Wednesday, April 19, 2017

299. Don Juan in Edinburgh

One of Ricketts's favourite characters was Don Juan. Several paintings depicting this figure from the Mozart opera are in existence, one of those being on display at the Scottish National Gallery.

Charles Ricketts, 'Don Juan and the Commander'  (c. 1905)
[Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art]
The painting, 'Don Juan and the Commander', dates from about 1905, and is a small oil on canvas, measuring about 43 to 33 cm. It was 'presented by the Very Rev. Canon J. Gray 1934', that is, left to the museum after his death.

The museum's description is somewhat confused, as it states:

'This painting shows Don Juan, the legendary libertine, as he is about to kill the Commander who was protecting his daughter from Don Juan’s advances. The towering statue references the climax of the story when Don Juan is told he will be punished. He takes the statue’s outstretched hand and finds himself in an unbreakable grip. The statue then drags Don Juan to Hell.'

But these are three different scenes from the story: (1) Don Juan kills the Commendatore, (2) Don Juan finds himself on the graveyard where (after the death of the Commendatore) a statue in his honour has been erected, and (3) the last scene of the opera in which the Statue of the Commendatore comes to visit Don Juan for dinner, after which he will be dragged to hell. 

The painting depicts the scene in the graveyard. Don Juan's servant Leporello reads the name of the Commendatore on the pedestal, after which Don Juan will invite the statue to come to dinner in his house.

The museum owns several other works by Ricketts: three costume designs, a lithograph, and two wood-engravings. Shannon's work is represented by four lithographs.