Pentimento; The Ghosts of Me

Today’s word of the day is pentimento.

Noun: Painting. the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over.

The term pentimento (plural pentimenti) refers to the evidence of changes an artist makes during the development of a composition on canvas.

Pentimento came to English from the Italian pentire meaning “to repent,” which ultimately derives from the Latin paenitēre meaning to regret.

It’s known as pentimento, the beautiful Italian word for repentance. Pentimenti are the alterations in a painting that become apparent through traces of previous workings. In historical painting, we might see the differing positions of a head. A faint third hand, perhaps. Wonderfully, the thoughts of an artist long dead can sometimes unfold in front of us.
-Alison Watt, “So what does artistic creation sound like?” The Guardian, November 8, 2014

“Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter “repented,” changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again…The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.”
― Lillian Hellman, Pentimento

What a beautiful word.

My life is a canvas, constantly changing, moving, shifting, fragmenting, fissuring, integrating, vibrant and raw. Each groove of my past jutting out like a fresh wound- no matter how long has past; a month, a year or ten. Desperate splotches of india ink saturate earlier apprehensions and impetuous attempts at seeking acceptance. Thick regret etched into the vinyl, easily read by the blind, hidden to most. Feel here, when I was twelve, my cavity. Painted over. Blood blue bruises blended into irises and peonies. Look here, this lighthouse built from knives and the birds birthed from the abuse. Naked to you, observer.



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