Contributor: Christie Margrave
Description (English): In early nineteenth-century France, Eugénie Servières ‘took to painting medieval themes under the influence of romanticism’ (Handley, p.29). Although Servières is little-known, more than one of her paintings interact with the work of one of the most popular novelists of the era: Sophie Cottin. Given Servières’s taste, it is unsurprising that she was inspired by Cottin’s Mathilde ou mémoires tirés de l’histoire des croisades (1805), which is replete with examples of early French Romantic Medievalist imagery. Painted in 1820, this painting, entitled Maleck-Adhel [sic] attendant Mathilde au tombeau de Josselin de Montmorency, was the second of Servières’s paintings to be inspired by Mathilde. Here, she chooses to focus on two particular Romantic tropes: Orientalism and death. In so doing, she emphasises Cottin’s own juxtaposition of these two common features of Romantic texts and images, both representative of the ‘au-delà’, within Mathilde. Servières depicts the scene which takes place at the tomb of Montmorency, and several features of the image aid the reader to unlock the power Cottin attributes to this scene and its spatial setting.
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Contributor: Catriona Seth
Description (English): A novel with an intriguing title, Le Pirate de Naples. Traduit de l’anglais, came out in Paris between 23rd September and 31st December 1801: it bears the double date An X/1801. Whilst all books labelled as such were not necessarily translations, this one was. At a time when the French were avid readers of English gothic fiction, it was translated particularly swiftly: it was published the same year as the original, also in three volumes. The English book cost 13 shillings and sixpence, the translation 5 or 7.5 francs. Le Pirate de Naples underscores the importance of translators as cultural intermediaries helping to shape a shared European imaginary.
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Contributor: Jorunn Joiner
Location: Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England (51°10′44″N 1°49′34″W)
Description: The stone circle of Stonehenge is Britain’s most famous monument from a long-lost past. The circa 13 feet high stones, arranged in two circles with horizontal stones as lintels, suggest an impossible feat of construction, and featured in Edmund Burke’s taxonomy of the sublime: “Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, has anything admirable; but those huge rude masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on other, turn the mind on the immense force necessary for such a work”. (1) Antiquarians of the 17th and 18th centuries posited the circle to have been constructed by the Druids. In William Blake’s prophetic book Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804-1820), Stonehenge accordingly appears as a national landmark, and the site of ancient sacrificial rites. (2)
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Contributor: Jorge Bastos da Silva
Location: Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Porto, Portugal
Description: King Peter IV (D. Pedro IV, 1798-1834) was King of Portugal and the first Emperor of Brazil. An advocate of constitutional monarchy, he became the leader of the “liberals” in a civil war against the absolutist King Michael (Miguel), his brother, between 1832 and 1834. Known as “the Liberator” and “the soldier-king”, he bequeathed his heart to the city of Porto, where this mausoleum was built to house it with inscriptions emphasizing the motif of delivery from tyranny.
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Contributor: Cian Duffy
Location: Royal residences in Copenhagen (Christiansborg, Amalienborg and Rosenborg).
Description: According to (disputed) tradition, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark commissioned the 1895-piece Flora Danica dinner service in 1790 as a gift for Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Frederik, the son of Christian VII of Denmark and Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, had ruled Denmark as regent since 1784, following the collapse of his father’s mental health; his mother – ‘poor Matilda’, as Wollstonecraft called her in her Letters written during a Short Residence (1796) – had been divorced and exiled from Denmark in 1772 when her affair with Johann Friedrich Struensee, the king’s physician, was exposed. In 1790, Danish-Russian relations were reeling from the Russo-Swedish War (1788-90), during which Denmark-Norway declared its neutrality despite having committed to a defensive alliance with Russia under the Treaty of Tsarskoye Selo (1773). (1) Frederik’s extravagant gift, so the story goes, was intended to help patch the rift – and no doubt also to eclipse the 980-piece creamware ‘Frog Service’, which had been presented to Catherine the Great in 1774 by the Staffordshire-based Wedgwood Company.
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Contributor: Delia da Sousa Correa
Location: Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry.
Description: Purchased on 22 November 1869 for the 50th birthday of the novelist George Eliot by her partner George Henry Lewes, this Broadwood piano was delivered to a grieving household. Lewes’s middle son, Thornfield, had returned from farming in Africa with a painful illness and had died, aged 25, just a month previously. It was a period when neither Eliot, who was writing Middlemarch, nor Lewes, were able to work. That the piano was purchased then, indicates that it represented something of deep significance. Not surprisingly, no flurry of references to the new piano fills Eliot’s correspondence at this date. Fittingly however, the piano has an implied presence as a source of solace a decade later when, on the first anniversary of Lewes’s own death, a line in Eliot’s diary for 8 Sept 1879 reads simply: ‘Darwin. Schubert’ (Journals, 180). ‘Darwin’ may denote a visitor, or his books; Schubert she must have been playing at the piano. Eliot’s journal further records that she had ‘Touched the piano for the first time’ after Lewes’ death on 27th May (Journals, 175). This piano is, however, representative not just of the personal importance for George Eliot of Romantic music but of its significance for numerous areas of Victorian culture in Britain.
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Contributor: Francesca Benatti
Location: Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
Description: The Basilica of Santa Croce is a late 13th-century Gothic church in Florence, probably designed by architect Arnolfo di Cambio. Home to the Franciscan order in Florence, it contains significant artworks by, among others, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi and Vasari. From the mid 15th century onwards, Santa Croce became the burial place of some of the most prominent literary, artistic and scientific figures from Tuscany and later, the rest of Italy. In the early nineteenth century, it boasted the tombs of Niccolò Machiavelli, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei and Vittorio Alfieri, the latter completed by Antonio Canova in 1810. These burials attracted the attention of Romantic authors across Europe, who variously interpreted them as metaphors of the state of Italy and for the nature of artistic fame.
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