Favourite books series: The Master & Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a richly multilayered novel that includes elements of fantasy, historical fiction and social satire in one gorgeously wrought whole. A favorite of mine since early adolescence, it is a book I keep re-reading every few years in its original Russian, and recommend and often gift to all new friends who haven’t yet read it.

The Devil, with a retinue of imps and demons, visits 1930’s Moscow. He leaves mayhem, bureaucratic confusion, terror and comedy in his wake. He takes over a centrally located apartment by variously dispersing with its occupants via internment in a mental institution, instantaneous transport to a seaside resort, or death. He holds a magic show in a prestigious concert hall from which the distinguished audience members emerge shaken, ridiculed and mostly undressed. He is cruelly honest with the hypocrites, serious with the philosophers, he is playful, powerful, profound and complex, and so is the novel as a whole.

In parallel with the Devil’s story, runs the plotline of the Master – a talented and tormented writer working on a historical novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ. He meets and falls in love with Margarita, a beautiful and deeply unhappy wife of a wealthy official, and their affair enriches them both with happiness in the midst of a gray and dismal Soviet existence until the day the Master despairs, burns his manuscript and disappears from Margarita’s life.

For the sake of finding him again, and restoring his masterpiece from the ashes, Margarita accepts the Devil’s invitation to act the Queen at his side during the annual Satan’s gala ball of murderers, ghosts, witches, and all manner of tormented evil souls.

Margarita’s flight to this gathering is one of the most vivid scenes in the book. Alone in her large Moscow apartment, she is melancholy, apprehensive, and worn down by life when she begins to apply the ointment given to her by the Devil. As its magic infuses her skin, the worries of the everyday world start to fade away and a lightness and a feeling of freedom take over. Rejuvenated, awakened, nude, giddy and reckless, she flies on a floor brush out of the window of her building and into the warm spring night.

Mosaic in blue, black and gold of a nude witch's back flying up towards the moon on a broom.

That scene is the inspiration for this mosaic, Flight.

I wanted to express Margarita’s soaring journey in the sensuous swirl rising towards the moon, and the golden glow of magic around her body, and her wondrous alive feeling in the wildness of her dark hair merging with the black of the night sky.

The mosaic is composed of stained glass, black and mirrored smalti and gold-grained vitreous tiles with navy blue and warm brown grout.

Close-up of the top half of the mosaic showing the varied texture of the stained glass, tiles and smalti.

Mosaic close-up showing different textures of the stained glass, tiles and smalti

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Comments

Favourite books series: The Master & Margarita — 3 Comments

  1. I enjoyed your post last week where you described chiseling out some tess. that didn’t work beside Margarita’s hair and I wrote a long reply–which became lost in my day. So you can imagine my pleasure in seeing the finished flying beauty posted today! I was wondering what colour you would grout it–and in the end, this terra cotta is absolutely perfect. Nice warm tone and contrasts nicely with both the light and the dark glass. It is a challenge not to lose some important patterns in a work with similar toned background colours (ie: her hair). I have a little mantra to remind myself to prevent important elements disappearing: “contrast-contrast-contrast.” I tend to use charcoal grout a lot, but on the one I’m doing now –the eye and eye-patch of the grizzly portrait is mostly black and chocolate brown– it might have to be grouted in tan. I spent awhile studying pics of others’ mosaic grout colours to see what might be best. In the end, (at least for me, and I suspect for you, too) I usually to follow my “gut.” BTW, I had to chuckle when you said you chipped off the glass after you saw your husband’s initial reaction: it was the second time in one day, I read that someone chiseled off some tess. (the other was Terry Nicholls!). Keep up the great work; you are doing awesome, especially considering the short time you’ve been at this business! You have excellent, innate artistic ability.

  2. Bloody hell that is wonderful! And I envy you the ability to enjoy Bulgakov in Russian! You have wrought a lovely, lovely Margarita!