Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024965, Sat, 4 Jan 2014 00:49:13 -0200

[QUERY] ADA and painted ceilings: where do I find more about
"mon plafond peint" ?

Brian Boyd makes references to "painted ceilings" in his annotations to ADA - but I'm missing his later commentaries (not yet Online, not yet in "The Nabokovian"...) concerning Van's musings about time, on Part Four. Van's associative stream seems to flow towards some other similar, important event in Nabokov's life, perhaps linked to a brief truce in his trompe l'oeil "style". Brian Boyd relates this motif to a different set of lines in "Speak,Memory," though.*

btw: Lolita's, pre-historic aurochs ( probably preserved as paintings on the ceiling and walls of Altamira) - could they be also related to consciousness, time and "plafonds"? ** and to Pale Fire's "ceil"?***

ADA, 4: 535:15 - 536:08: "... my Present, my brief span of consciousness, tells me I did, not the silent thunder of the infinite unconsciousness proper to my birth fifty-two years and 195 days ago [ ] My first recollection goes back to mid-July, 1870, i.e., my seventh month of life [ ] when, one morning, in our Riviera villa, a chunk of green plaster ornament, dislodged from the ceiling by an earthquake, crashed into my cradle. The 195 days preceding that event being indistinguishable from infinite unconsciousness, are not to be included in perceptual time, so that, insofar as my mind and my pride of mind are concerned, I am today (mid-July, 1922) quite exactly fifty-two, et trêve de mon style plafond peint." ]

B.Boyd: 178.16: Boucher plafond: François Boucher (1703-1770), French painter, engraver and designer of the Rococo period, known for his blue-and-white pastel-hued painting and his decorative, stylized-cherub manner, often amatory or erotic. He worked for Queen Maria and for Louis XV's mistress Mme de Pompadour at Versailles and elsewhere. Boucher did not paint in the Americas, but the Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan, at the corner of Fifth Avenue, has a Boucher Room adorned by panels once thought to have been commissioned by Mme de Pompadour.
Cf. "the tiny red rectangle hung for an instant askew in a blue spring sky. The hall was famous for its painted ceilings" (Ardis, summer 1884, 36.07-08);
"Everything appeared as it always used to be, the little nymphs and goats on the painted ceiling" (Ardis, summer 1888: 288.12-13);
"Not the least adornment of the chronicle is the delicacy of pictorial detail: a latticed gallery; a painted ceiling; . . . " (589.03-04). MOTIF: painted ceiling.
* - [ painted ceiling: 36.07-08; (62.16); 178.16;]
36.07-08: tiny red rectangle . . . . famous for its painted ceilings: Cf. the famous trompe-l'oeil ceiling at the end of the first chapter of Nabokov's autobiography (SM 31-32). MOTIF: painted ceiling.
62.15-16: The rope for the fakir's bare-bottomed child to climb up in the melting blue?: Ada normally wears no panties in summer (95.14-15).
In a celebrated passage at the end of the first chapter of Speak, Memory, Nabokov recalls his father being called from the family lunch to be tossed in the air by peasants and seeming to be suspended "on his last and loftiest flight, reclining, as if for good, against the cobalt blue of the summer noon" (SM 31). Here the blue may be that of Ardis's "blue spring sky" in one of its famous "painted ceilings" (36.08). MOTIF: gravity; painted ceiling.

** - "I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita."
*** - "Conmal mastered it all [ ] and had just completed Kipling's "The Rhyme of the Three Sealers" ("Now this is the Law of the Muscovite that he proves with shot and steel") when he fell ill and soon expired under his splendid painted bed ceil with its reproductions of Altamira animals, his last words in his last delirium being "Comment dit-on 'mourir' en anglais?" - a beautiful and touching end."

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