Browning’s Painter Poems

November 27, 2008 at 10:15 am (Aestheticism) ()

Thought I’d follow Vicky’s example (below) and post a few images as visual context for the three Browning dramatic monologues we’ll be reading in this afternoon’s session.  ‘My Last Duchess’ is, of course, fictional; but  Andrea del Sarto and Fra Lippo Lippi were both real people (I like to think of them as ‘Andrew Taylor’ and ‘Brother Mick Jagger’ respectively).  You’ll find 87 images of del Sarto’s work here; and here’s the image that Browning saw (a portrait of del Sarto’s wife, Lucrezia) that inspired him to write the poem:

'But do not let us quarrel any more...'

Nice enough, you might think: is it really as lifeless as Browning’s del Sarto thinks? (‘All is silver-grey,/Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!’ 98-99). Fifty-seven Fra Lippo Lippi images are viewable here: it’s not so clear which specific Lippi works Browning had in mind when he wrote the ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ dramatic monologue, but he was certainly familiar with the frescoes at Prato cathedral, near Florence:

esequie_di_santo_stefano2c_filippo_lippi_frescos_in_the_cathedral_of_prato

lippi_z08

A close up of that one:

lippi_z09

The guy on the left right who looks a bit like Phil Mitchell?  That’s supposed to be a self-portrait by Lippi himself.  I like this three chins.  [AR]

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2 Comments

  1. Jo Holt said,

    I’ve been thinking about the Herbert Tucker article you mentioned, which put forward the view that Andreo del Sarto is a failure because of his lack of sexual fulfillment. It seems so glowingly obvious!! Do you have a title/reference so I can follow it up? Thanks.

  2. rhulvictorian said,

    Jo, I may not have been wholly clear. Tucker’s Browning’s Beginnings (in the library, here) does say interesting things about these, and many other, Browning poems. But the specific ‘male poetics’ argument is another Herbert, Herbert Sussman, who reads the sexual energy of Fra Lippo and the sexual frustration of Andrea in broader cultural terms of a ‘masculine’ poetic that links artistic expression to sexual expression: check out this article [JSTOR access], or his book Victorian masculinities : manhood and masculine poetics in early Victorian literature and art (in the library too, here) for more detail.

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