sabato, settembre 14, 2019

Pierre Duhem

Oggi è l'anniversario della morte di Pierre Duhem. Segue un estratto dalla sua biografia scritta da Stanley Jaki.


Obviously, Duhem did not long for a fashionable and easy Christian faith and life. His life had too many trials to let him entertain illusions, especially their spiritual kinds. At the center of his religious life stood the cross of Christ. A proof of this is his obvious identification with two crosses in the outskirts of Cabrespine, the subject of two exquisite drawings of his. Ultimately, they are the most genuine context for putting Duhem on the scene of his life and work.

One of the crosses, the Croix d'Estresse (the cross of distress), he drew on September 4, 1912. His drawing of it has its own value for students of the history of art, as the cross is a rare example of crosses with a Pietà carved on their reverse side. The cross, erected in 1632, has since attracted many pilgrims. They still keep going to the place where it stood until about six years ago when it mysteriously disappeared while a new road was constructed to the property acquired by some from abroad. (Perhaps through this reference the Department of Aude will take note and appropriate action). Let it be hoped that Duhem's drawing of that cross will not become its sole detailed evidence and a painful reminder of widespread illegal trafficking in art objects in the region. In any case, the drawing by Duhem remains a lasting evidence of his spontaneous recourse to the Virgin invoked as the mother of all afflicted. It should not be difficult to evoke Duhem's sentiments as he drew the figure which in a kneeling position under the Pietà raises his hands in supplicant prayer towards the One of whom it was never heard that anyone turning to Her would have had his prayers unanswered.

The other cross, erected in 1638, a plain one in the midst of the communal field, Duhem drew on August 21, 1916, less than a month before his death. He made that simple cross speak by emphasizing its size. He did so by letting it be seen from an angle whereby it appears equal in height to the mountain behind and thus dominates the field. A purely artistic technique, but hardly in the case of Duhem who never pretended to show what he was not convinced about. He let his whole life be dominated by the cross, the very act that alone makes a Christian for whom "every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is deposited in Christ" (Col.2:3). It was through identification with Christ that Duhem's vast knowledge of science, including its philosophical and historical dimensions, took on a prophetic character.

[S. L. Jaki, Scientist and Catholic: Pierre Duhem 109-10]

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