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Return to Babel | XX |

A few days of slow progress as I am searching for the vague brown pieces of ships that lie almost invisibly among the 4500 remaining pieces.  I am astonished by the brush-work of Bruegel that seems almost nothing up close, but takes on form and function that somehow suggests more than a mere photograph could capture, when viewed at a distance.  This is almost the reverse of reality, where we expect to find more and more detail as we move closer.  Or rather, With a painting you get the most reality at a specific distance.  The ships, for example, though relatively small, appear to be just a few brownish smudges on the individual puzzle pieces.  However, once assembled and viewed from a few feet away, an incredibly detailed ship emerges.  From what?  Out of mere suggestions seen at a distance that substitute for the real ship. But these suggestions seen on a smaller scale seem as unrelated to the ship as the shapes of the puzzle pieces they inhabit.

And yet there are certain small places where the above does not apply. Where one is drawn into the painting, falling in, and the amount of detail seems perfectly suited to the light, and in the shadows, the mind's eye sees all the rest.  To experience this perfect rendering is to enter the reality of the painting, to sit on the ship and gaze around the quay in wonder.  Someone has said the painting holds over 7000 human figures. I don't intend to try to name them all, but my guess is that perhaps a thousand are clearly seen, and the rest are implied.  Of the clearly seen figures in the foreground, many are brilliant miniatures that, composed of almost nothing, still stand for real men.  Somehow, you know that you could stand next to them and talk to them, even know their facial features in advance, though none of that is clearly seen-- you just feel it is all there.

Coming soon:
Is it Jehovah or Marduk glaring from the descending blue cloud in the top left center of interest?  Oh, it definitely is a face with roiling white eyes, a color of dark blue cloud unmatched anywhere else in the sky. 
Cydonia photo: ESA

This is the journal of David Ross
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