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Masters and Servants

Masters and Servants

Pierre Michon
Translated, Illustrated, and with a New Introduction by Wyatt Mason
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Masters and Servants
    Book Description:

    One of Pierre Michon's most powerful works, this book imagines decisive moments in the lives of five artists of different times and places: Vincent van Gogh, Francisco Goya, Antoine Watteau, Claude Lorrain, and Lorentino, a little-remembered disciple of Piero della Francesca.

    Michon focuses on particular moments when artist and model collide, whether that model is a person or a landscape, inner or outer. In the five separate tales he evokes the full passion of the artist's struggle to capture the world in images even as the world resists capture. Each story is a small masterpiece that transcends national boundaries and earns its place among the essential works of world literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19905-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    In July 1995, when I was living in a small town in southern New Mexico, I received a letter in my post office box from Guy Davenport. Davenport was sixty-eight; I was twenty-six. He was the most learned literary person I’d ever heard of: author of forty books, MacArthur fellow, poet, fiction writer, critic, the first man to write a doctoral dissertation on James Joyce at Oxford University. I was eking out a living by substitute teaching French at a high school in the sixth-poorest county in America, a school where the majority of my students spoke Spanish as their...


    • The Life of Joseph Roulin
      (pp. 3-51)

      One of them had been stationed there by the Post Office, arbitrarily or perhaps according to his own wishes; the other had gone there because of the books he had read; because it was The South, where he believed that money might go further, that women were more favorable, and that the skies were excessive, Japanese. Because he was running away. Chance dropped them into Aries, in 1888. Different as they were, they enjoyed each other’s company; in any case, the appearance of the one, the elder, pleased the other enough that he painted him four or five times: so...

    • God Is Never Through
      (pp. 53-85)

      We knew francisco goya. Our mothers, or perhaps our grandmothers, saw him arrive in Madrid. They saw him knocking on doors, on all the doors, stooped, benignly; they saw him not be named to the academies, saw him praise those who were, saw him return docilely to his province to paint more of his stiff brand of schoolboy mythologies, and once again saw him present them to our court painters, one year, two years later; only to fail once again, to clear out again, taking a poorly rendered Venus or Moses with him, painted in the open country and brought...

    • “… Io mi voglio divertir”
      (pp. 87-117)

      In his youth, not to have every woman had seemed an intolerable scandal. But so that you see what I’m getting at—since we can’t get at him anymore: it wasn’t about seduction; he had appealed, as everyone does, to the two, seven, thirty, or hundred women bestowed upon each of us in accordance with our heights and our faces, our spirits. No, what infuriated him in the streets, in the wings and in the workshops, at the tables of all those who welcomed him, at the homes of princes and in gardens, essentially anywhere women ventured, was that he...

    • Trust This Sign
      (pp. 119-157)

      Vasari, that is, the legend, tells us that Lorentino, a painter from Arezzo and a disciple of Piero, was poor; that he had a big family; that he never rested; that he painted on commission, from nature, members of religious committees and parish priors, merchants; that undoubtedly he fought feature after feature to capture these faces of men of gain, striving to attain the merciless indulgence of Piero’s hand and scarcely succeeding; that on occasion he did not have a commission; that one brief February at the far end of the Quattrocento, no one knows in what year since Vasari...

    • The King of the Wood
      (pp. 159-176)

      I, gian domenico desiderii, I worked for twenty years with that old fool. They tell me he still hasn’t decided whether or not to die; from time to time I’ll hear bits of news, praise blown his way; sometimes I’ll see another recent product with the same trees, the same sheepfolds, the same palaces at sunrise, and that same sky up above, like a pit. Doubdess the same splendors, the same marvels. I’ve had my fill but he’s kept his appetite, the fat little fool, the good apostle. And if it makes him happy, he should still paint. And stew...

  5. Notes
    (pp. 177-177)
  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 178-178)