Wednesday, October 15, 2014

168. Antonio Cippico on Ricketts and Shannon

In 1929 Antonio Cippico (1877-1935) showed Ricketts around Rome. They had been friends for a long time. 

Bookplate of Antonio Cippico
Born in Zadar (on the Adriatic coast in Croatia), Cippico studied law, and graduated in Vienna in 1901. In 1906 he moved to London to teach at the University, and between 1911 and 1928 he was a professor of English literature at the University of London. He was a member of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1923 he was appointed senator at the Senato della Repubblica; and he represented Italy in the League of Nations (1925-1928). In 1925 he co-founded the magazine Archivio storico per la Dalmazia that later remembered him as a poet, an orator, advocate, and a great connoisseur of Dalmatia. He translated works of Shakespeare and Nietzsche. He was an early supporter of Italian fascism (and died long before the outcome of that choice became visible).

Antonio Cippico in 1925
Cippico travelled a lot between Rome, London and Venice. He came to dinner in Ricketts's and Shannon's house in London, visited D'Annunzio in Paris, received letters from Ricketts in Venice or Vienna, and showed Ricketts around Rome. Ricketts dedicated his book of imaginary conversations Beyond the Threshold (1929) 'To the Poet Antonio Cippico'.

Ricketts and Cippico exchanged letters as early as 1912 (see Self-Portrait, 1939, p. 179), and Cippico had written an essay about Charles Shannon in an Italian magazine, Vita d'Arte, in March 1910. 

The essay 'Charles Shannon' was published as part of a series on 'Pittori Rappresentativi'.

Antonio Cippico, 'Charles Shannon' (1910)
The article introduced Shannon's paintings to the Italian audience and contained no less than thirteen reproductions, which was the article's greatest merit. The text, similar to most art criticism of the day, contained rather idealistic and general observations on art, before discussing more acute details.

Antonio Cippico
Cippico wrote about Shannon's portrait of Mrs Patrick Campbell, and then analysed the portrait of 'another famous actress' (p. 101), who was depicted in a costume designed by Ricketts for the role of Dona Anna; this was Lillah McCarthy, playing the Mozart figure in a play by George Bernard Shaw, 'Don Juan in Hell', a part of Man and Superman (performed in 1907).

Cippico argued that the portrait was not a romantic painting, but the depiction of an actress in her costume that was designed to be reminiscent of the paintings of Velazquez. The costume of rose silk, black lace, with silver trimmings, was described by Cippico as of rose and blue brocade; a costume that looked richer than that of the princesses painted by Velazques. It was, he claimed, full of suggestions of antique beauty and nostalgia.

Cippico praised Shannon's idealism and his decorative paintings, and he announced a sequel to the article in which he would also write about his illustrations, the lithographs, and his 'most beloved comrade', Charles Ricketts - he also described Ricketts as Shannon's 'intimate brother'.

His conclusion was that Shannon decorated the beauteous body, and that Ricketts's imagination gave it its soul (l'anima di esse).

The second article was never published.

[Thanks are due to my friend Lia de Wolf, who translated parts of the Cippico essay for me.]

Antonio Cippico, 'Charles Shannon' (1910)