And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 11. juli 2012

In response to Titian

The London National Gallery is currently housing an exhibition called MetamorphosisTitian 2012, launched this very day (July 11) and celebrating the 16th-century Venetian painter Tiziano Vecellio known by his nicknames Belluno or, more famously, Titian (1488/90-1576). The exhibition features commissioned works by contemporary artists and poets responding to three of Titian's paintings after Ovid's Metamorphoses, three paintings that occupy the exhibition's centrestage. Being an admirer of Titian's work myself I became very enthusiastic to learn about this and I have just begun to immerse myself in the project, which is a part of the Cultural Olympiad's London 2012 Festival and features poets like Simon Armitage, George Szirtes, Frances Leviston and numerous others. Personally I was most excited by the inclusion of Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, whose chilling poem "Actaeon" can be heard here.

Inspired by this exhibition I decided to put up one of my own responses to one of Titian's works, albeit a paiting very different from the dramatic and mythological illustrations of Ovid's poetry. The work in question is the famous Venus of Urbino from 1538, commissioned two years earlier by the duke of Urbino, Guidobaldo della Rovere.

Venus Couchant

After Titian's Venus of Urbino

I notice how she eyed you from the start,
Her playful eyes fast fixed in your direction,
But this you noticed only for the art,
It was included merely for perfection;
You just percieved her looks, not her affection.

Imagine then, Belluno, for a girl
Of her estate to show herself like this,
For one short while the centre of your world
Beholding how you worked, then think: "this is
A handsome man, oh would he dared to kiss!"

And you? You eyed her maidens and her house,
Her little lapdog sleeping on the bed;
Perhaps this negligence was what aroused
Her smile and that coy tilting of the head,
While you were painting furniture instead.

Perchance she thought that you were such a man
Her maids would whisper of in nightly hours,
A man to kiss her lips and take her hand
And lead her to a dark secluded tower
Or let some fragrant grove serve as a bower.

She would not know the full depths of her dream,
Her being only young and innocent,
Almost a child, not more than seventeen,
Yet with a stare so yearning, reverent
Which your stern silence seemed but to augment.

And so she blushed, ah, yes, you caught that, too,
Yet failed to see her passion was that strong;
You were the world to her, Belluno, you,
A man of fifty years and her so young;
You noticed but her tresses, how they hung.

She loved you, dear Belluno, verily,
She loved you for your movements and your grace,
She studied both, you see, quite avidly
And mapped your features with her dreaming gaze,
So dreaming she might conjure up your face.

These were her thoughts, you see them plainly there
Made manifest in blushes and her eyes;
To all but you, of course, they seem so clear,
But you did never heed them, and likewise
Will never she heed any husband's eyes.
- November 01-02 2010

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