Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Royal and Noble Tombs: Modern and Fifteenth Century Choices.

            Richard III  Kingship, Religion and the World Today

Once a king was no more, plans that had been set in place previously, were put into action, resulting in a finished piece that was more than magnificent.  Edward IV's is a fine tomb, Henry VII's in particular stands out and Henry VIII's would have been grand if he had got his act together and spent less of his father's money.  Most kings did not have a care what they did in life, and the greatness of their royal tombs are a fine example of royal breast beating and loud shouts of "take note of how great I once was." You can be sure however, that they were extremely worried about the consequences once they had shuffled off their mortal coils. They saw to it that the clergy were paid to light candles on a daily basis once they were entombed, and then yearly on the anniversary of their deaths. More importantly they made sure that prayers were offered for their souls. Fear of eternal damnation was the main driving force behind medieval and Tudor funeral art.

                                                                                                 Henry VII Tomb

Of course we cannot tar all nobility with the same brush, as early as 1430 people were considering the transiency of their lives by opting for the Transi tomb. Bishop Robert Flemings tomb can be found in Lincoln Cathedral and John Fitzalan's at Arundel Castle.

 Richard Flemming at Lincoln Cathedral

John Fitzalan at Arundel Castle

So today, as in the past, the choice of a tomb for an English King has to be made and this is yet another chapter of the journey of the remains of King Richard III. How many of us have become saddened and disappointed by the way this journey has descended into squabbling, back biting and side taking we may as well be reading a book on the War of the Roses, its the Percey's verses the Neville's all over again. And now we have a new addition to the latest controversy, a new tomb design, and I seem to be the only one who actually likes Leicester Cathedrals design.

The choice of a tomb for Richard III should reflect three things, his kingship, his religious beliefs and the world today, and I think that this design doe's just this.  The simpleness of this new design, I feel, is a reflection of the latter, after all we are living in a country were many people have little and a world where the vast majority have nothing, a fancy tomb will not do. The deeply incised cross is a symbol of Richards faith and a reminder that Richard and his contemporaries were religious people even if we are not. Lastly the base has, placed within it, three Ricardian icons, the boar, Richard's motto and the white rose, a representation of his early life and his kingship.

New design and setting for the tomb of Richard III

According to the licence for the exhumation of Richards remains they have to be reinterred by August of next year. Lets hope that he is buried were it was first agreed, in Leicester Cathedral and with a design such as this.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Perfection: She who is milk-white.


We all know the story of Henry Higgins and how he transforms Eliza Doolittle from a ragamuffin into a beauty in the play Pygmalion. 

Pygmalion is in fact a Greek myth and features in Metamorphoses a c 43BC poem by Ovid a Roman poet. In this work, Pygmalion is a goldsmith and has an interest in sculpture, according to Ovid Pygmalion had become disenchanted with women because of the "immoral behaviour of the Propoetides, who were the daughters of Propoetus" from the city of Amathus on the island of Cyprus. They had been punished by Aphrodite for not worshiping her, punishing them, she filled them with a passion to behave immorally and act as prostitutes. This disenchantment forces Pygmalion to make a ideal woman out of stone. In the image below we can see Pygmalion's story from the 'Le Roman de la Rose' where he falls in love with his beautiful statue so much so that on the festival of Venus he makes an offering to her where he wishes for a bride in "the living likeness of my ivory girl" on returning home, he kisses the face of his ivory statue and finds that its lips feel warm and on touching the ivory skin he finds it has lost its hardness. Its seems that Venus had granted Pygmalion's wish and the ivory sculpture has changed to a woman. Pygmalion marries the living statue and together they have a son Paphos from where the coastal city in Cyprus is named.