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Heinrich Mann's "Pippo Spano": The Problem of the Aura and the Work of Art

Author(s): Timothy A. Bennett


Source: MLN, Vol. 103, No. 3, German Issue (Apr., 1988), pp. 608-631
Published by: Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2905094
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Mann's"PippoSpano":
Heinrich
The ProblemoftheAuraandthe
WorkofArt
A. Bennett
Timothy
Die Kunst,das ist, Sie erinnernsich,ein
jambisch funffufliges
marionettenhaftes,
istauch durchden
und-diese Eigenschaft
und sein Geschopf,
Hinweisauf Pygmalion
belegt-kinderlosesWesen.
mythologisch
Paul Celan,"Der Meridian"'
I
The anti-heroof Heinrich Mann's novella "Pippo Spano" is a collector of art. At a criticalmoment,Mario Malvolto declares to his
lover, Gemma, "Ich bin eitel auf die Bilder, die niemand empfindet,die gehoren mir ganz."2 Although Malvolto seems to insist
that he possesses these pictures,the statementis misleading,because the images seem rather to possess him. Malvolto's relationship to the paintingof the Renaissance condottierePippo Spano is
well known, and scholars agree that Andrea del Castagno's
paintingserved as a model for the paintingdepicted in the narrative. Unfortunately,however, criticalstudies have, for the most
part, neglected other works of art represented in the novella.
1 Paul Celan, "Der Meridian, Rede anlaBlich der Verleihung des GeorgZweiReden,ed. Gunther Busch (Frankfurt/
Gedichte,
Ausgewdhlte
Buichner-Preises,"
M: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1975) 133.
2 Heinrich Mann, "Pippo Spano," Novellen,Zweiter Band, 3 vols., ed. Volker
Riedel (Berlin & Weimar: Aufbau-Verlag,1978) 48. All furtherpage citationsrefer
to thisvolume.

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While analyses of the complex subtextsin Heinrich Mann's works


have discovered allusions to specificworks,the question of the nature of the object of art as depicted object has not been raised.3
The artworkis traditionallyconsidered as a meaningfulobject and
critical inquiry addresses itself to the work's significance: the
painting is importantbecause it portraysa Renaissance condottiere; and the photograph of the two lovers at the conclusion is
significantbecause it is scandalous. Although it is impossible to
discuss these objects withoutreferringto the subjects theydepict,
the reading of "Pippo Spano" presented in this studyemphasizes
theirnature as artisticrepresentationsrather than looking immediatelyto the subject portrayed.
Critical literaturehas perpetuated a view that regards "Pippo
Spano" as "a transitionwork,a summaryand a condemnation of
an excessive aestheticismfrom which the author needed to free
himself."4Such perspectivesreflectan opinion that implicitlyregards the earlyworksas immatureproductsof an author who later
developed an active interestin the ideals of liberal democracy.
However useful the notion of a transitionwork may be to gain
insight into an author's development, the tendency to see the
work in these termsfails to do justice to the work's literaryqualities. By examiningthe role played by images of art in the novella, I
intend to change the emphasis of traditional statements concerningMann's earlyworks.Ratherthan viewing"Pippo Spano" as
a transitionwork,I see it as representativeof a narrativethattranor aestheticism.
scends the limitationsof eitherengagement
Theodor Adorno argues for the possibilityof a modern literature which stands, he states,"uber der Kontroversezwischen engagierterKunst und l'art pour l'art,uber der Alternativezwischen
der Banausie der Tendenzkunst und der Banausie der genieBerischen."5 According to Adorno, such works are characterized by
3 See: Renate Werner, Skeptizismus,
Aktivismus,
Der friiheHeinrich
Asthetizismus,
Mann, Bd. 11, Literaturin der Gesellschaft,ed. Klaus GuntherJust (Dusseldorf:
BertelsmannUniversitatsverlag,1972) 157-163.
Compare also: Lea Ritter-Santini,"Die Verfremdungdes optischen Zitats,Anmerkungenzu Heinrich Manns Roman 'Die Gottinnen',"HeinrichMann 187111971,
in Liubeck,
ErgebnissederHeinrich-Mann-Tagung
Bestandsaufnahme
und Untersuchung,
ed. Klaus Matthias(Munchen: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1973) 69-96.
4 Rolf Linn, "The Place of 'Pippo Spano' in the Work of Heinrich Mann," Modern
Language Forum,37 (1952) 130.
5 Theodor W. Adorno, "Standortdes Erzahlers im zeitgenossischenRoman," Zur
Dialektikdes Engagements,suhrkamp taschenbuch 134 (Frankfurt/M:Suhrkamp
Verlag, 1973) 136.

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TIMOTHYA. BENNETT

610

the peculiar relationshipof the subject to the objects of his environment:


gegenstandlicher
Subjekt,das von den Konventionen
Das dichterische
Darstellungsich losgagt,bekenntzugleichdie eigene Ohnmacht,die
des Monologswiederkehrt.
Ubermachtder Dingweltein,die inmitten
aus demAbhubderersten
So bereitetsicheinezweiteSprache,vielfach
assoziativeDingsprache[. ..].6
eine zerfallene,
destilliert,
expressed through
Adorno describesan overwhelmingsubjectivity
The monoassoziative
Dingsprache."
the medium of a "zerfallene,
intersubjective
an
of
possibility
the
undermines
results
that
logue
discourse; and, consequently,such narrativesportrayan alienation
and isolation that reside in the decay of the narrator'slanguage.
The titleof Heinrich Mann's novella suggeststhe loss of an autonomous subject of the narrative.Although the tale concerns the
existence of an artist,the titlerefersto Pippo Spano. The name,
however,which should possess the fullmeaning of a proper name
is ambiguous. "Pippo Spano" as titlemay designateeithera Renaissance condottiere,or the name may referto a paintingin the possession of Mario Malvolto. The reader, of course, understandsthe
titleas a title:the two words constitutethe name of the storyof a
writerwho owns a painting of a Renaissance condottiere.Nevertheless,it seems as though the titleanticipatesa certainconfusion
present in the novella itself.Which identitywithinthe narrative
investsthe words "Pippo Spano" withmeaning-the author's,the
condottiere's,or the painting's?If a titlepossesses validityas that
eponymic element which both names and identifiesa work,then
Malvolto seems to have been dispossessed. Mann gave the tale a
heading that suggests that Malvolto's life can only be understood
in termsof its relationshipto a painting.
In a sense, Mann's tale is primarilythe storyof a painting,not of
a writer.Malvolto,of course, constitutesa necessaryelementin the
portrait'sstory,forit mustexpress itselfthroughthe consciousness
of an artist.(In "Mnais," Mann created what mightbe seen as the
counterpartof "Pippo Spano," forthe statueitselfnarratesthe tale
of its creation7)."The novella, comprised largelyof innererMonolog,suggeststhen withshockingliteralnessthe nature of theDingsprachedescribed by Adorno: having surrenderedhis autonomyto
6 Adorno, 135.

7 Cf. Volker Riedel's "Anmerkungen zu den einzelnen Novellen" in Heinrich


Mann, NovellenII.

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611

the portrait,Malvolto'stale becomes the storyof the portraitin his


life. As he speaks, Malvolto's discourse,eitherdirectlyor in veiled
fashion, refers to the painting hidden away in his study,which
seems to speak itselfthroughthe medium of Malvolto'simpotence
and to condemn the modern artist.
The emphasis I have placed on the portraitmay seem somewhat
exaggerated. The painting,however,servesas the measure against
which the reader (and Malvolto himself)judge Malvolto's success
or failure.Similarly,Malvolto's adoration of the paintingsuggests
thatit possesses the value of a cult object. The verylocation of the
portraitcontributesto its functionas an object of cultishdevotion.
It hangs secluded in the writer'sstudywhere it may, like a muse,
inspire him. Malvolto demonstratesa nearly religious veneration
for art symbolized not merely by his obvious adoration for the
condottiere, but also by the isolated surroundings in which he
alone may contemplatethe workshe has collected. In "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalterseiner technischenReproduzierbarkeit,"for example, Walter Benjamin refers to the impulse toward seclusion
evoked by the vestigialculticnature of art:
als solcherscheintheutegeradezudaraufhinzudrangen,
Der Kultwert
sind
im Verborgenen
zu halten:gewisseGotterstatuen
das Kunstwerk
nur dem Priesterin der cella zuganglich,gewisseMadonnenbilder
an mitgewisseSkulpturen
bleibenfastdas ganzeJahruberverhangen,
Domen sind fur den Betrachterzu ebenerErde nicht
telalterlichen
sichtbar.8
Malvolto's devotion to Pippo Spano corresponds to his regard for
art as an object of nearly religiouscontemplation.If the narrative
depicts a conflict,it reflectsnot a strugglebetween the vague yet
absolute values of life and art, but suggests instead a crisis concerning the viabilityof a contemplativeattitude toward art in a
modern era.
The neurasthenicwriterMario Malvolto is in general viewed in
contrastto the heroic figurein the painting.Del Castagno's masterpiece towersabove and casts its shadow over the narrative.The
play of shadows is essential to the narrative'sstructure,as suggested by the followingmottoto the thirdchapter:
Semblable'a ces criminelsd'autrefois,qui, poursuivispar la justice,
8 Walter Benjamin, "Das Kunstwerkim Zeitalter seiner technischenReproduzierbarkeit," Illuminationen,AusgewdhlteSchriften,suhrkamp taschenbuch 345
(Frankfurt/M:Suhrkamp Verlag, 1980) 146.

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612

TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

6taientsauves s'ils atteignaientl'ombred'un autel, il essayaitde se


glisserdans le sanctuairede la vie.9
Unfortunately,the motto,taken fromBalzac's La Peau de Chagrin,
was omittedfromlater editions. The shadow, whetherthatof the
altar or perhaps of the portrait,should signifylife. Yet Malvolto,
unlike those criminalsof long ago, can no longer findaccess to life
through the aura cast by the artisticobject. In the novella, the
shadow, representativeof deceptive semblance,is characteristicof
paintingand writingin such a way thatlife must be excluded and
considered antitheticalto art. Central to my thesis is an implicit
comparison, suggested by an essentialallusion in the novella's thematic structure,to a more concrete,and hence more lifelikeform
of art: sculpture.
II
enThe novella, belonging to the subgenre of the Kilnstlernovelle,
gages the problem of art and life,but it does so withina textual
field determinedby the key lines of the mottodrawn fromBalzac
and the closing characterizationof Malvolto as a "steckengebliebener Komodiant" (58). The omission of the motto to the third
chapter fromlater editionshas, it would seem, been somewhatdetrimentalto criticaleffortsto understand the novella. In the tale,
art and lifeare termswhichpossess no absolute meaning-indeed,
each requires the other term withinthe strategicplay of oppositional determinationestablishedin the novella to possess meaning
at all. Art seems to represent-or, more accurately,to resemblelife,while life is thatwhichis destroyedor lost when depicted. Art
is semblance: lifelikeyetlifelessdepiction. It resembles,in a nearly
Platonic and hence disparagingsense, the shadow cast by life.Similarly,Malvolto existsin the shadow cast by the portrait.Like those
criminalsof long ago, Malvolto strives,in a sense, to attainnot the
altar itself,but itsshadow. He hopes then to findrefugein lifeand
live a strong impassioned existence. Malvolto, however, remains
trapped in the shadow. Semblance, Mann's narrativesuggests,is
inevitableand inescapable.
Pippo Spano's portraitis, of course, a "semblance" itself.If he
9 See Mann, "Pippo Spano," 15.

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MLN

613

could, Malvolto would be Spano, whom he calls his conscience.10


For Malvolto, Pippo Spano, "der uberlebensgroBe Mensch dort
auf der grellen Wand," constitutesthe shadow of a bygone era, a
shade created by a stronger,more vital artistwhose magnificent
works correspond to a heroic, virile existence (23). As Malvolto
laments the mediocrityof his own bourgeois nature and art, he
conjures forthan image that conflates the subject of the portrait,
the portrait,and the painter:
Ja! Wie mufltdu gelittenhaben,du und dein Maler,der so starkwar
wie du. GroBe Kunstwerke-deinLeben oder dein Bild-haben so
leuchtendeHohen nur,weilsie so grausigeTiefenhaben.(24)
Mann's use of the theme of life and the portraitas works of art
suggests a differentiationbetween types of shadows and semblances. The picture,like a shadow, has but two dimensions; yet
Malvolto speaks of heightand depth, whichcan onlybe generated
by a three-dimensionalobject. A paintingcan only create the illusion of three dimensions,but it does not possess true height and
depth. Life, then, may be depicted or portrayed,but, as a picture
or portrait,in two dimensions. The literaryand painted portrait
share a certain vocabulary of depiction, portrayal,and sketching
thatimpliesthe two-dimensionalsurfaceof canvas and blank page.
Malvolto's lament that modern art robs life of passion, i.e. that it
has lost the capacity for "leuchtende Hohen" and "grausige
Tiefen," refers,in a sense, to the loss of a thirddimension. If life
can be considered metaphoricallyas a workof art,it must perhaps
correspond to a three-dimensionalcreation,i.e. to sculpture.
Malvolto,however,is not a sculptor;instead,he is, as the pejorativecharacterizationat the conclusion of the novella implies,a Komodiant,a mere player of roles. The firstchapter comprises Malvolto's lament over the meaningless yet painful drama that is his
life. Although he believes that the paintingis an accurate reflection of the artist,he considers his own work a mask which hides
the nature of its creator: "Uber mich darf die Wahrheit keiner
wissen"(19). Malvolto'sexistencelacks meaning; the workof art,it
10 Cf. Rainer Nigele, "Theater und kein gutes, Rollenpsychologieund Theatersymbolik in Heinrich Manns Roman Der Untertan,"Colloquia Germanica,1973:
28-49.
The narrativestructureof the Uber-Ichalso displays similaritiesto the model of
mediated desire developed by Ren6 Girard in: Rend Girard,Deceit,Desire,and the
trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: The
Novel, Self and Otherin LiteraryStructure,
Johns Hopkins UP, 1965).

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TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

614

appears, makes thatlack of meaning assume the nature of significance. When Malvolto reflectsupon his eroticaffairs,forexample,
the play between meaning and its absence becomes apparent:
Oder sollensie [Malvolto'slovers]armeleereGliederpuppenseinwie
die wedersie
Mimi,und ichbehangesie imTraummitLeidenschaften,
erlebenwerdennochich?[ ...] Man wirdmide, die Sternedortoben
mitden Augen zu pflucken,einen nach dem andern,und am Ende
nichtsin den Handen zu halten... (21)
For Malvolto,writingdeprives the world of meaning. Like a figure
in one of his own plays or a character in one of his novels, he
mouths words which do not derive from his own experience but
create instead an illusion. For him,lifeand art are only equivalent
as fiction.Like the character in the play or novel, or the marionette, Malvolto fears that the writermerelyseems to act for himself.Paradoxically,he suggeststhatthe truelack of lifein the marionette,actor, or writermakes the lifelikeillusion possible.
If writingas depicted in the novella signifiesillusion,then sculpture seems to be itsopposite. When he refersto the creativesource
of art, Malvolto speaks of the sculptor'schisel: "Wohl stehthinter
jeder vollendeten Schonheit der Schmerz und hat noch den
MeiBel in der Hand" (20).11 When consideringthe role played by
the visual arts in the novella's thematic structure,the allusion
functionsas more than a mere aside. In a sense, the metaphor
implies that a perfectedwork of beauty partakes of the nature of
sculpture. Malvolto, however, as his name itselfsuggests,cannot
create such works. The name derives fromthe Italian and means
either distorted(malvolto),or to cast an evil eye (fare mal volto).12
Rather than creating true beauty, Malvolto's fate as a modern
writeris to distortit.
For Malvolto,sculptureseems to representa purer formof representationthatis less illusoryand thuscloser to livingtruth.Metaphorically,"Pippo Spano" may be read as the narrativeof an artist
who attemptsto escape the bloodless, passionless two-dimensional
surfaceof the page or canvas and to enterthe more concreterealm
of sculpture. Before examining Malvolto's peculiar relationshipto
the art of sculpture,perhaps anotheranalogy thatsheds some light
11 See: Heinrich Mann, "Gustave Flaubert und George Sand," Essays,92.

A New Dictionaryof theItalian and EnglishLanguagesBased Upon That of


Baretti,ed. John Davenport and Guglielmo Comelati (London: Whittakerand Co.,
1854) 387; 784.
12 See:

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615

on the historicalcontextof his implicitregard forother arts isjustified.


If Rainer Maria Rilke's early essay on Auguste Rodin (1902)
might be considered characteristicof thought at the turn of the
centuryconcerning the relationshipof writingto the visual arts,
then some of Rilke's insightsmay be applied to mythesisthatproclaimsthe historyof a neurasthenicwriter'seroticaffairto be like a
movementfromthe illusion of paintingto the more concreterepresentationof sculpture. Mann was, of course, a keen observerof
contemporaryEuropean art and cultureand borrowed frequently
fromother artistsand essayists.I draw a certainanalogy between
Rilke's essay on Rodin and Mann's novella, however,not to demonstratea link between these two authors,but to raise the question
of whether the shadow of Rodin's works stands above the novella.13 Allusions to the art of sculpturein both Die Gittinnenand
"Pippo Spano" support this thesis.14 Furthermore,the question
arises of whetherMann's frequentuse of the motifof sculpturein
the early works symbolizesin general his anxietyconcerning the
validityof traditionalliteraryvalues in a modern era.
In the essay on Rodin, Rilke suggestsan answer to the question
of why sculpture might be considered superior to painting or
writing-i.e. portrayingwithletters-as a mode of artisticexpression. Rilke imagines Rodin standingbefore the fantasticcreatures
thatadorn French cathedralsand describeswhat Rodin musthave
experienced and thought:
Aus der Angst vor den unsichtbarenGerichteneines schweren
vordem UngeGlaubenshattemansichzu diesemSichtbaren
gerettet,
wissenfluchtete
manzu dieserVerwirklichung
[. . .] Das warbesserals
malen;denn die Malereiwar auch eine Tauschung,ein schonerund
und Einfageschickter
Betrug;man sehnte,sich nach Wirklicherem
chem. So entstanddie seltsameSkulpturder Kathedralen,dieser
Kreuzzugder Beladenenund der Tiere.15
13 Riedel cites Rilke's letterof 1916 to Lou Albert-Lasard: "Und da entdeck ich
mir langsam Heinrich Mann, was schon seine Wichtigkeithat; waren wir voriges
Jahr auf 'Pippo Spano' gekommen,wir hattenganz anders gelesen und weitergelesen." "Anmerkungen"(413-414).
14 See: Ritter-Santini,
"Die Verfremdung des optischen Zitats." Compare also:
Hans Wanner, Individualitdt,
Identitatund Rolle,Das frilheWerkHeinrichManns und
ThomasManns Erzdhlungen"GladiusDei" und "Der Tod in Venedig,"tuduv-Studien,
Bd. 5 (Munchen: tuduv VerlagsgeReihe Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften,
sellschaft,1977).
15 Rainer Maria Rilke, "Auguste Rodin," Werkein drei Bdnden, Dritter Band
(Frankfurt/M:Insel Verlag, 1966) 355.

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616

Painting, it would seem, deceives and fails to offer the soul the
comfortto be found in sculpture. Malvolto too yearns to experience a concrete expression of human passion and anxiety.
Rilke, moreover,portraysRodin as a man made lonelyand soliwhichis, howtaryby his fame. Malvolto shares thischaracteristic,
ever, common to turn of the centurydepictions of the creative
genius and constitutesa commonplace. Beyond this,though,Rilke
draws upon a legacy shared by both Rodin and Malvoltowhen he,
in the motto to his essay, quotes froma Renaissance commentary
wirkendurch Worte, . . . die Bildon sculpture: "Die Schriftsteller
hauer aber durch Taten."16Rilke suggestsa certainsuspicion concerning the value of the writtenword when compared to the concrete work of the sculptor, tantamount to a deed. In "Pippo
Spano," Mann documents this attemptedtransitionfromword to
deed: the final chapter, in which Malvolto proves incapable of
committingsuicide aftermurderinghis lover,is entitled"Die Tat".
Malvolto, a propagator of words and thus of distorted truths,
commitsinstead a Missetat.As a doer of deeds, he is merelyculpable, not creative. The pen and the brush are the tools of the
writerand painter; their medium is a two-dimensionalpage or
canvas. Malvolto knows that his proper material is "das Blatt Papier [ ...], das ich mit Zeichen bedecke" (17). Signs, shadows of
words, constitutehis proper production, not concrete materials
whichcast shadows. Whereas the sculptorcan wield the knifeso as
to create lifelikebeauty, Malvolto wields it as he would a pen and
creates yet another shadow. Although Gemma's death will inspire
him, Malvolto uses the knife,and ultimatelyalso the pen, to destroy living meaning so that a dead letter-or dead body-assumes the statusof the livingspirit.
As he gives voice to his anguish, Malvolto also alludes both to
sculpture and to Dante's Inferno.The followingpassage foreshadowing Gemma's appearance evokes the image of Rodin's Portede
l'Enfer:
Ich will fremde Schonheitenerleben, fremdeSchmerzen.Recht
fremde.GeopferteFrauen; Vornehme,die zuvielbegehren;Meister,
die einen vollen Schmerzan einem Stuck Marmoraustoben. Sie
schlagen die Gestaltender Holle aus dem Block heraus, und ihr
der die SeelendurchpurpurneFinsternis
Schmerzistder Wirbelwind,
treibt... (25)
16

Rilke, 350.

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Although the desire for a woman who will sacrificeherselfforeshadows Gemma's death, the evocation of the woman whom Malvolto desires also demonstratesthat the writeruses sculpture to
symbolizelife.
Later, when the love affair has reached its climax, Malvolto
states that the awareness of his own physicalexistence has freed
him fromhis writer'snature: "Ich erdichtenichtsmehr, ich habe
nur noch lebendige Vorstellungeneiner schonen Korperlichkeit"
(46). In the version of the novella published in Flotenund Dolche,
Mann placed even greateremphasis on the contrastbetween Malvolto's awareness of physical presence and his desire to forsake
poetic fantasy:
und
Darinbestehtdas Gluck:Korperzu werden.Was michuberfeinert
entmenscht
hat,wardie Phantasie.Ich habenichtnurdie Fraumitdem
Korpergeliebt,sondernauch nochmitder Seele die Traume,die ich
aus ihrmachte.Es warjedesmaldoppelteArbeitund muBtemichaufreiben.Jetztwerdeich gesund.17
Poetic fantasy,Malvolto suggests,robs the writerof his humanity.
The sculptoris superior to the writerin Malvolto'sestimation,because sculpturepossesses the abilityto express "das GlIck: Korper
zu werden." By contrast,writingmust contentitselfwithdreams.
Rilke, too, describes a longing for physical presence, "als verlangte die menschlicheSeele immerwieder an lichtenoder bangen
Wendepunkten nach dieser Kunst, die mehr giebt als Wort und
Bild, mehr als Gleichnisund Schein: nach dieser schlichtenDingwerdung ihrerSehnsuchte und Angste,"and thus he characterizes
sculpture as an implicit disparagement of both writing and
painting.18 During this period, Mann considered the best styleof
writingto be "sculptural":
Stildes Flaubert-ichseheunterseinenWorten
Der starkesculpturale
mirimmerals sehr
sichBilderformenwieunterHammerschlagen-ist
habe ich immergeerschienen.Und am neidischsten
begehrenswert
in den harten
der Hingerissenheit
von Leidenschaften
bebtangesichts
Satzendes Stendhal.19
Meaningfulwriting,then,strivesto partake of the nature of sculp17 See Riedel's "Anmerkungen,"416.
18 Rilke, "Rodin," 355.

19 Heinrich Mann, "Eine Selbstcharakteristik"(Januar 1903), HeinrichMann


undBildern,ed. Sigrid Anger (Berlin and
1871-1950, WerkundLebenin Dokumenten
Weimar: Aufbau-Verlag, 1977) 74.

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TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

618

ture, i.e. to provide a more concretereflectionof human passions


and anxieties. Rodin had, afterall, created what mightbe considered a sculptural rewritingof Dante's Infernowhen he cast the
GatesofHell. The sculpture seems to lend the poet's dreams substance. Dante, however,was stillsecure in the faithin a greatchain
of being, and the souls in the Inferno were condemned; but the
neo-Romantic fascinationwiththese souls sprang froman uncertaintyand the fear that this abyss-this great nothingness-was
ever present. The Inferno represented the polar opposite of
Dante's Paradiso. Mann and Rilke,on the other hand, seem to have
suspected, as Rodin's great work suggested,that the gates to hell
were alwaysopen and thattheywere synonymouswiththe human
condition.
The suspicion thata greatvoid governshuman destinymustalso
infectthe artist'sactivityand lead the writerto question the ability
of literature to convey transcendentvalues. Although Malvolto
representsan overlyrefinedaesthete,the novella suggeststhathe
may, at least in some respects,be an honest writersince he questions and doubts his own enterprise.Similarly,Rilke, in the essay
on Rodin, expresses the impossibility
of his essay. Nearlyunnoticeably, Rilke praises Rodin and pays subtle tributeto the sculptor's
superiority:"Rodin selbst hat einmal gesagt, er mui3teein Jahr
reden, um eines seiner Werke mit Worten zu wiederholen."20
While writingmightattemptto imitatesculpture,sculpture,when
subjected to the violence of words, threatensto lose its meaning.
As though in passing, Rilke draws attention to the business of
words as one that deprives its object of substance. More than
simplyan homage to Rodin, Rilke's subtleself-disparagementsuggests that the writer,in order to remain truthful,must take into
account and portraythe inabilityof the writtenword to represent
physicalreality.Rodin, admired by the poet, seems to disdain this
dissolutionof concrete art into an endless flow of perhaps meaningless syllables,for deeds, i.e. the statuesyet to be formed,await
him.
Malvolto's relationshipto his lover and to the portraitof Pippo
Spano raises a similarsuspicion thatthe writercauses substanceto
be lost and swept into the abyss. At the point in the novella when
the decision to die is stated as the inevitableconclusion to the affair,art, and specificallywriting,reveals its nature as a semblance
20

Rilke, "Rodin," 383.

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619

that masks nothing,as a shadow cast by no concreteobject. As she


views a colonnade filledwithchimeras,Gemma feels repulsion at
the sightof a mask made of skin.21Astounded at its ugliness,she
asks Malvolto what the mask means, what it should be called. He
explains that for him it has always represented art, for it is the
visual representationof nothingand thus the ultimatedeception:
Diese abgezogene Haut, die mitder Form des verlorenenKorpers
WeisesichfarbtvomLaufeinesBlutes,das
prahltund aufunmogliche
hinterdieserHaut,
hat-mir wares die Kunst.Ich griff
langstgestockt
blahtund mitden Lidernklappt,nach
die wie das Leben die Ntistern
dem Korper,nachdem Leben selbst.Es warnichtda-fur michnicht
... Aberjetzthaltiches! (48)
Gemma must step into the abyss in order to lend the mask substance. Paradoxically,only Gemma's dyingcan enable her to fulfill
the role of muse she longs to play. In this sense, the mask foreshadows Gemma's fate and Malvolto's desire to transformher
death into art. Furthermore,Malvolto'sinterpretationof the mask
demonstratesthat he regards the mask as a symbol for writing.
When Gemma demands that Malvolto bring paper so that he can
copy the mask and put it on her, he bringsinstead his manuscripts
and thus establisheswithinthe novella the similaritybetween the
mask and literature.
A mask seems difficultto situatewithinthe definitionof either
sculptureor painting.It lacks the solidityof a bust,yetit bringsthe
features of a portrait into relief. A mask might be seen as a
paintingthat deceives concerningits own nature as it crosses over
fromthe two-dimensionalsurface of a canvas into a three-dimensional solidity.As Malvolto reminds Gemma, however, it never
trulyattains the nature of sculpture; nor by analogy does literature, for there is no solid body to support the image. The mask
forit is the nearlysolid
becomes the deceptive image par excellence,
image deprived of corporealityyet neverthelessrepresentingthe
object fromwhich it has been detached. The mask, it seems, must
always be moribund and evoke the image of the death mask.22In
the novella, Gemma's death is inevitable when she demands a
mask, because she must also cryout for the dyingimmanentto it.
Malvolto brings,however,his manuscript,these bits of paper that
21 Cf. Walter Gontermann,HeinrichManns "PippoSpano" und "Kobes"als Schliisselnovellen,diss. (Koin: Walter Gontermann,1973) 66-67.
22 Cf. Renate Werner, 151-152.

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620

TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

destroyidentity:"Das ist die Haut-die Haut unter der scheinbar


das Blut kreist.Da hast du deine Maske!" (49) The writtenpage
partakes of the nature of the death mask by concealing its utter
lack of life and corporealityas it attemptsto forcea shape, i.e. the
shape of the letter,upon nothingness.23If the mask is the portrait
which,detached fromits subject,can never be a representationof
the subject'spresence but onlya constantreminderof itsinevitable
absence, so too is writingas representedin the novella not a conveyingof livingmeaning but its eternal loss.
The portraitof the condottierecontinues,however,to cast a pall
over the eventsdepicted in the novella,but not merelyby virtueof
the Renaissance adventurerit represents.Perhaps Rilke's exercise
of imagining Rodin's reaction to the sculpted figures in French
cathedrals ought to be attemptedfor Heinrich Mann's experience
of viewingAndrea del Castagno's Pippo Spano. In thatwork,a certain deceptive affinitybetween paintingand the sculpturalart of
reliefexists.24In the frieze,Pippo Spano seems to striveto become
a figurein relief,i.e. to abandon his role as a painted representation and to enter the realm of sculpture.When viewed in the light
of Mann's remarks concerning the so-called "hard" sentences of
Flaubert and Stendhal, del Castagno's "sculptural" style of
paintingassumes new significance.Paintingremains,as Rilke cautions his readers, "ein schoner und geschickterBetrug" that is
perhaps best exemplified by the painted figure of Pippo Spano
who seems to step from the frame and thus engages in a doubly
dangerous deception. By analogy, Malvolto,when he attemptsto
step beyond his role as a writerand to attainthe concretemeaning
of sculpture,experiences the fatal nature of this beautifuldeception embodied in the portraitof his idol.
The portraitof Pippo Spano deceives by its very nature as a
painting; yet,beyond this,it simultaneouslydupes the viewerinto
regarding it as a sculpted relief.Only withinthat transgressionof
the frame do Malvolto's tragicomedyand the role played by the
portraitbecome clear. Malvolto, who has in a sense surrendered
his identityto the portrait,discovers the similaritybetween knife
and pen, for he has believed that he can cross the boundary between semblance and solidity as Pippo Spano seems to do. As
23 Cf. Jacques Derrida, Dissemination,
transl.Barbara Johnson(Chicago: The Universityof Chicago Press, 1981) 134-142.
24 Cf. Creighton Gilbert,Historyof RenaissanceArt Throughout
Europe,PaintingSculpture-Architecture
(Englewood Cliffs,NJ: PrenticeHall, Inc., n. d.) 90.

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621

Spano seems to forgetthat he is a painting,though he wields a


lifelikebut neverthelesspainted sword, so has Malvolto forgotten
that he is doomed to brandish a dagger as he would a pen. While
the adventurer's sword symbolizesvitality,Malvolto must transform this vitalityinto art. In Malvolto's case, this transformation
becomes a fataldistortion.Withthe dagger he has created a shade,
a semblance of a life thatonce was, as withthe pen he also creates
ultimatelyinsubstantialshadows. As a "steckengebliebenerKomodiant,"he presentsthe spectacleof the self-deceivedwriter,akin to
the deception inherentto the portraitthatdissemblesby itsillusory
nature as relief. When he gazes at Gemma's lifelesscorpse, Malvolto asks, "Bist fortfur immer?"(58) as though he had forgotten
that art requires this absence of flesh and blood and that his
writingdemands that the living spirit be banished. As Malvolto
assumes his role once again, he reminds Gemma that this spilt
blood is out of place, "weil man sich zum SchluB einer Komodie
doch nicht wirklichumbringt"(58). Nevertheless,the Komidiant
attributesthe guilt to that paintingthat casts its shadow over the
narrative:"Du [Pippo Spano] bist schuld!" (58) With this gesture,
he suggeststhat the aura surroundingart corrupts.The narrative
seems not to accuse the artistbut the work of art itselfand thus
calls the nature of art into question.
III
Malvolto's accusation does not, of course, condemn all art, although it does require that the reader examine certain unquestioned, traditional assumptions concerning the positive cultural
role of art. Similarly,the photograph of the two lovers demonstratesthat the criticismof the aura in the novella is not an argumentforrealisticdepiction.The photographseems ratherto point
to an ambivalentattitudetowardrealismand suggestsinstead that
Mann sought to determine how the work of art could adapt to a
changing era. By examining the role played by the photograph,a
reading emerges whichindicatesthatalthough Mann believed that
traditionalaestheticvalues must be forsaken,he sought nevertheless to preserve the value of art itself.While Malvolto'saccusation
of the paintingconstitutesa condemnationof traditionalattitudes
toward art as a vehicle for the transmissionof transcendentideals,
the photograph seems to suggest that art must somehow survive
and thata new sense of aestheticvalues mustevolve to replace the
old.

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622

TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

Throughout his adventure withGemma, for example, Malvolto


consistentlyalludes to the existenceof twoworlds,i.e. to lifeand to
the deceptive representation of life through art. The third
chapter, entitled "Der Glaube," concerns Malvolto's mistakenbelief thathe has finallyattainedhis goal and found the woman who
can incite a passion untainted by his artist'sneed to counterfeit
that experience in a work of art. The term "counterfeit"is Malvolto's own, for at one point he considerswhetherhe should warn
Gemma of the danger inherentto her love fora writer:"ich werde
Dich mit Dir selbstbetrugen,mit einer gefalschtenGemma" (37).
Furthermore,despite his hope that he will somehow find release
from art and find entrance into life, Malvolto neverthelesscontinues to see the world through the perspectiveof an artist.As I
have demonstrated,Malvolto seems to see life itselfas a form of
art, i.e. as sculpture,and thus he never finds a vocabularyto describe his experiences which does not have recourse to the problematical nature of depiction. With the appearance of the photograph near the end of the novella, the process of alienation from
life, the division of existence into two worlds-one real and one
represented-comes to pose an explicitthreat.
Malvolto'sexistence,includinghis affairwithGemma, refersimplicitlyback to the paintingof Pippo Spano and what the painting
represents for him. Benjamin's thoughtsconcerning the aura of
the work of art seem appropriate to describe Malvolto's relationship to that painting. Like the object of religious devotion, accessible, Benjamin states,usually only to the ancient priest who entered the cella, the portraithas become Malvolto's private idol.25
Similarly, in the loggia on the night they are photographed,
Gemma noticesa picturewhichitselfis a copy; but, Malvoltostates,
"Das Original hangt ungekannt irgendwo" (48). Its value for the
writerseems to derive fromthe factthatitsoriginal,and hence its
origin,is shrouded in mystery.Consequently,although a copy, the
pictureseems to share in the qualityof uniqueness thatwould contributeto the aura of the unknown original.
The influence of the aura extends,however,beyond the private,
secluded nature of the workswhich Malvolto possesses. The isolation in whichhe may contemplatethese worksheightensthe atmosphere of fantasysurroundingthem. Often the imageryin the novella suggestsa sortof enchantmentthatseems to enable all works,
like the portraitof Pippo Spano, to communicate. Through his
25

Benjamin, "Kunstwerk,"146.

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623

smile, for example, the condottiere seems to speak to Malvolto.


Similarly, on the night the photograph is taken, the depicted
figuresof Orpheus and Galatea appear to assume a life of their
own:
er [Malvolto]sie an
am Abend,fuifrte
Als sie [Gemma]wiederkehrte,
des Hauses, in die lange Loggia,auf deren Mauern
die Schattenseite
Orpheus, jung und mager, zwischen steilen, kaum knospenden
Baumen schrittund uber einemheftigenblauen Meer Galatea helle
Gliederwiegte.(46-47)
Orpheus, of course, symbolizesMalvolto'shope to returnfromthe
shadowy life imposed upon him by his pursuitof art, and Galatea
representsGemma's life-givingbeauty. Beyond this,however,the
virtualInszenierungof this scene drawn from classical mythology
commentson the aura and itsrole in the perceptionof the workof
art.
The "Schattenseite"of the house contributesto the seemingly
mysticalfunctionof the aura, since the absence of brightdaylight
enables the imaginationto play a greaterrole. The artisticdeception can appear more lifelike. The shadow is conducive to the
imaginationand allows it freedom. Consequently,the imagination
of the beholder compensates for and thus seems to suspend the
originaldeception. The alienationof whichMalvoltoso oftencomplains disappears-or at least it seems to. The photograph, however, is taken on the nightof thisdreamlikeidyll.It stands in contrastto artisticimaginationand serves to emphasize radicallythe
alienatingnature of depiction.
When Benjamin, forexample, describesthe effectof the aura in
his essay "Uber einige Motive bei Baudelaire," he commentsthat
the photograph undermines the aura because it constrains the
imagination: "Die standige Bereitschaftder willentlichen,diskursiven Erinnerung, die von der Reproduktionstechnikbeguinstigt
wird, beschneidet den Spielraum der Phantasie."26 Moreover,
Benjamin elaborates by assertingthatthe aura existswhen the beholder believes that some sort of communicationspans the distance separating him fromthe work:
so urteiltNovalis,ist 'eine Aufmerksamkeit.'
'Die Wahrnehmbarkeit',
istkeineandere
von welcherer derartspricht,
Die Wahrnehmbarkeit,
der Auraberuhtalso aufder Ubertraals die der Aura.Die Erfahrung
26

221.
Walter Benjamin, "Uber einige Motive bei Baudelaire," Illuminationen,

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624

gung einer in der menschlichenGesellschaftgelaufigenReaktionsform


auf das Verhaltnisdes Unbelebten oder der Natur zum Menschen. Der
Angesehene oder angesehen sich Glaubende schlagtden Blick auf. Die
Aura einer Erscheinung erfahren,heil3t,sie mit dem Vermogen belehnen, den Blick aufzuschlagen.27

Benjamin's definitionof the aura as the imagination'scapacityto


allow a workto seem to respond to the beholder, maybe applied to
Malvolto's experience of art. The photograph, however, both in
the novella and in Benjamin's analysis,underminesthe aura.
The differencebetween the photograph and the paintinglies in
the distinctionbetween dreaming and seeing. The distinctionappears earlyin the novella. When Gemma describesher fiance-according to Malvolto,he is a jaded, impotent"Viveur auf dem Abmarsch" (26)-she refersto his reaction to a landscape that had
moved her emotionally.He, however, demonstratedan uninterested attitudeand appeared "So fremdwie ein Englander, der das
photographiert"(30). The reference to photography disparages
because it suggeststhat the fiance is immune to Gemma's sense of
reverie.

Historically,photographyhad, of course, raised questions concerning the future of art. In his essay on Baudelaire, Benjamin
refersto the poet's criticismof photographyin the Salon de 1859.
As Baudelaire stated it, the technologyof daguerreotypyundermined the nature of the dream thathe believed was essetialto art:
se prosternedeDe jour enjour l'artdiminuele respectde lui-meme,
et le peintredevientde plusen plusenclin'a
vantla realiteexterieure,
peindre,non pas ce qu'il reve,maisce qu'il voit.28
If art traditionallyenveloped its subject in a dream, then by doing
so it maintained an aura in the sense given the word by Benjamin,
whose definitionseems to recall Baudelaire's preference for the
dream. Benjamin's discussion of the aura's disintegrationevokes
the image of the photograph as a formof representationthatcontributesto the loss of the aura. The followingdefinitionis taken
fromBenjamin's "Kleine Geschichteder Photographie"(Benjamin
used the definitionlater in "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner
technischenReproduzierbarkeit"):
Benjamin, 223.
Charles Baudelaire, Salon de 1859, Oeuvres,ed. Y. G. Le Dantec (Paris: Librairie
Gallimard, 1954) 772.
27
28

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625

Was ist eigentlichAura? Ein sonderbares Gespinstvon Raum und Zeit:


einmalige Erscheinung einer Ferne, so nah sie sein mag [...] Nun ist,

eine genauso
die Dinge sich,vielmehrden Massen"ndherzubringen",
Neigungder Heutigen,wie die Uberwindungdes
leidenschaftliche
Tagtaglich
Einmaligenin jeder Lage durch deren Reproduzierung.
aus
das Bedurfnisgeltend,des Gegenstands
machtsichunabweisbarer
imAbbildhabhaftzu werden[... .] Die
nachsterNahe imBild,vielmehr
Entschalungdes Gegenstandsaus seinerHulle, die Zertrummerung
deren Sinn furalles
der Aura ist die SignatureinerWahrnehmung,
auf der Weltso gewachsenist,daB3sie es mittelsder ReGleichartige
auch dem Einmaligenabgewinnt.29
produktion

The act of seeing destroysthe dream thatis necessaryto the aura.


In "Pippo Spano," the destructivenature of the photograph must
be taken literally.Not onlydoes Malvolto'sconcern forthe uniqueness of the original (which must paradoxicallyreproduce itselfin
the copy of the unknown painting) suggest a contemplativeattitude threatened by the scandalous snapshot which has been distributedthroughout the town, but the "Entschalung des Gegenstands aus seiner Hulle" has literallyoccurred. Gemma's nudity
and Malvolto's seminuditysuggestthe potentialproximityof photographyand pornography.
A painted nude, forexample, possesses an aura; the photograph
of Gemma does not. In his discussion of Baudelaire, Benjamin
refersto eyes like those seen in daguerreotypes,i.e. eyes whichdo
not engage the beholder's and thus do not possess an aura, as an
example of a sexualitydivorced fromeroticism:"Im Banne dieser
Augen hat sich der Sexus in Baudelaire vom Eros losgesagt."30
Malvolto'sreactionto the news of the photo anticipatesBenjamin's
linkingof eros and the aura:
Und du, Gemma,-all deine keuschenSchatze,die nur furmich,fur
michgeglanzthaben,nun zeigtman sie in den Salons,in den Klubs,
hinterden Kulissenumher!Ja, wirmuissensterben,denn wie sollten
wirdas ertragen!(52)
The contemplativeattitude,the reverieinduced throughthe erotic
aspect of the aura is lost in the photograph. Instead of dreaming
of an ideal beauty,those who view the snapshot do so to see their
29 Walter Benjamin, "Kleine Geschichteder Photographie,"
imZeitDas Kunstwerk
(Frankfurt/M:
Drei StudienzurKunstsoziologie
Reproduzierbarkeit,
alterseinertechnischen
Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977) 57-58.
30 Benjamin, "Baudelaire," 225.

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626

curiositysatisfiedand thus regard Gemma sexually rather than


erotically.
In "Plato's Pharmacy,"Jacques Derrida discusses writtenrepresentationin a way that suggests the nature of the photograph in
the novella and its relationshipto the phenomenon of the aura.
According to Derrida, the logocentric tradition of Western
thought regards writingas the "sign of a sign" that acts like a
poison and "fallsoutside of life,entrainslife out of itselfand puts
it to sleep in the type of its double."31The statement,representative of Derrida's deconstructionof the metaphysicsof presence,
demonstratessimilaritiesto the image of the death mask in "Pippo
Spano". Derrida's analysis demonstrates, furthermore,the Platonic nature of Malvolto's lament thatart deprives him of the passionate experience of life and condemns him, as it were, to the
shadows. The snapshot, however, does not engage in this loss of
identity,but is instead characterizedby "Reproduzierbarkeit,"as
Benjamin definesthe term.It has passed fromhand to hand and is
even on display in a shop window. In "Pippo Spano," the photograph seems to correspond to an unveiling or unmasking. According to Derrida, the possibilityof repetitionsuggests a more
"truthful"representation:
Live memoryrepeatsthe presenceof the eidos,and truthis also the
of repetitionthroughrecall.Truthunveilsthe eidosor the
possibility
ontoson,in otherwords,thatwhichcan be imitated,
reproduced,repeatedin itsidentity.32
The photograph, of course, is also a representation,but one that
by virtueof itsabilityto be repeated endlesslywithoutchanging,to
be repeated or reproduced as thatwhichalwaysremainsthe same,
to the deceptiverepresensymbolizesthe truthin contradistinction
tation inherentto writingand painting.
Although it is also a representationand thus maybe accused like
writingor painting of entraininglife outside of itself,the photograph depicted in the novella neverthelessdiffersfromother representations.Malvolto mightbe vain about pictureswhich no one
else can see, but the snapshot is on public display. It, moreover,
fulfillsa sortof voyeuristicurge by allowingthe public to see what
should remain hidden. In order to functioneffectively
as a poet,
Malvolto feels he must remain absent by disappearing behind the
31 Derrida, Dissemination,
110.
32

Derrida, 111.

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627

mask of art. The public, to paraphrase Baudelaire, must dream


Malvolto,for at the momentthe snapshot enables the public to see
the true nature of the man behind the art,his art is undone.
The photograph functions,then, as a destructiveelement. The
consequences of the Momentaufnahmeprove literally fatal to
Gemma, but for Malvolto theyoccasion a returnto the deception
inherentin paintingand hence in writing.Yet when Malvolto reKomidiantto confrontPippo Spano, the
turnsas a steckengebliebener
nature of the aura has changed subtly.In the initialdescriptionof
the condottiere'ssmile,Malvolto seeks to identifyhimselfwiththe
triumphhe vaguely perceives there:
bringtdieses Lacheln
Das UbermaBvon grausamerSelbstsicherheit
hervor,das sichnichtnachweisenkiBt,das mannurahnt,das tiefverund das man
in Grauenstfirzt,
dem mansichwidersetzt,
fesselt,
wirrt,
schlieBlich
verehrt!(24)
Similarly,the smile dominates the concludingparagraph, but Malvolto no longer admires it:
Es [thesmile]bannteMarioMalvolto.Er befragte
es mitall seinerSeele,
die Hande faltend,wankendund nachAtemringend,unterfliegender
Hitze und kaltenSchweif3ausbruchen,
zerstortund vonJammerhinKomodiant.(58)
gerafft-einsteckengebliebener
A sense of alienation replaces the sense of admiration present in
the initialdescription.
For Malvolto, as well as for the reader, the dreamlike nature of
the aura has shattered. Having learned to see as a result of the
encounter withthe photograph,Malvolto now sees the smile,"das
sich nichtnachweisenlalt." The painted smilecondemns him. Lea
Zitatein
in a rigorous delineation of specificoptische
Ritter-Santini,
the trilogyDie Gottinnen,
demonstratesthatMann used a technique
of allusion that demythifiesthinkingabout the artistand culture.
These optical quotations functionas a sort of Verfremdungseffekt
that undermines the reader's tendencyto seek identificationwith
the work or, to quote Ritter-Santini,
to participatein "schwarmerischerKontemplation."33Furthermore,she states,the allusions in
Die Gottinnen
are destructive:
und nichtnur technischen
Seine Mittelzeigenin dieserreflektierten

33Ritter-Santini, 72.

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TIMOTHYA. BENNETT

628

der Anklage
Zitierung",
die Vorstufeder "destruktiven
Verfremdung
toteForm.34
an die leergewordene,
In "Pippo Spano," the "leergewordene,tote Form," embodied in
the portrait itself,clearly dominates the narrative. As Malvolto
turnsto the portraitand exclaims,"Du bistschuld," the accusation
becomes an integralpart of the narrativethatmustbe understood
literally.
"Pippo Spano" is neither simply a transitionwork that anticipates the author's growingcommitmentto democracy,nor is it a
narrative that proclaims Mann's renunciation of his fascination
with decadence. The novella defies such facile categorizationand
stands alone as the culmination of "die erste, notwendige Verfremdung der Kunstzitate"which Ritter-Santinidiscerned in Die
which followed the writing
Gittinnen.35
The period of engagement
of "Pippo Spano" may well have been necessitatedby the insights
reached through that narrative. Like Malvolto, the reader must
confrontthe workof art and see. In thissense, the novella suggests
aspects of Kafka's novels which,according to Adorno, defeat the
reader's desire to contemplatethe text:
Geer [Kafka]dem Leserdie kontemplative
DurchSchockszerschlagt
borgenheitvormGelesenen.Seine Romane[. . .] sinddie vorwegnehderWelt,in derdie kontemplative
aufeineVerfassung
mendeAntwort
Drohungder
Haltungzum blutigenHohn ward,weildie permanente
Zuschauenund
KatastrophekeinemMenschenmehrdas unbeteiligte
Nachbildmehrerlaubt.36
nichteinmaldessenasthetisches
In the novella, the smile of the condottiereconcretizesthe bloody
scorn that resides in the contemplativeattitude.As Benjamin suggests in his studyof Baudelaire, the photograph is symptomaticof
the Chockerlebnis
that conditions modern perception.37 "Pippo
Spano", then,is a textthatincorporatesthisexperience.
as a preTo a great extent,Benjamin regards the Chockerlebnis
condition for the loss of the aura, i.e. as the loss of the cultlike
grounding of the work in a traditionthatencourages the beholder
to lose himselfin contemplation.In the "Neuen Gebote" (1926),
Mann considers the effectthatchanges in societyhave wroughtin
do4Ritter-Santini, X7D.
351
36

73.
Ritter-Santini,

Adorno, "Standortdes Erzahlers," 134.

37 Benjamin, "Baudelaire," 193.

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629

the nature of art, for "Die Literaturlebt nichtanders als ihre Zeit,
kann auch nichtmehr erreichen."38Mann argues forthe need for
a literaturethatwill address the modern reader, who differsfrom
his predecessors,it seems, because of a fundamentallychanged relationshipof the individual to past, presentand future:
Man hatteMuBe damals,jetzt wirdaber gehandeltallein schondaallenfalls
die
durch,daB manlebt.Romaneund KomodienerschlieBen
Idee des gegebenenTages. Zukunft,Ferne,und was nichtjetzt und
Sinn fur dies
jemals greifbaren
hier geschieht,bekommtschwerlich
Geschlecht.Wer begreiftUtopien?Der Gebildete,der an sie nicht
glaubt.Oder Vergangenes?
GewiBnichtder Gedachtnislose.9
In an age where past and futurehave lost theirmeaning,the possibilityof meaningfulcontemplationcannot exist,or contemplation
must become a hypocrisysimilarto the scholar'svisionof a utopia
in which he does not believe. If art is to survive,Mann suggests,it
must forsakeits contemplativeorigins.
"Pippo Spano" seems to anticipate Mann's evolving interpretation of the social conditionsin which literaturearises. The photograph in its functionas a scandalous, shocking representationis
nearly emblematic for the novella. Malvolto's bankruptcyderives
ultimatelyless fromhis immoralitythan fromhis failureto understand the changed nature of his era and of that era's art. He still
longs for the contemplativegesture and yearns to commemorate
the past throughhis reverencefor the condottiere.The snapshot,
however, does not commemorate, for it lacks the aura that encourages contemplation. Instead, it preserves the present and
places the present at the disposal of the future.
Malvolto seems to representthe reader. As the writerconfronts
the painting,the reader must confrontnot only the textbut art in
general. At the conclusion, the reader, like Malvolto, is asked to
see, not to dream, the workof art and to recognizethe "leergewordene, tote Form" and perhaps to accuse it,as Malvolto accuses the
painting. In defending himselfonce against the criticismthat he
lacked talentfor realisticdepiction,Mann statedthathe portrayed
reality "intensivergesehen, als man sie sieht."40"Pippo Spano"
demonstratesthat intensityof vision turned back to reflectupon
writingitself.Neithermerelya studyof decadence, nor simplycul38
39
40

Mann, "Die Neuen Gebote," Essays,271.


Mann, 273.
75.
Mann, "Eine Selbstcharakteristik,"

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630

TIMOTHY A. BENNETT

tural satire,the novella trainsthe reader (and perhaps trained the


author) to see-i.e. to see that the work of art must forsake the
contemplativeattitudeor itselffall victimto catastrophe.
The images of images in "Pippo Spano" characterize the dilemma of artisticrepresentation.As Renate Werner suggests,this
dilemma derives fromthe "Solipsismuseiner Asthetenexistenz,die
ihn immerfort
ihn [Malvolto] standig auf sich selbst zurfickwirft,
um sich selbstkreisenlaBt."'41Writing,however,as the comparison
to painting and its differentiationfrom sculpture demonstrate,is
caught in the same vicious circle: writingtoo must always refer
back to itself,although it may disguise its deceptive nature. The
realism symbolizedin the photograph, however,also fails to provide a solution. Although the photograph seems to represent
it too possesses a destructivenature. While the snap"truthfully,"
shot does not deceive, it does destroy:Gemma's death is a resultof
its appearance; and, as Baudelaire had suggested,it threatensto
destroy the dream necessary to art. Norbert Oellers recentlyargued thatthe portraitcould not defend itselffromMalvolto'smisunderstanding and abuse: "Auf ihn, Pippo Spano, den vielleicht
wahrhaft GroBen, fallt der Schatten einer unheilvollen Wirkung."42The persistence of traditionalattitudestoward art and
the potency of the aura survive in Oellers' statement,for the
painted condottiere, under whose influence a crime was committed, retains somehow a claim to the reader's admiration.
Oellers' statementshould perhaps be modified. Malvolto cannot
save himselffromthe dangers inherentto his contemplationof the
painting. Neither the realism of photography nor the aesthetic
contemplation of art in its own right avert the catastrophe. All
formsof depiction seem ratherto bear responsibilityfor it.
"Pippo Spano" stands above the controversyover engagement
and lart pour lart preciselybecause it demonstratesthe dangers
inherentto representationthataccompany any formof art regardless of its ideological basis-or lack of such a basis. The narrative
ought not to be characterizedas "die Abwendung von einem rein
artistischenKunstverstandnis,"for it suggests rather a depth of
insight that, on the basis of the exaggerated example of the
Werner, 149.
Norbert Oellers, "'Karikatur und Excentrizitat',Bemerkungen zu Heinrich
Manns Novellen, 'Das Wunderbare' und 'Pippo Spano'," HeinrichMann, Sein Werk
Lzibeck1981, ed. Helmut
in der WeimarerRepublik,ZweitesInternationales
Symposion,
Koopmann, Peter-Paul Schneider (Frankfurt/M:VittorioKlostermann,1983) 39.
41
42

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M L N

631

aesthete, unmasked the dangers of representationand thus emPerhaps more than


powered the later works of social criticism.43
other works,"Pippo Spano" suggeststhe dilemma that would inform the author's later work. He would strive,as Jurgen Haupt
argues, to transcendartistically"den traditionellen'Realismus' der
'Neuen Sachlichkeit'" and the "Konventionalitatder Trivialliteratur"while neverthelessadapting these techniquesinsofaras they
would enable him to address the new public described in "Die
Neuen Gebote".44In "Pippo Spano," the author's use of aestheticism suggeststhe nature of the dilemma: the workof art mustfind
a way to undermine itselfso that the reader will not fall victimto
the isolation inherent to contemplation. The work of art must
wake the beholder fromthe dream by pointingto itsown nature as
illusion and thus by shocking the beholder into seeing. The dilemma arises, however,because the work must also escape the destructivenature of the photograph'srealismand learn to bestow a
dream that does not trap the reader in the shadows. While the
novella poses no solutionto these problems,it does suggestMann's
concern for the need to evolve a new sense of aesthetic values
which, paradoxically, must consistentlyquestion the value of the
aesthetic.
University
Wittenberg

43

Werner,163.

44Jurgen Haupt, "Kunst der 'Lebensnahe', Probleme von und mit Heinrich

Mann in den ZwanzigerJahren oder: Nachdenken uber das Heinrich-Mann-Symed. Peter-Paul Schneider
posium 1981," Arbeitskreis
HeinrichMann Mitteilungsblatt,
17 (1982): 99.

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