Well I know now what I’d like for Christmas, a chairde – a nice big chunk of Lapis Lazuli – like the one in the Yeats exhibition at the National Library, Dublin.
Lapis Lazuli – I heard about it first in art college – it was the finest and most expensive of all the blues and was used by the artists of the Renaissance but especially reserved for the robes of the Virgin Mary.
As early as the 7th century BC, it was mined in the Hindu Kush mountains of northeast Afghanistan. It is a deep blue metamorphic rock which has been prized since ancient times for its heavenly hues. It is said that Cleopatra applied it, ground into powder, for her eyeshadow. It was also used on the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (check out his blue eyebrows).
Now me, being a poor artist of the 21st century, I can only afford a synthetic ultramarine but still, I love those blues and my favourite paintings always have blue in them. This one above was made for my degree show in 2000 and it was from a series based on Newgrange.
Of course, we’ve nearly reached the shortest day of the year now and at this time of year I always think of Newgrange in Co. Meath. Constructed over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 BC), it is an ancient site of astrological, spiritual or ceremonial importance. We really don’t know what went on here in the distant past but what we do know is that this ancient mound was constructed in such a way that on the morning of the Winter Solstice, if the sky is clear, the first rays of the sun shine directly into its inner chamber, through a 19 metre long passage, illuminating the megalithic carvings for a magical few moments.
It must have served as a powerful symbol of new life, new beginnings, the victory of life over death, the ceremonial meeting of Heaven and earth… My, don’t we underestimate the energy, fervour and intellectual accomplishments of those earlier cultures…
Ach, theastaigh uaim an taispeántas sin faoi W.B.Yeats a luadh aríst. Tá sé ar siúl sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta i mBaile Átha Cliath na laethanta seo. (Tá sé ar siúl le fada ach ní raibh a fhios agamsa faoi.) Thug Niamh Ní Riain turas treoraithe ann le déanaí agus luaigh sí mar a thug cara le Yeats bronntanas den carraig ghorm thuas dó ar a bhreithlá, nuair a bhí sé 70 bliain d’aois.
Dúirt deartháir liom tráth gurb é “Ceadharlach Bealtaine” an t-ainm oifigiúil atá ar na bláthanna gorma sin – na Gentians – ach go dtugtar Pabhsaeir na Maighdine Muire orthu ar Inis Meáin. Ach dúirt sé freisin go dtugtar Pabhsaeir na Maighdine Muire ar aon bhláth ghorm ar an oileán. Bhuel, más fíor sin, nach bhféadfaí “Carraig na Maighdine Muire” a thabhairt ar an charraig gleoite seo…
Agus leis sin, ba mhaith liom Beannachtaí na Nollag a ghuí oraibh go léir.
Slán go fóillín, eoin