25: Anselm Kiefer, Hommage à Omar Khayyám, 2002
Hommage à Omar Khayyám, 2002. Titled "Omar Khayyám" upper right. emulsion, dried flowers, iron elements and charcoal on lead, in artist’s frame 95 1/4 x 51 7/8 in (241.9 x 131.8 cm)
PROVENANCE Private collection, Paris
XXVIII With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow; And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d-- “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.” XL As then the Tulip for her morning sup Of Heav’nly Vintage from the soil looks up, Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav’n To Earth invert you--like an empty Cup. LXIII Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain--This Life flies; One thing is certain and the rest is Lies; The Flower that once has blown for ever dies. LXXIII With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead, And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed: And the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read. (Quatrains XXVIII, XL, LXIII, LXXIII from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward FitzGerald, 1st edition, 1859). Omar Khayyám, the Persian philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet, gained renown for his treatises on mechanics, geography, and theology. In addition to these fields, Khayyám was also a beloved man of art and religion, and is remembered as the author of the lyrical poems known collectively as The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Rubáiyát is comprised of thousands of lyric poems in quatrains, four-line stanzas, usually sharing an epigram or personal insight. Rather than telling a story with characters, these lyric poems present intimate beliefs and philosophies of the narrator on subjects of life, death, love, and religion. Kiefer’s Hommage à Omar Khayyám, 2002, in its complex and mystifying surface, celebrates the mysteries of life, creating a bridge over the centuries between the philosopher and the artist. The dried and decayed line of tulips along the lower edge of the panel creates a thick curtain of a once vibrant and lush past. A cluster of vines creeps up the panel along the central seam, yearning to defeat the impending ruin of nature. Two symmetrical gusts of petals and seeds burst along the left and right edges of the panel lending the work a verticality that infuses the panel with life. The perished and corroded lead creates a backdrop, eloquently evoking the motif of an ancient tapestry. Here, we see a vista of the raw and exposed earth, unkempt, unplowed, and untouched. The dry and dusty surface evokes the passing of heat, time and age. As a constant exploration of theology, mythology, science and religion, the present lot functions precisely as one of Khayyám’s quatrains exploring our meaning and existence. Furthermore, the dried tulips, creeping vines, and billowing ashes, allude to the mystical surface of an old tombstone; the object itself becomes a token of remembrance and tribute for the great philosopher that was.