Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Orpheus Loses Eurydice Twice

Nicolas Poussin
Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice
1648
oil on canvas
Louvre, Paris

Octave Lacour after George Frederick Watts
Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1886-91
wood-engraving
British Museum

Sebald Beham
Orpheus
ca. 1520-25
woodcut
British Museum

Agostino Veneziano
Orpheus with Cerberus
1528
engraving
British Museum

ORPHEUS' PLEA TO THE GODS OF THE UNDERWORLD

    Ye powers, who under earth your realms extend,
To whom all mortals must one day descend;
If here 'tis granted sacred truth to tell;
I come not, curious, to explore your hell;
Nor come to boast (by vain ambition fir'd)
How Cerberus at my approach retir'd.
My wife alone I seek; for her lov'd sake
These terrors I support, this journey take,
She luckless wandering, or by fate misled,
Chanc'd on a lurking viper's crest to tread;
The vengeful beast inflam'd with fury starts,
And through her heel his deathful venom darts.
Thus was she snatch'd untimely to her tomb;
Her growing years cut short, and springing bloom.
Long I my loss endeavour'd to sustain,
And strongly strove, but strove, alas! in vain:
At length I yielded, won by mighty love:
Well known is that omnipotence above!
But here, I doubt, his unfelt influence fails;
And yet a hope within my heart prevails,
That here, e'en here, he has been known of old;
At least if truth be by tradition told;
If fame of former rapes belief may find,
You both by love, and love alone, were join'd.
Now by the horrors which these realms surround;
By the vast chaos of these depths profound;
By the sad silence which eternal reigns
O'er all the waste of these wide-stretching plains;
Let me again Eurydice receive,
Let fate her quickspun thread of life re-weave.

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by William Congreve (1717)

Anonymous Swiss Goldsmith
Snuffbox with Orpheus, Eurydice, Persephone, Pluto, Cerberus
1790s
gold, enamel
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop
Orpheus and Eurydice leaving the Underworld
1636-37
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Orpheus leading Eurydice from the Underworld
1861
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Marcantonio
Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1510-27
engraving
British Museum

They called forth Eurydice who was as yit among
The newcome Ghosts, and limped of her wound. Her husband tooke
Her with condicion that he should not backe uppon her looke,
Untill the tyme that hee were past the bounds of Limbo quyght:
Or else to lose his gyft. They tooke a path that steepe upryght
Rose darke and full of foggye mist. And now they were within
A kenning of the upper earth, when Orphye did begin
To dowt him lest shee followed not, and through an eager love
Desyrous for to see her, he his eyes did backward move.
Immediately shee slipped backe. He retching out his hands,
Desyrous to bee caught and for to ketch her grasping stands.
But nothing save the slippry aire (unhappy man) he caught.
Shee dying now the second tyme complaynd of Orphye naught.
For why what had shee to complayne, onlesse it were of love?
Which made her husband backe agen his eyes uppon her move?
Her last farewell shee spake so soft, that scarce he heard the sound,
And then revolted to the place in which he had her found . . .

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding (1567)

Ubaldo Gandolfi
Orpheus looking back at Eurydice
before 1781
drawing
Morgan Library, New York

Antonio Canova
Orpheus
1776
marble
Museo Correr, Venice

Timoteo Viti
Orpheus
before 1523
drawing
British Museum

Alessandro Padovanino
Orpheus enchanting the Animals
 before 1649
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jacob Hoefnagel
Orpheus charming the Animals
1613
watercolor and gouache on vellum
Morgan Library, New York

Nicolas de Bruyn
Orpheus and  the Animals
1594
engraving
British Museum

Palace Interiors at Fontainebleau

Frederick Marschall
Tapestry Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Tapestry Room - wall detail with Flemish tapestry
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Music Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

"If the Romans (someone will say) did not devote themselves to this labor of translation, then by what means were they able so to enrich their language, indeed to make it almost the equal of Greek?  By imitating the best Greek authors, transforming themselves into them, devouring them, and, after having thoroughly digested them, converting them into blood, and nourishment, selecting, each according to his own nature and the topic he wished to choose, the best author, all of whose rarest and most exquisite strengths they diligently observed and, like shoots, grafted them, as I said earlier, and adapted them to their own language.  In doing this (I say) the Romans constructed all those fine writings we so ardently praise and admire, judging some to be the equal of the Greeks, preferring some as superior to them."

.   .   .

"Thus let him who would enrich his language devote himself to the imitation of the best Greek and Latin authors and aim, as at a sure target, the point of his stylus at all their greatest strengths.  For there is no doubt that the largest part of artfulness is encompassed in imitation, and just as it was most praiseworthy in the ancients to invent well, so is it most useful to imitate well, especially for those whose language is not yet very copious and rich.  But let him who would imitate understand that it is not an easy thing faithfully to follow the strengths of a good author and, as it were, transform oneself into him, seeing that Nature herself, even with things that appear most similar, has not managed to prevent their being distinguished by some mark and difference.  I say this because there are many in all languages who, without delving into the most hidden and inward parts of the author they have chose, adapt themselves only to what they see at first and, diverting themselves with the beauty of words, miss the force of things."

"And certainly, since it is no vice, but greatly praiseworthy, to borrow from a foreign language ideas and words and to claim them as one's own, so is it greatly to be blamed and is indeed odious to any reader of liberal character to see such imitation within the same language, like that of even some learned men who judge themselves to be among the best when they most resemble a Héroët or a Marot.  I thus admonish you (O you who desire the growth of your language and wish to excel in it) not to imitate lightly, as someone recently said, its most famous authors, as the greater number of our French poets commonly do, a thing surely as reprehensible as it is worthless to our vulgar tongue, since it amounts to no more (O great generosity!) than to give it what it already has.  I wish our language were so rich in homegrown models that we had no need to have recourse to foreign ones.  But if Virgil and Cicero had been content to imitate those of their own language, what would the Latins have beyond Ennius or Lucretius, beyond Crassus or Anthony?"

 Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560), from The Defense and Enrichment of the French Language (1549), translated by Richard Helgerson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)

Frederick Marschall
Gallery of François I - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIII - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

 Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIII - panel detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIV - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Guard Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Escalier de la Cour - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Council Chamber of Louis XV - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Painted Panel - Escutcheon surrounded by Cherubs
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Two Painted-Panels 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Series of Painted Panels 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bed Alcove - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Queen's Bedroom - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Small Antechamber - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bedroom of Marie Antoinette - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bedroom of Marie Antoinette - painted door panel 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Chinese Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

17th-century Dutch Stupendousness at the Rijksmuseum

Johannes van Wijckersloot
Allegory on the French Invasion of 1672
1672
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"In 1672 the Netherlands was invaded by the French.  That disaster is allegorically rendered in the drawing at which the seated man looks; the Dutch lion is defeated, its weapons in pieces, the gate to its enclosure broken; above the French rooster crows triumphantly.  Symbolizing the other side is the standing man with an orange feather in his cap; he is a supporter of William III or Orange, who would avert the French threat."  Provenance: The painting was in held in a private French collection until 1985, then passed through the hands of several European dealers and auction houses until purchased by the museum in 1995.  Considering its apparent quality and significance, and compared to other art sales, the price of roughly $150,000 seems surprisingly low.

Abraham van Westerveld
Portrait of Lieutenant Admiral Cornelis Tromp in Roman Costume
ca. 1666
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Adriaen van de Venne
Fishing for Souls
1614
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"At the left are the Protestant north Netherlanders, and at the right the Catholic southerners.  Both parties fish for souls in the wide river dividing them.  The Protestants' catch is greater than that of the Catholics.  Moreover, at the left the sun is shining and the trees are in leaf.  This is a reference to the Psalm: 'the righteous will flourish like a tree bearing fruit, whose leaves never wither'."  

Jan Both
Street Scene placed among Roman Ruins
ca. 1640-52
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Govert Flinck
Portrait of Officers and Civic Guardsmen of the XVIIIth district of Amsterdam
serving under Captain Albert Bas and Lieutenant Lucas Conijn

1645
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jan Tengnagel
Portrait of Officers and Civic Guardsmen of the XIth district of Amsterdam
1613
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Adam Pijnacker
Boatmen moored on the shore of an Italian Lake
perhaps intended to represent The Flight into Egypt
ca. 1650-70
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Pijnacker assembled an ingenious composition.  Dark tree trunks in the foreground frame the vignette of the boats.  Everything is bathed in the gold glow of the warm Italian light.  Sunlight falls on the white birch bark and mossy tree trunks, creating sharp accents."

Adriaen van de Velde
The Hut
1671
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"The Rijksmuseum bought Adriaen van de Velde's painting in 1822 for the – at the time – staggering amount of 8290 guilders.  Its small format notwithstanding, throughout the 19th century the painting was considered an absolute masterpiece of Dutch Golden Age art.  This celebrity status faded in the 20th century.  Even so, it remains one of the most beautiful pictures from the last year of the artist's life."

Frans Francken II
Allegory on the Abdication of Emperor Charles V in Brussels
ca. 1630-40
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Charles V is enthroned at centre.  Battle weary and wracked by illness, in 1555 he divided up his empire.  He gave his brother Ferdinand (left of the the throne) the Holy Roman Empire, while his son Philip (at the right) became King of Spain and Lord of the Netherlands.  The four figures in the right foreground personify the continents over which Charles's vast empire stretched.  Neptune (left) symbolizes his power at sea."

Caspar Netscher
Portrait of William III Prince of Orange and Stadholder 
ca. 1680-84
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"At the time this portrait was made, William III was stadholder of the Dutch Republic and commander of the army.  This is how a ruler had himself immortalized, namely holding a commander's staff to underscore his actual might.  The plumed helmet and orange sash also signify his status.  Still, the prince had not yet reached the height of his power: in 1689 he would also become the king of England."

Johannes Lingelbach
Italian Marketplace with Quack Dentist
1651
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Lingelbach made sketches from life in Rome, from which he composed this imaginary marketplace after he returned to Amsterdam.  The figures take no interest in the antique ruins; their attention is absorbed by the tooth-puller to the left, who treats his victim while on horseback.  In the centre, two men play morra (which involves how many fingers the opponent will hold up).  At right is a clambellaro selling pretzels and other refreshments."

Jan van Goyen
Landscape with Two Oaks
1641
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"The two gnarled oak trees, brightly illuminated by a few rays of sunlight, stand out sharply against the threatening sky.  Van Goyen drew the trees with his brush.  He used thin, almost transparent paint for the foliage, and thick grainy paint for the furrowed trunks. The landscape's near monochrome palette is enlivened by the blue and red doublets of the two figures resting."

Adriaen Coorte
Four Apricot on a Stone Plinth
1698
oil on paper, mounted on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Adriaen Coorte
Still Life with Asparagus
1697
oil on paper, mounted on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Coorte produced mostly small, intimate still lifes.  Through their simple subjects – asparagus or berries – these modest paintings stand out in stark contrast to the sumptuous still lifes that were in fashion at the time.  While the aim of those works was to present a superabundance of costly objects and foodstuffs, here attention is focused on the refined rendering of a single vegetable."

– quoted texts are from curator's notes at the Rijksmuseum

Non-Famous 17th-century Paintings from the Rijksmuseum

Caesar van Everdingen
Pan and Syrinx
ca. 1637-40
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Moses van Uyttenbroeck
Bathing Nymph surprised by Satyr
ca. 1630-35
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

from Dunt: a poem for a dried up river

Very small and damaged and quite dry,
a Roman water nymph made of bone
tries to summon a river out of limestone


very eroded faded
her left arm missing and both legs from the knee down
a Roman water nymph made of bone
tries to summon a river out of limestone


exhausted         utterly worn down
a Roman water nymph made of bone
being the last known speaker of her language
she tried to summon a river out of limestone


little distant sound of dry grass         try again


a Roman water nymph made of bone
very endangered now
in a largely unintelligible monotone
she tries to summon a river out of limestone


little distant sound as of dry grass         try again

– Alice Oswald (2016, from Falling Awake, published by Norton)

Moses van Uyttenbroeck
Finding of Moses
ca. 1625-27
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Joachim von Sandrart
Odysseus and Nausicaa
ca. 1639
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

attributed to Johann Carl Loth
Selene and Endymion
ca. 1660-80
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A Fig for Selene

Charlotte went walking in the park at evening
While the dusk hung there, windowed west with sun
And east with moon that overlooked the wall.

Said she:
What if the moon be ashes?
They say the moon is arid
Cinders of dead volcanoes.
What if her light be feigning
And gloze this brick I am treading
With rosy-silver mocking?
What if the dead be dead
And vanished altogether
And loveliness be but ashes?

Slowly Charlotte travelled the brick walk,
Cutting a rose-pale circle in the grass
That breathed upon her with a warm night-smell –
The multitudinous, the living grass.

Soon he will come to meet me –
(Quick blood halts and listens!)
Come like a big dark bird
Flown in from a bare bright world.
He will feather me soft with silence,
Nest me in with possession,
Scatter the ashen moonshine . . .
Blood still pounds in its tunnels,
Courses in hidden splendor
Like running flame in the pulses –

What if the moon be ashes!

– Josephine Pinckney (1932, published in Poetry)

Willem Cornelisz Duyster
The Tric-Trac Players
ca. 1625
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

 Wouter Crabeth the Younger
Incredulity of Thomas
ca. 1626-30
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Gerrit van Honthorst
Crowning with Thorns
ca. 1622
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Gerrit van Honthorst
Shepherd playing the Flute to Four Shepherdesses
1632
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

from Pastoral Dialogue

Remember when you love, from that same hour
Your peace you put into your lover's power;
From that same hour from him you laws receive,
And as he shall ordain, you joy, or grieve,
Hope, fear, laugh, weep; Reason aloof does stand,
Disabled both to act, and to command.
Oh cruel fetters! rather wish to feel
On your soft limbs, the galling weight of steel;
Rather to bloody wounds oppose your breast.
No ill, by which the body can be pressed
You will so sensible a torment find
As shackles on your captived mind.

– Anne Killigrew (1660-1685)

Gerrit van Honthorst
Satyr and Nymph
1623
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

workshop of Gerrit van Honthorst
Putti with Flower Garland
ca. 1650
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Continence of Scipio
ca. 1650-66
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Aelbert Cuyp
Portrait of a Young Man
ca. 1640-60
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jacob de Gheyn II
Venus and Cupid
ca. 1605-1610
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

An Ode

The merchant, to secure his treasure,
Conveys it in a borrowed name;
Euphelia serves to grace my measure,
But Cloe is my real flame.

My softest verse, my darling lyre,
Upon Euphelia's toilet lay;
When Cloe noted her desire
That I should sing, that I should play.

My lyre I tune, my voice I raise,
But with my numbers mix my sighs;
And whilst I sing Euphelia's praise,
I fix my soul on Cloe's eyes.

Fair Cloe blushed; Euphelia frowned;
I sung and gazed; I played and trembled;
And Venus to the Loves around
Remarked how ill we all dissembled.

– Matthew Prior (1664-1721)