Tiepolo's Hound, Second Day
The Poet Introduced
In section 1 of Tiepolo's Hound we were introduced to the bourgeois Jewish family of Camille Pisarro as they walked on a Sunday through Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas. In section 2, the poet-narrator introduces himself. He, too, sees a black dog similar to that which followed the Pisarros. This dog is crossing Woodford Square. Both Camille Pissarro and the poet are very clearly and definitively located. They are not "somewhere in the Caribbean", but in particular places and in particular relationships to their surroundings. Camille is on the move. The poet is observing a scene, separate from him, containing details that link the first scene of Camille to the present scene of which the painter, long dead, is not a part.
Camille was followed by a black dog. There is a black dog crossing the square. The Mission slaves chanted in Camille's Saint Thomas. "Tribal voices" speak in "couplets of lament and prayer" in a stone church, known, as were the chanting slaves, only as sound. A Traveller's Tree stands behind a rusted railing with a croton hedge. The black dog is rejected by the black congregation in their stone church without painted images, "bare as any synagogue". The poet knows there was once a shul in the Port of Spain, but it is gone and its site lost,
"in the sunlit net of maps whose lanes contain
a spectral faith, white as the mongrel's ghost".
In the emptiness of Sunday, everything in the city is sharper, stronger, more intense to the poet's senses, more open to his observation in its stillness, without the distraction of motion and crowd. In stillness, the city belongs to the poet and the dog.
"A silent city, blest with emptiness
like an engraving..."
Pisarro returns: the Rock Garden's cypresses are "brush-point", "like a Pissarro canvas". Pisarro returns, and the afternoon, too, "repeats/the long light with its croton-coloured crowd".
The poet, Pissarro, and a new artist, Cazabon, share this Caribbean community and culture of light, water, solitude, and sound. (Michel-Jean Cazabon, 1813-1888, was the first internationally recognized Trinidadian artist, also called "the layman painter", another artist who reached out from the West Indies to participate in the larger artistic community and was judged by metropoles distant from his origins). The pattern of colonialism is also repeated in the Caribbean known by all these artists, the imported luxuries and signs of status, "that civilising/culture of horses", carriages, and cars. The world comes to the colony--Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas--contributing to the variegated hues of the natural world.
"blackbirds bring Guinea to thorns of acacia,
and in the saffron of Tiepolo sunsets,
the turbulent paradise of bright rotundas
over aisles of cane, and censer-carried mists"
At last, Tiepolo has made his entrance! But who is Tiepolo?
Traveler's Tree and Croton: Pal and Poison
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1696-1770
Tiepolo was a fresco artist from Venice. His style was highly dramatic, presenting mythological and religious figures in light-filled panoramas in theatrical, allegorical settings. One contemporary said that his imagination was "all spirit and fire". Although he was praised for his use of illumination, he was certainly no Impressionist, but rather in the Grand Manner, when the painter consciously produced a dramatic fiction of an eternal moment. The Impressionists, on the other hand, attempted to capture permanence by producing transience.
Paintings by Tiepolo
- A Poem By Louise Bennett
An excellent poem on the migrations and challenges of the post-colonial world done with humor in Jamaican dialect.
Michel Jean Cazabon
All Praise the Internet!
To find additional paintings by Walcott, Cazabon, Tiepolo, and Pissarro enter their names into your search engine and explore away. The Impressionists and their techniques can be easily studied in the same fashion.