NABOKV-L post 0018704, Sun, 25 Oct 2009 11:40:33 -0200

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[NABOKOV-L] Et In Arcadia Ego
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D.B. Johnson on Gavriel Shapiro's "The Sublime Artist's Studio: Nabokov & Painting" and "Nabokov and the Art of Painting" by Gerard de Vries, D. B.. Johnson & Liana Ashenden:
"Professor Shapiro (Cornell) is a Nabokov specialist with particular expertise in painting, an art that plays an unusually large role in Nabokov's fictions... Shapiro identifies (rightly, sometimes tentatively) the paintings alluded to in Nabokov's writings and offers brief accounts of their role in the novels...Whereas Shapiro organizes his study by painters and their "schools," periods, etc., the de Vries volume is organized by the Nabokov writings in which they appear. The first takes the paintings as the basic approach; the second takes the novels as the organizing principle...Taken together, the two studies offer a useful compendium of information about the unique blending of the literary and visual arts in the work of one of the finest writers of the XXth century."

JM: In "Dear Bunny and dear Volodya," one of Nabokov's important images, "Arcady,"is brought up by E.Wilson concerning a poem by Schiller and his inquiries into its original source: Vergil? From their exchanges I gained the impression that VN's various references to "Arcady" may be derived from different writers and painters. Poussin's "Les Bergers d' Arcadie," comes after Guercino's, Angelica Kauffman's and Sir Joshua Reynolds's. I also found a reference to a painting in the Colonna Collection in Rome, set in words by Bartolomeo Schidoni.


Edmund Wilson wrote about Poussin (but his wording is none too clear): "In the picture, the "ego does not refer to Death, as I understood you to say it originally had, but to the dead man in the tomb. The live shepherds are reading the inscription. Says Death: Even in Arcadia am I."

What spurred my interest was the similarity between Nabokov's interpretation and a story concerning King George III and Dr. Johnson, concerning Reynold's. "In 1769 Sir Joshua Reynolds showed to his friend Dr. Johnson his latest picture: the double portrair of Mrs. Bouverie and Mrs. Crewe(...) It shows two lovely ladies seated before a tombstone and sentimentalizing over its inscription... Et in Arcadia Ego [...] "What can this mean?" exclaimed Dr. Johnson. "It seems very nonsensical - I am in Arcadia". The King could have told you," replied Sir Joshua. "He saw it yesterday and said at once: 'Oh, there is a tombstone in the background; Ay, Ay, death is even in Arcadia.' (C.R.Leslie and Tom Taylor, "Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds," London, 1865, p.325.)

There is an interpretation in the "Humanitora" digitalized transcription that leads to a sentence E.Wilson rememebred when he wrote "I seem distinctly to remember that the phrase originally ended with a vixit - though I sometimes imagine such things. But it must have ended with something.")
This "something" is probably a verb : "Et in Arcadia ego has come to be synonymous with such paraphrases as 'Et tu in Arcadia vixisti.' ...and all these and many similar versions amount to what Mrs. Felicia Hermans expressed in the immortal words: " I, too, shepherds, in Arcadia dwelt." (The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hermans, Philadelphia, 1847).

E.Wilson made no reference to this lady's Song ( from " Songs for Sunny Hours").
Is it possible that VN had been acquainted with Sir Joshua's painting and knew about King George's appraisal of it, in contrast to Dr. Johnson's?

Lord Byron, Schiller, Goethe, ETA Hoffmann wrote lines (some of them satirical), about shepherds and Arcadia. There is a long listing available in the internet!
In Virgil we find two mentions in his Eclogues VII,4 and X,31:
"Arcadians both, equal in the song and ready in the response." [Lat., Arcades ambo,/ Et cantare pares, et respondere parati.]; "Arcadians skilled in song will sing my woes upon the hills. Softly shall my bones repose, if you in future sing my loves upon your pipe." [Lat., Tamen cantabitis, arcades inquit montibus/ Haec vestris: soli cantare periti Arcades./O mihi tum quam molliter ossa quiescant,/ Vestra meos olim si fistula dicat amores.]


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More information can be found at: Nothing to admire: the politics of poetic satire from Dryden to ... by Christopher Yu - 2003 - Literary Criticism ... "portrait of two women, Mrs. Bouverie and Mrs. Crewe, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. ... purported and added that it seemed "very nonsensical - I am in Arcadia. ..."
books.google.com.br/books?isbn=0195155300...

British Museum shop online - Portrait of Mrs Bouverie and Mrs ...
ARCADIA. EGO."", Mrs Bouverie, face in profile to left, leans her chin on her left hand ... Object artists: John Wesson;Sir Joshua Reynolds;Joseph Marchi; ...

A friend of Reynolds, Angelica Kaufman (1741-1804), painted a scene that was inspired in Guercino : "Another instance of her intimacy with Reynolds is to be found in her variation of Guercino's Et in Arcadia ego, a subject which Reynolds repeated a few years later in his portrait of Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. When, in about November 1767, she was entrapped into a clandestine marriage with an adventurer who passed for a Swedish count (the Count de Horn), Reynolds helped extract her."Angelica Kauffmann Biography: "Her firmest friend, however, was Sir Joshua Reynolds. ... Reynolds is to be found in her variation of Guercino's "Et in Arcadia ego", a subject which Reynolds repeated a few years later in his portrait of Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe." ...www.biographybase.com/.../Kauffmann_Angelica.html
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illustration: 1. Guercino's ( Giovanni Francesco Barberi): Et in Arcadia ego (1618-1622) Galleria Nazionlae d'Arte Antica, Roma.
2. Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mrs. Crewe and Bouverie (part of the left hand is cut off here);
3. Copy from the British Museum site ( I enchanced the words with a pencil)

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