Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A fan full of poetry

For whereas the fanne consisteth of a painted peece of paper and a little wooden handle; the paper which is fastened into the top is on both sides most curiously adorned with excellent pictures, either of amorous things tending to dalliance, having some witty Italian verses or fine emblemes written under them; or of some notable Italian city with a briefe description thereof added thereunto. These fannes are of a meane price. -Thomas Coryat: Coryat's Crudities (Observations of Cremona)

For my ventuolo (flag fan) I wanted to do something a bit different and a bit playful. I thought Aurora's idea last year to do hers with the lyrics to a song on the back was a really fun idea. I also was intrigued by Katerina's page with the pictures of rebus puzzles on fans from At Home in Renaissance Italy. I considered painting my heraldry or writing a sonnet, but they seemed too straightforward.

I finally settled for combining a reference to my name that isn't heraldic and some lines of poetry in a rather oblique way. Sort of like the imprese, it's a game with a layered reference. I'm the only one who gets the joke, but that's alright with me.

My persona's name (since I've just swapped personas to an Italian one) is Praxilla Taurinae.  The last name is the Italian version of "daughter of the bull," but the first name is that of a 5th century BC Greek poet. Praxilla of Sikyon was referred to as one of the "9 muses on earth" for her poetry. She had a type of dactylic meter names for her called the Praxilleion. She was known for writing skolia, a type of drinking song, as well as more extended mythological treatments.  There aren't many remaining fragments,only eight little samples, but her reputation for greatness remains.  The longest section of one of her poems is from a hymn to Adonis.

Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight.
Then come shining stars and the moon’s face.
Then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears.

I decided to put this on my fan, along with a woodcut of a pear taken from Historia novi et admirabilis  by the Swiss botanist Johan Bauhin, published in 1598. There were over 200 varieties of pear in the 16th century with a surge of new types, and Bauhin includes 41 in his book.  Pears also happen to be my very favorite fruit. Sweet and subtle, yet difficult to find ripe and perfect. 

Anea's article on flag fans http://aneafiles.webs.com/flagfan.html
Bella's woven fan http://renaissanceitaly.net/mygarb/flagfan.htm
 The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome by Jane Macintosh Snyder

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