Monday, October 02, 2006

A View near Volterra

In his 1960 essay 'Notes on Corot', the poet James Merrill writes about the transition from Corot's early Italian sketches to his later poetic landscapes, with their woodland glades and stretches of water that 'speak of relinquishment, of escape' . We can escape too among Corot's early views of Rome, investing their simple naturalism with our dreams of Italy. 'Italy - like youth, a simple word for a complicated, often idealized experience. No one would resist its appeal, as rendered in these little paintings. But each of us knows, in his way, what happens when it is over. Corot knew too. A View near Volterra (in the Chester Dale Collection) shows it happening in a scene so ravishing that it emerges unscathed from the jaws of allegory: the artist-prince, in peasant dres, heads his white horse (!) straight into the trees. Slowly it dawns on us what awaits him there, when he dismounts and sets up his easel. A change of light, a corresponding change of sensibility; in short, the paintings of Corot's maturity.'

A View near Volterra, 1838
Source: Wikipedia Commons

1 comment:

snarlerson said...

Your blog reminded me of a fraught car journey from Poggibonsi to Volterra. My memories are not of a pretty tree fringed landscape but one of a barren aspect deriving from its volcanic past, almost lunar in character. But I am glad that we made the effort. We parked just outside the gateway, walked past a Medician fortress into a most beautiful Italian townscape with a wonderfully proportioned main square. However, it was an unusual town redolent of its Etruscan origins with a fascinating museum full of Etruscan statues which echoed Giacometti and, of course, fine vases. And to round it off we had a good lunch of Etruscan delicacies.