Arrogance and fear
No photograph taken at an opportune moment can convey what a painting can freeze on canvas with some brush strokes. That one second is recorded for posterity when we can see a window into a person’s soul and mind. And what we see in the painting of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez ain’t pretty.
In his face, there is supreme arrogance and condescending scorn for the viewer facing him. Or for anyone who is on a lower hierarchy rung than a pope. So that means a disdain for everyone since the pope as a god’s representative on earth, has no equal. And this pope had a need to show it. And Diego Velazquez caught it with an ethereal skill.
But there is more. In his face, I can see fear. I can see the suspicion in narrowed eyes and eyebrows drawn together. I see questions on his face — “Who is that person who is looking at me? Is he an enemy already, or will he become an enemy in the future? Why is he looking at me? Why isn’t he growling for my mercy or a blessing? Should I strike first and put him down in his place? Or can he be useful for me to use him in some capacity?”.
The haughtiness of the lowered face and body language is just a cover. This is a portrait of a man who is consumed by a miscalculated worth of self-importance and paranoia that everyone is to get him and the terror of being found out. And paralyzing anxiety that each day can be his last by the merciless hand or a will of someone who had enough.
All that seems familiar to some modern rulers and leaders and tyrants. Actually — that seems like a definition of all of them. They can hurt multitudes — and they do every day, with nothing more than an executive order or a stroke of a pen. But there is a fear in them, the all-consuming terror that eats them from the inside.
And I am glad about that — that is the least they deserve.