Sep 17, 2007

A Life Showing Peeking Through (Pentimento)

Noun 1. pentimento - the reappearance in a painting of an underlying image that had been painted over (usually when the later painting becomes transparent with age) [Italian, correction, pentimento, from pentire, to repent, from Latin paenitere.]

My first memory of the word “pentimento” was during the opening scenes of the 1977 movie “Julia,” starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. The film introduced this provocative word in the beginning and then used it to thread the storyline.

My first inclination is to think of peeling paint rather than buried images peeking through. I’ve seen what peeling paint exposes in a home with years of paint and wallpapering. Stories unfold.

What intrigues me is the word’s application to life. Uncovering a few layers of life is akin to spiritual exfoliation. However, pentimento deals more with something that was seemingly buried, only to press through the overlying pigments.

As defined, pentimento is connected with the transparency of age. When I was young, I recall eating across the table from my Great Great Aunt Mary. Her skin had become so thin and transparent that I would periodically gaze at her throat to see if I could watch her meal being swallowed. Although impossible, the transparency gave me greater awareness.

I believe God enjoys thinning the veneers in our lives. Perhaps we will revisit a thing that we missed the beauty of because we hastily painted over it. Maybe an issue that has been deliberately hidden is scheduled for some liberation. Or what if our next inspiration has been with us all along: we just need to see it.


  1. Great post! Love the application too, very thought provoking!

  2. These are some very nice thoughts on the concept of pentimento. I, too, was first introduced to the word from the movie. I must go back and watch that sometime.



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♫ Karen