Alexander Pope and a Carracci Venus at the Court of James II and Mary of Modena
Huntington Library Quarterly
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©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.
Carracci academy; Iconography and book illustration; Restoration court culture; Seventeenth-century art collections; Symbology; The sister arts
English Language and Literature
Alexander Pope and a Carracci Venus at the Court of James II and Mary of Modena.
Huntington Library Quarterly, 83(2),