Saturday, February 24, 2018

Figures Inhabiting Works of Art from the Sixteenth Century

after Dirck Pietersz Crabeth
Creation of Eve and The Fall of Man
ca. 1560-70
painted glass
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

after Dirck Pietersz Crabeth
Allegory of Christ as Savior of the World
ca. 1560-70
painted glass
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Lives of the Saints

After the offending bit is popped out
these tiny stitches in your neck

are exquisite. Lips of the slit
don't speak the way you think they should,

break into stupid song, blow kisses
at the doctor. Some piece

that kept insisting on itself
will spend a few weeks in a jar on holiday

with strangers, stained and diced
and separated neatly

from its secrets. You can only
wait, reading your book about the sex

lives of the saints, the lance
that pierced and then pulled slowly out

of Saint Teresa's heart. A slice
is venerated in Milan, they say, an arm

in Lisbon, a single breast in Rome;
but her heart's entrhoned

behind the convent walls at Avila. Pink
under glass, it wears a tiny crown.

– Rachel Loden (1999)

attributed to Lambert Sustris
Nessus abducting Dejanira, pursued by Hercules
ca. 1540-60
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Pieter Aertsen
Adoration of the Magi
ca. 1560
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Anonymous Painter working in England
An Allegory of Man
ca. 1596
oil on panel
Tate Britain


that it was an allegory of his life is incontestable
        though its meaning may remain forever obscure
        through lack of a key
say it is an allegory of his life
a man stuffed with arrows and a checkered floor
say that the arrows are opinions and that the floor
        is an attitude rejecting all accidents
say it is an allegory in which the river is the hour
        that saw the birth of his eye
say that the rock was the stubbornness of his hands
        confronted by obstacles   that the city was
        an angle of sunlight made at a certain hour
        that it was an allegory in which each of the
        children were the odors of particular months
        heralding a change in the weather
say that it is an allegory and the sunlight was the memory
        of a glass of water
say that all of the figures were syllables of a language spoken
        by fur-coated strangers or the rules of a game he had once
        seen played   that the sword was a letter he had written
        to the Doge or an opinion on astronomy
that the three distances were stages of contemplation
or the stages of an insect's life
of which the foreground was the larval stage   the middle distance
        a cocoon   and the background the escaping imago
say that the mountain was a hostile color
and the man in the cell a failure to perceive
say it is an allegory of his life
in which the frame was his body dissected
        with the bones laid bare and the veins
        and corpuscles projected on the canvas
say that the clouds were his eyes travelling
        toward unseen birds
say that the subject of the painting was time
        in the shape of the moon   that was as
        yet unseen behind the rim of the horizon
toward which it had been travelling all day forward

– David Antin (1966)

attributed to Jacob Matham after Hendrik Goltzius
hand-colored engraving
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

attributed to Federico Zuccaro
Standing Angel and Two Cherubs
ca. 1566
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Annibale Carracci
Orpheus holding a Lyre
before 1584
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Albrecht Dürer
Apollo and Diana
ca. 1501-1506
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A Roman Sonnet

The whistling arrow flies less eagerly,
and bites the bull's-eye less ferociously;
The Roman chariot grinds less hurriedly
the arena's passive sand to crown the post –
how privately, how silently, our lives
rush to their end! Who doubts this? Animal
despoiled of reason, each repeated fall
of the sun is as final as time's end.
Does plowed Carthage confess what you ignore?
Death's breaking through your guard at every turn,
when you chase shades and hug deception. Friend,
the hours will hardly pardon you their loss,
those brilliant hours that wear away the days,
those days that eat away eternity.

– Robert Lowell (1963)

Giulio Romano
Three Studies of  Reclining Models
before 1546
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

attributed to Maarten van Heemskerck after Giulio Romano
Five Putti supporting Papal Tiara
ca. 1532-36
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

attributed to Maarten van Heemskerck after Michelangelo
Figure of Matthan from the Sistine Ceiling
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Marcantonio after Raphael
ca. 1510-27
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Satyress before a Terminus
ca. 1509-10
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Poems from the archives of Poetry (Chicago)