Wednesday, October 29, 2014

170. Titian in Ancona

A stay along the Adriatic Coast in Italy allowed us to visit a couple of places that could have been inspected by Charles Ricketts. But they were not. He might have, though, for his work on the painter Titian. Ricketts's Titian was published by Methuen in 1910.

The 'List of Works' at the end of this monograph mentions fourteen Italian cities where Titian's paintings were held at the time, of which we visited two on this trip: Urbino and Ancona. 

In Ancona, the 'List of Works' discloses, two paintings by Titian can be seen: the 'Altar-Piece of the Madonna and Child, with St. Francis, St. Blaise, and Donor', dated 1520, in the Church of San Domenico (plate XLV in Titian), and the 'Christ on the Cross, with the Virgin, St. John, and St. Dominic', or 'Crucifixion', at the Pinacoteca (plate CXLVI).

Titian, Crucifixion, or 'Christ on the Cross'
If I say that these paintings can be seen, I should add that we did not see them. The Church of San Domenico on the Piazza del Plebiscito was closed the Sunday afternoon that we walked from the Cathedral, past the amphitheatre and the archaeological museum to the new town centre. On our tour we also came past the Pinacoteca Comunale "Francesco Podesti" e Galleria d'Arte Moderna. It was 'chiuso per ristrutturazione'.

Announcement near the door of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
In October, many art galleries in this region, the holiday season being over, are closed, or only open by appointment, but the art gallery was closed for an undetermined period.

The information board on the facade showed what we could not see: the Titian painting among other masterpieces.

Reading the information on the collection of the Art Gallery of Ancona (October 2014)
Refurbishment, or restoration, or whatever went on inside the building (the website was not clear on the matter), should probably be welcomed.

The Ancona Art Gallery in the via Pizzecolli (October 2014)
Ricketts did not see the painting either, he did not visit Ancona for his research, and based his opinion on a photograph:

The altar-piece at Ancona is known to me only by photographyit would seem to be one of Titian's most enchanting works (Plate XLV.). Something of the abruptness of pose and freshness of design of the work done in the first decade of the century is preserved in this picture, which benefits by the more subtle surfaces belonging to a period when Titian had nothing more to master. It has doubtless the frankness of execution which belongs to all his paintings on panel. I feel a certain hesitation in confessing that to me at least there is in this picture, and in 'The Entombment' (finished or delivered in 1523), a survival of something almost Giorgionesque, to use a vague and often abused expression. True, the Madonna at Ancona is dissimilar in facial type to any other of Titian's Virgins. She leans forward in the gracious pose which Titian often affects, but she strikes one as a portrait of some winning but not beautiful woman. She is not the matronly goddess of the 'Assunta' - she seems also nearer nature than the sedate or gracious Madonnas he has painted hitherto, whose placid beauty ranks them after all as the more dignified sisters of the lovely 'Vanitas.' The sky on which the Virgin rests, breaks into the billowy masses and the large white strata of cloud which Titian paints in the 'Bacchus and Ariadne.' In the two fig leaves against the sky the painter reverts to a scheme of things which was in vogue when Bellini was still alive, and in the design of the donor and the ardent figure of St. Blaise we are reminded at once of the 'St. Mark' in the Salute [in Venice], and even of the 'Baffo.' We are all the more conscious of this when we glance at the Pesaro family where the Bishop of Paphos kneels as an older man, and the singular freshness or abruptness in gesture in the picture at Ancona is forced upon us. (page 63)

Titian, Gozzi Altarpiece, or 'Madonna and Child' 
We didn't see the Titian paintings in Ancona - a city we enjoyed on a very hot October day, - however, we were luckier in Urbino.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

169. Four Shelves of Books at Auction

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, in Windsor, Connecticut, announced its 'Important Annual Fall Antiques and Fine Art Auction' that will take place on 25 October.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
The sale includes antique tables, chests, pianos, paintings, and also four shelves of books. The description of lot no. 437 - the last lot - is short:

Four shelves of books, some leather bound, to include Ivan Turgenieff, Edgar Allen Poe, Works of Longfellow, First Numbered Addition and Vale Press Hacon, Charles Ricketts Shakespear set.

Nadeau's Auction Gallery, 25 October 2014, lot no. 437
('Addition' must be a typo for 'Edition'; and Shakespeare's name lacks a final 'e' in the website description.)

The estimated price is $200-$400, starting bid is $100. The spines show heavy wear and serious damage to some of them. The Vale Press edition of Shakespeare seems to be almost complete - I can count 38 (out of 39) volumes, but I am not sure which volumes are included. Some spines look rather browned. Of course, one should also be able to smell the volumes to ascertain their provenance, as the contents of these shelves might be taken from a library that was also used as a smoking room...

[Note, 1 November 2014: Price realised: US$ 322.]

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)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

167. The Late H.A. Warmelink, Notary at Amsterdam

Recently I received a booklet on Benjamin Franklin as a printer. It was published (posthumously) to honour a Dutch book collector from Amsterdam, H.A. Warmelink. After reading it, I consulted the catalogue of his auction that was issued by Menno Hertzberger (1897-1982), the well-known Dutch antiquarian book dealer and one of the founders of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Auction catalogue H.A. Warmelink (1960)
The Auction-Sale of the Important Collection of Books of the Late H.A. Warmelink Notary at Amsterdam was published in two parts. The second part contained his collection of 'Modern Fine Printing'.

Hendrik Adolf (Henk) Warmelink (13 April 1890-14 November 1959), born in Deventer, was appointed as a notary in Amsterdam in 1932. One of the founders of the Dutch typography society 'Non Pareil', he was a connoisseur of typefaces, calligraphy and printing. 

His collection of fine printing contained examples of almost all modern private presses, such as the Ashendene Press, the Doves Press, the Eragny Press, the Essex House Press, the Golden Cockerell Press, the Golden Hind Press, the Merrymount Press, the Roycroft Press, Seven Acres Press, and the Tintern Press. His sale records five Kelmscott Press books: The Tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane (1893, Peterson A21), Atalanta in Calydon (1894, Peterson A25), Hand and Soul (1895, Peterson A36) Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis (1896, Peterson A42), and The Story of Sigurd the Volsung (1898, Peterson A50).  

He also owned five Vale Press books that were listed under the heading 'Ballantyne Press'.

Apuleius, De Cupidines et Psyches Amoribus (Vale Press, 1901)
Warmelink's sale mentioned the two Apuleius editions of the Vale Press, one in Latin and one in English: The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897), De Cupinides et Psyches Amoribus (1901). Two other VP editions were: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1901), and A Bibliography of the Books issued by Hacon & Ricketts (1904). One pre-Vale publication was listed: Hero and Leander (1894).

It might be difficult to identify his books, as he probably did not use a bookplate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

166. A Ricketts-Style Binding?

In 1909 John Lane published a play by the German writer and journalist Hermann Sudermann (1857-1928): Johannes was first performed in 1898 and had been reprinted many times. The English translation was published as John the Baptist.  

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): title page
Recently, the green cloth binding with gilt decorations and lettering, was called 'attractive' by a book dealer. Another copy was priced as a 'Ricketts-style binding'.

The lettering on the front cover is not in Ricketts's style, but the flame-like ornament is close to his mode of design, which is self-evident if one knows that the ornament was designed by Charles Shannon.

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): front cover
The design of the front cover of John the Baptist, however is not at all reminiscent of Shannon's careful designs for Oscar Wilde's plays, nor of Ricketts's balanced cover designs. 

Ornament for Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (top)
and Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist
However, it is clear that the original ornament was re-used for the Sudermann binding. Shannon had designed it for the first edition of Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan that was published by John Lane in 1893. The design was repeated three times on the front and back cover.

Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1893) (a copy on E-Bay 2014)
Shannon designed the ornament for a horizontal use, pointing to the left or right, and used a mirrored image to reach (with a minimum of expense) a lively and pleasing effect. For John the Baptist the ornament was used (certainly without Shannon's knowledge) vertically only, without the subtle variation in the repetition, and placing the designs too close to the title and author's name.

Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): front cover (detail)
The circled dots were used as a separate stamp to decorate the spine title of John the Baptist. Shannon had not made use of these dots as a separate ornament. And the spine decoration was not a replica, as we can deduct from the central dot, which was as large as the others, while in Shannon's design it had been a very small and subtle central dot.
Hermann Sudermann, John the Baptist (1909): spine (detail)
Without the assistance of the original artist, most re-used book designs are employed in a less subtle, usually cheap, arbitrary, and less convincing way.