The Drunkenness of Lot

Rushing to see the Candaules and Gyges fresco, Dr. Brightman provides ongoing commentary:

These tapestries must be Florentine — look, The Drunkenness of Lot. The daughter on the left greatly resembles a pupil of mine, but we must not tarry, or the mob will be upon us again. [TK 82/76]

We have not been able to find an image of this particular tapestry; it could well be another invention by Powell, but we will comment briefly on the medium and the message.

The Gathering of Manna Medici workshop under the direction of Guasparri di Bartolomeo Papini, 1595-1596 Wool and silk, 176 x 168 inches The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Gathering of Manna
Medici workshop under the direction of Guasparri di Bartolomeo Papini, 1595-1596
Wool and silk, 176 x 168 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In 1545 Cosimo I de’ Medici started tapestry workshops in Florence, using designs by Italian artists. The Medici workshops continued into the seventeenth century.

Lot and His Daughters Domenico Maroli seventeenth century Meuo Regionale de Messina photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Lot and His Daughters
Domenico Maroli
seventeenth century
Museo Regionale de Messina
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

There are numerous paintings on the biblical theme of The Drunkenness of Lot. We show Domenico Maroli’s  Lot and His Daughters not necessarily for its artistic superiority but rather as a painting that might have been available to the Medici workshop. Maroli (1612-1676) was born in Sicily but spent part of his career painting in Venice and other parts of northern Italy.  According to Genesis, Lot’s daughters plied their father with drink and slept with him on successive nights, intending to get pregnant. Some read this as the girls raping their father; for others, it as the daughters’ revenge for prior abuse (Genesis 19:8) The life of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is rich in moral ambiguity, and the fleeting reference to this tapestry hints at the sexual escapades that follow both in the picture of Candaules and Gyges and in the plot of Dance.

Powell was interested in the issue of sexual censorship. He attended and reported on the trial at the Old Bailey in 1960 that acquitted Penguin Books of obscenity for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In an interview, he was asked whether relaxation of the censorship laws made it easier to describe the sexuality of Pamela Fitton in the later volumes of Dance. Powell replied by citing Philip Larkin’s poem Annus Mirabilis:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

We benefit from the end of the ban, as we proceed to see Candaules andGyges

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Luca Giordano

Referring to art works in the Bragadin Palazzo, Dr. Brightman says. “These Luca Giordano will keep them most of them quiet for the time being.” [TK 80]

Jenkins adds, “Gwinett, preferring to go over the Palazzo at his own speed, strolled away to examine the Roman emperors on their plinths. He may also have had an interest in Luca  Giordano [TK 80/81]

Venus, Cupid, and Mars Luca Giordano, 1663 oil on panel 61 x 51 in National Gallery of Capodimonte, Naples photo in public domain from Wikimedia Comms

Venus, Cupid, and Mars
Luca Giordano, 1663
oil on panel 61 x 51 in
National Gallery of Capodimonte, Naples
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Luca Giordano (1634-1705) was a Neapolitan painter and etcher. Until he was eclipsed by Picasso, he was the most prolific known artist. He spent much of his working life in Naples, Rome, and Florence. For a decade, he was court painter to Charles II in Spain. He was probably in Venice about 1667 but at other times sold his works to Venetian patrons. For example, his Annunciation, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, apparently was first displayed in the church  San Daniele in Venice from 1674 to 1809. 

We show two of  Giordano’s versions of Venus and Mars because we will soon be discussing a Venus and Mars by Tiepolo.  In Venus, Cupid, and Mars, the earlier version (shown above), the pasty flesh reminds us of heavy, tasteless, braided cookie dough, but Giordano  learned from many of his contemporaries, including Veronese. By the time by painted Venus and Mars Captured by Vulcan, he had adopted a lighter frothy style, so he is sometimes called the “proto-Tiepolo.”

Venus and Mars Luca Giordano, 1670s oil on canvas, 91 x 72 in Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Venus and Mars Captured by Vulcan
Luca Giordano, 1670s
oil on canvas, 91 x 72 in
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

"Vitellio Grimani" plaster cast, brown paint early sixteenth century copy of bust from second century AD

“Vitellio Grimani”
plaster cast, brown paint
early sixteenth century copy of bust from second century AD

For the Baroque bust of a Roman Emperor we show the “Vitellio Grimani.” When Domenico Grimani gave it to the Venetian Serenissima in 1523, copied from a second century Roman bust, it was considered a portrait of the Emperor Vitellius. Tintoretto studied it in his studio and sketched it. The head has now be re-identified as a court official from Hadrian’s time.

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Candaules and Gyges

We have anticipated seeing Candaules and Gyges. Earlier in TK, Nick discussed the day’s extra-curricular activities with Russell Gwinnett and Dr. Emily Brightman.  We learned that the Venitian palazzo of the socialite Jacky Bragadin, distant descendant of Marcantonio Bragadin, the patron of Giacomo Casanova, harboured a Tiepolo ceiling almost never on view to the public.  Dr. Brightman described the ceiling as “‘One of the painter’s classical scenes—Candaules and Gyges.   The subject, thought to have  some contemporary reference, caused trouble at the time the ceiling was painted.  That’s why the tradition of playing the picture down, keeping it almost a secret, has persisted almost to the present day.’”  Gwinnett added, “”I’ve been told it’s not unlike the Villa Valmarana Iphigenia in composition . . . The owner won’t allow it to be photographed.’” [TK 41-43]

As with several others of Dance’s most evocative works of art (e.g., The Seven Deadly Sins tapestries at Stourwater [BM 199/190]), this one also is Powell’s fiction, a convincing synthesis of art-historical clues and clever plot drivers.  There is a Bragadin palazzo in Venice, now made into a boutique hotel that boasts Marcantonio and Casanova as former occupants of the building.  And of course, Venice is home to many Tiepolo ceilings, but none anywhere depicting Candaules and Gyges, a somewhat obscure tale of sexual intrigue and betrayal.

We learn at length, and soon enough, the image content of Tiepolo’s ceiling and the extended tale on which it is based [TK 81-90], so there is no need to spoil the reader’s fun by revealing it here.  But it is worth remarking on the cleverness of Powell’s conceit that this painting is said to be similar in composition to Tiepolo’s Sacrifice of Iphigenia, for it allows Powell to describe in the most vivid terms this imaginary ceiling while looking at its alleged real-life look-alike in the Villa Valmarana, which we have documented earlier. [TK 26-27/22-23]  This extended evocation of a glorious–if imaginary– work of art stands out from Powell’s usual brief, deceptively casual, artistic references. Here Powell rivals the majesty of his ekphrasis of the Poussin painting that sets in motion the entire enterprise of the Dance. The prominence of this description of Candaules and Gyges  announces its importance as a metaphor in Temporary Kings and reminds us of Powell’s deep conviction of art’s power to assign meaning to life’s apparent chaos.

Even Tiepolo’s sublime color palate is harnessed to Powell’s enterprise.  Nick looks from the colors on the ceiling to Pamela Fitton’s costume:

White trousers, thin as gauze, stretched skintight across elegantly compact small haunches, challengingly exhibited, yet elegantly formed; hard, pointed breasts, no less contentious and smally compassed, under a shirt patterned in crimson and peacock blue, stuck out like delicately shaped bosses of a shield. These colours might have been expressly designed — by dissonance as much as harmony — for juxtaposition against those pouring down in brilliant rays of light  from the Tiepolo; subtle yet penetrating pinks and greys, light blue turning almost to lavender, rich saffrons and cinnamons melting into bronze and gold. [TK 88]

We wonder if this passage is a another Powellian homage to Proust, who was so enchanted by Tiepolo’s colors that he used them to describe the clothes of the women about whom he obsessed — Odette, the Duchesse of Guermantes, and Albertine. Albertine wore a Fortuny gown with sleeves of “cherry pink which is so peculiarly Venetian that it is called Tiepolo pink.” (quoted in Karpeles  Paintings in Proust, p. 260).  We like to imagine that the crimson of Pamela’s shirt rivaled the “cloak of a magnificent Tiepolo red” worn by the Duchesse. (quoted by Stebbins Ruskin, Proust, and Carpaccio in Venice  in  MacDonald and Proulx Proust and the Arts, p. 85)

Finally, while a painted episode from the tale of Candaules and Gyges by Tiepolo is a fictional feature of the Dance, the scene of King Candaules offering his naked wife to the secret view of his friend Gyges is the dramatic subject of at least five other paintings that we have identified.  The earliest is by Jacob Jordaens (Flemish 1593-1678) and is notable for its recruitment of the viewer into the voyeurism attributed to Gyges and his enabler, Candaules.

King Candaules of Lydia showing his wife to Gyges Jacob Jordaens, 1646 oil on canvas 76 x 62 in National Museum, Stockholm photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

King Candaules of Lydia showing his wife to Gyges
Jacob Jordaens, 1646
oil on canvas 76 x 62 in
National Museum, Stockholm
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

A second Candaules and Gyges is by William Etty (British 1787-1849) and resides currently in the Tate Britain.  It shows passages of expert rendering of flesh, but to our eyes a very awkward pictorial arrangement.

Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, As She Goes to Bed William Etty, 1820 photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, As She Goes to Bed
William Etty, 1820
oil on canvas, 28 x 32 in framed
The Tate, London
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Finally, a rendition of the same scene in 1859 by the academic Jean-Léon Gérôme (French 1824-1904) is more stately and balanced, if lacking in the drama the scene suggests.

King Candaules Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1859 oil on canvas, 26 x 39 in Museum of Art on Ponce photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

King Candaules
Jean-Leon Gerome, 1859
oil on canvas, 26 x 39 in
Museum of Art on Ponce
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

No doubt Powell was right to simply invent the painting that would combine Tiepolo’s ethereal color, elegant figures, movement-filled stage management and titillating wit to serve as the central motif in the unravelling mystery of Pamela and Kenneth Widmerpool’s marriage.

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La Conchita

Jenkins recalls being 22 or 23 years old (i.e., in about 1927 or 28) when he first met Glober, who at that time wanted to buy an Augustus John drawing. [TK 72/66 ]. Jenkins arranged for him to meet Mopsy Pontner, who was trying to sell one:

Glober bought the Augustus John drawing on sight.  He made no demur about the price, a fairly steep one in the then market. It was a three-quarter length of a model called La Conchita, a gipsy type Barnby, too, sometimes employed. [TK 76/70]

Seated Nude Augustus John, ~1920 Chalk on paper, 14 x 9 '' The Tate © The estate of Augustus John. All Rights Reserved 2014 / Bridgeman Images

Seated Nude
Augustus John, ~1920
Chalk on paper, 14 x 9 ”
The Tate
© The estate of Augustus John. All Rights Reserved 2014 / Bridgeman Images

We have previously mentioned Augustus John (1878-1961) in regard to Sir Magnus Donners’ collection of drawings.  The National Portrait Gallery owns 33 portraits by John of varied aristocratic or otherwise distinguished contemporaries; however, we surmise that Glober, like Donners, wanted a John nude for his collection. La Conchita (the little seashell in Spanish), after all, is not only a legitimate, if exotic, girl’s name, but also vulgar slang for part of the female anatomy, and in the paragraphs that follow, Powell is at his bawdiest in describing Glober’s sexual proclivities with Mopsy.

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The Old Curiosity Shop

Louis Glober first meets Jenkins in his publishing office, which Jenkins describes as having “walls grimly lined with file copies,” “almost as comfortless as the waiting room,” and marked by “frugality of surroundings. ”

[Glober] sat down in the collapsed armchair, and looked about him.

‘You’ve got a real Dickensian place here.’

[Jenkins] ‘Bleak House?’

Glober laughed his attractive laugh.

The Old Curiosity Shop,’ he said. ‘In the illustration.’ [TK 71-72/66]

Attorney and Client Halbot Browne (Phiz) 1853 etching from Bleak House Charles Dickens illiustration public domain from David Perdue's Charles DIckens Home Page Copyright © 1997-2016 David A. Perdue, All Rights Reserved

Attorney and Client
Halbot Browne (Phiz) 1853
etching from
Bleak House
Charles Dickens
illustration public domain from David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Home Page
Copyright © 1997-2016 David A. Perdue, All Rights Reserved

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) originally published Bleak House (1852-3) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1) as serials. The illustrations for the monthly installments of Bleak House were from steel etchings by Halbot Browne (who signed himself as Phiz). The closest thing to an office illustration in the set is Attorney and Client, shown at right.  The illustrations of the weekly installments of The Old Curiosity Shop were from wood blocks by Phiz, George Cattermole, and others. Cattermole did most of the interior scenes.  We show below the opening illustration from the first installment, published in the weekly Master Humphrey’s Clock, 1840.

The Old Curiosity Shop Opening Illustration George Cattermole wood block print in magazine Master Humphrey's Clock, Image from the Victorian Web

The Old Curiosity Shop
Opening Illustration
George Cattermole, 1840
wood block print in magazine
Master Humphrey’s Clock,
Image from the Victorian Web

 

The narrator of The Old Curiosity Shop describes the shop when he first sees it as  one of those receptacles of old and curious things which seem to crouch in odd corners of this town, and to hide their musty treasures from the public eye in jealousy and distrust.” In contrast to Nick’s sense of his own milieu as drab, “frugal” and “comfortless,” this is a vision of a secluded but fascinating treasure chest.  Is Glober mis-remembering his Dickens, or is it his charming attempt to soften the barb of his “Dickensian” remark?

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The Cubist Blocks

 

Gwinnett tells Jenkins that Louis Glober is staying at the Bragadin Palazzo, which prompts Jenkins to recall meeting Glober in London in the late 1920s. Glober visited Duckworth’s to discuss a project with Daniel Tokenhouse. “The suggestion was to produce generously illustrated, cheaply produced studies of these [Cubist] painters, blocks to be made in Holland or Germany by some newly devised process.” [TK 70/64]

Houses at Estaque George Braque, 1908 zinkatzung plate 16 from Kannweiler, Der Weg zum Kubismus, 1920

Houses at Estaque
George Braque, 1908
zinkatzung plate 16 from Kannweiler, Der Weg zum Kubismus, 1920

 

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are credited with jointly developing Cubism, starting in 1906. Some of Braque’s earliest pieces were done during his summer stay at the French fishing village of Estaque. (The original oil painting that is akin to the print at left is at the Hermann and  Margrit Rupf Foundation in Bern Switzerland.) Their abstract style using angular planes, eschewing or distorting perspective, and avoiding bright colors was dubbed Cubism in 1908 and initially derided by traditionalists in Paris. However, Braque and Picasso were soon joined by Leger, Gris, and others and championed by critics, like Apollinaire, and by their dealer Kannweiler, in his book in German, Der Weg zum Kubism  (1920). We are unsure what ‘newly derived process’ Glober had in mind, but Kannweiler illustrated his book with zinkatzungen, prints made using zinc plates,  a process call zincography,  which was developed in the nineteenth century and is cheaper than limestone lithography.

 

Nude Descending a Staircase, #2 Marcel Duchamp, 1912 oil on canvas 58 x 35 in Philadelphia Museum of Art photo probably in public domain in US from Wikimedia.org but still under copyright in France

Nude Descending a Staircase, #2
Marcel Duchamp, 1912
oil on canvas 58 x 35 in
Philadelphia Museum of Art
photo probably in public domain in US from Wikimedia.org but still under copyright in France

In the 1920s and 30s, when the Cubists had become less controversial in France, Anne Stepney could talk of Braque, and Jenkins and Barnby could joke about Cubist collages. Moreland was familiar with work of Albert Gleizes, another early cubist who wrote a text on cubist theory. However, Jenkins recalls that when he first met Glober, “the Cubists were still generally regarded as wild men…” [TK 70/64]  in both Britain and the United States.  Mr. Deacon’s suspicion of Cubism was a prevailing view in Britain and the United States between the wars, long after his other betes noires like  Impressionism had     become mainstream.
Cubism and other forms of avant garde art were first shown in the United States at the New York Armory Show of 1913. The work was not appreciated by most American critics. One of the most lampooned works was Marcel Duchamp’s cubist Nude Descending a Staircase (shown right.)  Our favorite newspaper cartoon mocking the piece is The Rude Descending a Staircase (shown below left). By 1936, Cubism had enough  acceptance in America that the New York Museum of Modern Art had a Cubist exhibition. However, despite advocates, such as the British critic and collector Douglas Cooper, the general acceptance of Cubism in Britain was delayed.  Kannweiler’s Der weg zum Kubism  (1920)  (The Rise of Cubism) was not published in English until 1949.

The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway) J. F. Griswold, The New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913 in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway)
J. F. Griswold, The New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913
in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The first major exhibition in Britain devoted to Cubism was not held until 1958 when the Tate showed “The Essential Cubism: Braque, Picasso and Their Friends, 1907-1920.”   This delay of British appreciation of the Cubists until the 1950s is reflected later in TK when Ada Leintwardine suggests that her husband’s publishing house might now be interested in acquiring the rights to the still unpublished Cubist blocks from Tokenhouse [TK 138/131 ].

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Pennell’s Life of Whistler

In Venice, Jenkins reminisces about being there as a boy with his parents. This leads to an anecdote about his father’s two volume set of Pennell’s Life of Whistler, “a painter he admired,” which he bought in Paris because the French edition had the same illustrations as the English edition but was cheaper. [TK 59/54]

Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter James McNeill Whistler, ~1872, oil on canvas, 30 x 21 in Detroit Institute of Art photo in public domain from National Endowment for the Humanities

Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter
James McNeill Whistler, ~1872,
oil on canvas, 30 x 21 in
Detroit Institute of Art
photo in public domain from National Endowment for the Humanities

Mr. Deacon referred to Whistler (1843-1903) in A Buyer’s Market.  We have also mentioned Whistler when Jenkins reflected on Proust’s Balbec.  Here we show a Whistler self portrait because a reproduction of it is the frontispiece of The Life Of James McNeill Whistler by Elizabeth Pennell and Joseph Pennell (1908), which includes numerous illustrations. Joseph Pennell (1857-1926) was an American artist distinguished for his work in lithography and etching.  Joseph and his wife Elizabeth (1855-1936) met Whistler after they moved to London in 1884.  The three became close friends, and Whistler asked the Pennells to write Whistler’s biography, to which he contributed suggestions. To sample the reverential tone of the biography read the beginning of volume 2, where Joseph recalls first meeting Whistler. The Pennels donated their collection of Whistleriana to the Library of Congress in 1917.

 

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