… is an etymological juncture whose comprehension might just subject our understanding of art history to instant fluctuation as we learn these words not quite surprisingly boast a common provenance attested by erudite Cicero himself in a personal letter:
“The ancients called a tail a penis; whence comes the word penicillus (“paint-brush”), from its similarity in appearance.“ (F IX, 22)
And to think of it, cynicism aside, there could be inferred some substantial consequences ensuing, on an unconscious level, this rather jocular derivation which a certain professor Arasse back at the Sorbonne holds to unfold another dimension of an artist’s proclivity for painting. What does one’s choice of instrument disclose, after all? What leaks from, say, Velasquez’s large brushstrokes or Turner’s minute rigger? their virile or tempestuous character?
Perhaps a tad ludicrous to answer but nevertheless intriguing to query.
I personally had my mind instantly conjure up “Dali Atomicus” as I pondered over it. The Catalan wacko was the sort who would’ve definitely savoured Cicero’s account -with its intrinsic profusion of abstract implications- given how imagery drawn from sexual organs maintained a key role in his work, both written and visual – vide the photo above.
Does this prompt anything else you’d care to share?
Patricia Beykrat – the Roving Aesthete