Monday, June 26, 2017

Two Tiepolos and Jean-Antoine Watteau

Giambattista Tiepolo
Allegory of Virtue and Nobility
ca. 1740-50
oil on canvas
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

Giambattista Tiepolo
Rinaldo enchanted by Armida
ca. 1742-45
oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago

"Armida's craft, her sleight and hidden guile
You partly wot, her acts and arts untrue,
How to your camp she came, and by what wile
The greatest lords and princes thence she drew;
You know she turned them first to monsters vile,
And kept them closed up in secret mew,
Lastly, to Gaza-ward in bonds them sent,
Whom young Rinaldo rescued as they went.

What chanced since I will at large declare,
To you unknown, a story strange and true.
When first her prey, got with such pain and care,
Escaped and gone the witch perceived and knew,
Her hands she wrung for grief, her clothes she tare,
And full of woe these heavy words outthrew:
'Alas! my knights are slain, my prisoners free,
Yet of that conquest never boast shall he,

He in their place shall serve me, and sustain
Their plagues, their torments suffer, sorrows bear,
And they his absence shall lament in vain.
And wail his loss and theirs with many a tear.'
Thus talking to herself she did ordain
A false and wicked guile, as you shall hear,
Thither she hasted where the valiant knight
Had overcome and slain her men in fight."

 from Book 14 of Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso, translated into English by Edward Fairfax in 1600 and published as Godfrey of Bulloigne, or, The Recovery of Jerusalem

Giambattista Tiepolo
Drapery study for St Pascal Baylon
ca. 1767-69
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Giandomenico Tiepolo
Triumph of Pulcinella (Venice)
ca. 1760-70
oil on canvas
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Giandomenico Tiepolo
The Storyteller (Venice)
ca. 1773-77
oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas

"Familiar though his name may be to us, the storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force.  He has already become something remote from us and something that is getting even more distant.  . . .  Experience which is passed on from mouth to mouth is the source from which all storytellers have drawn.  And among those who have written down the tales, it is the great ones whose written version differs least from the speech of the many nameless storytellers.  Incidentally, among the last named there are two groups which, to be sure, overlap in many ways.  And the figure of the storyteller gets its full corporeality only for the one who can picture them both.  "When someone goes on a trip, he has something to tell about," goes the German saying, and people imagine the storyteller as someone who has come from afar.  But they enjoy no less listening to the man who has stayed at home, making an honest living, and who knows the local tales and traditions.  If one wants to picture these two groups through their archaic representatives, one is embodied in the resident tiller of the soil, and the other in the trading seaman.  Indeed, each sphere of life has, as it were, produced its own tribe of storytellers.  Each of these tribes preserves some of its characteristics centuries later.  . . . The actual extension of the realm of storytelling in its full historical breadth is inconceivable without the most intimate interpenetration of these two archaic types.  Such an interpenetration was achieved particularly in the Middle Ages in their trade structure.  The resident master craftsmen and the traveling journeyman worked together in the same rooms, and every master had been a traveling journeyman before he settled down in his home town or somewhere else.  If peasants and seamen were past masters of storytelling, the artisan class was its university.  In it was combined the lore of faraway places, such as a much-traveled man brings home, with the lore of the past, as it best reveals itself to natives of a place."

 Walter Benjamin, from his 1936 essay on Nikolai Leskov, The Storyteller. It was translated by Harry Zohn and published in English in 1969 in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, edited by Hannah Arendt

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Study of Woman's Head
ca. 1720
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Seated Young Woman
ca. 1715-17
Morgan Library, New York

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Diana Bathing
Albertina, Vienna

O latest born and loveliest vision far
    Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-regioned star,
    Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
           Nor altar heap'd with flowers;
Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
            Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
    From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
    Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.
O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
    Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
    Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retir'ed
    From happy pieties, thy lucent fans
    Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired,
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
           Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
    From swinged censer teeming;
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
    Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.
 from Ode to Psyche by John Keats (1820)

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Lesson in Love
ca. 1716-17
oil on panel
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Pleasures of Love
ca. 1718-19
oil on canvas
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Feast of Love
ca. 1718-19
oil on canvas
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

"It has taken many accidents, many surprising coincidences (and perhaps many efforts), for me to find the Image which, out of a thousand, suits my desire.  Herein a great enigma, to which I shall never possess the key: Why is it that I desire So-and-so?  Why is it that I desire So-and-so lastingly, longingly?  Is it the whole of So-and-so I desire (a silhouette, a shape, a mood)?  And, in that case, what is it in this loved body which has the vocation of a fetish for me?  What perhaps incredibly tenuous portion  what accident?  The way a nail is cut, a tooth broken slightly aslant, a lock of hair, a way of spreading the fingers while talking, while smoking?  About all these folds of the body, I want to say that they are adorable.  Adorable means: this is my desire, insofar as it is unique: "That's it! That's it exactly (which I love)!"  Yet the more I experience the specialty of my desire, the less I can give it a name; to the precision of the target corresponds a wavering of the name; what is characteristic of desire, proper to desire, can produce only an impropriety of utterance.  Of this failure of language, there remains only one trace: the word "adorable" (the right translation of "adorable" would be the Latin ipse: it is the self, himself, herself, in person)."

– Roland Barthes from A Lover's Discourse, translated by Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978)  

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Heureux age! Age d'or! (Happy age! Age of gold!)
ca. 1716-20
oil on panel
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Jean-Antoine Watteau
L’Amante inquiète (The Uneasy Lover)
ca. 1717-20
 oil on panel
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Jean-Antoine Watteau
The Italian Comedians
ca. 1720
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC