Faces in Profile

I recently had cause to think back to a trip to Florence, Italy, decades ago, and to Piero della Francesca’s “Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza” (c1465), which I had seen at the Uffizi Gallery. At the time, it was the fellow’s nose that caught my eye first. Not sure, way back then, I got far beyond that, other than remarking to myself on the effect of seeing the two facing off in profile.

The Uffizi writes of the painting:

“In the tradition of the fourteenth century, inspired by the design of ancient coins, the two figures are shown in profile, an angle that ensured a good likeness and a faithful representation of facial details without allowing their sentiments to show through: indeed, the Duke and Duchess of Urbino appear unaffected by turmoil and emotions.” [cite]

I was reminded of that painting on running across another famous painting of the period, though new to me, Alesso Baldovinetti’s “Portrait of a Lady” (c1465). (Among other connections between the paintings, apparently, until Roger Fry put the matter to rights, Baldovinetti’s painting had been misattributed to della Francesca.) This painting is also in profile, which put in mind a jar of coins we have accumulated on our many trips to England. So, of course, I had to do this:

And ultimately this, with Saliba Douaihy‘s Lebanese Landscape (1920s) filling in the silhouette.

To accompany you on your journey into the coming year, here is Sonata No. 2 in b minor from Barthélemy de Caix’s Six Sonatas For Two Pardessus De Viole, op. 1 (1740 and 1745).

I. Andante

II. Tambourino

III. Allegro

Here’s a bit of amusing back story about the pardessus de viole:

“There were no professional pardessus de viole players in baroque-era Paris, according to [Tina] Chancey. Non-professionalism was the point. The violin had been contaminated, as far as members of the French aristocracy were concerned, because people played it to earn a living. You might as well take up bricklaying or ditch-digging as a hobby. Women were not allowed to play it for another reason: It involved contorting the body into ungraceful positions. Today’s pardessus players clasp the instrument between their knees, with the bow played underhand. In the 18th century, with all the petticoats they wore, women would have held it in their laps.

“When violin music by Corelli, Vivaldi and other Italian composers began to be the rage in Paris, the new instrument was invented (actually, developed from an earlier six-string version) to allow women and aristocrats to play this music.” [cite]

With best wishes to all for the year ahead.