Sunday, October 30, 2005


Finish’d The Volcano Lover.

“Passion for S . . . was vehemence, aggression. What he could not understand is a passion that finds happiness in a retreat from vehemence, which makes one self-withdrawn. Like the passion of the collector.”

        “Because an image can show only a moment, the painter or sculptor must choose the moment that presents what the viewer most needs to know and feel about the subject.
        “But what does the viewer need to know and feel?”

“. . . the reigning cliché about the achievement of classical art: that it showed suffering with decorum, dignity in the midst of horror . . . ‘As the bottom of the sea lies peaceful beneath a foaming surface,’ Winckelmann wrote, evoking the standard offered by the Laocoön, ‘so a great soul remains calm amid the strife of passions.”

(The Winckelmann who was murder’d, not unlike Pasolini, by one of ’s lovers.)

The Portland Vase (Copy)

        “One February mid-afternoon in 1845, a young man of nineteen entered the British Museum, went directly to the unguarded room where the Portland Vase, one of the museum’s most valuable and celebrated holdings since its deposit on loan by the Fourth Duke of Portland in 1810, was kept in a glass case, picked up what was later described as “a curiosity in sculpture,” and started beating the vase . . .
        “The malefactor, discovered to be an Irish dainty student who had dropped out of Trinity College after a few weeks’ study . . . said that he was drunk . . . or that he was suffering from a kind of nervous excitement, a continual fear of everything he saw . . . or that he heard voices telling him to do it . . . or that he envied the maker of the vase . . . or that he had found himself aroused by the figure of Thetis, recumbent, awaiting her bridegroom . . . or that he thought the vase’s depiction of erotic longing a sacrilege, an offense to Christian morals . . . or that he couldn’t stand to see such a beautiful thing be so admired while he was poor and lonely and unsuccessful. The usual reasons given for destroying objects of incalculable value, admired by everyone. These are always stories of a haunting. Self-defined outcasts and solitaries, almost always men, begin to be haunted . . . The ravishing object is there. The object is provoking them. The object is insolent. The object is, ah, worst of all, indifferent.”

The Cavaliere, that is, th’aristocrat: “The first principle of the science of felicity is not to succumb to indignation or self-pity.” (A man unable to speak the word happiness.)

The five renamed months of the short-lived Republic in Naples: “Piovoso (rainy), Ventoso (windy), Germile (budding), Fiorile (flowering), and Pratile (meadowed) . . .”

Cartolina francobollo annullo postale: a memoria del 1779 (Commemorative stamp).
Sontag offers the last word to Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, publisher of the principal newspaper of the Republic, executed: “I was born into that world, I belonged to that class, I experienced the charms of that very agreeable life, I rejoiced in its unlimited vistas of knowledge and skill. How naturally human being s adapt to abjection, to lies, and to unearned prerogatives. Those whom birth or appropriate forms of ambition have placed inside the circle of privilege would have to be dedicated misfits—disablingly sanctimonious or bent on self-deprivation—not to enjoy themselves. But those whom birth or revolt have cast outside, where most beings on this earth live, would have to be obtuse or slavish in temperament not to see how disgraceful it is that so few monopolize both wealth and refinement, and inflict such suffering on others.”

And: “I cannot forgive those who did not care about more than their own glory or well-being. They thought they were civilized. They were despicable. Damn them all.”