Art of a Dark Heaven
Recently, an exquisite painting was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by a mysterious, unnamed benefactor. The piece, entitled The Temptation of Amadeo, dates from around 15th century Venice and is a striking rendition of a young boy being "tempted" by a ring of dark-winged angels. Its author is unknown. According to the museum, the gift was made by the anonymous patron upon one condition, that it become part of the museum's permanent collection always on display, a condition that the museum promptly accepted.
The Tempation strikes the viewer initially in its technical perfection: each subject is rendered with amazing realism and the creatures appear ready to breathe any moment. In particular, the young boy Amadeo is painted with much care; the viewer receives the distinct impression that the model was very dear to the artist.
After one passes that first stage of shock, the unusual characteristics of the subject material come to fore. A "temptation" usually depicts a saint being surrounded by devils. Yet, here the devils are replaced by dark-winged angels and the saint by a mere boy. The demons may appear to the boy as wondrous creatures, their sinister intentions only hinted at by the darkness of their wings. The expressions on the angels' faces themselves are curious, for they are tinged with faint irony mingled with bitterness.
Can the angels themselves be mocking their own cause? Do they realize that their appearance make humans kneel and pray in awe, but blinds the mortals to the angels' terrible true nature? It may not even be that their natures are entirely "terrible;" perhaps their ironic expressions come from their knowledge that their awe-inspiring appearance only mask their emptiness and fallibility.
No real answer lies behind the disturbing questions that come to mind. As a matter of pure conjecture, perhaps this artist has lost a dear son, Amadeo, to death, and remains unconsoled by the heavenly consolations that accompanies such a loss. If one were to sum up the power of the Temptation, it lies in the fact that there is little Christian comfort in the painting, a crucial factor that perhaps resonates with the viewers in this present age of dying religion.
The museum is presently considering setting up a small research group to investigate the author of the Tempatation. However, considering the funding constraints, it is unlikely that this project will ever be realized. For more information, contact the Metropolitan Museum of Art (212) ***-****.