Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, his wife, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire, have tested positive for Covid-19. Therefore, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in self-isolation, but he can work. Wherever it is possible, people are working from home. Moreover, in certain countries, employees whose benefits do not include paid sick leaves are being supported by their government. I hope that movement will spread because avoiding exposure to the virus is our best weapon. Covid-19 is extremely dangerous, but if we work together, we may defeat it.
Worse than a bomb … a tsunami
The BBC interviewed Italian Dr Giacomo Grasselli who stated that Covid-19 arrived in his country in a manner that was worst than a bomb. Covid-19 spreads quickly, it is agressive, and it is new. It’s a tsunami, says Dr Grasselli (CBC).
Italy was not given sufficient time to prepare. But many countries had time to prepare, at least minimally. They were able to enlarge medical facilities and purchase the materials they require. As well, people are being sent home, so they do not catch the disease and transmit it.
Pandemics are horrible and Covid-19 is a new threat, but I am seeing people working together to save themselves and to save their neighbours. Doctors alone cannot defeat Covid-19. It’s a community project.
Italy had little time to prepare, but the first order of business was containment, which is what Dr Grasselli is advising and which many of us have been given the time to do. However, Covid-19 is nevertheless a surprise and many of us are in denial.
I heard people trivialise the situation, which we can’t. We must keep at a distance from one another, which, in the days of coronavirus, is working together. Covid-19 is real and it is happening.
Two weeks before the bomb fell and multiplied, Dr Grasselli would not have expected the calimity that is unfolding.
I embedded a BBC (British) interview with Italian Dr Giacomo Grasselli (publications) as well as a CBC (Canada) interview.
Commedia dell’arte troupe I Gelosi in a late 16th-century Flemish painting (wiki2.org)
L’Étourdi (The Blunderer, or the Counterplots, c. 1653) is our next play by Molière. In fact, it is the last play we read, but although I wrote at least one post on every play, I have not always included dialogues. I will edit posts that require quotations. There will remain two short plays that are reflections on Molière’s use of the genre, by Molière and his troupe.
Once again, we have gradations within stock characters originating in the commedia dell’arte. Sbrigani, one of the zanni, is the very devil, but Mascarille, who helps Lélie, is a forgiving zanno.
Similarly, Molière’s plays feature excellent young lovers, such as the Bourgeois gentilhomme‘s Cléonte, but Lélie, L’Étourdi, spoils the work done by Mascarille. Like all the jaloux, he is his own worst enemy, but he is not a jaloux.
Lélie is a scatterbrain. Every time Mascarille succeeds in his attempts to help Lélie marry Célie, Lélie spoils the stratagem. Célie, a slave bought by Trufaldin, can be purchased, but the play features an anagnorisis, a recognition scene.
Getty Images has a fine selection of prints featuring farceurs. Farceurs are comédiens who are featured in burlesque plays. Molière was called the “premier farceur de France.” The farce is a comic genre in which the tables are turned on a person or persons. Molière’s Précieuses ridicules (18 November 1659) is a farce. Farces are short plays, one to three acts, and Molière used prose instead of verses (12-syllable alexandrins). Molière wrote both farces and “grandes comédies.” Grandes comédies are five-act plays and are usually written using alexandrins.
During the years he spent touring the provinces, we assume Molière’s troupe (his company) performed several farces. At any rate, we have no text of plays produced in the provinces, with the possible exception of one farce: La Jalousie du barbouillé. A barbouillé is someone whose face is smeared.
Farce is an old genre, going back to the Atellane Farce/Fable, called Fabulae atelanae in Latin. These farces contain some of the masks of the commedia dell’arte, a product of 16th-century Italy. Italian comedians were given sketches or scenarios and improvised on these canevas. Troupes were poor and had to make do with costumes only, rather than elaborate stagecraft, such as machines. Some farceurs, however, were supported by noblemen during carnivals such as the Carnival of Venice. Carnival season ended with Mardi Gras, the day before Lent began, Ash Wednesday.
The commedia dell’arte features types or masks as characters. Pantalone was always a jealous older man and jealousy is the main ‘sin’ in Molière comedies. It’s a terrible sin because through one’s own behaviour one alienates the person one loves. Molière’s finest play on this subject is L’École des femmes, The School for Wives (26 December 1662). It created a controversy.
The Italians always played the same role. The blocking character, the character hindering the innamorati‘s marriage, coud be Pantalone, Il Dottore, Il Capitano, etc. Their roles were functions, or masks, in which they followed in the footsteps of the oldest comédiens, Attic (Greek) comedy and ancient rituals. These functions are often called archetypes. (See Northrop Frye, Sources and Resources).
As a child, Molière (1622 – 1673) was influenced by Italian comedy. The Italians performed at the Pont-Neuf (still standing and called the Pont-Neuf [the new bridge]).
Molière’s father, Jean Poquelin, had bought a position from Louis XIII in 1631. It should have provided Molière with a good income. In 1641, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin became “valent of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery” (“valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du roi”), but in 1643, he founded l’Illustre Théâtre with Madeleine Béjart. The troupe went bankrupt and Molière was jailed, briefly. After his release, he and his comédiens left Paris.
Upon his return to Paris, Molière had a successful but relatively short career, about fifteen years. On 17 February 1673, while playing Argan, the Imaginary Invalid, Molière collapsed. He remained on stage performing his role, but died shortly after the comedy was over. The Imaginary Invalid is a three-act comédie-ballet, set to music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp.
Farces were common entertainment during the Middle Ages. They were performed to amuse spectators between scenes during long plays, such as Passion plays. Passion plays were reenactments of the Passion of Christ. These lasted for days and farces provided the “comic relief.” Passion plays have survived. The most acclaimed has been performed at Oberammergau (Bavaria), since 1634.
La Farce de Maître Pathelin, court scene(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Medieval Farce: La Farce de Maître Pathelin
The most famous French medieval farce is La Farce de Maître Pierre Pathelin, TheFarce of Master Pierre Pathelin (1457). We do not know the name of its author, but the farce features a legal battle. Maître is the title given lawyers. A lawyer, Maître Pathelin, has purchased fabric on credit from a clothier named Guillaume Joceaulme. Pierre Pathelin is hired to defend a shepherd named Thibaut l’Aignelet (from agneau, sheep) who stands accused of stealing a sheep (un agneau) from the cloth merchant.
In previous centuries, lawyers had not been trained, but they now learned their profession. Consequently, Maître Pierre Pathelin had fewer and fewer customers, so there were holes in his clothes and in wife Guillemette’s clothes. His not having money explains why he has bought fabric on credit. When the cloth merchant comes to his house to be paid, Pathelin make believe he is sick to escape paying.
During the trial, Guillaume Joceaulme, the cloth merchant, recognizes Maître Pathelin. So the trial takes on new dimensions. Pathelin has instructed his client to say nothing but “Baaa” when he is asked a question, which he does. Pathelin rules against Joceaulme because of the incoherence the case presents. When Maître Pathelin asks to be paid, Thibault l’Aignelet does as he was told. He says “Baaa.” Consequently, Pathelin is “hoisted with his own petard” (trompeur trompé) as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
La Farce de Maître Pierre Pathelin was so famous that speakers of French still say “Revenons à nos moutons,” (Let’s get back to our sheep, i.e. Let’s get back to our topic) when the conversation is drifting to another topic.
The French farce is therefore rooted in the medieval French farces (entertainment between scenes) and in the irreverent fabliau. But it also borrows from the commedia dell’arte, Latin comedy (Plautus and Terrence), the farces of Antiquity and Greek comedy. Molière had to write down his comedies, beginning with Les Précieuses ridicules (18 November 1659) to avoid theft of his material. But when he was touring in the provinces, members of his troupe would write their part using a canevas, a sketch (see Commedia dell’arte, Wikipedia).
Farces and “grandes comédies”
Molière’s plays have been divided into farces and “grandes comédies.” Grandes comédies consisted of five acts written in verse. Verses containing 12 syllables, or pieds, were known as “alexandrins.” However, Molière also used mixed verse and blended comedic plot formulas.
So comedy is varied and Molière wrote comédies-ballets, comédies galantes, comédies héroïques, pastorals, etc. Advances in Molière scholarship show diversity. Molière’s plays were set to music by Jean-Baptiste Lully, but Marc-Antoine Charpentier was also a collaborator. He composed the music to Le Malade imaginaire.
The picture below depicts French as well as Italian “masks.” Molière is at the far left (brown clothes). Jodelet, who performed in the Précieuses ridicules, is standing next to him.
Les Farceurs, French and Italian (1670)
Molière did not write in a void. He was influenced by comedy as a genre and it’s traditions. But they also reflect the institutions, ideologies, esthetics, beliefs and goals of his age: salons,préciosité, l’honnête homme, le galant homme, casuistry, Jansenism.
My book, if there is a book, will show Molière “en son siècle,” but also everyman’s Molière.
Le Ballet comique de la Reine(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Molière (15 January 1622 – 17 February 1673), born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, spent several years performing outside Paris. His first troupe, l’Illustre Théâtre, established in 1643, went bankrupt and, in 1645, Molière was imprisoned. He had to leave for the provinces.
Les Précieuses ridicules, a one-act play which premièred on 18 November 1659, was Molière’s first Parisian success and he would produce several other plays, about thirty-four, eleven of which were comédies-ballets, ten with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and one, with music by Charpentier. However, preceding the comédie-ballet, was the ballet de cour.
Louise was married to Henri III of France, a son a Henri II and Catherine de’ Medici, who was assassinated by Jacques Clément, a Catholic fanatic. As for Anne de Joyeuse (1561 – 1687), he perished at the hands of French Calvinist Protestants, called Huguenots, 800 of whom he had slaughtered. In fact, the French wars of religion are the backdrop to the creation of the ballet de cour.
Daniel Rabel: the “grotesque” in the ballet de cour
Daniel Rabel (1578 – 3 January 1637) was a man of many talents. Wikipedia describes Rabel as “a Renaissance French painter, engraver, miniaturist, botanist and natural history illustrator.” As a painter, Rabel produced grotesque depictions of ballet, but beginning in 1617 until his death in 1637, Rabel was a set designer for theatres and for ballets de cour.
In our context the term grotesque (from grotto) is not pejorative. The ‘grotesque’ is an aesthetics as is the ‘baroque.’ Medieval gargoyles and misericords are acceptably ‘grotesques.’ Beverly Minster, a 12th-century cathedral, has a fine collection of grotesque misericords. In the 19th century, Hugo would revive the grotesque. His 1831 novel, Notre-Dame de Paris features Quasimodo, a hunchback. The “grotesque” is associated with the Middle Ages and the 19th century.
Le Roi danse
“Les Fées de la forêt de Saint-Germain” was danced at the Louvre in February 1625, with Louis XIII himself in the role of a “valiant fighter.” (See Daniel Rabel, Wikipedia.) Louis XIII also danced in the ballet he composed, the Ballet de la Merlaison.
You may remember that Louis XIII, the Sun-King’s father, wrote the Ballet de la Merlaison. Louis XIII was a composer and he composed a ballet. Consequently, the creation of ballet is associated with both Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV. However, Louis XIII’s Ballet de la Merlaison is a ballet de cour as had been Circé ou le Balet Comique de la Royne. As noted above, Louis XIII performed in the ballet he composed.
Other ballets de cour were performed before 1661, when Molière created Les Fâcheux, (the Bores), to music byLully. King Louis XIII, the Sun-King’s father (Louis XIV), was a composer and, as noted above, he played a role in “Les Fées de la forêt de Saint-Germain.” Louis XIII composed the Ballet delaMerlaison, a ballet de cour.
Le Ballet de la Merlaison by Maurice Leloir, in Dumas père’s The Three Musketeers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: comédie ballet and “play-within-a-play”
For a long time, little attention was given Molière’s contribution to ballet, and my book, if ever it is published, will not improve matters as I will discuss only one comédie-ballet: George Dandin (1668). However, one cannot ignore Le Bourgeois gentihomme (14 November 1670), where the ballet is both entertainment and a play-within-a play. Monsieur Jourdain is deceived into marrying his daughter Lucile to Cléonte who has disguised himself into the son of the Mufti, le grand Turc. This is a case of comedy rescuing comedy.
Molière wrote the text of his comédies-ballets, and the text may be read independently of the divertissements, for which he also wrote the text. However, these ballets inject laughter into Molière’s comedies several of which are somber works. The ballets are, to a large extent, part of the comic text.
Except for The Imaginary Invalid (1673), the music of Molière’s comédies-ballets was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, born Giovanni Battista Lulli. Pierre Beauchamp (30 October 1631 – February 1705) was Molière’s choreographer.
All three, Molière (playwright), Lully (composer and dancer) and Pierre Beauchamp (choreographer), are major figures in their respective profession and Molière’s comédie-ballet a significant step in the creation of ballet. Lully was named director of AcadémieRoyale deMusique in 1669 and worked with Philippe Quinault, his librettist. The AcadémieRoyale de Musique developed into the Paris Opéra and the smaller Opéra Garnier. Since 1989, performances have been held at the 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille.
Several ballets de cour and the related comédies-ballets were staged. It would seem that VoltaireLa Princesse de Navarre (1745) is that last comédie-ballet. It was performed to music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (25 September 1683 – 12 September 1764). (See Comédie-ballet, Wikipedia.)
We close with Rameau’s Les Indes galantes, which was not an opera but a turning-point in the history of ballet in the galant style. Specialists were now developing ballet.
Les Fâcheux (The Bores) the first comédie-ballet (1661)
Molière wrote eleven comédies-ballets, the first of which was Les Fâcheux (The Bores), created by Molière and Lully and performed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet’s magnificent castle. Fouquet invited a newly-crowned king Louis XIV to a lavish feast at Vaux, which took place on 17 August 1661, but Louis grew jealous. We have read that story. Louis XIV used ballets to cultivate the image of the Sun-King. Therefore, to a certain extent, ballet was put into the service of absolutism.
Portrait of Pietro Bembo by Giovanni Bellini (British Royal Collection)
I explored the British Royal Collection and learned that in 1940, it was suggested that the above portrait, by Giovanni Bellini, was a portrait of Pietro Bembo (20 May 1470 – 11 or 18 January 1547). It is a suggestion, which means that there is an element of doubt. The facial features of the Royal Collection’s Pietro Bembo bear a resemblance to Raphael’s portrait, but Raphael’s portrait of Pietro Bembo (c. 1506), shows a dark-haired Pietro Bembo.
I know of Pietro Bembo from my days as a student of musicology. He is associated with the development of polyphony (many voices) through the madrigal (songs in the mother tongue, as in the Spanish madre), secular songs. However, Pietro Bembo was a writer, not a musician.
As the popularity of madrigals waned, Louis XIV, who loved to dance and was a dancer, hired Italian-born Jean-Baptiste Lully, or Giovanni Battista Lulli, a composer and dancer. When Molière returned to Paris after spending several years touring France, his Précieuses ridicules (18 November 1659) impressed the court.
I have yet to order my new computer, but when it arrives, we will again be in Italy briefly. Molière created the comédie-ballet.Les Fâcheux was performed at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Molière wrote the text and Lulli, the music. The ballet accompanying Les Fâcheux (The Bores) was choreographed was Pierre Beauchamp.
A few years ago, I wrote a post on Vaux-le-Vicomte and, in partiular the feast hosted by Nicolas Fouquet on 17 August 1661, perhaps the most lavish fête in the history of France. Louis XIV had just become king of France. Louis was so impressed that during the fête itself, he decided to destroy Fouquet, or Foucquet. The video I used has been removed and I have yet to find a video that matches the former video.
Le Roi danse(Photo credit: Google Images)
Would that Giovanni Bellini had given a name to the persons whose portrait he painted. He entitled many of his portraits as Portrait of a Young Man or Portrait of a Man.
I have a new post, I hope to publish today. It is about ballet. Molière created the comédie-ballet in 1661. He created a total of 11.
With kind regards to all of you.♥
The video shown below is an excerpt from a film entitled Le Roi danse.
Pietro Bembo by Raphael, c. 1504, Szépmûvesti Museum (Photo credit: Web Gallery of Art)
Portrait of Pietro Bembo
Oil on wood, 54 x 69 cm
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)http://www.wga.hu/html_m/r/raphael/1early/08bembo.html Web Gallery of Art
When I turned on my computer this morning, there were several entries on Pietro Bembo and several portraits and other images associated our Cardinal. I am glad my short post generated a search for portraits of Pietro Bembo. The internet’s search engines are very powerful and bloggers may be more useful than they seem.
Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael, Louvre Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pietro Bembo is mentioned in Wikipeda’s entry on Baldassare Castiglioni. As for the “Portrait of a Man” it remains unidentified, but according to Britannica, Giovanni Bellini did produce a painting of Cardinal Pietro Bembo, named “Portrait of a YoungMan.” Bellini also painted an identified portrait of the Doge Leonardo Loredan.
His [Giovanni Bellini’s] Doge Leonardo Loredan in the National Gallery, London, has all the wise and kindly firmness of the perfect head of state, and his Portrait of a Young Man (c. 1505; thought to be a likeness of the Venetian writer and humanist Pietro Bembo) in the British royal collection portrays all the sensitivity of a poet (Britannica).
Pietro Bembo by Raphael, c. 1504, Szépmûvészti Museum (Web Gallery of Art)
Portrait of a Man by Giovanni Bellini (Web Gallery of Art)
At the moment, we have three identified portraits of Pietro Bembo: Titian’s, Bassano’s and Raphael’s. Bellini’s “Portrait of a Man” or “Portrait of a Young Man,” shows a young man resembling Pietro Bembo, which is inconclusive. Given that Raphael, Titian, Bassano and Giovanni Bellini made a portrait of the Cardinal, it seems, however, that he was a prominent figure during his lifetime.
The book I am writing, on Molière, includes discussions of l’honnête homme. I am also revisiting préciosité and the querelle des femmes. Women met in salons.
Sofonisba was the oldest of seven children, six daughters and a son, born to Amilcare Anguissola and Bianca Ponzone. Sofonisba’s father was an aristocrat. Britannica describes him as wealthy and Wikipedia, as impoverished. It is not a contradiction. It simply means that Sofonisba lived comfortably but that her father could not provide six dowries to marry his daughters. He therefore decided that his daughters would be in a position to earn an income and bring some wealth to a potential spouse. Amilcare was centuries ahead of his times and both a realistic and responsible father. The Anguissola sisters therefore received a “well-rounded” education which included the fine arts. Lucia, the most promising of the Anguissola sisters, died at a young age. One sister entered a convent. The others married.
Sofonisba and her sister Elena apprenticed to Bernardino Campi (1522–1591), at his home for three years. She also apprenticed to Bernardino Gatti, il Sojaro (1495-96 – 22 February 1576). This was a precedent. Other families emulated the Anguissola family. Sofonisba’s sisters, Lucia, Minerva, Europa and Anna Maria apprenticed to Sofonisba. Sofonisba then travelled to Rome where she met Michelangelo (March 1475 – 18 February 1564) for whom she executed a drawing he liked. She also travelled to Milan and painted the Duke of Alba.
In short, Sofonisba had a privileged and happy upbringing and the future bode well for her, as her father wished. Moreover, Italy is where the scholars, who fled Byzantium in 1453, had settled. The Renaissance began in Italy. It follows that Italy was the right milieu for artists. As for Sofonisba, she had the privilege of being born to enlightened parents. She therefore spent a lifetime doing what she loved.
Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, c. 1561 (Pinterest) Élisabethde Valois(Photo credit: Wikipedia) Marquess Massimiliano Stampa (courtesy: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore) Sofonisba Anguissola by Anthony Van Dyck(Photo credit: Wikipedia) (7) The Double Portrait, Bernardino Campi and Sofonisba (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (8)
Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma
Élisabeth de Valois, Queen of Spain
Marquess Massimiliano Stampa(courtesy: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)
Madrid : 1559
The Duke of Alba, whom she painted, recommended her to no less than Spain’s most prominent monarch, King Philip II (Felipe II). Philip II had married French princess Élisabeth de Valois (2 April 1545 – 3 October 1568) whom he was very fond of and who enjoyed painting. Hence his recruiting Sofonisba who earned the rank of lady-in-waiting to the Queen consort. She was also an attendant to the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia. Germaine Greer writes that in Sofonisba’s days, “painting was a craft practiced by menials,”which mayexplain why Sofonisba was named attendant to the Infanta. However, Sofonisba was employed and young Élisabeth, very pleased with her artist lady-in-waiting, with whom she spent the remainder of her brief life. Moreover, Sofonisba was a court painter.
At the court of Spain, Sofonisba Anguissolla was a portraitist mainly. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “Anguissola’s paintings of this period are no longer extant, having burned in a fire in the Prado in the 17th century.”
Marriages: the Dowry
Accounts vary as to dates, so I will simplify matters by saying that after the Queen died, at the age of 24 after a miscarriage, Felipe II provided Sofonisba with a dowry and married her to an aristocrat, Sicilian nobleman Fabrizio de Moncadas. After Fabrizio’s death, Sofonisba met Orazio Lomellino, the captain of the ship taking her to Cremona and she married him. Sofonisba and her husband lived in Genoa where Sofonisba continued to work as a portraitist, but also executed religious works. She died in 1625, at the age of ninety-three. Anthony Van Dyck visited her when she was in her 90s. He found her mentally alert and made a portrait of her. By then, Sofonisba, who was wealthy, had become of patron of the arts.
Artemisia Gentileschi (8 July 1593 – c. 1656) was one of the finest painters of her days. She is the second woman associated with the Baroque period we are discussing. In the fine arts, the Baroque era begins in the late 16th century and ends towards the middle of the 17th century. Artemisia is a 17th-century Italian artist.
Artemisia was born in Rome and first apprenticed with her father, Orazio Gentileschi (1536 – 1639). Orazio moved to France in 1624 at the invitation of Marie de Medici (26 April 1763 -3 July 1642), but left for England two years later, where he remained until his death.
In 1638, Artemisia would join him in England. Orazio died in 1639, but Artemisia did not leave England until she had completed her commissions. “According to her biographer Baldinucci (who appended her life to that of her father), she painted many portraits and quickly surpassed her father’s fame” (Britannica). By 1642, she was back in Italy.
the Carracci brothers (Bologna)
There can be no doubt that her father, Orazio Gentileschi, influenced Artemisia, but her paintings are described as naturalistic and were not idealized, in which she differs from her father.
Artemisia and her father were influenced by Caravaggio (29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610), the artist who inaugurated chiaroscuro(leclair-obscur) ortenebrism, the use of a dark background. Caravaggio exerted influence on several painters such as Georges de La Tour (13 March 1593 – 13 January 1652), Gerrit van Honthorst (4 November 1592 – 27 April 1656) and Trophime Bigot (1579 – 1650). By and large, the word chiaroscuro is now used to describe a technique: light colours on a dark background.
Artemisia was also influenced by the brothers Carracci, by members of the Bolognese school, and by colleagues. She was a history painter who depicted scenes from the Bible and other religious subject matter. Moreover, she was a portraitist.
Portrait of a Lady Dressed in a Gold Embroidered Elaborate Costume, (nd) (Courtesy Britannica)
I noted that Lavinia Fontana (24 August 1552 – 11 August 1614), a portraitist mainly, who lived at approximately the same time as Artemisia Gentileschi, used aa dark background. One has the feeling that tenebrism‘s subject matter is carved out of darkness, which is a lovely thought as artists are creators, even in representatial paintings. The painting featured immediately below, young Artemisia’s first painting is not caravaggesque. But it is rather prophetic.
Susanna and the Elders, 1610 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
the impossible Nozze di Riparazione
Orazio presses charges
the marriage & Florence
In 1611, Artemisia’s father hired artist Agostino Tassi (Perugia, 1578– Rome, 1644), both as an assistant and as teacher to his daughter. Tassi raped Artemisia, but another man, Cosimo Quorli(s), was involved.
At the time of the rape, Orazio rented an upstairs apartment in his house to a woman named Tuzia or Tutio, a chaperone who befriended Artemisia. However, on the day of the rape, the woman let the men into the house and did not respond when Artemisia screamed for help.
After the rape, Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with her rapist. Her continuing to have sexual relations with Tassi may be otherwise explained, but it seems she believed he would marry her, as he promised, thereby restoring her dignity and giving her the future he had taken away. However, foremost in her father’s eyes was restoring Artemisia’s honour. This recourse was not uncommon in Artemisia’s times. In Italy, such a marriage was called nozze di riparazione (a reparation marriage). Tassi reneged on his promise and Orazio pressed charges.
During the five-month trial, it was revealed that Tassi was already married, that he planned to kill his wife and that he had entered into an adulterous relationship with his wife’s sister. Tassi was found guilty of rape, but never served a day of his one-year prison sentence. In fact, he was freed. During the trial, Artemisia had to submit to a gynecological examination and was tortured: the thumbscrew, for the purpose of eliciting evidence.
A month after the trial, Orazio married his daughter to Pierantonio Stiattesi. The couple lived in Florence where, in 1618, Artemisia bore Pierantonio a daughter who was named Prudentia, after Artemisia’s mother. Three sons were born to Pierantonio, but Artemisia is reported to have given birth to one daughter and to have lived in Naples in order to be near Prudentia.
Judith and her Maidservant (1613 – 14) (Photocredit: Wikipedia)
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Career
Rome & Venice
Naples & London
In Florence, Artemisia was associated with the Medici court and enjoyed great success. She painted an Allegory of Inclination(Allegoria dell’Inclinazione) (c. 1616) commissioned by Michelangelo Buonaratti the Younger, Michelangelo’s grandnephew, “for the series of frescoes honouring the life of Michelangelo in the Casa Buonarotti.” (Britannica). In 1616, she joined Florence’s Academy of Design (Accademia di Arte del Disegno) and was the first woman to do so. In short, “[w]hile in Florence she began to develop her own distinctive style” (Britannica).
Artemisia ran into debts because she and her husband were allowed to buy art material on credit. Pierantonio bought more than could be repaid. Creditors were at the door, so to speak. In 1621, she decided to eave for Rome, which her marriage.
Artemisia’s (1593 – 1653/6) career can be divided as follows, i.e. by naming localities:
She was in Florence (1614 – 1620),
in Rome and Venice (1621–1630), and
in Naples and England (1630–1653).
Very little is known concerning Artemisia Gentileschi’s final years and her death, but she may have been a victim of the 1656 outbreak of the plague that decimated Naples’ artistic community.
Artemisia Gentileschi lost her mother at the age of 12 and it appears she was not taught to read or write. Yet, in Florence (1614 -1620), she befriended Galileo Galilei, with whom she corresponded, in letters, for many years. (See Artemisia Gentileschi, Wikipedia)
Where did she find the courage to marry Pierantonio Stiattesi, to bear him at least one child, and to give birth after a violent rape? We know that she settled in Naples to be near her daughter. She was a good mother.
Judith beheading Holofernes is Artemisia’s most notorious painting. Her treatment of Judith and Holofernes, a familiar subject matter to artists, is one of the most violent and bloody to have come down to us. Artemisia produced a second Judith slaying Holofernes. But she nevertheless painted other scenes from the Bible and various religious scenes, as did her contemporaries, and she was a fine portraitist. Germaine Greerpoints to the strength of the women she depicted: strong hands, strong bodies, flesh.
Artemisia produced paintings about Bathsheba and David. According to Britannica, Bathshebawas raped and became pregnant. Her husband, a soldier, refused to make believe he was the child’s father. David had him killed and married Bathsheba. King David is Solomon’s father. Artemisia retold rape and violence, albeit subconsciously.
Could it be Artemisia Gentileschi never looked upon her circumstances as potentially paralyzing and that it never occurred to her that she lived in a man’s world? The image below, considered a self-portrait, shows a strong woman playing the lute. The following image is a serene portrait of St Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians whose feast day is celebrated on 22 November. Her paintings of the slaying of Holofernes are gruesome (the first one in particular) and may well reflect her experience.
Yet, although her artwork depics strong women, Artemisia drew much of her subject matter, including the slaving of Holofernes, from sources used by artists of her life and times. She did not live in seclusion, but belonged to a community of artists who may have influenced her and vice versa. Moreover, she had to make a living.
There is a lore of Artemisia Gentileschi listed in her Wikipedia entry (see Artemisia Gentileschi). Her rape is likely to attract the attention of artists, novelists and filmakers, but she was not entirely defined by her rape and the trial that ensued. Artemisia Gentileschi is the woman who corresponded with no less than Galielo Galilei, but first and foremost, she is artist Artemisia Gentileschi.
As mentioned at the top of this post Artemisia Gentileschi had female colleagues. I have discussed portraitist Lavinia Fontana(24 August 1552 – 11 August, 1614), excluding the many little dogs featured in her paintings, but Sofonisba Anguissola (1532 – November 1625) was also a female colleague. I will discuss Sofonisba. Artemisia Gentileschi is Germaine Greer’s “Magnificent Exception,” which does not underrate her female colleagues’ art.
With kind regards to everyone. ♥
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player (1615-17) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
St Cecilia Playing a Lute(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 “Artemisia Gentileschi”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 27 févr.. 2016
<http://www.britannica.com/biography/Artemisia-Gentileschi>.  Germaine Greer, “The Magnificent Exception,” The Obstacle Race: the Fortunes of Women Painters and their Work (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979), pp. 189 – 207.
The portrait of Pope Gregory Xlll, inserted in “Happy Valentine’s Day” is by Lavinia Fontana.
Lavinia Fontana (24 August 1552 – 11 August 1614) was a major artist, a portraitist mainly, of the Italian 16th century. In fact, so fine was her work that she was called to Rome by Pope Clement VIII (24 February 1536 – 3 March 1605) where she settled in 1603. Germaine Greer writes that “when she travelled to their estates in the Emilia, they would mount a formal reception, with soldiers lining the streets, fire salutes, as if she were a princess.”
A room of one’s own
Being a woman was an obstacle as women were expected to have children and run a household. Lavinia had 11 children, but her husband Paolo Zappi gave up his profession to be her assistant. Moreover, she had an income. You may remember what importance Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) attached to having a room of one’s own. In A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929, she wrote that “[a] woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction[,]” and be an artist. In 17th-century France, widows were considered privileged women. They had time, money, and servants.
Lavinia Fontana was the daughter of painter Prospero Fontana (1512 – 1597), a prominent artist, and was raised in Bologna. There was a Bolognese School. As noted above, Lavinia Fontana did marry and gave birth to 11 children, but only three survived her. Some may have died in childhood, making for a smaller household, but causing considerable pain. The miracle is that she survived childbirth, a major risk, and was a productive artist.
Lavinia Fontana’s subject matter was the same as male artists of her times. She painted scenes inspired by the newly-discovered Greek antiquity. You will remember that the Renaissance began when the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks, which would be the year 1453. Byzantium’s Greek scholars fled to Italy. Lavinia also painted nudes. But above all, she was a fine portraitist. However, in order to earn a living, Lavinia had to paint religious scenes. As indicated in her Wikipedia entry, Lavinia “gained the patronage of the Buoncompagni family, of which Pope Gregory XIII was a member[,]” hence, perhaps, her truly magnificent portrait of him.
Lavinia Fontana’s style is called carracciesque, because of the influence of the Carracci cousins, Agostino, Annibale and Ludovico, Annibal in particular. They were the founders of the Accademia degli Incamminati (walking forward). WikiArt.org classifies her work as examples of Mannerist Renaissance painting. As noted in earlier posts, the Italian Renaissance developed in Academies, hence the use of the word Accademia. There were formal academies, but others were informal, such as Count Bardi’s Florentine Cameratawhere Vincenzo Galileo, astronomer Galileo Galilei’s father proposed the somewhat artificial twelve-tone equal temperament.
It has been suggested that Lavinia made paintings signed by her father. In fact, some patrons suspected as much and asked Prospero to do the work they commissionned by himself. This was no doubt a limitation for Lavinia. Her father preyed on her time and talent.
A main characteristic of her paintings is her attempt to convey feeling. Most noticeable, however, is her attention to details and the dark back drop. It be may that the greatest female artist of the Italian Renaissance is Artemisia Gentileschi (8 July 1593 – c. 1656), but she had colleagues, Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola (1532 – November 1625).
Portrait of Minerva Dressing, 1613
Some of her paintings were attributed to Guido Reni. There was a link. Both were born in Bologna and both moved to Rome.
Lavinia was considered an equal among the artists of her time and an inspiration to such painters as the afore-mentioned Guido Reni (4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642), whose remarkable “St Michael Archangel” is held in Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, Rome. I have used it in an earlier post. He too was invited to move to Rome.
Salons are often looked upon as a French institution when in fact Italians brought salons to France. However, although the salon was imported, it became a French institution and it never fully disappeared. Gertrude Stein’s home: 28, rue de Fleurus, was a salon.
Madame de Rambouillet
“l’incomparable Arthénice” (Arthénice is an anagram of Catherine)
Born in Rome to Jean de Vivonne (marquis of Pisani [1530-1599]) and Giulia Savelli, Madame de Rambouillet (1588-1665), the wife of Charles d’Angennes, marquis de Rambouillet (1577–1652), opened the first famous seventeenth-century French salon. Salons were a gathering place for various distinguished persons: aristocrats of all ranks, cardinals (Richelieu), Louis XIII (at least once), and l’honnête homme, who could be a bourgeois. For the most part, habituées (regulars) were well-educated men and women who shared an interest in literature, philosophy and music. Moreover, they were witty. L’incomparable Arthénice, an anagram of Catherine, established the first and the best of salons and received her guests every Saturday. On fine summer days, they had a cadeau (literally a gift) which was an outing in the countryside: une fête champêtre.
L’Hôtel de Rambouillet
la ruelle (the side of a bed)
Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, lived in a private house, then called un hôtel particulier, l’Hôtel de Rambouillet, rue Saint-Honoré. But l’Hôtel relocated in 1618. Its new address was rue Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre. Arthénice received her guests in her blue room, la chambre bleue d’Arthénice. She usually sat in bed and her guests, la crème de la crème of French society, gathered in a ruelle(literally a narrow back street),one side of the bed. Bedrooms were very large in the best homes of the seventeenth century and beds were canopied beds featuring somptuous drapes that were drawn closed at night, especially on wintry days.
Salons are remembered as places where anything crude was quickly rejected. Only the purest French could be spoken in a salon and one’s manners had to be refined. A male guest was, at the very least, an honnête homme. French galanterie is a sturdy institution dating back to medieval courtly love. It reached a summit in seventeenth-century French salons.
Giovanni Battista Guarini & Honoré d’Urfée
Il Pastor fidoL’Astrée
However, seventeenth-century salons were not always as they had been at l’Hôtel de Rambouillet. Some salon habitué(e)s were people who made believe they were not what they seemed. The salonniers and salonnières, gave themselves new names and, at one point, the aficionados of salons were so influenced by Guarini’s Il Pastor fido, a pastoral set in Arcadia and published in Venice in 1590 and, later, by Honoré d’Urfée’s L’Astrée (1607-1627), that they played shepherds and shepherdesses (see Pastoral, Wikipedia). Fantasy took over.
As well, salons are one of the birthplaces of feminism. Medieval courtly love was revived and revised, and women started looking upon themselves as “précieuses.” They were précieuses, of course, everyone is, but not so précieuses that they could not call a chair a chair. Chairs became “commodités de la conversation.” A comfortable armchair does facilitate conversation, but… Préciosité, was not one of the better moments of la querelle des femmes, the woman question (the term “querelle des femmes” was first used in 1450).
In some cases, women kept suitors waiting for several years, before marrying. The Duc de Montausier (1610–1690), courted Julie d’Angennes (1607-1671), Madame de Rambouillet’s daughter, from 1631 until 1645, before she consented to marry him. She was 38 when she married Montausier. The couple had one daughter.
La Guirlande de Julie: a gift
62 madrigals (poems)
flowers representing facets of love (allegory)
Out of this courtship, a book emerged, entitled La Guirlande de Julie. It was given as a present to Julie in 1641 and contained sixty-two madrigals (poems not songs), each featuring a flower. The collection of poems is therefore allegorical, or symbolic. Montausier wrote sixteen of the madrigals (the poetic rather than musical form), but the preparation of the book was a bit of a contest disguised as a game. Among the authors are Racan, Tallemant des Réaux and others. The challenge consisted in finding the “pointe” or conceit, a clever and witty way of saving “little nothings.”