Don QUIXOTE de la MANCHA
and the Golden Age
"DON QUIXOTE finds Mambrino's Helmet"
from Miguel de Cervantes' novel DQ de la Mancha
pen & ink
36 x 28 cm.
Reading a commentary on the work of Miguel de Cervantes some days ago, I came across one writer's way of identifying or categorizing the very slippery, ungraspable essence of the Spanish author's vast prose works, yes even his poetics and theatrical pieces. While a great majority of his Novelas Ejemplares (1613), Plays and Intermezzos (1615), and most certainly numerous chapters of the First Part (1605) and Second Part (1615) of Don Quixote de la Mancha, certainly fit into the classification of Realism -- the critic I am referring to spoke of the "varnish" or realism with which the Castillian author dresses his Fantasy. Major examples of this are also found throughout his last work, published one year after his death in 1616: Persiles and Sigismunda -- an on-the-road novel of a young Scandinavian's vowed pilgrimage to Rome where the couple narrowly escapes being forever "disappeared" by a sect of Aryan-racist Messianics and after managing this getaway proceed navigating and walking to Rome and meeting a cast of characters both raw and commonplace and lofty or wizard-like--all of whom make the ho-hum story of conversion to Catholicism much more than that -- many times by recurring to fantasy and imagination, on the part of Cervantes.
The episode of "Mambrino's Helmet" which I illustrated in the above pen & ink drawing of the early 2000's, as indicated, is found in the First Part of Don Quixote where an entire corpus of literary fantasy borrowed by Cervantes from Italian writers like Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, and from popular Spanish ballads sung by bards and trouvadours in western Europe during the Middle Ages ... is anchored in the real "varnish" of the dry landscape of Spain's La Mancha region, where this and so many of the adventures and conversations of Sancho Panza take place. Indeed, Cervantes further grounds Quixote's seeing a Barber's shaving basin (carried by an actual barber that Q and Sancho cross paths with at this junction) as the Helmet of the knight mambrino from Ariosto's Orlando -- all of which is treated by Quixote's interlocutors as madness. In this way, a new realm of literary genre is delved into which has in it as much of the judgmental grounding of its being "madness" or unleashed fantasy as it does of fantasy itself, since the writing in this and so many other similar scenarios in Don Quixote manages to cast a sort of comic spell on readers, with a sort of "what if...?" resonance to the mad perceptions of the knightly hero, where even seeing him as a "knight" belies the same juxtaposition of fantasy and realism that opened this paragraph as a topic.
Numerous poets have sung about a "Golden Age" at the beginning of time when all things were in abundance and mankind lived a carefree existence -- in a sort of paradise where everyone had enough to eat and no one thought of stealing what freely and rightfully belonged to their neighbors. This oil painting was inspired in Miguel de Cervantes' novel, Don QUIXOTE de la MANCHA , written in the early 1600s. In chapter 11 of the novel (First Part), Cervantes' knightly hero, Don Quixote, tells a group of simple goatherds about the Golden Age and how he had come into the world to revive that
era's spirit of freedom and trust among mankind.
In this composition I tried to portray -- by combining several spatial planes and the forms of the square and the circle -- the multifaceted narrative of Cervantes' novel. I also painted DonQuixote's friendship with his squire, Sancho Panza, as a an emblem of Cervantes' belief in the bond of true human friendship.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza: The Golden Age
4 ' x 4 '
oil on canvas
A goatherd called Lope Ruiz and his mad dash to escape from his former love, the shepherdess who was called Grijalba
5" x 11"
pen & ink
My Pen & Ink illustration from chapter XX in the First Part of Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, depicts the moment when Sancho Panza tells Don Quixote a story on the condition that his listener keep track and COUNT of the narration.
A certain goatherd named Lope Ruiz has to cross to the other side of a river all of his 300 goats, one by one, with the help of a humble fisherman who happens to be on the riverside at that moment. This is a cliffhanger: Lope Ruiz is running away from a shepherdess named La Grijalba whom he once chased.
As soon as he grew tired of her and noticed how ugly he was, Sancho saying that she even had several unkempt mustache hairs above her upper lip!, he lost interest in her and started to flee her advances.
Meanwhile, Don Quixote himself soon grows tired of Sancho's tale and refuses to keep COUNT of the number of goats (---of the 300--) safely taken across the Guadiana River on the raft. At this point Sancho Panza's story ends abruptly, because his conditions had not been respected by the exasperated Quixote.
This is a story about the importance of memory in art, in narrative, and in human relations. Number and count are sacred.
In the Cave of Montesinos, this old medieval sage shows Don Quixote the hero Durandarte (of Charlemagne's Twelve Peers of France) asleep under a spell, after his heart was carved out and sent his Lady Belerma so she could see her image in her knight's heart
11" x 14"
pen & ink
One of the most amazing moments in Cervantes' novel DON QUIXOTE de la Mancha (Part II, chapter 23) presents us his main character as he enters or crosses over into the realms of Charlemagne and Merlin the Magician, and meets two of the knights or "PALADINS" of the Frankish court, who have been waiting for him across the ages, some 800 years, deep inside a cave in the Spanish regions of La Mancha.
Don Q narrates to Sancho Panza what he saw in the depths of the cave in these words: "Montesinos came toward me, and the first thing he did was embrace me tight, and then he said: 'For a long time now, O valiant knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, we who are here enchanted in these solitudes have been hoping to see thee, that thou mayest make known to the world what is shut up and concealed in this deep cave, called the cave of Montesinos…' "
[ Montesinos...llegόse a mí, y lo primero que hizo fue abrazarme estrechamente, y luego decirme: “Luengos tiempos ha, valeroso caballero Don Quixote de la Mancha, que los que estamos en estas soledades encantados esperamos verte, para que dés noticia al mundo de lo que encierra y cubre la profunda cueva por donde has entrado, llamada la cueva de Montesinos….”]