Thursday, December 14, 2017

Clytemnestra - Image and Word

David Scott
Death of Agamemnon (Clytemnestra and Aegisthus approaching)
1837
watercolor
British Museum

Stefano della Bella
Clytemnestra holding an axe
(from a pack of 52 playing cards of famous queens)
1644
etching
British Museum
Jean Duplessi Bertaux and Jean Baptiste Patas
Orestes killing Clytemnestra
(after a bas-relief in the Pitti Palace, Florence)

1792
etching
British Museum

CHORUS:
Look where he comes grazing forward,
blood bubbling over his lips. Ares!
As a horizontal scream into the house
go the hunters of evil,
the raw and deadly dogs.
Not long now:
the blazing dream of my head is crawling out.

Here he comes like a stealing shadow,
like a footprint of death into the rooms,
stalking the past

with freshcut blood in his hands.
It is Hermes who guides him
down a blindfold of shadow –
straight to the finish line: not long now!

ELECTRA:
My ladies! The men
are about to accomplish the deed –
be silent and wait.

Valentine Green after Benjamin West
Aegisthus discovers the body of Clytemnestra
1786
mezzotint
British Museum

John Flaxman
Sketches for The Shade of Clytemnestra Awaking the Furies
ca. 1793
drawing
British Museum

John Downman
Study for The Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies
ca. 1781
drawing
British Museum

John Downman
The Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies
1781
oil on panel
Yale Center for British Art

CHORUS:
The curses are working.
Under the ground
dead men are alive
with their black lips moving,
black mouths sucking
on th souls of killers' feet.

Here they come,
hands soaked with red: Ares is happy!
Enough said.

ELECTRA:
Orestes, how does it go?

ORESTES:
Good, so far – at least so far as Apollo's oracle was good.

ELECTRA:
Is the creature dead?

ORESTES:
Your good mother will not insult you anymore.

 from Sophocles' Electra, translated by Anne Carson (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Van Vechten
Martha Graham as Clytemnestra and Bertram Ross as Orestes
1961
gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Electra and Orestes - Image and Word

Philippus Velyn
Electra protecting her young brother Orestes from soldiers
when their father Agamemnon is murdered by their mother Clytemnestra

before 1836
etching (book illustration)
British Museum 



Samuel Cotes
Miniature portrait of Mary Ann Yates as Electra in Voltaire's Oreste
holding an urn she mistakenly believes to contain the ashes of Orestes 

1769
watercolor on ivory
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

ORESTES:
We have his remains in a small urn here 
for he's dead, as you see.

.    .    .

ELECTRA:
If this were all you were, Orestes,
how could your memory
fill my memory,
how is it your soul fills my soul?
I sent you out, I get you back:
tell me
how could the difference be simply
nothing?
Look!
You are nothing at all.
Just a crack where the light slipped through.
Oh my child.
I thought I could save you.
I thought I could send you beyond.
But there is no beyond.
You might as well have stayed that day
to share your father's tomb.
Instead, somewhere, I don't know where 
suddenly alone you stopped 
where death was.
You stopped.
And I would have waited
and washed you
and lifted you
up  from the fire,
like a whitened coal.
Strangers are so careless!
Look how you got smaller, coming back.
OIMOI TALAINA.
All my love
gone for nothing.
Days of my love, years of my love.
Into your child's fingers I put the earth and the sky.
No mother did that for you.
No nurse.
No slave.
I.  Your sister
without letting go,
day after day, year after year,
and you my own sweet child.

 from the Electra of Sophocles, translated by Anne Carson (Oxford University Press, 2001).  Electra's 'speech to the urn' (quoted here only in part) was as famous in antiquity as Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' in the modern West – and it again became a famous set-piece in 18th-century dramatic adaptations of the story, but has since fallen back into an undeserved obscurity.

Anonymous Etruscan gemcutter
Engraved Scarab - Electra and Orestes
5th century BC
carnelian
British Museum

Henry Daniel Thielcke after Princess Elizabeth of Hesse-Homburg (daughter of George III)
Orestes and his friend Pylades mourning at the Tomb of Agamemnon
1816
hand-colored stipple engraving
British Museum

Meissen Royal Manufactory
Orestes and Pylades
ca. 1790
porcelain statuette
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Barthélemy Roger after Jean-Michel Moreau le jeune
Orestes and Electra
 (illustration for Voltaire's Oreste)

ca. 1798-1801
etching, engraving
British Museum

Francesco Piranesi after Tommaso Piroli
Sculpture group of Orestes and Electra
1783
engraving
British Museum

ELECTRA:
Surely, stranger, you're not feeling sorry for me?

ORESTES:
It shocks me, the way you look: do they abuse you?

ELECTRA:
Yes, in fact. But who are you?

ORESTES:
PHEU
What an ugly, loveless life for a girl.

ELECTRA:
Why do you stare at me? Why are you so sympathetic?

ORESTES:
I had no idea how bad my situation really is.

ELECTRA:
And what makes you realize that? Something I said?

ORESTES:
Just to see the outline of your suffering.

ELECTRA:
Yet this is only a fraction of it you see.

ORESTES:
What could be worse than this?

ELECTRA:
To live in the same house with killers.

ORESTES:
What killers? What evil are you hinting at?

ELECTRA:
My own father's killers.
And I serve them as a slave. By compulsion.

ORESTES:
Who compels you?

ELECTRA:
Mother she is called. Mother she is not.

ORESTES:
How do you mean? Does she strike you? Insult you?

ELECTRA:
Yes. And worse.

ORESTES:
But have you no one to protect you?
No one to stand in her way?

ELECTRA:
No. There was someone. Here are his ashes.

ORESTES:
Oh girl. How I pity the dark life you live.

ELECTRA: 
No one else has ever pitied me, you know.

ORESTES:
No one else has ever been part of your grief.

 from the Electra of Sophocles, translated by Anne Carson (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Daniel Chodowiecki
Pylades supports Orestes while Electra kneels
(illustration for Electra by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter)

1787
etching
British Museum


Charles François Adrien Macret after Clément Pierre Marillier
Orestes and Clytemnestra
(illustration for Electre by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon)
ca. 1783
etching, engraving
British Museum

Anonymous Greek artists working in South Italy
Orestes about to slay Clytemnestra
ca. 340 BC
Paestan red-figure neck amphora
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Anonymous Greek artists working in South Italy
Orestes slaying Clytemnestra
ca. 550-525 BC
terracotta relief
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Anonymous Etruscan atists
Lid - Young Man Reclining
Front Orestes and Pylades slaying Clytemnestra and Aegisthus
5th-4th century BC
alabaster sarcophagus 
British Museum

Anonymous Attic Greek artists
Orestes, Apollo and a Fury
ca. 450-440 BC
red-figure column krater 
British Museum

George Chinnery
Orestes pursued by Furies
1811
drawing
British Museum

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Orpheus Loses Eurydice Twice

Nicolas Poussin
Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice
1648
oil on canvas
Louvre, Paris

Octave Lacour after George Frederick Watts
Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1886-91
wood-engraving
British Museum

Sebald Beham
Orpheus
ca. 1520-25
woodcut
British Museum

Agostino Veneziano
Orpheus with Cerberus
1528
engraving
British Museum

ORPHEUS' PLEA TO THE GODS OF THE UNDERWORLD

    Ye powers, who under earth your realms extend,
To whom all mortals must one day descend;
If here 'tis granted sacred truth to tell;
I come not, curious, to explore your hell;
Nor come to boast (by vain ambition fir'd)
How Cerberus at my approach retir'd.
My wife alone I seek; for her lov'd sake
These terrors I support, this journey take,
She luckless wandering, or by fate misled,
Chanc'd on a lurking viper's crest to tread;
The vengeful beast inflam'd with fury starts,
And through her heel his deathful venom darts.
Thus was she snatch'd untimely to her tomb;
Her growing years cut short, and springing bloom.
Long I my loss endeavour'd to sustain,
And strongly strove, but strove, alas! in vain:
At length I yielded, won by mighty love:
Well known is that omnipotence above!
But here, I doubt, his unfelt influence fails;
And yet a hope within my heart prevails,
That here, e'en here, he has been known of old;
At least if truth be by tradition told;
If fame of former rapes belief may find,
You both by love, and love alone, were join'd.
Now by the horrors which these realms surround;
By the vast chaos of these depths profound;
By the sad silence which eternal reigns
O'er all the waste of these wide-stretching plains;
Let me again Eurydice receive,
Let fate her quickspun thread of life re-weave.

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by William Congreve (1717)

Anonymous Swiss Goldsmith
Snuffbox with Orpheus, Eurydice, Persephone, Pluto, Cerberus
1790s
gold, enamel
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop
Orpheus and Eurydice leaving the Underworld
1636-37
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Orpheus leading Eurydice from the Underworld
1861
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Marcantonio
Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1510-27
engraving
British Museum

They called forth Eurydice who was as yit among
The newcome Ghosts, and limped of her wound. Her husband tooke
Her with condicion that he should not backe uppon her looke,
Untill the tyme that hee were past the bounds of Limbo quyght:
Or else to lose his gyft. They tooke a path that steepe upryght
Rose darke and full of foggye mist. And now they were within
A kenning of the upper earth, when Orphye did begin
To dowt him lest shee followed not, and through an eager love
Desyrous for to see her, he his eyes did backward move.
Immediately shee slipped backe. He retching out his hands,
Desyrous to bee caught and for to ketch her grasping stands.
But nothing save the slippry aire (unhappy man) he caught.
Shee dying now the second tyme complaynd of Orphye naught.
For why what had shee to complayne, onlesse it were of love?
Which made her husband backe agen his eyes uppon her move?
Her last farewell shee spake so soft, that scarce he heard the sound,
And then revolted to the place in which he had her found . . .

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding (1567)

Ubaldo Gandolfi
Orpheus looking back at Eurydice
before 1781
drawing
Morgan Library, New York

Antonio Canova
Orpheus
1776
marble
Museo Correr, Venice

Timoteo Viti
Orpheus
before 1523
drawing
British Museum

Alessandro Padovanino
Orpheus enchanting the Animals
 before 1649
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jacob Hoefnagel
Orpheus charming the Animals
1613
watercolor and gouache on vellum
Morgan Library, New York

Nicolas de Bruyn
Orpheus and  the Animals
1594
engraving
British Museum

Palace Interiors at Fontainebleau

Frederick Marschall
Tapestry Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Tapestry Room - wall detail with Flemish tapestry
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Music Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

"If the Romans (someone will say) did not devote themselves to this labor of translation, then by what means were they able so to enrich their language, indeed to make it almost the equal of Greek?  By imitating the best Greek authors, transforming themselves into them, devouring them, and, after having thoroughly digested them, converting them into blood, and nourishment, selecting, each according to his own nature and the topic he wished to choose, the best author, all of whose rarest and most exquisite strengths they diligently observed and, like shoots, grafted them, as I said earlier, and adapted them to their own language.  In doing this (I say) the Romans constructed all those fine writings we so ardently praise and admire, judging some to be the equal of the Greeks, preferring some as superior to them."

.   .   .

"Thus let him who would enrich his language devote himself to the imitation of the best Greek and Latin authors and aim, as at a sure target, the point of his stylus at all their greatest strengths.  For there is no doubt that the largest part of artfulness is encompassed in imitation, and just as it was most praiseworthy in the ancients to invent well, so is it most useful to imitate well, especially for those whose language is not yet very copious and rich.  But let him who would imitate understand that it is not an easy thing faithfully to follow the strengths of a good author and, as it were, transform oneself into him, seeing that Nature herself, even with things that appear most similar, has not managed to prevent their being distinguished by some mark and difference.  I say this because there are many in all languages who, without delving into the most hidden and inward parts of the author they have chose, adapt themselves only to what they see at first and, diverting themselves with the beauty of words, miss the force of things."

"And certainly, since it is no vice, but greatly praiseworthy, to borrow from a foreign language ideas and words and to claim them as one's own, so is it greatly to be blamed and is indeed odious to any reader of liberal character to see such imitation within the same language, like that of even some learned men who judge themselves to be among the best when they most resemble a Héroët or a Marot.  I thus admonish you (O you who desire the growth of your language and wish to excel in it) not to imitate lightly, as someone recently said, its most famous authors, as the greater number of our French poets commonly do, a thing surely as reprehensible as it is worthless to our vulgar tongue, since it amounts to no more (O great generosity!) than to give it what it already has.  I wish our language were so rich in homegrown models that we had no need to have recourse to foreign ones.  But if Virgil and Cicero had been content to imitate those of their own language, what would the Latins have beyond Ennius or Lucretius, beyond Crassus or Anthony?"

 Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560), from The Defense and Enrichment of the French Language (1549), translated by Richard Helgerson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)

Frederick Marschall
Gallery of François I - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIII - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

 Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIII - panel detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Salon of Louis XIV - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Guard Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Escalier de la Cour - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Council Chamber of Louis XV - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Painted Panel - Escutcheon surrounded by Cherubs
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Two Painted-Panels 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Series of Painted Panels 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bed Alcove - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Queen's Bedroom - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Small Antechamber - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bedroom of Marie Antoinette - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Bedroom of Marie Antoinette - painted door panel 
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Frederick Marschall
Chinese Room - wall detail
Palace of Fontainebleau
ca. 1885
watercolor
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum