Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Seven Planets in 1539

Sebald Beham
Title-page - The Seven Planets
Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Sun
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Moon
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Mars
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Mercury
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Jupiter
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Venus
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
The Seven Planets - Saturn
1539
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

" . . . Ptolemy describes a universe in which each planetary 'shell' is contiguous with that of the bodies immediately above and below it.  This system allowed him to compute the absolute dimensions and distances of all parts of the universe out to the sphere of the fixed stars, which he found to be less than 20,000 earth-radii from the central earth (less than the distance from the earth to the sun by modern computation).  This vision of a small and completely determined universe, although not universally accepted even in late antiquity, became the canonical view of the Middle Ages, in both east and west, and is enshrined in biblical exposition and learned poetry as well as in the works of professional astronomers.  It was a strong argument against consideration of the heliocentric hypothesis, which entailed a vastly larger universe in which the fixed stars were at enormous distances."

 from the article Astronomy in The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition), edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford University Press, 1996)

"From a modern perspective it is the postulated link, causal or semiotic, between celestial and terrestrial events that renders astrology suspect.  Most ancients took that link for granted, under a belief in a 'universal sympathy' which connects all parts of the cosmos in a harmoniously functioning whole.  Stoicism legitimized divination of all sorts; and the worship of the stars, especially the sun, added further authority to astrology, as did the common belief in the soul's celestial origin and destiny.  Many intellectuals accordingly accepted and justified the art, including Ptolemy, who makes a well-reasoned case that astrology is but the application of astronomy, in a necessarily fallible way, to the sublunary environment." 

 from the article Astrology in The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition), edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Sebald Beham
Hercules Abducting Iole
1544
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
Hercules Battling the Trojans
1545
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
Hercules Battling the Centaurs
1542
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
 Hercules Slaying Nessus
1542
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

CENTAURS – A tribe of beasts, human above and horse below; the wild and dangerous counterpart of the more skittish satyrs, who are constructed of the same components but conceived as amusing rather than threatening creatures.  In both cases it is the very closeness of the horse to humanity that points up the need to remember that a firm line between nature and culture must be drawn.  Pirithous the king of the Lapiths, a Thessalian clan, paid for his failure  to absorb this lesson when he invited the Centaurs to his wedding feast; the party broke up in violence when the guests had tasted wine, that quintessential product of human culture, and made a drunken assault on the bride.  'Ever since then,' says Antinous in the Odyssey, 'there has been conflict between centaur and man.'  Their uncontrolled lust, violence, and greed for alcohol challenge the hard-won and ever-fragile rules of civilization, which are symbolically reasserted by the victories of Hercules (whose wife Dejanira the Centaur Nessus tried to rape) . . . 

 from the article Centaurs in The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition), edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Sebald Beham
Hercules and the Nemean Lion
1542
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sebald Beham
Hercules on the Pyre
1548
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Drawings from the first half of the 16th century

Hieronymus Bosch
The Owl's Nest
ca. 1505-15
drawing
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Andrea del Sarto
Standing youth with book
1514-15
drawing
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin

Domenico Campagnola
Calling of the first Apostles
ca. 1520-30
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

from FIELD GUIDE TO THE NOVEL

The first book Tom remembers having read, when he was seven, was a reprint [school edition] of Jules Verne's Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and since 1977 he has amassed a collection of as many different editions of the book as he can find in used book stores, Salvation Armys, thrift stores, and the like: Pocket Books, Magnum Easy Eyes, Fawcett Premiers, Signet Classics, Washington Square Paperbacks, Mentors, Amazing Stories, Oxford World Classics, Everyman Editions, Serpent Books, Scholastics, a host of generic elementary school editions sold through school book clubs, Norton Criticals, Dover Thrifts, Fantastic Stories, Penguins, Livres de Poches, Evergreens, Puffins, Pelicans, and Bantams.  Every time he finds a new cover, he promptly goes home and speed reads the book and he has now read Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 137 times, carelessly, and in six different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Korean, French, Chinese, and Greek.  He even tried learning Arabic once to half-get through a version he found in a pensione in Florence.

One evening after drinking, Tom confessed to me that he had never really bothered to think about the book at all in all his years of reading and that he had not really ever experienced anything while reading the book except the book's numerous covers: one-eyed octopi, riveted nautiluses connected to leathery breathing tubes, a lead balloon that looks like a manhole-cover, photo-synthetic seaweed, farm-like fields of layered oceans and raisin-shaped islands, barnacled or tentacle-entwined periscopes, and even what looks like a large manatee on a book from Brazil.  For Tom, the 1930s with its images of red-eyed sea monsters becomes the 1950s with its Soviet-style submarines becomes the 1960s with its long-haired sea creatures becomes the 1990s with its sonar-guided Trident missiles.  The book is impervious to history and to human reading habits . . .

 Tan Lin (b. 1957), as printed in The noulipian Analects, edited by Christine Wertheim and Matias Viegener (Los Angeles: Les Figues Press, 2007)

Parmigianino
Head of a Woman
ca. 1530-35
drawing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Pordenone
Conversion of St Paul
1530
drawing
Morgan Library, New York

Perino del Vaga
Studies from an antique sarcophagus and other objects
ca. 1540
drawing
Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Giorgio Vasari
Three River Gods
1541
drawing
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin

Francesco Salviati after Michelangelo
Bust of warrior with fantastic helmet
ca. 1545
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Maarten van Heemskerck
Christ crowned with thorns
ca. 1548
drawing
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Francesco Primaticcio
Dance of the Hours surrounding three putti with cornucopiae
1548
drawing
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

after Giulio Campi
Allegorical figure of Prudence with serpent
ca. 1550
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Battista Franco
Drapery study for Angel of Annunciation
ca. 1553
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Prospero Fontana
Muliebris inconstantia (sketch for allegorical book illustration)
before 1555
drawing
British Museum

Taddeo Zuccaro
Jonah and the whale, seen from a landscape with trees
ca. 1555-60
drawing
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Italian Epitaphs, Translated

James McNeill Whistler
La Marchande de Moutarde
1858
etching
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian printmaker working in Rome
Woman on Rearing Horse
ca. 1599-1622
engraving
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Anonymous Italian printmaker after Parmigianino
Allegorical Figure of Faith
ca. 1525-1600
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

from EPITAPH FOR BICE DONETTI

Here eyes toward the rain and the spirits of night,
there, in field fifteen at Musocco,
lies the Emilian woman I loved
in the sad hours of youth.
Death prevailed over her, not long ago,
while she was quietly watching
the autumn wind shake the branches
and leaves of the plane trees
from her gray house on the edge of town.
Her face is still alive with surprise,
as surely it was in childhood, struck
by the fire-eater high up, on the wagon.
O you who pass by, drawn by other deaths,
stop for a  moment before grave
eleven-sixty to speak a word
. . .

 written in 1949 by Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968), translated by Adam Giannelli

Anonymous Italian printmaker after Parmigianino
The Sacrifice of Mucius Scaevola
ca. 1525-1600
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monogrammist YHS after Baldassare Tommaso Perruzzi
The Lonely Man
ca. 1520-50
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

attributed  to Rembrandt
Beheading of St John the Baptist
1629-30
etching
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

from EARTH AND DEATH

Death will come and will have your eyes 
this death that accompanies us
from morning till evening, unsleeping,
deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd vice. Your eyes
will be a useless word,
a suppressed cry, a silence.
That's how you see them each morning
when alone with yourself you lean
toward the mirror. O precious hope,
that day we too will know
that you are life and you are nothingness.

Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come and will have your eyes.
It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face
resurface in the mirror,
like listening to a lip that's shut.
We'll go down in the maelstrom mute.

 written in 1951 by Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), translated by Geoffrey Brock

E. Le Tellier (designer)
Playing Card - Seven of Diamonds
ca. 1875
lithograph
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Albrecht Dürer
The Sea Monster
ca. 1498
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Adolfo De Carolis
The Archer
Symbolist Allegory - The Spirit Survives
ca. 1917-20
chiaroscuro woodcut
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

from THE SAND AND THE ANGEL

We didn't need the crumbling temples on the deserts' edge,
With lopped columns and stairs that lead nowhere;
Nor the sand-covered wreckage, the bleached bones along the sea.
Not even the violence of fire against our fields and homes.
It was enough that the shadow rose from the quietest corner of the room
Or kept its vigil behind our half-closed doors 
The fine rain against the windowpanes, a piece of tin moaning in the wind:
We knew already we belonged to death. 

 written in 1946 by Margherita Guidacci (1921-1992), translated by Ruth Feldman

Anonymous Italian artist working in Padua
Plaquette - Bacchus discovering Ariadne on Naxos 
(copy of an ancient gem, then in the Gonzaga Collection, Mantua)
15th century
bronze
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND after Raphael
Massacre of the Innocents
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND
Holy Family
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND
Holy Family
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Firmin Perlin
Homage to a Hero
1772
watercolor, gouache
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

RETURN

I came again
to where I'd never been.
Nothing was changed from what it wasn't.
On the table (on the waxed
checkered tablecloth) half-emptied
I found the glass that had never
been filled. Everything
still remained just as
I had never left it.

 written in 1975 by Giorgio Caproni (1912-1990), translated by David Goldstein

Italian Stage Design before 1900

Anonymous Italian artist
Stage Design - Garden Architecture
ca. 1650-1700
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian artist
Stage Design - Three Side-wings and part of Proscenium Frame
ca. 1725
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena
 Stage Design - Palace Atrium supported by Columns and Pillars
ca. 1770
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Clytemnestra (to her attendant) 

"You there!  Yes you  lift up
these offerings for me.
I will offer prayers to this our king
and loosen the fears that hold me now.
Do you hear me, Apollo?
I call you my champion!
But my words are guarded, for I am not among friends.
It wouldn't do to unfold the whole tale
with her standing here.
She has a destroying tongue in her
and she does love
to sow wild stories all over town.
So listen. I'll put it this way,
last night was a night of bad dreams
and ambiguous visions.
If they bode well for me, Lycian king, bring them to pass.
Otherwise, roll them back on my enemies!
And if there are certain people around
plotting to pull me down
from the wealth I enjoy,
do not allow it.
I want everything to go on as it is,
untroubled.
It suits me  this grand palace life
in the midst of my loved ones
and children  at least the ones
who do not bring me hatred and pain.

These are my prayers, Apollo.
Hear them.
Apollo,
grant them.
Gracious to all of us as we petition you.
And for the rest, though I keep silent,
I credit you with knowing it fully.
You are a god.
It goes without saying,
the children of Zeus see all things.
Amen."

 from the Electra of Sophocles, translated by Anne Carson (The Greek Tragedy in New Translations, Oxford University Press, 2001)

Angelo Toselli
Stage Design - Pedestal of a Monument
ca. 1800
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Angelo Toselli
Stage Design - Underground Vaulted Space with Tombs
ca. 1800-1820
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian artist
Stage Design - Palace Staircase
ca. 1800-1825
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian artist
Stage Design - Entrance to the Bowels of the Earth
ca. 1800-1825
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Antonio Giuseppe Basoli
Stage Design - Interior, a Sitting Room
ca. 1810
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Antonio Giuseppe Basoli
Stage Design - Roman Bath
ca. 1810-1830
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian artist
Design for Stage Curtain - Parnassus, Apollo, and the Muses
ca. 1812
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Felice Giani
Design for Stage Curtain - Apollo and Marsyas
1800-1801
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Felice Giani
Stage Design - Prison Interior
ca. 1820
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Luigi Ricci
Stage Design - Kitchen
ca. 1860
drawing
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Gaëtano Malagodi
Stage Design - Cloister at Night
1869
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum