This fresco, which covers the eastern wall of the meeting hall of the Sokkarie Assembly, is the work of the artisan Muldio, who died in 2521. It represents the sacrifice of Duke Aarokyr during the exodus. It shows the Duke riding a domestic varynx, wearing the Sokkarian crown and holding his sword towards an opponent in the distance. Around him, a furious melee is bristling with pikes and swords
I was wandering around the palace, letting chance guide me, when I came upon this fresco. Intrigued, I went to the library hoping to find a review. My disappointment was great when, having finally found a text referring to it, I found only a simple "Duke Aarokyr facing his enemies". Considering this appalling lack of critical spirit, and having little to do, as my condition allows me little physical activity, I decided to tackle the task. So I settled down in the assembly hall for an afternoon. Here is the fruit of my reflections.
“A sacrifice in the name of hope” by Kladia is the subtitle of the work.
The fresco dimensions are 26.25 by 6.56 feet. It is in good condition, showing only two tiny shells on the lower right corner and a small chip on the frame, 2.37 feet from the right edge, on the lower edge.
The frame is 1.64 feet wide and made of mathae. Due to the missing chip, it is possible to see that the grain is extremely fine, which makes it possible to affirm that it was taken from the heart of one or more centenarian specimens. The hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that the mathae becomes harder and harder as it ages, as small blows to the chip leave no trace. At each corner a magdalena, a flower representing the Matis nobility, has been carved. The edges themselves take the form of countless intertwining stems until it is impossible to distinguish which stem stops where. The wood has been protected with the sap of bothonda (a tree found in the Zoraï lands, almost useless as a material, but whose sap, once dried, has the particularity of hardening without impregnating the material to which it is applied, which has the advantage of leaving its original colour to the surface on which it is applied). More than a simple decorative work, one can easily imagine the symbolism of the frame. The magdalenas represent nobility, and the stems may represent its disunion, the fact that they have become totally lost as the paths between them have become tortuous. Indeed, the Houses were, at the time, more concerned with establishing their power over each other than with confirming that of the Gardens themselves. Although very subtle, it could be seen as a reproach from the artist to the Houses of the time, which, because of their conflicts, were not able to listen to the warnings and unite against adversity.
The canvas itself is centred on the person of Duke Aarokyr. Riding a varynx, he stands on the body of an impressive kitin, which raises him above the melee. He is equipped with a splendid black armour without any decoration. His only ornament is his crown, which implies that it is the warrior rather than the powerful Duke that was intended to be represented. His face, diaphanous white, is impassive, only his black eyes seem to express a cold determination. He holds his sword out to the viewer, seeming to invite a new enemy into a struggle to death. It is noteworthy that although the battle depicted seems fierce, the Duke is free of any traces of sap, blows, or any of the outrages to which one is exposed in battle. This can be seen as an indication that the Matis nobility would not be touched by the insane fluids of the enemy, denying that they could be defeated.
The varynx is an imposing specimen of its breed. It is harnessed, and its posture seems to show it totally submissive to its rider. Its claws are dug into the corpse beneath it, and its mouth is dripping with sap. The combination of rider and mount suggests several things; the matis proving his superiority over an inferior creature, and the fact that, despite everything, a matis can be the most savage and terrible of opponents. The touch confirms a visual impression; the artist has managed to give relief to his work, by making the armour, for example, totally smooth to the touch, or by making it feel as if one is really caressing a varynx. The method used is totally unknown to me, I will have to do some research in the archives to try and find a trace of such a technique, which I have only seen used on this canvas.
The melee seems particularly bloody. There are many dead bodies, but closer inspection shows that there are more matis lying on the ground than kitins. The warriors themselves are always shown cornered, which leaves no doubt as to the direction the battle is taking. All of them turn their backs to a burning city, Sokkaria without a doubt. However, behind them stands the edge of the Majestic Gardens, which tells us that the battle that the homins are waging is in defence of the entire Matis homeland, not just the Duchy itself. The dominant colour among the matis is the white of mourning, meaning once again that none of them is thinking of a possible victory. The kitins, on the other hand, all represent imposing members of their species (only the strongest would be able to compete with a noble Matis warrior?). Their limbs are all deformed, without the slightest harmony, unlike the Matis warriors who, even in death, keep their perfect beauty.
The lighting is quite interesting. The whole fight scene is “dull”, as if a light veil had been cast over the day star. Only one area of the canvas is bathed in light. Silhouettes are depicted there, with their backs to the battle and seemingly heading towards the horizon. This is a strong symbol of the Exodus, proving that at the time of the events, hope did not lie in battle but in flight. We can therefore conclude that the characters highlighted on the canvas are not, in the end, the main element.
In conclusion, it can be said that this is not a tribute to the Duke's sacrifice, but rather an image that gives purpose to his death. He did not go to the battlefield for honour, nor for his house, but to allow his people, and his descendants, to survive the ordeal. The most important thing, therefore, would not be the sacrifice itself, but the reason for it. If after her death nothing had remained, she would have been useless and forgotten by all. Selfish actions are therefore unworthy of mention, while purely altruistic actions are worthy of praise. If the Duke is represented here in the first place, it is therefore more to thank him by remembering him than for any purpose of war glorification.
This fresco was made so that we do not forget that it was countless sacrifices that allowed the Matis people to survive this ordeal.
- saturday 9th of october, 2004.