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saving greg from wandering eyes



both are rather fabulous examples of the paragone between literature and art and supreme examples of portraits of beautiful petrarchan ladies…though each radically different….but, i fear i bore you. i fear i will tell you things you already know (like when i hijacked chris’s post on color…chris, i do apologize for rambling on and on like a breezy prat)

Whew. Thanks. That’s much better. (More later.)

Okay—thoughts in order (of sorts) now.

First, J, of course you bore me. When has that ever stopped you from prattling on, or me from listening? And so long as you feed me when I come to visit, I’ll continue to nod and to smile, all the while wondering if Tom and Katie really are going to pull this wedding off. :)

Second, I don’t know a whit about Petrarchan painting, and I know little more about portraits. Give me a 19th-c. American landscape painting of cows, and I’ll do my own prattling. Isn’t this one lovely, for example?

A Reminiscence of the Genessee River, by John William Casilear, 1887

Third, is the book known, or is it one of those unreadable texts that no one knows, meant to signify reading generally? She holds it quite casually, with no sense of its preciousness, which suggests a) it’s not the Bible, and b) even though it’s post-press, she’s reasonably wealthy.

Fourth, who keeps an ermine for a pet?

oh, the book is known; the poems are key to understanding her posture; they are her own; and she does not address the viewer in a very different way than cecilia gallerani does not address the viewer.

you keep an ermine if you are ludovico sforza’s mistress, whose badge was that of an ermine.

the nice thing about the internet is that i don’t have to tell you anything but link to it.. however, this tells you only the background story and doesn’t do justice to the various meanings of the ermine…
is it ironic…as this site avers? yes, but more than this, as well.

1) for her beauty and youth: the ermine as chaste…legend has it that these animals would rather give themselves up to thier captors rather than allow their beautiful white fur be bespotted.

2) for a clue to her name: ermine, the greek galee—Cecilia Gallerani.

3) for a clue to her lover: ermine, for it was his badge.

but there is more, so much more. which i will slowly get to. such as the triagulation of desire…the paragone…and even betty friedan.

on a personal note, i’ve always loved the palette of the da vinci painting.

Aye, you can link, but I won’t nessa follow for a day! Around her neck: black pearls?

does a walmart heiress own that wonderful landscape with cows?

i know nothing of the pearls.

but, her posture is something else. da vinci loved the half turn…the spiral comes up again and again in his paintings. spirals are movement and life-force. it was his way of countering the accusation that painting could not capture life and movement. it is as if cecilia gallerani has just turned…turned, supposedly towards her lover, the duke of milan…
this handsome man…which, notice the difference in the dynamism between the two portraits…quite likely painted in the same decade or so.

The duke hardly seems finished. Or simply his absence of depth or symbolic trapping (unless you call that hair symbolic!) speaks of emptiness on his part. Lifeless, indeed.

The landscape is at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Mass. There hasn’t been any new reports of late as to new purchases by the Wal-Mart lady, although she did make a hire somebody t’other day.

sorry, should’ve said that this is not leonardo. he would’ve no doubt done a treatment of the duke along these lines, at least

that was Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis…who is notoriously repetitive

GAP’s treatment of an unknown female sitter

GAP’s treatment of Ludovico’s wife

He loves the left side, doesn’t he!

One wonders if it wasn’t his predilection, but perhaps simple, unmitigable circumstance that led GAP to pose his models the same every time. “Oh, madam, you must sit like so: the chair will not permit you to turn to your left, see, because the armrest is in the way!”

Non sequitur: I’m trying to accomplish a rollover in the sites list so we get some new links on the side. Any suggestions?/additions to make of your own?

non sequitur 2: Kl is reading Kostova’s The Historian, and I’m jealous. It must be good—I haven’t heard from her in two hours.

non sequitur 3: I miss Chris. Not that he’d be around this late at night, but still…

some people have lives…others stay up late at night because…who knows the because

he is the wise one.
you are the good writer.
i am the, well, we won’t venture to say what i am. :)

even gap’s christ is a left shot

as if to say…he was human?

Oh yeah, the sites list is 7 items long; I added 4. 3+ should do it.

You & Chris are good writers too—he perhaps the best of us all, but he’s smarter than we: he saves the good stuff for when it matters.

If you hung all these GAPs in a gallery, then forced everyone to walk clockwise around it, it’d be really cruel.

so, if you notice, cecilia gallerani is a much more cohesive, organic portrait than bronzino’s portrait of battiferri. the lady in black was painted 60 years, or so, after the lady with the ermine.

if, in da vinci’s portrait of the young girl (there’s a debate as to whether she is 10 or 17 or anywhere in between), she looks towards her lover, the duke, and the artist communicates his desire for patronage through her loving gaze…nothing of the sort happens in bronzino’s portrait.

in terms of the paragone, which asks the question is art or poetry the best medium for depicting life? da vinci, who all his life wanted to be considered a philosopher and not a mere craftsman, (or, an artist and not a artisan, because he too worked with his mind and not just his hands), introduces life-like movement into painting and ambigious facial expressions to say, art can capture even fleeting moments and can reveal the inner workings of the sitter’s mind. in a way, it’s a direct rebuttle of petrarch telling simone martini that his rendering of laura could not capture the inner machinations of her mind.

on battiferri, after class.

Ah, yes! I see, now. What is the gaze that faces? An oversimplification of the contrast is that Da Vinci works through the gaze of the subject into the viewer—immediately, the Duke—with an implication of support for the artist, where a patron’s support of the person is crucial to the continuation fo the art.

Battiferri’s gaze engages no one—not even an off-canvas, just-behind-your-shoulder viewer. She looks to the side, away; meanwhile, her hand points, no, holds open and points to a book of her poetry. The book is the means by which one gains access to the woman, not by looking her in the eyes or shrouding her with ermine. There’s a greater sense of authorship in Bronzino than in Da Vinci. Further, the book might be seen as a metonym for the painting. Support the work, support the artist. It’s almost fully contra Da Vinci.

My reading would be good, except for this: after seeing the detail, the book is handwritten. It’s manuscript, not print. It’s authorship, but not commercial authorship. To be published by handing it to your friends, having them pass it between each other. Hmm…

very, good. my young renaissance jedi.

what is more, battiferri’s outfit, though not black and white is a dark crimson with black ruffles and white. in this way, she is a feminine humanist.

here is erasmus

and here castiglione, a famous italian humanist of the late 15th, early 16th century

both are in the black robes of scholars and writers…laura is very similarly dressed

Hot damn! Which also explains the manuscriptness. Laura’s clothes still don’t make her the man, in the sense that Erasmus (What do you say when your favorite humanist never makes it to lunch on time? “Erasmus be dragging.”) owns the book, cover closed, hands placed neatly, confidently upon it. His posture is wholly possessive, and implies that what is in the book is himself. His book has the weight of being written in Latin. Laura cannot have it so. Her ms in hand must be open, else it will not be known; her book has the ephemerality of being written in Italian (and by a woman). The likeness with the humanists is likeness, not sameness.

The book is the means by which one gains access to the woman.” Remind me to use that if I ever decide to place a personal ad.

I hereby transfer all rights to the phrase cited above to Laura, to use as she may see fit. :)

well, now i retract. i was misremembering…the two poems are not Laura’s but Petrarch’s. However, they do not negate that this is a portrait of an author…for she was and she wrote Petrarchan poetry and does have her in pseudo humanist garb.

very unlike this portrait of eleonor of toledo a medici wife

but somewhat like his portrait of d’Ugolini Martelli (there are at least two very similar bronzino’s of this guy and host of young men in black holding statues, or letters, or books)

Though it is Petrarch and not Laura, this heighten’s Greg’s point about the distinction between Erasmus and Laura and the way they hold the books.

What is more the two poems by Petrarch (about his Laura) are about an aloof, haughtiness. This aloof, haughtiness used to be read in terms of Battiferri’s sexual drive…she’s frigid. However, upon realizing that, in fact, Laura Battiferri was a celebrated poet, who published, yes published her own collection of Petrarchan poetry and was at the center of a group of poets writing in the manner of Petrarch this freudian reading had to go. Especially when you consider that Bronzino himself aspired to be a Petrarchan poet. His poetry, alas, was never published. Her published book was…Il primo libro dell’opere toscano di M. Laura Battiferri degli Amnmannti. and his manuscript was Delle Rime del Bronzino Pittore/ Libro Primo His title is a possible allusion to hers?

Thus, we have an even more curious portrait painted by an aspiring poet (he was a poet and put together a book, just it was never published), where the sitter holds a manuscript book of poetry. The poems are Petrarch and they allude to her as a published Petrarchan poet but also to her as a beautiful woman. The poems describe her resisting gaze…so, the sitter is sitting the way she is because the poetry describes Laura (petrarch’s muse and her namesake) sitting in this way…aloof, resistant.

except it also says, she too is a writer. she, whose portrait is determined by Petrarch, has taken Petrarch and done things with him.

She, whose portrait is determined by Petrarch, has taken Petrarch and done things with him.” Remind me to use that if I ever need to take out a personal ad.

Problem (which isn’t really one): one of our prevailing readings of the Laura portrait insists that the artist himself constitutes a legitimate viewer of his work. The painting is an admonission by the painter to himself. Now, granted, this doesn’t preclude other viewers or other interpretations, but it does imply that the painter’s eyes are more legitimate than someone else’s—which is true by virtue of the painting itself, so why the double claim? I paint, therefore I paint commentary upon myself as a painter that are intended for me to see and glean inspiration (?) from. (I know, I know. You don’t hav to say it. Bonjour, Mr Foucault.)

well, it goes to the paragone. to the fact that, at least, in the late quattrocento and early cinquecento, the artist was not considered a “philosopher.” and, leonardo, especially, though also michaelangelo (maybe even donatello and raphael, to round out our little group of ninja turtles), felt slighted by not being considered a philosopher.

for leonardo, at least, drawing attention to the painter painting and to the painter painting life-like images is a way of telling the poet, who is considered a “philosopher” (because he works with words and with his mind and not his hands) ”[your] imagination cannot see with such excellence as the eye…he who loses his eyes leaves his soul in a dark prison without hope of ever again seeing the sun, light of all the world.46 The eye, which is said to be the window of the soul, is the main organ whereby man’s understanding can have the most complete and magnificent view of the infinite works of nature.” (Leonardo in his own words defending his status as artist…he’s got plenty more, this was just the quickest to hand).

and, it’s not the painter’s eyes that are more efficacious, per se…but the eye. but, yes, leonardo believes himself to be a man apart.

in another passage, leonardo proposes that the painter does a better job of depictiing battle scenes because of immediacy, transparency, directness, vividness. the eye’s instantaneous aprehension of a scene is more true way to knowledge, believes Leonardo, than writing which has a protracted temporality and less universal appeal.

with bronzino things are different. the painting quickly becomes the object of an exchange of sonnets between the artist, laura and others in their little writting group. in this little group of writers who all are seeking the laurels/lauras of fame…the painting functions as an inside joke.

now, that is one reading of these portraits in an economy of fame where the aesthetic object par excellence is the female and the way to acheive fame is to excell at depicting beautiful women—which, as in the case of both bronzino and da vinci brought fame and handsome monetary remuniration/protection of courtly patrons.

and yes, in strange way (though i don’t think that this is the case with leonardo) one could at least say, and it has been said, by, among others, sor juana, that petrarch is as solipsistic as you’ve pointed out…only he’s not a painter but a poet.

i don’t think it to be the case with leonardo because, though very concerned with his own persona, fame, and posterity, he seems to turn outward too much to try and find his inspiration with himself as artist. petrarch, on the other hand, is the first (no. not really, it has to augustine) to obssess about himself and his place in history and his ownself-importance and his own creative acts of heterodoxy-- as can be seen in this lovely letter.

possibly what saves da vinci from petrarch’s fate is the logic of patronage. petrarch’s rime sparse, his song book to laura, is a conscious construction of a public persona based on his private thoughts and obsessions and the attempt to manage this persona. he obessively wrote poem after poem, arranging and rearranging what ended up being a cycle of 365 poems to laura (yes, a year’s worth of daily meditations), plus one to the virgin mary recanting all he’d previously written and dedicating himself to mater deus. (of course, this palinode was written well before the collection was ever complete...but was always the last one...so it is a defered abjuration.

while leonardo had to paint multiple women…each distinct and different. this, it must be said, is also a place where da vinci excells, his women are unique and different and full of depth…they are not like Gap...and they all seem as if they wanted to speak...or smile...or...and it's that ephemerality that he captures so well...an evanescence that is life-like, which, he would say cannot be written down.

so, you must soon educate me on 19th century landscape.

oh, and one more thing…it’s not like leonardo had to try too hard to draw attention to himself…compare him to GAP. i know, this doesn’t really address your foucauldian point you crazy bastard…or should i say fou batard.

No, it’s fine, re: Foucault. I was reminded of him because of the excellent reading of Las Meninas in The Order of Things:
Diego Velasquez, Las Meninas But Bronzino’s just not Velasquez here: an inside joke is not the same as the great blank back of a canvas. Now I want to study Baroque painting & Petrarch.

A landscape seminar might be fun, come to think of it…