Monday, June 02, 2008

Painting of the Day # 2

Bronzino An Allegory with Venus and Cupid

A maelstrom of tortured forms dances around the central figures - Time, that old lecher, exposes and censors, is both outraged and envious, clutching his thin fabric; Decay looks on in hollow, speechless horror, Frustration howls in her corner and Folly, feigning innocence, watches with blank, basilisk eyes. A rubbish of doves and lions, of masks and snake skins strews the canvas. And in the midst of all this frenzy the two lovers rise, oblivious, rapt in each other, a statuary of flesh.

Am I the only one who thinks of Oedipus? Of Tragedy shrieking in the background as the two incestuous lovers, Mother and Son, embrace, watched over by a fatal innocence and lured on by the sly, child-faced Sphinx with her tail of a serpent and her lion's paw? And is the figure in the top left, that mask without substance, that face invented for the sake of its cry, not perhaps the Chorus, and the other figure, the balding, hoary old man who unveils this scene not Sophocles himself, appalled by what he has revealed?


I had ambitious plans for this blog today, I really did. I was going to review the new Coetzee novel, or tell you about all the other new Indian fiction I read over the weekend; I was going to talk about the poetry of Antjie Krog, who I'm just discovering, or describe the glorious weather here in Philly or the accident I saw from my window the other day. I was going to do all that, except then Amazon went and delivered my copy of The Enchantress of Florence, so I plan to spend the next few days drowning in Rushdie. Meanwhile, you can check out two gifts from the Guardian - the first, a Tsvetaeva poem translated by Elaine Feinstein, the second, a new collaborative fiction project featuring Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson.


Preeti said...

No .. I thought of Oedipus the instant I saw the pic! scary shit .. what's next .. am I going to turn into a pretentious misanthrope as well?

Veena said...

preeti: I don't know anyone who did not think of Oedipus when they saw that painting. So not to worry.

But I do know someone whose sensibilities were so offended by this painting that she immediately left the room it was in. Anyway.

Falstaff said...

preeti: What do you mean turn into - I'd say you're one already.

veena: "I do know someone whose sensibilities were so offended by this painting that she immediately left the room it was in." Wow! Really? That's just bizarre.

Anonymous said...

no, I did not leave the room. I said it offended my "delicate sensibilities" and in general, "good american values" etc.

well, there is nothing like being misrepresented. ;)


blackmamba said...

Besides I thought this would be the first painting in the Natl. Gallery Falsie would write about.

walking away shaking my head in disbelief.

Falstaff said...

bm: Ah, you have delicate sensibilities do you? I would never have guessed.

And well, it is almost the first painting I wrote about - so you were sort of right about that one. Want to wager on what the next painting I'll pick will be (or the first painting from the Tate Modern?).

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't she have any pubic hair? Did they shave it for her caesarean?


Alan Fisk said...

If you're interested, Bronzino's Allegory with Venus and Cupid is the subject of my historical novel Cupid and the Silent Goddess, which imagines how the painting might have been created in Florence in 1544-5.