I have never been to the Sistine Chapel, so have never seen The Creation of Adam in real life:
I know that posters are printed of the hands of God and Adam with their fingers almost touching. I know this because someone once bought us one – and we framed it. Rather fittingly – or with a huge amount of bad taste, depending on how you view the hanging of images received from other people – it hangs near a pewter pressing of the image of The Last Supper.
I mention these details because it is obvious that we shall never own the originals of these works, and probably do not want to. We are content to have mediocre reproductions in our everyday lives as a reminder that great art does exist and has an inspirational function.
Is this bad taste? Purists would probably say it is, but I would argue that I have never read any great literary work from its original manuscript, and neither I nor anyone else is ever criticised for not having done so. Second-hand reproductions are as good as it gets for most of us – and the original art we do chance to see is infrequently of the stature of that produced by Michelangelo.
This brings me to one of my favourite activities: drinking coffee.
Well over six weeks ago, I had to travel to the next town so that a friend could see the doctor. While I waited, I chose to have a coffee in the hospital’s courtyard where a kiosk served a brand of coffee with which I was not familiar. Besides, I had a few notes to write, and needed a table and chair. I felt fine until I noticed the design on my cup. This state of equilibrium quickly changed to rising nausea:
While I happily concede to the omnipresence of God, does He really have to be emblazoned on my espresso? As to Adam on a saucer, is it really necessary for me to see an inadequate depiction of a penis while I am consuming my preferred beverage?
I let it pass, until I reached for a paper serviette. That was when, instead of cleaning my fingers, I instinctively covered my mouth in reaction to this vision:
Then, I took out my camera. I had to document my recent experience of great art.
As I placed the two serviette holders on the same vacant table, with that puny plant in the background posing symbolically as the Tree of Life, I got a strange look from the man and the boy at the next table as I took two photos of the same scene. The strange look may have been because I tripped over a plastic chair in an effort to get the perfect angle, but I doubt it. I assume that it was because none of this matters, does it?