Monday, 4 June 2012

The Name of the Rose

Hi again.  I have a small correction to make.

My last post contained a reference to an early 16th century painting in Urbino.  Michael Stover, who took the photo of the painting (and whose 6 course lute I modeled after the lute in the painting) got in touch after I published the post to clarify some information about it.  Here's what he wrote:

Hi Travis,

I was very interested to see your blog discussion of the two 6-

course lutes. Kenneth Bé just told me about it. Very nice. There's
one small correction -- the angel holding the lute is at the bottom
of a large painting on canvas of the coronation of the virgin in the
Cathedral art museum, rather than a fresco. (We don't want anyone
going hunting for a fresco that isn't there.) I haven't been able to
find out any information about who the artist was. Kenneth has seen a
photo of the whole painting in situ, and tells me that it's a typical
"incoronazione" of the 1540's.

Isn't the Gerle lute supposed to be later than that? If so, the

Urbino lute would be the earliest appearance of that design, and it
ought to be called the Urbino rose!

Michael brings up an interesting point about the name of the rose (to coin a phrase), which I'll get to in a second.  First, though, a bit more about the painting.  (Michael tracked down the images and information that follow.)

The painting is by Pierantonio Palmerini, entitled "Madonna con Bambino e Santi" and dates from 1532 to 1535.  The painting is preserved in the Museo Diocesano Albani.  Taken from the museum's website, here is the full painting in all its glory--
Michael also tracked down a very nice detail shot of the lute and player.  I reproduce it here courtesy of the photographer, Terry Clinton (visit Terry's flickr page here.) 
Here's a close-up of the belly of the lute, showing very clearly a segment of the lute rose design that I have, up until now, been rather blithely calling the "Gerle" pattern.
 Just to refresh your memory, here's my version of the full pattern.
Michael's question about what we should call this lute rose pattern is an interesting one.  The Gerle lute, from which this pattern was originally traced, dates from the 1580s (so says the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, where it's housed); the Urbino painting, which shows the same pattern, dates from 40 to 50 years earlier.  So as Michael asks, why not call it the Urbino rose?

Well, for one thing, the Urbino painting isn't necessarily the earliest representation we have of this rose pattern.  There's another Madonna and child with saints from the 1520s showing a lute with this rose (the image is from David van Edwards' website)--
Giovanni Antonio Pordenone (1483/4 -1539)
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints. c. 1525
Parish church, Susegana (Treviso). (Reference courtesy of Gernot Hilger)
And, as Ray Nurse reminded me last week, Bellini's San Giobbe Altarpiece, dating from around 1500, has a lute with a rose that's a close variation of this design.
If you can't see that too well, here's my recent version of Ray's Bellini pattern.

So it seems pretty clear that this rose pattern was indeed around for a long time before Georg Gerle took a stab at it in Innsbruck in the 1580s, but just how long, we can't really say.  The geometric pattern which underlies it, the 6-pointed "Star of David," is of course a very old motif in middle eastern art, and serves as a constant reminder of the lute's 'genetic code,' the eastern origins of the instrument.

I suppose the reason why we call the pattern the "Gerle" is that Georg Gerle's version is simply the best exemplar we have of it.  It's clearly, cleanly and quickly carved, and, to my mind, fairly vibrates with the creative energy of the craftsman.  Like so many of the best old rose carvings, there's an almost monumental kind of simplicity to it.  Have a look.
Grant Tomlinson photo
The pattern was very popular throughout the renaissance and baroque periods; Robert Lundberg estimates that around 30% of the extant old lutes use this pattern in one form or another.  Here are three examples from my own repertoire.

This is a rose I carved for a large 10 course lute--the pattern's taken from a Venere lute of 1619 (it's basically the Gerle pattern with a double chip-carved border). 
This rose was carved for an 8 course lute.  The original design is from a Sellas archlute of the 1630s.  As you can see, the geometric elements (the 6-pointed star) are identical to those of the Gerle pattern, while the organic (curved) elements have been replaced by a vine and leaf pattern.
Finally, here's a triple-rose variation that I just completed last week, for a new 12 course lute.  The pattern is taken from an archlute by Giorgio Sellas, from the 1620s, and uses cut-down segments of the Gerle pattern in a really ingenious way. 

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