Sunday 22nd March
Thomas Gainsborough’s The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly is a fusion of two Rococo pictorial traditions: the fête galante and the Grand Manner portrait.
Favoring lightness over drama, and shifting attention from the monarchy to the aristocracy, Rococo art focused on the lives of the upper class. Two types of paintings developed: the fête galante, which celebrated outdoor amusements, and the Grand Manner portrait, which asserted status through the scale of figures.
Gainsborough embraces both genres in this work. His daughters innocently chase a butterfly through an Arcadian landscape. Their bodies fill the picture plane and the low horizon line brings them into the viewer’s space; their curiosity becomes our own.
This Lenten season, let us remember that curiosity, too, is a type of light.
Rebecca Bennett, Artist & Art Teacher, Holy Trinity
Monday 23rd March
When voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast
And everything else is still.
Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away,
Till the morning appears in the skies.
No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all covered with sheep.
Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.
The little ones leaped & shouted & laughed,
And all the hills echoed.
From Songs of Innocence, William Blake sent by Janet Davey
Weekday and Evensong congregant at St Stephen’s
Tuesday 24th March
From Cocoon forth a Butterfly
As Lady from her Door
Emerged — a Summer Afternoon --
Repairing Everywhere --
Without Design — that I could trace
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous Enterprise
The Clovers — understood --
Her pretty Parasol be seen
Contracting in a Field
Where Men made Hay --
Then struggling hard
With an opposing Cloud --
Where Parties — Phantom as Herself --
To Nowhere — seemed to go
In purposeless Circumference --
As 'twere a Tropic Show --
And notwithstanding Bee — that worked --
And Flower — that zealous blew --
This Audience of Idleness
Disdained them, from the Sky --
Till Sundown crept — a steady Tide --
And Men that made the Hay --
And Afternoon — and Butterfly --
Extinguished — in the Sea --
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886),
Wednesday 25th March
They regard and reach out. Well, the younger girl reaches out. Whilst keeping hold of her older sister’s hand. The object of their attention, the white butterfly, is on top of a large thistle.
When the Vicar suggested that I write a reflection about this painting, he mentioned both dance and alms-giving. It is a very graceful scene, like dance can be. Now, can alms-giving be like reaching out for something, but in thorny circumstances, like the thistle? On the radio, I have heard advice given that giving food to people on the streets can deter these people from going to places that provide not only food, but also other forms of support that can help them move out from homelessness.’
Liturgical Dancer at St Stephen’s Church
Thursday 26th March
The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.
Albert Einstein, Statement to William Miller,
as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)
Friday 27th March
My eyes are drawn to the expressive faces of the two sisters. The younger girl looks rather sad, perhaps wanting to grasp hold of the butterfly which is beautiful but will always be out of reach. The older sister seems to understand that it will not be possible to catch the butterfly and may be gently restraining her little sister.
It reminds me of the huge gift of family love which God has given us and in particular of the love of brothers and sisters. We will always be supported by this love and the love of God even when we are sad and happiness is just out of reach.
Alison Neilson, Bursar at St Stephen’s Church
Saturday 28th March
In Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, there is the advice, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Like Gainsborough’s daughters, who enjoy the game of chasing the butterflies, but perhaps fail at catching them, I’ve learned over time to accept and enjoy the game, the process, and the adventure. If answers come, I’m as surprised and grateful as if a butterfly were to sit for a second on my finger.
John Beddingfield, Rector of Holy Trinity