A mechanism for camouflage, control, play,  sanctuary, sanctification, separation,  invitation, suggestion, seduction, obfuscation, warning, repulsion.  And perhaps more.

How would one even begin to explain to our very near primate kin, the Great Apes, what a veil is about?



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Marble Head of a Veiled Woman, late 4th century BC, Greek, marble.  Loaned by a private collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. 

The museum notes that these heads were part of three-quarter length figures and served as funerary markers.  They may represent a divinity or a woman in mourning.



Corcoran - The Veiled Nun - Guiseppe Croff - 1860-1DSC00058-1

The Veiled Nun, c. 1863, marble.  Giuseppe Croff, 1810-1869, Italian.  Corcoran Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC





The Lovers and detail, 1928, oil on canvas.  Rene Magritte, 1896-1967, Belgian.  MOMA, New York.

The museum notes that this painting follows Surrealist themes both of things hidden, masked, veiled and also of the pleasure of subversion of an act very familiar to us. 






Rei Kawakubo designs exhibited in the only retrospective afforded a living designer at the Metropolitan Museum, NY. 

Rei Kawakubo, born 1942, Japanese, founder in 1969 of Comme des Garcons




Woman with a Veil, 1927, oil on canvas.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French. MOMA, New York


A hat designed by Philip Treacy, milliner, Irish, born 1967.  Unknown date.  Image from the web.


1999 ‘Horn’ hat designed by Philip Treacy, milliner, Irish, born 1967.  Image from the web.


Isabella Blow, 1958-2007, British, fashion impresario, ‘discoverer’, muse and friend of Philip Treacy wearing a veil hat.  Unknown date. Image from the web.


An entrant in the 2017 moustache competition.  A form of veiling.


An entrant in the 2017 Moustache competition. A form of veiling.




An Afghani burqa: perhaps, with its relatives, the symbol  par excellence of the oppression and life-long imprisonment of women, the control of their bodies.


Has to be said, however, that many women who habitually use the veil do not share this view. I have heard the veil used in Moslem prayer described as a crown, a ladder into the heavens, a sacrosanct place.





Srinagar, Kashmir, 1946, gelatin silver print.  Henri Cartier-Bresson, French, 1908-2004. 

On display at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia in the autumn of 2016




Two Heads, Back and Front, 1968, pen and ink on paper.  Nancy Grossman, American, born 1940.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

  The artist describes this as a veiling to denote a balance between herself and the world.




Hat, c. 1955, stiffened synthetic net and tulle, egret feathers, rayon/silk grosgrain feathers.  Designed by Lily Dache, 1907-1990, American born France.  Philadelphia Art Museum





The Veil, 1916, charcoal on paper. Lilian Westcott Hale, 1880-1963.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia




Quappi (the artist’s wife) with White Fur, 1937, oil on canvas.  Max Beckman,  1884-1950, German.   

   Private collection, NY on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2016. 

The couple were in Amsterdam and embarked on an exile which was to last the rest of their lives.





Light Source Direction, 1997, oil and acrylic resin on canvas.  Terry Winters, American born 1949.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

The museum notes that the artist sees painting “as a means to view places otherwise unseen.”  This is a one of a series called Computation of Chains in which gridlike structures seem to advance outwards from vortices of light and energy.







Cold Mountain 5 (open), and detail, oil on linen, 1985-1991.  Brice Marden, born 1938, American.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC




The Substance of Natural Things is One, oil on wood, 1990. Thomas Chimes, 1921-2009, American.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.

One of several mysterious paintings based on a photograph of Alfred Jarry, 1873-1907, French iconoclastic playwright and novelist who was this artist’s hero. 




The Duo, 1914-15, oil on canvas.  Giorgio de Chirico, 1888-1978, Italian.  MOMA, New York




Limb, 1981, oil on canvas.  Louisa Chase, 1951-2016, American.  Whitney Museum of North American Art, NY. 





Alchemy, 1947, oil, aluminum, alkyd enamel paint, with sand, pebbles, fibers and wood on commercially printed fabric.  Jackson Pollock, 1912-1956, American.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY in 2016



C’est Moi, 1964, transfer, paint and eyeglasses on canvas.  Collection of Virginia Dwan on loan to the National Gallery of Art in 2016.  Martial Raysse, French born 1936.

The artist presents himself as fading, hidden and basically unknowable.






Barracoon, 1976, tempera on hardboard panel.  Andrew Wyeth,   1917-2009, American.  Collection of the artist and his wife and exhibited at the Brandywine River Museum in 2017.

The model, Helga Testorf, was white. The artist presented this painting to his wife when he finished it.

The colour of her skin was a deception by the artist of his wife and everyone else.  The artist produced more than 200 paintings and drawings of this model.  He revealed them only ten years after this gift to his wife.




 Passe Blanc; 2002; screenprint on Asian paper cast with fabricated leaves and printed element.  Bettye Saar, born 1926; American.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

‘Passe Blanc’ is  a term used in the state of Louisiana in the southern United States for the life decision by those people who are Afro-Americans (French Creoles) to present themselves (pass for) white Americans so indistinguishable are they from white Americans.




Fratellini clown 1937-38, oil on canvas.  Francis Picabia, 1979-1953, Italian.  On loan from a private collection to MOMA in 2016.

  Clowns are always veiled.


 El Anatsui Between Heaven and Earth 2006 Metropolitan NY-2El Anatsui Between Heaven and Earth 2006 Metropolitan NY-4El Anatsui Between Heaven and Earth 2006 Metropolitan NY-5El Anatsui Between Heaven and Earth 2006 Metropolitan NY-7

Between Heaven and Earth, 2006, alumininium, copper, wire.  El Anatsui, Ghanaian, born 1944.        Metropolitan Museum, NY.

A type of iconostasis which is itself a veil made of religious icons separating secular from sacred space. 

In this case the iconography relates to the celebrated Akan and Ewe kente cloth, stripwoven textiles, translated into metal.   




Architectural stained glass most often separates sacred from non-sacred spaces and acts as a kind of veil.

This dome created by Alfred Godwin, 1850-1934, American born British, for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Harrisburg (c. 1915), is in a secular space but nevertheless sets the space apart as a place in which justice is being administered.








Memento #5, 2003, acrylic, collage, silkscreen and glitter on canvas. Kerry James Marshall, American born 1955. 

On display at the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2016 on loan from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

  The curtain is to denote a separation between us now and a time of great achievement for the Afro-American community.




Archbishop Filippo Archinto, c. 1558, oil on canvas.  Titian, first documented 1508, died 1576, Italian, active Venice.  Philadelphia Art Museum. 

The veil denotes that the sitter has died but that the effects of his actions continue.





Metro I, 1963 (Paris), oil on canvas.  Elizabeth Osborne, American born 1936.  Collection of the artist on display at the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington in 2016



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Veil, terracotta, ropes, hair, 1975.  Marisol, 1930-2016, American born France.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY




Dark Flag, 1967-76, acrylic on canvas, from the series ‘Big Daddy’ paintings.  Mary Stevens, American born 1924.  Whitney Museum of (North) American Art



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NY March 30 2018 184

Actors, 2013, mannequin, clothes, shoes, fabric and paper.  Loaned by the SYZ Collection, Switzerland to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018




Yashmak, aluminium, Swarovski crystal, 2017 edition, originally designed for Alexander McQueen (British, founded 1992) by Shaun Leane, British born 1969.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY





Language, of course, has been completely adapted by Sapiens for the purpose of veiling a reality.

Veiling mechanisms in Amharic, the language of the Ethiopian highlands and the lingua franca of the country since the territorial consolidations of the emperor Menelik II, are so extensive that there is a form of poetry (qine) described as in the wax-and-gold tradition.

In this method of transforming metal,  precious and semi-precious metal, in liquid form is poured into fashioned wax molds and the finished object is hidden until the metal is set and the wax is removed.  The poetry has two distinct meanings, one of which is veiled.


Veiling in British English is also extensive.

A courtesy or a cruelty depending on context, and often a re-enforcement of class.

Also an essential component of the ambiguity and indirection of English public and private discourse  which has, of course, allowed a huge number of Sapiens to co-exist on a small island without actually killing each other in large numbers.


This has been circulating for some years on the web.  I don’t know who originated it. 


 Veil from Eos, 2013, ink, pigment and gesso on paper. Sam Messenger, British, born 1980.  Image from the web.




Gabriel Dawe, Renwick, DC 2015-01


Gabriel Dawe, Renwick, DC 2015-03

Gabriel Dawe, Renwick, DC 2015-06

Gabriel Dawe, Renwick, DC 2015-10

A1 Plexus; thread, wood, hooks and steel; 2015. Gabriel Dawe, born Mexico City, 1973, lives in the United States.

Installed at the Renwick Museum, the craft musuem of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art,  in 2015 to celebrate its renovation in 2015. The theme was ‘wonder’.

Colored threads were hung floor to ceiling in a helix-like formation, arched in the middle so that you could walk through, look up, look out to the light streaming through an open door and through windows.



The Seattle Public Library designed by Rem Koolhass and Joshua Prince-Ramus was opened in May 2004.

It is eleven stories in which extensive veiling is used to separate the spaces.

These are of different colours, materials, patterns and heights.  They function to inform and invite you in.  


Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library July 09 13






Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library July 09 58



Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library July 09 67DSC09649






Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library July 09 35



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