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March 1998, Week 2


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Richard Wohlfeiler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 11 Mar 1998 10:47:37 -0800
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This type of story about the childhood demonstration of a prodigious
natural artistic gift, recognized by an established master, is a staple
anecdote in artists' biographies from the Renaissance on, beginning with
Vasari's _Lives of the Artists_. Vasari, for example, recounts how the
youthful Giotto, employed as a shepherd, was discovered by his subsequent
master Cimabue making a beautiful drawing of a sheep on a rock in the
pasture (using a dirt clod or something like that). Similar stories are
told about the early signs of artistic gifts in Leonardo da Vinci and
A recent book by Catherine M. Soussloff, _The Absolute Artist_, describes
and analyzes conventional patterns in biographies of artists, showing (very
convincingly, I think) how they emulate the structures of events
characteristic in earlier literary lives of poets and, archetypally,
saints' lives. It appears that the "reality" of these stories is as much a
function of the fabric of type of tale being told as it is an actually
occurring miraculous event, objectively recorded by a witnessing informant.
Richard Wohlfeiler
>i'm doing a review of GOOD WILL HUNTING, focusing on the vicissitudes of
>youthful genius. Overviewing myths about intellectual and artistic prodigies,
>I want to say something about the recurrent theme of genius discovered in
>childhood or adolescence in mean/humble circumstances. As a prime example, I
>seem to recall that a Renaissance painter -- at least one -- was discovered as
>a child by his future teacher drawing amazing pictures in the dust of his
>peasant farmyard. I believe this was Caravaggio. Can anyone confirm or deny
>this or otherwise trace the source of the tale to its reality, if such there
>Many thanks
>Harvey Roy Greenbeg, MD
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