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Georges de La Tour and the Enigma of the Visible$
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Dalia Judovitz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823277438

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823277438.001.0001

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Flea Catching and the Vanity of Painting

Flea Catching and the Vanity of Painting

Chapter:
(p.65) Chapter 4 Flea Catching and the Vanity of Painting
Source:
Georges de La Tour and the Enigma of the Visible
Author(s):

Dalia Judovitz

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823277438.003.0005

This chapter is devoted to an exploration of the role of painting as an instrument of intercession for attaining spiritual insight. Is the supposed “flea” catcher really holding a flea or a rosary bead in her enclosed hands? No one can really tell. But her ordinary appearance, engaged in the trivial even abject task of catching fleas, takes on spiritual connotations when considered in light of the possibility of her holding a rosary. Her familiar appearance acts as a visual gateway that opens onto the spiritual and the sacred. La Tour’s depictions of “blowers of light” help illuminate how painting may ignite and sustain spiritual passions. Imbued with light and the heat of color, the flea catcher’s humble representation is interpreted as a pivotal turning point that alternatively figures both painting’s material limitations and its spiritual aspirations.

Keywords:   “blowers of light”, flea, flea catcher, gateway to the sacred, material versus spiritual, painting as instrument of intercession, rosary beads, sacred and profane, spiritual insight

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