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"The Martyrdom of St. Pantalon," Venice.

"Nature abhors a vaccum."

— attr. to Aristotle

I got to wondering the other day about large paintings, that is canvases.
About which painting is the largest in the world. At the same time my new
primary care doctor, Dr. Lowe, happened to mention on Wednesday the famous
philosophical concept "nature abhors a vacuum." Here, the two come together.

As far as I can determine the largest traditional oil on canvas painting
is "The Martyrdom and Apotheosis of St. Pantalon" by Gian Antonio Fumiani.
The work is hung on the ceiling of the Church of Saint Pantaleon in Venice.
It took 24 years to complete, and evidently Fumiani fell to his death from
a scaffold in 1704 while painting it. I imagine that pretty much brought a
completion to the work — though his apprentices may well have put on some
finishing touches (just guessing).

But there also is one painting on canvas in Australia that might give Fumiani's
work some competition — "The Big Picture" by Ando. This is claimed to be the
largest acrylic painting on canvas.

And there are a few others. In terms of non-canvas works, "Mother Earth," by
Swedish artist David Aberg, is currently the Guinness Book record holder for
largest painting. It was painted on the roof of an aircraft hanger. And for
a while there was "Hero" by Canadian artist Eric Waugh, which was a work done
for charity and which was eventually auctioned off section by section. Then
there was "The Wave," another charity project by Croatian artist Djuro Siroglavic,
which was also pieced off. Finally, there was a very large work by Pakistani
painter Sadequain which, strangely, seems to have disappeared entirely.

We humans certainly do have a strong desire to fill up empty places and spaces.
Or at least that is true in most cultures. In Japan, there seems to be more of an
acceptance of the vacuum, of the void, of emptiness — I think it's a Zen influence.


Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto.

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