Sacred and Profane Love

Sacred and Profane Love

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Zodiacal Metaphors: Unveiling the Sacred and Profane Love's Astrological programme.

 Art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex.
                                                                                            — Vladimir Nabokov

The circle is the key to unveiling the Sacred and Profane Love's subject matter. In a structural sense, the circle is the all encompassing factor that correllates several distnct graphic programmes. Here (at this level of allegory) it is the content of the circle when considered as a constellation map that will conclusively elucidate the fusion of paganism to cosmology, astro-mythology to astrology, myth to alchemy, and alchemy to hermeticism. 

Fig. 1. The location of the zodiacal iconographs within the painting
and the positions a & c at either end of the radial line.

The boundary of a circle may be scribed (see Fig. 1) by drawing a direct line between the mouth of the spigot (where c = the circles apex) and the rider on horseback (where a = the limit of the circles boundary) located in the upper left quadrant directly below the fortress. 

By filling the circle discovered in fig 1 with a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere, (with the South Celestial Pole at the circles centre) direct correspondences can be made between the painting and the starmap.

In both the painting and the star map, position 'a' limits the boundary of circle. In the painting, this limitation is marked by the traveller on horseback, while with the map in position, this same limitation is defined by the constellation of Taurus (see fig 2). 

Fig. 2. Constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere.

In the Sacred and Profane Love (fig 1) the mouth of the spigot corresponds to position 'c' at the paintings centre.  In fig. 2 the circles centre is marked by the cross hair (+) which also marks the position of the South Celestial Pole and the yellow radial line a-c runs between the centre of the constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere. This radial is the same line in position in the Sacred and Profane Love in fig 1.

The main points designated by position 'a' located at the mouth of the spigot are:

1.  It is the point or centre of a circle which shall remain equidistant from that circles chosen boundary. 

2.  A circle equidistant from this centre or point shall be limited by the rider on horseback racing toward the fortress in the painting.   

3.  The mouth of the spigot corresponds to the position of the South Celestial Pole on a constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere.  

4.  This boundary is the constellation of Taurus (on a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (see fig. 3) thereby designating Taurus as the first zodiacal sign with the round of visible constellations..

5.    The road imitates the 'forward slash' dynamic of the constellation of Taurus as seen on a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere which has the South Celestial pole positioned at the maps centre.  In figs 1, 2, & 3, the circles intersection at the position of Taurus can be seen to correspond.

Taurus (refer to position 'a' on the Sacred and Profane Love - fig.1) is the only truly accurate site specific constellation on the round (see fig. 3). Note that the circles perimeter is defined at position 'a' where the constellation of Taurus intersects the circles boundary which highlights its foremost purpose as a multi-reference point~of~departure. 

Fig.3 The southern star map with all extraneous (non zodiacal) constellations removed and
correctly positioned over the paintings rectangular dimensions, 

Using the same star map in fig. 3 all extraneous (non zodiacal) constellations have been removed, leaving only those zodiacal constellations which are present in a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere. In fig.3 the star map is approximated in position over the Sacred and Profane Love's rectangular dimensions. 

The constellations produced in the Sacred and Profane Love were discussed by Firmicus Maternus (A.D. 334 - 37) in the eighth book on judicial astrology: The Matheseos Libri VIII  (c. 334- 37) and several of these descriptions by Firmicus are relevant to the iconology of the Sacred and Profane Love. 

This being so, those astrological correlations between the iconology of the Sacred and Profane Love and the text of the Matheseos Libri VIII find a third correspondence in the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, and this will form the basis of the next stage of this analysis.

Several descriptions written by Firmicus directly correspond with the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te. This is to say that the ceiling of the  Sala dei Venti and the Sacred and Profane Love share a common source - Firmicus.

The ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te in Mantua was designed and completed by Giulio Romano (1499-1546). Professor Ernst Gombrich in his 1972 publication Symbolic Images, announced the source of Romano's zodiacal programme as being the Matheseos Libri VIII of Firmicus. The Matheseos is known to historians as the eighth and final book on judicial astrology:

"the last book of which contains a conveniently coded catalogue of these [zodiacal] constellations and their influence on human destiny." 

The Sacred and Profane Love leans heavily on the Matheseos as a constellation catalogue both in selection, and through the adoption of several of the unusual interpretations 'celestial influences' which were described by Firmicus. The result of Firmus' writings distinguish the catalogue from being specifically describing a constellation map or a celestial atlas, it's reason for being is to interpret the influences of the constellations. It is not comprised of traditional zodiacal iconography, for example; the bull to represent Taurus and the hunter to represent Orion etc., which make the observation of star groups the more recognisable. 
During the early part of the sixteenth century the development of the modern star map was still in its infancy, and those celestial atlas’s which achieved popularity during the later sixteenth century were generally sourced from earlier catalogued forms of celestial cartography such as the Matheseos

On a star map of the southern constellations with the South Celestial Pole at centre, nine zodiacal references inhabit the map at the same time. The only signs not actually announcing a direct relationship to the zodiacal name (in the Latin) is the constellation Lepus - which refers to Gemini and of Canis Major (the latter would refer to Leo - later deleted). Of these two constellations Gombrich relates this very important observation in his publication Symbolic Images which is of keystone relevance to the understanding of the Sacred and Profane Love's iconography:

                 “The only constellation rising with Gemini is the Hare (Lepus)".
And of Leo, Gombrich again details the text of Firmicus:
 “The dog-star (Canicula), which rises in the fifth degree of Leo..."

But the most important link between the Sacred and Profane Love and the Sala dei Venti is that in the Sacred and Profane Love Firmicus' interpretative and often fantastical commentary has, in the hands of Guilio Romano, become visual literalism, which is to say that Romano has simply migrated those direct interpretations of Firmicus from the textual to the pictorial. But the abstract plan of the ceiling made by Mr Charles Redfield for Gombrich and published in Symbolic Images abstracts the geometry of the plan from the virtuosity of Romano: we can see clearly in diagrammatic clarity the idea and sequences without the beguilement of Romano's talent. 

Through Redfield's simplified analysis the ceilings complexity reveals the zodiacal plan easily confirmed by the anti-clockwise sequence of zodiacal procession. It is within this sequence that will found the unique correspondences that declare Firmicus' Matheseos to be a common source between the Sala dei Venti, a star map of the southern sky, and the Sacred and Profane Love.

Of the zodiacal references that occur in the Sacred and Profane Love, four accord directly with Firmicus' literal interpretations. As an allegory the five remaining interpretations were likely considered too cumbersome and fanciful for the Sacred and Profane Love. One only has to view Romano's images of the Sala dei Venti to find visual transliterations of the absurd. In contrast to the Sacred and Profane Love, Romano's execution of the ready-made plan has been entirely inspired by Firmicus' strange interpretations of the planetary influences; following those fantastical interpretations more literally and applying them to the walls and ceiling of the Sala dei Venti with an emphasis on decorative order rather than simple constellational accuracy.

Nothing about the Sacred and Profane Love appears unnatural or overtly peculier. The remaining zodiacal references appear to employ the catalogue of Firmicus purely as a sequential, cosmographic source - but that they are sourced from the same catalogue is highly evidential. All of the constellations of the Sacred and Profane Love place emphasis on those specific selections that would confirm the viewpoint of the South Celestial Hemisphere with the South Celestial Pole positioned at the centre.  
All this is not to say that the Sacred and Profane Love entirely ignores Firmicus. It is possible that the 'fallen ivy covered pillar' noted by the author and (maligned) historian Harold E. Wethey may have been an attempt to visually reconcile the main star of Scorpio - Ara (Altar) - with an interpretation of Firmicus, and if so this appears to have been thought better of and deleted through overpainting. 

The inclusion of Gemini and Leo in the Sacred and Profane Love's programme accord with the Matheseos. Harold Wethey announced the 'dogs head' as an overpainted symbol (in this analysis that overpainted symbol was the iconograph for the constellation of Canis Major being the reference to Leo) and his sightings must also be given their due. 

Scorpio will then reappear next to Sagittarius (and if this is so, it can be known that the painter is working left to right). Firmicus states that Scorpio (under a different planetary influence) can be regarded as a breeder of horses, and so the constellations form has been given equine shape to emphasise and pair the constellation of Scorpio with that of Sagittarius (The Centaur) - imitating their cosmographical proximity to each other which can be seen by using a modern star map of the southern celestial constellations (see fig 2).

Before this outline of the zodiacal metaphors begins, those direct visual comparisons should be made between the Sacred and Profane Love, the constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere, and the Sala dei Venti at the Palazzo del Te, Mantua.

Fig 4. Ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te.

Within the Sala dei Venti at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua (fig 4) Giulio Romano - a friend of Titian's - painted the ceiling [fig 3] of the Sala dei Venti in thirty seven sections. Twelve of these sections were given to the months of the year; another twelve were alternately allocated to the signs of the zodiac, while the remaining thirteen central divisions were given to deities of the Roman pantheon. Cradled by the months of the year and in direct relationship to each zodiacal sign is a circular 'medallion' or ‘roundel’ that interprets the texts of the Matheseos of Firmicus.

Here the interest is neither in Romano’s stylism or virtuosic capabilities and neither is it Romano’s pictorial interpretation of the plan which he has acquired. What is relevant to the purpose of this essay is that a plan can be abstracted from the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti which was sourced, in part at least, from the Matheseos Libri VIII of Firmicus  - and which are presented as those diminutive iconographs that populate the Sacred and Profane Love's bucolic landscapeThis is to say that the programme for the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti and the Sacred and Profane Love are based on the  same source - the Matheseos of Firmicus, and all of these zodiacal references are to be found in a star map of the South celestial Hemisphere.

Gombrich's analysis of the Sala dei Venti ceiling associated each of the pictorial elements of the ceiling with appropriate selections from the works of Firmicus and Manilius. That graphic diagram of the ceiling designed by Charles Redfield for Gombrich’s publication Symbolic Images in 1937 is reproduced below in Fig 5:

Fig 5. Charles Redfield's simplified design of the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te. 
(Source: Symbolic images E. H. Gombrich, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1975. p.113).
With Redfield's plan turned on its side, the correspondence between the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti and the format of the Sacred and Profane Love becomes more easily discernible.  
Fig. 6 Redfield's diagram of the Sala dei Venti showing the positions of
Venus (Proserpine) Mercury, and Ceres at the centre of the plan.

 In the centre of Redfield's plan there are several deities, and isolated from these are Venus, Mercury, and Ceres (see fig. 6) again corresponding with the format of the Sacred and Profane Love. In the Sacred and Profane Love Venus has been replaced by Proserpine (who is a version of the terrestrial Venus) and so confirm the classical identities of the two women and the child positioned around the fountain/sarcophagus. As in the Sacred and Profane Love, this central suite of figures are surrounded by (refer again to fig. 1.) the signs of the zodiac. It is clear that this format appears to be derived from the same source as the Sacred and Profane Love, but a very basic version. Here presents the argument for collaboration in the Sacred and Profane Love, for while the format is similar and the references clearly derived from the Matheseos, the geometric code, the substitution of Proserpine for Venus, and the iconological subtlety make Romano's ceiling simply an illustrated version of Firmicus. But this same plan having passed through the hands of Bellini (briefly) formatted and geometrised by Giorgione and only 'finished' (authenticated) by the very silent Titian, expose the conceptual mind of an artist rather than an apparent solo effort by Titian - the painter. Again it is Giorgione's masterwork more connected to Bellini than Titian.

                         Fig 7 b
Fig. 7 a

Fig. 7 a. Shows the locations of the first four zodiacal metaphors found in the Sacred and Profane Love.
Fig.7 b. Is the descriptive comparison as laid out in Charles Redfield's plan of the Sala dei Venti.

Fig 7c.  Sited over the rectangular format of the Sacred and Profane Love, the zodical constellations have been isolated from the constellations not relevant  to this study. The circle as constellation map  is  showing the correct celestial positions of the  zodiacal metaphors.

Position no. 1 of the Sacred and Profane Love (detail Fig. 7 acorresponds to the 'traveller on horseback' which will indicate the position of Taurus as seen  in  Fig 7 b. (Here there is an important clue and an odd mistake by Gombrich regarding his translation of the text of Firmicus.)
In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 7.b) position no.1 is described by Firmicus as the 'Fission of Taurus hooves' which is ascribed to zodiacal Taurus.

On the abstracted star map (Fig 7. c) position no. 1 indicates the constellation of Taurus.


Position no. 2 of the Sacred and Profane Love (detail Fig. 7 a) the two rabbits correspond to the position of Gemini (discussed in detail shortly). 

In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 7.b) at position 2, Firmicus offers the word 'Hare' under the area ascribed to zodiacal Gemini. This action occurs exactly at the right of Venus/Proserpine.
On the abstracted star map (Fig 7. c) position no. 2 indicates the constellation of Lepus (the Hare).

Position no. 3 of the Sacred and Profane Love (detail Fig. 7 a) is Harold Wethey's 'head of a dog or a cow...' which was overpainted (by Giorgione?) and which refers to Canicula - the Dog star, symbol for Leo. (The observation by Harold Wethey in 1972 where he claimed to have detected the overpainted animal was correct.) 

In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 7.b) at position 3, Firmicus simply offers the words 'Dog Star' and gives the zodiacal sign to Leo

On the abstracted star map (Fig 7. c) position no. 3 indicates the constellation of Canis Major (Great Dog).

Position no. 4 is allocated to Virgo. In the Sacred and Profane Love (detail, Fig. 7 a) this is the area occupied by the small rose bush (which is being watered by the all-important spigot) at the front of the sarcophagus/fountain.

In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 7.b) at position 4 under the zodiacal area of Virgo is the word 'Wreath'.

On the abstracted star map (Fig 7. c) position no. 4 indicates the constellation of Virgo.

When comparing Fig. 7 a, b, & c note; all three diagrams correspond. 

Each of the zodiacal metaphors are discussed in greater detail in the next section, but here is the brief presentation of each plan as they compare directly. The remaining four metaphors take a slightly different turn, and in this one may assume that the artist was working from left to right, and perhaps, a little more quickly...

The Zodiac: Sequence and selections.

There are nine references to the zodiac within the Sacred and Profane Love's programme: 

       1. _   Taurus
       2. ` Gemini
       3. b Leo (deleted)
       4. c Virgo
       5. e    Scorpio (a) (deleted)
       6. e    Scorpio (b) (reappearing next to Sagittarius)
       7. f    Sagittarius
       8. g   Capricorn
       9. h   Aquarius

 To present the zodiacal references according to the sequential structure of the painting, Taurus is the first on the round followed by Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Aquarius. Each metaphor is consistent with zodiacal sequence, proceeding successively in an anti-clockwise direction with only Pisces, Aries, Cancer and Libra missing from the arrangement. Although there are nine iconologic references to signs the zodiac, only eight are truly represented, and that explanation (see Scorpio) shall follow in its turn.

Fig. 8. Taurus.
Taurus _
Taurus is the key to the paintings programme which opens 
the lock to reveal the circle - the boundary of the star map.

Either Bellini or Giorgione (the painting in its formative stages was almost certainly a collaboration) has positioned the road to intersect - and so indicate - the boundary of a circle and placed the traveller on horseback on that road to fulfil the text of Firmicus 'fission of Taurus hoofs'. From the centre of the icon of the horse and rider a circles perimeter may be scribed.

Pictorially it is the ‘forward slash' gesture of the road on which the rider and horse are travelling that mimics the form of the constellation of Taurus according to a map of the southern sky (see Fig 7c).

Fig. 9 Taurus as a split or 'fissure on the celestial globe.

For the word fissione, (and here is the mistranslation of the word fissione by Gombrich) think fission - as in nuclear fission; to split the atom. Fissione would be better interpreted as 'fissure' or 'split' caused by the hoofs; so a 'fissure caused by Taurus hoofs' and refers to the constellational form of Taurus [see Fig 9] as a 'split' or 'crack' that intersects the celestial globe in the South Celestial Hemisphere. It references the road upon which the rider on horseback is travelling, the fissure being caused by 'hoofs'.

Fig. 10. The twin hares on the right of Proserpine/Venus.
                                                  Gemini `

The only constellation rising with Gemini 
 is the Hare (Lepus)".
E. Gombrich
The form of the constellation of Lepus (The Hare) suggests elongated 'ears' and is situated below the constellation of Taurus (refer to Fig. 7. c). Iconographic analysis demands that the inquirer must not accept things - in this case two rabbits - at face value and must exhaust all possibilities as to why the artist has chosen to paint not one, six or five, but specifically - two rabbits.

These are in fact two hares which are the reference to the zodiacal constellation of Gemini as the Twins. Mythologically Gemini symbolises Castor and Pollux, those brothers egg-born by Leda after Jupiter’s notorious amour with her while assuming the form of a swan.
Referring to Redfield's diagram of the Sala dei Venti, (Fig 7 b) 'The Hare' is located next to Gemini, and at the right of the hares is Venus/Proserpine. In Fig. 7 a,  above Gemini is Taurus and to the right there is Venus/Proserpine as can be clearly seen (in fig. 10) above.  In the plan of the Sala dei Venti, (Fig.7 b) at position 2 the roundel directly below Gemini states simply 'Hare' and is again sited next to Venus. 
The sigil for Gemini is `. This idea is replicated in the twin hares of the Sacred and Profane Love.

Fig 11. The constellation of Canis Major;  [deleted]
Leo b (Overpainted)

  “The dog-star (Canicula), which rises in the fifth degree of Leo..."

The Princeton scholar Harold E. Wethey claimed to have discovered two iconographs that had been over painted on the surface of the Sacred and Profane Love. This fact was derided as false by historians to become the most uncritical and appalling example of fratricide in art historical circles there has probably ever been. After thirty-seven years it is pleasing to be able to reinstate the view of Harold Wethey (and his wife Alice) who in 1975 announced: 
“At the lower left beside the clothed woman is the head of an animal in profile about 35 cm. broad, variously interpreted as that of a dog or a cow. This detail was first discovered by the author [Wethey] in June 1973 when he had a colour transparency made of this section of the picture. The animals head appears to have been painted over, either by Titian himself or at a later date… Now that the head is known to exist, it can be vaguely detected with the naked eye…".

After the restoration work carried out on this painting in 1993-94, the above observation of Wethey was now considered suspect. A very curious situation because Wethey had stated that the head could be “...vaguely detected with the naked eye.” The only answer here must be that the painting has gone beyond mere cleaning, and that the paint may have been rendered more opaque, a point in contrast to Titian’s manner of painting as he appears to have laid on many glazes, however these deleted iconographs should be considered to have been precisely what Harold Wethey stated they were - clear and studious observations.

Fig 14. The Sala dei Venti reference for Leo (Detail).

Turning again to the plan of the Sala dei Venti murals [Fig 19], one can see that the medallion directly under the zodiacal sign of Leo refers to Sirius (L. Canicula) - the Dog-Star.

It is the text of Firmicus to which the author of this invenzione has referred, and contextually it is a dogs head (and not a cows) that Wethey saw prior to the paintings restoration. Firmicus [as quoted by Gombrich] states:
                                     ‘…the dog-star which rises in the fifth degree of Leo…'
There can only be one reference to the Dog Star (Sirius) because Sirius forms in part the constellation of Canis MajorMost importantly though, the observation of Harold Wethey was correct.

Fig 12. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail); the rose bush.
  Virgo c
      The Rose Bush.
In the fifth degree of Virgo rises the Wreath (Corona). Whoever is born when this constellation rises, will be engaged in various voluptuous pleasures, intent on the study of the womanly arts, an inventor of flowers and wreaths, a lover of gardening, passionately craving for scents, ointments and perfumes.      
                                                                                                                  Matheseos Libri: VIII, II, I.
Fig 13. The constellation of Virgo.
Positioned at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus is the small rose bush  watered by the spigot at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus (see fig 12) that critical emblem that refers to the South Celestial Pole. The odd shaped rose bush has had several flowers torn by Venus/Proserpine, the remnants of which rest in the lap of that clothed figure.
Fig 14. Sala dei Venti (Detail); Virgo and 'Wreath'.
Turning to the plan of the Sala dei Venti murals [Detail, Fig 14], it is the reference to the constellation  of Virgo that commands the central lower position, again in imitation of this constellations position on a star map. On the plan of the Sala dei Venti the medallion directly below states simply: Wreath, and this is precisely what the idea of the rose bush alludes to; things womanly and the love of gardening.  
Fig 15. Virgo is the most 'southern' or 'lowest' constellation on the star map.

At the level of the Sacred and Profane Love referencing an astrological map, the position of the rose bush at the paintings lower centre agrees well enough with the position of Virgo on a star map (see Fig 15). The text of Firmicus suggests cultivation of the beautiful garden:
 ...intent on the study of the womanly arts, an inventor of flowers and wreaths, a lover of gardening...
Therefore this unusual rosebush is a relevant motif to employ when considering the brief of flowers, wreaths and gardening. The shape of the rosebush is curious. Both it and the icon for Scorpio seem to be reversed, which may disclose further links, but for the sake simplicity we cannot afford to digress here. 

In Fig 15 (above), there has been a progression beginning with Taurus, Gemini, Leo, and now Virgo. Sequentially, the next sign should be Libra - or will it be Scorpio?

Fig 16. The constellation of Scorpius is positioned at the lower mid right of the celestial hemisphere

Fig 17.Scorpio. Sacred and Profane Love (detail). 
 Scorpio e
“In the twelfth degree of Scorpio rises the Centaurus. Whoever is born under this sign will be a charioteer or a feeder and breeder of horses...
                                                                                                    Matheseos Libri: (VIII, 13, 3)
[The choice of a horse is the key here, for according to Firmicus those born in the twelfth degree of Scorpio will be '...a feeder and breeder of horses...'.  But there is something of a dilemna here because in this twelfth degree '...rises the Centaurus...']

Fig 18. Constellation of Scorpio.
 '...breeder of horses...' Firmicus'

The problem is that the next zodiacal sign in sequence is Sagittarius the Centaur; half man - half horse. Ignoring the traditional appellation of the Scorpion, the painter has given the sign of Scorpio the form of a horse [fig 19], no doubt influenced by Firmicus’s interpretative association of the rising of Centaurus with this sign. Because the texts of Firmicus suggest the equine reference the artist has chosen to refer to the sign of Scorpio as horse and rider which also compacts these two constellations together because on the star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere they are stacked (refer to fig. 16) one atop the other.

Fig 19. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail); Scorpio & Sagittarius
Maintaining the close cosmographic relationship between Scorpio and Sagittarius [Fig 16] which is imitated here; their constellational proximity to each other. The artist has paired Scorpio with the traditional centaur of the zodiac,

Fig 20. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail); Scorpio & Sagittarius
Earlier it was stated here that there were two constellations that seem to be 'reversed'. The first is Virgo. If that constellation were reversed, it would better mimic the 'strange' form of the rose bush at the front of the fountain. The second is Scorpio. In fig 20 scorpio has been reversed and placed next to Sagittarius to mimic the positions found in the Sacred and Profane Love (compare with fig 19). Because this possibility has a precedent in Virgo, the chance of this occurring twice lessen the chance of analytic mistake (though certainly not entirely!) and may indicate mistake in the positioning of the constellation, because whomsoever designed the Southern Celestial Hemisphere 'in the round' for the artists reference, was working upside down and in reverse from a catalogue - to develop a star map in the round which had never been seen.

Fig 24. Sagittarius: Sacred and Profane Love (Detail) & sigil for Sagittarius.
Fig 25. Sagittarius: The form of the constellation.

  Sagittarius  f
Sagittarius, the next sign in sequence is represented in profile directly referencing both sigil and the constellations form. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur, half man, half horse. With little imagination, and just as it was to the ancients, the form of the constellation sees the centaur aiming a bow and arrow[see Fig 24] to the sky. 
The rearing horse of the Sacred and Profane Love is reflected in the sigil for Sagittarius as  f which takes aim to the right in accordance with the visual suggestion.

There is a camaraderie between the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius and they have been dealt with as a pair in direct reference to the proximity of their cosmographic relationship [Fig 31] and further bonded by Firmicus' equine interpretation. This bond is reflected (see Fig 22) in the Sacred and Profane Love's iconology.

Fig 27. (Detail) The Shepherd guarding his herd.

Capricorn g
Capricornus is the triangular constellation at the upper right on the zodiacal 
round and located between Sagittarius and Aquarius

To the right of Scorpio and Sagittarius is a shepherd with his herd. From this point the texts of Firmicus have been abandoned entirely and the remaining signs of Capricorn and Aquarius depart from the texts in favour of the goat and sigil respectively.  The shepherd has no direct association with the sign of Capricorn, rather, he is the visual balance to the traveller on horseback at the paintings upper left (see Taurus). Having fulfilled the geometric role required to reveal the child as Mercurius/Hermes, the herdsman is here to guard his herd of sheep and goats - and the goat is the key to Capricorn. The bucolic scene is familiar to both Giorgione and Titian, and the Fête champêtre; c. 1508, Musée du Louvre, Paris, is the instance that may be drawn upon.

Fig 28. Fête champêtre.1508-09
Oil on canvas, 110 x 138 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Looking to the Fête champêtre  [Fig 28], several motifs found in the Sacred and Profane Love are repeated, though at a different angle. In the foreground there is a well; two women; and in the background  a bucolic landscape including a shepherd and his herd. These basic symbols are repeated in the Sacred and Profane Love As Gombrich had stated:

“Symbols do not carry meaning as trucks carry coal... Their function is to select from alternatives within a given context...”

Through context and association, one can assume that the shepherd is guarding a herd of sheep and goat. The main ciphers are repeated, but in the Sacred and Profane Love they become direct symbols. But are they sheep or are they goats?

Fig 29. Fête champêtre (Detail):

The animal nearest to the back of the nude [Fig 28] which can be seen in the lower foreground [Detail, fig. 29] looks like a goat - in contrast to the full coated woolly-haired sheep between it and the piping shepherd. Again, context is the guide here. Italian cuisine, particularly in the southern regions, ate as much goat as they did sheep, (whereas in the mountainous, forested Northern area one might substitute goat for the forest deer and boar). So where we do not have an emblematic 'goat' or even more correctly a 'sea-goat', the piping shepherd is minding a mixture of sheep and goat. In fact what we actually see is an arrangement of paint where the mind can  narrate a logical sequence appropriate to context - and the context here is zodiacal and here in sequence, the herdsman and the herd and therefore; Capricorn.
editing now,  August 20 2015
Fig 30. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail) Water divided by an isthmus
with Scorpio and Sagittarius in the foreground.

Aquarius h
Water divided by an isthmus infers the form of the Aquarian sigil.

Aquarius is the sign of the waters divided which is mimicked by the unusual lake at the paintings upper right [see fig 35]. The sigil represents the very bones of the idea, and Aquarius is without doubt the briefest metaphor used, the isthmus imitating the divided water symbol. Sagittarius (the archer), was dealt with in a similar manner with the position of the horse forming the arrow and cross as the sign for Sagittarius. Those two - Sagittarius and Aquarius - stand out as a pair, and are rather different from the signs that mimic the shape of their constellations such as Scorpio and Taurus and Virgo.

As Titian, who was a friend of Romano's, completed the Sacred and Profane Love after Giorgione's death, the likely source of Romano's programme would have been Titian. It can be postulated that the Sacred and Profane Love was a collaborative work, beginning with Bellini, moving to Giorgione, and concluded by Titian. Perhaps, because Romano, likely having gained the programme in a clandestine manner, was not given the entire programme of which there were probably several 'layers'. This is to say that the programme may have been presented in various working formats that could have been layered upon one another - as achieved in modern technology by the use of acetate sheets. 

The proportions of the rectangular canvas having been outlined, the circle; the pentacle; the circle with the zodiac and constellational references; the sarcophagus/fountain; the two women and the child; each layer would have been presented separately. Romano appears to have received the invenzione with the complete zodiacal references. In contrast, the collaborative effort of the Sacred and Profane Love has selectively chosen those zodiacal references suitable to allegoric construction rather than the visual transliteration of Firmicus as executed by Romano.

The Sacred and Profane Love was developed collaboratively in the studio from the same source plan given to Romano, but that which has been extracted and presented as the Sacred and Profane Love, speaks of a certain character; a sensibility. The contained power the Sacred and Profane love employs is pure Giorgione; the classical interest, esoterica, the abiding serenity and the atmosphere of mystique. The very thing that makes the Sacred and Profane Love entirely readable is the paintings strict adherence to a geometrical pattern and underlying source; the constellation map, circle, pentacle and the relationship to myth and the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili as primary sources.

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Paul Doughton ©1997 - 2015.

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