Saturday, August 10, 2013


"And so, the great staircase. It was Neumann who made it, Balthasar Neumann: it is of the legendary stone, which all comes from Carrara, and the idea of Neumann's or of someone else for the statues that rise from the banisters every three steps, that comes from Italy as well. The complete mythology of Italy looks down on you every three steps. It is wide as a boulevard rising toward this sky that Tiepolo paints ... "

... spent three years of his life (three years of Tiepolo's life, who wouldn't want to see them rolling out of his little dice cup?), three years in the heart of Germania on a ceiling over a stairway, to show, perhaps to demonstrate, how the four continents, the four seasons, the five universal religions, the Holy Trinity as one God, the Twelve of Olympus, the four races of men, all the women, all the merchandise, all the species, yes: the world ..."

"... and Karl Philipp von Greiffenclau, its overlord, who is painted in the very center where the four directions meet, as if at the unloading dock for universal cargo, the triumphal image offered us in full upon arriving at the top stair ..."

Below, several figure groupings from Apollo and the Continents, the ceiling Tiepolo painted above the grand W├╝rzburg staircase. Immediately below, two scenes from the continent of America ...

Followed by two (below) from the continent of Africa ...

And two more (below) representing the continent of Asia ...

All quotes are from Archipelago Books' translation of the French novel by Pierre Michon.

Les Onze in French has become The Eleven in English.