Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Holbein and Dostoevsky

Hans Holbein's painting, Christ after Crucifixion, was the sole inspiration of Dostoevsky's The Idiot. The actual painting is much longer, showing Christ's entire body. It's gruesome, it's striking, it's human.

In The Idiot, Dostoevsky seeks to portray a real good man. This man naturally takes on many Christ-like characteristics - innocence, purity, naivete. By society, the man is viewed as an idiot as he does not care about money, possessions, and society. He loves with the pure innocence of a child, he blushes like a bride, and assumes the good in others. Naturally, he is taken advantage of, made fun of, and ridiculed.

The Idiot is not an easy read - at least for me. I'm halfway through and it wasn't until last night that I finally looked up Holbein's painting. It's humanity is striking and makes you realize that, despite Christ's origins, he was very much a human. If you forget that, you forget his suffering. So, make yourself look up this painting, look at it in it's entirety. Dostoevsky was mesmerized by it. Imagine basing a novel of 600 pages on it. I dare you.