Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Joseph Anton Koch: Geryon

(Image from LCM)

In yesterday's blog entry, I posted an image of a creature rather like a manticore, except that the face is more human than leonine and the body lacks hind legs. This creature, called "Geryon," is described by Dante in his Inferno 17.1-18 and later illustrated by Gustave Doré in the image borrowed yesterday, but drawn incorrectly by Doré through his addition of bat wings, a flaw pointed out by Dario Rivarossa, who the supplied the link for today's image, an illustration by Joseph Anton Koch, who drew it without those webbed wings, thank goodness.

This perhaps has little to do with the putative serpentine Adam in Paradise Lost, though it might have some connection to the figure of "Sin" in Milton's epic, but I'm caught up in grading and have too few moments for scholarly investigation this morning . . .

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At 3:58 AM, Blogger Dario said...

Ladies and Gentlemeeennn...

Horace Jeffery Hodges! The Man Who Posted About Geryon at 2.45 AM!

The world has some chance to live on. This is paradise. Thank for letting me in.


At 4:05 AM, Blogger Dario said...

I forgot one thousand times to add that the Geryon / Eden Serpent connection was stressed especially by Giovanni Pascoli, one of my favorite poets and Dante scholars (d. 1912). He saw the whole of the 8th circle in Dante's hell (the different kinds of fraud) as a repetition of the Eden drama from different standpoints. Very intruguing.

At 4:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the note on Pascoli. As for the hour of my posting, I get up about the time Koreans go to bed . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:58 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

So, something more about Pascoli. Dante's hell - to nobody's surprise - becomes a worse place the more you go downwards. According to Pascoli, the 8th circle is a re-presentation of Satan's action "ad extra" i.e. tempting Adam and Eve. The 9th and last circle, then, is a re-presentation of Satan's action "ab intra" i.e. his rebellion against God.

[ID Disclaimer: now that I discovered how it works, I will show up as "dhr" that's my nickname all over the Web. H is for Humei, a Japanese name meaning no-name.]

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I thought that DHR might be you.

Now, I've also finally figured out the "H" in "Jesus H. Christ," an expression that I've too often heard but never previously understood.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:30 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I don't know how the Church Fathers might read this image, but to me it suggests a sort of Pegasus. (A fit mount to ride through the Boomwap on a quest for The End of Time . . . and actually I can just make out the features of the Rev. Dr. Cornelius and Professor Pop on these two riders?)

Jeffery, I know from other communications you are going to address issues of eating. What about all those devils in Book X transformed to snakes and eating soot and ash either eternally or annually, and never finding satiation? And then there is Death and Sin viewing creation, which she intends to corrupt so he might eat with greater enjoyment?

Of course the tradition of the symbol of the snake has a meaning that is also benign . . . the serpent(s) of the caduceus for example, and so on.

Serpent Symbolism

In addition to the medical associations, as vector of the "fortunate fall" something "good" must be written about the serpent as well?

From the linked article:

"Serpents are connected with poison and medicine. The snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi that have the power to either heal, poison or provide expanded consciousness (and even the elixir of life and immortality) through divine intoxication. Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine. Its divine aspect combined with its habitat in the earth between the roots of plants made it an animal with chthonic properties connected to the afterlife and immortality."

Have you read Hawthorne's "garden" story "Rappacini's Daughter"? A scientist prepares a special poison (or an antidote to poison, depending how you look at it) which serves the same symbolic role as the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost.

"Typical of Hawthorne's stories, "Rappaccini's Daughter" contains references to Dante's Divine Comedy and the Garden of Eden and Milton's Paradise Lost. The story juxtaposes the scientific aspects of research (Professor Rappaccini and Professor Baglioni) with spirituality (Giovanni and Beatrice). "

RD: a brief gloss

And in that other America garden story (or rather saga), The Leatherstocking Tales, Chingachgook is called "The Great Serpent" by the French. I am also pretty sure in The Pathfinder Natty calls him "Old Serpent" as well. From Wiki:

"Chingachgook is said to have been modeled after a real-life wandering Mahican basket maker and hunter named Captain John. The fictional character, occasionally called John Mohegan in the series, was an idealized embodiment of the traditional noble savage. The French often refer to Chingachgook as “Le Grand Serpent”, the Great Snake, because he understands the winding ways of men's nature and he can strike a sudden, deadly blow."

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

P.S. Or Cappy and Mary Make-Believe. Professor Pop's head is the one on the snake. Which would make Rev. Dr. Cornelius the . . . destination. That's it, rather than the End of Time, they are all on their way to his Evensong service at St. Paul's....

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Carter, for the information.

For those readers mystified by Mr. Kaplan's allusions to the boomwap and such, I recommend that you read his novel . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:55 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

>"Jesus H. Christ," an expression that I've too often heard but never previously understood.

Never heard of, in Italy. Anyway the German Medieval mystic Meister Heckart said, "Who is Jesus? He has no name. He is empty and free".

In my case, however, it simply means that I got no Japanese name.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Humei must be the paradoxical name of a great many people . . .

I've also heard that the "H" of "JHC" stands for "haploid."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:19 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

according to Wikipedia, it simply comes from the JHC ( = IHS) monogram meaning Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus Saviour of Mankind.

the capital letter C was the form in which S was written in post-classic Greek.

so, H is--- all of us.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

........ not to speak of some dangerous guys exhibiting two H's, before and after a J

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm twice the Humei you'll ever be!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:14 AM, Blogger N.E. Brigand said...

I can see why Dore might assume Geryon was winged: wikipedia's entry on mythological monsters of that name notes they had wings in some other authors' and artists' descriptions (some of them pre-Dantean), and in Inferno Geryon seems at times to be swimming, at times flying, as he carries Dante and Virgil down from the clifftop to the Eighth Circle: note that Dante compares himself to Icarus and Phaeton, and the monster to a falcon.

At 4:24 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

That's interesting. Very good, N.E.!

I only add that in a pre-pre-Dantean world Geryon had "simply" (!) a three-fold body, though it was not clear at all "how".

I saw a very intriguing half-dinosaur (or, one third) Geryon in a book for children unusually illustrated by the great British paleo-artist John Sibbick.

Geryon would get back his original look, as well as his degree as a king, in the long poem "Il Mondo Creato" by Torquato Tasso, 1592.

At 4:28 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

No, wait: excuse me, the monster drawn by Sibbick was another freak, the "twofold" Caco.

Dante rendered him as a centaur, but his double body did not refer to that, rather to a half-beast.

At 4:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, NE, for the additional note on Geryon.

Jeffery Hodges

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