Rilke and Memling's St John Altarpiece, Bruges

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Rilke and Memling's St John Altarpiece, Bruges

Beitrag von jubilan »

Dear Forum,

Rilke visited Bruges in the summer of 1906 and (among other things) saw Memling's St John Altarpiece - which he refers to in later letters, for example:

To the princess in January 1912: 'I hesitate infinitely, dear Princess, after writing what was so violently dictated to me the other day here on this Patmos, so that, when I think of it, I feel as though I had written with both hands, to the right and the left, like the Apostle in St. John’s Hospital in Bruges, so as to capture every word that was being given to me.'

To Benvenuta in 1914: ‘Like St. John the Evangelist, in Memling’s picture at Bruges thus would I write you, here on the flinty island of my heart, across which sweep the storms of ecstasy. I would write you with mine right hand, write you with mine left, unceasingly, obeying the inscribed beam from above...’

Are there other letters where Rilke discusses St John in Memling's painting?

With thanks for any information!

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Re: Rilke and Memling's St John Altarpiece, Bruges

Beitrag von lilaloufan »

I don't know of any other letter passages with this theme, but in this posting I have referred to a passage in Malte: "Malte has before him as an archetype of this "being written" the vision of Iohannes on Patmos, which is also mentioned, where he accuses Goethe: «But humbling himself before her [before Bettine's love] he would have had to write in his whole state what she dictates, with both hands, like John on Patmos – genuflecting.»" Here you’ll find a painting that shows the scenario.
»Wir tragen leidenschaftlich den Honig des Sichtbaren ein, um ihn im großen goldenen Bienenstock des Unsichtbaren anzuhäufen.«