Alexander receiving the Children of Darius after the Battle of Issus

The Family of Darius before Alexander Paolo Veronese National Gallery London image for wikimedia commons.

The Family of Darius before Alexander
Paolo Veronese
National Gallery London
image from wikimedia commons.

The narrator introduces and describes Jenkins’ schoolboy friend Stringham: “He was tall and dark, and looked like one of the stiff, sad young men in ruffs, whose long legs take up much room in sixteenth-century portraits: or perhaps a younger – and far slighter – version of Veronese’s  Alexander receiving the children of Darius after the battle of Issus: with the same high forehead and suggestion of hair thinning a bit at the temple” (QU  4/12) This picture by Paolo Veronese (1522-1588) is displayed in the National Gallery in London.  Alexander and Hephaestion are received by Darius’ mother, who is unsure which is the conquerer. This confusion is echoed by modern interpreters of the picture, who still debated which image is that of Alexander. In TKBR (p. 45), Powell clarifies that he was referring to the figure in crimson.  In doing so, he was thinking of his school friend Hubert Duggan, and he cites a photo of Duggan that appears in Harold Nicholson’s Curzon: the Last Phase to prove the aptness of his comparison. Often in Dance, Powell  enhances the reader’s visualization of a character with a reference to a classic portrait; his anecdote from TKBR documents the care he takes with these descriptions.  Not only do Powell’s classical references strengthen the reader’s image of the characters in question, they condition our understanding of Powell’s interest in his characters, which is not so much for their unique psyches as for their embodiment of types.  And for the erudite Powell, the innumerable characters of classical literature and art, and their reinterpretation in the art of later Europeans, represent the vast library of  types to which his imagination makes reference

Hubert Duggan (1904–1943), MP for Acton by Joseph William Topham Vinall, 1935
Ealing Central Library

A portrait of Duggan is visible at BBC Your Paintings.  In TKBR (p.17) Powell writes: ” The ‘real person who sets going the idea of a major ‘character’ in a novelist’s mind always requires change, addition, modification, development, before he (or she) can acquire enough substance to exist as a convincing fictional figure.” Although Stringham looked like Duggan, and they may have had some similar escapades in their youth, Stringham’s adult life in Dance does not parallel Duggan’s.

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One Response to Alexander receiving the Children of Darius after the Battle of Issus

  1. Pingback: Constable, Pepys, and Veronese at Dogdene | picturesinpowell

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