Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

January 6, 2022

Pentimento
by Debra H. Goldstein

The first time I came across the word pentimento was when I read Lillian Hellman’s book, Pentimento: A Book of Portraits, which were short autobiographical pieces. I thought the book was merely okay, but the word fascinated me. Pentimento, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the reappearance in a painting of an original drawn or painted element which was eventually painted over by the artist.” The word is Italian for repentance and comes from the verb pentirsi which means to repent. In a painting, the hidden part of the work can be images, forms, or strokes the artist decided to hide.

Although it is not exactly the same, nature has its own way of fulfilling the definition of pentimento. To me, each season is a changed painting where subliminal images are either hidden by full foliage, allowed to appear as the leaves change colors and fall, or are seen in all their stark nakedness. The best example of this that I can share with you is the view from my window that I’ve talked about before:

As you can see, the tree that I find comfort looking at is usually front and center, but what nature hides most of the year is an entire street of homes.

Writers also use a form of pentimento in their writing. What is in a first draft often is hidden or changed in revision because like the artist, the writer decides to cover up an original image or character. For a chance to win a print or e-book copy of Four Cuts Too Many (U.S. only), can you describe a pentimento situation in your life, whether caused by you or by nature?

psst! Our January contest is live and runs from Jan 1-18. Did you enter yet? Click HERE to enter to win a free book! (print books mailed to U.S. addresses)


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14 thoughts on “Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

  1. One pentimento I can think of is my makeup lol! And thanks for the new word, I love words and their origins!

  2. LOL, I must be a true hick because the only thing I think of when I see that word is olives (pentimento/pimento). Great blog post, but now I can’t get that old Dick Van Dyke episode out of my head — the one where he buys a clown painting by “Artanis”, sees an eye through the layer of paint, and is sure a masterpiece is hidden beneath. (Spoiler alert — Dick manages to remove most of the paint, only to learn he destroyed an original painting done by Frank Sinatra aka Artanis which was worth some $$$.)

  3. Truly a thought-provoking blog post, and the pictures from your window illustrate the concept perfectly. I’m now looking out my window with a new appreciation of how the pond beyond my trees is hidden and revealed as the seasons pass. I happy to say I already have Four Cuts Too Many in my TBR pile, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your post.

  4. One pentimento was the discovery of two hundred year old markings under paint when my sister was renovating a 1800 craftsman home in Atlanta. The markings were on the door frame leading into the parlor. Starting from the floor upward were several dashes with names next to them. I did that with my kids to mark their height each year. We found it interesting to see that they did this over two hundred years ago as well.

  5. I’m looking out my window this morning and seeing nothing but snow. Lots of snow falling at a steady pace. Wait! Didn’t I move to the Nashville area this summer? Why does the landscape look like a typical NJ winter snowstorm? I was told the area only occasionally gets a dusting. They lied! This morning’s forecast says to expect upwards of 7″. We gave our snow shovels to the people who bought our NJ house, and as we found out yesterday, you can’t buy a snow shovel in the greater Nashville area. No one carries them!

  6. Like the others, I had immediate pings with the pimento-iike sound of the word. My favorite store-bought pimento cheese is called Palmetto Cheese and its got a little kick to it. I could eat the whole container!. Olives (green, black, and red) are good any time of day, I am writing and editing at the same time. When that happens its usually on different books. Today however, it’s the same book. Some of my chapter details needed removing after I wrote the synopsis mid-stream. In this case they aren’t hidden. They are gone like a skin blemish! Lucky for me, most of the synopsis fit with what I wrote in the first draft in p[rogress.

  7. I can relate when I look into my backyard since the seasons cause the view to change with the change in foliage during the seasons.

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