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.