The (emotional) biography of objects

escul16I’m trying to write something about this bust. She is Zenobia Camprubí, wife of the famous Spanish poet and Nobel Prize Juan Ramón Jiménez. And the artist, the author of the sculpture, was Margarita Gil Roësset. She sculpted the portrait in 1932, the same year she shouted herself in the head. The story of Gil Roësset is usually told as kind of annex to Juan Ramón’s story. The facts are well known, at least in Spain. Margarita, a young and promising artist, met Juan Ramón, the poet, and fall in love with him. Juan Ramón, married with Zenobia since 1916, did not return her love, but he encouraged Margarita’s feelings. Desperate, maybe for Juan Ramón attitude towards her; maybe because she felt her love was a betrayal towards her friend Zenobia; maybe because the forbidden love was a sin she could not bear, she killed herself the 28 of july of 1932.

My problem is that I admire Marga. Her work is amazing. Modern, expressive, astonishing, full of strength (see her “The wife of the hanged man” below). And she was 24 years old only! She deserves more that being a chapter in the story of Juan Ramón. She deserves her own story.

Sometimes historians should face these kind of complex situations. We need to choose a point of view. And the point of view we choose entails a moral, an ethical decision. It became part of our emotional attachement to our work, and part of our ethical position in the world.

I’m not sure how to solve this situation. The problem behind this object, the problem I’m trying to elucidate, is how and why we enclose some emotions into objects. How stuff plays its part in our emotional life. How they have an emotional biography. It is important for me. If a material history of the emotions is possible (as I think), that is, if we can learn about the emotions of our ancestors through the objects they owned, then objects are carriers of their emotions, emotions that they contributed to create. There should be a patina, something we can read and understand.

Maybe the only answer to my question is to choose a third point of view. Not Juan Ramón’s. Not Margarita’s. But the sculpture’s one. Let’s the object sings.


Pictures: Zenobia, Margarita Gil Roësset, 1932; The Wife of the Hung Man, Margarita Gil Roësset, 1932; Margarita Gil Roësset.


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