Sunday, September 11, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 21 - Wanton Paintings in Taming of the Shrew

2.  Italian and French Art in Shakespeare

The Three Wanton Paintings in The Taming of the Shrew

Professor Magri argues that these paintings are identifiable and that they could only have been seen on the continent. Renaissance paintings on the continent were regularly both religious and erotic, or wanton. However, she writes that "It appears that, in Elizabethan England, paintings of a wanton nature were not typically part of the decorations in royal palaces or aristocratic homes." There were some, but just not typical. So it's odd that the author would allude to three such paintings in the aristocratic home of the Lord in the induction to the play.

Scholars have varied in their opinions as to whether or not real painting were being referred to or perhaps they were just imagined or that the allusions were from literary sources. But since actual paintings matching key characteristics of the allusions can be identified, it follows that actual paintings were in the mind of the author.

2a. The first allusion is to:

Adonis painted by a running brook.
And Cytherea all in sedges hid,
Which seem to move and wanton with her breath
Even as the waving sedges play with wind

Magri identifies this description with the painting Venus and the Rose by Luca Penni. After discussing other paintings and possible literary sources she concludes that only this painting (as well as an engraving by his friend Ghisi that was based on the painting) show a Venus "all hidden" behind sedges (that appear easily waved by the wind) and an Adonis "by a running brook".

She adds that Penni worked in Paris and Fontainebleau and that the painting was in the French royal collections in the latter half of the 16th century.

2b. The second painting allusion is:

We'll show thee Io as she was a maid,
And how she was beguiled and surpris'd,
As lively painted as the deed was done.

Here Magri points out that the essential detail that allows for its identification is his description of Io as being 'beguiled' or charmed. This helps differentiate it from other possible sources. For example, in Ovid's Metamorphoses "the deed is a violent, mischievous act. Shakespeare, instead, says she was charmed by the embrace....there is no ravishing, no distressing offence, she is attracted to him...His description of the scene evokes wantonness and sensual pleasure". So, the only painting matching this is the "Io" by Correggio. It's one of four paintings that were commissioned by Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (1500-1540). The author could have seen the original in Mantua. Though many copies had also been made and sent to courts and palaces and an Io was also sent to Spain as a present from the Gonzaga.

2c. The third painting allusion is:

Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood,
Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds,
And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep,
So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn.

This story is also mentioned in Ovid. However, he does not describe blood on Daphne's scratched legs or tears on Apollo's face. The closest identification to a painting seems to be an anonymous Apollo and Daphne now in Casa Vasari, and that "had always been held in the Florentine collections until 1950". It's not easily seen as "wanton" as the other paintings but it does have a sensual quality and Shakespeare describes it with caring emotional content. I see no problem with the painting being included in a short list of those with a bit of "wantonness" in them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 20 - Italian Art - Venus and Adonis

Italian Art

  Professor Magri further researched Italian Renaissance Art in the Shakespeare works.  And besides its relevance to the authorship question I would think that Shakespeare enthusiasts would find these insightful possibilities of his knowledge of certain great artists and their works intriguing in their own right.

Magri believes she has identified the specific works of art alluded to by Shakespeare. She also gives additional indications of his knowledge which the casual reader would never notice.

1. I will just mention and quote from what to me are the highlights of some of her discoveries. Let's start with Shakespeare's 'first heir' of his invention, Venus and Adonis.

Her main argument here is that this poem was NOT based on the literary work of Ovid or Virgil, nor even Titian's painting that is called Venus and Adonis. This one is called the Prado version.

Rather, she says, it was based on a version of this Titian painting that was present, at that time, only in Venice. The Prado version does have strong similarities to Shakespeare's poem. You may enjoy examining this painting as it and the poem are described. One problem for this version as the poem source is its location. Titian had created it for Philip II of Spain, son of Emperor Charles V. It was intended for the marriage of Philip to Queen Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's half-sister. The painting was brought to London in September of 1554 for the marriage. However, Philip left England in 1555 and took all his Titian paintings with him. It was not there for any chance for Stratford's Shakspere. This Prado V&A has remained in the Royal Collection of Madrid since 1556. And so there was hardly anyone in England then who could have seen it and enable it to be sourced when Shakespeare's poem was written.

Magri says that the V&A myth in Ovid's Metamorphoses "is totally different from Titian". In Ovid, but not in the painting and not in the Shakespeare's poem, Adonis responds favorably to Venus' love for him. Many other artists, following Ovid, represent Adonis as "a tender, sweet, even sensuous lover". But "Titian departed from the Ovidian source". She then gives details of how the poem and painting correspond.

Five versions of Titian's V&A are considered as possible matches to the poem, and only one fits it faithfully. This one is the Barberini version, now in Rome. The main parallels between this particular painting and Shakespeare's poem are:
·         Venus invites Adonis to sit down by her [The painting seems to show him just after standing up to leave her].
·         She keeps embracing him, and is sure she will win him.
·         He is resolute to return to the boar hunt and tries to twist away from her.
·         He looks at her "all askance".
·         Venus shed tears. [the painting, after recent restoration, showed faded traces of paint on her cheeks that suggest tears].

In addition, Magri shows how Shakespeare alluded to an actual painting, rather than of a narrative, of the subject matter:

Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone
Well-painted idol, image dull and dead
Statue contenting but the eye alone

Similarly with Adonis' horse:

Look when a painter would surpass the life
In limning out a well-porportion'd steed,
His art with nature's workmanship at strife

Finally, ONLY in the Barberini painting does Adonis wear a 'bonnet'.

"And with his bonnet (which) hides his angry brow"
"Bonnet nor veil henceforth no creature wear"
"And therefore would he put his bonnet on"
"The wind would blow it off"

The locations of this particular painting are then described and it was mostly likely seen in Venice where Titian died in 1576. Tintoretto acquired it next at some point but it seems it's not known exactly when he got it and where he kept it. But it also seems he lived in Venice all or most of his life. He then died in 1594. So the painting remained there during that time.