In Vienna, I encountered the unexpected. Our group went to the wonderful Belvedere. The beautiful old palace was filled with 19th and 20th century art including an exhibit with works from Gustav Klimt. It was here at this art museum that I, surprisingly, fell in love.
Love is something that taps you on the shoulder and when you turn around you are amazed by the greatness of what creeped up and surprised you from behind. Only when you experience it can you know what you were missing.
The beauty of the piece was a diversion that was only realized when stared at for a long while. At first I saw the horse’s perfect curls, its locks flowing in the wind. Next I noticed the red, writhing cloak pushing the body forward.
It was the motion that really drew me in. The placement of the wind drawing the rider forward caught my eye. The strong assuredness in his eyes as he hails the calvary into battle is counteracted by the wildness of his horse’s frantic face as it rears; preparing for the push toward battle. Bright colors of red, gold, white, and blue are used on the rider with perfect strokes, made in great detail, to perfect the masterpiece.
Enough about the beauty; now for the sad part. Just as soon as I fell in love, I knew that it couldn’t last and the realization that we could never see each other again sunk in. I would have to leave and he would have to stay. If only I could find a way to move to Vienna in order to visit him daily; for surely we could never get tired of seeing each other. But alas, our time together had to end. We stared at each other for what seemed like hours but the entire encounter only lasted 30 bittersweet minutes.
There are no words that can express my sorrow when I finally had to leave him. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye let alone talk with any coherence. I knew that the moment was over and my life could never be the same again. I would have to search the world for meaning but never find it because nothing else will seem to matter.
I don’t think it will ever get easier to talk about Jacques Louis David’s “Napoleon at the Great St. Bernard Pass” because I long to go back in order to forever experience the painting in its fullness. Maybe someday I will be able to; but for now I just have to live with the memory of the impression that this Romantic painting left in my brain.