Jacques Callot (1592-1635), engraving of the painting of The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Pieter Breughel the Younger (sometimes spelled Brueghel, Bruegel; Flemish Renaissance painter, ca. 1564-1636). Callot was Breughel’s disciple.
Flaubert insisted the Brueghel painting, which he saw on a visit to the Balbi Palazzo in Genoa in 1845, had inspired him to write The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Flaubert owned a print of Callot’s engraving, which hung on the wall until his death.
Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (cf. Helen/Ennoia in Section IV) :
Helen of Tyre
What phantom is this that appears
Through the purple mist of the years,
Itself but a mist like these?
A woman of cloud and of fire;
It is she; it is Helen of Tyre,
The town in the midst of the seas.
O Tyre! in thy crowded streets
The phantom appears and retreats,
And the Israelites that sell
Thy lilies and lions of brass,
Look up as they see her pass,
And murmur “Jezebel!”
Then another phantom is seen
At her side, in a gray gabardine,
With beard that floats to his waist;
It is Simon Magus, the Seer;
He speaks, and she pauses to hear
The words he utters in haste.
He says: “From this evil fame,
From this life of sorrow and shame,
I will lift thee and make thee mine;
Thou hast been Queen Candace,
And Helen of Troy, and shalt be
The Intelligence Divine!”
Oh, sweet as the breath of morn,
To the fallen and forlorn
Are whispered words of praise;
For the famished heart believes
The falsehood that tempts and deceives,
And the promise that betrays.
So she follows from land to land
The wizard’s beckoning hand,
As a leaf is blown by the gust,
Till she vanishes into night.
O reader, stoop down and write
With thy finger in the dust.
O town in the midst of the seas,
With thy rafts of cedar trees,
Thy merchandise and thy ships,
Thou, too, art become as naught,
A phantom, a shadow, a thought,
A name upon men’s lips.
Lithography by Odilon Redon (1840-1916) for Gustave Flaubert’s La Tentation de Saint Antoine
Comment: Des Esseintes likes only a handful of artists; among them Rembrandt, Gustave Moreau, and Odilon Redon (see J.-K. Huysmans’ À Rebours). It’s absolutely blow-minding to notice the artist’s play on the clair-obscur (light-dark, see the notion of Chiaroscuro) in those breathtaking and highly symbolical examples of Symbolist-decadent style.
Odilon Redon – À Gustave Flaubert : Six dessins pour la Tentation de Saint Antoine (2ème série), 1889
- Saint Antoine : À travers ses longs cheveux qui lui couvraient la figure, j’ai cru reconnaître Ammonaria
- … une longue chrysalide couleur sang …
- La Mort : Mon ironie dépasse toutes les autres !
- Le Sphinx : Mon regard que rien ne peut dévier, demeure tendu à travers les choses sur un horizon inaccessible ! La Chimère : Moi je suis légère et joyeuse !
- Le Sciapodes : La tête le plus bas possible, c’est le secret du bonheur !
- Saint Antoine : Il doit y avoir, quelque part, des figures primordiales, dont les corps ne sont que des images