Surprise Discovery Of Magdalenian Mega-Art On The Aix Mountain: Majestic Open Secret Of The Lost Civilization (cont.)
By William Glyn-Jones
Sainte-Victoire as Category 1 Sacred Site : the Natural Simulacrum
The form of the Sainte-Victoire massif is complex and very different shapes are seen when looking from different angles. The one that is of particular interest here is that which is seen when we are to the west of the mountain, looking east. Shown here is an image of this view in a photograph taken by myself on a September evening from the spot on the hill of Les Lauves where Cezanne liked to set up his easel.
Remembering that small-headedness can be a feature of the animals depicted by the Cave Painters, this seems to me to be an elegant simulacrum of a lion in the classic sphinx pose, and indeed that the profile is leonine had been suggested already before I came on the scene. For clarification, this following image shows how the simulacrum works for me:
It is a pose that lions will assume naturally. Lions lived in this region at the same time as the Magdalenians. The people painted these animals' portraits in the caves, as we have seen. They appreciated simulacra, as we have also seen. The leonine profile cannot have escaped their attention, and their rituals must have imprinted the fields of this form.
One of several Cezanne paintings of Sainte Victoire in Sphinx profile
"Look at Sainte-Victoire there. What aliveness, how imperiously it thirsts for the sun!...[But when not illuminated]...all its weight sinks back....Those blocks were once fire and there are flames in them still. During the day shadows seem to creep back with a shiver, as if afraid of them. Plato's Cave is up there." -
The painting above is a Cezanne oil of Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the hill of Les Lauves, held in a private collection. This was one of his last paintings of the mountain, and indeed he came to this view late, but once he found it stuck to it as a loyal dog sticks to its owner. It was as if his whole life had been an ascent of this hill of Les Lauves on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, an ascent out of Plato's Cave into the Realm of Transcendental Forms. One time when I was sitting at this site in a kind of informal meditation upon the Form, an Aixoise local walked up to me and initiated a conversation - it turned out that, in all his thirty years living in this city, he had never before this occasion climbed this hill and seen this view. Needless to say, I marvelled greatly at this, then even more when after a mere minute or so he turned and walked back down. Cezanne in his late years called the locals imbeciles; I wouldn't be so harsh. We often seem to miss the grand things on our own doorsteps.
Cats are great teachers...stop moving, freeze, and hold a posture....I, Anubis, [the "catlike hound"] lie with my back stretched out...with my back haunches pulling my spine back, which raises serpentine energy in my body. With my paws forward, I stare out through time and hold geometrical forms in space. -
My fondness for Cezanne's late Victoire paintings may be more to do with my own relationship with their subject than anything to do with their style. Style-wise, Cezanne is one of art's unique characters, though the unique style he developed - think Van Gogh with the passionate, shammanic spirals replaced by diligent little parallel strokes - is more delicately expressed in his works from a slightly earlier period. Going for such looseness is all very daring, but generally speaking give me French Constantin or English Constable.
But I want to cast aside issues of style and personal preference, because the point is that I do feel a fondness for these particular images of his - the dozen or so oils of Sainte-Victoire all from this same viewing point - in part because like Cezanne I've spent whole days myself seated at this spot. I have done so, however, because of something even Cezanne may very well not have noticed. My times at Les Lauves have been spent pondering a great mystery.