Do I really think that? No, I don't. But let's just say my days at St. Viator Elementary were pretty grim. We made music with a deranged nun who kicked students and should have been sent to the cloisters, not to mention one woman of the cloth who routinely pulled my hair ("Too Long!") and threatened to pull me from my chair by my ears, then demanded to know why I looked pale and shell-shocked all of the time and told me I was anemic. It's the stuff of novels. And I was a really, really good kid. That nun liked me. The bad kids had it worse.
Ancient history. What made me think of all this? Why, one of the best birthday presents EVER, given to me while I was in Colombia by my old friend Greg. It is only possibly get gifts this good from friends who have know you decades, as Greg has -- it combines elements of my personal history with my love of bargains (as he pointed out, it cost the equivalent of $2.50) and the macabre.
I don't speak Spanish, but could tell from the title of the slim volume that this was going to be good:
They're mostly 18th century, and I would guess from the many lavish convents spied in Colombia, graced the long halls of wealthy orders. As in Europe, the convent was often a convenient refuge from marriage for wealthy young women, and offered a degree of power and autonomy unavailable in secular life.
With these girls came wealth, and the practices of the wealthy, including portraiture and, if Borges is to be believed, epicurean delights -- many convents were said to enjoy the most glorious gardens, dressing maids for each of the nuns, habits made from laces from Flanders, Porto, Vienna ... finest pastries, wines and complex dishes, served to the highest standards of the courts of Europe.
These liked to sleep with brick pillows, if the portrait is to be believed:
No such false-austerity for this one:
She's the only one who looks at peace, no? I love the representation of flowers in many of these; exotic blooms of the New World:
I would like to thank my Catholic education for the ability to read the religious themes and symbolism in Western art, a skill I have found lacking in friends who didn't suffer though a good Christian upbringing. So I did come through it with something, though it certainly wasn't faith.