Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

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

~ 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

Tags: art, frodo art travesties, poetry, sappho
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