Friday, November 19, 2004

Sellling out

When you do creative work for others, for money, how much of yourself are you selling? Rembrandt van Rijn had to deal with this question back in 1653 at a time when he was in deep financial trouble. He took a commission from a rich Sicilian, whose assignment was a painting of a phillosopher. Rembrandt seems not to have had much trouble coming up with Aristotle as the philosopher. And he set him in a scene in which he is pondering a bust of another famous Greek, Homer. So in the painting, we have a well-fed, well-clothed Aristotle, with gold dope rope, perhaps not unlike the patron who commissioned Rembrandt. And Aristotle seems to be asking himself whether he might have sold out when he accepted the patronage of his famous pupil, Alexander the Great. I mean, how many of us have done freelance for somebody called "The Great?" So Aristotle looks well-fed, and the bust of Homer looks....well, lean. Homer played harp at parties and got a pittance for it. But he didn't particular care whether he got rich. He was happy doing his thing, which was poetry. So Aristotle in Remembrandt's painting seems to be asking a question that maybe Rembrandt himself was asking as he did the project. What do you think?

The Family Crest

As far as I know, our particular branch of the Rhodes Family doesn't have a crest or a coat of arms or other trappings of royalty. What I do know is that the Rhodes name originally came from people who lived beside the road or in holes in the road, way back in England or Ireland, where we most likely came from.
The more uppity Rhodeses really were on the edge of uppercrust, apparently, serving in court and getting knighthoods and so on. Others who didn't make the cut came to the New World, generally through Pennsylvania or Virginia, and headed west. My particular lot got off the wagon in Ohio and Indiana.
Every now and then, I have found myself on a business trip in some town or another in the U.S. and leafed through the phonebook to see how many Rhodes people were listed. There are many, and they all seem as puzzled about their roots as me, and probably less inclined to find out more.
Even so, I did find there is a plausible Rhodes Family crest, with a coat of arms and a motto and all that heraldric stuff.
The motto is "Coelum non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt."
It comes from Horace -- Quintus Horatius Flaccus -- the Roman poet who lived 65 BC-8 BC. He was writing about traveling in his Epistles, and the bigger chunk of the poem from which the motto on the bottom of the Rhodes crest was taken is "They change their sky,not their mind, who cross the sea. A busy idleness possesses us: We seek a happy life, with ships and carriages; the object of our search is present with us."
I gather from the tone of the longer Latin that the Rhodeses were people who maintained their origins wherever they went. Something like "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." Those who know me will have some notions about whether that applies, and to what extent.

And what, you might ask, is autumnilia?
Well, Juvenilia is a literary term for writing done in the time of one's youth. And, since I am writing this well past that point in life, I decided autmnilia might be a more appropriate term. So these are bits written in autumn, literally and figuratively, for it is November, and I ain't dead yet.
This Blog, unlike the others, deals with randomly connected bits of my life that have had something or other to do with me getting where I am. Some of it is informative; much of it is trivial; some is probably effluvial, for that matter. But hey, it's my Blog, and as long as I keep it relatively clean and relatively relative, I hope people won't mind too loudly.
Feel free to comment.