Dialogue on the Threshold

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Sunday, 12 September 2010


1:1 at the Romanian Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale, 2010. Installation created by Romina Grillo, Ciprian Rășoiu, Liviu Vasiu, Matei Vlăsceanu and Tudor Vlăsceanu
Image: Dezeen Design Magazine, 3 September 2010

De Nihilo

When confronted with an empty space, we might ask ourselves what exactly it is that is not there. Something is not there, which is to say, nothing is there. As Henry Fielding puts it in his “An Essay upon Nothing” (1743), “as Nothing is not Something, so every thing which is not Something, is Nothing; and wherever Something is not, Nothing is.” But the statement “Nothing is there” ineluctably leads to a logical dead-end, an aporia: for, if nothing “is”—if “nothing” has being—then it is no longer “nothing” but rather “something”.

The paradoxes of “nothing” and “not-being” are as old as philosophy itself. They are a subversive discourse against which philosophy is helpless to legislate or defend itself. For, as soon as speculative thought postulates “being”, it is a dialectical inevitability that “not-being” will then stake its paradoxical claim to existence. In Plato’s dialogue the Sophist, the anonymous Eleatic Stranger, thus himself a nemo or nobody, a species of nullus and ultimately nihil, warns Theaetetus to turn from the way that leads to thinking not-being is, before himself becoming lost in a maze of reasoning about the possibility of false statements. In Greek, false statements are those that “say what is not” (similarly, Swift’s ultra-rational Houyhnhnms have no notion of falsehood, and Gulliver is only able to explain it to them as “the thing which is not”). But if a statement says nothing, if it predicates what is not, then it is no longer a statement, an adfirmatio, and so there can be no false statements. Another aporia.

Whereas the Greeks laboured under a horror vacui, imagining that primitive matter must somehow have always existed before it was moulded into the cosmos by a divine demiurge, for the scholastics God’s creatio ex nihilo conferred upon “nothing” the privileged status of a primordial “something”. For example, in the Epistola de Nihilo et Tenebris (Letter on Nothing and Shadows) by ninth-century English monk Fredegisus (also known as Fridugisus, Fredugisus, Fridigisus, Fridogisus, Fridegisus, Fridugusus, Frudigisus etc.), the answer to the question “nihilne aliquid sit, an non” (whether nothing is something or not) is found to be affirmative. Among the series of logical arguments he provides is the following: “Omnis significatio est quod est. Nihil autem aliquid significat. Igitur nihil ejus significatio est quid est, id est, rei existentis” (Every signification is what it is. But ‘nothing’ signifies something. Therefore the signification of ‘nothing’ is what it is, that is, [the signification] of an existing thing) (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 105: 752-3). Moreover, given that according to the sacred mysteries God created earth, air, water, fire, light, the angels and man’s soul “out of nothing”, nothing is not only something, but also a great and particular something (magnum quiddam).

Having been elevated to this primordial God-given dignity, nihil goes on to be the subject of several mediaeval (parodic) sermons. Later, with the revival of the spoudogeloion/joco-serium tradition in the Renaissance, it becomes the subject of countless epideictic encomia, which paradoxically demonstrate its pre-eminence. The most important of all these, and the source of countless imitations, was the Laudatio Nihili of Johannes Passeratius (1534-1602), where we find that Nothing is more precious than gold and gems (“Nam Nihil est gemmis, Nihil est pretiosius auro”), Nothing is more beautiful than a watered garden (“Nihil irriguo formosius horto”), Nothing is loftier than the stars (“Nihil altius astris”), Nothing is more useful to the human race than the art of healing (“Humano generi utilius Nihil arte medendi”), and so on. When Passeratius goes so far as to say that Nothing is ultimately greater than Jove (“Nihil est Jove denique maius”), praise verges upon blasphemy, however. Such daringly blasphemous paradoxical permutations are also on display in a tractate called De Nihili Antiquitate (included in the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Socraticae Joco-Seriae (1619) of Caspar Dornavius), composed by P. Aemilius Portus (1550-1614/15), where we find that Nothing is more ancient than Eternal God Himself, because Nothing was created before God (“Aeterno Deo Nihil antiquius [est]. Quia Nihil creatum est ante Deo”). Ultimately, however, the nihil paradox can always be rescued from blasphemy by its amphiboly: if nihil is read as a pronoun rather than as a noun, as a significatio, as Fredegisus would have it, then the statement that nothing is greater than God becomes the definition of orthodoxy itself.

In 1608, thus at around the same time as the De Nihili Antiquitate, a certain Cornelius Götz delivered a discourse on Nothing before a learned assembly in Wittenberg, presided over by Rudolf Goclenius senior (the great humanist philosopher and inventor of the terms “ontology” and “psychology”). Published in Marburg, the full title of the work is Disputatio de Nihilo, quae non est de Nihilo, Vagans per omnes disciplinas (Disputation on Nothing, which is not about Nothing, Ranging through all the Disciplines). The treatise explores the Greek and Latin etymologies of nothing, the definition of nothing (Modus sine re, cuius est modus, a quo pendet essentialiter, est nihil, id est, esse non potest—The mode without reality, from whose mode it is that it essentially hangs, is nothing, that is, it is not able to be), the species of nothing (nihil absolute and nihil negativum or non ens per se), the theological significations of nothing (for St Paul, an idol is nothing (Idolum nihil est), devoid of any numinous power, while for St Basil, man is nothing by reason of his matter and great by reason of his dignity (homo nihil est propter materiam et magnus propter honorem)), the physics of nothing (nothing can be made from nothing—Ex nihilo nihil fit, after Aristotle), God’s creation out of nothing (Creatio est constitutio essentiae ex nihilo—the creation is the establishment of being out of nothing), evil as a privation of being and thus nothing, the differences between annihilation (recidere seu transire in nihil—to fall back or pass over into nothing), corruption, dissolution and transubstantiation, and much more. To the forty-six propositions of the disputatio proper are appended a number of miscellaneous metaphysical, theological, physical, logical, rhetorical and grammatical questions and answers. Under the heading of Logic, for example, Götz puts forward the following conundrum: “Principium materiale mundi est non nihil: Enunciatum affirmatum falsum est. Principium materiale mundi non est nihil. Enunciatum negatum verum est” (The material origin of the world is non-nothing. The proposition is false when asserted positively. The material origin of the world is not nothing. The proposition is true when asserted negatively).

The jesting-serious wisdom of the Renaissance, which can turn even such a seemingly sterile subject as Nothing into a dazzling rhetorical display of wit and learning, will later give way to metaphysical and existential angst, to fear of the néant. In Heidegger’s Einführung in die Metaphysik (1935, published 1953), the question posed by Leibniz—“Why is there something rather than nothing?”—becomes the inevitable Grundfrage, which looms equally in moments of despair, joy or boredom: “Warum ist überhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts” (Why are there beings-that-are and not nothing?). For Heidegger, however, the second part of the question is redundant. Even to speak of “nothing” is a grave offence against the logos, against logic, a reckless act that undermines all culture and thought, allying itself with nothingness in the destructive will to nihilism. Therefore, he erases it, consigning the question about nothing to nothingness, and asks simply, “Why are there beings-that-are?” In Was ist Metaphysik, Heidegger tries to find a way around the angst-inducing implications of using “nothing” and “is” in the same sentence, and comes up with “Das Nichts selbst nichtet” (The nothing nothings itself). Rudolph Carnap famously cited this as an example of metaphysical nonsense, but Henry Fielding perhaps best described the nature of this kind of discourse two centuries earlier in his “An Essay Upon Nothing”: “When a Bladder is full of Wind, it is full of Something; but when that is let out, we aptly say, there is Nothing in it. The same may be as justly asserted of a Man as of a Bladder. (…) It is at least possible for a Man to know Nothing. And whoever hath read over many Works of our ingenious Moderns, with proper Attention and Emolument, will, I believe, confess, that if he understands them right, he understands Nothing.”

However, the very word “nothing” does undeniably incorporate an existential premise. No-thing is the non-existence of a thing, after all. Nihil can only be defined by reference to aliquid, a something (else). In etymological terms, this existential premise would seem to be linguistically universal. But what it is that nothing is not varies according to different languages. In Greek, “nothing” is ouden, literally “not-one” (ne unum quidem), or, in the language of philosophy, to mê on, “not-being” (non ens). In Latin, nihil derives from hilum, “a tiny thing”, “a thing of no importance”, “a trifle”. The Russian nichto is a “not-what”. To take a very interesting non-Indo-European example, in Georgian (Kartveli) “nothing” is araperi, literally “not-colour” (ne color quidem). In the phenomenal world, every thing has a colour and it is impossible to imagine any thing without a colour. Even transparent things—water, air, glass etc.—reflect the colours of other things.(*) They exist in space against a background of colour, and it is impossible to picture them mentally in a vacuum, in their pure colourless transparency. Any empty space is thus imbued with borrowed colours. Only an unimaginable metaphysical non-space, a ne locus quidem outside space and being, would truly be devoid of any colour, be it even only black. Only the non-space of non-colour would truly be nothing.

Finally, the etymon of the Romanian nimic (“nothing”) is nemica, from the Latin ne mica (not a crumb, not a morsel). It thus echoes the Latin ne hilum. The Romanian verb a nimicnici (“to annihilate”), and its variant a nimici, might be translated as “to reduce something to less than its ultimate crumb of matter”. The mica, which refers to the smallest possible particle of matter (cf. the hilum, which can also refer to the moral unimportance of a thing; Lucretius uses ne hilum in the sense of “not a whit”, “not a jot” and hilum in the sense of “smallest part (of a thing)”), is thus the final threshold between “something” and “nothing”. In contrast to the German das Nichts, which is perhaps the starkest nothing of all—a naked “not”— the Romanian nimicul (the nothing, nothingness, not-a-crumb-ness) is peculiarly substantial; it incorporates within itself the trace or echo of a physical something, a tiny crumb which is no longer there or could never be there. Likewise, the empty space that is intrinsic to the 1:1 installation in the Romanian Pavilion at this year’s Biennale of Architecture in Venice is a means of articulating within space nimic, nihil, nichego, araperi, nothing, as a way of asking what is no longer there, what could have been there, what should be there.

Alistair Ian Blyth, from the exhibition catalogue

Image: Dezeen

(*) The Georgian araperi may be compared with the Romanian idiomatic expression de nici o culoare ("not at all", "in no way", "by no means"), which translates literally as "by not one colour". 

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Immediate Unreality

Max Blecher was born on 8 September 1909 in Botoșani, a provincial town in northern Moldavia. Up until the Second World War, Botoșani was an ethnically and culturally diverse town, whose population was made up of Romanians, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Roma and Lipovians (Russian Old Believers whose ancestors had fled persecution during the time of Peter the Great). At the turn of the century, Jews made up almost half of the town’s population. Max Blecher was the son of a merchant from the town’s Jewish community. While he was still a young child, Blecher’s family moved to Roman, a Moldavian town south of Botoșani, in the county of Neamț, where his father opened a porcelain shop. The petty bourgeois Jewish milieu of provincial Moldavia is memorably evoked in his autobiographical Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată (Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality) (1936), for example in the settings of Eugene’s sewing machine shop or the house and office of Blecher’s uncle and cousins, the Webers.

After finishing lycée in Roman, Blecher travelled to Paris to study medicine. It was here, in 1928, that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the spine, or Pott’s disease. He subsequently underwent treatment at sanatoria in France (Berck-sur-Mer), Switzerland (Leysin) and Romania (Tekirghiol), an experience which served as the inspiration for his novel Inimi cicatrizate (Cicatrised Hearts), in some ways a miniature, more naturalist counterpart to Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and which is also described in Vizuina luminată: Jurnal de sanatoriu (The Illumined Burrow: Sanatorium Diary). However, treatment was of no avail, and Max Blecher was to remain bedridden until the end of his short life. After a decade of illness and suffering, he died, aged twenty-eight, on 31 May 1938.

Blecher’s literary work dates entirely from the period of his illness. Sașa Pană describes him as having been “paralysed and wracked by pain for ten years, with a few relative intermissions, but his mind voyaged through the most deeply buried mysteries, he burrowed with the tenacity of a miner into the remotest seams of his rich mind, of a body engrafted with abscesses and gangrenes.”(i) On 29 June 1930, Blecher made his literary debut with a short prose piece entitled “Herrant”, written in Berck-sur-Mer and published in Bilete de papagal (Parrot Papers)(ii). In another short prose piece published in 1934,(iii) Blecher describes Berck, home to five thousand patients suffering from tuberculosis of the spine, as a “town of immobility and plaster-casts”. Plaster is the material specific to the place, “just as steel is to Creuzot, coal to Liverpool, or petrol to Baku”. Similarly, Blecher describes the hallucinatory spectacle of a town whose inhabitants are all paralysed in a recumbent posture and encased in plaster: “Recumbent they go to the cinema, recumbent they take carriage rides, recumbent they frequent places of entertainment, recumbent they attend lectures, recumbent they pay their social visits.”(iv) Also in 1934, a slim volume of Blecher’s poems, entitled Transparent Body, was published. In the same year, Blecher published translations from Appolinaire, in Frize (Friezes) magazine. His own poetry is lyrical and surrealistic, reminiscent perhaps of Paul Eluard, as can be seen in the following strophe, for example: “Your integument / Like a bird in the nest of the heart / In rivers of blood you bathe / And you fly through my fingertips.”(v) The following year, in 1935, his parents rented a small house for him in a suburb of his hometown of Roman. Writing on a wooden board propped against his knees, which had remained paralysed in a flexed position, it was here that he finished, during interminable nights of insomnia, the books Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality (1936), Cicatrised Hearts (1937), and The Illumined Burrow (posthumously edited and published by Sașa Pană in 1971).

Blecher’s literary prose was, to a certain extent, influenced by Surrealism. As an autobiography describing the subject’s oneiric, irrational experiences, Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality (1936) has been compared with André Breton’s Nadja (1928), although Sașa Pană was of the opinion that Blecher’s novel surpassed and would ultimately outlast that of Surrealism’s founder. Blecher himself was fascinated by the controlled, lucid pictorial descriptions of delirium to be found in the work of excommunicated Surrealist outcast Salvador Dalí. In a letter to Sașa Pană, dated 7 July 1934,(vi) for example, he speaks of Dalí’s “cold, perfectly legible and essential dementia”, whose “hyper-aesthetic extravagances of adjusted irrationality” he endeavours to imitate in his own texts: “For me, the ideal in writing would be a transposition of the heightened tension that is released by the paintings of Salvador Dalí.” Like Dalí’s “paranoiac critical method”, Blecher’s “surrealism” is therefore not an unmediated, disorganised outpouring of the unconscious, such as that found in the experiments with “automatic writing” made by the doctrinaire Surrealists, but rather a controlled channelling of the irrational life of the mind: “The power of the unconscious is very great. A well-structured unconscious (…) can bring ideas which our conscious mind would never have arrived at. I may thus cite two characteristic manifestations of this power: revelation and inspiration.”(vii)”

It is revelation and inspiration – what James Joyce in his autobiographical fictions of childhood and adolescence (Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man) refers to as (secular) “epiphanies” – that provide the material for Max Blecher’s own Bildungsroman of formative experiences, “occurrences” which take place almost entirely within the confines of the author’s own febrile, delirious consciousness. In childhood, Max Blecher suffered “crises” or “attacks” of unreality, in which he experienced rupture both from the outer world of objects, and from the inner world of the self. These crises, narrated in Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality, might also be likened to the haunting moments of Stimmung evoked by Giorgio de Chirico in his pittura metafisica, as well as in his oneiric novel Hebdomeros (1929), moments during which inward disquietude is experienced as outward atmosphere, submerging the world in ineffable strangeness and enigma. In psychopathology, this is the eerie atmosphere of heightened but empty significance also experienced by sufferers of dementia praecox during the so-called ‘aura’ that precedes complete rupture with reality. Psychiatrist and neurologist Klaus Conrad referred to such states of exalted dread as the “Trema”, employing a piece of German theatrical slang for stage fright.(viii). In this respect it is notable that many of de Chirico’s paintings depict the vertiginously tilted boards of theatre stages. Likewise, as we shall see below, Blecher’s occurrences in the immediate unreality are also pervaded by a menacing sense of theatricality.

During the state of Stimmung, external phenomena are thus imbued with a sense of intense but ineffable significance, which hovers tantalisingly beyond reach. Like de Chirico, who saw the world as a “vast museum of strangeness”, Blecher too locates his crises out there in the world; they are intrinsic to various places, “sickly spaces”, which thereby become menacing “invisible traps”. These crises, which Blecher defines as the “profound sentiment of the world’s pointlessness”, are thus precisely the anti-epiphany or empty transcendence of Modernism: an anxious, heightened sense of meaningfulness, but one devoid of cognisable content, like the “Anwandlungen eines Fast-Nichts” (fits or attacks of an Almost-Nothing) described by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten (Letters of Those Who Returned) (1901). Like the cast of the inner ear whose image obsesses Blecher, people and things are nothing more than the negative image of an immanent emptiness.

Although in time Blecher’s crises as such abate, they leave behind them the same “crepuscular state” that used to presage them. As in de Chirico’s cluttered paintings of his later metaphysical period, Blecher then discovers in heteroclite, seemingly insignificant objects an “essential nostalgia for the world’s pointlessness”. Such states, which oscillate between melancholy and exaltation, are also closely intertwined with the ambiguous, confusing, even dream-like, experiences of his sexual awakening as an adolescent. He experiences occurrences as disturbingly artificial and theatrical, while other people are like automatons or mannequins, oblivious that “the certitude in which we live is separated by a very fine pellicle from the world of uncertainties”. The world itself becomes an eerie stage set, and many episodes in the novel occur in settings of inherent theatrical artificiality, such as the cinema, a waxworks exhibition, or the prop-cluttered basement beneath the stage of a theatre, where Blecher finds refuge and which thus becomes a symbol of the tiers of conscious and unconscious mind. Blecher himself dreams of being an inanimate waxwork, or else he is haunted by his own photograph, which he chances to see mysteriously displayed in the booth of a travelling fairground photographer and which then takes on a life of its own, threatening to subsume his own existence. In one of the most remarkable episodes in the book, Blecher attempts to escape from the agony of his exacerbated awareness (the “Bewußstseinswelt”, as it is called by Gottfried Benn, who similarly yearns to escape the pain of consciousness by regressing to the condition of mindless protoplasm) by descending to the ontological level of amorphous, primal mud.

As a whole, Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality teems with unsettling characters and events, refracted through the prism of the author’s unique existential “illness”. It is a work that deserves recognition as one of the most remarkable texts of European modernism.

(Introduction (c) Alistair Ian Blyth and University of Plymouth Press, 2009)

(i) Cu inimă lîngă M. Blecher, in Max Blecher, Vizuina luminată, Bucharest: Cartea românească, 1971, pp. 6-7, quoted in Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, p. 409. Sașa Pană was the pen name of Alexander Binder (1902-1981), a close friend of Max Blecher and an important figure in the Romanian avant-garde. As well as being a writer in his own right, he financed, edited and published unu (one), an avant-garde magazine, and, after the War, wrote a number of studies and memoirs about the Romanian avant-garde.
(ii) Edited and published by Tudor Arghezi (1880-1967), a major Romanian poet and novelist.
(iii) “Berck, orașul damnaților” (“Berck, the Town of the Damned”), Vremea, VII, 358, 7 October 1934; Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, pp. 352-357.
(iv) Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, p. 353.
(v) Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, p. 335.
(vi) Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, p. 396.
(vii) Note from an undated manuscript, quoted by Radu Țepoșu in the Preface to Max Blecher, Întîmplări în irealitatea imediată. Inimi cicatrizate. Vizuina luminată. Corp transparent. Corespondență, ed. Constantin Popa and Nicolae Țone, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, 1999, p. 12.
(viii) See the chapter ‘The Truth-Taking Stare’ in Louis A. Sass, Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), pp. 43-74.

Max Blecher, Occurrence in the Immediate Unreality, translated by Alistair Ian Blyth, University of Plymouth Press: Plymouth, 2009.

Quare morieris?

That God should let my soul fall out of his hand, into a bottomless pit, and roll an unremovable stone upon it, and leave it to that which it finds there, (and it shall find that there, which it never imagined, till it came thither) and never think more of that soul, never have more to do with it. That of that providence of God, that studies the life of every weed, and worm, and ant, and spider, and toad, and viper, there should never, never any beam flow out upon me; that that God, who looked upon me, when I was nothing, and called me when I was not, as though I had been, out of the womb and depth of darkness, will not look upon me now, when, though a miserable, and a banished, and a damned creature, yet I am his creature still, and contribute something to his glory, even in my damnation; that that God, who hath often looked upon me in my foulest uncleanness, and when I had shut out the eye of the day, the sun, and the eye of the night, the taper, and the eyes of all the world, with curtains and windows, and doors, did yet see me, and see me in mercy, by making me see that he saw me, and sometimes brought me to a present remorse, and (for that time) to a forbearing of that sin, should so turn himself from me, to his glorious saints and angels, as that no saint nor angel, nor Christ Jesus himself, should ever pray him to look towards me, never remember him, that such a soul there is; that that God, who hath so often said to my soul, Quare morieris ? Why wilt thou die ? and so often sworn to my soul, Vivit Domimis, As the Lord liveth, I would not have thee die, but live, will neither let me die, nor let me live, but die an everlasting life, and live an everlasting death; that that God, who, when he could not get into me, by standing, and knocking, by his ordinary means of entering, by his word, his mercies, hath applied his judgments, and hath shaked the house, this body, with agues and palsies, and set this house on fire, with fevers and calentures, and frightened the master of the house, my soul, with horrors, and heavy apprehensions, and so made an entrance into me; that that God should frustrate all his own purposes and practices upon me, and leave me, and cast me away, as though I had cost him nothing, that this God at last, should let this soul go away, as a smoke, as a vapour, as a bubble, and that then this soul cannot be a smoke, a vapour, nor a bubble, but must lie in darkness, as long as the Lord of light is light itself, and never spark of that light reach to my soul; what Tophet is not paradise, what brimstone is not amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worm is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage-bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God? especially to us, for as the perpetual loss of that is most heavy, with which we have been best acquainted, and to which we have been most accustomed ; so shall this damnation, which consists in the loss of the sight and presence of God, be heavier to us than others, because God hath so graciously, and so evidently, and so diversely appeared to us, in his pillar of fire, in the light of prosperity, and in the pillar of the cloud, in hiding himself for a while from us: we that have seen him in all the parts of this commission, in his word, in his sacraments, and in good example, and not believed, shall bo further removed from his sight, in the next world, than they to whom he never appeared in this. But vincenti et credenti, to him that believes aright, and overcomes all temptations to a wrong belief, God shall give the accomplishment of fulness, and fulness of joy, and joy rooted in glory, and glory established in eternity, and this eternity is God; to him that believes and overcomes, God shall give himself in an everlasting presence and fruition, Amen.

John Donne, from a Sermon preached to the Earle of Carlile, and his Company, at Sion (Autumn, 1622), on Mark 16:16, 'He that believeth not shall be damned'

Fresco in the porch of Biserica Sf. Elefterie Vechi (the Church of Old St. Eleftherios) (1744), Bucharest