Thursday, May 24, 2018

Disparate Visual Relics (Regency and Early Victorian)

William Blake
The Circumcision
ca. 1799-1800
tempera on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

William Blake
Allegory of the Spiritual Condition of Man
ca. 1811
tempera on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Cassiobury Park - Reaping
ca. 1807
oil on panel
Tate Gallery, London

Marguerite Gérard
The Reader
before 1806
oil on canvas
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
As you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

– Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)

James Stephanoff
Fête champêtre with characters in 16th-century costumes
British Museum

William Dyce
The Infant Hercules
oil on canvas
National Galleries of Scotland

William Bell Scott
National Galleries of Scotland

Uninvited Reader

She notes in the poem she's reading where the disembodied
voice speaking encounters "an ugly old woman"
just momentarily, in part of a single line, in one
of the many long corridors and sharp turnings of the poem,
so that she's quickly lost to view. That's me, she thinks,
I'm an ugly old woman, I who sit here reading this poem
and its ugly old woman phrase and the poet, when he stumbled
over her splayed, swollen legs, registered her presence,
her inheritance, her baggage of limitations – ugly, old,
woman – but never knew, couldn't, because who could
know, who can stop and know her . . . And this reader keeps
thinking, loving, understanding, trapped in her eye
following the voice on and on while somewhere back in the poem
in a blank passage an ugly old woman sits against a wall.

– A.F. Moritz (2000)

David Wilkie
The Burial of the Scottish Regalia
ca. 1835-36
oil on panel
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

David Wilkie
Group of Oriental Figures
ca. 1840-41
drawing with watercolor
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Charles Howard Hodges
Study of Right Hand
before 1837
drawing on blue paper
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Giuseppe Benaglia
Portrait of Leon Batista Alberti (1404-1488)
before 1830
National Galleries of Scotland

William Linnell
Study of the écorché plaster figure known as The Dying Gaul or Smugglerius
originally cast by William Pink in 1775 from the corpse of an executed smuggler

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Johan Daniël Koelman
Study of standing man and left arm
ca. 1840
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Carlo Ponti
Fondaco de' Turchi, Venice
ca. 1850
albumen print
National Galleries of Scotland

To the Reader: If You Asked Me

I want you with me, and yet you are the end
of my privacy. Do you see how these rooms
have become public? How we glance to see if –
who? Who did you imagine?
Surely we're not here alone, you and I.

I've been wandering
where the cold tracks of language
collapse into cinders, unburnable trash.
Beyond that, all I can see is the remote cold
of meteors before their avalanches of farewell.

If you asked me what words
a voice like this one says in parting,
I'd say, I'm sweeping an empty factory
toward which I feel neither hostility nor nostalgia.
I'm just a broom, sweeping.

– Chase Twichell (1998)

– poems from the archives of Poetry (Chicago)

(For those who read to the bottom of these things, here is a local tidbit – this present screen marks the 5,000th post since the start of Spencer Alley in 2008)