Saturday, October 4, 2014

More Baroque Sculpture... Sorry not sorry. And a story :)

We had a good laugh talking about Aeneas's thought process when he was escaping Troy during Troy's sack. Recap: Troy is burning, Aeneas is able to escape with Anchises and Ascanius due to an early monition by Venus and the ghost of Hector, and Aeneas grabs Ascanius and Anchises and tells his wife, Creusa, to follow at a distance. Vergil does a great job of juxtaposing his epic's primary, conflicting themes: pietas (piety, duty/devotion to family and gods) and furor (unadulterated rage, reckless anger). On the pietas side: Aeneas says to Ascanius and Anchises:
“’So come, dear father, climb up onto my shoulders!
I will carry you on my back. This labor of love
will never wear me down. Whatever falls to us now,
we both will share one peril, one path to safety.
Little Iulus, walk beside me…
And you, my father, carry
our hearth-gods now, our fathers’ sacred vessels.
I, just back from the war and fresh from slaughter,
I must not handle the holy things—it’s wrong—
not till I cleanse myself in running springs.’” (Fagles translation, Book 2)

    During this time of terror (initially instigated by Juno's furor), Aeneas has time to think about his penates (household gods) and family. Here's a sculpture of this scene by Bernini (as you can probably see, I'm a Bernini-phile). This sculpture has realist influences, judging by the greasy look of their hair and worried expressions.

Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius  

Why, who is the tiny little man that Anchises is holding? It's the penates of Aeneas's family (and by extension the Iulus gens in its entirety, and, by further extension, Augustus Caesar himself). Their inclusion in this excerpt and this sculpture is important: in the beginning of the Aeneid, part of Aeneas's duty (pietas ding ding ding!) was to bring his household gods to Latium and establish the very beginnings of Roman lineage. As Vergil makes a very contrived family tree to connect Augustus to Romulus and Remus to the Alban Kings to Ascanius to Aeneas to Anchises to Venus, this is clearly political propaganda (at least in part). Flattering authority was big in Rome. I once read an entire poem dedicated to the death of an emperor's parrot. No metaphors, just an elegy to a parrot. A parrot.

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