Title

Alexander Pope and a Carracci Venus at the Court of James II and Mary of Modena

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-1-2020

Publication Title

Huntington Library Quarterly

Volume

83

Issue

2

First page number:

361

Last page number:

394

Abstract

©2020 by Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. issn 0018-7895 | e-issn 1544-399x. All rights reserved. When Alexander Pope published the 1714 Rape of the Lock, he included a frontispiece that recalls a seated Venus associated with the Carracci Accademia degli incamminati during the seventeenth century. The same iconography informs the author’s description of Belinda at her dressing table and appears in the headpiece for the poem in Pope’s Works (1717). Dating to antiquity, the Venus-adorned theme represents the Carracci academy’s aim to reconcile diverse artistic practice to a theory of formal design. Carracci-school images of the goddess often feature a braid of hair, symbolizing the creation of the beautiful. Via an engraving by Etienne Baudet, Francesco Albani’s Venus at Her Toilet, or The Air (1621–33), served Pope as a prime source of poetic imagery. Timothy Erwin argues that the iconography reaches Pope mediated by figures with ties to James II and Mary of Modena—above all, Anne Finch. Sharing a symbolic order with the braid of Venus, Belinda’s lost lock comes to represent the cultural disappearance of an ideal composite beauty celebrated by the Stuart court of James and Mary.

Keywords

Carracci academy; Iconography and book illustration; Restoration court culture; Seventeenth-century art collections; Symbology; The sister arts

Disciplines

English Language and Literature

Language

English

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