Of three graces, joy . . .

We saw the delightful sculpture by Canova, the second one he’d created of the Three Graces, by commission, at the Victoria and Albert Museum some decades ago. In researching for this blog (yes, a reasonable amount of study goes into these entries!) I came upon one of the earliest known examples of the graces, as described in the art history pages of Artsper Magazine.

Apparently, in antiquity, the three goddesses possessed the attributes, separately, of radiance, joy, and flowering. Together, it’s said, they exhibited the quality of love and grace. Not an indifferent approach, then, to our own joy this morning.

I was investigating the three graces because of a recent poetic effort I’ve experienced, in which I tried to exemplify, succinctly, something of the devastating effect of the loss of three ‘pillars of the community’ which happened within the space of about a month last year in Allendale. I was approaching this task because of an open submission window provided by Wildfire-Words.com, which seeks to recognise and mark the first anniversary of significant events.

Without a title, however, it was difficult to resolve the poem, as it developed. In the ancient mosaic, and in the art of Botticelli, which reflects this antique representation, the middle ‘grace,’ that of joy, is shown embracing her sisters, in a back view. Canova, however, for his twin sculptures, turned joy around, facing the viewer. We have seen Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (rather faded, it seemed, compared to the more vivid images we tend to recall), and possibly also his Primavera, from which the three graces are but a section, but to be honest the experience that stands out in my mind is Canova’s sculpture at the V&A.

For some reason, this sculptural rendition of figures from mythology resonated while I completed the poem, and so I had my title. A bit of finessing, a few attempts at reading the poem aloud, until the final recording was made and I could submit to the ‘One Year On‘ category. In this day and age, gender seems to matter less and less, and so it made sense to me to ascribe something of the characteristics of the eponymous goddesses to strong, tall men who uplifted their community in their lives. Perhaps I’ve turned joy around myself. I hope that’s not stealing attributes that are exclusively feminine.

I wrote about the masculine graces as exhibiting political goodwill, universal belovedness, spiritual blessedness. These traits are obviously not ‘radiance, joy or flowering,’ but I feel they are graces just the same, and perhaps with similar results in a community made more vibrant by their presence, more undone in their absence. As metaphor the graces must be subject to endless interpretation.

At any rate, it feels very worthwhile to explore these concepts, these sensibilities of how individuals can make a difference, in a variety of spheres of influence, as they live their lives. It feels so important to remember, to celebrate those lives, especially on the occasion of the passing of the first year after they left us.

Perhaps, one year on, it’s easier to remember the joy they brought us, than it was during the upheaval of funerals. And then, of course, the community has been trying to pull together too, over the year, so recovery could be a tribute to the legacy of these three graces and their faithfulness.

Life, inexorably, goes on, and joy is perhaps not so far away.

4 responses to “Of three graces, joy . . .”

  1. Fiona Bernhoeft Avatar
    Fiona Bernhoeft

    I love your idea of the three graces being male, Larry. Such a great image. It combines the monumentality of pillars with the qualities so valued in a community.


    1. Thanks Fiona! Looking forward to chatting in Writers Group tomorrow afternoon!



  2. I rarely comment, but your writing is so powerful that I would just like to recognise it. Thank you for reminding us that there is much more to life than politics/economy/strife/social medias/et al.


    1. Gosh, thank you Paul, for mentioning it. Incidentally, I’ve been moved myself to see my poem, The Three Graces, published in Wildfire-Words.com/oyo-poetry. It’s so gratifying to get feedback on the search for joy, thank you!


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