Homage to Delacroix

Study for Homage to Delacroix

 

When Eugène Delacroix died on August 13, 1863, the modesty of his funeral was seen as an insult by all those who considered him to be one of France’s greatest artists. Henri Fantin-Latour, especially, was outraged that no official tribute had been made. As it was common in the 19th century to celebrate prominent figures, he wanted to raise this monument himself with a manifesto painting that reunited the tenants of the modern movement, which he exhibited at the Salon of 1864. This sketch bears witness to the first project, in which six artists are gathered around the bust of Delacroix, crowned by one of them.

 

The Apotheosis of Homer

 

While it is clear that Fantin made deliberate reference to the coronations of the great men of theater on stage, the most striking source of inspiration for this artwork remains the 1827 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Apotheosis of Homer. The artist made use of the same pyramid composition, with the bust of Delacroix placed in the center. Fantin, who depicts himself in the lower right of the composition with his palette and painter’s smock, draws the viewer’s eye to the object of veneration. By making reference to the painting by Ingres, he thus renders the significance of his work more easily understood: Delacroix, like Homer, embodies the genius that will be passed on to the next generations. The identities of the other figures in the sketch are more difficult to ascertain. They can nonetheless be deduced from the first list on a preparatory drawing with the names Legros, Whistler, Manet, Bracquemond, Duranty, Cordier, Myrionnet, and Régamey.

After producing a number of sketches for this painting, Fantin eventually decided on a final version that is housed at the Musée d’Orsay and far removed from this drawing. The final composition removes Myrionnet and Régamey, replacing them with Baudelaire, Champfleury, and Balleroy. The contemporaries are now positioned around a painted portrait of Delacroix, and no longer a bust.

 

Homage to Delacroix

Seated: Louis Edmond Duranty, Fantin-Latour himself, Champfleury et Charles Baudelaire.

Standing: Louis Cordier, Alphonse Legros, James Whistler, Édouard Manet, Félix Bracquemond et Albert de Balleroy.

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From Sappho Onwards

Couple saphique allongé, Auguste Rodin, c. 1897

Rodin’s fascination for Sapphic couples, which he shared with Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Louÿs, Paul Verlaine and his predecessor Gustave Courbet, was evident in several of his drawings.

 

“I am sorry to have to ask you to allow me to mention what everybody declares unmentionable. My justification shall be that we may presently be saddled with the moral responsibility for monstrously severe punishments inflicted not only on persons who have corrupted children, but on others whose conduct, however nasty and ridiculous, has been perfectly within their admitted rights as individuals. To a fully occupied person in normal health, with due opportunities for a healthy social enjoyment, the mere idea of the subject of the threatened prosecutions is so expressively disagreeable as to appear unnatural. But everybody does not find it so. There are among us highly respected citizens who have been expelled from public schools for giving effect to the contrary opinion; and there are hundreds of others who might have been expelled on the same ground had they been found out. Greek philosophers, otherwise of unquestioned virtue, have differed with us on the point. So have soldiers, sailors, convicts, and in fact members of all communities deprived of intercourse with women. A whole series of Balzac’s novels turns upon attachments formed by galley slaves for one another – attachments which are represented as redeeming them from utter savagery. Women, from Sappho onwards, have shown that this appetite is not confined to one sex. Now, I do not believe myself to be the only man in England acquainted with these facts. I strongly protest against any journalist writing, as nine out of ten are at this moment dipping their pens to write, as if he had never heard of such things except as vague and sinister rumors concerning the most corrupt phases in the decadence of Babylon, Greece & Rome. I appeal now to the champions of individual rights to join me in a protest against a law by which two adult men can be sentenced to twenty years penal servitude for a private act, freely consented to & desired by both, which concerns themselves alone. There is absolutely no justification for the law except the old theological one of making the secular arm the instrument of God’s vengeance. It is a survival from that discarded system with its stonings and burnings; and it survives because it is so unpleasant that men are loath to meddle with it even with the object of getting rid of it, lest they should be suspected of acting in their personal interest. We are now free to face with the evil of our relic of Inquisition law, and of the moral cowardice, which prevents our getting rid of it. For my own part, I protest against the principle of the law under which the warrants have been issued; and I hope that no attempt will be made to enforce its outrageous penalties in the case of adult men.”

 

George Bernard Shaw

Letter sent  to an editor of a Newspaper

1889

 

16 Poems

© Hereus de Roberto Bolaño. Barcelona (Spain), 1981

 

“…31. Soñé que la tierra se acababa. Y que el único ser humano que contemplaba el final era Franz Kafka. En el cielo los Titanes luchaban a muerte. Desde un asiento de hierro forjado del parque de Nueva York veía arder el mundo.

32. Soñé que estaba soñando y que volvía a mi casa demasiado tarde. En mi cama encontraba a Mario de Sá-Carneiro durmiendo con mi primer amor. Al destaparlos descubría que estaban muertos y mordiéndome los labios hasta hacerme sangre volvía a los caminos vecinales.

33. Soñé que Anacreonte construía su castillo en la cima de una colina pelada y luego lo destruía.

34. Soñé que era un detective latinoamericano muy viejo. Vivía en NuevaYork y Mark Twain me contrataba para salvarle la vida a alguien que no tenía rostro. Va a ser un caso condenadamente difícil, señor Twain, le decía.

35. Soñé que me enamoraba de Alice Sheldon. Ella no me quería. Así que intentaba hacerme matar en tres continentes. Pasaban los años. Por fin, cuando ya era muy viejo, ella aparecía por el otro extremo del Paseo Marítimo de Nueva York y mediante señas (como las que hacían en los portaaviones para que los pilotos aterrizaran) me decía que siempre me había querido.

36. Soñé que hacía un 69 con Anaïs Nin sobre una enorme losa de basalto.

37. Soñé que follaba con Carson McCullers en una habitación en penumbras en la primavera de 1981. Y los dos nos sentíamos irracionalmente felices.

38. Soñé que volvía a mi viejo Liceo y que Alphonse Daudet era mi profesor de francés. Algo imperceptible nos indicaba que estábamos soñando. Daudet miraba a cada rato por la ventana y fumaba la pipa de Tartarín.

39. Soñé que me quedaba dormido mientras mis compañeros de Liceo intentaban liberar a Robert Desnos del campo de concentración de Terezin. Cuando despertaba una voz me ordenaba que me pusiera en movimiento. Rápido, Bolaño, rápido, no hay tiempo que perder. Al llegar sólo encontraba a un vieoj detective escarbando en las ruinas humeantes del asalto.

40. Soñé que una tormenta de números fantasmales era lo único que quedaba de los seres humanos tres mil millones de años después de que la Tierra hubiera dejado de existir.

41. Soñé que estaba soñando y que en los túneles de los sueños encontraba el sueño de Roque Dalton: el sueño de los valientes que murieron por una quimera de mierda.

42. Soñé que tenía dieciocho años y que veía a mi mejor amigo de entonces, que también tenía dieciocho, haciendo el amor con Walt Whitman. Lo hacían en un sillón, contemplando el atardecer borrascoso de Civitavecchia.

43. Soñé que estaba preso y que Boecio era mi compañero de celda. Mira, Bolaño, decía extendiendo la mano y la pluma en la semioscuridad: ¡no tiemblan!, ¡no tiemblan! (Después de un rato, añadía con voz tranquila: pero tamblarán cuando reconozcan al cabrón de Teodorico.)

44. Soñé que traducía al Marqués de Sade a golpes de hacha. Me había vuelto loco y vivía en un bosque.

45. Soñé que Pascal hablaba del miedo con palabras cristalinas en una taberna de Civitavecchia: “Los milagros no sirven para convertir, sino para condenar”, decía.

46. Soñé que era un viejo detective latinoamericano y que una Fundación misteriosa me encargaba encontrar las actas de defunción de los Sudacas Voladores. Viajaba por todo el mundo: hospitales, campos de batalla, pulquerías, escuelas abandonadas…”

Roberto Bolaño

Blanes, 1994

Tres (Fragmento de una colección de poemas)

 

_______________________________________

 

…”31. I dreamt that Earth was finished. And the only
human being to contemplate the end was Franz
Kafka. In heaven, the Titans were fighting to the
death. From a wrought-iron seat in Central Park,
Kafka was watching the world burn.

32. I dreamt I was dreaming and I came home
too late. In my bed I found Mário de Sá-Carneiro
sleeping with my first love. When I uncovered them
I found they were dead and, biting my lips till they
bled, I went back to the streets.

33. I dreamt that Anacreon was building his castle
on the top of a barren hill and then destroying it.

34. I dreamt I was a really old Latin American
detective. I lived in New York and Mark Twain
was hiring me to save the life of someone without
a face. “It’s going to be a damn tough case, Mr.
Twain,” I told him.

35. I dreamt I was falling in love with Alice Sheldon.
She didn’t want me. So I tried getting myself killed
on three continents. Years passed. Finally, when I
was really old, she appeared on the other end of the
promenade in New York and with signals (like the
ones they use on aircraft carriers to help the pilots
land) she told me she’d always loved me.

36. I dreamt I was 69ing with Anaïs Nin on an
enormous basaltic flagstone.

37. I dreamt I was fucking Carson McCullers in a
dim-lit room in the spring of 1981. And we both felt
irrationally happy.

38. I dreamt I was back at my old high school
and Alphonse Daudet was my French teacher.
Something imperceptible made us realize we were
dreaming. Daudet kept looking out the window
and smoking Tartarin’s pipe

39. I dreamt I kept sleeping while my classmates
tried to liberate Robert Desnos from the Terezín
concentration camp. When I woke a voice was
telling me to get moving. “Quick, Bolaño, quick,
there’s no time to lose.” When I got there, all I
found was an old detective picking through the
smoking ruins of the attack.

40. I dreamt that a storm of phantom numbers was
the only thing left of human beings three billion
years after Earth ceased to exist.

41. I dreamt I was dreaming and in the dream
tunnels i found Roque Dalton’s dream: the dream
of the brave ones who died for a fucking chimera.

42. I dreamt I was 18 and saw my best friend at
the time, who was also 18, making love to Walt
Whitman. They did it in an armchair, contemplating
the stormy Civitavecchia sunset.

43. I dreamt I was a prisoner and Boethius was
my cellmate. “look, Bolaño,” he said, extending
his hand and his pen in the shadows:
“they’re not trembling! they’re not
trembling!” (after a while,
he added in a calm voice: “but they’ll tremble when
they recognize that bastard Theodoric.”)

44. I dreamt I was translating the Marquis de Sade
with axe blows. I’d gone crazy and was living in the
woods.

45. I dreamt that Pascal was talking about fear with
crystal clear words at a tavern in Civitavecchia:
Miracles don’t convert, they condemn, he said.

46. I dreamt I was an old Latin American detective
and a mysterious Foundation hired me to find the
death certificates of the Flying Spics. I was traveling
all around the world: hospitals, battlefields, pulque
bars, abandoned schools….”

Excerpt from Tres (a collection of poetry)

English translation by Laura Healy

A Wishful Version of A Manhattan-Rimbaud

“In retrospect, Jean-Michel Basquiat turned into a wishful version of a Manhattan-Rimbaud or Brooklyn-Baudelaire, a genius with torn out dictionary pages, lots of empty lots between misspelled words and a suspected destiny – vague and unfilled. An art world’s child soldier.”

Roland Hagenberg

 
 

Jean-Michel Basquiat on his studio, photographs by Roland HagenbergNew York, 1983

A Distinguished Soul

Femme au Papillon, (Woman with Butterfly), Antoine Watteau, Circa 1716-1717

 
 

“Watteau, ce carnaval où bien des coeurs illustres,
Comme des papillons, errent en flamboyant,
Décors frais et légers éclairés par des lustres
Qui versent la folie à ce bal tournoyant ;…”

(“Watteau, carnival where many a distinguished soul
Flutters like a butterfly, lost in the brilliance
Of chandeliers shedding frivolity on the cool,
Clear decors enclosing the changes in the dance…”)

Charles Baudelaire
Les Phares (Les Beacons)

 
 

Butterflies wander freely around space. They move from thing to thing and aren’t touched by time or history. Les Phares begins by invoking a symbolist kind of garden. And in each stanza, Charles Baudelaire evokes several great artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrant, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pierre Paul Puget, Antoine Watteau, Francisco de Goya, and Eugène Delacroix.

The stanza on Watteau invokes butterflies. Watteau, in this stanza, is associated with the carnival where “many a distinguished soul flutters like a butterfly, lost in brilliance.” Besides acrobats, jugglers, and side show performers, we often find the clown. And one of Watteau’s most famous series of paintings takes Commedia dell’arte as their subject. One of the most famous of these, is his painting of Pierrot. Baudelaire, no doubt, was aware of this work, and wrote about it in his famous essay The Painter of Modern Life.

A Tale of Ratiocination

Cabinet of Curiosities, Domenico Remps, 1690s

 
 

The Gold-Bug is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story is often compared with Poe’s “tales of ratiocination” as an early form of detective fiction. Poe became aware of the public’s interest in secret writing in 1840 and asked readers to challenge his skills as a code-breaker. Poe took advantage of the popularity of cryptography as he was writing The Gold-Bug, and the success of the story centers on one such cryptogram.

Poe originally sold The Gold-Bug to George Rex Graham for Graham’s Magazine for $52 but asked for it back when he heard about a writing contest sponsored by Philadelphia’s Dollar Newspaper. Incidentally, Poe did not return the money to Graham and instead offered to make it up to him with reviews he would write. Poe won the grand prize; in addition to winning $100, the story was published in two installments on June 21 and June 28, 1843, in the newspaper. His $100 payment from the newspaper may have been the most he was paid for a single work. Anticipating a positive public response, the Dollar Newspaper took out a copyright on The Gold-Bug prior to publication.

The popularity of the story also brought controversy. Within a month of its publication, Poe was accused of conspiring with the prize committee by Philadelphia’s Daily Forum. The publication called The Gold-Bug an “abortion” and “unmitigated trash” worth no more than $15. Poe filed for a libel lawsuit against editor Francis Duffee. It was later dropped and Duffee apologized for suggesting Poe did not earn the $100 prize.Editor John Du Solle accused Poe of stealing the idea for The Gold-Bug from Imogine; or the Pirate’s Treasure, a story written by a schoolgirl named Miss Sherburne.

The Gold-Bug was republished as the first story in the Wiley & Putnam collection of Poe’s Tales in June 1845, followed by The Black Cat and ten other stories. The success of this collection inspired the first French translation of The Gold-Bug published in November 1845 by Alphonse Borghers in the Revue Britannique under the title, Le Scarabée d’or, becoming the first literal translation of a Poe story into a foreign language. It was translated into Russian from that version two years later, marking Poe’s literary debut in that country. In 1856, Charles Baudelaire published his translation of the tale in the first volume of Histoires extraordinaires. Baudelaire was very influential in introducing Poe’s work to Europe and his translations became the definitive renditions throughout the continent.

 
 

Eyed Click Beetle Alaus oculatus

 
 

The actual “gold-bug” in the story is not a real insect. Instead, Poe combined characteristics of two insects found in the area where the story takes place. The Callichroma splendidum, though not technically a scarab but a species of longhorn beetle (Cerambycidae), has a gold head and slightly gold-tinted body. The black spots noted on the back of the fictional bug can be found on the Alaus oculatus, a click beetle also native to Sullivan’s Island.

Poe’s depiction of the African servant Jupiter is often considered stereotypical and racist from a modern perspective. Jupiter is depicted as superstitious and so lacking in intelligence that he cannot tell his left from his right. Poe probably included the character after being inspired by a similar character in Sheppard Lee (1836) by Robert Montgomery Bird, which he had reviewed. Black characters in fiction during this time period were not unusual, but Poe’s choice to give him a speaking role was. Critics and scholars, however, question if Jupiter’s accent was authentic or merely comic relief, suggesting it was not similar to accents used by blacks in Charleston but possibly inspired by Gullah.

The Gold-Bug includes a cipher that uses a simple substitution cipher. Though he did not invent “secret writing” or cryptography (he was probably inspired by an interest in Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe), Poe certainly popularized it during his time. To most people in the 19th century, cryptography was mysterious and those able to break the codes were considered gifted with nearly supernatural ability. Poe had drawn attention to it as a novelty over four months in the Philadelphia publication Alexander’s Weekly Messenger in 1840.

The Gold-Bug inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel about treasure-hunting, Treasure Island (1883). Stevenson acknowledged this influence: “I broke into the gallery of Mr. Poe… No doubt the skeleton [in my novel] is conveyed from Poe.”

A Crush on Lolita

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-aged literature professor and hebephile Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. “Lolita” is his private nickname for Dolores.

In April 1947, Nabokov wrote to Edmund Wilson: “I am writing … a short novel about a man who liked little girls—and it’s going to be called The Kingdom by the Sea….” The work expanded into Lolita during the next eight years. Nabokov used the title A Kingdom by the Sea in his 1974 pseudo-autobiographical novel Look at the Harlequins! for a Lolita-like book written by the narrator who, in addition, travels with his teenage daughter Bel from motel to motel after the death of her mother; later, his fourth wife is Bel’s look-alike and shares her birthday.

Some critics have accepted Humbert’s version of events at face value. In 1959, novelist Robertson Davies excused the narrator entirely, writing that the theme of Lolita is “not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child. This is no pretty theme, but it is one with which social workers, magistrates and psychiatrists are familiar.”

The novel abounds in allusions to classical and modern literature. Virtually all of them have been noted in The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr. Many are references to Humbert’s own favourite poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

Chapter 26 of Part One contains a parody of James Joyce‘s stream of consciousness.

Humbert Humbert’s field of expertise is French literature (one of his jobs is writing a series of educational works that compare French writers to English writers), and as such there are several references to French literature, including the authors Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, François Rabelais, Charles Baudelaire, Prosper Mérimée, Remy Belleau, Honoré de Balzac, and Pierre de Ronsard.

Vladimir Nabokov was fond of Lewis Carroll and had translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian. He even called Carroll the “first Humbert Humbert”.

Lolita contains a few brief allusions in the text to the Alice books, though overall Nabokov avoided direct allusions to Carroll. In her book, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, Joyce Milton claims that a major inspiration for the novel was Charlie Chaplin‘s relationship with his second wife, Lita Grey, whose real name was Lillita and is often misstated as Lolita. Graham Vickers in his book Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov’s Little Girl All Over Again argues that the two major real-world predecessors of Humbert are Lewis Carroll and Charlie Chaplin. Although Appel’s comprehensive Annotated Lolita contains no references to Charlie Chaplin, others have picked up several oblique references to Chaplin’s life in Nabokov’s book. Bill Delaney notes that at the end Lolita and her husband move to the Alaskan town of Grey Star while Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, set in Alaska, was originally set to star Lita Grey. Lolita’s first sexual encounter was with a boy named Charlie Holmes, whom Humbert describes as “the silent…but indefatigable Charlie.” Chaplin had an artist paint Lita Grey in imitation of Joshua Reynolds‘s painting The Age of Innocence. When Humbert visits Lolita in a class at her school, he notes a print of the same painting in the classroom. Delaney’s article notes many other parallels as well.

In chapter 29 of Part Two, Humbert comments that Lolita looks “like Botticelli’s russet Venus—the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty”, referencing Sandro Botticelli‘s depiction of Venus in, perhaps, The Birth of Venus or Venus and Mars.

In chapter 35 of Part Two, Humbert’s “death sentence” on Quilty parodies the rhythm and use of anaphora in T. S. Eliot‘s poem Ash Wednesday.

Many other references to classical and Romantic literature abound, including references to Lord Byron‘s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and to the poetry of Laurence Sterne.

After its publication, Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known and most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name Lolita has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious girl. The novel was adapted to film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. It has also been adapted several times for stage and has been the subject of two operas, two ballets, and an acclaimed but failed Broadway musical.

 
 

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1992)

 
 

Bert Stern worked as a photographer on Lolita and shot the publicity photographs of Sue Lyon.

 
 

The Crush (Alan Shapiro, 1993)

 
 

The plot of The Crush was based on an actual incident involving the neighbor of Shapiro.