Sacred and Profane Love

Sacred and Profane Love

Saturday 27 October 2012

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

The circle is the key to unveiling the Sacred and Profane Love's complex allegorical subject matter. In a design sense a circle unites several unique graphic patterns as structures to which the painted image corresponds. When understood as a constellation map, the small painted ciphers located within the given circle are revealed as a sequence of zodiacal metaphors, each of which resonate with the paintings grand design. Information gleaned from the painting elucidates a fusion of astronomy to cosmogony; astro-mythology to classical myth; and alchemy blended with hermeticism. 

Edited 8/22/2020
The celestial globe is the apparent two-dimensional panorama of the starry canopy seen with the naked eye from an Earthbound point of view. Earth itself can be supposed to lie at the centre of this imaginary celestial sphere where her Northern & Southern terrestrial poles correspond to the poles of that celestial globe (fig. 1.).  A direct line emerging through our planets North pole would by extension, pierce the centre of the North Celestial Pole, just as the Southern extension of that line would pierce the centre of the South Celestial Pole. Each half of the celestial sphere is divided and bound by a circle which represents the Celestial equator as a boundary (see fig. 1.) which divides the Northern hemisphere from the Southern hemisphere

fig 1. The poles of the celestial sphere correspond with Earth's terrestrial poles.

The contents of the South Celestial Hemisphere [hemisphere = half-sphere] (see fig. 1, above) contains all of the constellations visible within the longitudinal lined area designated as 'Celestial sphere'. The constellations visible within the South Celestial Hemisphere are exclusively relevant to understanding the Sacred and Profane Love 

fig. 2.  Two dimensional constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere
replete with the South Celestial pole at the centre. 

The South Celestial Hemisphere has a specific point of view being as it were an eye located in an infinite position looking toward the earth from above the South Terrestrial Pole which is here represented as a two dimensional image within a circle (See fig. 2). The boundary of that circle is known as the Celestial equator (see figs. 1 & 2) and it is the boundary and contents of this same celestial circle that is represented in the Sacred and Profane Love.

A direct line drawn from the South Celestial Pole at centre, to the partly visible constellation of Taurus - located in the upper left quadrant at the maps edge - defines the radial line of the circle. This limitation is actually describing the radial line of the Celestial Equator. On the painting of the Sacred and Profane Love this line can be located by drawing a straight line beginning at the mouth of the spigot (at the front of the fountain) and ending at the body of the rider on horseback at the paintings upper left. This line refers to the boundary of the Southern constellation map (see fig. 2.) The corresponding circle in the Sacred and Profane Love uses select information (constellations) found within that map. 

Using the spigot and the traveller on horseback as references, the boundary of a large circle may be located over the familiar image of the Sacred and Profane Love (see fig. 3). Both the boundary of the constellation map and the boundary of the circle refer precisely to the constellational information contained within the South Celestial Hemisphere - and therefore this same information relates directly to the content of the Sacred and Profane Love. This is to say that fundamentally, the foundation of the Sacred and Profane Love is a circle and that circle refers to a celestial map.

Fig. 3.
This radial line (c - a) is the key to unlocking the paintings mysteries.

This line (refer to fig. 3.) drawn between the mouth of the spigot (c) at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus and the body of the rider on horseback at position (a) corresponds  with the radial line from the South Celestial pole to the constellation of Taurus on the constellation map of the Southern Celestial Hemisphere (fig. 2. & fig 4.). It is clear that a direct correspondence can be made between the Sacred and Profane Love's iconography and the map of the South Celestial Hemisphere. The position of the spigot directly corresponds to the position of the South Celestial pole, while the rider on horseback directly corresponds to the constellation of Taurus.

Once the existence of this circle is accepted, nine references to eight zodiacal constellations can be revealed. However there are nine indicators for only eight existing astrological existing references because one was deleted and later reconsidered and then re-positioned. This point (see Scorpio on this list) carries its own curious implications, but even without the latter correction eight zodiacal correspondences to the eight visible constellations occurring in the South Celestial Hemisphere is compelling - which is to say - there is a 100% direct correspondence.

Fig.4 The Southern Constellation map with all of the non-zodiacal constellations removed and
correctly positioned over the Sacred and Profane Love's rectangular dimensions, 

Using the same constellation map presented earlier (fig. 2.) all non zodiacal constellations have been removed (fig. 4.) leaving only the zodiacal constellations that are present in the South Celestial Hemisphere. The constellation map is approximated in position (fig. 4.) over the Sacred and Profane Love's rectangular dimensions although in the painting these positions are compressed into the paintings rectangular format. Nevertheless the  anti-clockwise zodiacal sequences that underlie the Sacred and Profane Love can be seen to rotate in the same anti-clockwise direction as the zodiacal belt. The flow of the entire figurative organisation of the Sacred and Profane Love mimics this circular flow. 

Again, in both the constellation map and the painting it is the position of the constellation of Taurus at the upper left that limits the boundary of the circle. While the circles boundary is defined at the position of the traveller on horseback, more importantly, it is the diagonal road upon which the rider on horseback is travelling which mimics the visible diagonal remnant of Taurus as seen in the Southern Constellation Map. It is the intersection of the constellation of Taurus (see fig. 2) which reveals the pattern of the iconolgy used (the road). 

As the circle extends well below the picture frame the Sacred and Profane Love's iconography is allowed to accommodate the paintings given dimensions having been pictorially adjusted to suit the paintings rectangular format. It may well be that due to the rigid programme that is the Sacred and Profane Love the painting was intended originally as a site specific artwork destined to have been mounted in a site specific environment where the circular section might have been accommodated with wall decoration. 

In the Sacred and Profane Love the mouth of the spigot corresponds to position 'c'  the South Celestial Pole at the constellation maps centre which is marked by a cross hair (see fig. 4.) Locating this circle is the key which unlocks the proportion and inherent meaning of the Sacred and Profane Love.
Looking to the Sacred and Profane Love the circles centre corresponds to the spigot at the front of the fountain (see fig. 3.) Again, the spigot is the circles centre and the boundary is made finite at the position of the traveller on horseback and the radial line of the circle is presented as a line which connects positions c-a (fig. 3.) which corresponds with the line c-a at the centre of the constellation map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (fig 4). 

The main points designated by the mouth of the spigot are:

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

2.  The circles radius shall be limited at the rider on horseback racing toward the fortress in the Sacred and Profane Love. The road upon which the horse gallops mimics the (forward slash) constellation of Taurus. 

3.   The centre of the circle - remains equidistant from the circles nominated boundary. 

4.  The boundary of the South Celestial Hemisphere intersects the constellation of Taurus on a map of the South Celestial Hemisphere (see figs. 2, 3, 4) thereby designating Taurus as the first zodiacal sign on the round of visible constellations.

5.    The road imitates the 'forward slash' dynamic of the constellation of Taurus as seen on the map of the South Celestial Hemisphere.  In figs 2, 3, & 4 the circles intersection at the position of Taurus can be seen to explicitly correspond with the Sacred and Profane Love and the constellation map. Taurus is the only truly accurate site specific constellation on the round (see fig. 4) and that where the circles perimeter is defined (position (a) at the sign of Taurus) highlights this constellations foremost purpose as the point~of~departure. Taurus is the 'lock' that reveals the circle and uncovers the paintings stunning geometric complexities.

Very importantly, those 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 decoding the zodiacal iconology employed in 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 are in direct correspondence 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 - and that source is the Matheseos Libri VIII of Firmicus Maternus.

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 peculiar. 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 evident. Naturally, 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 over painting. 

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 over painted symbol (in this analysis that over painted symbol was the iconograph for the constellation of Canis Major being the reference to Leo) and his sightings must now be given their due. 

Scorpio will reappear next to Sagittarius therefore it may be assumed that the painter was working left to right. Firmicus states that Scorpio (under a different planetary influence) can be regarded as a breeder of horses and so that constellations form has been given proximity to each other and so pairing these two equine symbols; Scorpio with the constellation of Sagittarius (The Centaur) - imitating their cosmographical relationship to each other which can be seen by using a modern star map of the southern celestial constellations (see fig. 4).

Fig 5. Ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te.

Before this outline of the zodiacal metaphors begins, those direct visual comparisons can also 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.

Within the Sala dei Venti at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua (fig. 6.) Giulio Romano - a friend of Titian's - painted the ceiling [fig. 5] 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 6:

Fig 6. 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. 7 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. 7) 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 finished Sacred and Profane Love painting (fig. 1.) ) this central suite of figures is surrounded by  those diminutive, figurative, metaphors, which all refer to 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 another argument for collaboration in the Sacred and Profane Love; for while the format is similar and the references clearly derived from the Matheseos, 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 (the geometric code, the artists substitution of Proserpine for Venus) was only 'finished' (read authenticated) by the very silent Titian. Bellini & Giorgione expose the conceptual mind of an artist - rather than the Sacred and Profane Love being an apparently solo effort by Titian - the painter. Again it is Giorgione's masterwork more connected to Bellini than Titian.

                         Fig. 8 b
Fig. 8 a

Fig. 8c.

Fig. 8 a. Shows the locations of the first four zodiacal metaphors found in the Sacred and Profane Love.

Fig. 8 b. Is the descriptive comparison as laid out in Charles Redfield's plan of the Sala dei Venti.

Fig. 8c. Sited over the rectangular format of the Sacred and Profane Love, the zodiacal 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. 8 acorresponds to the painted 'traveller on horseback' which actually indicates the position of Taurus as seen  in  Fig 8 b. on Redfield's plan of the Sala dei Venti (here there is an important clue and an odd mistake by Gombrich regarding his translation of the text of Firmicus - it is a mistranslation to refer to this as 'fission of Taurus hooves', rather it should read 'fissure'). But in the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 8.b) position no.1 is described by Firmicus as the 'Fission of Taurus hooves' which is ascribed to zodiacal TaurusOn the abstracted star map (Fig 8. c) position no. 1 indicates the constellation of Taurus.


Position no. 2 of the Sacred and Profane Love (detail Fig. 8. a) the two rabbits correspond to the position of Gemini. 
In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 8.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 8. c) position no. 2 indicates the constellation of Lepus (the Hare).

Position no. 3 of the Sacred and Profane Love (detail Fig. 8 a) is also Harold Wethey's 'head of a dog or a cow...' which was overpainted by either Giorgione or Titian, and which refers to Canicula - the Dog star, symbol for Leo. 

An observation made by Harold Wethey in 1972 in his publication where Wethey claimed to have detected the overpainted animal was obviously correct. We must now ask the question 'what does a painting lose through restoration now that we can actually compare...?'  

In the plan of the Sala dei Venti (Fig 8.b) at position 3, Firmicus simply offers the words 'Dog Star' and gives the zodiacal sign to LeoOn the abstracted star map (Fig 8. 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. 8 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 8.b) at position 4 under the zodiacal area of Virgo is the word 'Wreath'.

On the abstracted star map (Fig 8. c) position no. 4 indicates the constellation of Virgo.

When comparing Fig. 8 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. 9. 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 circle's 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 8c).

Fig. 10. 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. 10] 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'. Imagine a white billiard ball with a small split then rotate the ball to mimic the position of Taurus. It would appear to mimic a fissure - not fission.

Fig. 11. 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. 8.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. 8 b (detail)) 'The Hare' is located next to Gemini, and at the right of the hares is Venus/Proserpine. In Fig. 8 a,  above Gemini is Taurus and to the right there is Venus/Proserpine (a detail showing the proximity of Venus/Proserpine can be clearly seen (in Fig.11) above.  In the plan of the Sala dei Venti, (Fig. 8b) 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 12. 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 1973 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 13. The Sala dei Venti reference for Leo (Detail).

Turning again to the plan of the Sala dei Venti murals [Figs 6&7], one can see that the medallion directly under the zodiacal sign of Leo refers to Sirius (L. Canicula) - the Dog-StarIt 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 noted an animals head in that position and contextually Wethey was correct because he nailed the position of the fifth zodiacal house in perfect sequence. (Poetically this is akin to the discovery of Planet X now known as Pluto in 1930 which was first discovered by a chance 'blinking' and later mathematically calculated.) 

Fig 14. 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 15. The constellation of Virgo.
Positioned at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus is the small rose bush  watered by the spigot (see Fig. 14) at the front of the fountain/sarcophagus (that critical emblem that refers to the South Celestial Pole). The odd shaped rose bush... it is possible that the bush has not been rotated enough to suit the South Celestial format as the forms were taken from a catalogue and not a map in the round (if the image were rotated another quarter to sit on the semi-rectangular 'base' it may better mimic the painted rose bush) - which has had several flowers torn by Venus/Proserpine, the remnants of which rest in the lap of the clothed figure of Proserpine.
Fig 16. Sala dei Venti (Detail); Virgo and 'Wreath'.
Turning to the plan of the Sala dei Venti murals (Figs 6&7) 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 17. 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 17). 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. 

In Fig. 17 (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 18. The constellation of Scorpius is positioned at the lower mid right of the celestial hemisphere

Fig 19.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 specific here because also in this twelfth degree '...rises the Centaurus...']

Fig 20. 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 interpretive 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 (refer to fig. 16) they appear stacked one atop the other.

Fig 21. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail); Scorpio & Sagittarius
Maintaining the close cosmographic relationship between Scorpio and Sagittarius  is imitated here; their two dimensional constellational proximity (refer to Figs 6&7) to each other. The artist has paired Scorpio with the traditional centaur of the zodiac,

Fig 22. 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 21 the horse (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 an accurate star map in the round which had never been seen (and which in its painted form was of no practical use as a star map so accuracy was somewhat plastic). 

Fig 23. Sagittarius: Sacred and Profane Love (Detail) & sigil for Sagittarius.
Fig 24. Sagittarius: The form of the constellation.

  Sagittarius  f
Sagittarius, the next sign in sequence is represented in profile directly referencing both sigiland 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 form of the rearing horse of the Sacred and Profane Love is reflected in the sigil for Saggitarius 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 22] and further bonded by Firmicus' equine interpretation. This bond is reflected (see Fig 21) in the Sacred and Profane Love's iconology.


Fig 25. (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.  Importantly 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, and to define the limit of the scalene triangle (point b) the herdsman is here to guard his herd of sheep and goats. This figure is as much a goatherd as a shepherd - and the goat is the key to Capricorn and this bucolic scene is familiar to both Giorgione and Titian. The Fête champêtre; c. 1508, Musée du Louvre, Paris, is the instance that may be drawn upon.

Fig 26. Fête champêtre.1508-09
Oil on canvas, 110 x 138 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Looking to the Fête champêtre  [Fig 26], 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 27. Fête champêtre (Detail):

The animal nearest to the back of the nude [Fig 28] which can be seen in the lower foreground [Detail, Fig. 27] 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 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.

Fig 28. Sacred and Profane Love (Detail) An isthmus divides a body of water.
Corresponds with the astrological symbol for Aquarius h
(with Scorpio and Sagittarius in the foreground.)

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

Aquarius is the sign of the waters divided which is mimicked by the unusual lake at the paintings upper right [see fig 28]. The two squiggly lines represent the very bones of the idea, and Aquarius is without doubt the briefest metaphor used in the Sacred and Profane Love with the isthmus imitating the astrological symbol for divided water. 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 constellations as 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. This can tell us which selections were made to maintain the allegorical narrative and which were omitted or deleted (or thought better of...). This is to say that a collaborative effort between the artists of the Sacred and Profane Love selectively chose those zodiacal references suitable to allegoric construction rather than the visual transliteration of Firmicus - as executed by Romano. We can see the subtlety that Romano's work lacks and inversely, take note of a certain lack of information that may have inspired Romano to be more adventurous.

It is my conclusion that the Sacred and Profane Love was likely to have been developed collaboratively in the studio from the same source plan given to Romano, but which has been extracted and presented as the Sacred and Profane Love. The plan speaks of a certain character; a sensibility and the contained power the Sacred and Profane love employs is not merely Giorgionesque - it is pure Giorgione; the classical interest, esoterica, the abiding serenity and the atmosphere of mystique. But the very thing that makes the Sacred and Profane Love so entirely readable is the paintings strict adherence to geometric pattern as the underlying narrative; the constellation map, circle, pentacle and the relationship to myth. The Months at Schifanoia, the ceiling of the Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te at Mantua, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili should be all seen as primary influences and sources.

The question here is how did a star map of the South Celestial Hemisphere turn up in a 16th century Renaissance painting? 
[To continue this unfinished line of inquiry see: Venice, Tenochtitlan and the Quest for the New World: The importance of the Twin Venuses in Maritime Cartography.]

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Paul Doughton ©1997 - 2019.