“Seldom have careful scholarship and book design combined to make a work as attractive as David Quint’s new translation of Poliziano’s Stanze per la giostra. Angelo Poliziano. Stanze de messer Angelo Politiano cominciate per la giostra del magnifico. Giuliano di Pietro de Medici Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Poliziano’s la Giostra. The following is an excerpt from Angelo Poliziano’s Stanze di messer Angelo Politiano cominciate per la.
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Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Poliziano’s la Giostra. The following is an excerpt from Angelo Poliziano ‘s Stanze di messer Angelo Politiano cominciate per la giostra del magnifico Giuliano di Pietro de’ Medici. Written betweenthe poem includes a fictional description of reliefs cast by Vulcan for the doors of the Temple of Venus. It would seem likely that Botticelli would have known this text when he painted his Birth of Venus.
In any case, both Poliziano and Botticelli were working in the context of the Medici court in Florence. Cosimo de Medici established a Platonic Academy modelled on the classical example of Plato’s own Akademia. Included below are excerpts from Erwin Panofsky’s account of the Platonic Academy. Study of classical texts was central to this humanist culture. In describing the imagined reliefs cast by Vulcan, Poliziano was employing a literary form that became popular in the Late Opliziano world known as ekphrasiswhere one artistic form emulates another artistic form.
ped The relationships of the arts, most specifically painting and poetry, was related to a famous dictum in Horace’s Ars Poetica, “ut pictura poesis,” or literally “As painting so is poetry.
In the stormy Aegean, the genital member is seen to be received in the lap of Tethysto drift across the waves, wrapped gistra white foam, be- neath the various turnings of the planets; and within, both with lovely and happy gestures, a young woman with nonhuman countenance, is carried on a conch shell, wafted to shore by playful zephyrs ; and it seems that heaven re- joices in her birth. C You would call the foam real, the sea real, real the conch shell and real the blowing wind; you would see the lightning in the goddess’s eyes, the sky and the elements laughing about her; the Hours treading the beach in white garments, the breeze curling their loosened and flowing hair; their faces not one, not different, as befits sisters.
Excerpt from Poliziano’s Giostra
CI You could swear that the goddess had emerged from the waves, pressing her hair with her right hand, covering with the other ppoliziano sweet mound of flesh; and where the polziano was imprinted by her sacred and gioztra step, it had clothed itself in flowers and grass; then with happy, more than mortal features, she was received in the bosom of the three nymphs and cloaked in a starry gar- ment. CII With both hands one nymph holds above the spray-wet tresses a garland, burning with gold and oriental gems, another adjusts pearls in her ears; the third, intent upon those beautiful breasts and white shoulders, appears to strew round giostda the rich necklaces with which they three girded their angello necks when they used to dance in a ring in heaven.
CIII Thence they seem to be raised toward heav- enly spheres, seated upon a silver cloud: CIV Finally the divine artisan formed his self-portrait, happy with such a sweet prize, still bristly and scabrous from his furnace, as if forgetting every labor for her, joining his lips with desire to hers, as if his soul burned completely with love: The head of the Platonic Academy was Marsilio Ficino.
In a commentary on Plato’s PhilebusFicino presents the following discussion of the myth of the birth of Venus which Ernst Gombrich has seen as a potential source for Botticelli’s painting:.
The Stanze of Angelo Poliziano Translated by David L. Quint
This ‘Philosophus Platonicus, Theologus and Medicus,’ who seriously, half playfully patterned his life after Plato, and whose modestly comfortable villa at Careggi a gift from Cosimo de Medici purported to be the Academe redivivus [reborn Academy of Plato], was not only the life and soul but also the constructive mind of an informal ‘society’ which was a combination of club, research seminat and sect, rather than an Academy in the modern sense. In included, among others: Christoforo Landino, the famous commentator of Virgil, Horace and Dante and author of the well-known Quaestiones Camaldulenses ; Lorenzo the Magnificent; Pico della Mirandola, who widened the intellectual horizons of the ‘Platonica familia’ by introducing the study of oriental sources, and generally maintained a comparatively independent attitude twoards Ficino; The task which Ficino had shouldered was threefold: True, Philo of Alexandria had tried to subject Judaism or rather an alloy of Judaism and Hellenistic mystery-cults to a Platonic interpretation, and it anelo been a basic problem for Christian thinkers to incorporate an ever increasing amount of classical ideas into the framework of their thought.
But never before had an attempt been made to fuse Christian theology, fully developed as it angelk, with a great pagan philosophy, without impairing the individuality and completeness of either.
The very title of Ficino’s proudest stanae, Theologia Platonicaannounces his ambition both to integrate the ‘Platonic’ system and to prove its ‘full consonance’ with Christianity This whole universe is a divinum animal ; it is enlivened and its various hierarchies are interconnected with each other by a ‘divine influence emanating from God, penetrating the heaven, descending through the elements, and coming to an end in matter With all its corruptibility the sublunary world participates in the eternal life and beauty of God imparted to it by the ‘divine influence.
There is therefore no perfect beauty on earth. Every human being, beast, plant or mineral is ‘influenced’ Ficino and his followers shared the age-old belief in a structural analogy between the Macrocosmus and the Microcosmus.
As the universe is composed of the material world nature and the immaterial realm beyond the orbit of the moon, man is composed of body and soul, the body being a form inherent in matter, the soul a form only adherent to it. And as the spiritus mundanus interconnects the sublunary world with the translunary, a spiritus humanus interconnects the body with the soul. The soul, now, consists of five faculties grouped under the headings of anima prima and anima secunda.
The anima secundaor Lower Soul, lives in close contact with the body, and consists of those faculties which both direct and depend on physiological functions: The Lower Soul is, therefore, not free, but determined by ‘fate.
The Stanze of Angelo Poliziano
The anima preor Higher Soul, comprises only two faculties: Reason ratio and Mind mens, intellectus humanus sive angelicus. Reason is closer to the Lower Sould: The Mind, however, can grasp the truth by directly contemplating the supercelestial ideas. Where Reason is discursive and reflective the Mind is intuitive and creative. Reason becomes involved with the experiences, desires and needs of the body as transmitted by the senses and imagination.
All this accounts for the unique position of man in the Neoplatonic system. He shares the faculties of his Lower Soul with the dumb animals; he shares his Mind with the intellectus divinus ; and he shares his Reason with nothing in the universe: This is the meaning of Ficino’s definition of man as ‘ a rational soul participating in the divine mind, employing a body.
This position of man is both lw and problematic. The story told by Hesiod in the Theogony of how Saturn Cronos castrated Heaven Uranus and threw the testicles into the sea, out of the agitated foam of which Venus was born, we should perhaps understand as referring to the potential fecundity of all things which lies latent in the first giosstra.
This the divine spirit drinks and first unfolds within himself; after which he pours it forth into the soul and matter, which called the sea, because of the motion, time, and humour of generation. As soon as the soul is thus giostraa, it creates Beauty within itself; by an upward movement of conversion towards supra-intelligible things; and by piliziano downward movement it gives birth to the charm of sensible things in matter.
This conversion into Beauty and its birth from the soul is called Venus. And as in all aspects and in all generation of Beauty there is pleasure, and stqnze all generation is from the soul, which is called Venus, many thought that Venus herself was Pleasure [Ernst Gombrich, Symbolic Imagesp.