Title

Venus like Death: Poems on Velázquez's Painting

Subject Area

Spanish Peninsular Studies

Abstract

This paper explores the intertextual frontier of painting and poetry in the Spanish language. It shows the importance of museums in the development of ecphrastic poetry, which before then concerned itself more with the painter than any specific painting. The opening of the Prado Museum in 1819 brought into public view for the first time many of the masterpieces of the 17th-century artist Diego Velázquez, such as Las Meninas and his portraits of nobility and court jesters. Five years later, the opening of the National Gallery in London added further to Velázquez’s stature, particularly with the display of the Rokeby Venus in 1906. At this time technology made photographic reproductions relatively affordable, particularly in museum catalogs; the slashing of the Venus by a suffragette in 1914 led to the image’s appearing in newspapers around the world. Beginning with Hispanic Modernism poets found inspiration in an ecphrastic relationship with Velázquez, often subverting the visual image with wordplay, unexpected allusions, free associations, and other devices that often create competing imaginary spaces, taking the original image into a startling interpretation. Following an overview of ecphrastic poetry, the paper concentrates on two poems on the Rokeby Venus inspired by an exhibition on the 300th anniversary of Velázquez’s death in 1961, the first time this painting had been publicly seen in Spain. The importance of this exhibition, and another in 1990 when the Venus returned again to Madrid, led to important work on both sides of the Atlantic providing insight into how we see and read images.

Brief Bio Note

Ph.D., University of Georgia: La poesía agónica de José Luis Hidalgo. Associate Professor of Spanish-language Poetry at the University of North Texas. Studies poetry, ecphrasis, culture and the avant-garde, and translation.

Keywords

Ecphrasis, Spanish poetry, Velázquez, Rokeby Venus, Manuel Mantero, Gerardo Diego, Museums

Location

Room 211

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-26-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-26-2015 4:15 PM

Embargo

5-23-2017

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Mar 26th, 3:00 PM Mar 26th, 4:15 PM

Venus like Death: Poems on Velázquez's Painting

Room 211

This paper explores the intertextual frontier of painting and poetry in the Spanish language. It shows the importance of museums in the development of ecphrastic poetry, which before then concerned itself more with the painter than any specific painting. The opening of the Prado Museum in 1819 brought into public view for the first time many of the masterpieces of the 17th-century artist Diego Velázquez, such as Las Meninas and his portraits of nobility and court jesters. Five years later, the opening of the National Gallery in London added further to Velázquez’s stature, particularly with the display of the Rokeby Venus in 1906. At this time technology made photographic reproductions relatively affordable, particularly in museum catalogs; the slashing of the Venus by a suffragette in 1914 led to the image’s appearing in newspapers around the world. Beginning with Hispanic Modernism poets found inspiration in an ecphrastic relationship with Velázquez, often subverting the visual image with wordplay, unexpected allusions, free associations, and other devices that often create competing imaginary spaces, taking the original image into a startling interpretation. Following an overview of ecphrastic poetry, the paper concentrates on two poems on the Rokeby Venus inspired by an exhibition on the 300th anniversary of Velázquez’s death in 1961, the first time this painting had been publicly seen in Spain. The importance of this exhibition, and another in 1990 when the Venus returned again to Madrid, led to important work on both sides of the Atlantic providing insight into how we see and read images.