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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

New Art Travesty: Frodo as Poet in Alma-Tadema's "Sappho and Alcaeus"....

Posted on 2006.08.07 at 16:51
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~ Frodo in “Sappho and Alcaeus”, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, CROPPED.

Note: Some large, high-resolution images will make this entry time-consuming to open on dial-up; my apologies. Also, you will need to scroll over to center the manip on your screen, as it is quite wide.

I thought I’d lift my head from reading and reviewing MEFA competition fics and post a Frodo Art Travesty I made last week. I had meant to save it for “Hobbit Month,” but, what the heck?

This manip is based on a painting by 19th century Dutch-born English artist, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), called "Sappho and Alcaeus".

~ “Sappho and Alcaeus”, aka “The Temple of Sappho”, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1881.

~ Face for manip: screencap from RotK scene, in which Frodo is writing at his desk:


In Alma-Tadema’s painting, Sappho (the famed 7th century B.C. Greek poet, from Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos) is leaning her chin on her hand, listening attentively to one of her Mytilene contemporaries, the poet Alcaeus. A wreath lays upon the lectern, ready to present, if she deems him worthy of the prize.

As soon as I saw it, I thought of making it into a "Frodo Art Travesty", although Frodo’s figure would be somewhat small in it. Looking at it, my first thought was of Frodo, singing songs to a sighing gathering of fans. Bilbo would be just off to the right, accompanying him hauntingly on the syrinx (Greek pan pipes).

Or, I thought, perhaps it might do as an illustration for some AU tale of Frodo carried off to far Harada, a beautiful curiosity to grace the courts (and beds?) of his captors. Or, he could be a lovely catamite in some Mary Renault-based fanfic. (Move over, Bagoas.)

Less AU, I thought it made a fine illustration of Frodo, in Tol Eressea, giving a command performance for his Elven hosts. A courtyard in Avallónë, high above the Sea, might very well look like Alma-Tadema’s view of the Aegean, as seen from this terrace in Mytilene, also located on the western edge of an island.

Frodo Baggins, already a highly-appreciated singer of tavern songs, might feasibly have spent some of his long years in the Undying Lands learning to play a musical instrument. Why not the lyre? He then could accompany himself while he sang or recited poems about his native land across the Sundering Sea; melancholy, and full of love. I am sure he would be invited to perform for them. Often.

~ Frodo as the poet in Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “Sappho and Alcaeus” (reduced to fit on LJ page):

Note: For a gorgeous, huge, full-sized, high-resolution image (too large for an LJ page), click HERE.

(My program allows we to click the image, once it's opened, with a magnifying command, making it larger still.)

~ Close-up of Frodo in "Sappho and Alcaeus" (from super big, high-resolution image, linked below):


For those who enjoy reading more background in these posts....

Here is what I found about the source painting, at a scholarly site about Goddess worship. (See “The Fallen Temple”.)

Set in the open air, with a view of a halcyon sea, the painting shows the main characters of a goddess temple in the roles imagined by Alma-Tadema's Victorian contemporaries. On the left is Sappho, the High Priestess. By her side stands a girl representing the White Goddess as Spring, who is costumed as described by earlier English poets such as Spenser (The Faerie Queen) and Marlowe (Hero and Leander). Before them is a laurel wreath, which, if Sappho so decides, will be presented to the young musician. The wreath is no simple accolade - its granting means that the player is inspired by the muses and is a true musician and that he has a place in the temple while ordinary men have not. The laurel is also a promise of immortality. This relationship, of an applicant poet/musician and a recognising high priestess is one referred to and re-enacted by many including Robert Graves.

The young musician is named by Alma-Tadema, Alcaeus, who was a famed poet and musician (c.620-c.580 BC) (and a favourite of the actual Sappho of Lesbos whose name we have taken generically to mean High Priestess), so we can guess that the outcome in the painting will be that he will be granted the laurels.

Beyond Sappho we see an audience representing the other people admitted to the temple. Two matrons are present because, as women, they share in the nature of the Great Goddess, while a young man is present [upper tier, with red hair] presumably because he has undergone the rites of Attis, which word is carved into the marble below his arm.

Apart from that, I thought I’d mention that Sappho, apart from being famous for her superb, passionate, lyric poetry (much of it addressed to women she admired and/or loved), was reknowned for her unrequited love for a beautiful young man, Phaon.

I’ll tell you a bit about that, since I think it goes well with any tale of the ravishing Frodo of Art Manip-Land.

On Phaon:
Phaon in Greek mythology was a boatman of Mitylene in Lesbos. He was old and ugly when Aphrodite came to his boat. She put on the guise of a crone. Phaon ferried her over to Asia Minor and accepted no payment for doing so. In return, she gave him a box of ointment. When he rubbed it on himself, he became young and beautiful. Many were captivated by his beauty.

According to mythology, Sappho fell in love with him. He lay with her but soon grew to resent her and devalue her. Sappho was so disraught with his rejection that she threw herself into the sea to drown. Aelian says that Phaon was killed by a man whom he was cuckolding.

Aside from Aelian, this Phaon's story is told by Ovid and Lucian.

~ from the Wikipedia.

To give a flavour of what Sappho’s poetry to Phaon might have been like, below is a sonnet by Mary Robinson, a British poet and thinker of the late 18th century who wrote a cycle of sonnets (1796), based on Sappho’s life and her poetry.

Here are two that particularly struck me, thinking of Art Manip-Frodo….

Sonnet X

DANG'ROUS to hear, is that melodious tongue,
And fatal to the sense those murd'rous eyes,
Where in a sapphire sheath, Love's arrow lies,
Himself conceal'd the crystal haunts among!
Oft o'er that form, enamour'd have I hung,
On that smooth cheek to mark the deep'ning dyes,
While from that lip the fragrant breath would rise,
That lip, like Cupid's bow with rubies strung!
Still let me gaze upon that polish'd brow,
O'er which the golden hair luxuriant plays;
So, on the modest lily's leaves of snow
The proud Sun revels in resplendent rays!
Warm as his beams this sensate heart shall glow,
Till life's last hour, with Phaon's self decays!


Sonnet XV

NOW, round my favor'd grot let roses rise,
To strew the bank where Phaon wakes from rest;
O! happy buds! to kiss his burning breast,
And die, beneath the lustre of his eyes!
Now, let the timbrels echo to the skies,
Now damsels sprinkel cassia on his vest,
With od'rous wreaths of constant myrtle drest,
And flow'rs, deep tinted with the rainbow's dyes!
From cups of porphyry let nectar flow,
Rich as the perfume of Phoenicia's vine!
Now let his dimpling cheek with rapture glow,
While round his heart love's mystic fetters twine;
And let the Grecian Lyre its aid bestow,
In songs of triumph, to proclaim him mine!


The rest of Mary Robinson's sonnet cycle based on Sappho and Phaon may be found HERE.

"Mary Robinson is remembered both as the first public mistress of George IV, and as a woman writer of the late 18th century."

~ from the Wikipedia.


Links to most recent Art Travesty Entries (in case you missed any while on holiday):

July 14 ~ Frodo in Bouguereau’s “Faun and Bacchante”

July 27 ~ Elijah Wood in Moroni’s “The Tailor”

~ Mechtild


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(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2006-08-08 02:46 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Mews. I was lucky to find this high-resolution image of the painting. I actually had made the manip two weeks ago from another copy of the image I had found on the internet, and I was perfectly pleased with it. I was too busy to write an LJ entry, so I just let it sit.

But, only yesterday, I found a huge, beautiful, very high-resolution copy of the painting. It was so massively better, I made the manip all over again. But the difference was worth it.

I am so glad I waited to post! If I had saved the first manip, I could have shown you the difference. It really was immense.
frodoholic at 2006-08-08 02:56 (UTC) (Link)
That is *so* awesome, Mechtild! One problem tho..he's much more beautiful than the ladies. ;-)
Thanks for the background info, I find all this very interesting!
mechtild at 2006-08-08 03:28 (UTC) (Link)
He certainly is (more beautiful). But so was Alma-Tadema's Alcaeus. I looked at a lot of his work, and he draws far more beautiful women than lovely young men. But, I fear that his women's looks have fallen out of fashion, while his men's looks have not.

Hey, I see you have the Anthony Gayton "Endymion" for your icon. What a photograph that is! *slather* Thank goodness for Whiteling, or I never would have seen it. He's a huge improvement over the original, although I'm awfully fond of Girodet's very swoony painting (see icon).
aredhelebenesse at 2006-08-08 05:30 (UTC) (Link)
Oh look Mechtild, you made one of my dreams come true! Frodo on the Blessed Island playing for the Elves. What a wonderful classical Greek scene! And since Lili looks this Greek anyway he's just ideal for this painting, this style, time, everything! It made me sigh just to find your work. And in each case it made totally my morning!
Thank you very much for sharing this beauty!
mechtild at 2006-08-08 13:17 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you, Aredhelebenesse! That is high praise, coming from you, an artist and art fan. Yes, EW has classic beauty, all right. And I loved this setting. I am so thrilled I found the high-resolution copy of this painting. I had no idea just how exquisite it was until I did. The colours and the fineness and clarity of Alma-Tadema's brush work, after seeing it in other, lesser gallery websites, were a revelation.
aussiepeach at 2006-08-08 07:47 (UTC) (Link)
My, but he looks stunning in that setting. Who shaved his feet? ;)
The Greeks would have loved him. As art and statues confirm!
mechtild at 2006-08-08 13:19 (UTC) (Link)
Doesn't he look stunning? Even the hands of the source model are really good. His feet? Didn't you know the Greeks were into shaving off their body hair? I'll bet the Elves were, too. Not that they had any. Maybe some comely Elf waxed Frodo's feet every now and then. So hot, all that instep fur, in the Mediterranean climate.

Did you open the BIG version of it I linked? That's the one you should save, if you are going to do that. The resolution is just EXCELLENT.
Starlit Woods
starlit_woods at 2006-08-08 10:10 (UTC) (Link)
That's beautiful Metchild! Such an amazing picture you did a great job with it :D

Thank you for all the poetry and the background info too! I've heard of Sappho before but they've never mentioned that she loved men too. Art and education, what more could we ask for? :)
mechtild at 2006-08-08 13:21 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Starlit.

I have never read that Sappho loved men, either. In fact, I think this man was an exception. Because of his beauty. Sappho loved beauty so deeply, perhaps she made an exception for him.

Heck, I have at least one lesbian friend who has made an exception for Frodo, also on account of his beauty -- both of body and of character. :)
shirebound at 2006-08-08 12:50 (UTC) (Link)
Frodo Baggins, already a highly-appreciated singer of tavern songs, might feasibly have spent some of his long years in the Undying
Lands learning to play a musical instrument.

I am sure he would be invited to perform for them.


What a lovely thing to imagine! And a beautiful manip.
(Deleted comment)
frodosweetstuff at 2006-08-08 14:18 (UTC) (Link)
What a wonderful job you did! It is perfect! :) Thank you, you made me smile on a bad day!
mechtild at 2006-08-08 14:52 (UTC) (Link)
A bad day? Oh, no! Are you feeling very low? I hope it's nothing truly serious. Thanks all the more for stopping to comment, Frodosweetstuff.
whiteling at 2006-08-08 14:33 (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh, that's a very lovely new manip, Mechtild - thanks so much! Frodo and ancient Greece go together so perfectly. :-)

Frodo's melancholic face adds a whole new layer to the painting. The original Alma-Tadema musician looks concentrated too, but not so lugubrious as Frodo. I really seem to hear music while looking at that picture!
The high-res version is wonderful; it's always fantastic to find paintings in such good quality, isn't it?
I enjoyed reading your added info and the sonnets too.

O! happy buds! to kiss his burning breast,
And die, beneath the lustre of his eyes!


Come to think of it, I hope Fralcaeus' voice doesn't sound like this:


But in that case, his listeners would look slightly different, methinks... ;-D
mechtild at 2006-08-08 14:57 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Whiteling! That clip! I've seen that ages ago, but forgot all about it. Wouldn't THAT be funny? Alcaeus on helium.

Yes, that poem was full of appropriately Frodo-lust-attuned images. The one you chose; ah! Smitten with Cupid's dart!

Yes, it is a thrill to find a really great copy of a painting. Truly, I don't think I've downloaded a painting with better quality. I was *stunned*. Well, you know I was if you read that I already had made this manip before I found the finer version of the painting, was amazed at the difference, and made the manip all over again. It was that superior.
taerie at 2006-08-08 14:38 (UTC) (Link)
This is a feast for the eyes! Thank you Mechtild!
LOL the comment on them waxing Frodo's feet. POOR FRODO! Can't see him putting up with that. I get the impression hobbits are very proud of their hirsute footies.
You do make some lovely images.
I'll have to 'brush up my toes" to try to keep up with you.:-)
mechtild at 2006-08-08 14:58 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Taerie. You won't have to brush up anything - except do whatever it is you are thinking of doing to your Frodo Reading picture, and get it posted in hobbit_art.
ellinestel at 2006-08-08 15:28 (UTC) (Link)
I'm so making a desktop out of this! :)

Happy sigh...
mechtild at 2006-08-08 15:34 (UTC) (Link)
WHAT a good idea!!!!!!!!

(P.S. I've noticed people posting notices for you... you are such a romantic! *smooch*)
bagma at 2006-08-08 15:54 (UTC) (Link)
You know, I'm reading "The last of the wine" by Mary Renault for the first time these days, and your gorgeous manip comes just at the right time!:) Frodo as Alceus is absolutely perfect, but he'd make a beautiful Alexias, too...

Thank you for the poems; I didn't know Mary Robinson, and some lines made me dream:

Where in a sapphire sheath, Love's arrow lies,
Himself conceal'd the crystal haunts among!
Oft o'er that form, enamour'd have I hung,
On that smooth cheek to mark the deep'ning dyes,
While from that lip the fragrant breath would rise,
That lip, like Cupid's bow with rubies strung!

She could have described your manip!:)
mechtild at 2006-08-08 22:28 (UTC) (Link)
He's kind of a twerp for Alexias, don't you think? I mean, Alexias is an actual soldier, isn't he? Or he is eventually. Would the Greeks induct Frodo into their army, except as "Comfort Boy"? *teasing*

The part of the sonnet you copied and pasted is just about my favourite, too, if you had left in the part before about the "murd'drous eyes". *sigh*

Thanks so much for commenting, Bagma.
mariole at 2006-08-08 16:46 (UTC) (Link)
Frodo Baggins, already a highly-appreciated singer of tavern songs

Snort! Yes, the Prancing Pony was never like this. And Frodo's glad!

Nice work once again, Mechtild!
mechtild at 2006-08-08 22:30 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Mariole. But you'll note that in Tol Eressea he is safely seated and not doing his turn on a table top.

See? He is a smart lad, he can learn from experience.
maeglian at 2006-08-08 20:13 (UTC) (Link)
Woot! You improved on the Alma-Tadema a thousandfold! Bet those adoring lasses wish he wasn't sitting so faaaaaaaar away. He's just out of reach for fondling touches - and their knees too weak for them to move closer! ;-)
mechtild at 2006-08-08 22:32 (UTC) (Link)
MAEGLIAN!!! I've been thinking of you, little dear one. Thanks so much for stopping in to comment. I was hoping to snare you with at least one of these summer manips. *smooch*
igraine1419 at 2006-08-08 21:41 (UTC) (Link)
Oh Mechtild, that's heavenly!

I wrote about Frodo playing and writing music on a lyre in my fic, Calypso. This Travesty illustrates the vision in my mind perfectly, although I didn't put in all those female admirers!

I do admire your skill at these, they are always so beautifully done.
mechtild at 2006-08-08 22:34 (UTC) (Link)
Well, you can always use the close-up, in which Sappho's sister-priestess/artists are not visible. *grin*

I must have completely missed Calypso. Surely I would have remembered the title, as well as the image of Frodo playing the lyre!
earths_daughter at 2006-08-08 22:18 (UTC) (Link)
Mectild, you have excelled yourself. Both artistically and technically that is perfect. And those sonnets, particularly the first, fit so well. Do you mind if I save everything?
mechtild at 2006-08-08 22:39 (UTC) (Link)
Please do, Earth's Daughter, and welcome.

I keep a link to my "Frodo Art Travesty" album, in case you are interested in seeing others, as well as links to tables of contents for everything else I make for LJ. They are over in the left hand column of the main page of every journal entry, under "Links". I am pleased when people want to save them to enjoy. I only ask that if you actually post one that you credit me, and, if possible, the painter of the original painting (or the sculptor or art photographer), since there could be no manip without their fine work. I always give the name of the artwork and its artist in the title of every image in the album (viewable when the images are opened).

Thanks so much for commenting!
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