A public private life

I’ve just watched a programme about Versailles, which was really about Louis XIV and how the building expressed his kingship – lots of glory and magnificence, of course, but also a life lived in public to an extraordinary degree.  If you gather loads of courtiers around you, you have to give them something to do – like attaching your lace cuffs in the morning, or standing to watch you eat your meals in solemn splendour, or gathering round your deathbed.

How did he think?  Plan his strategies?  Maybe statesmen and politicians don’t need solitude and space in that way – though we do see images of American presidents seated alone at the centre of the vast Oval office (just for the cameras?). 

What about artists?  One of the revelations of Rembrandt’s house in Amsterdam – see his studio above – was that he created masterpieces in the midst of his family home, which also acted as a gallery and shop for his pictures, and the academy for his pupils.  So it must have been full of people, comings and goings, talk and noise.  And since he needed daylight, he couldn’t take refuge in the relative peace of the evening hours, as I’ve grown accustomed to since bringing up a family.

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2 Responses to A public private life

  1. Thanks for this Alison. I’ve only just come across your blog and I’m enjoying its breadth and depth enormously – please dont’ stop! This post is interesting to me in my current work in hospital chaplaincy. On one level, there’s something not right about having to spend some of the most intense moments of your life in the company of strangers on a ward, but the fact is that most people appreciate the presence of others on this new and difficult journey. It’s hard to shake off the Romantic ideal of the lonely creative soul, but I suspect that there’s a major part of us that is designed to connect.

    • alisonpeden says:

      Yes, John, I can see that. And I also think that one can adapt. It was a searing moment for me when, as a curate, my supervising rector said to me – in the church office, surrounded by the church administrator, cleaner, flower arrangers, telephones, etc etc, “We need a letter for this month’s magazine, and it must get to the printer in half an hour. Sit down and write it now at this computer …” And I did!

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