Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Haystacks, Twilight 1899

This is one of a large number of Levitan twilight paintings: haystacks in a field at dusk. The sky is described as mauve-blue. There is an evening mist. It makes for a painting with a very deep mood or atmosphere: Shhh, stop, admire, consider. 

Levitan painted this scene the year before his death. Perhaps it reflects his awareness that we're here only a short time. Notice the descending sun has cast a kind of spotlight in the middle of the painting. Twilight is said to be a magic hour: the coming and going of the two lights - sun and moon.

Mother Placid was a French nun who I knew for some years. She was born in a tiny village on the Atlantic coast in Basque country. She told me that when she was a young girl at around this twilight time of day, a man with a long pole would walk through the streets lighting the gas lamps. And as he moved carefully from street light to street light, he'd sing a hymn-like song thanking God for the blessings of the day and inviting a restful peace upon each home. When he died, no one took his place. 

Twilight is full of spiritual invitation. Lasting only a few minutes each day, we're impoverished if we miss it.


  1. At first, this painting didn't elicit a strong emotional response like many of the others. Then I read your line at the end and it all came rushing in, flooding my mind with a dawning light of recognition.

  2. Whatever, your day has been. These most beautiful twilights bring an awareness of the presence of God and His assurance that He will always be with us, even till the end of time. It is such an awe inspiring moment. Only God could create such beauty. Levitan's paintings are always hope giving for me.

    1. Down in Florida some years ago to Baptize a baby, I had dinner with the family at a beach-y restaurant the evening before my return north. As the sun started to go down, people gathered along the edge of the deck to watch. When the last tiny bit of sun disappeared at the horizon they all applauded. I wanted to go over ask, "What are you clapping for?" to see if they had any inner thoughts or were just "in their cups" and feeling romantic.

  3. I might see birds sitting atop the haystacks admiring the beautiful sunset. Even the creatures of nature know to take notice.

  4. I think you're right! Scroll back in the archive here to March 18, 2015 "Della Francesca's Magpie". You'll appreciate the sense of wonder you detect here.