This painting, titled ‘Father and Son’, was made in the same period as ‘Deluge’. Triggered by the wars in the Balkans I wondered how it would be to carry a child, fleeing one’s home, how long would I last? And apart from the child what would I be able to carry? And how about having two children?
In Nineteenth Century Art, a Critical History by Stephen F. Eisenman I found the image I was unconsciously looking for. The picture on page 34 shows an elderly bearded man descending a mountain path in the evening dusk. He carries a boy of approximately six years (the age of my eldest son at the time). The caption reads ‘after François Gérard’ and the title ‘Belisarius’. I must have read then that this ‘Belisarius’ ‘harked back to the pathetic qualities of David’s own version of 1781, but exaggerated that pathos by imagining that the blind outcast’s young guide had been killed by a snake; Belisarius is left without aid, carrying the boy’s corpse through a deserted wilderness’.
But text didn’t work for me then as reading in depth does now, I simply reacted on the image. The little black and white image was my source and only now while looking at images of the picture on the internet do I see the snake coiled around the boys ankles ! And the colouring also surprises me, I turned the reddening evening or morning sky into a dark nightscape with fires burning and gasses exploding .

This painting was shown in 2000, at the KunstRai art fair by Willy Schoots Gallery. Helga Hofman, also present at the fair with her own gallery, bought my ‘Father and Son’. In a theatrical way she exclaimed; ‘I will never part from it, he is my guardian angel!’
Schoots’ Roland Janssen used to tell all the time how important cooperation between galleries was , to be able to build an artist’s career together and to have more possibilities like making catalogues together and share the tasks. And so it came to be that in 2002 I had a show at Helga Hofman’s gallery in Alphen aan den Rijn. I had had some doubts about her policy and way of presenting herself, but Roland said: “she is a terrific salesperson, she is able to sell all of Armando’s pieces, and more, when he shows them at her place.” So I pragmatically thought; “let’s give it a try.’ The gallery was established in the central space of a huge conglomeration of businesses, and the difficulty of installing a large amount of works in corridors and the central space had taken up a lot of time. On the day the exhibition opened I was approached by a couple who gave notice that they had bought one of my large works. They told me they were very happy with it, that Helga had spoken so full of enthusiasm about the work that they felt they absolutely needed to own it. Actually , them being in a difficult period they needed the support of their ‘guardian angel’.
It may well be that there were some small sales then, but this is how I remember it. She added her painting to the exhibition to sell it on. ( Naturally it was an exclusive transaction between gallery owner and customer, leaving me out of it, even so I had to be civilized and enthusiastic talking to the painting’s new owners. )That was the first time I encountered the aspect of trade in a hard way. The painting is out of my sight now, I would like to have a look at it again.

I stumbled upon Gérard’s painting again in Thomas Crow’s Emulation, making artists for revolutionary France which I bought last year. The cover shows a drawing by Ingres of the two heads, and the text under it reads; ‘Belisarius/ after Francois Gérard, presented to Mr. Leon Bonnat, January 30th, 1887’.
In his introduction Thomas Crow writes; ‘What follows is a history of missing fathers, of sons left fatherless, and of the substitutes they sought. The sons in question were painters, and together they made a great project in art, one in which a passionate imagination of antiquity brought them, over and over again, to the troubled territory of filiation and inheritance. Their intimate dramas of emotion and intellect were in turn inseparable from vastly larger ones, the crisis and overturning of a whole social order, in which a king who embodied all patriarchal was put to death and a republic of equal male brotherhood proclaimed.’
It is a wonderful book, of imagined and real orphans receiving support and education of substitute ‘fathers’, and of their own circle of young ambitious students. A metaphoric universe of strong patriarchs and adored adolescent males striving for ‘grandeur’ together. And the studio as a home for a new family.
It is also a story of emulation, the recycling and evolution of strong images, of succession and developing storylines. Starting with the ‘Belisarius, begging alms‘ by David from 1781, followed by Gérard’s version from 1795, simply called ‘Belisarius’ , Guerin’s ‘The return of Marcus Sextus’ from 1799, Girodet’s ‘scene from a deluge’ from 1806 on to the old man holding his dead son on Géricault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ from 1819
It is more than twenty years ago I read the book by Eisenman and painted my picture. Nineteenth Century Art, a Critical History was pubished in 1994, its first chapter ‘Patriotism and Virtue: David to the Young Ingres’ is written by contributing author Thomas Crow, whose ‘Emulations’ I read last year. This book was published in 1996 ! Two and twenty years, what is the difference anyway? Now I was eager to study and learn, then a small image was sufficient.