What does ‘pentimento’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: pentimento….

Like many people, I’ve become obsessed with the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings and the riveting testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. I quit work early last Friday so I could spend several hours watching video, reading websites and catching up on the day’s events. (To me, this was preferable to taking the morning off to watch the hearing live, which was what I wanted to do.)

The saga continued over the weekend, of course, and it’s not over yet. I remain glued to my phone, compulsively reading everything that comes across the New York Times. I particularly enjoyed Maureen Dowd’s Sept. 28/18 column running under the headline  “Capitol Hill Ralph Club.” The story, which was clever and ascerbic, also gave me my word of the week, pentimento. Here is how Dowd used it:

The pentimento of the teenage Blasey made her seem achingly vulnerable. Like [Anita] Hill, she had a purity to her manner and story that was luminous, an impressive contrast to all the dark obfuscations, self-serving political maneuvering and petty deceptions around her.  

pentimento is an alteration in a painting, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind during the process of painting. The picture at the top of this post, the painting “The Cardsharps” by Caravaggio, has a number of pentimenti (altering the position of the figure on the right), that have been revealed by infra-red reflectograms.

The etymology of the word is Italian, from the verb  penti(re), meaning  “to repent.”

It will be interesting to see if Brett Kavanaugh is given the opportunity to repent for his apparent teenage behaviour.