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book of his At the beginningof the second treatise on painting, De Pictura (1435), Leon BattistaAlberti refersto Narcissusas "the first painter."For Alberti, Narcissus was a painter becausehe "depicted" his image on the surfaceof the pool of water AlthoughAlberti does into which he gazed. not say as much, he impliesthat Narcissus was also a viewer or spectator of his own creation. Other writers-namely, Antonio Averlino called Il Filarete, and Paolo Pino-also allude to the mythologicalfigNarcissus ure as an artistbut do not present in the imageof a viewer.' There specifically is, however, at leastoneauthor,theVenetian poet and courtesan VeronicaFranco,who, in a publishedletter addressed to Jacopo Tintoretto, apparentlysaw the implication of Alberti's image.2 In her letter, Franco first laments the opinion that ancienttimes were better than her own day, that naturefavoredthe men of antiquitybut not thoseof sixteenth-century Venice. Somepeopleclaim, she says,that thereare no contemporary artistsas excellent as those of antiquity such as the paintersApelles and Zeuxis,and the sculptors Praxitelesand Phidias. On the other hand,sheadds,thereare thosewho say that Michelangelo,Raphael,Titian, and Tinthe ancients. toretto surpass Tintoretto, who is Accordingto Franco, oblivious to praise,pays no attentionto otherpeople's opinions abouthim, goodor he concentrates shecontinues, bad.Rather,

on his painting,which is an art of imitating thathe excels nature. FrancotellsTintoretto at imitatingnot only the humanbody,but, human emotions.Inmost impressively, deed,the great ancientRoman actor Rosas cius was probablynot as able to express manyemotions on stageasTintorettois able to paint in his marvelouspictures. Here her awareness Francosignals of the dramatqualities of many of Tintoic and theatrical retto'spaintings. His figuresarelike players on a stage, expressing many differentemotions, and he, by implication,is like the directorof a play,who drawsforth a variety from his actors. of expressions portrait Then Francoturnsto Tintoretto's with a of her, which is often associated painting in the Worcester Art Museum in (Fig. 1).rShesaysthatwhen Massachusetts she first viewed the portrait,she could not be certainwhetherit was a paintingby Tintorettoor a diabolicaldeception-"diabolico inganps"-gleated by the devil, not to cause her to fall in love with herself, asNarcissus did with himself,but for someother. unknownreason. ThankGod, sheexclaims, shedoesnot consider herselfso lovely that shewould fall in love with her own image. In short,she knows herselfand is not like who lovedhis own beauty. Narcissus, Nature,FrancowarnsTintoretto,is aware of his divinamano,or "divine hand,"andof the lossshesuffersas a resultof it, and will not grant to connoisseurs of art enough intelligence to explainthe artist'sachieve-

Franco?).1588?Oil on canTintoretto, Portraitof a Lady (Veronica Follower of Jacopo Fig. 1 vas,61.5 x 47.2 cm. WorcesterArtMuseum,Austin S. and SarahC. GarverFund, Worcester, Massachusetts

ments.At last, having accountedfor her inability to praiseTintoretto'sportrait adequately,Francorestsher pen and asksGod to blessthe painter. Franco seems to have been conversant with the intentionsof artistsas imitatorsof life. She refers specificallyto Tintoretto's ability to imitate"clothedand nudefigures, profiles,the giving them colors, shadows, details of the muscles,movements,acts, posture,drapery and dispositions" ffigure nude,o vestite,dandolecolori, ombre,profth, fattazzemuscoli, movimenti,atti, posi& dispositionil, as if sheknew ture,pieghe, that figure painting was generallyconsidered the highest form of the art. Much of is filled with conFranco'sletter,however, ventionalpraise and echoesthe works of For example,her reference to otherauthors. paintingfinds a the deception of Tintoretto's parallel in a poem by BaldassareCastiglionein which the authorunderscores the deceptive natureof a portraitof himselfby Raphael(Louvre,Paris).Likewise,Taddeo portraitof Zuccarospeaks of an untraceable CharlesV by Titian, a likenessthat duped the emperor'sson, Philip II, who spoketo it.oStill, Franco'suse of the trope is novel because in calling attention to the liveliness of Tintoretto'sportrait,she compares herself with Narcissus as viewer. Narcissusimmodestly fell in love with his own beautiful image.' According to Ovid (M etamorphoses 3.407-51 0), Narcissuswasfooledby the representation of himself on the surfaceof the pool of water into which he looked.Enthralledby the beauty of his own image, he eventuallydied of a paralysis. kind of spiritualor psychological When Franco seesTintoretto's portrait of her,sherecallsNarcissus but avoidshis fate. The artist has painted a lifelike image of her;but sincesheis not beautiful,sheavoids falling for what seems at first to be a diabolHad she been beautiful or ical deception. had sheonly believed thatshewas a beauty, she might have succumbed to her own image. Franco,while praisingthe lifelike quality portrait,voicesthe belief that of Tintoretto's visualdeception is a devilishtrick and says thatfor a while shedid not know why a diabolicalillusionwas setbeforeher.Still, she whenshe to her confusion seems to respond implies that the admirationof one's own likenessinvolvesnarcissistic pride (superbia) and vanity, which at that time were considered sins. Her image was a temptation thatcouldhaveled to her downfall,but her modestyand prudencesavedher. Here Francoseems to be recallingimages of Prudence, who was often portrayed looking into a mirror, a sign of self-knowledge .oIndeed, gazing at Tintoretto's portrait as a painting that mirrored her likeness,F'ranco seems to be the very imageof Prudence. As her imagewas a tempa devilishdeception, tation,but Tintoretto'sportraitboth literally and figurativelyshowedFrancoto herself. Still, Franco,who understood the waysof love and sex, surely knew that desireand deceptionare mysteriouslyat the heart of our experience of art, just as the story of Narcissus reveals.

l. See Norman E. Land, "Narcissus Pictor," SOURCE:Notesin the History of Art 16,no. 2 (Winter 1997):10-15.See also Paul Barolsky,'A Very Brief History of Art from Narcissus to Picasso," C/assical Journal 90, no. 3 (1995):255-259. For an extendeddiscussion of Alberti's comment on the

myth of Narcissus,see GiuseppeBarbieri, L'lnventore della pittura: Leon Battista Alberti e il mito di Narcisco (Vicenza:Terra Ferma, 2000). 2. The letter is in VeronicaFranco,LettereFamiliari a diversl (Venice:1580),pp. 38-39. For a translation of the letter, see Veronica Franco, Poemsand Selected Letters, ed. and trans.Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal (Chicago and London: Universityof ChicagoPress,1998),pp. 35-37. See also Margaret F. Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in SixteenthCentury Venice(Chicagoand London: University of ChicagoPress,1992),p.248, for an abridgedversion of the letter.The letter has been interpretedby Ann RosalindJones,The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620 (Bloomington: Indiana Universrty Press, 1990), pp. 183-l 84, who argues that Franco'spurposesin the letter to Tintoretto are "to guarantee the truthfulness of the paintingand to raise the possibility that other viewers might be less able than sheis to resistits invitation." 3. Georgina Masson, Courtesans of the ltalian (New York: St. Martin's Press,1975),p. Renaissance 156,refersto an engraved portraitofFranco. Seealso Rosenthal, pp. 346-347, n. 93. 4. For the relevantportion of Castiglione'spoem, seeVincenzo Golzio, Raffaello: nei Documenti,. . . (Vatican p.43; andforZuccaro's City: 1936), text,see Federigo Zuccaro, Idea de' pittori, scultori, et architetti(Torino: 1607),p. 28. 5. In oneof her poems, Francoalludes Io the beauty of Narcissus. The figure in the poem embraces a garmentof her departedsoldier/lover,a garment"che gih foste avvolte / intorno a quella membra, che da Marte sembranoin forma da Narciso tolte." For the completetext of the poem and a translation, seeFranco, Poems, pp. 212-215. 6. See, for example,the personification of Prudencein a print by the Masterof the E-series Tarocchi, illustrated in JayA. Levinson,KonradOberhuber, and Jacquelyn Sheehan,Early ltalian Engravings D.C.: from the National Gallery of Art (Washington, 1973),p. 130, no. 48. For a brief discussion of the mirror in relation to Vanity, Pride, and Prudence, see Norman E, Land, "Parmigianinoas Narcissus," SOURCE:Notesin the History of Art 16,no. 4 (Summer 1997):29and30, n. 15 for further bibliography.

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