"The history of the lesser princes of de Fezensac would be of benefit only to their heirs, should they have any", said Voltaire in L'Ingenue. Whatever one may think about Voltaire's opinion, one may suppose that, had Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, succeeding by an artifice that certainly would not have been commendable, in concealing his spiritual personality and putting aside his style, in causing in some way his marvellous intelligence to exist to one side and incognito, had he been content to produce and publish - which does not necessarily mean to write - a history of his family, he would have already had a chair at the Académie française for some ten years, and everybody, excepting himself perhaps, would have reason to be pleased about it. From the first academicians, even and above all from the earliest days, from the days of the first dictionary, if, as I believe, nobody today is anywhere near as sensitive to the extent of M. Robert de Montesquiou to the look, to the allure, to the gesticulation, to the traditions, to the ridiculousnesses, to the prejudices, to the virtues of each word, and not knowing their history any better, can no longer pursue that word with certainty and rediscover it in the classics and in modern works, and that to lead astray and sometimes put out of breath his less agile reader that he feigns, with a politeness in which there is perhaps a touch of impertinence, to judge as learned as himself, whereas the other, who cannot help it, would rather like to say to him like M. Jourdain: "For mercy, sir, act as if I know nothing about it." 1 - "The true writer", said Ruskin2, "must be learned in the ancestry and the peerage of words, remembers their intermarriages, most distant relationships, and the extent to which they were admitted, and the offices they held, among the national noblesse of words",* etc. Nobody fits this description better than M. de Montesquiou. All those who have witnessed him stop and practically rear up the moment before pronouncing a word (and those which up to that moment had not struck us to the same extent), as though in bewilderment* at having suddenly seen the yawning abyss of the past that has opened up beneath this word whose familiarity alone conceals its depths, in the dizziness of perceiving the native grace of the word, suspended there like a flower growing at the edge of a precipice, all those who have seen him seize upon a word, by displaying all its beauties, savouring it, almost grimacing at its too strong and specific flavour, giving it worth, repeating it, shrieking it, psalmodising it, singing it, making it serve as a theme for a thousand sparkling variations, improvised with a richness that astonishes the imagination and disconcerts the efforts of the memory to retain them, those persons can imagine for themselves how marvellous those days would be, with him, at the Académie in the days of the first dictionary.* But who is to say what they would be like, those noble days, the reception sessions, if, as is tradition, what is required and what appeals is courtesy, eloquence, mischievousness, taste and wit. We know that "to receive" is, when he is not occupied with better things, to realize his ideal, to strive for it - one of those things in which our poet excels, and to welcome the new-comer - always to some extent an "elect" - into his home that is quite justifiably (and, to use his expression "by way of prevention") named after the Muses, he lavishes resources of wit and eloquence that plenty of academicians would be strongly opposed to putting in their speeches. Without doubt he should be able to "receive the elect" at the Académie, he who has bestowed on hospitality, - as with so many other things besides - a form that is so to speak new, fashioned with majestic grace and indefatigable intellect. "And for one of taste", who then could one name as being better to judge the value of a work and penetrate its secrets even to the astonishment of the author? And his abilities extend so far that it is not only men of letters that we would wish to welcome in to listen to him in an academy, but also painters and musicians. I do not think M. Helleu or M. Fauré would contradict me. Without doubt, as, through fitness to the genre, Sarah Bernhardt playing Ashasuerus at Saint-Cyr3 knew to forget the rages of Hermione, M. de Montesquiou, through speeches at the academy, would veil with a becoming mildness his tempestuous justices and injustices. But after all "beneath the cupola" we also delight in the new member being admonished from time to time. And without going so far as to ask M. de Montesquiou to avail himself of his thunder (perhaps moreover there would not be sufficient need to ask him to do so), his fellow-members would arrange it so that it were he who was most often charged with the role, as is traditional in this arena, of picador, that he would moreover no doubt see in a quite new fashion. Certainly one can see from here with what incomparable and majestic levity, what alert and noble and cruel ease, with what bridling, agitated, foot stamping and caracoling demeanour, he would understand how to expand then close up again around the elected or crowned victim his skillful evolutions, the irritant, the barb of a thousand diverse and unerring strokes poured out, to the applause of a public thirsting for, if not blood, at least self respect. But all those who know him from this point of view and in this role, be it through having heard his pronouncements, be it through having read morsels of this sort, where his electrified pen does battle and creates conflagrations on all sides, those people know that all forms of the joust and tournament are regulated by a superior and meticulous logic and, like a kind of morality, often comprise a proud lesson in wisdom and art. I do not wish of him for example, particularly accessible and appreciable to the readers of Arts de la vie, only the marvellous, militant, but in the main chiefly preaching pages, that he recently published4 upon a subject that truth to tell (apart from incidental opinions upon which I am well founded to denounce the injustice) I am not qualified to pass verdict, not being familiar with, through regrettable reasons of fact, the work of the artist in question. Readers of Arts de la vie I am sure, "have still not recovered" from the spectacle they had that day and from having seen M. de Montesquiou with an expenditure of verve that led one to suppose, and, vigorously exact, that he held back a hundredfold in reserve, to have seen him - with a maestria and furia to deafen his victim along with any spectators who came too close - dealing his blows, at the same time covering in a dazzling painting the whole wide space that he had reserved for himself, correcting twenty portraits, repainting ten pictures, here redrawing an arm, there elongating a hand, elsewhere changing the position of an armchair, and finally throwing all of the furniture out of the window, everywhere imposing his colours over those of the master painter, now become, without having had chance to protest, his pupil; - and being unsparing with an eloquence, an intelligence, a logic, a wit that is his alone, of the advice and the lessons that the artist certainly did not ask of him, that are perhaps unjust and inaccurate when addressed to him, but which despite that remain just and true, with a higher truth and eternal justice, in what they preach, with regard to a name that was not perhaps the one necessary to him, I can say no more, the good, the necessary sermon on false beauty and false great art, with that air - and that grand air - of extraordinary evangelical dignity that is conscious of separating the wheat from the chaff - and which to tell the truth is more than distinctive, is unique in this true son of the crusaders who, "on the gilded crest of the nobleman", beside the "plume of iron" of which you know the "beauty"5, has placed the scallop shell of the true pilgrim, of the missionary and of the pure monk of Beauty. Lord knows one cannot say of him as did Louis XIV of Bernin6: "He does not find many things to admire". Nobody admires more than he because nobody discerns beauty with a more sure and delighted eye. And I very much believe, to return to the Académie - and to leave it again - that the particular public of our days of "receptions" would be deceived in its malevolence on hearing him more frequently pronounce on enthusiastic "eulogies", that reduce to dust one person or another, in the course of peripeteia and "incidents" of these impassioned sittings, to the greater glory of poetry and literature. Nevertheless all that is not to be regretted. Firstly because all that is to come. Secondly because the Académie which it would be very wrong to malign, and which in short reassembles today or will complete the bringing together tomorrow of the majority of our greatest writers* and comprises, perhaps, more superior men than any other human assembly, must not come too soon to those militant talents that feed their own fire and throw all their flame into preaching and into the struggle, who need to do battle be it with windmills, to do battle in every sense with the country, against unruly and bellicose natures, excellent against outer defences and to whom it must be desired that the status of "inactivity", so much grace are they able to show there, be offered as late in the day as possible, so that they remain so much the longer masters of a detachment that is an elite, out of the frame, more free in their conduct and movements.
These reflections came to my mind on reading M. de Montesquiou's latest book, that, with a taste and a talent for naming his books that is peculiar to him, he has given a singular title by which he immediately strains and extends the image to a genre of objects that were not under its jurisdiction, in such a way that by thus choosing them the image is left, however elevated its application may be, excessively striking and precise. Yesterday7 it was the Autels privilégiés word that signifies, in its literal sense, the altar at which we may celebrate mass for the dead at a time when it is forbidden to do so at other altars. Today it is Professionnelles beautés. Autels privilégiés, Professionnelles beautés and Roseaux pensants, here are three books of art criticism of which there are no equivalents, and one could say very few equals in France. Certainly Ruskin's great work, in its moral genius, in its great power of inspiration from the heart and from poetry, in the unity of the in some ways divine plan of this sort of discourse on Universal Beauty, is a much greater work and far superior to these three books by M. de Montesquiou. But can one expect this collection of short essays to resemble an immense body of work that follows over fifty volumes a single transcendent design? Yet it must be admitted that there is perhaps more truth of artistic judgement, justness of taste, in each of these short essays than in Ruskin's great books. But, from the strict point of view of art criticism, a true feeling for art works, an exact appreciation of their value, is perhaps more important than the most beautiful reflections. Hardly any of Ruskin's artistic judgements, at least on his contemporaries, appear to have held good. Enthusiasm for the Pre-Raphaelites, for Meissonier, contempt for Whistler. And yet it is the judgement on contemporaries that is important in a critic. "Everyone is firm", Sainte-Beuve said, "in their pronouncements on Racine and Bossuet. But the sagacity of the judge, the perspicacity of the critic, is above all proven on new works, no yet tested by the public. To judge upon first sight, to predict, to anticipate, that is the gift of the critic. How few possess it!"8
Now, this will certainly not be one of the less important titles of M. de Montesquiou to have singularly anticipated the taste of his generation and of the one before it, to have informed it, shaped and excited it, to have put it on the path of new forms of beauty, which were always the real beauties. Never is he deceived by the most seductive colours of novelty that resembles true beauty. Never is he duped by that optical illusion that colours our eyes with the reflections of a new talent by the simple efforts that accompany it and are on their own rather colourless. True talents are like stars. Their light takes so long to reach us that by the time we are finally able to distinguish it the star is already long extinguished. Thanks to his miraculous spiritual telescopes, M. de Montesquiou will always distinguish, at their birth, these star-talents. And the far distant projection of his insight does not diminish its precision: he never hails as stars the planets that neighbour them and draw their light from the stars and not from themselves. But these stars, with what joy, with what veneration of the magi and what fervour of the apostle, he approaches them, adores them, makes them see through their own eyes those that possess them, and to others makes them see through the eye of faith which is snobbism. The still incomplete beauty that he loved above all others, he has taught, he has preached indefatigably and often in the wilderness.*
All these essays that we are reading today assume, outside their intrinsic literary value, which we shall discuss presently, an in some way human value which for them, at a later date, will be a noble guarantee of their duration and which for them happen to have been truly lived, rekindled with a love that has given them life, and indefatigably professed. These are not however like the lessons of an infinitely superior Villemain. First of all the public was superior too, it was a small elite catechized with a fervour, an expenditure of spiritual strength, vigorous, sensitive, truly physically unique, an elite that could bear high witness for this master, because it is composed of superior men of tomorrow. But M. de Montesquiou is not content to preserve cold allocutions and publish suits. Each one of his written essays is an original creation, entirely different from his oral teachings, long meditated upon, not having in the least the mere value of transcription, that has been thought, "written", and with what marvellous richness, what strength and originality! What extraordinary, infinitely rare and precious gifts had been necessary for that, which we are going to finish by briefly examining.
One of these gifts, which is wonderful in an art critic and yet which could become dangerous* , is a gift that Ruskin possessed to the highest degree and I would be quite at a loss were I obliged to quote any other names than his and that of M. de Montesquiou. This gift consists primarily of seeing with clarity where others merely see indistinctly. To see and to know. M. de Montesquiou enters a tree planted courtyard with you. "What beautiful trees", you say. - "Those", says M. de Montesquiou, "are Zaccheus's trees9, the same as those that the shrewd little man climbed to get a closer look at the Saviour as he passed" (Professionnelles beautés, p. 17). You walk into the drawing room. Beautiful flowers in jardinières. "Those Amaranthus", says M. de Montesquiou (ibid., 228), "signify the language of flowers", etc. and he graciously quotes Molière and Boulay Paty.*10 Somebody produces some pears. "These are very Christian pears", says M. de Montesquiou, "the ones that M. Thibaudier sent to Mme d'Escarbagnas which she took with the words: 'Here we have a good Christian that is very fine.'"11 The master of the house comes in wearing grey trousers that M. de Montesquiou declares Balzacian. You guess: "Lucien de Rubempré's." "Not at all", M. de Montesquiou protests, "Pierre Grasson's who was 'eligible'12, or even more so Sixte du Châtelet's13 who was pretentiously provincial" (Roseaux pensants, (p. 40).* A lady guest turns out the point of her shoe and M. de Montesquiou remarks that it is the same gesture that Mme Hulot makes to Crevel14 but she does it so chastely that he fails to understand her. You visit the Louvre and in front of a Pisanello15 M. de Montesquiou points out to you, at the bottom of the portrait, some flowers that you had perhaps not noticed. What can I say about these flowers? Here we have a generality that our confused perceptions must be content with. M. de Montesquiou has already identified columbines for you and remarked how realistically they are painted. It is the same as the way Ruskin immediately identifies, in the most vague, simplified, floral representation in an illuminated XIIIth century manuscript, pink hawthorn and Polygala alpina, that he was able to make out in one of Collin's16 pictures, a superb Alisma plantago, and, in Hunt's The Hireling Shepherd17, a no less exact geranium that M. de la Sizeranne18 (La Peinture anglaise contemporaine, p. 262) tells us, after M. Chesneau, is a geranium Robertianum and which indeed could not have been more happily named19. In front of a wonderful Benozzo Gozzoli20, The Angels Departing Abraham, Ruskin points out that what is particularly pleasing is that there is one angel at one side and two angels at the other, because, in fact, as he says: "remember that the Scriptures say that there were three angels with Abraham, but two were departing to Lot and the third was departing in another direction."21 And without doubt it was Ruskin who wrote that, but without suspecting that what he was writing at that particular moment would be said fifty years later (without being aware of any similarity) by M. de Montesquiou. But let us return to the latter who we have left standing before the portrait of the princesse d'Este. We find him again in front of a portrait by Bruyas22 and he remarks, (Professionnelles beautés, p. 209), on "the transfer to the index finger of the left hand of a knight's ring apparently too large for the ring finger". When one knows how to see everything in this way, to distinguish everything, and to give name to everything, one already possesses an inestimable privilege, to be able to describe everything. Everywhere we observe the apposite nuance: "an imperceptible tone of althea." (Professionnelles beautés, p. 130), "the red carnations of a Porbus23 are not faded by the velvet nasturtiums of Mme de Senones24; (ibid. p. 205), "the red and black of a Mephisto, the red and black of an Etruscan vase, the vermillion blotch of a fisherman's float, or the red rag with which Corot25 has marked out the grey green of the beautiful landscape*", (this whole last phrase simply to convey the precise quality of red in a butterfly's wing, the Pyrameis atalanta). When one is a wonderful writer like this one comes to equal the work one is describing: "Paintings and pastels, I possess seven panels of hortensias cultivated be Helleu26, whose glaucous or yellowing corymbs introduce into these plaques the silver of bouquets of dead turquoises." What is most delightful, most elusive and indescribable, it seems, in the art of painting is equalled here. M. de Montesquiou does not tell us if these panels were given to him as a gift by Helleu. If so, we would gladly apply to them, with some slight modifications and exalting it somewhat, Sainte-Beuve's phrase about Goncourt: "Happy the one who sees his magnificence rewarded with priceless praise." And what perceptiveness of reflections in this phrase: "The model whose rose-coloured tresses have caused so many copper mirrors to turn gold in her reflection." But there is not a single phrase that could not be quoted. Each one contains curiosities - natural or factitious - beauties - intuition - experience. There is perhaps not a single phrase in this book of 313 pages that is insignificant or mere padding. The author has so much to say that he does not waste two words saying nothing, and in his fecund haste, urgent to lay down his seed, he has neither the patience nor the frivolity to linger on biographical details.* He passes through the first halting place without stopping and leaves it to be completed by those who are not travelling so far.
There is no doubt that such an extraordinarily vision of precise and characteristic detail demands - and has found - an infinitely varied vocabulary, affording at every turn the technical word, the exact expression which is often the uncommon expression. Indeed, when we attentively reread today certain books that seem to us the most classic, we see in looking at them closely, from how much precision of detail, sometimes troublesome to us in our ignorance, is their distant beauty made so vague and general. We open the celebrated book: À l'Arc de Triomphe27 and we are confronted with an abacus, a celestory, a chevet, a voussoir, etc. We open Théophile Gautier's Le Capitaine Fracasse and from the first few pages we are surprised by more than twenty words we do not know. And one could perhaps maintain that for certain books these exact words are like the precious nails that immutably hold together the framework of style and preclude any vagueness that does not withstand the outrage of the times. What seemed singular at the time seems today nothing more than singularly appropriate. Our author demands the same amount of effort. It is true that occasionally a little-used word can also bring us to a halt. The author's erudition makes everything evoke for him recollections that we all have not so carefully made room for in our own memories. "A single rose bush, with roses to the front, back and sides (he is talking here about an embroidery) that puts one in mind of Hildesheim's rose bush, planted by St Bernard, of the miracle of St Elizabeth, of St Dominic's rosary." - "She wanted to bring together (he is talking here about a literary hostess)28 Petronius with Hugo, Quasimodo with Trimalchio, Borlunt with Apicius29, to reconcile master cooks with master bell-ringers30. She dreamed of being a bluestocking who would be a cordon-bleu, of marrying the bouquet of parsley to the bouquet of Chloris, of gathering together Apollo's laurel with laurel sauce. And she was Julie d'Étanges from pot-au-feau, Sablière from fritters and ragout, Geoffrin and du Deffand from fricassées31... making a Hippocrene, a Raphidim32 spring up from bon mots." We are carried along in this whirlwind to places we might not have been willing to venture except with one's dictionary. But I say it again, we are often more disconcerted still by the vocabulary used by Théophile Gautier. With M. de Montesquiou however, as with the former, the unusual expression is always an excellent expression, chosen in the best literary "spheres" of the XVIth, XVIIth, or XVIIIth centuries and in this book Professionnelles beautés in which nevertheless plenty of things that are difficult to designate and differentiate, I do not think there are half as many obscure words as in the first volume of Le Capitaine Fracasse.
It must be noted however that if M. de Montesquiou knows everything about painting, on the other hand as soon as he writes he is no longer just a writer. You will never find in his writings all those "scumbles" and "impastos", and all those art studio words that sit like a small stain on the most marvellous depictions of nature by the Goncourts. And yet M. de Montesquiou is never abstract, something that we find all too frequently in another art critic, and one therefore inferior in our opinion, Fromentin33. Without doubt, deep down, Fromentin will remain, through his books on art criticism, one of the most charming figures of our admiration, who we must admire, though in admiring him we can not always do so unreservedly, and yet his weaknesses, his charming faults, the want of success in his noble and melancholy efforts, from the depth of the shadow that the indecision of his workmanship casts over his somewhat unclear tracts, seem to crave and arouse quite naturally the sympathy of generations. But is that to disregard him and does that prevent him from returning all his attention to other fields other than to confess that in his books he rarely knew, despite his luxury of fine explanations, profound reasoning, technical touches, how to make us see a painting, as just now34 we would "see" this pastel by Helleu, as elsewhere is so magnificently displayed before us the Deux Soeurs by Chasseriau?35
This intellect that excels in fixing the reflection of a shade and the singularity of a contour does not indulge itself however other than in passing and insofar as it is of use for what he is claiming to prove. Because first and foremost he is philosophical and he has not written a single page that is not animated and stirring, being on the march toward a proof. The conclusions he arrives at are always new and frequently profound, even if they do not appear so considerable to more superficial intellects, because instead of expressing them in an abstract form, he wants to give them a plastic and biting appearance. But in a way that one is not deceived, and this last trait perfects him and bestows upon him the crown. It is not only the way he amusingly described a great painter as "the only art critic who was ever known in painting", he is even more so a philosopher of art, this man who ended his study on Ingres with this superb, novel and definitive page:
"Ingres-Oedipus, there it is, weak and strong, gentle and angry, learned and uncultivated. He creates around himself a rarefied air, an atmosphere of altitude and an unbreathable environment in which the model and the spectator feel themselves turned to stone. Hear him exclaim: "It is beautiful to blacken the eyes of old men... it is beautiful to take the colour out of the eyes of women..." Translate his own Olympian face to the low brow, inhabited and inwardly wounded by the imprisonment, there, of his genius. Upon his lips a Quos ego36, in address to those that he refrains from naming, but that he designates thus: the great stagehands. A device of oriental poetry consists in using the plural whenever one speaks of the lover, as though to amplify him, to increase his status. Ingres does the same, speaking of the enemy: "They desire, they oppose us..." But this is neither Rubens, nor Van Dyck, nor Rembrandt, nor Murillo, nor even Géricault... it is one alone, the unnamable37! Of the aptly named, according to the law of Balzac38, he is not one, designated by this name with its nasal, clawed sonority, pinched and greedy, and whose rhyme is avaricious39. Ingres, a prophet still: The cradle of art contemplating from afar the Promised Land of colours and reflections; Jonah filled with imprecations and ruinous predictions. An unprecedented autocrat not content with the magnificent truth that it was given him to formulate and who imperiously demands to rule over all art. And yet such is the secret of his strength and his beauty. It is the strict formula of a sonnet imposing on the constrained dream an even more extraordinary shape. It is the finely wrought Japanese culture twisting its branches into the most exquisite curves. It is water transformed into sprays and jets by hydraulic force, and which will provide this beautiful simile for the great Dominique40: "Light is like water, it always creates its own space, and immediately finds its own level."
"Ingres is equal to a creator, not like a Pygmalion in trusting love to the care of bringing his Galatea to life, but like a Deucalion who relies on his pride to want to humanize stones41. But the stones wait in vain, in their rigid attitudes; in their frigid veins, the blood of cornelians flows, alone, and the violet of death blues their amethyst lips. Punishment for having wanted to exist without life. Biblical chastisement for a mythological crime. The other, the enemy42, the unnamed rival has, himself, truly stolen the flame, in order to bring his creation to life all burning with flame and purple, with golden cloth, with fiery jewels, with lions' manes and ladies' tresses. The flaming funeral pyre of Sardanapalus43, Ingres sees it and blushes for it, and The Fire in the Borgo44 that he admired so much causes him no envy. Now, for having gazed upon it his muse is turned to salt - what am I saying? - to ivory. And he himself, a second Prometheus, expiates a strange offence, chained for all eternity to Angelica's high crag45, and for having stolen - coldness"46.*
Les Arts de la vie, 15 August 1905.
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1. Molière, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, act II sc. IV.
2. Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies.
3. In early 1905 Sarah Bernhardt staged, in the theatre that had long been named after her, productions of Esther that conformed as closely as possible to those at Saint-Cyr in 1689. All the roles were played by actresses. Sarah Bernhardt herself played Ashasuerus in a turquoise blue costume enriched with gold.
4. Montesquiou had published an extraordinarily insolent article against the society painter John Sargent in Les Arts de la vie, June 1905.
5. Expressions in quotes are taken from Vigny (L'Esprit pur).
6. Louis XIV had called the cavalier Bernin to Paris in 1665.
7. Autels privilégiés (Privileged Altars) had appeared in 1899, Roseaux pensants(Thinking Reeds) in 1897, Professionnelles beautés (Professional Beauties) in 1905.
8. Chateaubriand et son groupe. Two months later in his article Sur la lecture, (La Renaissance latine, 15 June 1905), Proust returned this judgement on Sainte-Beuve himself.
9. The Gospel According to Luke, XIX, 1-10.
10. Les Femmes savantes (The Learned Ladies), Molière, Act III scene II. - Évariste Boulay-Paty, French poet (1808 - 1864). In the original manuscript Boulay-Paty was not mentioned in the text. But the note accompanying Molière was rewritten: "I shall mention here, so as not to give myself the air of being on the same levels and be entering into competition, the beautiful poem by Boulay-Paty on Amaranthus."
11. La Comtesse d'Escarbagnas, Molière, Act I scene XV.
12. Pierre Grassou, Balzac.
13. Old provincial beau; he marries Mme de Bargeton who is widowed.
14. La Cousine Bette, Balzac.
15. We see further down that this is Pisanello's portrait of the princesse d'Este.
16. William Collins (1788 - 1847) or Charles Allston Collins (1828 - 1873)?
17. William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1910).
18. Robert de La Sizeranne (1866 - 1932), French writer.
19. Robertianum seems to be an allusion to Robert de La Sizeranne.
20. Benozzo Gozzoli (1420 - 1497). Probably an allusion to a fragment of Gozzoli's decorative cycle for the Campo Santo in Pisa, now almost completely destroyed.
21. Genesis XVIII, 2 and 33 and XIX, 1.
22. Alfred Bruyas (1821 - 1877), collector and patron, closely connected to the great painters of the Second Empire, a number of whom painted his portrait.
23. Franz Porbus the Elder (1540 - 1580) or Franz Porbus the Younger (1570 - 1622).
24. Or rather "de Senonnes", portrait by Ingres.
25. Jean Baptiste Corot (1796 - 1875).
26. Paul Helleu (1859 - 1927).
27. Poem by Hugo (Les Voix intérieurs, IV).
28. Mme Aubernon (1825 - 1899) who, at her society dinners, directed the conversation with a hand-bell.
29. Petronius (? - 69), Roman writer; Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885); Trimalchio, character in The Satyricon by Petronius; Borlunt?? Possibly Lysbette Borluut who with her husband Joos Vijdt commissioned the Ghent altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. One of the panels is a portrait of Lysbette Borluut; Apicius, proverbial Roman gourmet.
30. Meaning that, as is proved later, Mme Aubernon attached as much importance to the quality of her table as to the wittiness of her guests.
31. Chloris, nymph in Greek mythology associated with spring, flowers and new growth; Apollo's laurel: Apollo is associated with laurel since Daphne, pursued by Apollo, was turned into a laurel tree by Zeus; Laurel sauce: name for a laurel shrub, also a sauce made from tomatoes; Julie d'Étanges: character in Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (Julie, or the new Heloise), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1761); pot-au-feu: classic French beef stew; Marguerite de la Sablière (1640 - 1693), friend and patron of La Fontaine; Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin (1699 - 1777), leading figure in the French Enlightenment, hostess and patron; Marquise du Deffand (1697 - 1780), hostess and patron of the arts; Fricassée: creamy stewed dish of chicken or vegetables.
32. Moses made water spring from the rocks in the desert at Raphidim, as did Pegasus, on Helicon, the spring of Hippocrene.
33. Eugène Fromentin (1820 - 1876), French painter and writer.
34. In reading Montesquiou's descriptions.
35. Théodore Chasseriau (1819 - 1856), French painter. This famous painting was shown at the Salon in 1843.
36. Quos ego (literally "Whom I"), a threat of punishment for disobedience. Neptune's threat to the disobedient and rebellious winds, Æneid, I, 135.
38. For Balzac there is a relationship between a person's name and their character.
39. "Ingres" rhymes with "pingre" (miser, skinflint).
40. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
41. Pygmalion, a sculptor, carved a woman out of ivory. He falls in love with the statue and names her Galatea. Aphrodite brings Galatea to life and they marry. Deucalion, son of Prometheus, is saved from the flood loosed on the world by Zeus by building an ark. Once the deluge was over, after consulting the oracle, Deucalion threw stones over his shoulder. The stones became men who would repopulate the earth.
43. La Mort de Sardanapale, by Delacriox, was exhibited at the Salon in 1828.
44. Fresco by Raphael in the Vatican.
45. Allusion to one of Ingres' most famous paintings Roger délivrant Angélique.
46. And not fire!
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