[left] Interior panel of Wilton Diptych. Egg tempura on oak panels. 1395. The National Gallery, London. [above] Verso. [below] detail of interior panel.


The white hart of the Wilton Diptych was the representative image on Life as Myth during 2007 [see left navigational column, Journal 2007]. In mythology the hart serves as spirit guide or divine messenger. In early Celtic mythology, for example, the appearance of a hart could indicate that the Otherworld was close at hand and that a mortal now stood on sacred grounds. In Arthurian legend, if one encountered a deer in the woods and followed its lead, then the individual immediately embarked on a great adventure.

We can look to the various myths as inspirational sources for our lives and as frameworks for meaning. Albert Camus said it best when he observed, "Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them." In other words, the myths are there as messengers and guides, but we must decide to engage, to breathe life into them, to follow the lure of a great adventure. My personal white hart myth includes both a life in the arts and, for the past ten years, a quest for the divine feminine. Looking back over the last decade, I can see how that particular framework for meaning has informed and shaped my life.


Very recently, the repeating hart motif caught my attention. Though it's possible that I have seen this painting before, I don't remember ever noticing the white hart.  Art is full of mystery and points toward something just beyond words, just beyond our knowing.   This image serves that function for me.  It is a signpost, a perfect visual metaphor for my own private myth, the bridge between faith and creativity.





[left to right] The Montefeltro altarpiece [also known as Virgin with child, saints, angels and Federigo II da Montefeltro], Piero della Francesca, 1465. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. The birth of Venus. 1912. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Throughout the ages, stories with certain basic themes have recurred over and over, in widely disparate cultures; emerging like the goddess Venus from the sea of our unconscious.
Vinge (b. 1948), writer

According to Roman mythology, Venus is the Roman goddess of love, fertility and beauty. The castration of her father Uranus by her brother Cronus fertilized the ocean and from the fertile waters Venus arose. Artistic interpretations of her birth do not typically depict the actual birth but the moment when Venus arrives at the shores of Paphos (Cyprus) in a shell.

Over time Christian iconography incorporated the rich visual language of the ancient goddess. For example, Piero della Francesca includes the shell motif at the top of the Montefeltro altarpiece, providing a direct link to a more ancient mythic tradition of the goddess. Art historians interpret the incorporation of the shell as a way of portraying the rebirth of the pagan goddess in a more sacred form. The assimilation of pagan symbols was a prevalent one during the spread of Christianity.