Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023477, Sat, 24 Nov 2012 17:10:35 -0200

{THOUGHTS] Nabokov's Botticelli
While I was reviewing a group of satires on Marlowe's original poem about a passionate shepherd, I came to Peter de Vries's more recent "Bacchanal," (1959), with his generic reference to "a woman out of Botticelli."* Keeping in mind Nabokov's passion for detail, I decided to obtain an overview about his alusions to Botticelli.
My list is not exhaustive, but I think that, in the end, I managed to reach an interesting tidbit.

BEND SINISTER: "Her skin was so tender that if you merely looked at it a rosy spot would appear. The uncommon cold of a Botticellian angel tinged her nostrils with pink and suffused her upperlip - you know, when the rims of her lips merge with the skin. She proved to be a kitchen wench too - but in the kitchen of a vegetarian." (Krug on Ember)

Vladimir Nabokov And the Art of Painting - Gerard De Vries, Donald Barton Johnson, Liana Ashenden - 2006 - Art
" In Look at the Harlequins the narrator writes that "[t]he mad scholar in Esmeralda and Her Parandus wreathes Boticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers" (LartH 162)" , a reference to the rigmarole on Hamlet in Bend Sinister.

"Inspite of being labeled a post-modern by a majority of analysts, Nabokov preferred the era of the Great Masters. Like Proust, he never erased from his interior canvas Botticelli, El Greco, Rembrandt, Jan Van Eyck..." The Sublime Artists Studio - Nabokov and Painting (Northwestern University Press)
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Sandro Botticelli and Hazel Shade (The Nabokovian 49,2002, p.12-23) (still unchecked by me)

Brian Boyd - ADA annotations: "At the same time, Nabokov, who in Ada often couples Proust and Joyce (see I.1: 8-9, I.27: 169.33), echoes the painting of The Bath of the Nymph which Joyce associates with Molly's infidelity to Bloom in Ulysses (see 13.25n.).The relationship with Proust is particularly significant. First, the link between one of the novel's women and an old master work is also an echo of Proust. Like Marina, Odette is an actress, and both are explicitly associated later by Marina's revulsion from the obscene and invented Cattleya Hawkmoth, a playful echo of the Cattleya orchid that becomes a symbol of passion and (as "faire cattleya") a code-word for lovemaking for Odette and Swann. (Indeed Nabokov drew a Cattleya orchid for the cover of the original Penguin paperback of Ada.) Just as Demon sees his Marina in terms of a Parmigianino sketch, so Swann sees his Odette in terms of a Botticelli fresco in the Sistine Chapel. (Boyd 1985/2001: 286; see also 13.04-14.05n. above)

However, a careful re-reading of Nabokov's novels, with an eye on "Botticelli," I realized that the particular russet quality of his Venus, Primavera and other mythological creations, struck Humbert Humbert aesthetically in a very original way. It's not only a matter of painterly similarity and physical countours or skin coloring. It's mainly a "blurred beauty" and the swollen, reddish mucosae lining her palpebrae and lips, or inflamed nostrils.

LOLITA: "She had been crying after a routine row with her mother... she had one of those tender complexions that after a good cry get all blurred and inflamed, and morbidly alluring. I regretted keenly her mistake about my private aesthetics, for I simply love that tinge of Botticellian pink, that raw rose about the lips, those wet, matted eyelashes..."
"Curious: although actually her looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the day, how much she looked - had always looked - like Botticelli's russet Venus - the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty." (chapter 29 of Part II)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
* Peter De Vries (1910-1993), "Bacchanal" (1959)
"Come live with me and be my love,"
He said, in substance. "There's no vine
We will not pluck the clusters of,
Or grape we will not turn to wine."
It's autumn of their second year.
Now he, in seasonal pursuit,
With rich and modulated cheer,
Brings home the festive purple fruit;
And she, by passion once demented
- That woman out of Botticelli -
She brews and bottles, unfermented,
The stupid and abiding jelly".

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