The final two of my previous notes have pointed out the importance of Telesphoros in Picasso’s work of 1921, 1925, 1934, and 1937.
Telesphoros is most likely in the 1925 Three Dancers and in the 1930 Crucifixion Painting.
A great source for a better understanding of Telesphoros is De Télesphore au «moine bourru» Dieux, génies et démons encapuchonnés. W Deonna, 1955. From that book I determined from my imperfect translating and understanding that:
p. 25: Telesphoros is connected to the underworld, often wears a veil, wears a capuchin-like hooded monk-like coat known as a "coat of segregation". Normally his hood is pointed. He is hooded and veiled for certain ceremonies dealing with underworld gods. These ceremonies include initiation or “rites of passage”, funerals, death and grief.
p. 29: The veil and the hooded monk-like coat are emblems of the underworld.
p. 40 and 41: Telesphoros is illustrated on page 40. It is pointed out that his arms are normally hidden beneath his hooded coat. Also, he sometimes appears with bare feet protruding at the bottom of his monk-like hooded coat. Telesphoros is illustrated as a child god, as an assistant to Asklepios, Greek god of healing. However, Telesphoros may be venerated alone with or without the appearance of Asklepios. Telesphoros normally has a tablet or box hanging from his neck. He normally carries a scroll. Some believe that Telesphoros at times wears an amulet.
p. 43: Telesphoros corresponds to Egyptian Harpocrates (Horus), and Telesphoros is sometimes associated with other divinities such as Venus and Aphrodite. Telesphoros arrived late to the Hellenic Pantheon.
p. 57: Karl Kerenyi insists on the funerary character of Telesphoros, that he is a child god of the dead.
With this grounding let us look at two more of Picasso’s works, two additional paintings which I believe show that Telesphoros is very much present in them:
1925 Three Dancers: The silhouetted black profile at right has a pointed top. In one role, this pointed top is most likely the pointed hood of Telesphoros. This work has to do with death. I have shown that the central figure, in one role, is Egyptian Isis, goddess of the dead. See my addendum page 105. Scholars have pointed out that this work is associated with the death of Ramon Pichot, a good friend of Picasso’s. The ‘presence of Pichot’ is allegedly in the silhouetted black profile. See Picasso, Timothy Hilton, pp. 47 and 150. Since Picasso entered Telesphoros in the 1921 Three Musician paintings and again in the 1925 Studio with Plaster Head painting, it follows that Telesphoros would make an appearance in this 1925 Three Dancers death painting.
1930 The Crucifixion: The upper right quadrant shows a small barefoot figure hooded and robed with no arms visible. An amulet-like chain seems to hang from his neck. He is masked. We can not be sure that his hood is pointed as the back of his hood is not shown. Yet the bare feet, hidden arms, and monk-like seamless robe point to Telesphoros for one role. The subject is death.
My study of Guernica began in the spring of 1981. After years and years of study Telesphoros was found to be at the very center of Guernica. Since Telesphoros appears at underworld initiations, it follows that Picasso was an initiate into gnosis of the divine. In my opinion, Picasso was a Christian gnostic, but also a pagan gnostic. Most likely, he was initiated into an ongoing magical secret society consisting of carefully selected gifted people in art, especially in poetry and painting. The origin of that ongoing secret society must stretch backward in time to the Renaissance* with its magical hermetic knowledge and rediscovered ‘gnosis’.
*To get a real ‘feel’ for the Renaissance, read books by Frances A. Yates.
Melvin E. Becraft, author, Picasso’s Guernica – Images within Images, 1983, 1987.
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