DrunkenSilenus

Morgan Meis goes after the painter Rubens, on why everyone in Antwerp hates him, and why he's actually worthwhile:

Knees are difficult to understand and almost impossible to love. Rubens pays a lot of attention to the knees of [the Greek mythological tutor] Silenus. He wants to show us all of the parts of the knee, all the sinewy chaos that must be going on underneath the skin during this drunken forward lurching.

Every time I get angry at Rubens, every time I get resentful at his little smile in that self-portrait, his coyness, his pompous and boring statue in the middle of the Groenplaats, I think about those knees. The knobby knees of Silenus as Rubens paints them make Silenus all the more tragic as a character. You can see the actual weight of the knowledge that Silenus carries in those knees. Silenus stumbles forward with the knowledge that life has no meaning, nothing it points to beyond its bare existence. It's all there in the knees.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.