fragments of re-enchantment (2)

How  many dis-enchantments and re-enchantments are possible, one wonders, reading longingly about the Florentine colony of high strung expat-art lovers around 1900. (1)

How they re-enacted an Arcadia of culture & aestheticism. They wanted to escape from the humdrum demands of modern utilitarianism, but were funded by it - either subsidised by wealthy parents or else advising as 'expert connoisseurs' wealthy patrons who had made their fortune in industry and banking. 
But that does not disqualify their longing. That does not lessen the sincerity of their endeavours. 

"Romanticism [...] represents one-half of the dialectical nature of modernity, a process of disenchantment and re-enchantment, where cultural forms were reinvented and reinfused with displaced spiritual values."

 "Re-enchantment as cultural production has been defined as the transposition of transcendent meaning onto repurposed forms in the face of the loss of transcendent meaning elsewhere."

“aestheticism’s philosophical potential as Epicurean materialism that was yet possessed of a transcendent dimension. [...] To aestheticism’s search for sensation is [...] added the desire for permanence in the face of change.  ” 
to create – to live, perhaps, a little beyond the allotted span, in some fragment even, of perfect expression – was the form his longing took, for something to hold by and rest on, amid the “perpetual flux”  "
(Pater, "Marius the Epicurean")

"The cultivation of memory to remedy “the sinking of things into the past”"

"The decision to abandon philosophical inquiry and become an expert connoisseur [engaging with the marketplace] is dramatized as a fall from grace:

 “the magical world [...]. I dwelt there for my first thirty years. It was hard to abandon it, to be driven out of Paradise even as our first parents were. […]. Like them, I looked  back often and with what homesickness and heartsickness! But there is no return.”"
 (Bernard Berenson, “Sketch for a Self-portrait”) 

 "Le Paradis Florentin : [...] Ile bénie pour les hommes et les femmes cultivés mais las"

(1)  All extracts from “Palaces Eternal and Serene”, by Robert Colby  in “Bernard Berenson – formation and heritage” except for the "Paradis Florentin" Warburg quote, cited by M-A Lescourret in Aby Warburg, "La Tentation du Regard" from Roeck's "Florence 1900. The Quest for Arcadia"

fragments of re-enchantment (1)

Lo and behold, music made visible : the sounds of trumpets, of psalteries & harps, of timbrels & choirs, of strings & organs, of the high sounding cymbals of joy

 (Luca della Robbia, singing gallery - 1432) 

Laudate eum in sono tubae; laudate eum in psalterio et cithara.
Laudate eum in tympano et choro; laudate eum in chordis et organo.
Laudate eum in cymbalis benesonantibus; laudate eum in cymbalis jubilationis.

Rejoicing for reasons difficult to fathom now, but a melancholy sticky tune nonetheless.  

(Florence, Opera del Duomo Museum - Sala delle Cantorie)  
Music played here is  Lassus, 1573 -  not exactly matched with pictured score

“tomorrow, tomorrow “ cries the crow / “cras, cras” krast de kraai

What a wonderful discipline art history is!  

It can turn one into a connoisseur of birds’ Latin cries while suggesting a link with a rousing 80s disco song.
It shows the way to fortitude amidst a sea of troubles.
It can send one on a hunt for a caged crow through deserted museum rooms.  

Let me explain.

Hope as a Crow Clinging to Pandora’s Box.

When despairing of current world affairs, what better consolation than a book about the iconological metamorphoses of Pandora’s box? (1)

That box out of which all evil escaped …. before Pandora could put on the lid again …. But what remained, clinging like a bird to the edge?  Hope! Hope for a better tomorrow faithfully stayed with a hapless humanity. And which bird sparks hope, speaking of tomorrow, because it cannot speak of today? (2)

The crow - with its croaky cry “ Cras! Cras!” – which in Latin means “Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

In a later age, Grace Jones would also vigorously sing:   "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love you tomorrow. Tomorrow is only a day away!” 

Allegory of Hope (“SPES”) as Industry & Good Husbandry   

About hope the Old Masters, too,  were never wrong. How well they understood it’s always best to just stubbornly plough along when all else goes wrong. As in  Bruegel’s  picture “Spes” / “Hope” (3)

Shovel, Scythe, Beehive  --- the tools of the industrious worker are the symbols of hope. Hope standing calmly in “a sea of troubles” with around her “men suffering all manner of catastrophe, loss, and misery”.


The assurance that hope gives us is most pleasant and most essential to an existence amid so many nearly insupportable woes. (3)

Hope , again, and now with all attributes.

Panofsky shows another picture as a metamorphosis of Pandora and Hope (4)  

Beehive, Scythe, Ship (with all sails set for SPES)  - this must mean hope! And yes, there is Pandora's faithful bird, too. The caged bird, assuring that hope is here to stay with us.
The legend under the picture reads   L’espérance, vitrail de 1519. Bruxelles, Musée du Cinquantenaire” (Hope, Stained Glass Window, Brussels  Cinquantenaire Museum)
Hey, that’s here in Brussels. 

So of course I rushed off to the Museum to find Hope! 
Apparently nobody else had - neither tourists (not particularly wanting to be in a Brussels these days), nor Belgians (who probably all went to the seaside). 

So I wandered alone through deserted museum rooms … finding Byzantine- Greek icons and swaying Northern Madonna’s lovingly cradling their child. Finding a sweeping Roman Victory (alas beheaded) and ponderous Roman heads (without bodies). Finding Syrian mosaics , lavish Flemish Brussels tapestries, and much more…  

I did not find my “Hope with the Caged Bird”. But what more could one hope for than finding calm and light washing through still rooms preserving humanity’s artefacts throughout the ages.

When I left the museum I heard a crow crying, I looked around but didn't see any hopping bird. Looking up , all I saw was an angel with fluttering wings, arms outstretched towards the sky.

Opening a  box of notes

  1. Dora & Erwin Panofsky: « La boîte de Pandore »  "Pandora's Box"
  2.    « Mais pourquoi [demande-t-on à l’Espérance] t’assies-tu sur un tonneau oisive ? » « Toute seule ie fus [répond-elle], qui demeuray restive sur le bord du tonneau alors que les malheurs voloient de tous costez avecques mille peurs. » « Mais qui est cet oiseau ? » « La corbeille  fidelle, ne pouvant entonner ‘il est’ , dit ‘il sera’  «  (Alciata, Emblemata – as cited in Panofsky’s Boîte de Pandore) 
  3.    H. Arthur Klein,  Graphic Worlds of Pieter Bruegel The Elder  
  4.     « La boîte de Pandore », p28