Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XXXI (2006)


Mathias Auclair & Pauline Girard (Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris), Les collections iconographiques du XXe siècle de la Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opèra de Paris [Twentieth-century’s iconographic collections of the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra in Paris].

The Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opèra—established in 1866 to preserve the archives of the Opèra de Paris and since 1935 affiliated with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (in 1942 became a part of its Music Department)—preserves a large collection of iconographic sources documenting performances, mostly at the Opèra and the Opèra-Comique (stage and costumes designs, models, stage photographs, portraits of dancers and singers, posters, programs, and illustrated tickets). A part of the documentation also came from the Ballets Suédois and Ballets Russes (photographs, stage and costumes designs, illustrated programs), and from various stage designers, photographers, choreographers, and personalities involved with opera and dance performances. With different kinds of acquisitions, such as purchases, gifts, payments of death duties, deposits, the archives also took a possession of documents about circus and music-hall performances. The iconographic sources remain nevertheless totally consistent with the other collections of the library preserving scores, books and periodicals, letters and manuscripts, public and private archives, and press clippings. Preserving this collection, making it available to researchers, and lending items to other institutions for exhibits in France and abroad leads to specific preservation problems rarely encountered in ordinary libraries. Appendix includes descriptions of the main 20th-century collections housed at the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opèra.

Jordi Ballester (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Music in the 16th-Century Catalan Painting.

A catalogue of virtually all 16th-century Catalan paintings with musical iconography includes 55 works. Such a relatively small number reflects the Catalan historical situation during this period when the region was recovering from the civil war which took place during the second half of the 15th century. After several centuries of being at the forefront of the Aragon Kingdom, Catalonia lost at the time its political power and a court able to commission sumptuous works of art. Therefore paintings appear old-fashioned, closer to late medieval practice, and the pictorial subjects coincide with the most usual subjects in Catalan painting of the previous centuries. Depicted music instruments and ensembles point out the relationship between contemporaneous musical practices and iconographical patterns.

Peter Beudert (School of Theatre Arts, The University of Arizona, Tucson), Visual Art for Entertainment in the Nineteenth Century: The Painters of the Paris Opera.

Throughout the 19th century the Paris Opèra employed specialized painters to create the stage decorations for their productions. The enormous volume of productions and the growth of the physical stages drew unprecedented numbers of theatrical painters to Paris and its many ateliers. The culmination of this movement coincided with the opening of Garnier’s Opèra in 1875 which preceded by less than a decade the realistic movement that would so radically shift the stage design aesthetics; theatrical realism began in Paris in the 1880’s and in the subsequent three decades stage-painting traditions of the Opèra virtually disappeared.
Paris was no doubt the world center of theatrical painting during virtually all of the 19th century. There were more ateliers and theatrical painters working in the city and its suburbs than in any other city at any time in history. The techniques of theatrical painting advanced greatly as a consequence. Despite their achievements these theatrical artists of the 19th century are not highly regarded by theorists of the 20th century, moreover they are perceived as the final practitioners of a dying and irrelevant art form. A re-evaluation of their work, however, indicates a much stronger awareness and response to innovative theatrical aesthetics of the time, particularly a desire for realism and stylistic unity. Often these impulses were hampered not by the artist’s approach, but the demands of the producing directors of the Opera. The painting of this era is among the greatest ever achieved and deserves greater recognition for the techniques developed as well as the content. It is an accurate reflection of the 19th century’s continuing struggle for self-knowledge, the self-conscious distancing from the past, and the embracing of new technology in the arts.

András Borgó (Innsbruck), Die Musikinstrumente Mirjams in spätmittelalterlichen hebräischen Darstellungen [Mirjam’s musical instruments in medieval Hebrew representations].

In contrast to Christian iconology, the musical aspect in illustrated books of Jewish illuminators has rarely been examined. However, this aspect gives important insights into the self-image of the medieval Jew, his world view, and the non-Jewish environment. An important biblical character is the prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. In the iconographic representations of her dancing after the salvation from the persecutors (Exodus 15:20), she is always portrayed with a smaller or larger group of women (sometimes together with men, in accordance with the joyful Song of Moses, which precedes Miriam’s dance). In some depictions Miriam is the only one with a musical instrument, in others she is portrayed playing together with her companions. Although her instrument is a drum, the illustrations show not just idiophones and membranophones, but also other contemporaneous instruments. The presentation of the Miriam scene, in which women express their joy about a successful escape, corresponds in many ways to other depictions of dancing women, who rejoice happily and gratefully about similar situations. Examples are the return of the heroic David after his victory over Goliath and of Yiftach who successfully waged war against the Ammonites. An analysis of Miriam iconography is based on Hebrew illustration of Sephardic and Ashkenazic provenance, as well as Christian and Byzantine manuscripts.

Anna Cazurra (Universidad Católica de Valencia), Catalan Modernism Reflected in Paintings by Ramon Casas at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

The collection of twelve paintings decorating the rotunda of the Cercle del Liceu in Barcelona, the most ambitious work by the Catalan painter Ramon Casas (1866–1932), illustrates different aspects of the musical life of the Catalan bourgeois society of his time. Music is a common theme in these pictures, but the real subject is the feminine figure, not only from the bourgeoisie but also from other social classes.

Luis Antonio Gómez Gómez (Centro Nacional de Investigación e Información Musical “Carlos Chávez” (CENIDIM), Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, D.F.), Research Methodology of Music Iconography in Mixtec pre-Hispanic Codices.

In many ways, the study of pre-Hispanic music iconography has still a long way to go, and one of the fundamental elements for its advancement is the development of means to systematize the iconography found in the pre-Hispanic codices, thereby facilitating its documentary management. A discussion of the methodology applied to analysis of music images in the pre-Hispanic codices can assist us in their systematization and learning about history of pre-Hispanic music and the use of musical instruments. In such a research a particular attention has to be paid to the fact that every description of an old document implies the adoption of a chronology that endows the past with a certain meaning. However, the hegemony of one of the main forms of chronology, the idea of change as historical evolution, hinders at times the study of societies that have different conceptions of the sense of the past according to diverse environments and circumstances. In the case of pre-Hispanic codices, we can find accounts of creation and development of myths that symbolize change in time. Consequently, if we introduce historic methods that imply the use of modern chronology, where the fundamental tenet is the idea of change leading to progress, in some way we not only distort the sense of the past, but we also run the risk of endowing them with a meaning they lack altogether. In order to solve these problems, a theoretical composition of the documental analytical method has been developed with the purpose of establishing the manner and order in which diverse theoretical elements, from different areas of knowledge, are conjoined to form the foundation of analysis method for the Mixtec pre-Hispanic codices, based in an order that not only provides the iconographical musical description with meaning, but also permits us to address different modes of signification. A method for classification of images called “Iconographic Music/Dance Document Component” (IMDADOC) is provided.

Sara González Castrejón (The Caird Library, International Maritime Museum, London), An Iconography of Chaos: Music Images in the Royal Funerals of Philip III, Philip IV, and Charles II of Spain.

Despite the political and religious instability of early modern Europe, the universal harmony is one of the main concepts to determine the vision of cosmos at that time. Every element of the creation, from planets to man, participate in a sense of order placed over them: the order of certain numerical proportions that, since Pythagoras’ time, were found in music. This conception of the Universe also determines the vision of the State, born with the Renaissance phenomenon, and the idea of the perfect ruler. Man, a creator like God—able to reproduce the cosmic order in material constructions and intellectual lucubrations—can participate, or even take back, the effect of negative circumstances, like, for example, the war or fall of states, and restore the concord. Seventeenth-century Spanish political treatises and espejos de príncipes contain many metaphors related to music, specially to string instruments which are able to signify a multitude of diverse voices that come together in a melody.

This identification between music and good government is not new and appears since the Greek times. The birth of the emblematic literature, with its emphasis in the use of images, contributed to creation of visual representations of these topics. The Counter-Reformation ideology determines the political theory in Spain, insisting on the idea of order. The king is the manifestation of the true Universal King, God, and must reproduce within the kingdom the order imposed by Him in the cosmos, through justice. In order to express this idea, it is common to find the image of the monarch tuning the strings of a musical instrument (harp, lyre, zither).

However, when the monarch dies, the chronicles and sermons made references about the rupture of the cosmic harmony and the dissonance; on some occasions, music instruments were included in the devices and hieroglyphics adorning temples and funeral mounds for the occasion. In the majority of cases the reports on funerals do not provide illustrations, but they do describe the symbolism of these instruments, usually chordophones (harps, lyres, guitars), grieving and damaged. They are either supplying funeral sounds of lamentations, or are mute, unable to produce any music. Iconography of chaos is analyzed in places of the Spanish Monarchy, in particular Naples, Barcelona, Lima, and Madrid.

Olga Jesurum (Istituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani, Parma), Romolo and Tancredi Liverani’s Set Design for Italian Operas in the Nineteenth Century.

The painters Romolo Liverani (Faenza, 1809–Faenza, 1872) and his son Tancredi (Faenza, 1837–London, 1889) worked for more than twenty-five years as set designers for theaters through central Italy and their sets—known from watercolors collected in about twenty-five albums kept in libraries in Italy and at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York—document the visual aspects of 19th-century Italian operas from Bellini to Verdi. Among nine volumes of Liverani’s works kept at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome, most of them showing views from the countryside, studies of nature and architecture, and the towns of Marche where the two Liveranis worked together, there are two volumes with scenes designed in 1851 and 1852 for specific operas and performances. The third album refers to Verdi’s I masnadieri, Nabucco, I lombardi alla prima crociata, and Attila, and the fourth to Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, Mercadante’s Il giuramento, and Verdi’s Macbeth and I due Foscari. These works provide the evidence how elements of nature or architecture are reused on the stage. For example, the design of the Hall in Macbeth’s castle for Verdi’s Macbeth reminds of the Urbino castle. Long-time experience of the Liveranis in theaters of Fano, Senigallia, Ascoli Piceno, and Rimini allowed them to develop their personal iconographic language where set designs became topoi of different dramatic situations as, for example, in the set design for the Foscari’s room in Verdi’s I due Foscari, which replicated the structure of the Hall in Binasco’s castle designed for Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda.

Laurence Libin (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Musical Instruments in Two Portraits by José Campeche.

José Campeche (1751–1809) was not only Puerto Rico’s foremost painter of the late 18th century, he was also the son of a professional musician and a notable performer and music teacher in his own right. Among his paintings are two portraits which have as their subjects women of San Juan’s highest class (the wife of Gobernador Don José Dufrosne, 1782; and Doña Marí­a Dolores Martí­nez de Carvajal, 1792), shown with instruments that presumably represent their musical accomplishments. In both cases the instruments are types not normally associated with socially elite female amateurs before about 1800: one sitter is portrayed with a violin, the other with a combined organ-piano. This latter picture, privately owned in Puerto Rico, contains the only known representation of an “organized” square piano in an independent work of art, and until now it has eluded correct identification. However, it seems to be closely related to a recently located fragmentary Spanish instrument of the same type. More than do Campeche’s paintings on religious subjects that incidentally show instruments more symbolic than real, these two portraits raise significant questions about musical practice and the social role of music in old San Juan. Particularly in view of Spanish strictness regarding ladies’ behavior, the presence of a violin and an organized piano in this colonial context deserves explanation. Fortunately, other contemporary evidence exists from Mexico and Russia to show that these instruments were not so unsuitable for upper-class women of that period as is generally assumed. For example, a similar organized piano made in St. Petersburg seems to have been owned by the Grand Duchess Marija Fedorovna, an accomplished pianist, and to have inspired the only known music specifically composed for such an instrument (by Dmitrij Bortnjanskij and by Domenico Cimarosa), meant for an amateur ensemble that included other noblewomen. Campeche’s revealing portrait of the daughter of the mayor of San Juan therefore allows a link to be made between musical habits half the world apart.

Tatjana Marković (Fakultet Muzičke Umetnosti, Belgrade), Iconography as a Sign: The Case of Stage-Music Semiosis about Koštana.

Theater play Koštana by Borisav Stanković (1876–1927) is a story about the Gypsy girl, Koštana, who enchanted with her singing, in the 1880s, inhabitants of the south-Serbian town Vranje. As one of the most popular komad s pevanjem (theater play that includes music numbers) in Serbian music since its premiere in 1900, it was performed in several stage productions and with music of different composers (Dragutin/Franjo Pokorni, Petar Krstić, Vojislav Kostić). Besides, the play inspired Petar Konjović (1883–1970) to compose a remarkable opera Koštana (three versions: 1931, 1941, 1948), which was staged several times. Since the stage music story was performed in different contexts, an iconographic aspect of the semiosis (komad s pevanjem, opera) gains the status of the sign. The paper examines iconography in the functional appearances of the sign as an icon, index, and symbol.

Aurèlia Pessarrodona (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Josep Soler’s Compositions Inspired by Dürer and Murillo.

Josep Soler (b.1935), one of the most important contemporary Spanish composers, was in several occasions inspired by works of Albrecht Dürer (Das Marienleben and Die grosse Passion) and Bartolomé Murillo (the opera Murillo). In the case of Dürer, Soler did not directly replicate the artworks, but rather followed the manner of expressing the anguish, a concept constantly present in composer’s thought. In the case of Murillo, on the other hand, in order to show his ideal of an artist as an intermediary between God and the man, Soler used Rilke’s psychodrama describing the painter as an ideal of artist.

Marí­a Elena Santos (Universidad Autònoma de México, Mexico, D.F.), Musical Iconography in Paintings of Cristóbal de Villalpando.

Cristóbal de Villalpando (ca. 1649–1714), the most important painter of his time in New Spain (present-day Mexico), used angels in his paintings in three different ways: as decoration in cathedral spaces, as the singing choir which could be compared to angels in heaven, and to produce visual tensions by defining the space between the real world and heaven. During the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, cathedrals of New Spain were the main ecclesiastic institutions promoting Baroque culture, including music. Solemn ceremonies held in the cathedrals were always accompanied by new compositions, which were meant to achieve a pompous performance employing large instrumental ensembles and two or more choirs alternating. Such performances in cathedrals provided Cristóbal de Villalpando with ideas for depicting the Glory of Eternity which included angel musicians placed in the limitless space between the world and heaven. His painting The Woman of the Apocalypse, decorating the wall of the sacristy at the cathedral in Mexico City, includes angel musicians which have human appearances, and play instruments which could have been seen during liturgical ceremonies held in cathedrals.

H. Colin Slim (Berkeley, California), Identifying Joseph Weber’s singer: Pinxit 1839.

After many years of private ownership on the East Coast of the U.S.A., an early–19th-century German oil portrait turned up recently on the West Coast in an Oakland antique shop (its owner going out of business) and was bought by a private collector in Berkeley. It depicts a robust and generously figured, though unidentified, woman. The painting is signed by a relatively obscure artist from the Rhineland, A.J. Weber (1798–1883), and dated by him “1839”. It has not hitherto figured in Joseph Weber’s comparatively small known oeuvre, notwithstanding his long life. Weber’s subject may reasonably be identified as Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804–1860). Celebrated for her many operatic roles and for her personal associations with such major composers as Beethoven, Schubert, C.M. von Weber, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner, she was the period’s greatest dramatic singer. In his painting Weber inscribed a scroll bearing music and text from the German translation (1781) of a famous aria from Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride (1779), a major clue towards seeking an identification of his subject. In 1839, the year Weber signed his painting, Schröder-Devrient sang this opera for a second time at Dresden, not only as that city’s 60th anniversary of Gluck’s great work, but also as a 10th anniversary of her own performance there as Iphigenia marking the opera’s 50th anniversary. Reasons for the above-proposed identification of Weber’s subject stem from at least three factors. First, Weber’s image is tolerably close to several images of Schröder-Devrient made by other artists during her lifetime, no less than forty in various media—paintings, drawings, sketches, engravings, daguerreotypes, lithographs, porcelain lithophanes, sculptures, and reliefs. Secondly, Weber’s inclusion of the aria from Gluck’s opera, its title role one of her most famous at Dresden, Berlin, and other cities, seems highly appropriate for such an anniversary at Dresden’s theater with which she was so closely identified from 1823 until 1847. Thirdly, Weber also depicted in the background a laurel shrub, seemingly a clear reference to the wreaths with which she was being increasingly crowned in Dresden and at many other theaters during this period, and which laurels, during her last days in 1860, she even requested to be buried with her. The essay attempts to take full account of this remarkable woman—political revolutionary, proto-feminist and, initially at least, a reluctant pioneer in Zukunftsoper.

Robert Starner (Universidad Michoacena de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Morelia), Two Mexican Bajones: Images of a Double Reed Instrument in Rural Michoacán.

Murals from the adjacent Purépeche Indian villages of Cocucho and Nurio offer two unique examples of bajón iconography from the 17th and 18th centuries. The sotocoros of both churches are divided into rectangles enclosing figures of angelic musicians and heliographic representations. The murals in Nurio, dating from 1639, were possible painted by a disciple of Baltasar de Echave Orio (d.1623) and have a formal, mannerist vocabulary unique to Michoacán. They tell a didactic story of Saint Augustine and Saint Mary Magdalene, two great sinners redeemed by their faith. Supporting this didactic story are eleven angelic musicians comprising an orchestra that forms two opposing choirs of wind and string players mixed with singers. Cocucho’s murals from the 1760’s have a singular folk-Baroque quality. Copied on the pattern established in Nurio, we see six archangel musicians forming two choirs of wind and string players lead by the bajonista. The murals were possible a gift from Don Fr. José Cayetano Vital Moctezuma, local encomendero for the area, Bishop of Chiapas and a direct descant of Emperor Moctezuma. The archangels are in militaristic garb, with parallels to South American counter-reformation arcabuceros found in neohispanic art, flanking a center panel that portrays the dance of Santiago de Matamoros defeating the Moors at the battle of Clavejo and performed yearly in the village. The Santiago iconography sends a complex message that juxtaposes the Spanish counter-reformation against the anticleric, anti-Spanish sentiments of the indigenous Purépeche for whom Santiago was a symbol of cultural resistance against the encroaching Spanish-speaking mestizo culture. These murals provide us with pictures of the musical life of two small rural Mexican communities raising questions of bajón performance practice, organology, the musicians, and how the indigenous people of that time viewed European concepts of music, religion, and politics.