I. A Question of Upbringing
A Dance to the Music of Time – Poussin
A Question of Upbringing (QU) opens in late 1921 at Eton. The narrator, as yet unidentified, watches workmen around an outdoor fire on a snowy day. “For some reason, the sight of snow descending on fire always makes me think of the ancient world … These classical projections, and something from the fire, suddenly suggested Poussin’s scene in which the Seasons, hand in hand and facing outward, tread in rhythm to the notes of the lyre that the winged and naked greybeard plays. The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure, stepping slowly, methodically sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.” (QU 5-6)
The painting by Nicholas Poussin ( 1594-1665) is in the Wallace Collection in London.
Poussin, born in France, painted The Dance during the heart of his career spent in Rome. He painted mythological and religious scenes in a life-long effort to synthesize Renaissance notions of Classical harmony with the energy and emotionalism of the Baroque . The Dance was commissioned by Giulio Rospigliosi (later Pope Clement IX) and painted between 1634 and 1636. Rospigliosi reputedly designated the four dancers as Pleasure, Riches, Poverty, and Work, but they also became known as the four seasons. The picture was purchased by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford in the Fesch sale in Rome in 1845, where it was sold under the title La Danse du Saisons. Seymour-Conway’s heirs established the Wallace collection as a public museum in 1897 and by at least 1913 the painting was listed in the Wallace catalog as A Dance to the Music of Time.
In To Keep the Ball Rolling (pp 317-8) Powell describes how this painting figured in his concept of the novel:
“At a fairly early stage … I found myself in the Wallace Collection, standing in front of Nicolas Poussin’s picture given the titlle A Dance to the Music of Time. An almost hypnotic spell seems cast by this masterpiece on the beholder. I knew all at once that Poussin had expressed at least one important aspect of what the novel must be. The precise allegory which Poussin’s composition adumbrates is disputed. I have accepted the view that the dancing figures … are the Seasons … Phoebus drives his horses across the heavens; Time plucks the strings of his lyre.
There is no doubt a case … that the dancers are not easily identifiable as Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. They seem no less ambiguous as Pleasure, Riches, Poverty, Work, or perhaps Fame. In relation to my own mood, the latter interpretations would be equally applicable … The one certain thing is that the four main figures depicted are dancing to Time’s tune.” 
Alexander receiving the children of Darius after the battle of Issus — Veronese
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
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.
With his characteristic reference of individual to type, Powell elaborates his evocation of Stringham, moving directly from Veronese to the style of Elizabethan miniatures: “His features certainly seemed to belong to that epoch of painting: the faces in Elizabethan miniatures, lively, obstinate, generous, not very happy, and quite relentless.” (QU 4/12)
This portrait by Nicolas Hilliard, one of the most accomplished English miniaturists of the Elizabethan period, exemplifies the attributes Powell connects to Stringham’s type. The vivid enlargement of the digital reproduction belies the portrait’s actual size, barely two and a half inches tall. Miniatures such as this, typically painted with watercolor on vellum mounted on card, served the purpose in the Renaissance that wallet-sized photos of loved ones do today.
The Race Horse Prints
The narrator, describing Stringham’s room at school, notes hanging on the wall “two late eighteenth- century coloured prints of racehorses (Trimalchio and The Pharisee), with blue chinned jockeys” (QU 9/13 ). The sport of horse racing was led by the royal, rich, or aristocratic. Queen Anne founded the racecourse at Ascot in 1711 . The word “derby” credits the twelfth Earl of Derby who sponsored the races at Epsom about 1780. In the eighteenth century, rich owners would commission oil portraits of their horses, often also showing the owner, sometimes with a jockey. Engravings could be made based on the paintings. The transition from hand coloring of engravings to printing with multicolored inks was an eighteenth century innovation. During his career, John Whessel, whose engravings are shown below, moved from painting and engraving into the potentially more lucrative publishing business.
These colored prints became collectors’ items in the nineteenth century. It is very true to type for Stringham, whose mother, as we shall soon see, was a devotee of decor that perpetuated past grandeur, to bring these from home to school.
We are entranced by the names of the horses. Animal names can be playful or personal. The eighteenth century British often used classical or historical references. Whessel’s horse prints include images of Trumpator, Parasol, Bobtail, Eleanor, Meteora, Penelope, and Violante. All of these horses are listed in the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database, but Trimalchio and The Pharisee are not in the database. Petronius’ Satyricon celebrates the Roman Trimalchio for his debauchery, extravagance, and rudeness. The Pharisees were a devout sect, predecessors of modern Jewish orthodoxy, but many remember the Pharisees only because the New Testament Apostles report Christ’s criticisms of them. We speculate that by using names with negative connotations, Powell is offering a comic signal that these are the first of many instances of imagined works of art in Dance.
Mrs. Foxe’s Apartment
In about 1921 Jenkins visits Stringham’s mother, Mrs. Foxe, and stepfather, Buster, at their Berkeley Square apartment, whose opulence takes Nicholas back a century. He enters the library, “generally crimson in effect, containing a couple of large Regency bookcases. A female portrait, by appearance a Romney, hung over the fireplace, and there was a malachite urn of immense size on a marble topped table by the window…” [QU 55/57].
This setting illustrates the opulence of the apartment, but at first we do not know how long these objects have been in the family. Regency antiques are easily purchased nowadays on the Internet. This mahogany book case (circa 1815) was for sale in May, 2013, for 65,000 pounds sterling (www.georgianantiques.net). Prince George was Regent from 1811-1820, but the Regency furniture period in Great Britain encompasses about 1800 to 1830. The style features mahogany, rosewood, and ebony, sometimes supplemented by brass inlays or metal grills, and incorporating classical Greek or Roman motifs.
George Romney (1734-1802) (a distant cousin of the American family of politicians) was a prolific and acclaimed British portraitist. He struggled early in his career and was never a member of the Royal Academy but won prizes and developed a fashionable aristocratic following. Romney painted Emma, married to Lord Hamilton, and later mistress of Lord Nelson, over 60 times. “George Romney specialized in capturing the qualities valued by aristocratic society — health, youth, good looks, and an air of breeding. His refined works are distinguished by easy poses, flowing curves, and an overall elegance of design (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)” For a fuller portfolio of his portraits see the George Romney entry at museumsyndicate.com. Romney was a contemporary of Gainsborough and Reynolds, maintaining a particular rivalry with the latter. We later will accompany Jenkins when he references these other eighteenth century luminaries.
Mrs. Foxe, heiress to a South African gold fortune, might have purchased the bookcase or the painting. However, the urn, of good Russian malachite from the Ural mountains, had been given to an ancestor of Mrs. Foxe’s first husband, Lord Warrington, by the Tsar early in the nineteenth century. Mrs. Foxe’s urn, though “immense,” might not have been quite so imposing as this one from the Tsar’s palace of about 1830, which was displayed at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and is now a focal point of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.
Embarkation Scenes from Claude Lorraine
Jenkins goes with his friend Peter Templer to visit the Templer home, set on a cliff above the sea. Jenkins first sees the enormous villa with a backdrop of clouds and olive green waves as “a sea-palace for a version of one of those embarkation scenes of Claude Lorraine– the Queen of Sheba, St. Ursula, or perhaps The Enchanted Castle.” [QU 73/74].
Claude Lorraine (c.1604-1682), born Claude Gellée, is often called simply Claude. The Lorraine or Lorrain is added for his native French province. Like his good friend Poussin, he spent most of his artistic career in Rome, where he became a master of the ideal landscape. By the eighteenth century, many of his works had been imported to Britain, souvenirs of aristocrats from their Grand Tours. Lorraine is still in vogue, or at least in vogue again, highlighted with shows at the Ashmolean Museum in 2011 and the National Gallery in 2012. Reviewers have been enthusiasts: “The 17th-century landscape artist, Claude Lorrain, painted trees as other artists might paint mistresses.” (Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph, October 18,2011) “Turner worshipped him, Gainsborough argued that there was no need to paint real landscapes when you had him as an inspiration, and Constable declared him quite simply ‘the most perfect landscape painter the world has ever seen'”. (Adrian Hamilton, The Independent, October 24,2011). For a thorough view of his oeuvre visit Claude Lorraine — The Complete Works.
Claude painted many Embarkation and Disembarkation seascapes. Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648) and Port Scene with Embarkation of St. Ursula (1641) share dramatically lit sky and waves with classical waterside mansions, probably not quite like the Templer house, built of brick in the late nineteenth century and set back from the water in a forested park.
When he adds The Enchanted Castle to the list, the narrator progresses from Jenkins hyperbolic impressions of Templer’s home to foreshadowing Jenkins’ enchantment by Templer’s sister, Jean. Perhaps the power of the landscape adds to her bewitching powers. The National Gallery bought The Enchanted Castle in 1981, but Lord Wantage owned the canvas in the nineteenth century, when it was one of the best known and widely reproduced paintings in Britain, in part because of the homage Keats paid it in “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Another reviewer of the 2011 Ashmolean exhibit considered “The Enchanted Castle” the highlight of the show (Robin Lane Fox, The Financial Times, October 18, 2011) He recalled that when he was at Eton, the painting had belonged to his family for over a century; while home from school on holiday, he would gaze at the figure in the foreground, looking for strength to survive his return to school.
The reviewer Fox, in his schoolboy days, saw the figure as another young boy pondering the power of an institution. However, the figure is actually the beautiful young girl Psyche; only in retrospect could the narrator Jenkins know how Psyche’s tumultuous relationship with Cupid might have warned him about the girl he is soon to meet.
The Narrator recalls his first glimpse of Peter Templer’s sister Jean: “her face was thin and attenuated, the whole appearance given the effect of a much simplified — and somewhat self-conscious — arrangement of lines and planes, such as might be found in an Old Master drawing, Flemish or German perhaps, depicting some young and virginal saint; the raquet, held awkwardly at an angle to her body, suggesting at the same time an obscure implement associated with martyrdom.” (QU 75)
Jean’s appearance is more of a mystery than Stringham’s, who begins from a model of an actual friend of Powell’s, likened to a specifically identified portrait by Veronese. But Powell’s memoir is much less forthright about any romantic interest beyond his wife, and his evocation of Jean Templer is suitably and deliberately elusive. It would be a fool’s errand to try to nail down Jean’s image in art, but we tried to identify the class of images that Nick imagines when he first meets Jean.
The Narrator seems to be recalling a Northern Mannerist work with long bodies derived from the gothic tradition. We chose this late-15th century Flemish wood engraving of Saint Barbara to illustrate the simplified lines and planes to which he alludes. Saint Barbara herself—whose muddled story of doubtful authenticity dates from about the 7th c. AD—bears no resemblance to Jean’s story. But her bodily proportions are at once child-like and elegant, her pose both charming and slightly awkward.
The Narrator goes on to say: “The expression of her face, although sad and a trifle ironical, was not altogether in keeping with this air of belonging to another and better world. I felt suddenly uneasy and also interested: a desire to be with her, and at the same time, and almost paralyzing disquiet at her presence.”
This evocation of the mysterious ambiguity of Jean’s appearance put us in mind of this well-known painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) of Venus with Cupid, from about a half-century later than the Saint Barbara engraving. Here is no virginal saint, but her physical proportions recall her gothic origins and her facial expression goes a long way to help readers imagine what Powell might have had in mind.
The fashionable Horace Isbister, R.A., painted Templer’s father:
“a portrait of himself hanging on the wall above him –the only picture in the room– representing its subject in a blue suit and hard white collar. The canvas, from the hand of Isbister, the R.A., had been tackled in a style of decidedly painful realism, the aggressive nature of the pigment intensified by the fact that each feature had been made a little larger than life. [QU 76/76]”
- Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, oil on canvas, 1918
Bequeathed by the sitter’s father, Alfred Carpenter, 1956
courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery by Creative Commons License
When we first saw the name Isbister, Powell’s first fictional artist, it stirred memories of Elstir, Proust’s paradigm artist among his contemporaries, yet there is no evidence that Powell had Elstir in mind. Others have also speculated about the name: that it derives from a location on Shetland or Orkney; that it memorializes the first British victim of a bomb in World War I; that it recalls another artist Ibister in a story by HG Wells. When asked about this name game during an interview for the Paris Review, Powell just laughed.
Isbister is an olio of artists, but we are not sure of which. One clue is the R.A. that closely accompanies his name. The Royal Academy of Arts in London is an independent group of artists and architects, founded in 1768 by George III, with a self perpetuating membership, currently numbering 80.
The Royal Academy of Arts Collections website lists all current and former members. We have reviewed RA painters born before 1900 and elected to the Royal Academy by 1920 looking for possible models of Isbister. The Royal Academy at that time was known for its inclusion of conservative academicians, occasionally even hacks , but never, by any means, untalented amateurs. However, in the twenty-first century Royal Academy exhibitions are hardly drab or old fashioned.
We suggest that the portrait of Alfred Carpenter by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope shares characteristics with Isbister’s portrait of Templer. Cope, like Isbister, was an extremely successful portrait painter. He started exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters by age 19 and by 1935 had shown 288 works at these institutions. He painted Kings Edward VII, George V, and Edward VIII and many of the rich and aristocratic.
- Auguste Henri Foral
by Oscar Kokoschka (1910)
© Stadtarchiv Mannheim
Some of the issues related to portraiture and the advent of Modernism are explored by Eric Kandel in The Age of Insight. Kandel claims that the primate brain prefers facial images when the features are exaggerated, even when carried to the point of caricature. Isbister painted Templer’s feature “a little larger than life. ” Some of his contemporaries, like the Austrian Expressionist Oscar Kokoschka, used this attenuation of physical characteristics to give their portraits strong psychological power, but the price of this power could be the displeasure of the sitter. The famous neuroanatomist Auguste Henri Forel refused to buy this portrait that Kokoschka painted of him in 1910. Society painters like Isbister may maintain their popularity by using only just enough emphasis and exaggeration to please their clients.
The introduction of the work of the immensely successful Horace Isbister, R.A. described by Nick with undisguised derision, is the first sighting of a recurrent theme in Dance, the way in which the advent of Modernism in the arts forced the reappraisal of practitioners past and present. Isbister is one of many characters (e.g., Deacon, Barnby, Tokenhouse, St-Jean Clark, X. Trapnel, Moreland, etc.) whom Powell challenges the reader to locate in the categories of master, amateur, charlatan, or genius–recognized or unappreciated.
An Elderly Grognard
Jenkins, in France for a summer of language study, rides with a taxi driver, who looks like “a Napoleanic grenadier, an elderly grognard … depicted in some academic canvas of patriotic intent” (QU 108).
To envision this French taxi driver, we tried to understand ‘Napoleanic grenadier,’ ‘grognard,’ and ‘academic canvas of patriotic intent.’
Napoleon’s Grenadiers were his Imperial Guard, his most elite troops, and the Grognards were the Old Guard, creme de la creme. There are abundant paintings and prints of these famous troops, but which qualify as academic?
The French Academy of Beaux Artes could trace its orgins to 1646. Like the Royal Academy in London. it was a bastion of establishment art. In the Napoleonic era it was dominated by the Neoclassicism of artists like Jacques Louis David or Ingres, but more romantic painters like Gericault were also exhibited at the Academy’s Salon.
We can well imagine this Grenadier of the Old Guard, painted by Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848 – 1912), spending his older years as a grizzled taxi driver. Detaille had many connections with the French military, growing up in a military family, enlisting during the Franco-Prussian war, painting many realistic portraits of his compatriots, eventually becoming an official painter of battles, and later designing army uniforms. He earned his academic credentials, exhibiting some of his military paintings in the Salon of the Academy. He actually makes a cameo appearance at a party in In Search of Lost Time, where Marcel identifies him as the painter of Le Reve (The Dream), which shows soldiers encamped and asleep (Karpeles, pp 194-5)
St Laurence and His Gridirion
Jenkins room at Madame Leroy’s had “a picture in cheerful color’s of St. Laurence and his gridiron [QU 110/?]
The sole adornment of Nick’s austere apartment at Madame Leroy’s boarding house is “a picture, in cheerful colours, of St. Laurence and his gridiron; intended, perhaps, in jocular allusion to the springs of the bed.”
St. Laurence was a third century A.D. scholar of Spanish origin, appointed deacon of the Church of Rome by Pope Sixtus II. Laurence’s was martyred by being cooked alive on a gridiron, and legend has it that the good-natured saint said, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.” Powell’s choice of St Laurence for Nick’s cell is apt, since Nick immediately cooks a bit on his own grill in an apparent bout of food poisoning.
St. Laurence, the patron saint of cooks, is widely venerated, and many images of his martyrdom have been painted. This particularly cheerfully-colored one by Girolamo da Santacroce of Venice, dates from the mid- sixteenth century.
The Mad Hatter
- Mad Hatter Engaging in Rhetoric
Sir John Tenniel, 1865
Illustrations for Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
The Project Gutenberg EBook
Jenkins describes M. Dubuisson: “His upper lip and general carriage made me think of a French version of the Mad Hatter.” [QU 114 /116]. This is the first of many references in Dance to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrroll.
John Tenniel’s (1820-1914) original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland are so well-known and closely linked to the book, that that the image above of the Mad Hatter must have been what Jenkins had in mind.
Tenniel studied art at the Royal Academy and was already a famous cartoonist for Punch when Carroll approached him to illustrate Alice. Carroll initially planned to illustrate it himself, and Tenniel worked closely with him in planning the ninety-two drawings for Alice and for Through the Looking Glass, which are now among the best known book illustrations. For the book, Tenniel’s drawings were engraved on wood blocks by the Brothers Dalziel; the blocks, now at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, were masters for electrotypes in the book.
The phrase ‘mad as hatter’ was in use in the eigthteenth century, preceding Carroll’ s work. Hat makers often became psychotic because of the toxic effects of the mercury solution that they used to process fur. However, H.A. Waldron, in an essay the the British Medical Journal, argues that The Hatter’s personality was not typical of mercury toxicity and that Carroll actually based the character on an eccentric furniture dealer who always wore a top hat.
In this illustration from chapter seven A Mad Tea-Party, The Hatter is reciting the poem parody, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat. Is Jenkins referring only to M. Dubuisson’s appearance or implying that his French host was a constant source of nonsense, like The Hatter, who spouts non sequiturs and unanswerable riddles to our delight?
A Pictograph of Widmerpool
During their time together in France, Jenkins, still a school boy, learned more of Widmerpool’s drive and ambition and of his awkward relationship to art. When Widmerpool was about to depart, his “last week at La Grenadière [was] blighted by another matter, in its way sufficiently provoking for him. This was the appearance on the wall of the cabinet be toilette of a crude, though not unaccomplished, representation of himself — somewhat in the style of the caves in the Dordogne — in this case scratched on plaster with a blunt instrument.” [QU 155/158]
There are hundreds of paleolithic paintings in the limestone caves in the Dordogne region of southwest France created over many generations, about 17,000 years ago. The scenes are usually of animals rather than of people; some were made by cutting lines in the rock with stone tools, others drawn with charcoal, others colored with pigments. The phallus on the fallen hunter shown above recalls Widmerpool’s complaint: “And although it is not exactly indecent, it is suggestive, which is worse.” [QU 155/158]
The Boyhood of Raleigh
When Quiggins arrives at Sillery’s party, the host asks Mark Members to make room for him on the sofa. Members “drew away his legs, hitherto stretched the length of the sofa, and brought his knees right up to his chin, clasping his hands around them in the position shown in …The Boyhood of Raleigh. [QU 174/179]” This picture by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) was a Victorian reminiscence of the great age of British discovery. Supposedly, sailors’ tales that Raleigh heard as a boy inspired him to undertake his famous voyages. The other young boy in the picture is his brother. Millais’ painting was widely reproduced; a copy hung in the nursery of a furnished house where Jenkins once lived with his parents. The young Raleigh in the picture is wide-eyed, absorbed in the tale; Members, on the other hand, “regarded Quiggins with misgiving.”
Millais was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. but by the time he painted The Boyhood of Raleigh, he was more influenced by Old Masters. He painted The Boyhood on location at Budleigh Salterton, near Raleigh’s birthplace, using his sons as models. Millais was a member of the Royal Academy, serving as its president briefly in the year of his death.
The Dying Gladiator
Later at Sillery’s, “Members rose suddenly from the sofa and cast himself with a startling bump, almost full length on the floor in front of the fire place: exchanging in this manner his Boyhood-of-Raleigh pose for that of the Dying Gladiator. [QU 174/181]”
A Google image search shows many options for The Dying Gladiator, but the Narrator must be referring to the sculpture in the Capitoline Museum, not only because Members was reclining , but also because Powell could expect a reader with a classic British education to be familiar with the piece, which, in the nineteenth century was assumed to represent a wounded gladiator. It had been uncovered in the seventeenth century in Rome, taken by Napoleon to the Louvre, then returned to Rome in 1816. A rich young Englishman on a European Grand Tour might well want it on his itinerary. In 1810 this sculpture was designated as the subject for the Newdigate poetry prize competition at Oxford . In 1818 Byron mentioned it in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Canto IV, stanzas 140–141). Currently, the figure is understood not to be a gladiator, but rather a
Gaul or Celt; the original bronze, of which the Capitoline marble is a Roman copy, was commissioned about 225 BC by Attalus I of Pergamon in Anatolia to commemorate his victory over the Gauls or Galatians. The grimace of the dying beautiful boy, of which Byron says, “his manly brow consents to death but conquers agony,” may remind us of Member’s discomfort in Quiggins’ presence.
- Houses of Parliament, Sunset
Claude Monet 1902
public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Jenkins, Stringham, and Members leave Sillery’s together:
“Rain had been falling while we were at tea, but the pavements were now drying under wooly sky.
‘What very Monet weather it has been lately,’ said Members, almost to himself. [QU 184/190]”
With Powell’s prompting, we easily saw the resemblance of the confluent fluffy stratocumulus clouds to a large unshorn lamb.
Members’ mumbling about Monet is another matter. So far in Dance the Narrator has alluded to works of art to explicate what he sees or feels or has used visual examples to help describe a place. Here, instead, the allusion comes from a character and presumably reveals something about the speaker. What do we learn about Member’s from what he says? Monet is much more modern that the artists the Narrator has chosen for his allusions, but by the early 1920s, Monet was well known and hardly avant garde. So Members may have artsy pretensions, but he is prosaic, neither a classicist nor on the cutting edge.
Monet is now among the best known Impressionists. He was a master of, among many things, cloudy sky. We already know from Sillery’s party that Members is clever, but what is he saying about the weather? Is he comparing the weather to a beautiful sunny day along the Seine at Argenteuil or to threatening clouds above the Thames in London?
Monet is renowned for painting a scene, haystacks, or Rouen cathedral, or the Houses of Parliament, repetitively examining the visual effects of changing light. (A number of websites including Wikimedia Commons show other examples from the Houses of Parliament series).
- Houses of Parliament, Stormy Sky
Claude Monet, 1904
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
photo public domain from Wikipedia Commns.
- The Houses of Parliament, Sunset
Claude Monet , 1903
National Gallery, Washington , D.C.
photo public domain from Wikipedia Commons
Perhaps Monet weather is changing weather. Members runs off without explaining himself, “‘I think I must hurry ahead now as I am meeting a friend.” For some tastes, Members is too clever by a half. Stringham is certainly not impressed: “That must be a lie….He couldn’t possibly have a friend.”
The Pharisee, again
Stringham brought his horse prints with him to his Oxford rooms. A vistor, Bob Duport, sees the print of The Pharisee and says, “I’ve never seen a jock on land, or sea, sit a horse like that. [QU 185/191]”
George Townly Stubbs,; After George Stubbs, (1794)
Hand colored stipple with etching, second state
Dimensions 15 13/16 x 19 3/4in. (40.1 x 50.1cm) image: 15 3/8 x 19 11/16in. (39 x 50cm)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
“‘Put your shirt on him when you do, Bob,’ said Peter”
The jocular playboys make it clear that our earlier guess at the appearance of the horse prints was incorrect when we chose unmounted horses.
This etching by George Townly Stubbs of Baronet, ridden by Samuel Chifney, may be on the money. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) owned Baronet, which won the Oatland Stakes in 1791. The Prince won over 17,000 pounds sterling on a single bet. The Prince hired Chifney as his full time rider. Chifney had great success with an unusual slack-rein riding style, but he became the object of a Jockey Club investigation, which prompted the Prince to withdraw from racing (Dictionary of National Biography vol 10, p . 254)
- Self Portrait
by George Stubbs, enamel on Wedgwood plaque, 1781
National Portrait Gallery NPG 4575
George Townly Stubbs worked from a painting by his father, George Stubbs (1721-1805) one of the best horse painters of his generation. The elder Stubbs studied anatomy and published the Anatomy of the Horse. He received many commissions from the noblemen who founded the Jockey Club. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, which now has a collection of his anatomic horse studies; however, as a sporting painter, the Academy offered him only associate membership, which he declined.
The etching was done with stippling (more information about this technique is available at Graphics Atlas) and hand painted. G.T. Stubbs was engraver to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The etching was republished June 4th 1817 by Edw.d Orme, Bond Street, London and as of June 30, 2013, there were copies for sale at Grosvenor Prints, for those who want to emulate Stringham.
Le Bas Appearance
- Bayeux Tapestry
“And he came to King Harold”
Wikimedia Commons Le Bas visits Jenkins in his Oxford rooms. “He came farther into the room, but appeared unwilling to seat himself; standing in one of his characteristic poses, holding up both his hands, one a little above the other, like an Egyptian god, or figure from the Bayeux tapestry. [QU 214/221]”
When we read this, we had an immediate image of Le Bas — stiff and angular, yet when we tried to find pictures, whether of an Egyptian god or from the tapestry, with the arms in just this posture, we had trouble finding the exact hand position. Rather, the styles of Pharaonic Egypt or Romanesque Normandy perfectly convey the formal Edwardian Etonian housemaster.
The Bayeux tapestry was commissioned about 1070 by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Normandy to tell the story of the conquest of England in 1066 by his half-brother, William the Conquerer. Rather than an actual tapestry, it is a nearly 75-yards-long, 19-inches wide strip of embroidered linen, telling its story in 50 scenes. Powell has said: “It is a work of propaganda, of course, but propaganda that has taken art into close alliance” (SPA… p.171). Some of the cartoonish nature of the tapestry might reflect the constraints of embroidery, but even the painting of the time, now classified as early Romanesque, showed flat fiqures with little perspective. If anything, the size of a figure might represent the importance of the person rather than the position in three dimensions, and there was little attempt at realistic portraiture.
Ancient Egyptian artists painted gods as two dimensional figures using stylized conventions (see The Art of Ancient Egypt, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). The shoulders are seen from the front; the torso and hips are turned 90 degrees, so that the head, arms, and legs are in profile. The height of a figure might indicate its importantance, and ratios are specified, so that a face would always be 2 palms high, a full body 18 palms high. The pose of the arms had specific icongraphic meaning, Sculpture added a third dimension but maintained the stiffness and formal iconography.