Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beauty for its own Sake

There are those who look at an object for its practical value and those who simply worship beauty for its own sake. It probably is not quite that simple, however. Most people, however much they pride themselves on their practicality, can be drawn towards an object with no practical value. I fear I always erred in the opposite direction. Beauty far more than practicality draws me like a magnet. If I were rich, I would be an extravagant patroness of the arts, lavishly spending money on objects with virtually no practical value.

In many cases, it is a combination of history and beauty that attracts me to an object. I am fascinated by the past, by the knowledge that an object has been touched by people long dead. When it belongs to a civilisation that interests me, I am drawn even more to it.

In the following case, however, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the provenance of the object, where it was made or by whom. It utterly enchants, however. It would not be fair to say that it is completely impractical. It is a pin and a wicked one at that. One conceivably could use it in limited self-defence or as a pin to connect two pieces of fabric...

If one were a Borrower, it would be a truly magnificent weapon and extremely effective against other tiny creatures. To me, however, it opens endless vistas of fantasy... reminding me of the Borrowers, as well as speaking eloquently of cavaliers and the lives of those who have sufficient money and imagination to envision a pin such as this. Perhaps it was not commissioned by any one but rather is entirely the child of the artist's imagination. As some one who loves both jewelry and weapons, however, it is one of those 'heart's desire' objects, albeit one I could not afford in my own circumstances.

If I could afford it, though, I'd buy it without hesitation. I never was an individual who subscribed to the philosophy that metalworking was inferior artistically to painting or sculpture. I don't believe in the distinction between 'artist' and 'artisan'. This little sword pin is a work of art and I cheerfully could live on crusts and water for months if I could gaze upon an exquisite piece like this daily. In fact, even if I were reduced to wearing rags, if only they could be held in place with a pin like this, I would not complain. I am exaggerating, of course, but I've never been the most practical person in the world. Nonetheless, happiness is a fragile commodity. If it could be purchased so easily as through ownership of a work of art like this, it would be worth the price. There are those who squander money on alcohol or drugs or other transient pleasures. Is there not greater virtue in beauty that lasts?

Au fond, though, I realise that, were I truly content with my life, I might not be as drawn as I am to an object like this. Dreaming of a miniature fantasy sword is a diversion from real pain and anguish.

I am not alone in my love of miniature worlds. Queen Mary's Dollhouse is a famous example of an enterprise to which countless renowned artists and writers made contributions in miniature form. One cannot control a lifesize world, but one can manage to fill a very small version of the world with beauty.

Actually, ownership is not what matters in any case, but the ability to access beauty at will. I could live in a museum quite happily and in fact, when I was a child, I dreamed of that. Whenever I came upon an antique four poster bed in a museum or one of those chambers containing a reconstruction of a room from a distant period and civilisation, I would imagine for a few moments that it was my home.

The point is academic, however... but I do wonder who will own this beautiful pin next and what it will signify to him or her.

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