2017. április 14., péntek

GOOD FRIDAY WITH JOHANNES HOLBEIN



My book The Ambassador and the Pharaoah is about Hans Holbein’s Double Portrait, TheAmbassadors that is one of the most enigmatic painting of the Renaissance, and about an other painting signed by Holbein too: Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh although art historians agree that it is not a real Holbein-painting.
The precise date is known in the case of The Ambassadors since there are several devices measuring time on the upper shelf of the chiffonier. It is April the 11th, 1533. The specialty of this day is that it was Good Friday, 1500 years after the crucifixion of the 33 years old Jesus. This feature makes the painting analogous to the two most complex literary works of the Middle Ages: Dante’s La Divina Commedia, whose plot begins on Good Friday in 1300, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in which the last day of the plot is also the same in 1400.
I enclose a poem from the book in Hungarian and in English - translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel. Thanks Peter!

Pokolra juss, vagy juss mennybe,
akár csak egy követ menj be:
szóvivő,
mint akinek nincs is dolga
más, mint szépen meghajolva,
s ahogy ő,
úgy járni el ura helyett,
s már feledni is a helyet
íziben.
Légy világfi, vagy légy tudós,
ne firtasd, hogy mit rejt a sors,
s mit üzen.
S egyszer majd, merengve éppen,
szemed egy különös képen
ráhibáz
valami sohase látott
furcsa tárgyra, ami bár ott
van, de még sincs: mint egy fátum
úgy jelen meg. Vanitatum
vanitas.

*
Whether into hell or heaven,
as ambassador
now enter —
like a hasty harbinger,
whose only mission is to bow,
forgetting all the massacre.
And, as he, just act in stead
of him who sent you as your master,
then retrace your steps — the faster
the better.
Be thou of the world or faith,
never scrutinize thy fate,
or the message it may harbor.
One day, as you muse before
a painting so peculiar
that it makes you merrier,
your gaze will fix a sight unseen —
an object that has never been,
yet is there inevitably
as your death or destiny:
a vanitas, or vanity.           


2017. április 9., vasárnap

THE LABYRINTH OF THE POET





Near Padova, only some 30 kilometres from Venice, facing the Brenta River, this is Villa Pisani and in the garden this is the famous maze. The villa belonged to the rich Pisani family, who had it built by the architect, librettist, and poet Girolamo Fringimelica in 1722. He designed the labyrinth too including a central tower with its double helical external staircase to confuse visitors even more.