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Steven Oliver

Birds, Beasts and Flowers

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:26

Very excited today to have a look at a rare copy of a poetry collection which includes one of the poems I'm studying in A111, DH Lawrence's 'Bat'. Looking through my local university library catalogue (the SCONUL scheme is just such an excellent thing if you can get to a local library) I'd found a reference to a book in their 'rare books collection', the Cresset Press 'Birds, Beasts and Flowers' published in May 1930 - just two months after Lawrence died of tuberculosis.

The book was a limited edition of 530 copies illustrated with wood engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton, and it is a beautiful thing.

An open book

There's an excellent account of the book, with lots of detail about both the illustrations and the artist at the following reference.

Keith Cushman, “Lawrence, Blair Hughes-Stanton, and the Cresset Press Birds, Beasts and Flowers”, Études Lawrenciennes [Online], 41 | 2010, 

Online since 28 January 2014, connection on 04 January 2023. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/lawrence/151; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/lawrence.151

The book contains a full-page frontispiece which I've shown above and nine full-page engravings before each section of the poetry collection, there are two smaller engravings as head- and tailpieces. 

'Bat' is one of four poems in the section 'Creatures', but perhaps sadly only 'Fish' and 'Mosquito' make it into the accompanying illustration. As the article explains, Lawrence was persuaded by Hughes-Stanton to contribute short 'prefaces' to each section and these were often the focus for the illustration. The texts Lawrence added are cryptic to say the least and seem to sometimes have only tangential contacts with the original poems (written nearly a decade earlier) so not sure they particularly 'help' in thinking about the poems. (The only link to 'Bat' is probably in the preface text that talks of how the sun's rays 'hurt the creatures that live by night', although that really speaks more to Lawrence's poem 'Man and Bat' in which the poet is trapped in his bedroom with a lost bat.) However, certainly made me think about the examples in A111 from William Blake's work and the comment made in the learning materials about taking image and text as an 'artistic totality'.

Open book

One final point was the discovery that the text of 'Bat' in this edition differs from that in the 'The Faber Book of Beasts' - the penultimate line in the latter edition, 'In China the bat is symbol of happiness.' is missing. I have to say I prefer the poem without it, a challenge for another day to discover which version of the poem originally included that extra line!

Poem Bat Poem Bat

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Steven Oliver

A lightening trip to Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:26

A parental taxi-run to Oxford allowed for a hasty (15min) dash into the Ashmolean Museum and more specifically to the 'Cast Gallery' that began in 1884 as a resource for teaching classical archaeology. The following are a few 'snaps' I managed to take - along with a promise to come back and spend some quality time in the future! (spent almost more time in the loo than I did in the gallery 😆)

 Ashmolean Museum

The text is taken either from the accompanying museum labels - or from the online catalogue.

Early Greek kouros

Cast of early Greek kouros, Delphi, Greece, c. 570 BCE

'The stocky, heavily muscled naked figure stands in the schematic ‘walking’ pose copied from Egypt by early Greek sculptors, signifying motion and life. One of a pair excavated in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (now in Delphi Museum). The pair used to be identified as Kleobis and Biton, after a story in Herodotus about two statues at Delphi, supposedly of these two boys from Argos, who pulled their mother, a priestess, in a cart to a festival she needed to get to. The subjects are however more likely to be heroes or exemplary worshippers of Apollo, the god of the sanctuary. Such figures could carry a range of different meanings.

The engraved and simply modelled body surface, and the large eyes and flat-topped head are typical of the earliest large-scale Greek statues. The long hair is elaborately carved in thick, beaded locks, an archaic aristocratic fashion of the period. The subject is beardless, yet has strong muscle development, a full scrotum, and a trimmed mat of pubic hair - he stands on the threshold of manhood.'

[Note that the hair on this kouros is shown coming over the shoulders, more like a kore - presumably a 'local' (in either time or place) variant in style?]

Image of Peplos kore 

Cast of ‘Peplos kore’, from Athenian Acropolis, c. 530 BCE

'The young woman held an offering in her outstretched left hand (missing) and wears an unusual combination of clothes: a thin underdress visible at her feet, a thick belted dress or skirt, and a short mantle. The outer clothing would have been brightly patterned and painted.'

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Athens, Acropolis Museum, inv. 679.

Found in three fragments in the 1880s, northwest of the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis.

Small statue of kore type. She has long hair falling in symmetrical tresses on either side of the head and down the back, held by fillet, and crowned by stephane. She wears a chiton, a long garment held by a belt, a long jacket, and a short mantle. Studies of remaining pigment on the original marble surface have revealed complex painted decoration, with animal friezes on the long garment and lotus-palmette and running spirals on the jacket.

In: Frederiksen, Rune, and R.R.R. Smith, The Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum: Catalogue of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2011)

 
 Image of Diadumenos 

Cast of Diadoumenos (hair- binder) of Polykleitos, from Delos, c. 100 BCE

'A young athelete ties a fillet around his head after winning a contest. The marble statue is a sensitive Hellenistic version of a bronze victor statue by the famous fifth century sculptor Polykleitos of Argos, made in c430BC. Over forty later copies attest the impact of this statue.'

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Athens, National Museum, inv. 1826.

Found in 1894 in the House of Diadoumenos on Delos, Greece.
Statue of naked athlete tying fillet in hair. A himation and quiver are draped over the supporting trunk to his right. Hellenistic, c. 100 BC copy of a statue of 440-420 BC by Polykleitos of Argos.

In: Frederiksen, Rune, and R.R.R. Smith, The Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum: Catalogue of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2011)

 Image of Diskobolod 

Cast of Diskobolos (discus-thrower) of Myron, 460-440BC

'An athelete is coiled up in a taut, momentary pose, about to throw the discus- one of the pentathelete’s five events. The cast combines a headless statue from Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli and the head of a statue found in Rome. Copied closely from a lost bronze victor statue by the Athenian sculptor, Myron, active c460-440BC.'

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Statue: Vatican, Museo Pio Clementino, Sala della Biga, inv. 2346. Head (Lancelotti Head): Museo Nazionale Romano, inv. 126371.
Statue found in 1791 at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, east of Rome. The head found (with its body) in 1781 in Villa Palombara on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.
Statue of naked, male athlete with short hair throwing the discus. The cast combines a statue in the Vatican with the head of a statue in the Museo Nazionale (ex. coll. Lancellotti). Roman, 2nd century AD, copying statue of c. 450 BC by Myron of Eleutherai.
Modern: lower left arm with hand, right lower leg with foot, fragments of body, right arm and diskos.

In: Frederiksen, Rune, and R.R.R. Smith, The Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum: Catalogue of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2011)

 Image of Augustus#
Emperor Augustus, from Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome c. 20 BCE

'Augustus raises his right arm in the gesture of a general addressing his troops. The military commander's cloak and armour were the most distinctive of all Roman power costumes. The breastplate carries an elaborate allegory of the return of the standards lost to the Parthians in 19 BCE. The marble statue was once brightly painted'

'At the time of its discovery (1863), extensive remains of the statue's colouring were visible. In this reconstruction, the original pigments were recreated and their approximate shades were applied on the cloak, parts of the armour, the hair, the eyes, but not on the skin or on the ground of the armour, which were originally left uncoloured. The result shows some of the startling effect of polychromy applied to statues in antiquity.'


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Second, painted cast of the same original as B 161.
Cast acquired in 2009 from the Musei Vaticani. Reconstructed polychrome version produced under the scientific direction of P. Liverani.

In: Frederiksen, Rune, and R.R.R. Smith, The Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum: Catalogue of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2011)


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Steven Oliver

Scrooge's nexus

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:25

I've really enjoyed some of the new perspectives that A111 can bring to 'old friends' like A Christmas Carol. A simple one has been to put aspects of the novella in the context of their (possible) settings. The podcast 'The Rest is History' produced a Christmas Carol special in 2020 and sections were recorded at sites that may have featured in the book. I spent time pausing the podcast and looking up locations on Google Maps 'street view' as the story moved up and down Cornhill in the financial hub of modern London. 

This was my final summary image, hopefully next year I'll find some time to visit some of the sites on foot! 

Aerial view of Cornhill area of London, with possible locations for settings within A Christmas Carol

The podcast is available here: https://play.acast.com/s/the-rest-is-history-podcast/132-a-christmas-carol

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Steven Oliver

Does this reputation rest on its laurels?

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:25

I've enjoyed the section of A111 dedicated to examining the use of portraiture to create and promote 'reputations' for Elizabeth I - both during her lifetime and, in the figure below, following her death in 1603. 


Unknown artist (English school), Queen Elizabeth I in Old Age or Allegorical Portrait of Queen Elizabeth Ic.1610, oil on panel. Corsham Court, Wiltshire. Photo: © Bridgeman Images.

Beginning to learn to decode courtly art; the meaning of colours, clothes, the 'language' of flowers, a whole string of props from sieve's to stoats, certainly adds to the enjoyment of what otherwise are perhaps rather dull (certainly static and mannered) images. It has also been interesting to discover the way in which the written and visual arts combined in this tiny world of elite courtiers. Exploring the 'Allegorical Portrait', and the images of 'Death' and 'Time' that bookend Elizabeth, a number of authors point to links to the works of the Renaissance poet Petrarch - and in particular his 'Triumphs', written between 1351-1374.1,2,3.

Image of Petrarch

Francesco Petrarca, 1304 - 1374. (Petrarch) Florentine poetStefano Tofanelli & Raphael Morghen. Out of Copyright, National Galleries of Scotland

In this collection of six poems, Petrarch describes a sequence of linked allegorical battles, victories and triumphal parades, starting with that of Love, Love is then conquered by Chastity (personified by Petrarch's muse, Laura), Chastity is defeated by Death, Death by Fame, Fame by Time and Time by Eternity. 

'Laura' was one persona through which Elizabeth could be presented as having 'acceptable' female power (along with Diana, Deborah, Judith etc.). In this instance chaste but triumphant, without having to engage in actual physical conflict. There are visual links to the 'Triumph of Chastity' in particular in a number of portraits of Elizabeth, the 'Sieve' portraits link her with the vestal Tuccia who miraculously proves her chasteness in holding water in a sieve. Tuccia features in the 'Triumph of Chastity', as does Dido, another character in at least one sieve portrait. There are quotes from the Petrarch poems in some portraits as well.

The first lines of Petrarch's 'Triumph of Fame' certainly appear to capture the look of Elizabeth in the 'Allegorical Portrait'.

When cruel Death his paly ensign spread

Over that face, which oft in triumph led

My subject thoughts; and beauty's sovereign light,

Retiring, left the world immersed in night”

      ‘The Triumph of Fame’(Petrarch)

But Roy Strong and others see links in this posthumous portrait through all of the sequence of Triumphs,1,2,3 highlighting the presence of a laurel wreath (the mark of a Roman Triumph) at the very apex of the picture and the inclusion of both 'Time' and 'Death'. The general view seems to be that the portrait was created at a point in James I's reign, possibly in the 1620's when he was losing favour in some quarters whilst attempting to establish a marriage for his son Charles with the daughter of (Catholic) Philip III of Spain. Making this then a piece of Protestant 'protest', showing the old Queen in eternal triumph, having backed the 'right side' in the religious divide. 

However, not all authors see the portrait in this light. The collection of essays 'Dissing Elizabeth' brings together a number of perspectives on dissent from the vision of 'Good Queen Bess' which was expressed in a variety of ways. This includes through visual images and the book's editor, Julia Walker, considers the Allegorical portrait in her chapter on Elizabeth's reputation after her death, 'Bones of Contention: Posthumous Images of Elizabeth and Stuart Politics'4


J. M. Walker Ed. (1998). Dissing Elizabeth: negative representations of Gloriana. Duke University Press.

Walker views the portrait as a mocking parody of the 'Armada Portrait' which we studied in A111. She highlights the mirrored seated postures, the same plush red imperial furnishings and contrasts the over the shoulders backdrop of Armada victory with an Elizabeth wasted by the ravages of the now overlooking 'Time' and 'Death'. The Imperial crown that took pride of place is now being whisked away by (left-handed) cherubs, along with any vestiges of Elizabeth's power...

'... it seems more than a possibility that Elizabeth with Time and Death was commissioned not merely as a parody of the queen at her most powerful, but as a dismissal of Spain as the natural enemy of England and English monarchs, substituting instead the more universal Time and Death.'

Armada and Allegorical Portraits of Elizabeth I

Walker considers that the portrait's patrician owner must have fallen very much in the King's camp at the time of the 'Spanish Match' controversy.

I found Walker's chapter fascinating, the contested 'Bones' she refers to in her title are those of Elizabeth herself which were relocated by James I from a prime site under the main altar of the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey to shared accommodation with her older sister Mary, whilst Mary Queen of Scots (James's mother) getting a massive new monument.

However, it was interesting that Walker makes no reference at all in her work to the alternative (and earlier) academic ideas that the allegorical figures might have been drawn from Petrarch. 

 

There is one difference between the image we looked at in A111 and the one that Walker shows in her figures (and in the cover art for the book) - the portrait is slightly cropped at the top, just sufficiently that the laurel wreath is invisible.


So I'm left wondering, did access to only a cropped image influence Walker's interpretation of the portrait, or was the image cropped so as to better fit the interpretation? Or.... (and no doubt most likely) was the cropping entirely coincidental, something that happened when the book was being setup for printing for example?

No answers - but perhaps that in itself is an excellent way to mark one of the key learning points from the Elizabeth I chapter, that interpretations between historians vary and will continue to vary as they try and evaluate the fragmentary and complex primary evidence.

References

  1. Campbell, H. (2007) ‘“And in their midst a sun”: Petrarch’s Triumphs and the Elizabethan icon’, in A. Connolly and L. Hopkins (eds) Goddesses and queens: the iconography of Elizabeth I. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, pp. 83–100.
  2. Peterson, K.L. (2018) ‘Picturing Elizabeth I’s Triumph of Melancholy’, English literary renaissance, 48(1), pp. 1–40. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1086/696110.
  3. Strong, R. (1987) Gloriana : the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I. London: Pimlico.
  4. Walker, J. M. (1998). Bones of Contention: Posthumous Images of Elizabeth and Stuart Politics. In J. M. Walker (Ed.), Dissing Elizabeth: negative representations of Gloriana (pp. 252–276). Duke University Press.

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Steven Oliver

Gloriana

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:25


This was a surprise inclusion in a set of freebie postcards that I picked up from University of York library on one of my 'OU Wednesdays'. The cards promote the University Archives collections, and this image is the frontispiece of Christopher Saxton's 'Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales' (Tabula Anglia), the first atlas of any country. This hand coloured copy dates from 1590 and is in York Minster Library. 

I can now recognise Elizabeth's coronation robes, she is seated between figures who represent astronomy and geography, but still much on the engraving is beyond me - who are the couple in the image above the Queen's head and what are they up to?

The inscriptions translate as:

A gentle governess of Britain rules.

This mark of distinction shines for all to see.

-

While sad wars wear down around all the races. And blind mistakes wreak havoc upon the entire world. You bless the Britains with peace, long and true with your piety: (ruling with) even handed justice, wisely with gentle rein, Held dear at home, while celebrated abroad, and with a long rule you have this now for such a time, a kingdom everlasting.


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Steven Oliver

The Virgin Mother

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:24


This is Damien Hirst's 'The Virgin Mother' at Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few months ago. I'd always thought it was just a bit overblown and kitsch and a rip-off of anatomical models, but now seeing it in a new light after reading Mary Joan Winn Leith's analysis in her book 'The Virgin Mary' in the 'a very short introduction' series. Everything from the nudity to the nipples gets a link to Marian symbolism!

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Jumping straight to Week 7

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Sunday, 29 Jan 2023, 10:24


A walk around Beverley yesterday and I bumped in to this! Mary Wollstonecraft lived at this house, 2 Highgate in Beverley, from age nine to 16. Apparently the location was only established four years ago. She will have received her education somewhere in the town, whilst her father was failing as a farmer.

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