in those days you didn't just set up shop as a painter and decide to paint still lives, a couple of dogs sitting around playing poker, or a white jump-suited Elvis in concert on velvet ... not that they had Elvis back then, and frankly I'm not even sure they had velvet either. 
You painted Jesus.  
You painted Jesus with a total lack of artistic perspective and depth, with the infant Jesus as a shrunken adult about to present his graduate level dissertation at Brandeis, and  most prominently with Jesus adorned with a humongous disc about his head and shoulders that looks, more or less, like a golden Frisbee on steroids.  It's commonly known, of course, as a halo.
The painting above is of Jesus and his mom, both packing halos so large the back of their necks are likely to sustain third degree burns.  One can't be sure if those who followed the Star of Bethlehem to check out the baby Jesus were enthralled that he was the Messiah or with the preternaturally enormous halo he'd been super-endowed with.
Now look at the painting of Jesus and his disciples below: all of them have halos!  How did that work?  Were they all born with halos just like Jesus, or did Jesus hand out a halo to each newbie as he joined up? And did he ever get them all back?

The Halo Effect in paintings of the Medieval and Early Renaissance periods raises many fascinating questions, all of them blasphemous.  But I believe these questions can be boiled down to an essential three:
1) Did Jesus actually appear in life with one of those?  If so, why didn't everyone follow him and how screwed are we Jews today?
2) What of those who don't have halos in the paintings?  Are they evil,  just common folk, or did they leave them in their other suit? 
3) Do halos require cleaning and polishing?  If so, is there an over-the-counter product? Must you clean a small area in the back first to make sure there's no staining? 
I'll defer the answers to these questions to wiser heads than mine, all of which probably possess halos. For now, suffice it to say that I  sure wish halos really existed outside of Medieval paintings. They could serve as such handy guideposts to everyday life: 

"You're my lawyer?!  You?"
"Why, what's wrong?"
"What's wrong? You have a halo!"


"First time I've ever met a blind date over Skype before."
"Me too!"
"Hey, this is promising!  No halo!"
"No, dude, this isn't.  You have one."


"I am your Messiah.  I am the Light.  I am ..."
"Hold it, buster!  Where's your halo?"
"Halo?  Umm, errr ... that's only in paintings!"
"Na-ah! Oprah has one!"

So next time you're in an Art Museum, and you're thinking "I'm really only here to impress chicks," wander over to the Medieval Section. 
Check out the paintings.
And if you can find just one where Jesus wears no halo, chalk up a point for the Jews!

All right, guys, stop rubbing it in!


Lynn said...

Hmm. Never thought about that before but, well, yeah. Now that you mention it, it is kinda weird.

What else is weird, Perry? What else is right beneath our noses every day so we don't even notice it and still ... well ... weird? :-)

Perry Block said...

The philtrum?

Why, I am obsessed by it!

Russell said...

I always wondered why that period of history was called "Mid-evil." This implies it was sandwiched between "Less-Evil" and "More-Evil." Although I'm not sure which one we are living in today.

Perry Block said...

I think we are both in "late Mid-Evil." And that's as old as I'm getting, halo or not!