Wednesday, November 26, 2014

174. Altered Designs for American Covers

The six volumes of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, issued by Macmillan in London between 1922 and 1926 (and reprinted several times), were also issued in American editions shortly afterwards. In his bibliographical description of the first volume Allan Wade states that the American edition of Later Poems was 'Issued in similar style and binding to the English edition', excepting the spine title and the trimming of the edges, an observation that was repeated in his descriptions of the other volumes.

Dustwrapper for W.B. Yeats, Essays (1924), designed by Charles Ricketts
The original cover drawing (also used for most of the dustwrappers), designed by Charles Ricketts, shows architectural elements. There are roses in the four corners. The central panel depicts sprays of yew and their berries, located at the corners. The inner panel contains circles and circled dots. These circled dots also appear in other places, and can be seen as Ricketts's trademark.

The volumes were printed by R. & R. Clark in Edinburgh. The American editions were 'Printed in the United States of America'. The London volumes were issued by Macmillan and Co. Limited, the American ones by The Macmillan Company of New York. The 'similar' bindings of the American editions were done in America as well, and, indeed, the designs for these bindings were redrawn.

The American deviation from Ricketts's original drawing can best be seen on the wrappers with the design printed in blue on brown paper. The second volume, Plays in Prose and Verse appeared in an American edition in April 1924.

Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): upper part of front wrapper
The central panel with the circles and yew ornaments has been discarded in order to make room for a title, the author's and publisher's names (which in the English design are only printed on the spine of the wrapper). The cloth binding itself still shows these circles, so mercantile considerations must have prompted this change. Closer examination reveals that the whole design has been redrawn in another hand.

Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922): part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924): part of front wrapper
The heavy circle at the top of the design (above the triangle) is now a more open circle, the dotted circles next to the roses have become simple circles, and small ornaments have been added:
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse (1922):
part of front wrapper
Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Plays in Prose and Verse(American edition, 1924)
and dots have become circles. The new design lacks a certain subtlety. Another type of cloth has been used and the blind stamped design is less clear on the American volumes.

Apparently, the added ornaments had called for comments, and they were removed the same year. Essays (October 1924) had the adapted design: 

Charles Ricketts, design for W.B. Yeats, Essays(American edition, 1924)
On whose authority?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

173. Ricketts on Moroni

The Royal Academy honours Giovanni Battista Moroni as 'the unsung genius of Renaissance portraiture'. His portrait of a tailor, especially, is seen as the work of an artist whose subject 'prefigured even as far forwards as the nineteenth century avant-garde' (curator Arturio Galansino in an interview).

Would Charles Ricketts have appreciated these accolades for Moroni? In his book on Titian, Ricketts mentions the artist three times.

Ricketts discusses a portrait of Cristoforo Madruzzo, that he does not consider to be a Titian picture:

Documented and dated, this last affects me (in reproduction: the original is unknown to me) as a late picture by Moroni; it is at once gauche in drawing (note the clumsy short thumbs) and design.
(Titian, 1910, p. 100)

Titian, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Museo di Capodimonte)
Another portrait of a cardinal is also described unfavourably by Ricketts:

We may dismiss the 'Portrait of the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese' at Naples. This picture, with its cold greenish-grey tones and awkward curtain, seems by Moroni.
(Titian, 1910, p. 108) 

This painting was actually examined by Ricketts, as was the case with 'Lady in Rose' which he saw at Dresden:

An attractive picture, the 'Lady in Rose' at Dresden, which has passed, owing to general hesitation, as a possible Titian, is, in the opinion of the present writer, a good canvas by Moroni. The odd, sudden perspective of the table, the shape of the hands, the cold, greenish-grey of the background, and the mechanical rendering of the embroideries seem, to me at least, evidences of his literal and provincial workmanship.
(Titian, 1910, p. 122) 

Gauche, clumsy, cold - these terms do not give the impression of a great admiration for Moroni, who, of course, could not compare to Titian, the father of modern painting according to Ricketts. Ricketts and Shannon owned one drawing by Titian and nothing by Moroni.

However, as an adviser of the National Gallery of Canada, Ricketts proposed a portrait of a man by Moroni for the collection, and it was bought in 1924 for £3100. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Man (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)
Still, the most expensive painting he recommended was Titian's portrait of Daniele Barbaro in 1928.

Initially, this picture was thought to be from Titian's workshop as a copy of another portrait that belongs to the Prado in Madrid. Recent research, using x-rays, show that, actually, the Ottawa portrait is the original Titian. Titian struggled with certain elements in this version: the colour of the clothing, the collar height, and the representation of the nose. Ricketts would have been delighted to hear this.

Titian, Portrait of Daniele Barbaro (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

172. Titian in The Hague

There is only one painting by Titian in a Dutch collection, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (c. 1570-1576), one of the later paintings by Titian. It belongs to the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

Titian, 'Boy with Dogs in a Landscape' (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 
The painting was acquired by the museum in 1958 with the collection of D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955). This painting was unknown to Ricketts when he compiled his notes for a monograph on Titian (1910). It was not in Rotterdam, when Ricketts visited Holland in 1911. Van Beuningen bought the painting in 1930 from the Amsterdam art dealer J. Goudstikker (paying fl. 240.000).

Another Titian painting is temporarily on display at the Prince William V Gallery in The Hague. 'Venus Rising from the Sea' is on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. 

Titian, 'Venus Rising from the Sea' (c. 1520-1525)
When Ricketts saw this painting, it was in a private collection in London, at Bridgewater House. He noted:

A work allied to this last ['Laura Dianti'] in character, the 'Venus and the Shell' at Bridgewater House (Plate xxxv.), has fared rather better, but it is also falsified and given a later appearance by retouching and the deepening of the shadows.'
(Titian, 1910, page 53)

A footnote explained:

Since this was written this picture has been cleaned.

In Chapter X of his book, Ricketts continued:

The first record of Titian's journey to the court of Ferrara belongs to the year 1516, when he lodged at the Castello; we even know that salt, meal, oil, salad, chestnuts, oranges, tallow candles, cheese, and five measures of wine were allowed him and his two assistants weekly from the 13th of February till March 22nd. His letter to the Duke, dated February of the following year, makes mention of a picture of 'A Bath,' which we can identify with some measure of certainty with the beautiful, but damaged, 'Venus with the Shell,' in the Bridgewater collection. I think that we may assume that the same model who does duty for the Venus figures also as a nymph in the 'Garden of Loves,' and if we can trust an old copy of the last picture made in the early seventeenth century, and once in the possession of G.F. Watts, the same model was employed for the statue of Venus in that picture, before statue and attribute had been made unrecognisable by some restorer. In the copy the statue holds a recognisable shell done from nature, at Madrid the shell has become a sort of utensil or vase which looks like a sauce-boat; at one time the statue was a fair Venetian, both the statue and the 'Venus' at Bridgewater House have been 'founded,' in the pose of the torso at least, upon some Praxitelean statue of the type of the 'Venus of Ostia'; these details connect the two works, and they are further related to each other by a common classical origin. The 'Venus' in the Bridgewater collection manifestly emulates the description of the masterpiece of Apelles, while 'The Garden of Loves' is an illustration of one of the word-pictures in the Eikonon of Philostratus; these two works, the famous 'Bacchanal' and the better known 'Baccus and Ariadne' form a sequence in Titian's career; they add the evidence of richer resources and a profounder sensuousness to the secular mood which Titian had inherited from Giorgione, which he had intensified in the 'Three Ages of Man' and in the 'Sacred and Profane Love.' These paintings form a climax; in them the poetic impulse has become stronger and more conscious, the pictorial resources richer and more varied, they are the supreme expression of a temperament and vision which have remained unrivalled. We owe Titian's finest and most typical works to his relations with the house of Ferrara.

(Titian, 1910, pages 55-56)

The damage, mentioned by Ricketts, is not recorded in modern descriptions of this painting. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

171. Titian in Urbino

On Wednesday 8 October a bus brought us from Pesaro to Urbino, the city that is well-known for its Renaissance buildings and steep roads and alleys. The Palazzo Ducale (its origins go back to the fifteenth century) became a centre for the arts during the reign of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482). Nowadays, it houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. There are two paintings by Titian who occasionally visited Urbino.
Wall in Urbino (October 2014) [© Ton Leenhouts]
Ricketts, in his book on Titian lists both works, and briefly describes one of them. He did not visit Urbino and probably saw photographs of 'Resurrection' ['Resurrezione', according to the museum's caption] and 'Last Supper' ['Ultima Cena']; both are reproduced in his book.

Room with paintings by Titian, Palazzo Ducale, Urbino (October 2014)
Ricketts wrote:

Between the years 1542 and 1544 Titian executed the two pictures, the 'Resurrection' and the 'Last Supper,' which still remain at Urbino, The 'Resurrection' (Plate LXXXIX) shows elements of affinity with the great 'Ecce Homo' now at Vienna, the shield-bearer in both pictures being similar in pose.
(Titian, 1910, page 102).

Titian, 'Last Supper' and 'Resurrection' (Urbino) 
More famous than the Titians that are now in Urbino are the paintings that were moved to other cities, especially Florence. In the Uffizi one finds the 'Venus of Urbino', a reclining nude woman. This work was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino. Ricketts gave a long description of this painting of a woman 'dressed only in a bracelet', but he found that 'To me there is something tiresome in the arrangement of this stately and famous nude, in the "ornate simplicity" and the sumptuous realism of the background' (page 92). 

At the time Ricketts saw it, it was hanging too high in the Uffizi, and 'If we can trust our eyesight, the magic the painting may have once possessed has left it'. To him it is a 'rather academic' picture: 'This Venus or courtesan seems to have taken off her clothes in a mood of boring ostentation, and it has pleased the public to detect purity, or maybe 'Lascivia,' in a work which remains a handsome and magisterial performance, or exercise in the fine arts'.

Titian, 'Venus of Urbino' (Florence)
Next week, another Venus by Titian.