Monday, August 17, 2020

Touching Distance – The Fine Art of Keeping Apart

By Kathryn Murphy
Noli Me Tangere (detail; c. 1514), Titian Photo: © National Gallery, London
The challenge facing artists, then, is how to depict Mary’s longing for touch, and its repulse, kindly. How to signal love in an injunction not to touch, how to affirm bonds that cannot be ratified with a reach across the gap? Titian, as Nancy suggests, manages this beautifully. Christ gathers his garment out of Mary’s reach, but inclines his body and his gaze over her, withdrawing and protecting simultaneously. He softens the scene’s awkwardness by making of the two figures a dyad, a triangular compositional whole, which gathers up the internal dynamics of attention, yearning, separation, and care into a single arrangement. [More