(1840 - 1902)
The Three Patiences
Oil on panel
36 1/2 x 28 1/4 inches
Patience and time are more powerful than force or rage
All comes to he who waits.
There are a large number of proverbs, in verse and in prose, the make us believe that patience is a virtue. However, the characteristic of a virtue is it that one admires it in others without having it oneself. Now the whole world has more or less patience but finds it laughable in his fellowmen: an idler, contemplating a fisherman watching a line, cries “Here is one who has patience! For the two hours that I’ve watched him, he hasn’t caught a thing!”
Look, for example, at the little scene that happens every day at the same time:
The setting is a comfortable room in a house by the sea; a large window opens onto the shore where the waves scatter their white froth on the rocks.
In front of the window, a table dressed with a green cloth is covered with playing cards, symmetrically arranged in little packets: to the left a large stone chimney; to the right a folding screen of rich brocade on which is a hanging pocket(pochette means pocket or purse) packed with newspapers, brochures, guides etc, travel literature, various crumbs. In short, a country setting.
Three people: a cardinal, seated at the table, seems completely absorbed in the cards. He’s having success.
Next to him, his housekeeper stands, with a cup in hand, in an attitude of resigned attention.
In front of the chimney, a great dane snoozes, stretched out on the carpet.
In the head of each of these individuals, there is a brain, and in that brain, a dominant idea. The three ideas may be translated as three questions.
Under the biretta, one thinks: “Will I finally be successful?”
Under the bonnet: “Is he finally going to take this cup of tea?”
And under the hairy skull with pointed ears: “ Will one finally get to go outside?”
These questions, which all begin with “Will one finally...” prove that it will be a long time before there is an answer. Thus, the three individuals must all have great patience, each one in its own way.
Could we deduce now the calculus that engenders these three ‘patiences’? Perfectly!
The cardinal, without being superstitious, attaches great importance to his game. Perhaps he says to himself: “If it is successful, I will be pope!” And one can understand that, no matter how little ambition one has, one is not going to compromise such an affair by any sign of impatience or a lack of attention.
The housekeeper’s mission is to watch over the health of her master. He must take his tea. It will be a penalty to live by the seaside if one doesn’t take care of oneself. She can’t put the teacup on the table; there’s no place for it. And if she puts it on another piece of furniture, Monseigneur will forget about it and not drink it.
As for the dog, he well knows that if he barks or even if he prowls around the room, turning over chairs with his tail, he’ll be returned to his niche (doghouse might be closer in meaning) where he’ll be left until night. He must avoid reminding anyone of his presence.
All of these calculations, will they be crowned with success? Will he be pope? Will he walk his dog? One knows nothing yet; but it’s likely that at least he take his tea. For the rest, you are free to wait and see.....if you have the patience.
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City
La Comédie en peinture
, Tome Premier, Arthur Tooth and Sons, Paris, 1902, Illustrated page 254.