What I wanted to say about Velázquez goes back to my last London visit and Christ Contemplated by the Christian Soul, an allegory with no allegorical layering. There’s no landscape, no sky. The child and angel and Christ all occupy the same level, in the same close and dark interior space. And in a frightening frame-breaking, the streaked line of sight indicates not the child’s gaze on Christ but Christ’s gaze back on the child, piercing the heart under his clasped hands.
A personification is meant to flesh out the abstraction, but I can’t follow the child anywhere other than back to itself. It’s too much a child. The situation is too near what I remember as the child’s experience of Christianity, that inescapable presence before the mind is able to reason anything away. The tortured man and the instruments of his torture are right there, as in a dream. You’d see them if you opened your closet at night. And what are those dark, heart-piercing eyes asking, except that you intervene?
You don’t intervene. The angel over your shoulder sees to that.