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.  
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 located in the upper left quadrant directly below the fortress (a = the reference to Taurus). Position 'a' indicates and limits the boundary of circle which at this level of allegory contains a map of the South Celestial Hemisphere replete with the South Celestial Pole at the circles centre. 

Fig. 2. Constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere

In fig. 2 the yellow radial line runs between the centre of a constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere. At the circles centre the cross hair (+) marks the position of the South Celestial Pole (in the Sacred and Profane Love  (see fig 1) the South Celestial Pole is found at position 'c' corresponding to the mouth of the spigot). 

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. 

The two main points designated by position 'a' are: 

1. As the key to defining the circles boundary. 
2. As corresponding to the position of Taurus on a constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere thereby designating Taurus as the first zodiacal sign with the round of visible constellations. 

Fig.3 The southern star map with all extraneous (non zodiacal) constellations removed and
correctly positioned over the paintings rectangular dimensions, 
In fig. 3 only those astrological constellations which are present in a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere - which were discussed by Firmicus Maternus (A.D. 334 - 37) in the eighth book on judicial astrology: The Matheseos Libri VIII  (c. 334- 37) - are relevant to the iconology of the Sacred and Profane Love. Those descriptions written by Firmicus also 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.

Isolated from a complete star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (fig 2) and placed over (as it were) the rectangular format of the Sacred and Profane Love (fig. 3) those astrological correlations between the iconology of the Sacred and Profane Love; the text of the Matheseos Libri VIII; and the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te must be scrutinised in a methodical and coherent manner.

The ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Pallazzo del Te in Mantua was designed and completed by Giulio Romano (1499-1546). In his 1972 publication Symbolic Images Professor Ernst Gombrich announced the source of Romano's zodiacal programme as being the Matheseos 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 a constellation map or a celestial atlas comprised of traditional figures, for example; the bull to represent Taurus and the hunter to represent Orion etc., which made 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 Libri VIII of Firmicus. 

On a star map of the southern constellations, 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 which refers to Leo (later deleted). Gombrich relates this very important observation in his publication Symbolic Images which will be relevant to the understanding of the Sacred and Profane Love's iconography:

                 “The only constellation rising with Gemini is the Hare (Lepus)".

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, been transcribed visually; which is to say that Romano has simply migrated direct interpretations of Firmicus from the textual to the pictorial. 

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.  
And Romano's ceiling does reveal the zodiacal theme which is easily confirmed by the anti-clockwise sequence of zodiacal procession. But it is within this sequence that will found the correspondances that declare Firmicus' Mathesos to be a common source between the Sala dei Venti and the Sacred and Profane Love.

All this is not to say that the Sacred and Profane Love entirely ignores Firmicus. That '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 (overpainted). 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 fig2).

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

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

One of the sourcesthat clearly validates the Sacred and Profane Love's iconological association is the Sala dei Venti at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua (fig 4). Within the Palazzo, 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 LoveThis 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.

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. To further simplify that analysis, a simple graphic diagram of the ceiling was designed by Charles Redfield for Gombrich’s publication Symbolic Images in 1937.

Fig 5. Charles Redfield's transcribed 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).

When Redfield's plan is turned on its side, a correspondence is entered into with the programme of the Sacred and Profane Love.

Fig 6. Central area isolated.

                         Fig 7 b
Fig. 7 a

Fig. 7 (a + b). The first four zodiacal metaphors in direct comparison.

Fig 7c. The circle (constellation map) sited over the rectangular format of the
Sacred and Profane Love; the first four zodiacal metaphors in direct comparison.

In the diagram at the upper left (Sacred and Profane Love (detail) Fig. 7a there is one half of the circle scribed by the line drawn between the mouth of the spigot at the fountains centre of the Sacred and Profane Love and the rider on horseback at the upper left. This line is most important as it introduces the circle and the South Celestial Hemisphere.  

Across to the right of Fig.7b is the left side of Redfields diagram of the Sala dei Venti's ceiling. When analysing the texts Sala dei Venti ceiling, Gombrich interprets the text of Firmicus that relates to Taurus; "in fissione ungulae Tauri"  as "fission under hoofs". 

Below these two images is a third image; the South Celestial Hemisphere Fig. 4c which excludes all but those constellations with a direct reference to a corresponding zodiacal 'sign' represented figuratively in the Sacred and Profane Love and that are revealed by corresponding ciphers.

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

The historian Harold. E Wethey claimed that he had seen the 'head of a dog or a cow' on slides he had made of the Sacred and Profane Love prior to the paintings restoration. These claims were dismissed or discredited by subsequent historians. In fact it was a dog intended to reference the zodiacal sign of Leo - and which corresponds to position 3 on each diagram (Fig 7 a + b + c ).

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. Leo (deleted)
       4. Virgo
       5. e    Scorpio (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. There are nine iconologic references to signs the zodiac.
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 12).

For the word fissione, think fission - as in nuclear fission; to split the atom. Fissione would be better interpreted as a 'split' [see Fig 13] and refer to the constellational form of Taurus as a 'split' or 'crack' that intersects the celestial globe in the South Celestial Hemisphere.

                                                  Gemini `:
The only constellation rising with Gemini is the Hare (Lepus)".
E. Gombrich
The form of the constellation of Lepus (The Hare) suggests a hares 'ears' and is situated below the constellation of Taurus (refer to Fig. 12). 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. 11 b) the 'Hare' is located next to 'Gemini', and both are next to Venus. This is a 'triple hit'; at the right there is Venus/Proserpine, and further to the left is the corresponding zodiacal sign marked 'Gemini'. Below both Venus and Gemini is the roundel stating simply 'Hare'.
The plan of Fig 16 is repeated in the painting in Fig 17 (above) and correlates with the site and form of these constellations in Fig 15. For Taurus, the constellations form is mimicked by the diagonal road with the rider on horseback. Below Taurus are the twin hares, and at the right of the hares is Venus/Proserpine. While this pair of rabbits might easily be taken as male and female, they are twin hares representing the twin nature of the sign of Gemini and which is evident in the sigil for Gemini as `.

Fig 13. The constellation of Canis Major; The 'larger dog' (Canis Major  was the
 larger of the two hunting dogs used by Orion) [deleted symbol for Leo]
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. But why should this have been deleted? 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 15. 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 16. The constellation of Virgo.

Positioned at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus and watered by the emblem that is the south celestial pole; the spigot [see fig 20]. The same odd shaped rose bush has had several flowers torn by Venus/Proserpine and which now rest in the lap of that clothed figure.

Fig 17. Sala dei Venti (Detail); Virgo and 'Wreath'.

Turning to the plan of the Sala dei Venti murals [Detail, Fig 23], it is the sign of the Virgin (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

Fig 18 Virgo is the most 'southern' or 'lowest' constellation on the star map.

At the level of the Sacred and Profane Love as 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 18). 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, and as 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 18 (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 19 (Detail). The constellation of Scorpius is positioned at the lower mid right of the celestial hemisphere

Fig 20. Sacred and Profane Love (detail): Scorpio.
 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...'. So what is the dilemna?

Fig 21. Constellation of Scorpio.

Scorpio e

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 25], no doubt influenced by Firmicus’s interpretative association of the rising of Centaurus with this sign. The texts of Firmicus suggest the equine reference, and the artist has chosen to refer to the sign of Scorpio as horse and rider. Influencing this interpretation is not solely the relation of the image to the works of Firmicus, but the relationship to the other horse and rider seen in profile at the right.

Fig 22. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail); Scorpio & Sagittarius

In reference to the constellation map of the southern sky, it is the cosmographic relationship between Scorpio and Sagittarius [Fig 28] that is imitated here; their constellational proximity to each other on a map of the South celestial hemisphere (refer to Fig 19).
It is the proximity of Scorpio to Sagittarius as well as the equine interpretation of Firmicus. The artist has paired Scorpio - Firmicus' '...breeder of horses...' - with the traditional centaur of the zodiac, Sagittarius. 

Fig 23. 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 30] 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.

Fig 24. Sagittarius: Sacred and Profane Love (Detail) & sigil for Sagittarius.

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 25. (Detail) The Shepherd guarding his herd.
Capricorn g

From this point on the texts of Firmicus have been abandoned entirely. The remaining signs of Capricorn and Aquarius depart from the texts in favour of the goat and sigil respectively. To the right of Scorpio and Sagittarius is a shepherd with his herd.

Fig 33. Capricornus as the triangular constellation at the upper right.

While this shepherd informs the identity of the third person in the trio of figures at the sarcophagus as Mercurius/Hermes, there is no zodiacal relevance between the figure of a shepherd and the sign of the sea Goat.
 This is the appropriate time to play the Gombrich 'get out of jail' card:
“Symbols do not carry meaning as trucks carry coal... Their function is to select from alternatives within a given context...”

One might quite safely presume that this figure is, through context and association, guarding a herd of goats or a flock being a mix of sheep and goat. Giorgione's Fête champêtre; c. 1508, Musée du Louvre, Paris, is the instance that may be drawn upon.

Fig 34. Fête champêtre.

Looking to the Fête champêtre  [Fig 34], several motifs found in the Sacred and Profane Love are repeated, though at a different angle. There is a stone well; two women; a shepherd and his herd, all contained within a rustic landscape. 

Fig 35. Fête champêtre (Detail):

The animal closest to the back of the nude [Detail, Fig 35] looks like a goat - in contrast to the full coated woolly-haired sheep between it and the piping shepherd. Context is our 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 'goat' or even more correctly 'sea-goat', the piping shepherd is minding a mixture of sheep and goat.

Fig 36. (Detail) Water divided by an isthmus
with Scorpio and Sagittarius in the foreground.
Aquarius h
Divided water infers the form of the Aquarian sigil.

Aquarius as a constellation is more reminiscent of an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's elephant-under-the-hat than anything represented through the Sacred and Profane Love [see Fig 37], and so the sigil h has been used as the point of departure. Pictorially it is the sign of the waters divided which is mimicked by the unusual lake at the paintings upper right: Water divided by an isthmus [see fig 35].
Fig 37. The constellation of Aquarius atop the celestial round.

Only the sigil h which represents the very bones of the idea, remain, and Aquarius is without doubt the briefest metaphor used, the isthmus imitating the divided water symbol of that zodiacal sign.

Sagittarius (the archer), was dealt with in a similar manner though far more obvious, 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 possibly 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.

The Night and the Sacred and Profane Love are very likely one and the same painting. There was only one person that had the freedom of access to Giorgione's works after his death in 1510 - and that person was Titian, who completed several of Giorgione's works after his death. When Isabella d'Este asked her merchant to secure for her a 'Night' from the studio of Giorgione after his death, she declared it to be: 
'...very singular and beautiful...'
It can be known by this short statement from Isabella that the Night was at a stage of near resolution, for such a statement could not be made otherwise. Isabella d'Este was arguably the greatest female art patron of the Renaissance and certainly no fool, and from whomever her information had been gleaned, she no doubt held their judgement in high regard. On this basis Isabella sent her merchant to consider the painting and if it were as good as she believed:

" obtain this picture for me, settling the price and giving me notice of it." P. Bourke, p.134

The painting had already left the studio - supported by documented excuses for its absence and sadly never to be seen again. But is that really so? Because the Sacred and Profane Love presents such a extraordinary and critical programme, new possibilities must be considered.

Now that the Night was gone, one can presume - in light of the evidence presented below - that the invenzione went missing along with it. Did Titian sell the zodiacal programme to Giulio Romano for him to execute the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te? As the selected cosmographic references used in the Sacred and Profane Love belong to a specifically constructed theme it is important to note that the completed invenzione must have included a type of ‘ready made’ constellation map as part of the artists visual reference. This would be necessary in order that the artist should be able to approximate the positions of the constellations relevant to the Sacred and Profane Love's programme. In Romano's execution of the programme, he employed the order of the zodiacal round in true anti-clockwise sequence, and the extraordinary texts of Firmicus that were associated with each zodiacal sign - and to posterity's advantage Romano followed the programme unflinchingly!
By placing Romano's plan of the Sala dei Venti ceiling next to the Sacred and Profane Love and using a constellation map of the southern sky as the mediator between the two, parallels begin to emerge. On the viewers left side of the Sacred and Profane Love there are four, 'direct hits', which is to say; four direct parallels between Firmicus and the Sacred and Profane Love, each of which can be confirmed by direct comparison with the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti's plan - as drawn up by Charles M. Redfield for Gombrich's early seventies publication, Symbolic Images. Again, the sequence can be mediated by comparing the Sacred and Profane Love (Fig 11 aand Redfield's plan of the Sala dei Venti ceiling (Fig 11 b) with the position of the zodiacal constellations in a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (Fig 12). [see below: Fig 11 a+Fig 12]


Was it Bellini and Giorgione who abstracted the critical and useful? The story of Giorgione's pagan/esoteric interests might be reconsidered through a new reading of the Widener Orpheus and the murals on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice. They are explored in different posts on this site.

Firmicus Maternus and the Mathesos Libri VIII.

The Sacred and Profane Love's association with Taurus comes directly from the Matheseos Libri VIII and the text of Firmicus who describes the character of those born under the influence of Taurus  (in fissione ungulae Tauri) - translated by Gombrich as ‘Fission under hoofs’. But the link to Taurus is neither in the hooves nor the implied splintering of rocks immediately under the hooves; it is the form of the road upon which horse and rider are travelling. The constellation of Taurus - when viewed from the aspect of the Southern Hemisphere map - actually appears as a split or fissure. Not fission but 'fissure' under hoofs.
Fig 4. In isolation, the constellation of Taurus appears as a split (fissure) on a perfect globe.

By isolating this constellation is from all other constellations on the star map so it then appears as a 'cue ball' [Fig 4] Taurus appears as a split or fissure on a perfect circle - but it can only appear in this form on the Constellation map of the Southern Hemisphere with the south celestial pole at the circles centre. 

Fig 5. Taurus marks the boundary of a circle located within the parameters of the paintings 
rectangular format which now contains all of the zodiacal iconology.

The constellations referenced in the Sacred and Profane Love are each present on a map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (Fig. 4) and appear within the Sacred and Profane Love as metaphoric signs. ciphers, and symbols.

Fig. 6. Taurus is identifiable as the form of  the the road upon which the rider
 on horseback is travelling - thereby marking the boundary of a circle.

Taurus juts upward in a diagonal forward slash form (refer to Fig. 6.) with a small ‘platform’ at the upper extreme. This is visually described as the angular design of the road upon which the horse and traveller race upward toward the fortress in the Sacred and Profane Love's upper left quadrant.  

Fig 8. The plan viewed on its 'side'.

Now in direct comparison, it can be seen that what is zodiacally appropriate for the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti is equally appropriate for the Sacred and Profane Love. On the rotated plan (Fig. 8) all references not corresponding to the plan of the Sacred and Profane Love have been deleted. Not only this, but beyond the zodiacal references, the central area of Redfield's plan reveals a further convincing, revelation regarding the position and identity of the three figures around the sarcophagus/fountain.

Fig 9. Central area isolated.

In Fig 9, the central area outlined in yellow corresponds to the sarcophagus/fountain of the Sacred and Profane Love. In this central area the position of Mercury has been moved from the front of the geometric space to the rear. Redfield's plan of the Sala dei Venti [Fig 9] explains the trio of Venus (Proserpine), Mercury, and Ceres.

Fig 10. Venus(Proserpine), Mercury, and Ceres: The parallel logic between 
the Sala dei Venti and the Sacred and Profane Love.

Imagine replacing the central image of the Sacred and Profane Love with the central area of the Sala dei Venti's plan (see Fig 10, above). Where the Sala dei Venti's plan places Venus(Proserpine), Mercury, and Ceres on the very central Mt Olympus, the Sacred and Profane Love isolates these three within the paintings central motif; the sarcophagus/fountain surrounded by the zodiacal sequence. This endorses this essays constancy that the figures at the sarcophagus/fountain (Venus/Proserpine, Mercury, and Ceres) are correct and accurate identifications. Moreover, between the Sacred and Profane Love and the Sala dei Venti, in both structure and textual source, there is only a slight variation of what is in essence, the same plan. This structural migration between the Sala dei Venti and the Sacred and Profane Love shows the Sala dei Venti to be the smoking gun to the nay-sayers in understanding the paintings zodiacal and constellational metaphors.

Fig 38. The constellation map isolating the nine zodiacal references.


Each of the nine signs isolated within the circle [Fig 38] must include the two deleted observations discovered by Harold Wethey: The dogs head (Canis Major) - Leo; and the fallen ivy pillar (Scorpio).

Fig 39. The zodiacal round within the Sacred and Profane Love.

In a pictorial tale where cyclic time, mythological time and sacred time form the basis of the narrative, it is fitting that Figs 1 & 39 are located both at the beginning of the conversation - and at the end.

Numerated locations of the zodiacal iconology within the constellational boundary of the Sacred and Profane Love[see Fig 39].

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

FINALLY... This is the Sacred and Profane Love.

In the next post each of the several programmes will be presented.

The meta narrative yet to be delivered.

All text and images and contextual associations are copyright Paul Doughton 1997-2014 and not to be used without permission.

 This post will be tweaked as time permits.       

Thank you for looking. Please take a break to view my unrelated TUMBLR blog. Music too!!:



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