Wednesday, April 26, 2017

300. The Baptismal Record of Cornelia

To celebrate the three hundredth contribution for 'Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon', J.G. Paul Delaney wrote a guest blog about Ricketts's mother. A sequel to our series of discoveries: the real biography of Cornelia, the place of her grave in Genoa, and now the baptismal record.

Recently, the discovery of the tombstone of Ricketts’s mother in a neglected part of the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa tied up a loose end at the end of her life.  Now, we can tie up a loose end at the beginning of her life. We have found the baptismal record in Rome of Cornelia Marsuzi de Aguirre (note 1).

Baptismal Record of Cornelia Marsuzi de Aguirre, Ricketts's mother

Cornelia was baptized in the Church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, which is located not far from the famous Campidoglio, then the centre of the papal Roman administration, where her father and grandfather worked. Santa Maria in Campitelli is a splendid Baroque church. Here, all the children in her family were christened.

Santa Maria in Campitelli
The following is a transcription of the baptismal entry in the original Latin with its abbreviations (see note 2):

Anno Domini 1824 Dio 4 Martii Ego subscriptus baptizavi pueram, natam die tertia huijus hora 8 ex legitimis conjugibus Rom. Illmo. D. Adv. Aloysio Marsuzi filio B. M. Adv. Jacobi, et Illma D. Candida Stambrini de Aguirre filia Illmi Adv. Scipionij, eique nomina imposui Cornelia, Fausta, Felix, Pia, Adeodata, Magd.a cum cognam.e nobilis familiae de Aguirre. Patrinus fuit Illmus Octavius Dionigi, filius B.M. Adv. Parochiae S. Maria in Via,  Matrina (scored out) Obstetrix vero Maria Leopardi, Parochiae S Laurentius ?ad Montij. J Ma Crescini Paroch:

Translated into English with the names put into Italian, it reads:

In the year 1824 on the 4th of March, I undersigned baptized a girl born on the third of the same month at 8 o’clock from the legitimate marriage of Illustrious Roman Lord Advocate Luigi Marsuzi, son of Advocate Giacomo, of blessed memory, and Illustrious Lady Candida Stambrini de Aguirre, daughter of Illustrious Advocate Scipio, and the names given were Cornelia, Fausta, Felix, Pia, Adeodata, Maddalena, with the surname of the noble family of de Aguirre. The Godfather was Illustrious Ottavio Dionigi, son of Advocate Domenico, of blessed memory, of the parish of Santa Maria in Via, Godmother (scored out). Midwife, Maria Leopardi, of the parish of San Lorenzo ai Monti. Giuseppe Maria Crescini, parish priest. 

The use of the title ‘Illustrious’ indicated a member of the nobility, and the word ‘Roman’ is also used as if it were a title. As only one godparent was really necessary, the fact that Cornelia had no godmother is not unusual. Indeed, eight of her siblings had only one godparent.

Cornelia was the last of fourteen children (note 3). From the birth of the sixth child, the same two names occur  among the multiple names given to most of the following children. The name ‘Felix’, which means ‘happy’, had been given to six of her siblings, both male and female, while the name ‘Adeodata’, which means ‘given to God’, or its masculine form ‘Adeodatus’, had been given to seven of her siblings. Giving these names had evidently become a pious practice in naming the later members of the family.

By the time that Cornelia Marsuzi de Aguirre was married in Paris at the Church of Sainte-Madeleine (known as ‘La Madeleine’) on 30 May 1844, she had dropped several of these names. Her marriage record gives her names in French as ‘Cornélie Pie Adéodat Marie’ and her parents are also named in French as Louis Marsuzi and Candide Stambrini.

This later version explains why Ricketts told the Fields that his mother’s names were: ‘Hélène Cornélie Pia Diodata’ (note 4). ‘Hèléne’ was an alias, but the others correspond closely to those of Cornelia Marsuzi de Aguirre. 

1. I would like to thank Andrea Presutto, whose valuable advice led to the discovery of the baptism.
2. Archivio Storico Vicariato di Roma, Santa Maria in Campitelli, Battesimi 1824, p 219.
3. One had died at birth without being named in 1808.
4. British Library, Add Ms 46792, fol 69v.

Of the moving biography of Charles Ricketts's mysterious mother a few copies are still available. Please order your copy here.

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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

298. A Charles Shannon Painting: Sold

Blog reader Daniel Sheppard alerted me to an unknown painting by Charles Shannon that was offered for sale by Liss Llewellyn Fine Art in London. The portrait of a woman had sold already when he contacted me.

Charles Shannon, 'Woman at a Table'

The oil on canvas painting measures 762 x 508 mm, and is framed. Its provenance is given as: 'The Fine Art Society; The Fortunoff collection [HF 28]'.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

297. An Echo From Willowwood

Last December, the Ohio University Press, published a book of essays about 'Victorian and neo-Victorian graphic texts', Drawing on the Victorians.

Drawing on the Victorians (2017) (cover)
Edited by Anna Maria Jones and Rebecca N. Mitchell, Drawing on the Victorians, was labelled 'a pioneering work in illustration studies' and 'a necessary starting point for future work in the field' by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra.

The book contains an essay by Linda K. Hughes, professor of English at Texas University, 'Prefiguring Future Pasts' (pp. 207-236), in which one of Ricketts's drawings is discussed.

Her chapter is about Victorian illustrated poems, which she sees as 'poetic-graphic texts' that show an inseparability of word and image. These 'poetic-graphic texts often appear on a single page and rarely exceed five pages'. Thousands of this type of illustrations were published during the second half of the nineteenth century, and of a significant number of them the subject was domesticity and medievalism.

Ricketts's drawing for Christina Rossetti's poem 'An Echo from Willowwood' is said 'to mark the birth of neo-Victorianism as we know it' (p. 226) and to mark 'a turning point in Victorian neo-medievalism, from a prehistory to the inception of neo-Victorianism' (p. 228).

Charles Ricketts, illustration for Christina Rossetti, 'An Echo from Willowwood'
(The Magazine of Art, August 1890)
The term neo-Victorianism is chosen because Rossetti refers to the work of her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and it is usually seen as a late form of Pre-Raphaelitism.

It is worthwhile quoting Linda K. Hughes' comment in full:

For this hybrid text explicitly quotes and replays in a different register the visual and verbal works of D.G. Rossetti. The text is doubly belated, since its title announces and after-sound or echo, while the poet's last name identifies the surviving sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose line forms the sonnet's epigraph and a legend on the visual border between Ricketts's two images ("O ye, all ye that walk in willowwood"). In the "Willowwood" sonnets, also first published in a periodical, a bereaved lover sits beside a spring with Love personified; and as Love strums a lute and sweeps the water with his wing, the face of the lost beloved rises to the surface, the lover's lips meeting hers in a long kiss that lasts only so long as Love sings. In the sister's "Echo," the woman is no longer a ghostly phantom rising to the water's surface but an equal sharer of gazing, longing, and loss: "Two gazed into a pool, he gazed and she... | Each eyed the other's aspect, she and he. | Each felt one hungering heart leap up and sink" (lines I, 5-6). Everywhere true to the tone, theme, and formal choices of the "Willowwood"  sonnets, the "Echo[ing]" text also revises the former in making the woman an active agent and participant, a decidedly modern note in 1890.

Ricketts's design also looks back to, yet revises, his precursor's art. The upper half of the diptych is clearly indebted to D.G. Rossetti, as Lorraine Kooistra notes, in its "crowded" visual scene, neo-medieval trappings, and frame that pays homage to D.G. Rossetti's own visual designs for books. The shells on the bereaved man's cape also recall decorative devices on the frames of Rossetti's paintings, while the empty boat perhaps alludes to his Moxon illustration for "The Lady of Shalott," in which Lancelot leans over the dead woman and her boat. In contrast, Ricketts's image in the lower half of the diptych, beautifully attuned to the swirling water that joins the lover's faces in Christina Rossetti's text, shifts to an art nouveau style while also graphically marking (as Kooistra notes) the sonnet's division between octave and sestet. In paying such homage to D.G. Rossetti and his verbal-visual idioms, then sweeping away from them in both text and design, thus marking the temporal distance of this 1890 work from them, the poetic-graphic text "An Echo from Willowwood" establishes the very groundwork of later neo-Victorianism: adapting Victorianism to circulate modernity and difference.'

Although other commentators have dwelled on the two styles of drawing that Ricketts expressed in this illustration (the lower half of which came up for sale in 1996), Hughes stresses the self-conscious imagery that Ricketts displays.