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Friday, June 22, 2018

1615: The French Revolution

'Body paint' from Rubens, The Regency of Maria De' Medici

If Giambattista Marino's purpose was to surprise his readers (it was), he succeeded. In his 1615 poem Il Tempio, "The Temple," a lot of Catholic Counter-Reformation wording and imagery is employed, but always with reference to lay subjects. The cloister is embellished with twelve sculptures that do not represent the Apostles, but the nine Muses and three goddesses: Venus, Diana, Minerva. On the gold doors of the building -- see e.g. the Florence Baptistery -- not the events of salvation are carved, but the enterprises of King Henry IV. And inside the church, not only do four large mosaics recall the career of Maria De' Medici, but, just in the altar area under an already 'Berninian' Baldachin, an imposing statue of her is set in order to be worshiped. While looking less sexy than Venus' statue in the goddess' temple described in Marino's long poem Adone, all right, the Queen's effigy does anyway convey a sacral glorification of female beauty, as well as political power.

The poet plays shamelessly on the fact that the Queen's name is the same as the Mother of Jesus'. In brief, this self-proclaimed spokesman of the Catholic Church foreruns some attitudes that will clearly surface in France during the Revolution and later on, during the Napoleonic Era (see A.-J. Gros' paintings) and in 19th century Positivism, aiming to replace the cult of saints with secular heroes, reformers, thinkers, leaders. Just to stress, once again and not for the last time, that G. B. Marino was not a silly singer of roses & nightingales as is still nowadays presented in the school teaching and anthologies in Italy.

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