Calligraphy and Illumination

Prayer from the Katha Upanishad

Here is another example of my illuminated calligraphy. I have repeated the design of Ten Commandments for a Happy Marriage, but on a smaller scale, as suits the shorter quotation. A knot is substituted for the bow linking together the heart and the symbolic figures of Eros and Psyche.

As usual, lightfast colours have been used on acid-free paper.

Colours used: carbon black ink, burnt umber, yellow ochre, titanium white, cadmium red, ultramarine.

katha upanishad

Eros stands for falling in love, and Psyche for the soul. The shells symbolise pilgrimage. In other words, falling in love is not sufficient, but effort and a journey is required. The soul would not undertake the trials of the journey without love. In the ancient story, which we find in the middle section of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, Psyche first loses Eros by her distrust (believing love to be a monster), but then her journey and struggles lead her to immortality. Thus, the soul cannot become immortal without love (and effort), and love requires a human soul to manifest itself.

I have added a cornucopia, which Eros holds, indicating that love leads to abundance. The figure of Eros is based on one found at Pompeii.

Why are Eros and Psyche depicted as children? It seems necessary to explain for the modern mind what in past ages seemed so obvious as to require no explanation; at any rate, I have not come across one. In depicting Eros and Psyche as children I am following a long tradition in Western art.

The soul is undeveloped and innocent. What we call adulthood is like a Greek theatrical mask held in front of the real self; we largely play-act adulthood because we don't know what real adulthood is. In Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, Kay and Gerda begin as children. Then the splinter of ice in Kay's eye induces a kind of false adulthood in him, but Gerda remains childlike. Yet at the end of Gerda's quest to rescue Kay from the Snow Queen, both '...felt that they had become grownup people.' Andersen then quotes Matthew 18:3, and the last line of The Snow Queen adds something further to what I am saying here, but it will be better if you read it for yourself (in a proper translation).

Readers of Apuleius will also notice the similarity of some elements of the story with certain European fairy tales, such as Beauty and the Beast, and The White Bear.

The quotation from the Katha Upanishad is taken from the translation by Shree Purohit Swami and W. B. Yeats in The Ten Principal Upanishads.


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All images are copyright Martin Dace 2004: you must contact me for permission if you wish to publish or reproduce my pictures. Permission will usually be granted for web use provided my authorship and copyright is acknowledged and a link back to my site is provided. A link from my website to yours is also a possibility!