pinxit

You may have seen this word somewhere. Perhaps in a corner of some depiction pinned on Pinterest? Can you multiply a pin by it (pin x it)? Or is it a mix between a pixie and a minx, perhaps making its grand exit, observable only when you’re in the middle of pint number eleven? It sounds like some shear cut in the fabric, leaving a sawtooth edge: “she pinks it.”

This is seen in conjunction with a craft, to be sure, but not one of the cloth, unless that cloth be stretched canvas. Or we could think of the fabric of reality, lying smooth in most places but, like the fabric of space-time in the presence of massive gravity, bulging here and there under the influence of some sheer genius or more workmanlike efforts. Art erupts, you know; it is not created so much as heaved up from the frost that underlies our lives. A little bit of melting or overexpansion and then pingo: a bump, a high point, a disruption. But pingo is not just a mound swelling up from the permafrost. It is also Latin for ‘I paint’.

I paint, yes… I paint the head of a pin, or a canvas, or a plate; I depict a pixie, or a naiad, or some other thing more or less expected. And then, having limned it, I wish to to claim the art, to let it be known who did it. I could simply leave my name, sign it somewhere and let it be understood that I am the artist. But I could also be classic and classical and self-declare in Latin. I paint, I painted? Pingo, pinxit. On a painting I have done, I could put “James Harbeck pinxit.” And – pace thorn, the letter that looks like b plus p but sounds like “th” – I wouldn’t mean “James Harbeck þinxit is very good.” No, just “James Harbeck painted.” Should it be “painted it”? No one does that: pinxit it, no; the “it” is implied. The same goes with scripsit (“wrote it”), dixit (“said it”), and fecit (“made it”). Most painters don’t use pinxit, but some did, especially during the Italian Middle Ages, when signing one’s work was a newer thing to do.

So. The painter paints, pingo, and, having painted, pinxit, signs, and then leaves: exit. But the picture (from pictus, ‘painted’) still exists.

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