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Monday, March 23, 2015

Germans call a Greek to account

In a couple of his masterpieces, The Martyrdom of St. Maurice (the detail in the first picture) and View and Plan of Toledo (second picture), El Greco depicted angels with palms of victory and/or of glory to be handled to men.


El Greco was a great re-interpreter of both Christian and classical themes, but maybe somebody else has proved able to 'unmask' him in his turn. In fact, there is something strange to the alleged "palms": They are golden, and they look rather like huge feathers. So, what about the interpretation they undergo in Dugina-Dugin's illustrated version of the fairy tale Die Drachenfedern? Precisely as the dragon's feathers (third picture), the prize for the enterprise.
P.S. The Dugina-Dugin version of the tale is set in the Renaissance, with a lot of visual citations from A. Dürer, H. B. Grien, J. Bosch, P. Bruegel. Now, not only did the learned Renaissance artist, El Greco, read the Greek Classics in the original version, but he also owned a lot of Italian books, among which "Ariosto" -- probably his Orlando Furioso -- and the poem of chivalry Amadigi (1560) by Bernardo Tasso, Torquato's father. Not Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, because it was published after the painter's move from Italy to Spain in 1575. As for the Amadigi, it was a complete failure, to the great disappointment of father & son. But, well, it had at least one 'worthy' reader!