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.
In his Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) opposes what we would call private militias. The families he is speaking of are the Gonzaga family, who ruled Mantua, the Medicis, who ruled Florence, the Sforza family, the rulers of Milan and other rulers.
Niccolò Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) knew these factious city-states. He had worked for the Medicis and witnessed a constant struggle for power, a “war of all against all” (Thomas Hobbes), hence his advice to the prince. For Machiavelli, “the end justifie[d] the means.” How could his prince survive other than by being a “fox?” Machiavelli’s Prince was published in 1532. (The Prince is a Gutenberg publication.)
Feuds Of Private Families
“In all Common-wealths, if a private man entertain more servants, than the government of his estate, and lawfull employment he has for them requires, it is Faction, and unlawfull. For having the protection of the Common-wealth, he needeth not the defence of private force. And whereas in Nations not throughly civilized, severall numerous Families have lived in continuall hostility, and invaded one another with private force; yet it is evident enough, that they have done unjustly; or else that they had no Common-wealth.” (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part II, xxii)
The Leviathan was published in 1651. So Hobbes’ foresight amazes me. His analysis of society, here a divided society, is as insightful and valid today as it was in 1651. I should think that the common denominator is human nature. It doesn’t change.
The US has militias and Canada has its indépendantistes. Pierre Elliott Trudeau ended terrorism on the part of séparatistes in October 1970 when, at the request of the alarmed premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, he sent in the troops. There had been deaths throughout the 1960s: bombs placed in mailboxes and during the October Crisis, Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Minister of Labour, was kidnapped and killed.
However, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest (born John James Charest on June 24, 1958), a member of the federalist Liberal Party, was defeated by Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois in the Quebec General Election, held on 4 September 2012. So, there may be yet another referendum: “to separate” or “not to separate.” I fully understand that we French-speaking Canadians should protect our heritage, but…
Canada is not about to enter into a Civil War. The citizens of Quebec would not agree to this kind of disorder, but I no longer live in Hobbes’ “Common-wealth.” It was bilingual, bicultural, hospitable and, under Pierre Elliott Trudeau leadership, “[t]here [was] no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” (Omnibus Bill, 1967). Quebec is a unilingual province. Immigrants to Quebec have to learn French, which is not too problematical. However, the citizens of Quebec must pay taxes to both the Quebec Government and the Federal Government and a Quebecker‘s health-insurance card does not cover visits to a doctor outside Quebec. Fortunately, it covers hospitalization. These restrictions would not exist if, in 1982, Quebec had signed the patriated Canadian Constitution.[i] So, to a certain extent, Quebec is a country within a country.
President Obama has been criticized for this and criticized for that, but President Obama is the kind of leader who allows not just the United States but the world to feel safer. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was re-elected to the Presidency of the United States of America. I’m not saying that he is perfect, no one is. For instance, I would like him to be quite ruthless with respect to gun ownership and the presence of militias. In other words, I would like him to use his authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to the fullest extent.
Let us hope, with respect to gun-control, that Congress will not be divided, but if it is, President Obama may have to use whatever mechanisms he may use as commander-in-chief to ensure the security of Americans. Between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the militias, the United States has armies within armies as well as its official armed forces, the only legitimate army. A house divided…
Barack Obama was re-elected to the Presidency of the United States, despite near certainty on the part of members of the Republican Party that Mitt Romney would emerge a winner. However, Americans knew that President Obama was the better candidate. So I believe that the persons who have re-elected him also know that the better decision is to take the guns away and will support him in his effort to curb and perhaps end the massacres, the staggering number of deaths by gun and the presence of militias, Hobbes’ factious “private force.”
I receive comments I do not always have time to answer, but I read all of them and wish to thank you for your encouraging words. It touches me that you should appreciate blogs about people who lived a long time ago. They were a little different, but not altogether. Human nature is human nature and that fact overrides the years that may separate us from an “ancestor.” At any rate, I thank you.
If that’s fine with you, I will continue to write about French-Canadian /Quebecois history and literature. But sometimes an event happens that forces me to write about another subject or not to write.
Moreover, there are times when I need to speak about an artist or a musician or a great work of literature. This week, courtly behaviour came up. How reassuring to know that it was not altogether superficial, or a mask.
Some of my readers have asked for longer blogs, such as sprezzatura. Such blogs are useful to students of all ages. Sprezzatura has to do with the behaviour of the courtier. It is described as nonchalance, but it is in fact a certain reserve, or retenue, on the part of Castiglione’s perfect courtier.
I believe people prefer short blogs. A mixture might be my best option.
In The Aristocrat as Art,[i] Domna Stanton states that “the quintessential prototype of the honnête homme was the Greek philosopher, the incarnation of virtue, of the golden mean, and the source of such fundamental notions as human sociability. It was only as eminently social beings, devoid of pedantry, that Greek philosophers earned the label honnête: ‘People can only imagine Plato and Aristotle in the long robes of pedants,’ protested Pascal.”
In seventeenth-century France, l’honnête homme practiceda degree of sprezzatura, anart that did not seem to have been learned or “art that does not seem to be art.” For instance, as François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (15 Septembre 1613 – 17 March 1680) wrote « L’honnête homme ne se pique de rien. » Maximes 203 (L’honnête homme [the courtier] never boasts [or is never “piqued”] about anything).[ii]We can therefore assume that, conversely, l’honnête homme is also capable of containing his anger: un peu de retenue (take it easy).
In this respect, Molière‘s Philinthe (Le Misanthrope) is the embodiment of honnêteté. Atcourt or in one of the salons of seventeenth-century France, hewould not tell a woman that she has applied too much makeup. This would be the truth, or what Alceste the misanthrope calls sincerity, but it would also be offensive. In such cases, l’honnête homme practices a morally acceptable form of mental reservation, so as not to hurt another human being, in which he is behaving according not only to the dictates of honnêteté, but also according to a moral or ethical code. « Le style c’est l’homme même. » (Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon)
There can therefore be communion between galant behaviour and the respect due every human being, whatever his or her place in society. It is called charity and there cannot be grace, grazia,sprezzatura, honnêteté, where there is no charity or compassion. In seventeenth-century France, deceptive appearances, Pascal’s puissances trompeuses, were considered the greatest of ills. It remains however that honnêteté, cannot be altogether superficial. One cannot play honnête homme no more than one can feign devotion.
In Molière‘s Tartuffe, no one is fooled by the falsely devout Tartuffe, except Orgon, apater familias who needs to be tyrannical with impunity and his mother. Everyone else knows that Tartuffe is a faux-dévot (falsely devout) except Orgon who needs a casuiste under his roof so he can sin with impunity while Tartuffe eats heartily and coveits his wife. He tells her that he knows how to lift scruples; that if she fears offending God (le Ciel [heaven]), this is an obstacle he can remove. (IV.5)
If every member of Orgon’s family, other than Orgon himself, can detect hypocrisy where hypocrisy there is, l’honnête homme will quickly see affectation in a would-be honnêtehomme, which would exclude this would-be honnête homme from the state of grace he would like to achieve. Grace has to be natural or internalized in the manner most of us internalize what we are taught as children. L’honnête homme is an honest man and among his virtues, we find a sense of justice and the realization that one has duties or obligations.
“In Book II, Quintilian sides with Plato’s assertion in the Phædrus that the rhetorician must be just: ‘In the Phædrus, Plato makes it even clearer that the complete attainment of this art is even impossible without the knowledge of justice,’ an opinion in which I heartily concur.” (Quintilian 2.15.29, quoted in Wikipedia)
Castiglione had also read Cicero‘s (January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) recently translated (1511) De Officiis (On Duties or On Obligations). According to Cicero, our courtier has duties or obligations.
Noble Birth and sprezzatura: inneism (adjective: innate)
In Italy, the common belief was that the courtier had to be an aristocrat. Yet Castiglione notes that honnêteté coud be innate, but that one could also be innately incapable of honnêteté:
Truth it is, whether it be through the favour of the starres or of nature, some there are borne endowed wyth suche graces, that they seeme not to have bene borne, but rather facioned with the verye hand of some God, and abounde in all goodnesse bothe of bodye and mynde. As againe we see some so unapte and dull, that a man wyl not beleve, but nature hath brought them into the worlde for a spite and mockerie. (First Book of The Book of the Courtier)[iii]
Consequently, noble birth did not guarantee sprezzatura. It is altogether possible to be “borne endowed wyth suche graces” just as it was entirely possible for nature to deny an individual the possibility to acquire sprezzatura. “As againe we see some so unapte and dull, that a man wyl not beleve, but nature hath brought them into the worlde for a spite and mockerie.” (quoted above)
Seventeenth-Century French salons
In this respect, it should be noted that one of the goals of French seventeenth-century salons, before and after runaway préciosité consisted in teaching aristocrat good manners. One does not clean one’s teeth at table using a hunting knife as a toothpick. Many aristocrats were soldiers whose manners left a great deal to be to be desired.
In fact, when Catherine de Rambouillet, “l’incomparable Arthénice (an anagram of Catherine),” (1588 [Rome] – 2 December 1665), opened her salon, rue Saint-Thomas- du-Louvre (between the Louvre, the King’s castle before Versailles was built, and the Tuileries), she provided a meeting-place for individuals who wanted to be in refined surroundings and speak well. Court had yet to be courtly. For instance, Marie de’ Medici, Henri IV’s wife, was not the sort of person well-mannered individuals would invite to dinner. For one thing, she spoke atrocious French.
So both aristocrats and bourgeois found their way to la chambre blue d’Arthénice, Madame de Rambouillet’s blue room, and mingled with one another. Pascal, La Fontaine, Charles Perrault, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, etc. were honnêtes hommes, but notaristocrats. There is an aristocracy above aristocracy: an aristocracy of the mind and of the soul.
Speech: l’Âge de l’éloquence
Speaking well, éloquence, was central to honnêteté.[iv] Quintilian (c. 35 – c. 100) was the author of Institutio oratoria (95 CE) and Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) De Oratore (55 BCE). L’honnête homme, practiced contenance, réserve, retenue, discrétion, sagesse, modération, but above all he spoke and wrote well. Buffon was elected to the Académie française (1753) mostly one the basis of his Discours sur le style (“Discourse on Style”), which he had pronounced before the Académie française. Let us hear him speak about writing: “Writing well consists of thinking, feeling and expressing well, of clarity of mind, soul and taste…. The style is the man himself” (“Le style c’est l’homme même”). Buffon had detractors, but if one cannot express a thought, does the thought exist… Thoughts have to be formulated.
Richelieu and the French Academy
It is in no way surprising that the first French academy was l’Académie française, established in 1635 by le Cardinal Richelieu. The French Academy, the first of the five academies, ruled over matters pertaining to language. Richelieu could not let language be didacted by salonniers and salonnières, people who attended seventeenth-century Salons (see Catherine de Rambouillet), where Préciosité flourished. A calamity!
[t]he perfect gentleman had to win the respect and friendship of his peers and of a ruler, i.e., be a courtier, so as to be able to offer valuable assistance and advice on how to rule the city. To do this, he must be accomplished—in sports, telling jokes, fighting, poetry, music, drawing, and dancing—but not too much. To his moral elegance (his personal goodness) must be added the spiritual elegance conferred by familiarity with good literature (i.e., the humanities, including history). He must excel in all without apparent effort and make everything look easy.
[i]Domna C. Stanton, The Aristocrat as Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), p. 14.
I love Barocci’s landscape. I love its flowing lines (mannerist), its suggestiveness and its monochromatic quality. Nothing is overstated. Beauty can be bold, but it can also be a mere whisper, lace curtains gently billowed by the wind, sheer grace: sprezzatura.
According to Wikipedia, “The Book of the Courtier was one of the most widely distributed books of the 16th century, with editions printed in six languages and in twenty European centers. The 1561 English translation by Thomas Hoby had a great influence on the English upper class’s conception of English gentlemen.”