Herman Posthumus: What’s Left Behind

The word ‘discard’ is a Renaissance invention, related literally to gaming and the notion of de-carding, or throwing a card away, but also used figuratively from at least 1580 and perhaps earlier in its earlier form, and perhaps even earlier, the 1550s, to refer to the notion of something ‘decarded’ as something thrown away.  It is no surprise to know that the Renaissance, which was a period of great invention, should also have been a period in which new terms had to be invented to describe those things left behind or thrown away in the face of ruthless modernity.
I’ve thought of ‘discard’ in the sense of being left behind in relation to an unusually evocative list compiled recently by Travelodge UK, detailing  the top ten books, within the past year, to have been left behind in hotel rooms.  Judging by the titles – every shade of grey and then some – most of them are the kind of sad, awkward, slightly risque stuff that I suppose habitual travelers, who frequent places like the Travelodge, read to enliven their habitual boredom with something that is, well, equally formulaic and boring, but that aspires to some notion of escapism.   Such is the detritus of our time.
Not so for the Renaissance, an era of rediscovery predicated on what was left
behind – fragments of antiquity were perhaps the most productive
kind of ‘waste’ ever produced and recognized by history.   The Renaissance
might well have been the first (and only?) era of productive waste
management – to recognize the evocative nature of what had been discarded.
This is what I think about when looking at the great elusive and allusive
work of Herman Posthumus, depicting Rome’s ruins (below) – 
???????
 
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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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