26 March 2010

Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti

Two manuscript portraits of Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti,
 with a jousting shield. The sonnet was written in 1405
on the death of his wife, Elizabetta de Varano.

Morta è la sancta donna che tenea
mio spirto unito, tacito e contento;
anzi vive nel cielo, e io in tormento
remaso sono, altr’uom ch’io non solea:

      non huom, ma bruto, sì che ben dovea
sequire il corpo suo di vita spento,
né mai partir da lato al monimento,
ma incenerarmi ove ’l suo cor giacea,

     ché forse l’alma lei sequita arebbe
nel triumpho celeste, ove si vive
eternalmente per divina possa.

     Se pur di seguir lei fusser stà privez
le forze mie, almen stato serebbe
sepulto il corpo presso a le sacr’ossa.

The holy lady is dead, who used to hold
my spirit with hers, quiet and content;
Now she lives in heaven, and I in torment
am left, another man from what I was:

     not man, but brute, so that I should have
followed her body, life extinguished,
never to leave the side of her tomb
but burned myself where her heart lies.

     Then perhaps my soul might follow her
in celestial triumph, where all live
eternally by divine power.

    Yet if I with all my force were to be kept
from following her, at least
my body would be buried with her sacred bones.

Malatesta Malatesti, Rime, Ed. Domizia Trolli (Parma, 1982)
Translation copyright 2010 DGW and PAM. 

20 March 2010

Last Hurrah at Nauplion

By 1713, the Venetians were ready to demonstrate that they were an empire with staying force (they had conquered Nauplion in 1686), and for the first and only time in Greece -- Crete is a different matter -- they built statements of imperialism. So it was a shame that when the Ottoman army and fleet arrived in 1715, Nauplion had a garrison of about 80 soldiers to face 100,000. But for two years, they thought big.

The Venetian engineers reshaped the main plateia by constructing a massive armory as far to the west as possible, but they needed to leave room for an street connecting the harbor to the new approach they were constructing on Acro-Nauplion (first picture). The width of the street was not grand, as it was constrained by the conventual buildings around the 15th-century church of the Franciscans.  The church is still there, much transformed, known as the Panagia.

Past the armory (rear view here), the street widened a bit going uphill, and it is probable -- documents have not survived -- that they put in actual cut stone steps.  They did so farther up. Here and there along the steps, you can spot something left from that period, such as this bare hint of a Venetian arch at the entrance to a garden.

This garden looks onto an open area in front of the Hotel Leto which the 1713 Venetians must have intended to make into an Italian piazza. There are still remnants around the area, much rebuilt, of Venetian houses with arched doors, and parts of walls. What is particularly interesting, to the left, going away from the Leto, The Venetians built a stone stair to the street above on the hill. At the entrance to the stair, you can spot on either side the remains of stone-cut jambs that once held a heavy gate.  A future blog will discuss where these stairs were going.

For now, there is a sharp right behind the Leto, a dismal flight of crumbling stone stairs, apparently untouched since 1713, and then the stairs reverse to go up to the gate shown in the first picture.  Despite the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come to Nauplion annually, the stairs are almost untouched.  There are two pillars, one on either side, at the top of the stairs, with Venetian stonework typical of the late 17th-early 18th century. The pillars are significant because important visitors arriving in Venice passed between two columns on the waterfront, and once upon a time they passed between two pillars to enter the official south-west entrance of San Marco.

Then you come face to face with the great gate.

It has been locked and barred since 1977 or early 1978.  Once the Greek government got into the hotel business and devastated a the west end of Acro-Nauplion to build its pompous luxury hotel, the hotel management and guests did not want random people turning up in their garden.  The excuse was made that the staircase was dangerous, and the gate was closed.  It was dangerous, true.  Inside the gate another stone stair goes up to the right through an arched passage, and  more than once when I went up in 1977 small bits of stone fell, and the steps were clearly employed as an emergency toilet.

This staircase, though, is a spectacular construction, and it does no good in 2010 to make noises about preserving the national heritage, suffering as the Archeological Service is from brutal budget cuts.  But it would be a splendid restoration project for a donor seeking kleos, and at the very least, cleaning the growth off the stairs would be an admirable project for a youth group.  There are at least three Nauplion groups on Facebook now, probably more, posting the occasional photo and telling one another how much they love Nauplion.  Some of them could clean up the stairwells and repaint the gate over the weekend.

11 March 2010

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Four

 Malatesta coat-of-arms from Pesaro

The year of 1429, may have been the most difficult year in Cleofe Malatesta's life.  The past eight years had been difficult enough, but in 1429 loss piled on loss.    
               In February or March of the previous year, she had given birth to a daughter, Helena, named for her husband's mother, the Empress Helena.  It is Greek tradition to name the first son and daughter after the husband's parents.  Shortly after, she wrote her sister Paola a letter that may be the earliest written description we have of postnatal depression.  She is barely able to mention the baby.  
               During 1429, her brothers-in-law, Constantine and Thomas, were besieging Patras, the city her brother Pandolfo ruled as Archbishop. Pandolfo went to Venice to ask for military aid, but Venice said it would conflict with their agreements.  Pandolfo was on his way back to Patras when he learned of the surrender.  Sphrantzes met with him at Naupaktos to find out his intentions.  
              Meanwhile, all that year, Cleofe's husband, Theodoros II, was dithering about whether he should go into a monastery -- was the fact of becoming a father (and discovering the wonders of sex) too much for him to assimilate?  Whatever the cause, it became clear in 1429, and again in 1436, that he was unable to give up control of Mistra to Constantine although he did hand over a great deal of territory to him.
               Pandolfo had been made a cleric early. He had a hunched back and dragged his foot when he walked -- a birth injury? -- and could not join the Malatesta tradition of warriors, but he joined their tradition of humanists, and he could represent the family's interests in the church.  In 1424 he had been given the archbishopric of Patras which, since the Frankish conquest of 1205, had been a fief of the church.  There, he rebuilt the cathedral of S. Andrea -- the Malatesti all went in for building -- and the Malatesta court composer, Guillaume Dufay, wrote an elegant short motet for the dedication: Apostolo glorioso. Pandolfo put up an inscription.

Coat-of-arms of Pandolfo Malatesta, Metropolitan of Patras, for the rebuilding of this church, 1426.    
               Given that his father, Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti, lord of Pesaro, had given new portals for the churches of S. Dominico and S. Agostino in Pesaro, we can speculate that one or more of the builders and stonecutters were sent over to work in Patras.  S. Andrea of Patras housed the relic of the head of Saint Andrew and much later, when Cleofe's brother-in-law Thomas had to escape to the West at the Ottoman takeover, he brought the relic as a gift for the pope.  But we know almost nothing of Pandolfo at Patras, except that when he had to leave, Cleofe lost an important contact with her family, and a source of comfort.    

Portal of S. Agostino given by Malatesta "dei Sonetti"  
               In August 1429, Cleofe's sister Taddeo died of the plague. Plague was no respecter of class, and a few years later her brothers-in-law's wives, Maria of Trebizond, and Zoe Paraspondylos, died of plague in Constantinople.  Then in November 1429,  Theodora, wife of Constantine, died.  There is no information as to whether they had actually met, but it does appear that Theodora was traveling from Clarenza to Mistra to finish out her pregancy there when something happened on the way, and she and her infant died.

             Then at the end of December, Battista wrote Cleofe a letter she likely would not have received for a month or more.  That letter has not survived, but the one she wrote Cleofe's sister has, and the letters must have been very much alike. This is a rough, partial, translation:

Dearest sister, . . . You should be told of the very sad news, of the transition of our magnificent and most virtuous father into memory.  I thought I ought to tell you what happened. . . he had no pain or physical suffering. . . Thursday night he had a bad cough that settled with treatment . . . Sunday night when we left him, he was in good spirits.  Monday morning he went to Mass as usual . . . he said grace at dinner and then talked a while with Maestro Mateo, he started to eat but took only a little bread and drank a very little . . . then he touched his remaining eye and said, "I don't know what is wrong with this eye."  Mateo asked him what he had said.  He didn't answer, then he said, "Virgin Mary, help me!" and remained with his eye closed . . . [Later] his face darkened, and we had him given Extreme Unction, then there were three great breaths . . .he moved a little . . . then in about an hour it seemed to us this blessed soul had left his body.
First page of the Paris "Rime" manuscript of Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesta    
             Cleofe's father was Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti, widely known for his poetry, as had been his father who was a friend of Petrarch.  He was not, I'm afraid, anywhere near that standard, though he did try to rewrite the last canto of Dante's Paradisio. He was first of all a condottiero. Some fifty-six or so of his poems have survived, mostly about the Church and the Great Schism and the King of Rome.  He hired Guillaume Dufay as court musician and had his children educated in Latin and Greek.
              Dufay wrote a motet for Cleofe's wedding, Vasilissa ergo gaude, and he wrote one for her brother Carlo's wedding, Resvellies vous.  The family was rich in music and books and loyalty, and when Carlo inherited the lordship of Pesaro when Malatesta "dei Sonetti" died, he shared it with his brothers, Pandolfo and Galeazzo (who was married to Battista).  After this, the family story becomes too complicated, but I conclude with the closest thing available to a portrait of Cleofe, in one of Carlo.

Seal of Cleofe's brother, Carlo Malatesta
For more posts in the Cleofe series:
Pictures are from E. Angiolini and A. Falcioni, La Signoria di Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti (1391-1429) (Rimini, 2002).

06 March 2010

Toufa, Toupha: Part Two

I gave a light-hearted paper on the toupha-toufa this weekend at the Medieval Academy of the Pacific in Tacoma, Washington,  to answer the question: what did Gozzoli think he was doing with this feathered crown? He clearly has heard of the diadem with feathers traditionally worn by the Eastern emperor in a triumph, a diadem bearing a circle of peacock feathers, called a toupha. I didn't answer it adequately there.

It is a representation -- not a portrait -- of John VIII Palaiologos in procession in Florence for the Council of Union, painted between 1459 and 1461 for the Medici Chapel in their palazzo, although Gozzoli was in Florence and saw John in 1439.  John came for humiliation, not a triumph, but Gozzoli has turned the procession into a triumph.

In preparation for this paper, a few images new to me turned up. For want of writing time, I am kindly making these images available here. This first is carved on an 11th-C ivory box that has various representations of emperors or horseback. Since the toupha is generally associated with a military triumph, it is odd to see it in the context of hunting and I am a bit curious about the way the emperor sits his horse.

The next one I showed before, a toupha portrayed in an 11-th C fabric found in the tomb of a German bishop, but its perspective may help to explain the shape of the headdress on Cyrenius, Governor of Syria, in the 14th-C mosaic in the Kariye Djami in Istanbul.



Do the striped feathers in Gozzoli's interpretation of the toupha have anything to do with the striped feathers on Ag. Alexandros of Pydna, shown here in the Cave of the Theotokos at Prespa?  Especially as this Ag. Alexandros is wearing, like Gozzoli's, a short-sleeve robe.  This robe is covered with Palaiologan double-headed eagles. He seems to have originated as one of those martyred soldiers, but it does look as if, being in northern Greece, a sainted soldier Alexandros -- soldiers are often shown wearing helmets with a crest which is called a toupha -- became conflated with Alexander the Great, and an emperor is entitled to a right royal toupha and robe. 

Another Ag. Alexandros, from Ag. Athanasios in Kastoria.

Finally, the toupha Piero della Francesca painted about 1447 in his glorious fresco sequence on the Legend of the True Cross in S. Francesco in Arezzo. Ten years ago I visited the church when the frescos were being restored, and was taken up on a scaffolding so that I was as close to the hand of Piero as I am to my computer screen. It represents the emperor Heraclius at the moment of victory.

Piero probably took his toupha from a Roman or Greek image, such as this 500BC toupha I photographed through a reflective glass case in a museum in northern Greece whose name I cannot remember. I was on a tour and it was a three-museum day.

So at the conference, in the question period after the panel I was on, Linda Williams of the University of Puget Sound made a suggestion that elegantly finished off my explanation of the crown as a toufa. She said that the Medici coat of arms had feathers on it.

Looking into that, I find that the Medici arms -- Cosimo and Lorenzo provided the pope with the cash to finance his council and the expenses of the 700 Greeks -- bore a ring mounted by three ostrich feathers.  And look at this Medici marriage tray at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with red, green, yellow, and white feathers around the inner rim of the frame.

Now look again at the colors of the feathers around John's crown -- red, green, and white, with gold replacing the yellow -- and see if you don't think that Gozzoli has adroitly transformed the gawky peacock-feather imperial toupha into a graceful compliment to his patron.