Beasts and Beauties : Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance [1 ed.] 9781442697881, 9780802099228

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Beasts and Beauties : Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance [1 ed.]
 9781442697881, 9780802099228

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BEASTS AND BEAUTIES Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance

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Beasts and Beauties Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance


© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2010 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in Canada ISBN 978-0-8020-9922-8

Printed on acid-free paper

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Schiesari, Juliana Beasts and beauties : animals, gender, and domestication in the Italian renaissance / Juliana Schiesari. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8020-9922-8 1. Families – Italy – History – 16th century. 2. Patriarchy – Italy – History – 16th century. 3. Human–animal relationships – Italy – history – 16th century. 4. Animals and civilization – Italy – History – 16th century. 5. Women – Italy – History – Renaissance, 1450–1600. 6. Humanism – Italy – History – 16th century. I. Title. HQ630.S35 2009



This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP).

This book is written for Angelica.

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List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi Introduction


1 ‘Jewels of Women’: Ladies, Laps, and Lapdogs in Renaissance Culture 13 2 Portrait of the Poet as a Dog: Petrarch’s Epistola metrica III, 5 32 3 Alberti’s Cavallo vivo, or The ‘Art’ of Domination


4 Della Porta’s Face of Domestication: Physiognomy, Gender Politics, and Humanism’s Others 54 5 Psychoanalytic Intermezzo: Freud’s Missed Reading of Leonardo’s Alternative Humanism 73 6 Versions of Diana: Gender and Renaissance Mythography Notes


Bibliography 141 Index



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1 Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, ca. 1488–1576), Venus of Urbino, 1538 (oil on canvas), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence 14 2 Titian, Charles V (1500–58, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain), with his dog, 1533 (oil on canvas), Prado, Madrid 18 3 Harley 4431 f. 4, Christine de Pisan writing at her desk, Parisian copy, ca. 1410–15, British Library, London 20 4 Vittore Carpaccio (1450–1525), Due Dame Veneziane, ca. 1490 (oil on panel), Museo Correr, Venice 29 5 Giovan Battista Della Porta, Della Fisonomia dell’Uomo (1610), p. 96; copperplate engravings: monkey and servant; woman and leopard 58 6 Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Virgin and Child with St Anne, ca. 1510 (oil on panel), Louvre, Paris 88 7 François Clouet (1510–72), Diana Bathing, 1565 (oil on panel), Museu de Arte, São Paulo 109 8 Fontainebleau School, Diana the Huntress, 16th century (oil on panel), Louvre, Paris 111 9 Ambroise Dubois (1543–1614), Gabrielle d’Estrées en Diane, 16th century (oil on canvas), Château de Chenonceaux, France. Also attributed to Francesco Primaticcio (1504–70), with subject being Diane de Poitiers rather than Gabrielle d’Estrées 113

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It is a most pleasurable task to thank my colleagues in Comparative Literature and in French and Italian at the University of California, Davis for their unwaivering support for this project when indeed ‘animal studies’ had not quite yet found its way into the halls of academia. I would especially like to thank Kari Lokke, Julia Simon, Brenda Schildgen, and Gail Finney. Their advice as well as (almost daily!) presence has been a source of strength and I have learned much from them. I am deeply grateful to Carla Freccero, Barbara Spackman, and Tim and Renate Murray for their friendship as well as their continued intellectual and emotional support of my work and projects during these past years. I have also been very fortunate to have excellent graduate students in my seminar ‘Animals and Human Culture: Representing Animals in Literature.’ The lively discussions and their perceptive insights are to be found throughout this work. I would especially like to thank Laura Hudson, whose own work in the field of critical animal studies has been a source not only of inspiration to me but also one of learning and expansion. I have been very lucky to have as my editor Ron Schoeffel, at the University of Toronto Press. His interest in the manuscript, prompt support, and patience has been the catalyst for its production, and I thank him very much. I also owe thanks to the two anonymous readers the Press commissioned and whose perceptive comments were invaluable in making this into a stronger book. I also gratefully acknowledge the Dean of Humanities, Jessie Ann Owens, and the Office of Research at the University of California, Davis for a research grant which gave me the needed funds to complete this project. I also would like to thank Natalie Boon for her excellent work on the index, Anne Laughlin, Managing Editor at the University of Toronto Press, and my copyeditor,

xii Acknowledgments

John St James, for their timely care and work on bringing this publication to fruition. Needless to say, any errors that may be found after their careful management of this book are entirely my doing. Gratitude goes to Georges Van Den Abbeele, who encouraged me from the beginning to pursue my interest in the question of animals in literature and culture. His insightful editorial and critical comments were invaluable to the writing of this book and traces of GVDA remain present herein; furthermore, his support of my work during a chronic illness will always be appreciated with heartfelt thanks. I also owe our daughter Christina an enormous debt of gratitude for her unwavering support during some of the most critical moments we faced during the production of this book. And last but certainly not least, I wish to dedicate this book to our granddaughter, Angelica, whose love and care for animals points to a bright future for all those who care about and understand the emotional depth animals bring into our world. Thank you, dear Angelica.

BEASTS AND BEAUTIES Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance

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‘Post-humanism’ would seem to be the critical watchword of the day, as if we had miraculously stepped into some marvellous and presumably more expansive way of being than the old tired hegemony of oldfashioned humanism with its flawed privilege granted to all things white, male, and European. Historically, this view has been encouraged by the rise of various social movements in the twentieth century, including those connected to feminism, civil rights, and decolonization. Intellectually, the primary work of demolishing the received assumptions of classical humanism was spearheaded by the various strands of critical theory from the Frankfurt School through poststructuralism, feminist theory, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. In more recent years, a different intellectual assault on the anthropocentrism underlying humanism has taken place, first as a response to developments in high technology and more recently under the rapidly burgeoning umbrella of ‘animal studies,’ which to date has operated as a kind of catch-all term from an extraordinarily diverse set of disciplinary origins (including but certainly not limited to the fields of cultural studies, history, wildlife biology, cognitive psychology, ethology, environmental studies, literary theory, anthropology, legal studies, and philosophy).1 Without diminishing this stunning intellectual variety, almost all the work within the field of animal studies has in common a critical point of view that situates the entity we used so readily to call ‘man’ within a multi-species context, and then examines the not always flattering consequences of that contextualization. What one finds in both the critical theoretical deconstruction of humanist privilege and in the animal-studies resituating of the human within the wider biocontext is an emphasis on the contemporary. It is


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primarily through its Marxist and cultural-studies inspired forms that critical theory has addressed history head-on, and even then with a massive emphasis on the more recent past. The ahistoricism of animal studies is driven both by its scientific interest in cognitive issues and by its legal interest in ethics and animal rights. And while historical studies about animals do exist, the tendency there is to be empirical rather than theoretical. Curiously, there is an obvious historical point of intersection where issues of gender, race, and class interact with those of species identity, namely, the early history of humanism, and most peculiarly its Italian origins. Some recent work has edged closer to this historical convergence, most notably Erica Fudge’s work on animals and humans in the period of the English Renaissance. Through meticulous archival research and critical reflection in such works as Perceiving Animals, Renaissance Beasts, and most recently in Brutal Reasoning, Fudge has unearthed the varied ways in which the animal figures as the fundamental category by which the English Renaissance conceives otherness, including the others of class, race, and gender.2 While my work here extends the animal-studies concern directly back to the specific context of the Italian Renaissance and the early humanism of Petrarch, Alberti, Ariosto, Della Porta, Leonardo, and others, my focus is not exclusively animal-related. This is not a historical study of Italian humanist ideas about animals per se. Rather, my more specific concern, consonant with my long-standing interest in gender and feminist theory, is with one zone where species and gender issues overlap, namely, the new form of domestic space both theorized by Italian Renaissance humanism and practically enabled by the socioeconomic changes contemporary with those theorizations. The hierarchy that both critical theorists and animal activists denounce in classical humanism appears most dramatically in the form of the single-family domicile headed by a potent father figure (or pater familias) ruling over a household of wife and children, and possibly servants and animals. My approach to this subject matter is grounded in both feminist psychoanalysis and animal studies. I have selected a restricted number of suggestive texts (and one painting), which I read closely for their particularly intense dovetailing of gender with species concerns, in most cases revealing the hidden hierarchies of Italian humanism (Titian, Arisoto, Alberti, Della Porta) and in some cases locating glimpses of alternative possibilities to dominant humanism (Petrarch, Leonardo, the traces of the cult of Diana). But as a psychoanalytic reader, it would be



remiss for me not to notice Freudianism’s own peculiar investment in the classic family structure and its humanist ideological support; hence my rereading of Freud’s analysis of Leonardo da Vinci, where we see the degree to which the father of psychoanalysis insists on a humanist appraisal of Leonardo that consequently fails to see the very real and exciting ways the Italian artist/thinker himself points to alternatives to classic humanism that in many ways prefigure the contemporary vogue of post-humanism. One possible set of alternatives is then pursued through my final reading of the continuing gynocentric representation of the pagan goddess Diana, in the Renaissance and afterwards. My readings of the representation of patriarchically and anthropocentrically organized domestic spaces in these Italian Renaissance authors and artists thus reveals a historically common ground for feminism and animal studies, but also a critical lever to imagine alternative visions and destinies that remain the material for psychoanalytic investigations into the early humanist foundations of so-called post-humanism. What is the ‘human’? Or, in more properly philosophical terms, what does it mean to be human? The definition of humanity (and the attendant question of who or what is included in, and excluded from, that definition) is not as self-evident as it might seem, and it has been subject to countless transformations and interpretations. This book resituates that question of the human from both a feminist/psychoanalytic and an animal-studies perspective and with specific attention to that period scholars have localized as the beginning of the modern conception of the human, namely, the humanism of the Italian Renaissance. From its beginnings, the Italian Renaissance was profoundly fascinated by the question of what it means to be human. For many theologians and philosophers, the question of how to define what it meant to be human – or fully human – was embedded within the question of who could be said to possess a ‘soul.’ For others, more modern anthropological or materialist definitions regarding the ‘dignity of man’ prevailed. Either way, in terms of asking the question of who or what can be called human, Renaissance thinkers rekindled a discussion in Western philosophy that dates back to Plato and Aristotle, whose ideas were, of course, revived, disseminated, and revised by those humanist scholars. And while both the ancient philosophers approached the question of being human from different perspectives – Plato’s idealism versus Aristotle’s materialism – each developed his reasoning through the creation of a hierarchy of beings wherein some were more fully


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human than others, that is, men more than women, Greeks more than barbarians, freemen more than slaves, and human beings more than all other creatures. This study critically examines the question of human superiority within the context of the Italian Renaissance through a sustained reassessment of some of humanism’s specific ‘others,’ and, in particular, those most ‘nonhuman’ others that are animals. We will see that even if the dominant ideas and practices of the Renaissance did indeed exclude many human beings from being considered ‘fully’ human, the literature and art of that period also explored creative alternatives to that restrictive ideology. On the one hand, the conceptual proximity of various ‘othered’ humans to the nonhuman world is an abundant source of cultural stereotypes and derogatory metaphor in Renaissance writings. On the other hand, within that newly circumscribed but very lived reality of domestic space, there also arises a vigorous questioning of the hierarchy of beings and the envisioning of other possible relations between human beings of various kinds and nonhuman creatures in a space where women, children, servants, and companion animals lived a communal life with its own set of pleasures, pains, and possibilities, often without the blessings or even knowledge of the pater familias. And we know this from the significant literature, by Alberti and others, addressing the anxieties of patriarchs and providing them with ‘instruction’ on how best to govern such potentially unruly households. But it is precisely in the more reclusive corners of that domestic world that we can read the beginnings of today’s ‘posthumanist’ critique of humanism and the posthumanist interest in nonhuman others, recently championed by the likes of Deleuze, Derrida, and others. What I propose in the following readings of Renaissance texts and images is that the European social invention of domestic space, coincident with the development of humanist thought, nonetheless allows for a critique of human-centred ideologies and for re-evaluating the relation of humans to our nonhuman fellow beings in terms of our relative commonalities rather than absolute differences. This book thus charts two different forms of domestication during the early modern period, specifically, the new culture of domesticated animals that issued forth in the modern phenomenon of the ‘pet,’ and the contemporaneous delineation of the home as a uniquely private enclosure, where the pater familias ruled over his own secluded world of domesticated wife, children, servants – and animals. The early modern invention of the pet, I argue, takes place squarely within the simultane-



ous negotiation of modern family relations that have long defined the unequal status of men, women, and the beings who live with them. The emerging, new relations between domesticity and power in the Renaissance drew a wide set of ideological affinities between ‘femininity,’ ‘sexuality,’ and ‘animality’ in ways that continue to frame our understanding of how different personal, social, and species identities are formed and valued today. I begin by looking for paradigms, both traditional and alternative, of domestic relations. As it turns out, the roots of modern domesticity indeed do date from the Italian Renaissance. The development of domestic space, theorized by such humanists as Francesco Barbaro and Leon-Battista Alberti, had a powerful impact on the restriction of women’s expression and freedom to participate in public activities. And scholarship into such Renaissance debates as the Querelle des femmes reveals two sides to contemporary arguments about women and their ‘nature.’ One side would use arguments based either on Aristotelian philosophy or Thomist theology or canon law to deprive women of rights and even of having a soul, while other arguments resisted such classification by contesting these notions through anecdotal examples that would illustrate, in fact, the equality (if not superiority) of women to men. Indeed, while the Querelle des femmes is now understood to have been a major intellectual watershed during the Renaissance, the relationship between animals and humans was subjected to a parallel, albeit much less visibly debated, scrutiny during the same period. What one begins to realize in hindsight is that underlying the proto-zoological concern with the taxonomy and classification of beings, there lurked deep anxieties over what it means to be human, and a concomitant need to rethink the category of the human in face of repeated and significant challenges to the traditional culture of the European Middle Ages. European commercial and military expansionism abroad led to unprecedented contact with new and different cultures (whose diversity of mores urged the rise of relativist thinking) and, internally, to the development of urban elites among the new class of wealthy burghers, called ‘novi’ or new men. While these changes, reflected in the Renaissance ideology of humanist ‘self-fashioning,’ urged ever wider and more inclusive understandings of who was considered fully human, at the same time more restrictive definitions of humanity inevitably cast social and cultural ‘others’ into the subhuman category of animals – the beginnings of modern notions of racism and sexism.


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Likewise, while the Querelle des femmes produced early claims for the rationality and humanity of women, it also registered opposing voices in the form of a systemic misogyny that rejected not only the humanity of women but even put into doubt their having ‘souls.’ The Renaissance discourse on women, thus included both sides of these discussions about what the nature of women might be: whether, for example, they have souls and on what criteria they are judged to have souls or not; what women’s relation to rational thought might be; whether they are too emotional for rational thought to occur, and thereby closer to the animal world by virtue of that emotionality. Hence, the question of women touches on the question of animals to the extent that both are implicated in the general Renaissance discourse on hierarchical differences between men and all others, such as women, animals, and lesser men. Consequently, anxieties about gender and sexuality tend to be expressed – transferentially to borrow a term from psychoanalysis – either through the language and figures of animals and animality or through suspicions about the involvement of animals with humans. For example, on what side of the divide does a human who ‘loves’ her/ his ‘pet’ to excess fall? Is he/she hopelessly anthropocentric or does he/she indeed cross the line into a ‘beastly’ relation that disturbs the binary distinction between human and nonhuman? In analysing the overlap between figures of women (and men) and figures of animals, my point is not just to reaffirm certain stereotypical correlations in Renaissance and post-Renaissance culture, between an abjected femininity and animality, but to reassess the relations between culture and domination as they are evidenced through paradigms of representation that apply to all those beings – whether humans of other genders, ethnicities, and sexualities or ‘nonhuman’ creatures – viewed as needing to be ‘domesticated.’ I begin this study of the Renaissance culture of domestication through the optic offered by a specific cultural phenomenon, the lapdog, which is explicitly associated in the art and literature of the period with the world of women. Insofar as this association is vastly overdetermined by its manifestation in a wide variety of contexts, it can help illuminate the complexities of the new relations of domestication ushered in by the Renaissance. While its roots date back to antiquity, the Maltese’s (or Bolognese’s) sudden European-wide popularity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries testifies to the development of a new commercial market in dog breeding (centred in Bologna), including the develop-



ment of new expensive and specialized breeds of dogs, all in the service of the rising pet culture. This burgeoning culture that links women and animals surfaces as a theme in contemporary visual and textual expression, which I explore in chapter 1 in the specific cases of a painter (Titian) and a poet (Ariosto). Humanism is traditionally seen, of course, as beginning much earlier with the figure of Petrarch, often called the very father of humanism. Petrarch’s work in the 1300s laid the foundation for the explosion of thought and art in the Renaissance that celebrated humanity’s central position in the world. Thinkers such as Petrarch moved us positively into a more modern era, where being human also meant achieving distinction in art, literature, and science. It meant that what we do here on earth matters not because there will be a postmortem accounting come Judgment Day (so necessary for medieval thought), but because it is man’s virtuous nature that allows – indeed obligates – him to find creative and material forms of self-expression that in turn glorify the God who created man as well man himself. At least in its incipient forms, Renaissance humanism with its philosophic anthropocentrism, is not in contradiction with an avowed theocentrism. Whether other creatures, neither God nor man, lie in this celebratory arrangement is, again, the subject of this book. Interestingly, Petrarch himself gives us an interesting opening with one of his lesser known and rarely studied Epistola metricae that is written in praise of a dog. A careful reading of this letter provides the basis of my second chapter. Petrarch’s letter to his benefactor, Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, goes beyond being a descriptive inventory of the poet’s interaction with the dog the good cardinal gave him as a gift to become an eloquent exploration of otherness and political marginalization (including the poet’s own experience of these) through the voice of an animal passed from household to household. Elsewhere known for propounding human dignity, Petrarch here evinces a surprising sensitivity to the natural world and to the transitional status of the domesticated animal (between nature and culture, humanity and the wild, household space and social world, etc.). Chapter 3 examines a revelatory but little-studied text on animal husbandry (horsemanship in particular) by Leon Battista Alberti, better known as the hugely influential author of the fifteenth-century Libri di famiglia. I propose that the patriarchal theory of family relations espoused by Alberti should be read side-by-side with his equestrian writings. Such a comprehensive approach to what Alberti adumbrates as an ‘art’ of domination can then be seen to have manifold influences


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in what to us today may appear to be the very different realms of political administration, family relations, child psychology, and animal husbandry. And while I among many others have often insisted on reading and evaluating the importance of non-canonical texts written by women during the Renaissance, I also believe we are not yet done with the deconstruction of canonical works by male authors such as Alberti, whose works continue to provide much of the unexamined assumptions behind research in fields such as those mentioned above. Chapter 4 further elaborates the parallels between the husbanding of women and of animals through a consideration of the Renaissance ‘science’ of physiognomy as developed in particular by Giovan Battista della Porta. The attempt to systematize the art of interpreting the soul of a person by correctly decoding that individual’s facial appearance relied heavily on the association of human physical features with those of various animals. The reputed demeanour of these animals was then correlated with the equivalent facial characteristics in a human being to reveal that individual’s true nature. Entire categories of humanity were then dehumanized, while beasts were deprived even of having souls by early rationalist thinkers. The legacy of this ‘science’ is thus the ideological cross-designation of social, sexual, and ethnic identity with animality. As an alternative to these glimpses of Renaissance hyper-masculinity, chapter 5 focuses on Leonardo da Vinci, whose reputed homosexuality or asexuality (depending on the interpreters one consults) will be considered in relation to his avowed abstinence from eating flesh, his fascination with animal physiology (especially the flight of birds), and the maternal imaginary that plays so strong a role in his paintings as well as in his scientific investigations. The limits and possibilities of Sigmund Freud’s famous ‘analysis’ of Leonardo also point to the continued life of Renaissance ideas well into the modern period, as well as the specific way the Renaissance continues to frame our thinking today about gender and the animal world. My final chapter then takes a look at what initially seems to be a very different tradition from that of ladies and lapdogs, namely, that of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and her hounds. The Renaissance fascination with the myth of Actaeon, slain by his dogs after a glimpse of the goddess, and the celebration of the virgin huntress in portraiture, while giving women a certain due and at least the possibility of appropriating for themselves the hitherto male world of the hunt, may also signify a narrowing of the field of interests covered by the ancient cult of Diana (the protection and cultivation of women’s bodies, of the young, and of



animals) as it continued subterraneously to be practised in early modern Europe, even while its vestiges served to fill out the contemporary picture of what constitutes witchcraft. Efforts to establish in defiance of patriarchal norms an alternative public space for the privatized worlds of women and animals were in the period of our study swiftly put to an end, as testified by the mass execution of witches and their so-called ‘familiars’ (that is, their companion animals). We might also think about the brilliant women poets of Renaissance Italy, who so often challenged the status quo that would have men as the sole proprietors of artistic expression, but whose challenge until recently remained obscure and buried in the rubble of archives. In today’s posthumanist discourses, feminism has been crucial in dismantling the prejudices found in humanist discourse since Petrarch himself. Feminists have challenged the underpinnings of humanist thought, which too often equated the human with maleness. After all, humanism is constructed on the rejection and abjection of others who do not fall exclusively under the categories of western European man. These ‘others’ can and have included women, non-elite males (peasants, freed slaves, foreigners), animals, and children. Recent posthumanist critiques have increasingly revealed the category of the human to be quite fragile, however, and most certainly not fixed or absolut. And as the early modernist cultural historian Erica Fudge has so eloquently argued: ‘Theories of the human relentlessly produce animals, people and conditions as not human. A central category in the early modern period, the ‘Human’ nevertheless has no sharp or evident frontier and is for its existence in constant need of contrasting borderfigures, partly human or, rather, intermittently human and inhuman according to their context.’7 And yet, even such a postmodern and posthumanist description of the human as constituted by flexible and unsteady parameters cannot help but recall in turn Pico della Mirandola’s famous oration ‘On the Dignity of Man,’ where he describes human nature as being like a chameleon whose shape and colour are modified according to its context or environment. Obviously, this metaphor, itself derived from a classic text of the Italian Renaissance, already implies what our posthumanist and contemporary scholars are saying, namely, that the boundaries of the human are ever changing and not rigid, and thus are difficult to codify. That an animal metaphor, that of the chameleon, is invoked to make this point is even more apropos. Such points of intersection between early modern humanism and today’s posthumanism may be more common than we care to think. One outcome I hope to see emerge


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out of this study is an appreciation for the striking breadth and capaciousness of the way the question of the human is addressed in Italian Renaissance thought, art, and literature. In particular, the representation of animals in the Italian Renaissance provides a unique access point from which to view that breadth of opinion. There are places which show how negative and terrible the category of the human can seem if, as in the case of Della Porta, humans and animals are juxtaposed in order to catalogue superior and inferior humans according to which animals they (in his imaginary!) look like. The moral nature of the individual is thus assessed in a way that fosters the development of modern racist and sexist views of human beings while asserting human superiority over all other creatures. Anthropocentric humanism readily allies itself here with the worst forms of ethnocentrism, nationalism, racism, and sexism. Still, other cases we will visit, from Da Vinci to Titian’s La Bella, tell a different story, one of commonality with the nonhuman, where all those ‘othered’ bodies come closer, thus creating a viable space for rethinking the category of the human and the nonhuman. Once again, I believe, it is indeed within the Italian Renaissance that we see the earliest challenges to the rigid binarism between human and animal that same period proposed. At the same time that we see the centrality of the human affirmed, that same centrality is also destabilized by the gestures and works of humanism’s others: women, artists, and their pets. In the same way that early humanism, as I’ve argued, co-presents sexism and misogyny, racism and egalitarianism, we find both opponents and proponents of the animal world. Finally, the juxtaposition of Renaissance and contemporary thought shows the often subtle but decisive way concepts and topoi from the Renaissance continue to be worked and reworked even in the most modern (or postmodern!) of texts. My general aim in this is not to assert the claims of antiquarianism, but rather to show the continuing relevance of material from older historical periods and thus the value of historical study if we are to come to a genuinely critical understanding of what seems to us most contemporary. In this sense, the current book specifically hopes to elucidate the historical and ideological roots of different forms of domestication, to examine how gender relations and sexual norms have been constructed at the interstices of domesticity and power in ways that show how we all continue to live under the long shadow of the Italian Renaissance.

1 ‘Jewels of Women’: Ladies, Laps, and Lapdogs in Renaissance Culture

One of the West’s canonical images of ‘feminine beauty,’ Titian’s Venus of Urbino also gives us a window-like glimpse into the Renaissance demarcation of domestic space (figure 1). Starkly available to the male gaze, ‘la bella’ points out her genitals with her left hand while holding a bouquet of flowers with her right, metaphorically signifying what the other hand does metonymically. The prize possession of some pater familias, her only accoutrements (and art historians never seem to tire of harping on the fact that the Venus of Urbino is not nude like the Sleeping Venus of Giorgione that Titian imitated) are a ring, a bracelet, and earrings – clasps of rare metals whose encircling of body parts (a finger, an arm, an ear) signify the durability of her link with a male other. That other is not seen, of course, but is the gaze itself to whose point of view everything here is displayed and revealed at the same time that she is ready to be taken hold of and enjoyed by the absent beholder. La Bella is not alone, though, in this representation of private, patriarchal space. In the background are two servants – an older woman and a young girl – whose faces are turned away from the patriarchal gaze as they search through a chest, presumably selecting the clothes their mistress will later put on. They themselves are the possessions of the possession that their mistress also is, and therefore are able to be screened out by the thick, green curtain that serves as the left-hand side of the painting’s backdrop and that could easily be pulled around the bed to ensure the privacy of the master’s pleasure in conjugal relations. At the limit of this division internal to the space of the patriarchal home we find another being, another possession whose being would seem to signify possession itself, namely, the small ‘toy’ dog sleeping near its mistress’s feet. Yet the dog’s positioning, right along the inside


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Image Not Available

1 Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)

edge of the division between bed and room suggests another reading and a potential reversal of the patriarchal vision of domestic bliss we seem to have followed up until this point. For the apparent tranquillity and ‘normalcy’ of this scene will most surely be disrupted if the beholder/master of the house should make a move onto the bed, awakening the little creature, either to aggressive barking or affectionate cuddling and licking. Either way, the pater familias must here share the bed with this diminutive being, of unclear gender but indisputable alterity, or else forcibly evict La Bella’s most intimate companion. The potential for such disruption suggests a reading of the painting not as passive availability to a male gaze but as feminine self-sufficiency in a domestic space that may be enclosed and defined by patriarchal mores, but which also asserts its own independence from and indifference to it. The double gesture of La Bella’s hands could be autoerotic rather than inviting sexual intercourse with the beholder. The other members of this extra-patriarchal community show even less interest. They are either preoccupied with other business, as are the maids, or asleep like the dog. Even the very few adornments of the jewellery can be read differently, if we remember Tarabotta’s defence of women’s

“Jewels of Women”


right to ostentation over and against the rise of sumptuary laws that strictly defined the limits of women’s sartorial behaviour.1 Even the relation between what is revealed or not remains within the woman’s agency as her servants prepare to dress her, and again, as her hand both reveals and conceals her sex. And situated again at the very limit between the two readings and at the very edge of the multiple veilings and unveilings in this painting lies the toy dog. For the dog is the only truly naked creature in this painting (unless, of course, it bears a collar, which in form and function and perhaps even size would not be unlike La Bella’s bracelet), yet this canine ‘nudity’ seems also to be of no erotic consequence. The toy dog, or the family pet, in general, occupies of course a very peculiar zone of social space. Far more embedded in the domestic than other so-called domestic animals, whose husbandry by humans is almost exclusively utilitarian for the purpose of providing food, clothing, or transportation, the very concept of the pet – that most untranslatable of English words – implies its utter uselessness, superfluity, and indolence, a body in short whose only purpose seems to be to provide pleasure – a function again completely consonant with the prescribed role of the toy dog’s mistress in Titian’s painting. The pet’s function is to be there: good pets are those that hang around, give affection when desired, and evince a happy submissiveness and dependency; bad ones run away or get lost, demand unasked-for affection, make too much noise, give off odours, make messes, bite their owners, or otherwise flaunt their independence and lack of submission. The pet’s role would thus seem to be that very same passive availability we first imputed to the Venus of Urbino. Active agency in wife or pet, not to mention in children or servants (those other residents of the domestic private sphere), appears as highly disruptive of the patriarchal order. That risk of disruption, though, points to that other border of the domestic, not between private and public, but between the civilized and the wild (glimpsed through the window at the very rear of Titian’s scene) – the opposition only heightened by the juxtaposition of a potted plant on the sill and the tall tree on the outside). Nothing is closer to nature than that highly constructed and regimented space of the private family, which in the mind of theorists like Alberti or Barbaro appears as a virtual jungle whose bestiary can be located in the physiognomies of Della Porta and others.2 It comes as no surprise, then, that the domestic is where the body reigns supreme, either in terms of what is required for its maintenance, nourishment, and reproduction (the work of servants, cooks, maids … and wives), or, as with the Venus of Urbino and her


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little dog, in terms of the body manifested as such. The dog, moreover, aptly negotiates this zone, in good ethnographic fashion, as the being in whom the prohibition that attempts to contain the body and its functions within the realm of the private is lifted. Dogs are allowed, even encouraged, to urinate, defecate, and fornicate in public, outside the space of the home, not deep within its recesses of closets, cabinets, boudoirs, and so on, that are reserved for the corresponding human bodily functions. Moreover, as Midas Dekkers has recently noted, the male dog’s anatomical inability to hide its penis makes it ‘the most naked of all animals’: ‘Stallions stow away their gear after use, boars put their corkscrews away neatly and bulls have a special withdrawal muscle for the purpose, but human beings walk around with the dog of all creatures, which even without an erection, despite its abundant hair, is the most naked of all animals.’3 Within the domestic enclosure, the dog orchestrates a display of corporeality and sexuality whose very overtness is paradoxically accompanied by an unstated assumption of its social innocuousness. Non–dog lovers may react with disgust or annoyance, but never with the sense of scandal and outrage that the same behaviour would occasion were it performed by a human in a similar situation. And at its limit, the being of the dog points to the wider horizon of its common ancestry with that most feared and mistrusted of predators, the wolf. The denegation by which it is forgotten that the house-dog is nothing more than what one observer has called an ‘infantilized’ wolf (and the product of humankind’s oldest genetic experiment) is most likely the condition of the denegation whereby bodily materiality is displayed without shame.4 The ancestral wolf is perhaps most feared in Western mythology, not because of its corporeality per se but because of its carnality as that which interpellates our own being as bodies passively available to be eaten, as prey. Perhaps that incredible fear of dog bites one encounters even in the most macho of men is nothing more than the terror of an overpowering feminine sexuality. Behind the placid domesticity of Titian’s Venus of Urbino with her little dog lies a wolf in sheep’s clothing – or no clothing – the reversal of Latinity’s founding image of two little boys, Romulus and Remus, suckling at the teats of the she-wolf. Before proceeding further with a psychoanalytic reading of the relation between pet ownership and feminine sexuality, we need to clarify the historical context. While historians of the subject tend to emphasize the universality of animal ownership across all cultures and times (or, less frequently, to limit the phenomenon excessively to the last century

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or two),5 a clear and obviously gendered narrative can be readily constructed in Western society (the very different sets of relations between humans and domesticated animals that obtain in various non-European societies is beyond the scope of this particular study, though these remain of obvious interest and importance for further work in the area). While animals were prominent in all kinds of ways, even as ‘pets,’ in the daily life of ancient Egypt and in Greco-Roman culture, the fall of Rome and the rise of Christendom ushered in an era of unusual suspicion, even persecution, of animals. Cats were accused of witchcraft and Satan worship, anthropophagic wolf packs were said to roam the countryside, and the pagan goddess Hecate (Diana’s nether hypostasis) ruled over the Cynocephali, a dog-headed race of people living somewhere on the confines of the known world. While cats were ritually flung to their deaths from belfries, dogs were kept only for the hunt, which of course was the exclusive prerogative of the feudal nobility, some of whom kept hundreds of dogs in their kennels, in conditions that must have approximated those of livestock more than what we recognize today as those of a companion animal. The fifteenth century saw in stereotypical Renaissance fashion a return to the ancient practice of keeping companion animals, but with a distinct gender split. Large hunting dogs and mastiffs used in war remained the preference of men, especially noblemen. In 1533, some five years before he painted the Venus of Urbino, Titian painted a portrait of the mightiest man in Europe, Charles V (figure 2): a difficult subject given Charles’s unattractive physique and consequent impatience with artists who could not manage a flattering rendering. Titian imitated an already existing portrait of Charles done by Jakob Seisenegger by darkening Seisenegger’s background to make the emperor shine out of the darkness in shades of red and gold, matched by a gigantic hunting dog whose huge golden muzzle parallels the line of Charles’s index finger, which points to the end of his codpiece. The large hound, whose thick black collar is restrained by Charles’s left hand, serves to make the emperor seem larger than his well-known small stature would have suggested. No degree in psychoanalysis is here required to group the portrait’s obviously phallic sense: big dog/big prick/big man. The contrast with the Venus of Urbino could not be more dramatic. To the man’s large hunting dog corresponds the lady’s toy lapdog, the hunting dog’s self-evident utility rejoined by the toy dog’s obvious uselessness. What appears as the self-evidence of this gender difference in dog ownership antedates Titian’s two paintings from the 1530s.


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2 Titian, Charles V, with his dog, 1533 (Prado, Madrid)

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The distinction is already stated as such by Juliana Barnes (Berners?) in her 1486 Boke of Saint Albans, a series of treatises on falconry, hunting, and heraldry. The book’s narrator addresses her son and, in the father’s implicit absence, instructs him in the rules and customs of these traditionally masculine arts. In her chapter on ‘The namys of diverses maner hounds,’ she lists a number of obvious working breeds (‘Grehound … Mastife … Spanyell,’ etc.) ending with ‘smale ladies popis that beere a way the flees.’6 Even earlier miniatures from the fifteenth century depict Christine de Pisan writing in her study with a tiny dog asleep at her feet (figure 3).7 Indeed, the rage of ladies’ lapdogs seems to date from the Quattrocento with the development of various diminutive versions of the hunting breeds (the toy spaniels, the Brussels and Brabantine griffons, and the so-called Italian greyhound), the importation of existing exotic breeds (the Maltese and the Teneriffe – from the recently colonized Canary Islands, so named not because of their songbirds but because of their dogs, cani), and the creation of completely new breeds such as the Bolognese, the Florentine (or Pom), the little Lion dog, the Bichon frise, the Papillon, the King Charles, the Pug, and so on. Bologna emerged early on as a major breeding and trading centre for such dogs, followed by the other classic loci of high Renaissance culture, as evidenced by the very nomenclature of the breeds: Northern Italy, Flanders, the Iberian peninsula, and eventually France and the British Isles. So too, the artists whose paintings portray ladies with lapdogs: Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Mantegna, Veronese, Bosch, Memling, Brueghel, Cranach, Rubens, Canaletto, Velásquez, Goya, Fragonard, Greuze, and so on. In Titian alone we find at least a dozen such paintings, from portraits of Leonora Gonzaga della Rovere and the daughter of Roberto Strozzi to various unidentified ‘Venuses’ to mythological depictions of Diana and dogs. Although most characteristically associated with the nobility, the lady with the lapdog might also be a wealthy commoner, or even a courtesan. In fact, debates over the mysterious identity of the Venus of Urbino span the entire gamut of Renaissance social hierarchy from the claim that she is a Venetian courtesan or Titian’s mistress, or the mistress of Guidobaldo della Rovere to Leonora Gonzaga, or even Isabella d’Este.8 When it comes to the depiction of women with dogs, class difference seems to cede to gender identity. To the class variability of this gendered scheme we should add the apparent exchangeability of those other beings located with women in the domestic, private space of the home. One series of five Venuses


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3 Christine de Pisan writing at her desk, ca. 1410–15 (British Library, London)

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painted by Titian varies the same pose by substituting various small dogs, infants, birds, and musicians as if these accessories to the central nude were as indifferent as her jewellery, at the same time that the series collectively locates all of these together within the same domestic orbit. The transformability of the entities in this world of its own, defined, contained, and surveyed perhaps by the pater familias, yet at once separate from and possibly independent of him, is brought into view by an episode in Orlando furioso, by an author who in another work writes a satire by way of advice to Annibale Malegucio on marriage and how to manage a wife, suggesting that the domestication of a wife should be analogous to the way one treats some animals, especially dogs, who are much more human-like: Meglio con la man dolce si raffrena che con forza il cavallo, e meglio i cani le lusinghe fan tuoi che la catena Questi animal, che son molto pió umani coregger non si dén sempre con sdegno né, al mio parer, mai con menar di mani. [Better to restrain the horse with a soft hand than with force, and even more so with dogs is it better to use your bait than the chain. These animals, which are much more human, one should never correct with disdain, nor, to my mind, ever strike with the hand.]9

Or as Alberti says in Il cavallo vivo, when speaking about the proper care of horses, a horse should be treated in the same manner as a slave, with firmness and kindness under the benevolent ‘eye of the father’ (occhio del padre), which implies that the eye of the father is always present even in its apparent absence.10 All entities under that eye require the same paternalistic treatment of firm guidance, be they wives, children, slaves, or beasts. Cantos 42 and 43 of Aristo’s Orlando furioso, as I have argued elsewhere, stage a series of thinly veiled scenarios of male anxiety about femininity. Femininity appears in the guise of various snakelike and obviously phallic monsters who threaten Rinaldo in his journey.11 The specific fear that is brought forth in this sequence is that of women’s infidelity to men, a fear that is most cynically expressed in a story about a magic cup that will reveal a wife’s (mis)conduct to him. The lesson that it is better not to know the truth of women is underscored by the fact that every single man who drinks from the cup, no matter how


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assured he thinks he is of his wife’s faithfulness, discovers that security to be an illusion. Finally, a boatman tells Rinaldo a story that reads like an explicit rendering of the implicit patriarchal crisis we found in our reading of Titian’s painting. It is as we are told, ‘the tale of Adonio the Mantuan, who presented a judge’s wife with the choice gift of a dog,’ and of the surprising consequences of that gift. Adonio, who had spent all his fortune trying to gain the attentions of Argia, the ‘beautiful, virtuous’ wife of a jealous judge, became dejected not only at the loss of his wealth but also because he had been unsuccessful in procuring her attentions. In his emotional and financial distress, he decides to leave town and comes upon a strange scene on the outskirts of Mantua, along a lakefront backing up to the city wall: a peasant with a stick is trying to kill a snake, a situation that recalls an earlier episode in the canto where a shepherd seeks to kill a deadly serpent (whose feminine characteristics place it within the series of phallic monsters). But here, the story is reversed. This time it is a peasant who ‘veduto avea una serpe molto antica / di che piu lunga e grossa a giorni suoi non vide, ne credea mai veder poi’ [had seen a very old snake, the like of which for length and girth he had not seen in all his days, nor ever expected to see again].12 This peasant ‘con un gran baston’ [with a large stick] (43.78.1) would not be satisfied until he had found the snake and killed it. Adonio, we discover, is partial to snakes ‘sempre solea le serpe favorire’ (43.79.5) because his ancestors were said to come from the disseminated teeth of a serpent, ‘che per insegna il sangue suo le porta / in memoria ch’usci sua prima gente/ de denti seminati di serpente’ [for he always championed snakes: the family emblem was a serpent, to commemorate the serpent’s teeth, sown in the ground, from which his forbears had issued] (43.79.6–8). The ‘denti seminati’ can be here understood as a beneficent wound in the form of a serpent’s bite, as the condition of genealogy, of birth, unlike the serpent in the previous canto that mortally wounded the shepherd’s child. This earlier serpent was both deadly and phallic, and was referred to as il serpe, but here, the snake is la serpe. Not only does the dual linguistic gender imply the snake’s ability to represent different genders, it also – in its capacity to condense sexual registers – implies an indecidability within the phallic that wreaks hovoc, as we shall see, with the patriarchal domestic order and its assumed mastery over the phallus. Adonio convinces the peasant not to kill la serpe and the creature is saved. But snakes, as we have seen, have a powerful transformative potential, and la serpe here is indeed generative of all kinds of transformations.

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In the meantime, Argia’s husband, the judge Anselmo, had to leave her to go on an important trip to Rome. The judge, full of worry that she might not be faithful to him, attempts to convince her that the most important asset she possesses is her chastity – thus her virtue, which is easily translated into his honour. Argia grieves at their separation and promises that she will remain faithful. Still, Anselmo is worried by an astrologer’s prediction that Argia will indeed be unfaithful – the very premise as we have said of the stories in this canto – ‘the moment he set foot out of doors.’ Most distressing to the judge is that Argia would be seduced by ‘neither beauty nor entreaties’ but by ‘greed for gain’: ‘The worst element of the oppressive misery afflicting him was the realization that even her chastity has its price.’ In other words, the moral construct of virtue and chastity, which would seem to serve the ideological needs of a patriarchy seeking to contain women within the private, domestic enclosure, turns out to be but a vain illusion that patriarchy serves up to itself. The way to a woman’s heart, Ariosto’s text proclaims, is via her pocketbook. Yet, we have already seen Adonio ruin himself financially to no avail trying to woo Argia’s heart. Equally doomed is Anselmo’s frantic parallel attempt to ensure his wife’s fidelity by leaving her all the riches and jewels she could possibly desire and by telling her that she may do whatever she wishes with this fortune: ‘Squander it, lavish it, give it away, sell it.’ The only thing he requests of her is that she preserve herself for him, that she remain unchanged, ‘exactly as you now are,’ suggesting that her virtue must remain as hard as a jewel itself. Indeed, her virtue is his fortune, to the extent that her reputation underwrites his honour, the key signifier of his public persona. Thus is the patriarch dependent on the stability of his home, and those he keeps within it. Coincident with Anselmo’s departure, Adonio returns to Mantua and happens to pass by the same spot where he had earlier saved the serpent, and finds there the sorceress Manto, who says she is ‘deeply in [his] debt.’ Not only are Manto and Adonio related, and related through the sign of the serpent, but she – who, like many sorceresses, turns into a snake every seventh day – was in that transformed state the snake he had saved (43.98.7–8). La serpe turns out to be a feminine phallic power, able to assume any likeness and adept at negotiating both sexual and economic exchange. In recompense for Adonio’s kindness, Manto offers to help him acquire untold riches (‘I shall make you three times as rich as you were from your paternal inheritance, and I shall see that you are never poor again: the more you spend, the greater your wealth shall grow’) and


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the pleasure of Argia’s embraces. Manto disguises Adonio as a pilgrim, and transforms herself into a dog, recognizable as a Maltese: ‘mutossi ella in un cane, il pió piccino / di quanti mai n’abbia Natura fatti / di pel lungo, pió bianco ch’armellino / di grato aspetto e di mirabili atti’ [Herself she changed into a dog, the smallest in creation, with long hair, whiter than ermine – a dog pleasing to behold and remarkable for its abilities] (43.106.3–6). Accompanying Adonio to the home of his beloved, the dog begins to perform wondrous feats. With the dog by his side, Adonio begins to impress members of Argia’s household, first the ‘labourers,’ then Argia’s nursemaid: ‘sonar certe sue canne / al cui suono danzando il can rizzose’ [in obedience to his commands, the dog began performing dances] (43.107.3–4). (Although the text says the dog ‘carrie[s] out his master’s instructions so attentively, just as a human would,’ remember that the dog is Manto, in disguise, who has previously instructed Adonio exactly ‘how to dress, precisely what to say,’ and so on; as we shall see, later events will nuance this question of Adonio’s so-called mastery). Finally, it is the turn of ‘the lady of the house’: ‘The charming little dog provoked Argia’s amazement, then her cupidity.’ Note that it is Argia’s desire for the dog as ‘provoked’ by the disguised sorceress that is crucial to the story’s pivotal event, her purchase of the dog from Adonio in return for granting him sexual favours. At first, Argia sends her nursemaid with an offer of ‘a not inconsiderable sum’ to buy the dog from Adonio, who responds in vintage misogynist style: ‘If I were given more money than was required to satisfy even a woman’s greed, … it would not pay for one foot of my dog.’ It is worth remembering here that Adonio earlier went broke lavishing a fortune on an unresponsive Argia, and that Anselmo’s equally profligate bestowal of treasures on her will not prevent her being tempted by the offer of the dog. But then the dog is not just a fixed amount of wealth, but very precisely a means of production of wealth, since one of its ‘marvellous’ features is its shedding of money, jewels, and luxury goods: ‘sometimes it shakes out pearls, other times rings, or the finest, most costly garments.’ The dog is literally priceless, since it is productive of wealth: it is said by Adonio to have both ‘beauty and utility.’ With the urging of her nursemaid, Argia recognizes the inestimable value of the dog, precisely as a capitalist instrument of investment and accumulation and not in mercantilist terms as a fixed value to be hoarded. While ‘at first reluctant, partly because she did not wish to be unfaithful, and partly because she was not convinced of all the claims made for the dog,’ Argia finally lets herself be persuaded, in good part

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by ‘the encouragement of her shameless nurse,’ and in particular by the nurse’s insistence that ‘it would cost her nothing to part with the price of its purchase,’ namely, to let Adonio join her one night in bed: ‘ch’ella accettï il bel cane, e per mercede / in braccio e in preda al suo amator si diede’ [she accepted the dog and in payment abandoned herself into her lover’s arms] (43.115.7–8). From the point of view that is ultimately Argia’s own, the values involved in this ‘exchange’ are highly subjective. For her, the charming producer of values that is the dog is well worth a momentary lapse of marital fidelity, while that same lapse is of incomparable good value to Adonio and incomparably bad to Anselmo. The non-equivalence of Argia’s desire with that of the two men becomes evident in stanza 116, which begins by stating the satisfaction of Adonio’s desire (expressed stereotypically as the devouring of fruit), but ends up underscoring an alternative relationship: Adonio lungamente frutto colse de la sua bella donna, a cui la fata grande amor pose, e tanto le ne volse, che sempre star con lei si fu ubligata. [Adonio long culled the fruits of his beautiful lady; the sorceress endowed her with a rich love, and Argia, in her turn so loved her that she would never be parted from her.]

The result of the night between Adonio and Argia is not their union but that of Argia with the little dog, who, let us not forget, is also Manto the sorceress. And here is where the consequences of Ariosto’s tale become fascinating, and something very different from a seduction story whereby the weaknesses of a woman for riches and cute, fuzzy creatures are exploited to male advantage. Rather, what is dramatized in contrast to the heterosexist paradigm that treats wives as the unreliable property of husbands is the spectre of a truly polymorphous and multiply oriented sexuality between those denizens of the domestic. What are we really to make of the love between Argia and Manto, the woman who is sometimes a lapdog and sometimes a snake? Is this a lesbianism disguised as magic or bestiality, or both? Do all non-heterosexist relations appear as equivalent and exchangeable from the heterosexist view that defines them all as ‘perverse’? Later, Manto will save Argia’s life then build her a sumptuous home, far more luxurious than what either Adonio or Anselmo could ever offer. And what about the thematization of these ‘perverse’ relations in terms of economic good fortune?


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Some attention to the story’s end might help answer these questions. Anselmo returns home to find his worst fears justified, the news of Argia’s infidelity striking him with the phallic violence of ‘a lance- or dagger-thrust,’ thus relocating the pater familias as a penetrated victim. His clumsy attempt to seek vengeance by sending a henchman to slit Argia’s throat is easily thwarted by Manto in her identity as lapdog. In the aftermath, the symbolically castrated Anselmo fears two things: first, that these events would become ‘public knowledge’; and second, that Argia would end up in the ‘keeping of some powerful lord, to his own disgrace and humiliation,’ or worse, would ‘even fall into the hands of a man who would prove to be both adulterer and procurer.’ Patriarchal fear is thus limited to the areas of public perception and competition with other patriarchs, whose women are held in their keep either as pleasurable adornments or as profitable commodities. That which constitutes Argia’s real infidelity is, however, really, radically ‘other’ to this schema and utterly escapes Anselmo’s possibilities of reasoning, until he stumbles across Argia’s magnificent new palace, built by Manto, and is confronted at the gate by an Ethiopian, who makes ‘the same request to the judge that Adonio had made to his wife.’ If lesbianism masquerades in this text as magic bestiality, gayness is cloaked in racist stereotypes that conjoin homosexual desire with blackness, ugliness, monstrosity, and dirtiness. The sodomical ‘Moor’ is compared to Aesop’s proverbial ugliness, and is viewed by Anselmo as ‘bestial and mad’ in his desire for the judge’s body. But even Anselmo cannot resist and finally succumbs to the Ethiopian’s desire, at which point Argia jumps out and seizes upon Anselmo’s ‘speechlessness’ and ‘shame’ to restore their marriage by proposing they ‘pardon’ each other’s ‘errors.’ The story thus rather artificially and unconvincingly re-contains the polydirectional sexualities of the domestic by renewing the heterosexist pact: ‘So they reverted to peace and harmony and cherished each other ever after.’ On the other hand, the narrative can be read as dramatizing precisely the patriarchal fear of bodies and sexualities that pact is supposed to contain and repress, that is, the very representation of those fears must necessarily pay homage to what is repressed. Ironically, the patriarch’s heterosexual imperative requires that he confront the alternatives of heterosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, and so on. One reading of the story’s lesson might accordingly be the discovery of alternative sexualities as the repressed precondition to heterosexism. On the other hand, whatever all those alternatives might be, their

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metaphorical appearance as equivalents under a general rubric of perversity pays tribute to the heterosexist position. The Ethiopian, for instance, may be no more than the final transformation of Manto, after her earlier appearances as a snake and a dog – the final chink in a metaphorical series which again reminds us of that peculiar proximity between the domestic and the exotic or the savage. The innermost, closed, and privatized space of the home opens onto that most external world of colonies in the making, enabling those long-standing and pernicious categories of the European imaginary that conflate so-called perversity with the identities of subalterned genders, races, ethnicities, and species. But if the domestic is also the place of potent sexualities, then patriarchal anxiety is the principal driving force behind its enclosure. Concomitantly, everything within that sphere becomes saturated with sexuality. Infants become Cupids (Amoretti) and lapdogs live up to both senses of the prefix, if we read contemporary natural historians who find a function quite different than Juliana Barnes whimsical remarks about their ‘sweeping away fleas.’ One passage in particular was widely circulated and reprinted. First written by Johannes Caius (but not published in his name until his 1570 De canibus Britannicus) for inclusion by Conrad Gesner in the first volume of his Historiae animalium (1551), it was freely translated from Latin into English by Abraham Fleming in 1578, and repeated by William Harrison in 1588, before appearing in Edward Topsell’s authoritative if abridged translation of Gesner, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607). The passage reads as follows: These dogs are little, prety, proper and fine, and sought for to satisfie the delicateness of dainty dames and wanton womens wils, instruments of folly for them to play and dally withal, to trifle away the treasure of time, to withdraw their mindes from more commendable exercises, and to content their corrupted concupiscences with vain disport (a silly shift to shun irksome idleness). These puppies the smaller they be, the more pleasure they provoke, as more meete playfellowes for mincing mistrisses to beare in their bosomes, to keep company withal in their Chambers, to succour with sleep in bed, and nourish with meat at bord, to lay in their laps, and lick their lips as they ride in their Waggons: and good reason it should be so, for coursenesse with finenesse hath no fellowship, but featness with neatness hath neighbourhood enough. That plausible proverb verified upon a Tyrant, namely, that he loved his Sow better than his Son, may well be applyed to these kind of people, who delight more in Dogs that


Beasts and Beauties are deprived of all possibility of reason, then they do in children that be capeable of wisdom and judgement. But this abuse peradventure reigneth where there hath been long lack of issue, or else where barrenness is the best blossom of beauty.’13

Beyond its salacious undertones and innuendo, this often repeated passage obsessively states the anxiety that women who prefer lapdogs are also derelict in relations to marriage and maternity. That toy dogs might also be sex toys or willing partners in reputed acts of oral gratification reinforces the patriarchal fear implicit in the Venus of Urbino, namely, that the observant father is in fact not at all necessary to the world of domestic sexuality, that he is the truly superfluous one, not the Venus and pup ostensibly displaying their idleness and lack of utility. Not surprisingly, these toy dogs came to be linked not only with courtly and affluent women of high social standing, but also with women of ill repute, as shown by countless portraits of courtesans naked save for their toy Spaniel or Bolognese, or Memling’s similar allegorical depiction of Vanity as a nude woman accompanied by mirror and Maltese. This gendered consistency but class inconsistency appears in Vittore Carpaccio’s painting Due dame veneziane (figure 4), which depicts two Venetian ladies sitting among a variety of animals, including both a large (hunting) and small (lap) dog, as well as exotic birds. Traditionally thought to be a depiction of courtesans, this painting is now usually deemed a portrait of well-to-do Venetian ladies awaiting the return of their husbands from a fishing trip. Adding complexity is the scene’s location not in some recessed private chamber but in that unique ‘borderland’ of Venetian domestic space, the balcony, which although physically a part of the domestic space theatrically opens the intimacy of the home onto the public sphere. A similar borderland can be found in the early modern Italian Wunderkammer, such as that of Francesco Imperato’s collection.14 These Wunderkammern were private rooms in a home made public to other men. One of the attributes of the dog, as we have stressed, is this animal’s symbolic ability precisely to transition between private and public, nature and culture, the men’s world of the hunt and the women’s sphere of the hearth. Indeed, if anything it is the canine species’ extraordinary manipulation through selective breeding (from diminutive to giant in size, no hair to impossibly long, functional working abilities to pure fetish) that has enabled the dog to cross all these thresholds of human difference. Of course, that ease of crossing boundaries also leads to great sus-

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4 Vittore Carpaccio, Due dame veneziane, ca. 1490 (Museo Correr, Venice)



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picion, especially where gender lines are concerned. Topsell translates Gesner citing ‘Stobaeus [who] in his wicked discourse or dispraise of Women affirmeth, that the curst, sharp, smart, curious, dainty, clamorous, implacable and wanton-eyed Women, were derived from Dogs’ (1: 114). These are, one supposes, the same ‘wanton women’ who are later said to ‘admit [little dogs] to their beds, and bring up their young ones in their own bosomes’ (1: 128). This last bit of information suggests a further dimension to the wild sexuality of the so-called domestic sphere – an economic one – that clues us into why and how that little Ariostian dog could be a producer of wealth. How can lapdogs shed coins and jewels, if not by the high-priced products of their body’s reproductive cycle, namely, pure-bred puppies, which all the sources assure us, were ‘sold very dear’? In light of this we can thus better understand, perhaps, that idiom by which the Maltese ‘were accounted the Jewels of Women’ (Topsell/Gesner 1: 128). Breeding, like prostitution, articulates sexuality with economics in a way that may, at least potentially, escape the sphere of patriarchal regulation. It is the perverse application of the heterosexist restriction of sex to reproduction in a way that also places an unsuspected means of production (the pet body) at the disposal of an otherwise economically dispossessed group. Small wonder that contemporary treatises on dogs should pay special attention to the sexual behaviour and reproduction of dogs (such as Edward Wooton’s highly explicit De differentiis animalium [Paris 1552]). The Roman Michelangelo Blondus (De canibus et venatione, 1544) and the Bolognese Aldrovandus further offered advice, some rather fanciful, on devices and techniques to breed smaller dogs with longer coats, how to stimulate sexual urges in dogs by dietary supplements, how with newborn puppies to ‘twist their noses with the finger to make them seem more elegant to us in appearance.’ The economic imperatives are underscored by the desirability of dogs giving birth to a large litter, ‘in order to make money out of it.’ Thus can coins and jewels literally spring forth from the canine body, effortlessly enriching its owner beyond its own value. But if Maltese dogs are ‘jewels’ for their women, those dogs ‘nourished tenderly for pleasure’ also give rise to ‘the proverb, Melitea Catella, for one nourished for pleasure’ (Topsell, 128). Thus, if the ‘Maltese puppy’ becomes a source and a sign of wealth, it is also a sexual metonym, another kind of ‘jewels’ that underscore the possibility of a symbolic autonomy (and economy) over the set of reproductive practices, whether heterosexist of not, whether human of not. As such, the lapdog represents an overdetermined moment in the

“Jewels of Women”


development of early modern sexualities, a coded signifier for alternative desires in any body ‘nourished for pleasure,’ a locus of various erotic economies, and a sign of the ambiguous politics of domestication, which both relegates the patriarchal subalterns to a confined space and yet also allows for their resistance by the very allotment of such a space. Indeed, what we might call the eroticism of pet ownership is dependent upon the very state of domestication as its condition of possibility. Recent studies of ‘perverse’ relations between humans and animals bear this out, even as the authors of these studies continue to repeat the general scenario established by D. Caius and his compilators. The vast majority of such ‘cases’ are said to be between animals and women, usually well educated and well-to-do. Note the suspicious nature of the psychiatric remarks in the following two examples: ‘Most of the time, the owner of the animal in question, when she is taken aside and interrogated with this intent, acknowledges her having had with it, for more or less a period of time and more or less frequently, sexual relations of one type or another’;15 ‘The mistress alleges – and of course here one has to keep an open mind – that the dog forces its attentions on her, gets erections and even emissions when playing with her, and may indeed participate in some form of sexual activity – mainly licking of the mistresses’ genitalia.’16 The ‘interrogative’ methods implied here as well as the subsequent question of applying a ‘cure’ give one pause, especially given the numerous concessives used by these doctors, the telltale sign of how shaky their ‘insights’ into the question really are. But if the domestic ironically carves out a space of erotic and exotic possibilities, whatever happens between pets and owners points to the converse of what Carla Freccero, in ‘The Pleasure of History,’ refers to as ‘those others understood by dominant ideologies to be excessively fond of the pleasures of sameness.’17 Might we not also speak of others who are ‘excessively fond of the pleasures’ of difference?

2 Portrait of the Poet as a Dog: Petrarch’s Epistola metrica III, 5

Francesco Petrarca’s Epistolae metricae count among the least recognized and studied portions of his vast and supremely influential opus. When mentioned at all, they are relegated to the realm of the purely circumstantial – impressive examples of the great poet’s virtuosic mastery of Latin rhetoric in both its verse and prose forms, but ultimately of primarily biographical and documentary interest. Letter III, 5 addressed, as are so many of the metrical epistles, to Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, is typically descriptive of the ‘simple’ life the poet leads far away from the bustle of Avignon’s papal court in the tranquillity of his deeply beloved Vaucluse, where he enjoys a serenity and solitude broken only by the antics of a special dog.1 This fifth epistle of the third book of letters thus has the added merit of highlighting one of the manifold other sides of the poet that tend to disappear from view before the celebrated rime that express his enduring love for Laura. Instead, the verse letter offers a window onto the early humanist understanding of the animal world and, in particular, the privileged position of the domestic dog as a transitional figure right on the border between human culture and that other world later writers would describe as ‘nature.’2 The letter begins with the commonplace that time reduces or diminishes things (‘cunta dies minuit’ [1]) with the notable exception of those items the letter’s addressee, Cardinal Colonna, has bestowed as gifts upon the poet. These gifts actually contradict the commonplace by becoming greater with time and better with use (‘tua munera crescunt atque usus meliora facit’ [1–2]). More specifically, this gift whose remarkable negative entropy eloquently refutes the thesis of tempus fugit or minuit is a dog Colonna gave Petrarch upon the latter’s taking leave of the good cardinal (probably at his residence in Avignon, where

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 33

he served the pope in an official capacity) and returning to his beloved Vaucluse, probably sometime in 1345–6 and certainly well before the fall of 1347, when he abruptly left Vaucluse in the hopes of rejoining the Rome of the insurrection led by Cola de Rienzo.3 The verse letter describing the gift of the dog is thus usually considered to have been written some time in 1347. But it is the dog’s behaviour in the company of the reclusive poet that merits his attention and awe. For he is a dog with a regal background, brought to the cardinal from ‘western shores,’ reared in the Spanish court, and used to royal palaces and meals (‘regius aule assuetus menseque canis’ [2–3]) as well as taking ‘proud’ naps on crimson couches (‘somnosque superbos purpureis captare toris’ [3–4]). One readily visualizes him, as Wilkins does, as one of the large, white breed of royal hunting dogs kept and enjoyed by the French as well as Spanish kings. Yet, once in the company of Petrarch and his rustic ‘Romulian’ abode, the dog clearly prefers the tranquillity and simplicity of his new life and quickly forgets the ways of his fathers and their Spanish abodes (‘patrios mores hispanaque raptim limina romuleis opibus somnusque cibumque posthabuit, sotremque novam melioraque cernens omnia’ [5–8]). After this introduction, the letter proceeds to detail in prolific and specific ways how the dog appreciates the new life he shares with Petrarch in the Vaucluse. As such, the letter turns into an eloquent and elegant reworking of the classic Horatian and Virgilian theme of the superiority of rural over urban culture. Behind the lengthy description of the pleasure the dog takes in his newly found country existence is nothing less than an implicit description and not so implicit defence of Petrarch’s own reclusion and decision to eschew the glamour of court life for the pastoral solitude of his country home. Metaphorical links between pet and poet are established via a long litany of shared ‘likes,’ punctuated in the Latin text by the temporally contrastive marker, iam (repeated no fewer than six times between lines 15 and 24 alone), which further underscore the dog’s contentedness in his new life with Petrarch, which is also a return to a life that is more proper or true to both of them: Iam prata iuvant, iam lucida tranans flumina mordet aquas luditque in gurgite puro; fercula iam sibi nostra placent et libera curis otia; deserti non ampla palatia regis


Beasts and Beauties anterferat variasque dapes, nam panis et unda sufficiunt ac parva domus. (15–20) [Now he likes to roam the fields; Now swimming the clear streams he bites the water And plays in the pure pools. He like our food, Our life of leisure and freedom from cares, No more does he regret the ample halls And the varied dainties of his former lord: For bread and water and this small house Suffice for him.]

Note the increased commonality signalled by the use of the first-person plural, nostra, as we see the dog move from the physical freedom of being able to run in the fields as he pleases and swim in wild streams to a shared appreciation with the poet of a simple, pure diet (bread and water), a small house (‘parva domus’), and, most importantly, the life of leisure and freedom from cares (‘libera curis / otia’). The further benefits of cleanliness, good health, strength, and renewed pride in self associated with life away from the city are then detailed by the dog’s now glistening and mange-free coat as well as his holding his head higher and sporting a stronger, more forward demeanour: Iam membra refulgent lota feri, cecidit scabies in fonte salubri torpenti contracta situ, iam vertice toto altior it solito cervixque torosior exstat. (ll. 20–3) [Now, the beast’s limbs, cleansed in the water, Are shining anew, and the mange contracted Amid the torpid inertia (of the city) Has all fallen away in the healing pool. He carries his head higher now than he did before, And his neck is brawnier.]

The dog is also seen to take increased pride and enjoyment in wearing his collar and insignia, including a ‘belt’ bearing cardinal Colonna’s coat of arms: ‘iamque tumet phaleris, iam visa minilia mulcent / amplaque zona rubens niveisque intexta columnis’ (24–5). And, in a clear case of anthropomorphic projection, the new-found pleasure in bearing Colonna’s coat of arms ‘reminds’ the dog of his former master and accordingly of his own higher status, making him ‘grow proud

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 35

and ready to defy the multitudes (of lesser folk)’: ‘seque fuisse tuum recolens secum ipse superbit / multa minax’ (26–7). And at this point, the dog is transformed from being a metaphor of Petrarch’s reclusive primitivism into an agent protective of the poet’s vaunted solitude and freedom associated with that life, for this canine companion puts to flight any and all intruders, from the importunate plebeians to that very representative of the pastoral life, the shepherd along with his entire flock, which he forces to flee far away: Fugit nostro de gramine pastor seque suumque gregem procul abdidit; atria custos formidatus habet; plebs importuna procacxque hactenus obsessum metuit contingere limen. (27–30) [The shepherd flees our turf And betakes himself and his flock far away; before the house He keeps a formidable watch: the importunate and impudent plebeians that formerly would beset themselves upon us now fear to come near our threshold.]

These lines thus introduce the next major section of the letter, roughly thirty-five lines, which richly describe the dog as both the companion and protector of the poet in his rustic solitude, and thereby as the very guarantor of his freedom: ‘Liber ago; meus assertor michi scilicet unus / est, comes assiduus’ (31–2) [I live freely, / since he and he alone is my protector, / And my constant companion (translation modified)]. Companionship bleeds over into caretaking as we learn how the dog watches over the house at night while the poet sleeps, then wakes him in the morning if he sleeps too long, before accompanying him outside to their favourite places (loca nota [39]), all the while keeping his eyes on the poet. When he lies down on the bank of a rustic stream to pick up on his ‘accustomed labours’ (solitis curis [41]), presumably the work of writing, the dog, after circling around and inspecting the locale, plops his big white body down on the green grass, his back to the poet and defensively facing any potential passersby: ‘candida tum viridi proeictus pectora terre / tandem terga michi obvertit, venientibus ora’ (42–3). This is repeated by a second vignette situating dog and poet together in the wild, this time in an even more remote place, amidst ‘cool waters’ and cliffs, a place accessible only to birds (‘locus undique solis / pervius alitibus’ [45–6]). Here, even the poet must watch his step as he enters (‘hac gressu trepidante feror’ [47]), while his companion/guardian bars


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the path, covering the enclosing rock entrance with his massive body: ‘manet ille viamque / occupat et magno tegit arctum corpore saxum’ (47–8). There, he gives a quick bark to announce anyone he spies coming near, and unless held back, rushes upon the intruder: ‘Latratu exiguo conspectos nuntiat ante, / inde ruit, nisi forte vetes’ (49–50). And just as the previous section concluded the description of the dog’s recovery of rustic pleasure with Petrarch by an overt anthropomorphism, occasioned by the dog’s cognition of his bearing the cardinal’s coat of arms, so too does this section now narrow the gap between man and beast, again leading to the reintroduction of the letter’s addressee, Cardinal Colonna. Specifically, the dog’s almost magical ability to distinguish friend from foe, ‘fierce as he may be with the others, so gently does he run up to friends with ears down and tail wagging’ (‘torvus ut adversus reliquos, sic blandus amicis / auribus abiectis tremulaque occurrere cauda’ [53–4]), suggests that he must bear ‘some trace of our intelligence’ (‘sensus vestigia nostri’ [51]). The dog’s vestigial humanity again positions him in or as a border zone, not unlike the one he literally demarcates between the poet and the rest of the world, or more figuratively between culture and nature, or between art and life. Most particularly, and in a section expanding on lines 27–30 earlier on when the dog’s protective behaviour was first introduced, the dog serves as a border between the specific, intrusive inhabitants of the countryside, that is, lowly peasants, and the poet’s lofty and elite communion with the muses: Prospicit hunc medio transversum calle tremiscens rusticus et legum nodos perplexaque iura consiliumque domus inopis, connubia nate me percontari solitus, velut Appius alter Aciliusve forem, et Musas turbare quietas, Nunc secum sua solu agit; michi, maxima vite commoditas, mecum esse licet; que cunta fatebor muneribus debere tuis. (55–62) [Trembling, the peasants see him lying stretched across the path, the peasants who used to come ask me about various knots of the law and intricate points concerning their rights and advice about their impoverished household or daughter’s wedding as if I were another Appius or Acilus, and so disturbed the tranquillity of the Muses. Now, they deal with all this just by themselves;

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 37 leaving me with the greatest commodity of my life, to be left to be by myself; all of which I confess I owe to your generosity.]

The dog’s ‘trace’ of human intelligence that protects the poet from bothersome peasant neighbours who seek all manner of practical and legal advice in fact points back to the cardinal, whose gift to Petrarch in the shape of this wonderful dog in fact now repositions the animal as a mere instrument of the cardinal’s generosity, which is thus less about providing companionship than ensuring the poet’s lyrical and self-absorbed productivity. Previously, the dog was seen to carry the cardinal’s insignia; now, he appears a metaphor of the cardinal’s support and protective good will towards the poet. The letter’s third section, lines 62 to 98, again embarks on an elaborate description of the dog’s behaviour before turning once more to the persona of the dog’s donor. First, we are reminded of his being a constant source of amusement by his antics, leaping through hills and streams, ‘imitating by his high-pitched bark the singing of children’ (‘arguta pueros imitatur voce canentes’ [64]), and in general doing everything he can to make one smile (‘et risus motura facit’ [65]). Then, we learn about his more serious and useful skills as a hunter, for he is the constant enemy of the river geese, ‘chasing them along the shoreline and over high rocks’ (‘per litora et altos insequitur scopulos’ [66–7), and disallowing them even the safety of water by diving in and plucking them straight out of the middle of the stream (‘medio nam flumine prensum extrahit’ [68–9]). All this to bring back a sumptuous feast (pingues cenas, 69) to whomever wants or doesn’t want such an offering (nolentibus offert, 69). In fact, the dog ‘often adorns their agrarian banquets with the fruit of his hunts’ (‘sepius atque epulas venatibus ornat agrestes’ [70]. Again, descriptive encomia lead to anthropomorphizing reflection: does the dog kill geese for pleasure or out of a spite of anger (‘sed iocus est aut ira levis’ [71])? Is it because he enjoys preying upon them while he swims, or because he can’t stand their cackling (‘seu grata natanti predes est, seu strepitu offendunt’ [71–2])? The question occurs because he is otherwise ‘milder than a lamb with weaker beings’ (‘nam mitior agno esse solet parvis’ [72–3]). The poet asserts quite forcefully that ‘never would he, believe me, assail a sheep, or a tender kid, or a fleeing she-goat’ (‘Nunquam, michi crede, vel edum / vel fragilem tentabit ovem profugamque capellam’ [73–4]), and even if he comes upon a timid hare, he holds back almost as if in fear himself


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(‘Occursu trepidi leporis quasi territus heret’ [75]). On the other hand, he fears not to go after the largest and fiercest of prey: ‘but he dares to sink his teeth in pregnant sows and powerful young bulls, tugging and biting on their ears’ (‘at fetas laniare sues validoque iuvencos / audet et arreptas convellere morsibus aures’ [77–8]). Just as he had earlier evinced a remarkable ability instantly to distinguish friend from foe in protecting the poet from unwelcome visitors, so now he demonstrates a truly noble distinction between prey that are beneath him and those that are worthy opponents. This distinction, however, is more than a simple ‘vestige’ of human intelligence, but a sign of the dog’s essential, if not inbred, sense of nobility and royal rank. This ‘social consciousness’ is the true indicator of the dog’s valour – and value. And in true humanist fashion, an anecdote from antiquity is adduced to illustrate the dog’s underestimated value. Specifically, the tale is told of a similar dog brought as a gift from afar to Alexander, a dog of royal breeding and contemptuous of plebeian beasts, for whom he would not budge (‘regius idem / et contemptor erat, quem non plebeia moveret/ belua’ [79–81]). Nor would he touch ‘fallow deer or boars or bears, saving his teeth for nobler wounding’ (‘non dammas, non apros ille nec ursos / tangeret, alta suos servans in vunera dentes’ [81–2]). Misunderstanding the nature of the dog and assuming him to be weak and cowardly, the tyrant in his haste puts to death this ‘noble animal that deserved better’ (‘generosum animal meritumque meliora peremit’ [84]). Another dog was sent him, one ‘trained to slay wild lions and to shake the ground bringing down elephants’ (‘alius sevos mactare leones / doctus et everso tellurem elephante subactum / concutere’ [85–7]). Too late the young prince understood the true valour of his other dog and regretted not having offered him prey worthy of him (digno hoste, 89). The obvious lesson is that of the failure to appreciate the talents of those in one’s service, a lesson our poet makes emphatically clear does not apply to him, for the virtue of his dog is well known to him: ‘At michi nota mei virtus’ (90). Petrarch is not Alexander, as the poet both emphasizes his awareness of the dog’s talents and magnanimous nobility and makes a dramatic gesture of possessiveness. Here, the dog is claimed as his, and is not just a sign of his benefactor’s munificence. To complete the picture of his admiring cognition, he sums up the dog’s judicious character by noting that ‘an unweaned puppy could bite him with impunity, but that he would not fear an angry lioness or the ferociousness of a tigress bereft of her young’ (‘impune catellus / mordeat

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 39

hunc lactens, quem non gravis ira leene / terreat orbate nec fervens tigridis ardor’ [90–2]). And it is at this very height of pride and possessiveness that the dog’s link back to the cardinal is suddenly and overtly reintroduced, as the poet describes an incident at the papal palace where the dog engaged in a display of high aggression upon being in the presence of a caged lion. Suddenly shaking the high palace of the Supreme Pontiff with the sounds of his barking (‘Supremi / atria Pontificis subito completa tumultu / movit ubi intonuit’ [93–5]) and ‘bristling his shaggy hairs ‘(villisque rigentibus [95]), the dog rushes the lion’s cage and tries to break into it (laceraret claustra leonis [96]) to the point that he has to be forcibly removed from there (Vix inde abductus [97]), although he continues to show ‘his still unvented wrath in raucous growls and long-continued whining’ (‘magnumque dolorem/ testatus gemitu rauco longisve querelis’ [97–8]). There is a privileged witness to this scene of canine rage against the king of the beasts, namely, the letter’s addressee, Cardinal Colonna himself, whose presence is emphasized by the opening words of the passage describing the incident: ‘You were there, unless I’m mistaken’ (‘Tu presens, nisi fallor, eras’ [93]). While the qualifier, ‘nisi fallor,’ politely mitigates the accusatory implications of the statement by offering the good cardinal the possibility of denying his presence at the scene in question, the rhetorical frame set up by the placement these words at the incipit demonstrably situates the cardinal as the scene’s key observer (whether or not he was ‘really’ there). In other words, he is the person to whom the scene is presented as the culminating example of the dog’s behaviour and true character. As such, it is his judgment that is being called upon here. For it is at this point that Petrarch launches into the conclusion to the letter, whose seven lines suddenly and unexpectedly resituate the entire subject of the discussion and open the text up to a variety of intriguing questions and possibilities. Breaking off the argumentative line regarding the dog’s character, he resorts to the classic apologetic commonplace for writing so much on something so unimportant: ‘Sed multum res parva tenet’ (99). The implication, of course, is that the topic is precisely not as lowly or inconsequential as it is ironically stated to be, for he nonetheless has ‘one more thing’ to say before he can come to a close (‘ut unum / non sileam’ [99–100]). This last one thing to say is not a further statement but a request made to the cardinal, ‘if anyone associated with you has occasion to be here, whether by chance or under your orders’ (‘si forte aliquem videt ille tuorum,


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/ seu casus, seu iussa ferant’ [100–1]). Before stating the nature of the request being made, Petrarch adds a parenthetical remark praising the cardinal’s never ceasing presence in the lives of those belonging to him in some way: ‘because while you are indeed absent you never cease to be present to your own’ (‘quod scilicet absens / semper adesse tuis non desinis’ [101–2]). Reasserting the cardinal’s omnipresent care and concern even for those far away seems strange at this point so late in the letter and coming right after the hypothetical suggestion that perhaps he might have someone connected to him dropping by Vaucluse for some reason or other. Perhaps the cardinal is not as present or attentive as he is claimed to be, an irony already foreshadowed by the ‘nisi fallor’ of his presence at the scene described a few lines above. This shadow of a doubt becomes more pronounced when we learn that the request being made to the cardinal involves the return of his dog, which he gave away to our poet: incipit aulum suspirare tuam, vallesque et rura perosus fortuneque momor veteris. Sors libera detur, maller ad excelsam merito remeare Columnam. (102–5) [He’s beginning to sigh for your palace, he’s had it with valleys and country fields and remembers his former fortune. If his fate were made free, he would prefer to return, quite rightly so to the lofty Column/Colonna.]

This final anthropomorphism, which imputes a highly specific inner world of nostalgia and desire to the dog, again as the letter throughout rhetorically returns the dog to Cardinal Colonna, whose coat of arms is alluded to in the very last word of the text, which is also the name of the addressee: Columnam – Column – Colonna. The witty citation of name and emblem also recalls the first anthropomorphic moment in the letter, when it is the dog’s sense of pride in bearing Colonna’s coat of arms (featuring white columns on a red field) that first encourages his protective behaviour towards the poet. All the more strange that, after a hundred lines of encomium praising the dog’s remarkable character as well as pleasure in his pastoral existence, he is suddenly presented as desiring nothing more fervently than to return to his former owner. What are we to make of this sudden reversal of affect? The key might be found is rereading the poem backwards, starting

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 41

with the scene of the dog’s aggressive outburst witnessed (nisi fallor) by both Colonna and Petrarch, if not the two together. The scene is made out to be quite memorable, the dog’s barking and carrying on resounding and ‘moving’ (movet) the very walls of the papal palace. It is hard to imagine such uncontrolled behaviour by an aggressive dog garnering much tolerance or sympathy, much less approbation, from the assembled prelates. Indeed, the sharp absence of any commentary by Petrarch on the human reaction to the incident (save for the need to have the animal ‘forcibly removed’ [vix abductus]) says as much. In today’s society, a similar demonstration of apparently ‘unmotivated’ canine aggression would net everything from a severe reprimand (to owner as well as dog) to harsher punishments, a trip to the pound, or even euthanasia. How many times do we not hear contemporary reactions to such behaviour summed up in the phrase ‘You should have that dog put down!’ Returning to Petrarch’s metrical letter, we can see a similar criticism made through the learned anecdote about Alexander who, in reverse fashion, ‘puts down’ a dog for being insufficiently aggressive. Again, a snap judgment is made in the absence of any deeper understanding of the animal’s behaviour and character. Whence Petrarch’s extraordinary and repeated insistence a contario on the dog’s discriminating use of his aggressive/protective potential, that is, on his intelligence and even moral understanding of what the correct behaviour is. Indeed, it is this insight into the dog’s nobility of character that allows Petrarch to make a possessive claim about the dog, while implicitly connecting Alexander and Colonna. It is as if the poet were at pains to point out the dog’s value to the cardinal as well as his loyalty despite having had a wonderful time out in the wilds with Petrarch. His time in Vaucluse has allowed him to live life like a rough and ready canine rather than as a royally pampered pooch, but now he would really like to go back home, if you please. The further fact that the metrical letter is this structured as a kind of argument in defence of the dog’s character would seem to suggest that Colonna’s ‘gift’ to the poet may be less generous that it seems, especially if the dog’s unruly and aggressive behaviour lurks as a motivation. Why else give away this dog of the highest royal pedigree except for incidents like the one described that shake up the whole papal palace? Better to give the dog away than to put him down. No Alexander he, Colonna finds a more humane solution for his problem pet, yet – and this is where he still resembles the Macedonian ruler – he doesn’t fully understand or appreciate the animal’s brilliant intelligence and unflagging loyalty that his aggressive/protective outbursts


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in fact evince. The time spent in the poet’s company can be read also as an observation period during which the dog’s true character is assessed and revealed. In this sense, the apparent contradiction between the letter’s body and its conclusion disappears to the extent that the canine’s encomium is also an expression of his worth and the desirability of his being returned to his previous circumstances. But is there something else going on besides this letter in certification of good pet behaviour, which still seems to be a relatively minor subject for so much talking (‘Sed multum res parva tenet’)? The letter does seem to make some other points that, taken together, suggest a mild and politely indirect concern about the relation between the poet and his great benefactor. On the one hand, the letter repeatedly draws comparisons between poet and dog, both of whom enjoy the simple, rural life as an antidote to the urban stress of the court, and at the same time they both take immense pride in their relation to the cardinal. The cardinal’s apparent lack of appreciation for the dog he gives Petrarch would thus seem to bleed over to the poet as well, for the dog’s quasihuman intelligence generalizes his position to that of humans as well as animals in the cardinal’s circle. The lesson of Alexander’s insufficient attention to those around him is likewise of wider application. And Petrarch’s final request to Colonna to send someone to come fetch the dog, despite the praise of the cardinal’s being continually present even in his absence, casts doubt on the outcome by the qualifying ‘if by chance’ (si forte) one of his men might have reason to drop by the vicinity. In this view, Petrarch’s long exposition and defence of the dog’s character is also a justifying self-portrait and a testimony to his personal loyalty to the cardinal, despite being a crazy poet living out in the country and far away from the pomp and acclaim of the court. At the same time, Petrarch clearly wants not to be forgotten or dismissed by the powerful cardinal and the sophisticated world he represents while being respected and honoured even in his reclusion. Of course, there may be another reading less flattering to our favourite humanist. While the exact date of the letter remains uncertain, it makes sense that it would have been written late in the period Petrarch spent in Vaucluse, from 1345 to 1347. By the summer of 1347 Petrarch was getting ready to leave for Rome, enamoured as he was by the Roman revolution led by Cola de Rienzo. His enthusiasm, however, was not at all shared by the papal court in Avignon, and certainly not by his friends and patrons of the Colonna family. Clearly, a rift was in the works by the time Petrarch left Provence in November on an

Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 43

itinerary that would take him first to Genoa, then to Verona, Parma, Padua, Mantua, Rome, and then back to Padua before finally returning to Vaucluse in June of 1351. In his absence, the Black Plague had wreaked its havoc, attaining a kind of apogee in 1348, when both Laura and Cardinal Giovanni Colonna fell victim to it.4 Thus, with regards to Metrical Letter III, 5, Petarch could have written it to ‘return’ the dog before embarking on a highly charged political adventure sure to meet with the cardinal’s displeasure. Is he returning a gift in anticipation of a deteriorating relationship with the giver? Or just looking for a way to dump his furry friend? Given the complexity and lyrical effort that went into the letter, it seems more plausible to uncover traces of Petrarch’s social dilemma in pursuing even further the analogy with the gift dog. Perhaps the real issue behind the dog’s character and the evaluation of his aggressive outbursts is that of the poet’s own freely expressed political opinions, which, no matter how forcefully presented, should not imply any diminution of his loyalty to the house of Colonna. The expression and implicit rebuke are subtle, though, and probably should be construed accordingly in the background of a text whose main focus remains an extraordinarily attentive portrait of a particular animal and the complexity of its being. As such, this portrait of a dog as a kind of transitional entity (between the human and natural worlds, the urban and rural, the political and poetic, etc.) is one that can readily serve as a nuanced allegory of the need for interpretive sensitivity, especially on the part of the powerful, who can all too readily and dangerously remain blind to the true virtues of those who serve them.

3 Alberti’s Cavallo vivo, or The ‘Art’ of Domination

During the Italian Renaissance, princes, courtiers, artists, humanists, and scientists throughout Europe came to visit Italy in pursuit of the higher learning that Italy offered from its many splendid courts. Aside from the influence exacted by the Peninsula on almost all major currents of artistic and intellectual activity, one area that may need to be rethought by contemporary cultural critics is Italy’s influence on the learning of the equestrian arts, and in particular the educative model implied in those arts. While books as well as scholarly articles do exist on both horsemanship and the training of horses dating from the Italian Renaissance, most scholars seem to begin their histories with the first great school of Battista Pignatelli, where the famous Federico Grissone trained and studied. In 1561 Grissone published his Gli ordini del cavalcare (The Rules for Riding).1 Although Grissone’s method still appears excessively firm and even quite harsh, in part due to a lagging medieval mentality that stressed combat and the ritual of jousts as well as the use of the typically heavier medieval mount, nonetheless one also sees, with his work and the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the beginnings of a change towards a ‘gentling’ of the horse that is in fact indebted to Renaissance notions of aesthetics and ethics. What we see in the Renaissance is an increasing emphasis on riding as an ‘art’ that strives for the integration of both man and horse into a working combination, as if to embody the ancient myth of the centaur. Scholars often cite the French Antoine de Pluvinal (who had also studied in Italy) as the rider who first introduced the notions of a more gentle means to train, or as Ginoli says to ‘domesticate,’ the horse.2 It was from Naples that the famous Pluvinal brought the art of equi-

Alberti’s Cavallo vivo 45

tation to France. And while traditional scholarship on the history of horse training always seems to move from Grissone to Pluvinal, a rather significant Renaissance thinker on the subject of horses seems to have escaped the attention of historians of equitation: Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72). Perhaps this particular lacuna is due to that fact that Alberti never developed his own school of equitation, and thus the specific legacy of his thought on the world of horsemanship is difficult to establish; yet if one is to discuss the general art of training, as both a discipline and an ethics that applies to a wider range of situations and beings, from horses to housewives, then one needs to consider Leon Battista Alberti. Probably no person deserves the title ‘Renaissance Man’ more than Alberti himself. He excelled in many areas both scientific and artistic: painting, sculpture, cartography, literature, law, music, mathematics, law, moral philosophy. He introduced perspective and also wrote one of the first grammars of a living European language, Tuscan. As was typical of the Renaissance, his brilliance also lay in his ability to revisit classical texts and rethink their value in terms of the new ideas of his time. Although, in recent years, considerable attention has been paid to his Libri di famiglia (The Family in Renaissance Florence), the less wellstudied De equo animante of 1441 should also be considered to the extent that it pursues, in a different arena, as it were, the same questions of domestication and education.3 This work, originally written in Latin, should be read not only as part of the current of thought on horses and horsemanship that stretches back to the Greek thinker Xenophon, but also as one that needs to be included in the pantheon of works that most directly theorized the relation between dominator and dominated, hence developing the Renaissance theories of domestication. The title De equo animante deserves some consideration, for implied in the choice of the word animante is the notion of a living creature, one that has both breath and soul. It is neither an ironic text, such as one sees in the poems written about one’s favourite pet (Petrarch/Catullus), nor is it one of those theriophilic texts that praises the animal world above that of man (Montaigne). Instead, this little treatise is indeed concerned with the proper handling and care of this – animate/in vivo – living being that occupies a intermediate step between things and men. Written for Leonello of Ferrara, the son of Niccolo d’Este, who ruled Ferrara from 1441 to 1450, the treatise begins with praise for this prince who is raffinato e colto (refined and cultivated) and whose subjects are così miti (so mild). Already we see here the familiar Albertian themes


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of social and familial domestication in the guise of the mild-mannered subject who willingly submits himself to an authority, here a prince, so refined and cultivated that his subjects respond in only the most willing of ways. Alberti, oddly, was chosen by the prince’s subjects to speak on the matter at hand, the horse. He was already well known for his theories on painting and sculpture. Given that there were to be equestrian statues erected in the piazza in honour of Leonello’s father, Alberti was the most logical person to speak on the subject. The pretext for this educative treatise is thus primarily aesthetic. Alberti’s response to this invitation, however, is that in order to take up the technical aspects of formal beauty, beauty must first be understood as the realization of the ‘natural inclinations’ of horses (le naturali inclinazioni dei cavalli). ‘Nature,’ for Alberti, is not simply being left to its own devices but has a designated place within a world ordered according to rank, gender, and species. That place is not given in advance, but is constituted as a proper duty and service which the creature may fulfil through the aid of the correct instruction, or discipline. In other words, a certain discipline must be followed to realize fully one’s ‘nature.’ Alberti himself, as the self-styled pater familias of discipline, presents himself as being such an exemplum of self-discipline. Thus, in performing its particular function well, each entity not only derives satisfaction from work well done, but also performs a service that is identified with its ‘nature,’ realizing thereby its dignity as a living being. In this particular text, the service of the horse, if the animal is allowed to follow its natural inclinations by the proper instruction, ennobles the beast. This, the horse partakes in a humanist program that seeks the improvement of all beings, human as well as equine, in order to incarnate their nature. This scheme again follows that of Alberti’s Book on the Family in Renaissance Florence, which proposes a specific determination by gender in addition to that of species.4 The prologue begins this process of assessing the specific virtue and proper role of the horse. Instead of the rigid gendered binarism of the family (with its hierarchical order of man above woman), here the double efficacy of the horse is that he is able both to work for the private sphere by helping maintain house/hearth and to be the most trusted of helpmates in the public sphere of the battlefield or the parade ground. In this manner, the horse retains for Alberti a level of dignity that neither wife nor any female will ever achieve according to his scheme. The horse is useful in the most manly of ways. As Alberti states in his prologue, the horse ‘e un animale dal gradevole aspetto, me quale stupisce

Alberti’s Cavallo vivo 47

che tanta forza e tanta fierezza si trovino congiunte con una mansuetudine quasi incredibile e che un animo cosi placido e remissivo alberghi in un petto cosi ardente’ [The horse is an animal of pleasing demeanour that [it] amazes me that one can find such power and pride combined with an almost unbelievable sweetness, and that such a placid and submissive soul can reside in such a fervent heart]. The combination of a pleasing physique that combines great power housed within a fiery soul with a sweet and potentially docile disposition is precisely what elevates this animal not only above other animals but even above the human wife! The opposition here is not between man and woman, but within the dual nature of the horse itself, which on the one hand can ‘calpestare … un nemico’ [trample down … an enemy] and yet let itself be guided by the most subtle and gentle touches of the bridle (si lascia guidare con tenui tocchi di briglia). Pushing this duality further, Alberti locates the distinctiveness of this ‘animale’ in its ability, on the one hand, to respond rhythmically to the sweet sounds of hymns yet, on the other, steadfastly refuse to be handled by anyone other than his horseman. What could be more appealing and socially appropriate to a pater than the complete loyalty of his horse, a loyalty that derives from all that is most proper or ‘natural’ to it. Returning to his aesthetic pretext, Alberti notes how this public spirit of the horse is immortalized in statues that represent the founding of states and cities: ‘sarebbe lungo ricordare tutti i benefici che I cavalli hanno arrecato ailoro padroni …, una statua presso il tempio di Venere da Cesare dittatore e da Alessandro il Macedone esequie fastose e come tumulo ed epitaffio una citta fondata in suo onore e ad esso intitolata’ [All the benefits that horses have created for their masters shall be long remembered …, a stature next to the temple of Venus erected by Caesar the dictator as well as lavish funeral temples, burials, and epitaphs, a city named and founded in his honour by Alexander the Great his famous horse Bucephalus)]. Furthermore, we come to understand not only that this treatise is written for a manly audience, but that, for Alberti, the horse is also in the service of a master who can only be male. In fact, what makes the horse so indispensable to a man is how ‘adatti I cavalli ad ogni uso pubblico e privato dell’uomo, alla violenza della Guerra come agli agi della pace’ [how adept horses are to any use both public and private that a man might need, to the violences of war as well as to the comforts of peace]. Moreover, Alberti explains how horses are indispensable to any definition of man’s success at home or in public:


Beasts and Beauties si trasportino dalla campagna quelle cose che servono per la costruzione delle case e quelle necessarie per il nutrimento della famiglia, sia che si procaccino sul campo di battaglia l’eccellenza della gloria e il dicoro della liberta, certamente nel compiere tale cose l’uomo si serve ampiamente dell’aiuto e dell’opera di questi animali: cossiche ritengo che non si possa conseguire la salvezza e la gloria senza l’ausilio del cavallo. [Whether they transport from the countryside those things that serve for the construction of homes and those things that are necessary for the nourishment of the family, or whether they procure from the battlefield the excellence of glory and the decorum of liberty, certainly in doing these things, man amply makes use of its work and help such that I believe that one is not able to acquire salvation and glory without the help of the horse.]

Not only is the horse indispensable to man, but it is because of him that man is able to achieve his two most important goals: the domesticated space of home and hearth, where man enjoys his private life with all its well-being; and the ever public and historical space of battle, wherein he achieves glory for his state and his family name. This very patrician outlook easily summarizes Alberti’s twin focus: the importance of family life and the importance of civic duty, albeit the former is seen by Alberti as the condition for success in the other. This argument, which situates ‘man’ as the mediator between public and private worlds is, of course, made much more forcefully and extensively in Alberti’s Book of the Family in Renaissance Florence, which was written in the vernacular and was highly popular among the bourgeois families of Quattrocento Florence. Given the instability of his own life history, marked by harsh exile from Florence, this book becomes an even more fascinating account of how to maintain a stable family life amid less than ideal conditions. Indeed, Alberti took the family as the milieu within which one’s character could be most fitly developed, albeit as Sister Prudence Allen accurately notes, his focus was on the development of the son’s character through education, and not the daughter’s.5 As one scholar notes, ‘the personality of the individual is the adornment of the family. In the same way, the special excellence of the family – its distinction, its peculiar genius – is the contribution which that family makes to the state or city in which it resides.’6 Among the most controversial of the arguments made in Della famiglia’s book 3 of dialogues dealing with family life, and featuring solely men from the Alberti clan, is what Sister Allen in her analysis

Alberti’s Cavallo vivo 49

of this text calls the thesis of ‘gender polarity,’ which views women as clearly distinct from and inferior to men, whereby women’s ‘natural’ role in the household is defined as subordinate to that of the pater familias.7 It should be remembered, though, that in Alberti’s humanist mind, this inferiority does not exclude her governance within the private sphere of the home from being absolute – after that of the father, of course. On no account, however, should she play any role in the man’s world of public affairs.8 Xenophon, the primary source for the Cavallo vivo, is also the guiding inspiration, through Leonardo Bruni’s 1420 translation of the Oeconomicus, for book 3 of Della famiglia. For example, in elaborating his ideas on estate management, Xenophon similarly defends the notion of ‘gender polarity’ derived from Aristotelian philosophy (still the rage at academic institutions during Alberti’s time). But as Sister Allen explains, Xenophon, unlike Alberti, included some elements of gender unity or parity with respect to capacities for memory, attention, and self-control, while generally distinguishing polar separate but unequal virtues based on the premise of different natures. Alberti, however, in revisiting the Xenophon text, she adds, incorporates ‘all of Xenophon’s gender polarity principles without giving much attention to any of the gender unity principles.’9 The model of polarity and irredeemable difference remains absolute throughout Alberti’s discussion on gender, in contrast to the apparent overcoming of what we could accordingly call ‘species polarity’ in the case of the horse, which thus exists as a truly exceptional creature for Alberti. Following Xenophon’s Art of Horsemanship much more to the spirit of the letter than he does the Oeconomicus, Alberti dedicates an entire work to a creature whose very being is both worthy and capable of accompanying man in his duality as both private and public citizen. No wonder the horse should be elevated to the representational immortality of public statuary, otherwise limited to that of suitably great men (but never women!). It is this ethical (and aesthetical) exceptionality of the horse that inspires Alberti rather than any specific concerns with training methods – that is, whether to soften or not to soften the neck in order to make the horse more submissive – that typically characterize the better-known equitation treatises of the period.10 Rather than providing training tips, the point of Alberti’s work is the underlying theory of how to domesticate and manage horses, given the truly privileged status he grants them. This philosophical approach to the question of horse training .


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explains why, as he says, he has not written this text for ‘maniscalchi or per gli stallieri ma per un principe, e per giunta erutdissima’ [farriers, or for grooms, but for a prince, and for the most erudite people], and why he chose to write this work in Latin, the elite and scholar’s language, rather than in the vernacular he used so successfully in The Family. Beyond the many prescriptions Alberti does make – most taken directly from Xenophon – as to how a horse should look, mate, and so forth, De equo animante situates horsemanship as the fundamental metaphor of government and management (providing the theory of both head of household and head of state). More importantly, Alberti links the horse to a masculine ideal in terms of service to the state. On the one hand, the horse is said to have some of the feminine qualities of service and submissiveness; on the other hand, these more mild virtues can and ought to serve the public benefit of the state, as, for example, in the creation of a war horse that is as comfortable on the battlefield as he would be on his home grounds. The training of the horse clearly is infused with Renaissance notions of how to harness and domesticate all creatures for the service of the state, yet this training also militates for a peculiar humanization of the horse, based upon a unique relationship of reciprocity between horse and ‘man.’ This relative humanization and reciprocity here means an underpinning of species unity that does not exclude but, to the contrary, condones the all-important ‘guidance’ and ‘diligence’ of the family father as master of the horse: I nostri maggiori stabilirono che I cavalli dovessero essere come I schiavi, ai quail bisogna dare le cose necessarie e bisogna comandare cio che onestamente possono fare. Affermano che tutto cio si puo ottenere bene mediante una sola cosa: E cio e la diligenza dell padre di famiglia. [Our ancestors established that horses should be like slaves, to whom one must give the necessary things and to whom one must command those things that they can honestly do. They affirm that all this can be obtained well through one thing: and that is through the diligence of the father of the family.]

Citing his favourite Greek, Xenophon, again, Alberti states: ‘Vi è in Senofonte un antico proverbo: ‘L’occhio del padrone ingrassa il cavallo’ [the eye of the father fattens the horse]. Inasmuch as it seems that Alberti agrees with the above-mentioned master’slave relationship between horse and rider, and inasmuch as it seem appropriate given that the

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horse is in the service of humans, and by this service we deem it to be ‘domesticated,’ the humanist side of Alberti still goes beyond this harsh reality by referring to the father of the family under whose guidance and authority, his watchful eye, the horse is allowed to become fattened and thus prosper. The reference here to the father of the family, padre di famiglia, brings us once again into the realm of Alberti’s Della famiglia, wherein the father of the family rules all his property, all that is proper to him, with a most kind and respectful discipline, one geared to the specific ‘nature’ and consequent duties of every animate creature. And as Alberti further states in this section: the ancient proverb of Xenophon is useful, since it is important for any man in power to ‘temere sempre che, come dicono, a causa di un rigido governo e di dure punizioni, I cavalli contraggono,per spirito di ribellione, qualche difetto. Nessuna cosa infatti suole renderli ostinati, recalcitranti e pigri che il commando spietato di un padrone intemperante’ [always fear, as they say, that on account of rigid governance and harsh punishment, horses might in rebellion contract some defect. Nothing, in fact, will render them stubborn, recalcitrant, and lazy than the pitiless command of an intemperate master]. Therefore, if the father of the family is harsh and intemperate with his domestic property, be it wife, children, horses, or whatever, then as with the horses, they will become lazy, recalcitrant, and stubborn. This is no way to rule! In fact, the ‘resistance’ of the horse to such poor leadership is part and parcel of his dignity, or his exceptional parity with man. It is the horse who, like the teaching centaurs of old, is exemplarily able to point out man’s failings, those moments when man becomes less than man and fails to live up to his own ‘nature’ and obligation to rule effectively. Neither inanimate object nor fully human, the horse stands on the cusp between nature and culture, things and people, private and public. Remember, the title’s Latin form: De equo animante. The anima of the horse means here that it cannot be simply understood as property, but also represents a specific form of subjectivity, responsive to domestication, but only in the hands of a properly self-disciplined man. If one follows this idea, one sees that although Alberti talks about the ‘nature’ of horses, the implication is that the horse may be endowed with several potentially very different natures, and that it is up to ‘man’ – that creature fully endowed with a soul, fully ‘animated’ – to educate the horse in such a way that its nature can be successfully realized by its service to man, state, and God. And this relation between nature and the manipulation of nature to bring it into conformity with human ambition and


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mastery is, of course, a topos of Renaissance thought.11 Alberti thus applies his ideas of discipline and schooling variously to those creatures in need of training: horses and women, but also children, domestic animals, and plant life subject to agriculture. What appears then as the all-important job of educating – e-ducare, literally to ‘lead forward’ – must clearly be kept solely in the hands of those (generically?) capable of ‘leading.’ As the patriarch Gianozzo says in book 3: Let the father of the family follow my example. Since I find it no easy matter to deal with the needs of the household when I must often be engaged outside with other men in arranging matters of wider consequence, I have found it wise to set aside a certain amount for outside use, for investments and purchases. The rest, which takes care of all the smaller household affairs, I leave to my wife’s care. I have done it this way, for, to tell the truth, it would hardly win us respect if our wife busied herself among the men in the marketplace, out in the public eye. It also seems somewhat demeaning to me to remain shut up in the house among women when I have manly things to do among men, fellow citizens, and worthy and distinguished foreigners.12

Jacob Burckhardt accurately describes Alberti’s philosophy on household management: ‘He first develops his wife from a shy girl, brought up in careful seclusion, to the true woman of the house, capable of commanding and guiding the servants.’ Certainly, Burkhardt betrays his deep admiration for Alberti’s development strategies for wife et al., as well as a desire to follow Alberti’s prescriptions for mastery over wife and beast.13 But, finally for Alberti, such issues of mastery and overtly patriarchal domination transcend the field of mere practicality, arising even to the status of an art, where the practice of subtle coercion is fully realized by the special finesse or sprezzatura of the father/leader, who makes his dependent followers ‘naturally’ go along the path he designates for them. Horse training, in particular, serves as a paradigm of power politics in the Renaissance, an elaborate allegory of easy-going dominance over a physically superior animal that is also the highest-ranking being after man himself. The gentle art of dominating the horse is thus man’s highest achievement and the paradigm for ruling over the lesser beings that inhabit the paternal household. Alberti’s De equo animante in conjunction with Della famiglia thus constitute a humanist pendant to that other more cynical analytic of power

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proposed a half-century later by another Florentine exile, Niccolò Macchiavelli. Inasmuch as the overt – even calculatedly brutal – display of power anchors his compatriot’s view of effective princely deportment, Alberti’s paternal concept of power imposes itself to the extent that it retains the near invisibility of an incontestably ‘natural’ superiority, the response to which can be none other than the ‘natural inclination’ to submit. Rather than the ruthlessness of overwhelming force, Alberti’s vision corresponds dynamically to the incomprehensibly subtle and virtually imperceptible inflections of the rider’s body that induce demonstrably visible responses in his equine companion, an ingrained rite of domination that significantly antedates Michel Foucault’s similar understandings of power as disciplinary practice (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison), by hearkening instead much farther back to the ancient ‘art of dressage.’

4 Della Porta and the Face of Domestication: Physiognomy, Gender Politics, and Humanism’s Others

In Ariosto’s fifth Satire, the character bearing the poet’s name advises his interlocutor on the proper way to manage a wife. Arguing for a motivational, or rather manipulative, approach, since ‘enticements work better than the chain,’ ‘Ariosto’ repeats a common Renaissance topos that a wife should be domesticated in a way similar to the treatment of certain animals, especially dogs.1 Obviously humanism’s praise for the ‘dignity of man,’ as in Pico della Mirandola’s famous work of that name, did not exclude a more demeaning view of women.2 As Joan Kelly first argued in her celebrated essay ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’ the lofty idealism of the new learning and the rise of the new commercial elites that we associate with the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries did not signal an improvement in the condition of women.3 While traditional historians such as Jacob Burckhardt have argued that the women of the Renaissance freely partook in the unshackling of medieval strictures, most women in fact found their limited privileges revoked and their few realms of power eroded.4 The rising capitalist organization of society, Kelly argues, went hand in hand with the increasing restriction of women to the domestic space of the home. This exclusion of women from the public sphere, however, was not just a socio-economic process. It was championed and legitimated by humanist thought itself, whose many commentaries on domestic life and family structure, as Kelly bluntly puts it, ‘sharply distinguish an inferior domestic realm of women from the superior public realm of men, achieving a veritable renaissance of the outlook and practices of classical Athens with its domestic imprisonment of its citizen wives.’5 Theorized by such humanists as Francesco Barbaro and Leon-Battista Alberti, the Renaissance demarcation of domestic space had incalculable effects in restricting women’s

Della Porta’s Face of Domestication


possibilities of expression and freedom to move.6 Recent scholarship into such Renaissance phenomena as the Querelle des femmes has also shown the parallel between misogyny and privatization, on the one hand, and early feminism and resistance to domesticity, on the other.7 More to the point, the ideology of the early modern pater familias seems to view women quite precisely as creatures to be domesticated. Perhaps no text so clearly rehearses the relation between paternity, husbandry, and domestication as Alberti’s I libri di famiglia. For Alberti’s characters Giannozzo and Lionardo in that book, the distinction between public and private is the difference between the ‘manly things to do among men, fellow citizens, and worthy and distinguished foreigners’ (207), and the domestic enclosure of subservient beings that includes women, servants, children, effeminate males, dogs, and geese. The latter two are especially important in the household because they are ‘animals that are watchful and both suspicious and affectionate’ (219), thus providing protection for the pater familias’s belongings while he is away doing ‘manly things among men.’ The ideal wife is one who shares the same function as a good guard dog: ‘The woman, as she remains locked up at home, should watch over things by staying at her post, by diligent care and watchfulness’ (207–8). In addition to the well-known Libri di famiglia, Alberti also wrote a training manual on horses, Il cavallo vivo, in which, as we saw earlier, he discusses the proper raising of horses in terms of a good master’s treatment of slaves, and then produces the rule of thumb that ‘the diligence of the father of the family’ (padre di famiglia) will always resolve problems in the proper manner.8 Coincidentally, the court culture of the Northern Italian princes witnessed a revival in the keeping of companion animals, a custom lost since the end of Roman antiquity. Phobias about animals ran rampant in a Middle Ages obsessed with ‘Satanic’ cats and races of dog-people (the so-called Cynocephali) worshipping the goddess Hecate. Dogs were kept only for the hunt, and only noblemen were allowed to hunt; yet beginning in fifteenth-century Italy, we begin to see lapdogs kept by women at court – the Maltese, the Bolognese, and the diminutive Italian greyhound.9 If Ariosto is any indication, the development of these new breeds (razza di cani, or races of dogs), typically owned by women, contributed to the construction of the modern domestic sphere with its enforced privatization of women, children, and selected ‘companion’ animals. From the point of view of early modern patriarchy, all three were in need of the same domestication. Renaissance anxieties about gender relations are here expressed –


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transferentially, to borrow a term from psychoanalysis – through the language and figures of animal husbandry. In calling attention to the overlap between figures of women and figures of animals, my point is not just to reaffirm certain stereotypical correlations between femininity and bestiality in Renaissance and post-Renaissance culture. It is also to reassess the relations between culture and domination as they are evidenced in paradigms of representation that apply to all those entities – whether human beings of other genders and ethnicities or ‘nonhuman’ creatures – viewed as needing to be ‘domesticated.’10 What humanism constructed was a range of others to the entity ‘man,’ whose dignity was praised and who was given exclusive rights over the public realm. These ‘others’ were either subject to the privatized enclosures of domestication (women in the home, children in nurseries, the mad in hospitals, dogs in their kennels, sheep in enclosed pastures) or banished to the edge of civilization (noble savages). A definition of humanity coterminous with the public sphere meant the deployment of massive exclusionary procedures to maintain that sphere as a masculine privilege. Advising Francesco da Carrarra, lord of Padua, on the city’s governance in a letter of 1373, Petrarch already urges that the public streets and thoroughfares be cleansed of wailing women and roaming pigs.11 And sumptuary, vagrancy, and enclosure laws became the questionable achievements of subsequent jurisprudence in the attempt to domesticate the ‘others’ of humanism. One of the most blatant and systematized forms that this domestication took was the ‘science’ of physiognomy, as developed most notably in Giovan Battista della Porta’s Della fisionomia dell’uomo (On the Physiognomy of Man), published in 1610.12 Presented as an interpretive grid for understanding human character as manifested in physiological and above all facial features, physiognomy quickly developed into a taxonomy of human physical characteristics correlating types of behaviour with psychological attributes. Facial features occur as a kind of graphism or writing that, in turn, is in need of the systematic decoding that physiognomy claimed to provide. The perniciousness of physiognomy becomes evident, of course, when its conclusions are extended to entire groups of human beings based on their sharing certain common physical characteristics. Indeed, a working definition of racism can be found precisely in the attempts of the ‘science’ of physiognomy to attribute common behavioural characteristics to shared physical features. While it is hard to argue that early modern physiognomy is per se racist in the sense that nineteenth-century phrenology or the writings of Gob-

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ineau or the kind of ‘anthropological criminology’ proposed by Cesare Lombroso incontestably are, there can be no question that physiognomy played a crucial role in the construction of race as well as gender. At its best, physiognomy was a psychological study of the psyche’s imprint on the individual’s anatomy (i.e., a kind of symptomatology); at its worst, however, it proceeded to a highly suspect classification of humanity based upon the assumed behaviours imputed to derive from bodily types. Anatomical difference thus became the pretext for prejudicial moral judgments, for instance, dark-skinned people are lazy, slant-eyed people are duplicitous, and so forth. The move from individual symptomatology to ethnic characterization is mediated, once again, through the figure of the beast. In fact, it is precisely the figure of the beast that allows for the explanation of individual quirks by inserting them into an identifiable group of beings (e.g., certain kinds of melancholic behaviour are ‘found’ to resemble that of wolves, a condition from which arose the term lycanthropy and the search to identify further ‘wolfish’ characteristics in the physical appearance as well as the conduct of lycanthropes or ‘werewolves’).13 These correlations relied heavily on a highly suspect analogical process that superimposed the faces of animals onto humans, leading ultimately to a pernicious but effective essentializing of racial, gender, and bestial characteristics that justified the ideology behind those characteristics through an ambitious work of cross-referencing (e.g., men are courageous and honest like lions, while women, like the leopard with its spots, are cowardly and deceitful – figure 5). Needless to say, all the assumed behaviours of genders, races, and species were imaginary products of the society that produced this ‘science.’ Nonetheless, what needs to be stressed is that the legitimation of this form of thought through the cross-referencing of received stereotypes occurred in a way that bolstered their acceptance by making of them something ‘natural’ as well as essential. By such a move, the ‘science’ of physiognomy could claim to have disclosed the ‘true’ nature of each being.14 Let us look more closely for a moment at Della Porta’s text. Denouncing other divinatory sciences like chiromancy (or palm reading) and metoposcopy (or analysis of the forehead) as ‘vain, false and pernicious’ (15), the author claims to base physiognomy upon ‘natural principles’ (15) whose basis seems to be scattered observations of how changes in one’s mental state lead to corresponding physical alterations. Bodily manifestations of psychic vicissitudes inevitably seem to trigger comparisons with animal behaviour. For example, upon losing


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5 Giovan Battista Della Porta, Della fisonomia dell’uomo (1610)

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her empire, Hecuba is said to have started ‘barking like a bitch’ (22). Lyncanthropy then appears as a general example of how an internal state is revealed on and in the body through animalistic analogy (23–4). Chapter 3 makes a significant revision to this approach by ambitiously suggesting that ‘from the signs of the body one is able to know the inclinations of other animals’ (24). In other words, bodily symptoms are not simply the translation of a mental or emotional disposition; they are the trans-species signs of those dispositions. Having deduced the supposed physical (i.e., bestial) traits of some psychological conditions, Della Porta now wishes to find a way to reveal those conditions through a systematized key of animal characteristics. Lycanthropy would thus be found in any creature that physically or behaviourally resembled the wolf. A complete inventory of the physical features of animals with their corresponding behavioural qualities should then provide the key to understanding human psychology; it is only a question of linking the right human physical features with the right animal. The bulk of Della Porta’s book is composed of such comparative anatomies, richly illustrated with figures that juxtapose human with animal faces or bodies. Della Porta’s prime justification for this study occurs in chapter 3 with a discussion of dog breeding that is key to the book’s subsequent development. Citing ancient sources, he describes the physical characteristics of a good hunting dog, as if the aptitude for hunting were solely derived from these physical attributes: large body, flat nose, wrinkled brow, dark, shiny eyes, short and delicate ears, delicate hindquarters, slightness of head, long neck, short tail, robust chest (24–5). It is not easy to see how this list adds up to a description of any of the hunting breeds then or now; but Della Porta as a good humanist cites ancient learning rather than speaking from any particular experience of hunting dogs. Nor does he cite any of the authoritative works on canines such as Gaston Phébus’s Traité de la vénerie or Guillaume Tardif’s Livre des chiens pour la chasse (1492). Rather, his motivation would seem to be to arrive at the maximum number of attributes in order later to compare such a representation of a hunting dog with that of an aristocratic human hunter. In the drawing that accompanies this description, a single trait (a brow ridge over the nose) is said to characterize fierce, warlike men such as Hercules, Achilles, Alexander the Great, or Azzolino di Padua (the man pictured in the drawing). What seems to matter is that the hunting dog is not to be confused with the housedog, which Della Porta describes in the following terms, although this time his recourse is not to ancient authorities but to personal prejudice:


Beasts and Beauties The housedog … has a flat, serene and distended forehead, similar to those who adulate; the voice is injurious and full of malediction; ruddy, inflamed eyes, the upper gums extended outwards at the canines, the mouth is very open; the tip of the nose is narrow; the eyes wide open. It is a custom or a habit that he likes to scream; malicious, always capable of biting; he is injurious, adulatory, gluttonous, cruel, crazy, irascible, pitiless, and inconsiderate. (59)

It is noteworthy that the description of the housedog is not any more specific than that of the hunting dog. What has taken place is that the physical features of the housedog are merely negations of those attributed beforehand to the hunting dog (flat rather than wrinkled brow, eyes that are red and irritated rather than dark and shiny). It is also noteworthy that while the hunting dog was described only in physical terms, its domestic counterpart is portrayed by a long string of derogatory and somewhat incompatible psychological attributes. The reasoning behind this inventory becomes evident only later on when we are again given a picture of a domestic dog next to a man who can only be understood as a servant or ‘domestic.’ Those whose smooth brow resembles that of the housedog (as opposed to the furrowed brow of hunting dogs and noblemen) are said to be ‘obsequious, eager to please, but not innocent, because in front of you they adulate you, but behind your back they slash you’ (137). What we can see clearly here is that Della Porta is not describing ‘real’ animals, but collecting a vast array of animalistic traits to be used for the description of human beings in ways that sustain and accredit the dominant social order. In the case of the difference between hunting and housedogs, the discourse of physiognomy serves as an ideological apparatus to preserve class hierarchy. The same ‘method’ is applied to gender difference in chapter 26, ‘How from knowing the parts of man and woman, one is able by their customs to conjecture many customs.’ Again, the supposition is that conduct can be deduced from physical form, and that an inventory of these forms will allow one to deduce the behaviour of men and women, understood as anatomically determined. After a paragraph-long list of male attributes (from big body, big face, thin arched eyebrows, square jaw, large and robust neck, etc. to habits that are generous, intrepid, just, simple, desirous of winning), Della Porta describes the form of the lion with a list of attributes that corresponds to man in such a way as to ‘demonstrate among all the animals the model of maleness’ (95): medium-sized head, somewhat of a square face, not big-boned, a square

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forehead, slightly protruding eyes, big eyebrows, a firm, straight neck, etc. and customs that are ‘magnanimous, generous, desirous of winning, mild, just, and a lover of those with whom he is in the habit of conversing on a familiar or domestic basis [conversare domesticamente]’ (96). Again, these characteristics do not combine in any obvious way into some representable male or lion; nor do the attributes of man and lion exactly replicate each other. Rather, one again has the impression that an entire set of qualities is being generated to be used later for the discriminatory purpose of separating the ‘true’ manliness from all of its others: femaleness, servility, savagery, etc. Why else should we be given such biologically and even ideologically unleonine features as ‘mildness’ or ‘a lover of those with whom he is in the habit of conversing on a familiar or domestic basis’ (96)? It would seem that this last bit of un-verisimilar anthropomorphism is supposed to describe the lion’s mythic sense of fidelity; but Della Porta’s periphrasis, with its insistence on ‘conversation’ and ‘domesticity,’ all but gives away the human milieu whose classification and regimentation make up the physiognomical agenda. And this agenda cannot be hidden even by the attempt to represent man and lion in visually parallel ways that portray their bodies as a play of contours and rotundities. The agenda becomes even more apparent when Della Porta brings his discourse to bear on the real topic of this chapter, namely, femininity. In a point-by-point negation of the initial description of man, woman is described as having ‘a small head, a small and narrow face, relaxed eyebrows, small and resplendent eyes, a meaty face, a small and always smiling face, round, hairless jaw, delicate neck’; in habits she is of ‘little spirit, thieving and full of deceit, delicate, prone to anger, fraudulent, and at once timid and audacious’ (97). Della Porta, however, is not content with this obvious reversal of male positivity into female negativity.15 He thus cites Plato (and adds Galen and Aristotle’s confirmation) that ‘in all the ways that you compare her to man, she is more stupid and imperfect’ (97). He also adds that Plato says that ‘nature gave to man a beard, in order to show him as more worthy and venerable than all, and that he have a great ornament to bear’ (97). Displaying a remarkable command of the misogynist tradition, Della Porta then cites Seneca to say that ‘there is nothing more unstable than woman, nor more inimical to duty; whose lack of faith has advanced infamy; a shop full of quarrels and fraudulence; it is impossible for peacefulness and woman to lodge under a single roof’ (97). The weight of ancient authority is thus added to define and legitimate femaleness


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as the systematic negation of maleness. Conversely, certain male features, such as facial hair, are given meaning only through this operation of contrast. It is significant, however, that a male physical trait, beards, appears in contrast to female psychological qualities: stupidity, imperfection, instability, deceit, unruliness. The man’s beard, a ‘great ornament,’ stands as a symbol of male perfection and superiority, with the implication being that the beard’s ornamental value can only be imperfectly mimed by women through the duplicity of make-up and baubles. Again, the physical differences that the physiognomist depicts are the pretext upon which he makes a judgment on the supposedly corresponding psychological characteristics. Della Porta pursues this use of physiological description in an ensuing discussion of the animal that most accurately typifies femininity as the lion did masculinity, namely, the leopard: a small face, small whitish eyes, the body badly put together and badly proportioned, of changeable colour, a long subtle neck. In its habits it is effeminate, delicate, irascible, insidious, fraudulent, at once audacious and timid. ‘To these habits, the form of the body corresponds very well,’ he says. The ‘ancient sages of Egypt’ are cited as comparing the leopard to ‘the man who tries to conceal his malicious and wicked soul,’ because the leopard stalks other animals without letting them know his speed and force of attack (99). Interestingly, woman is described as a leopard described as an evil, deceitful man. What woman is, in other words, for the science of physiognomy is a devalued form of man, represented by a creature, the leopard, that is positioned as the antithesis of the courageous and magnanimous lion. Or rather, physical and behaviourial stereotypes of men and women are attributed to animals, whose condensed figurations of those qualities, in turn, legitimate the stereotypes as a self-evident principle of nature. Thus, other paradigms of gender difference are proposed in the difference between masculine eagle and feminine partridge, and between masculine serpent and feminine viper. It is interesting to note that gender difference is never understood as a difference of gender, that is, as a difference within a species, but rather as a difference between species. In other words, gender difference is never understood as specifically gender difference. For Della Porta and his epigones, the argument is not that there are male and female lions, eagles, and leopards, but that men are like lions and eagles, and women are like leopards and partridges. And on the other hand, woman, leopard, and partridge are defined as lesser or ‘more imperfect’ forms of man, lion, and eagle. The criterion of imperfection is borne out by the

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relation between serpents and vipers, since the viper, with whom women are associated, cannot be considered as anything except a subgroup of serpents (99). Vipers are a kind of serpent, presumably (keeping in mind the figure of woman as leopard as deceitful man), as women are a kind of man. Of course, this is the schema typical of humanism, which understands ‘man’ in all his ‘dignity’ as the generic human being, and woman as a particularized, derived, or ‘deviant’ manifestation of that being. Physiognomy adds to this construction by correlating the connotations of misogyny with a certain bestial mythology in such a way as to naturalize humanist ideology. The viper is a particular kind of serpent, one whose negative characteristics, such as its venomous bite, become analogous to woman as a poisonous variant of ‘man.’ Interestingly, while we have visual as well as textual representations of the other animal analogues (lion/leopard; eagle/partridge), the serpent/viper difference is not pictured. Most likely, this is because this difference is not adequately representable in terms of the stark similarities and contrasts that Della Porta’s book demands. Certainly, parallel drawings of a serpent and a viper could not suggest the contrast shown between lion and leopard or between eagle and partridge. More important, the question of pictorial representation points to the elision of gender difference by species difference, for a similar problem of contrast would emerge in trying to draw a male and a female eagle side by side. While a good naturalist could certainly draw such a pair, the image would fail to exposit the sexual difference this chapter in Della Porta is at pains to demonstrate. In fact, what is at first surprising is that the obvious physical contrast between the male lion with his mane (like the man’s beard) and the lioness is left unexploited for the even greater physical and ideological contrast offered by the leopard. Della Porta puts the book together as if there is a risk that gender difference cannot be represented, that it might be invisible or at least imperceptible. Because of this risk the need arises to underscore that difference graphically by the analogue of species difference, for physiognomy depends upon the most acute differences in bodily inscription to legitimate the essentialism that underwrites its ideology of psychological difference. This is exactly what the conclusion of this important chapter stresses when it sets out to enumerate the weaknesses of women: ‘But females are more mean spirited, impudent, greedy, shy, stupid, and unjust’ (99). All these traits are supposedly written on the gendered face, according to the ensuing closing paragraph, which offers an example of Solomon’s wisdom: when a woman, the Queen of Sheba, tested him by disguising


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some young beardless men as women (100), Solomon was easily able to separate the boys from the girls after having made them all wash their faces, presumably to efface the duplicitous feminine écriture of makeup. Solomon’s wisdom, then, is defined by his physiognomic ability to wipe out the risk of gender ambiguity by reading the gender of these biblical cross-dressers as self-evident in their faces. In the ensuing chapter (27), ‘Of the citizen and the savage, and how we can conjecture their customs,’ Della Porta expands his discussion to address cultural difference, although here again he constructs an imagined relation between human and animal types into an ideology of social hierarchy. Just as masculine and feminine behaviour can be read out of male and female body forms, so is there posited a similar relation between behaviour and form in the paired entities wild or savage (selvaggio) and domestic or urban (domestico o cittadinesco). The base opposition here is between wild and domesticated animals, which Della Porta claims differ not only in behaviours (independent vs trained) but also in physiques: among other qualities, wild animals are said to be thin-faced with slim, hard, knotted bodies, heavily furred, with big bones, sharp nails, yellowish eyes, and ugly, yellow fur, while domesticated animals are meaty, soft, and delicate in body, thin-furred, with small bones and nails, and of a happy red colour (di color rosso allegro). In behaviour, wild animals are said to be ‘sharp tempered, inhuman, unfriendly, irascible, cruel, furious, solitary, coleric and melancholic, ferocious, implacable, insidious, fraudulent, mean spirited, impulsive, quick, and opposed to justice’ (102), while domestic beasts are ‘pleasant, sweet tempered, good-natured, slow to the task, soft, delicate, sociable, just, and temperate’ (102). As we have seen before, one would be hard pressed to make these qualities coalesce into a description of any single animal (it seems especially curious to describe animals as ‘inhuman’ or ‘opposed to justice’). The point of these enumerative characterizations becomes clear, however, when the bestial metaphor is reapplied with the authority of nature to the human animal. When the above-listed signs are seen in human beings, says Della Porta, it becomes possible ‘to judge which ones are savage, uncultured, melancholic; and which ones are mild and human, sweet and sociable’ (102). The veneer of the ‘natural’ is suddenly effaced to reveal the full panoply of humanism’s exclusions, especially if we remember Della Porta’s initial assimilation of the urban and the domestic, which underscores the root sense of civilization as city life (from Latin civis, city) by opposition to what lies outside the city in the woods (silva), where the rustic

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is the equivalent of the savage (selvaggio). Suddenly, vast categories of humanity are denied their being human: the primitive as well as the rustic, the uneducated as well as the mad and melancholic; in fact, everyone except the cultivated and mannered city dweller, the urban elite purged of any irrational elements. Moreover, the reappearance in the list of savage attributes of many of the attributes the previous chapter assigned to women (irascibility, cruelty, fraudulence, mean-spiritedness, insidiousness, unjustness) suggests the already implicit exclusion of women from the glowing city of humanism. The swiftness of Della Porta’s move here in this extremely short chapter also seems to preclude any visual representation of the argument. In fact, there are no further illustrations of humans or animals in the rest of this first of five books that make up Della fisionomia. (The last four books dedicated to the more systematic study of detailed resemblances between human and animal anatomy resort again to the liberal use of visual representation to advance the arguments made there.) Furthermore, the sudden revelation of humanism’s multitudinous others implicitly raises the spectre of a cultural pluralism and thus forces a careful redefinition of the physiognomical project in the last few chapters of book 1. While admitting the vast diverseness of the human creature, Della Porta nonetheless reduces that multiplicity to a single rule of nature, namely, that ‘everything falls or comes from temperament [temperamento],’ because temperament is what ‘makes the customs and forms the parts of man’ (103). This temperament is what makes ‘the Italians different from the Spanish, and the Spanish from the Germans and the Turks,’ or even ‘the Neapolitans different from the Calabrians, and the Calabrians from the people of Puglia, and these from the people of Abbruzzi’ (103). The problem is to understand the source of this temperament. It is certainly not surprising that he proposes that similar body parts in humans and animals reveal similar customs in their behaviour, which suggests a common physical source for temperament. He then tries to locate such a source in the climatological variants of Galen’s humoral medicine, which superimposed the categories of hot and cold onto the fourfold system of humours. But Della Porta discontinues this direction after noting, following Galen, that the cold climate of Thrace produces men who are very pale and white and who (because heat is concentrated in the body to the point of ‘boiling’) are bold and rash, whereas in Arabia and Ethiopia, the inhabitants’ bodies are ‘hard, dry, burnt, and black,’ and because they are thus so ‘deprived of their own heat, they become timid’ (104). (Of course, this


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thermo-humoral theory posits an inverse relation between surface and internal temperature – pale skin means internal heat, dark skin inner cold – which is absolutely at odds with the physiognomic project of reading the body from its surface. Still not satisfied, Della Porta then discusses astrological influences on temperament, cites the ‘rhetoricians’ whose topos of the ‘ages of man’ claims changes in humour to be a function of years lived, and finally repeats the argument that food alters behaviour (i.e., we are what we eat). Faced with this destabilizing plethora of grids in order to explain human diversity in ways contradictory to the premises of physiognomy, Della Porta retreats from pluralistic empiricism into logic and the appeal to a fixed, unified nature. In an abstruse chapter ‘On the way to judge which signs we should prefer,’ he attempts to determine which signs are ‘proper’ and which are not. The best system, he pronounces, is physiognomy itself, because it is based ‘not on a single sign, nor even on two,’ but rather on the observation of ‘all the signs’ (106–7). In other words, the comparative approach of physiognomy is correctly able to triangulate the properness of a given sign by cross-referencing it with the same sign in other species and with adjacent bodily and behavioural signs in the same creature. Physiognomy, Della Porta then informs us, is etymologically derived from physis and gnomon, ‘as if it were to say the law or rule of Nature; that is, for certain the rule, norm, and order of Nature one knows from a given form of the body a given passion of the soul’ (108). A final chapter treats of the correct syllogistic reasoning which physiognomists use to ‘re-find those proper signs’ (ritrovar questi proprii segni) ‘through which one can come to know the inclinations of the soul; and finally the science of Physiognomy will be true’ (109). This long, abstruse attempt to justify physiognomy’s ability to read the proper signs of temperament by which body and soul are linked also helps explain Della Porta’s rejection of climatology, astrology, and both age and digestive theories, for all four of those approaches are more or less relativistic in bent, supposed to explicate human temperament as a function of external or environmental factors such as climate, date of birth, years lived, and nutrients ingested. Even climatology, whose development can be seen to have legitimated the stereotyping of non-European peoples from Jean Bodin to Montesquieu and Rousseau, presupposes that a change in environment will alter both body and spirit, and that human beings share a common humanity. Della Porta’s physiognomy, by contrast, strives to maintain an essentialism established through an understanding of anatomical and psychological

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features elaborated from a fixed set of supposed animal/human analogues. Physiognomy seeks to establish a kind of Platonic bestiary of humanity, a textual and visual catalogue of ‘ideal’ (and significantly, ‘less than ideal’) types as different from one another as are species of animals. This essentialism, combined with the exclusionary definition of humanity we saw earlier, ensures that the relations among kinds of men remain unchangeable, because it legitimates those views that wish to see higher and lower forms of humanity. Certainly, any view that ascribes an unchanging behavioural essence to human beings bearing a physiological characteristic merits the epithet ‘racist.’ Della Porta clearly marks one starting point for the historical trajectory of that way of thinking from late Renaissance physiognomy to Lavater, Gobineau, and Lombroso. Nevertheless, there is a certain ad hoc quality to the physiognomic analysis that makes it much less systematized and categorical than modern racist ideology. In other words, its construction through compilation, typical of much Renaissance thought, favours the listing of particulars, no matter how contradictory, over the conceptual rigour of the logic of non-contradiction. This is not to say, however, that racist and sexist ideologemes do not often guide, whether consciously or unconsciously, the terms of specific discussions within the larger compilation. In Della Porta’s work, those terms, as I have been arguing, are taken from the field of animal husbandry, whose broadest aim seems to be coterminous with the establishment of domestic space (the very foundation of civilization if we are to remember Della Porta’s slippage between the two terms), with prescribing the rule of the home under the ‘husband’ whose creatures (women, children, servants, workers, and beasts) are all assigned a determinable role in the hierarchy. But while it could be shown that the husband at home can easily transpose this set-up as the colonialist abroad, what about the more immediate risk of domestic upheaval? Such a risk is indeed the secret fear of Della Porta’s physiognomy. Far from positing temperament as essentially unchanging, the book is full of examples of strange metamorphoses both of body and of soul. In fact, the anxious project of physiognomy might very well be seen as the attempt at domesticating such metamorphoses, of explaining, controlling, preventing, stabilizing and curing them. An earlier chapter in Della Porta broaches the problem of changes that occur from the transposition of human souls into animal bodies. The first example is that of ‘the human soul com[ing] into the body of a dog.’ The claim is made that the dog’s ‘intellect’ still remains in the dog and that it will ‘not


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have customs other than those of the dog’ (82). The same is then said to be true of the wolf, whose invasion by a human soul will not hinder it from acting like a wolf. What happens in cinanthropy or lycanthropy is that an alteration in human temperament takes place through the effects of burnt black bile (malinconia brusciato), which ‘makes it similar to a temperament of the dog[;] he howls and barks like a dog or a wolf, goes wandering about at night in cemeteries, and finally performs all the actions of the dog or the wolf; moreover, he becomes similar in the face to a wolf or a dog’ (83). Animality thus seems to draw the human soul into behavioural and even physical change, although the soul itself seems to remain unaffected even as it is locked within the foreign body and temperament of the beast. The proof of this is made through an allusion to Plutarch’s revision of the Circe episode in the Odyssey, where Ulysses ‘asks the men converted into various kinds of animals about the customs of those animals, because being animated in the bodies of those animals, they are informed about their customs’ (83). Not only does this passage explicitly correlate the soul with humanity and the body with animality, the mediating agent of the human soul’s (implicitly degraded) metamorphosis into the body of an animal is a figure of a powerful, seductive femininity. But while Plutarch’s version presents the men’s refusal to return to human form as motivated by a sense of having reconnected with a purer or more natural side of themselves as animals rather than as men of reason, Della Porta underscores the extent to which such identification with the animal is to be understood as the decadent consequence of their seduction by Circe, whom he depicts herself as beastlike. Like the deceitful leopard stealthily stalking its unsuspecting prey, Circe draws Ulysses’ men into her secluded (savage) abode to transform them into beasts, albeit rational beasts still in command of their linguistic abilities and thus able to communicate their dilemma to their resourceful captain, who has proved himself well skilled at undoing the snares of various seductive women/monsters in the course of his travels. Of course, Ulysses demonstrates himself to be just as duplicitous and manipulative as any of the stereotypes of dangerously deceptive women. Nonetheless, the Circe reference, as configured by Della Porta, defines the danger of animality, that is, that of the soul’s entrapment within the body, as the threat of a certain femininity. Otherwise put, women drive men to act like beasts. Physiognomy would then be the discourse that reads the traces of animality on the human body both to assuage the inscription of threatening femininity and to recu-

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perate the soul of man hidden within the feral recesses of corporeality. The consequences include, on the one hand, the explicit depictions in a chapter from book 5 of lascivious or libidinous women as being half beast. On the other hand, there remains the question of whether women or animals or ‘savages’ have souls if what they represent for ‘man’ is the danger of embodiment or, by chiastic deduction, the embodiment of danger. Although not explicitly raised by the physiognomists themselves, the question of who had or did not have souls was a recurrent topic of scholarly debate during the late Renaissance. While Della Porta’s physiognomy reaffirmed social hierarchy according to naturalized ideologies of species difference, he nonetheless needed to attribute different temperamental and ethical capacities to animals in order to elevate analogous human characteristics to the height of the social order. In this idealization of higher forms of animal life, he differed sharply from a long-standing train of thought (inspired by Aristotle and culminating in Descartes) that distinguished animals sharply from humans and positioned women categorically, rather than through the subtler figure of Circe, below all men and close to all animals. Aristotle’s work, which defined woman as a defective man, had already done much to cast woman as merely somewhat above animals. However, this hierarchical placement was quite tenuous, since many commentaries, as Ian Maclean has shown, disputed whether women even possessed souls.16 The debate reached a peak of sorts with the polemics surrounding the 1595 publication of Alcidalius’s Disputatio nova contra mulieres, which argued that women were not even human. Not surprisingly, the same work also links women to demons and dogs.17 As James S. Serpell has eloquently argued, according to Christian tradition animals were on earth to serve man, and this role was to be firmly understood as the result of their not having any soul. The earth, animals, and plants were created specifically to serve the interests of humanity. By humanity, however, was meant specifically the male human being, having dominion over all other life. The less capable of reason, the more all such life should serve man. Such writing, stemming from Aristotle, fostered a master/slave ideology; Aristotle used the same argument to condone the Grecian slave trade. In the Politics, he argued that savages and barbarians were less rational than Greeks and therefore were created to serve them. Animals were deemed imperfect creatures since they were devoid of reason: they merely copulated, ate, and excreted. This pre-rational bodily function, which so disgusted Aristotle, was


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later incorporated into Christian doctrine, mainly through the efforts of the Dominican friar St Thomas Aquinas.18 (Hence, later, we might remark, the great debate in Valladolid, Spain, in 1550–1 between the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Aristotelian-inspired defender of the Conquest, Juan Ginés de Sepulveda.) Sepulveda argued the absence of soul in the autochtonous inhabitants of the New World, and thus their fitness to be treated only as beasts of burden; Las Casas argued that they had souls and that efforts should therefore be made to convert and save them from damnation.19 Hence also, but with a difference, the seventeenth-century debate over whether animals had souls or were, as Descartes put it, mere machines or automatons whose actions are explainable by ‘the arrangements of their organs’ in the same way as the movement of a clock is explained by the disposition of ‘wheels and springs.’20 The criterion of difference, as in the case of Della Porta’s cinanthropes and Ulysses’ sailors seduced by Circe, is the ability to use language, which is taken as a sure sign of the existence of a soul. Language is, of course, explicitly defined by Descartes in such a way as to exclude any possible animal language. But it is also important to remember that Descartes is never able to prove ‘clearly and distinctly,’ except by faith in God’s goodness, either that other people are not ‘hats and coats which may cover automata’ or even that he himself has a body, only that he is a ‘thinking substance.’21 In fact, in his late Passions of the Soul, he can only explain emotions and other psychological states as the effect of the body on the mind, and thus as transmitted through ‘animal spirits’ (esprits animaux), whose effect must be overcome by a stoical force of will.22 Descartes’s analysis follows in the line of Aristotle and Aquinas, and opposes the Italian naturalist school of Giordano Bruno and Pierre Gassendi, who were more open to a reconciliation between matter and soul, and hence less driven to distinguish categorically between the soulful and the soulless, between the rational and the irrational, between human and animal. And even though Cartesianism’s emphasis on ‘innate’ reasoning found many adherents among educated women institutionally excluded from erudite practices and the sanctioned scholasticism of Aristotelean inspiration, some of Descartes’s most steadfast opponents on the issue of animal souls were found among the same educated women. Madame de Sévigné, for instance, praises the bishop of Lyon for being an ‘ardent Cartesian’ who also maintains that animals think (‘There’s my man,’ she writes of him). Elsewhere, she claims that ‘Descartes never pretended to make us believe’ in the

Della Porta’s Face of Domestication


theory of animal machines.23 Her Cartesianism would thus seem to be at best a markedly revisionist one. Madame de La Sablière, by contrast, ran a salon famous for bringing together aristocrats, scientists, and writers in a way that prefigures the progressive Enlightenment salons of Madame de Lambert and Madame de Tencin. A glance at those attending her salon would reveal a number of free-thinking and often anti-Cartesian followers of Gassendi: the mathematician Gilles Personne de Roberval, the writer Charles Perrault, the stridently anti-Cartesian doctor Antoine Menjot (who was also Madame de La Sablière’s uncle), and, most impressively, the philosopher François Bernier and the poet Jean de la Fontaine. Bernier wrote for Madame de La Sablière an Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi (1675), his Doutes (1682), and, by way of a gift, a work on the ‘diversity of human races’ (written in 1684) as well as other works of philosophy and criticism. La Fontaine used Bernier’s Abrégé as the philosophical basis for his famous ‘Discours à Madame de La Sablière,’ which explicitly attacks Descartes and argues for the existence of animal souls.24 Perhaps her most celebrated protégé, La Fontaine, was regarded by Madame de La Sablière, writes Chamfort, ‘almost as a pet.’ After her furniture was moved to a new home, she said: ‘In my old home, all I have left is myself, my cat, my dog and my La Fontaine.’ Pellison and d’Olivet claim a similar remark made by her after she had fired all her servants: ‘I have only kept my three pets, my dog, my cat and La Fontaine.’25 Having won a legal separation from an abusive husband, and thus having truly become the mistress of her own home, Madame de La Sablière was signally able to overturn the domestic politics of her era, to counter the Cartesian drift of her time with a Gassendist-inspired coterie that polemically argued for the souls of animals, the intelligence of women, and the plurality of cultures and ‘worlds’ (Fontenelle’s famous Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes was dedicated to her daughter).26 Far from being some man’s domestic creature, Madame de La Sablière assembled around her a great company of literate men and kept her own pets, be they dogs, cats, or poets. Efforts such as hers inscribe a history of resistance to the triumph of restrictive humanism and patriarchal social formations in early modern Europe. Apart from such exceptional women or signs of resistance, however, domestication of the private sphere and imperialism abroad are conjoined in the early modern period by ideological practices that sought to restrict and dominate the various constructed others of European manhood: the feminine, the savage, the bestial. Humanism’s praise


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of the ‘dignity of man’ appears predicated upon the abjection of what it considers the ‘non-human.’ And behind the face of domestication, exposited by the physiognomists in their attempt to decode an écriture of the body itself, lies the brutal reality of the era’s numerous exclusions: of Jews from Spain, of women from public life, of the inhabitants of the Americas and Africa from their freedom and homelands, and, as we know since Foucault, of the ‘unreasonable’ from everywhere but the confinement of prison-hospitals.

5 Psychoanalytic Intermezzo: Freud’s Missed Reading of Leonardo’s Alternative Humanism

Perhaps no text better symbolizes the vexed relation between psychoanalysis and Renaissance studies than Freud’s ‘Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood.’1 In fact, this text is often cited, even by psychoanalysts, as a prime example of a ‘vulgar,’ anachronistic, and misinformed psychoanalysis that reduces artistic and scientific genius to the effect of deviant sexual neuroses.2 Freud’s analysis of Leonardo would appear to be an embarrassment to the partisans of psychoanalysis and a sufficient cause for the rejection of psychoanalytic readings by detractors of the method as well as by some critics who most often see their intellectual purpose not only in preserving, but also in uncritically praising, the great men of the past. Nevertheless, if there are problems in Freud’s reading of Leonardo, to my mind they stem from too great (rather than too little) an admiration for this exemplum of Renaissance genius, an admiration which is itself founded in a nineteenth-century reconstruction of that category. I therefore plan to reread Freud’s study against his own imbrication in the ideology of (male) genius – an ideology whose own historical roots go back to the Renaissance3 – in an effort to resituate and recast the sexual and gender determinants of his analysis in such a way as to reassess the relationship between psychoanalysis and Renaissance studies.4 Early on in his 1910 essay, Freud underscores his admiration for Leonardo while at once historicizing and dehistoricizing him: ‘Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was admired even by his contemporaries as one of the greatest men of the Italian Renaissance; yet, in their time, he had already begun to seem an enigma, just as he does to us today. He was a universal genius ‘whose outlines can only be surmised, – never defined’’ (11: 63). On the one hand, Freud carefully situates Da


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Vinci within the historical context of the Italian Renaissance. On the other hand, the simultaneous admiration and lack of understanding of Leonardo by his contemporaries gives his ‘genius’ a transhistorical dimension that confounds the relation between past and present. Temporal difference collapses before this ‘universal genius’ (an expression whose virtual pleonasm implies the universality of genius and a definition of genius as the attainment of some kind of universality – does one ever speak of particular or local genius? and what would such an admittedly limited genius look like?). Citing Jacob Burckhardt, the inventor of our modern myths about the Italian Renaissance and a devout believer in the extraordinary capacities of true genius as exemplified by the concept of ‘Renaissance man,’ Freud remarks that one can perceive the ‘outlines’ of genius, but ‘never define’ them. Leonardo is as much an ‘enigma’ today as he was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Yet, historical depth appears again when Freud tells us not only that Leonardo was an exceptional artist in painting, but that ‘it was left to us to recognize the greatness of the natural scientist (and engineer) that was combined in him with the artist’ (63). Even though Leonardo’s contemporaries correctly perceived his ‘universal genius,’ they still saw only a portion (the artistic portion) of that genius. On the other hand, more modern admirers have also perceived the scientific dimension of Leonardo’s genius – and Freud’s addition of the parenthesis ‘(and engineer)’ in 1923, thirteen years after the orginal essay was published, suggests the continued broadening of the modern perception of Leonardo’s genius as time goes on. Perhaps then the universal perception of this universal genius – and the absolute dehistoricization or transhistoricization of Leonardo – will coincide in Hegelian fashion with the end of history. But instead of pursuing Da Vinci’s apotheosis as a kind of intellectual sublime, Freud attempts a partial rehistoricization by orienting his psychoanalytic écoute in terms of a dialectic between artist and scientist, which, as we will see, also encodes the opposition between past and present as well as female and male – all unsurprisingly with the value placed on the second term in each dyad, an overdetermined reading which, of course, tell us as much if not more about Freud than it does about the ever-enigmatic Leonardo. What Freud presents is a twofold Leonardo whose scientific side, according to him, never really allowed him the freedom to pursue unfettered his artistic nature, ‘but often made severe encroachments on him and perhaps in the end suppressed him’ (64). And as Freud

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


also tells us, while Leonardo left behind many extraordinary paintings, many of his scientific discoveries ‘remained unpublished and unused’ (64). At the same time, Leonardo’s difficulty in completing (or declaring complete) artistic works is explained by undue interference from the scientist’s ‘desire to know.’ In fact, this interference into his artistic side at the hands of a sublimated sexuality which we see manifested in the endless scientific urge to know and to understand the universe and which is rooted in an infantile identification with the mother provides the kernel and explicit content of Freud’s extended analysis of this Renaissance figure. Yet had Freud payed closer psychoanalytic attention to Leonardo’s scientific side, analysing the notebooks with as much zeal as the artworks, then we might have a better, or at least more complex, reading of Leonardo today. Instead, Freud’s reading betrays a mixture of envy and identification with Leonardo, as well as an eagerness to place himself within a genealogy that privileges genius and creativity with the scientific. After a long list that details Leonardo’s scientific accomplishments, Freud concludes with admiration that Leonardo’s ‘investigating extended to practically every branch of natural science, and in every single one he was a discoverer or at least a prophet and pioneer’ (76). The next sentence Freud writes, however, implicitly locates Freud as the primary investigator for the area Leonardo could not face: ‘Yet his urge for knowledge was always directed to the external world; something kept him far away from the investigation of the human mind’ (76–7). Psychoanalysing Leonardo the artist while uncritically admiring Leonardo the scientist of nature, Freud presents himself in the parallel yet distinct role as scientist of human nature. The role Freud gives himself, as is well known, is highly conflicted, however. We need go no farther than, among other key texts, the preface to the first edition of The Interpretation of Dreams, where Freud admits the difficulties of studying dreams from a rigorous scientific viewpoint. Either he can use the dreams of his clinical patients, but these are necessarily skewed by ‘the added presence of neurotic features’ (4: xxiii); or he could use his own dreams, but then ‘it inevitably followed that I should have to reveal to the public gaze more of the intimacies of my mental life than I liked, or than is normally necessary for any writer who is a man of science and not a poet’ (4: xxiv, emphasis added). Psychoanalysis itself juxtaposes the scientist and the artist in ways that allow for neither their strict separation nor their cozy conflation. The very object of psychoanalysis, the repressed elements of human psychical


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life, forces the prolongation of scientific inquiry into artistic practice, which is in itself a privileged domain for psychoanalytic investigation to the extent that fictions like dreams are obvious conveyors of unconscious material. Yet what counts here is that the opposition between science and art is crucial to Freud (whereas it could not have meant much to Leonardo in his time), and that he feels his reputation as a ‘scientist’ tarnished by the possible accusation of his resorting to fiction. Perhaps he even feels one side ‘encroaching on’ or ‘suppressing’ his full achievement in the other. Leonardo would thus serve as a kind of mirror opposite, the artist suppressed by his scientific impulses, while Freud the ‘scientist’ of human nature finds himself throughout his career diverted by artistic questions. What remains still preserved and unpsychoanalysed in all this is the Romantic notion of a greatness misunderstood by one’s contemporaries yet exerting a powerful effect on later generations. Freud seems here to be writing his own autobiography of desire. All the conflicts I have mentioned come to the fore in a remarkable paragraph near the end of Freud’s study: In the preceding chapters I have shown what justification can be found for giving this picture of Leonardo’s course of development – for proposing these subdivisions of his life and for explaining his vacillation between art and science in this way. If in making these statements I have provoked the criticism, even from friends of psycho-analysis and from those who are expert in it, that I have merely written a psycho-analytical novel, I shall reply that I am far from over-estimating the certainty of these results. Like others I have succumbed to the attraction of this great and mysterious man, in whose nature one seems to detect powerful instinctual passions which can nevertheless only express themselves in so remarkably subdued a manner. (134)

As we read, Freud is already responding, at the time of writing, to criticisms of the essay, and counters the charge that his explication of Leonardo’s ‘vacillation between art and science’ has itself veered too far in the direction of art, that his study has become a ‘novel,’ not by a defence of psychoanalytic method but by admitting his own seduction by ‘this great and powerful man.’ What underlies this slide into art is the force of desire as the scientist of the psyche ‘succumbs to the attraction’ of an obvious ego-ideal. To Leonardo’s touted inability to complete his artworks, an inability Freud makes much of, corresponds Freud’s self-

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


doubts about his study (‘I am far from over-estimating the certainty of these results’), whose potential fall into art is commensurate with its author’s fall into homoerotic desire. The Leonardo essay, of course, remains one of Freud’s most classic and infamous discussions of homosexuality, and it continues to provoke debate and controversy. According to the standard Freudian view, male homosexuality is caused by an excessive identification with the mother in the wake of the father’s absence. The male subject is then induced to make a narcissistic object choice. This pathologicization of same-sex love is then somewhat attenuated by Freud’s statement that everyone has at some point made a narcissistic object-choice, although the ‘normal’ outcome is a sublimation of that desire. Two recent rereadings of the essay can help revise our understanding of the key issues of sublimation and gender identification. Kaja Silverman, in Male Subjectivity at the Margins, strives to interpret and defend Freud’s ‘Leonardo model’ of homosexuality as a rather progressive development (outdone only by Proust) to the extent that it elides ‘the necessity for a paternal third term.’5 Offering not so much a reading of Freud as a reinterpretation of certain elements of Freud’s analysis, Silverman puts her emphasis, following Freud, on Leonardo’s ‘childhood memory’ of a bird striking him on the mouth, a memory that Freud easily decodes as a fantasy of fellatio between child and phallic mother. Silverman notes a certain ‘reversibility’ in this phantasm, allowing the subject either to identify with the mother and desire the child he once was or to identify with what he once was and to desire the mother. For Silverman, the ensuing ambiguity of Leonardo’s desire leads the subject to transfer an ongoing attraction to women onto a same-sex object, while explaining the young artist’s initial penchant for depicting ‘beautiful children’s heads’ as well as those of laughing or smiling women. Concludes Silverman: ‘Because of the privileged position which it gives to the mother/child axis, the ‘Leonardo’ model of homosexuality works even more definitively against Oedipal normalization than does the negative Oedipus complex. It not only defies the rule of paternal succession, but it situates the father altogether outside the fields of desire and identification’ (373). I will return later to Leonardo’s ornithological fantasy and to the apparent elision of the paternal term. I say ‘apparent’ because although I will argue that there is a disappearing of the father from the Vincian imaginary, the same is not true of Freud’s reading, in which Freud is at pains to locate a father-substitute in Leonardo’s patron Duke Ludovico


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Moro of Milan and to link that era of Leonardo’s artistic career with his greatest success and accomplishments. Yet what Freud refers to as a ‘period of masculine creative power and artistic productiveness’ (133) is then almost immediately qualified by him as the time when the great artist’s ‘activity and his ability to form quick decisions began to fail’ (133). The beginnings of his chronic inability to complete his artworks were most apparent in the protracted delays in completing and disastrous techniques of The Last Supper, a fresco commissioned by Il Moro which features a variety of Milanese dignatories (as mentioned by Antonio de Beatis in his journal of 1517).6 Instead of reconsidering the value of Leonardo’s patron and father substitute, Freud lays the blame on ‘the almost total repression of a real sexual life [which] does not provide the most favorable conditions for the exercise of sublimated sexual needs’ (133). The concept of sublimation is, of course, one of the most important psychoanalytic developments of the Leonardo essay, but here Freud insists that even the most successful of sublimations cannot be maintained in the absence of what he calls ‘a real sexual life.’ And in an fascinating move, Freud analyses Leonardo’s life in terms of secondary and even tertiary sublimations which allow for the precocious sexuality of the young boy to be sublimated into a craving for knowledge, which later becomes sublimated into artistic creativity. Regressive sublimation then occurred, beginning during the period under Il Moro’s patronage: The development that turned him into an artist at puberty was overtaken by the process which led him to be an investigator, and which had its determinants in early infancy. The second sublimation of his erotic instinct gave place to the original sublimation for which the way had been prepared on the occasion of the first repression. He became an investigator, at first still in the service of his art, but later independently of it and away from it. (133)

And here one returns to the opposition between art and science as that which represents the unresolved conflict between two levels of sublimation, whose interplay is at least in part orchestrated by the presence and absence of father figures. It would appear, then, that Leonardo’s complex libidinal dynamics can be safely corralled back into the Oedipal conflict. The dynamics of sublimation in Freud’s essay on Leonardo is the focus of the second rereading of that essay I mentioned earlier. While

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


Silverman is content to reinterpret the contents of Freud’s analysis, Earl Jackson Jr brings Freud’s own counter-transferential involvement into play. ‘The locus of Freud’s identification with Leonardo is not always to be found in the pioneering scientist but rather in the defeated artist, reflecting Freud’s personal frustration that his success as a ‘scientist’ foreclosed exploration of his creativity, his desire to be a ‘novelist’’ (65). The analyst’s counter-transference thus follows the logic of a certain kind of narcissistic object choice while leaving him blind to his own investment in the identification with Leonardo. The blindness takes the form of a fetishistic ‘split belief’ or ‘a pattern of disavowal Freud deployed in compiling evidence for Leonardo’s sublimated homosexuality, accepting the truth of the contemporary sources that Leonardo had ‘homosexual desires’ but rejecting the content of those sources that Leonardo had ‘homosexual experiences’’ (66). In accordance with the fetishistic dynamics of such a disavowal, Leonardo’s homosexuality can thus be admitted (along with Freud’s attraction to him), but only as ‘sublimated.’ I find Jackson’s analysis persuasive and intriguing, although I disagree with his argument that the above disavowal is doubled in ‘the necessary disavowal of Freud’s heterogeneous narratorial persona and multiple relations to the text’ (66), a disavowal in short of the text’s fictional or novelistic dimension and the assurance of its historical or scientific status, and beyond that, the safekeeping of Freud’s identification as solely related to the ‘scientist’ part of Leonardo. It seems to me, however, on the basis of the passage analysed earlier, that Freud’s admitting his study may be a novel, that is, his acknowledging the artistic rather than the scientific side of his project, is the identification itself insofar as his conflicted relation between art and science is what he reads so attentively in the case of Leonardo. It is at this point that the counter-transferential processes come to the fore, with Freud confessing to the force of the attraction he feels for Leonardo, that is, to his own desire as analyst for the analysand. And here I rejoin Jackson, who concludes that ‘Freud’s sublimation of counter-transference [is] a narrative strategy for constructing and asserting interpretative authority’ (71). In exploring the complex dynamics of Freud’s own homoerotic attraction to Leonardo, Jackson thus criticizes his ‘sublimated transference narrative of ‘sublimated’ homosexual desire’ as what then motivates and legitimates the ensuing identification of ‘interested professional readers from medical, clinical, and legal institutions supporting heteropatriarchal orthodoxy,’ including the transformation of ‘the Leonardo fantasy into the textbook case of mother-dominated male


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homosexuals’ (72; Jackson’s emphasis). Jackson’s critique is motivated, of course, by Freud’s peculiar disavowal of homosexual desire to the extent that it is considered at once universal and pathological. It is universal since ‘everyone,’ writes Freud, ‘even the most normal person, is capable of making a homosexual object-choice, and has done so at some time in his life’ (99). Such an object-choice remains pathological, however, unless it is sublimated, but then this ‘sublimated homosexual desire’ is made to contribute powerfully, in Jackson’s words, to ‘healthy social engineering’ (73), since love for a same-sex object is now diverted into love of humanity, of country, of art, or of science, etc. In other words, the sublimations of narcissistic object-choice become the very pillars of human culture: ‘The ‘ideal’ or ‘sublimated’ homosexual becomes a fetish object that protects the phallic integrity of the male subject far more homogeneously than a phallic mother goddess, because of the ideal homosexual’s absolute indifference’ (67). Now, while Freud in his essay ‘On Narcissism’ makes a very explicit theoretical distinction between sublimation and the conscience-inducing effects of an ego-ideal (or eventually of a superego) (14: 94ff.), in practice he acts as if the workings of ‘sublimated homosexual desire’ involved not only a deflection from the aim of sexual satisfaction but also the substitution of the object of same-sex desire for some ego-ideal, such as, to quote Freud, ‘the common ideal of a family, a class, or a nation’ (14: 101). Given the patriarchal organization of these entities in Western culture, an Oedipal recuperation once again sets in as the so-called ‘sublimation’ of homosexual desire is in actuality a repression – or at least a structured form of denial – in the service of some phallic or paternal instance. Still, I feel that this politics of a universally sublimated homosexual desire as recuperation of a patriarchal order is what leads Freud astray in his reading of Leonardo, especially in the concluding section of the essay, when he tries to explain the many levels of Leonardo’s ‘sublimation,’ not in its radical potential as a wild, complex, and multivalent transferring of libidinal reserves, but with little persuasiveness as the more mundane effect of the appearance/disappearance of father figures in the artist’s life. I agree instead with Silverman’s insight that the case of Leonardo presents a most intriguing instance of the elision of the paternal term, although I think that insight can be developed much further. I also think Freud’s attempts to relocate a patriarchal imperative in Leonardo blocks him from a more radical appreciation of what Leonardo can contribute to an understanding of sexual politics. Leon-

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


ardo turns out to be even more interesting and complicated than Freud or Silverman think. One of the ways Freud blocks such complexity within his ‘sublimated narrative of ‘sublimated’ homosexual desire’ is to construct a Leonardo that makes of him very much the Romantic myth of the Renaissance man, while downplaying the historical specificity of his very life and times, that is, his being Italian and Renaissant (calling him instead the ‘Italian Faust,’ for instance). The decontextualized and mythologized Da Vinci then appears as the mysterious conjunction of artist qua scientist, an inconceivable (for Freud) synthesis that in turn privileges the hypothesis of genius. (One of the great ironies here is that while Leonardo has been elevated into a monumental figure of the ideology of genius, his technical work, such as his explanation of the rules of perspective in painting, suggests the very antithesis of genius, that is, the craftsmanlike production of works of art based on the simple application of rules and techniques which anyone could learn by reading Leonardo’s writings.) Furthermore, Freud’s reduction of the question of Leonardo’s sexual orientation to a question of sublimated homosexuality is again unfortunately ahistorical and falls well short of how psychoanalysis and history may indeed perform a reading of sexuality and gender beyond the dimension of humanist sublimation as call to nature. It is important to reflect, for example, upon the relative tolerance in many parts of Italy for homosexuality and sodomy, particularly in artistic milieus. And even when homosexual behaviour was officially forbidden, such restrictions turned out not to be enforced in practice.7 It is also important to keep in mind, as already mentioned, that in the Renaissance the distinction between artist and scientist, between craftsman and engineer, was not as pronounced as it is for us today or was for Freud. Finally, the radical quality of Leonardo’s thought should also be understood, for in many ways it was a strong repudiation of the dominant Platonic/Plotinian currents of the Middle Ages and indeed founded a tradition grounded in experiential knowledge. This Knowledge also offers a corrective to the later Cartesian mind/body split precisely by a mechanism of denial and displacement of Western philosophical systems that view the body as something to transcend, since the body, within those systems, is that which brings man close to animality. Freud cites the biographer Solmi citing Leonardo as saying that ‘the act of procreation and everything connected with it is so disgusting’ (14: 69), though this disgust does not necessarily extend to the human


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body as such. His well-known anatomical drawings demonstrate an aesthetic as well as functional appreciation of the body, and the fact that he was well ahead of his time in performing autopsies to learn about the body experientially rather than simply relying on the textual authority of the Ancients shows how little he was repulsed by the body per se. Freud wants to suggest a poor knowledge on Leonardo’s part about female anatomy, however, through his reading of a drawing in which, according to Freud, we have inaccurate or insufficient sketches of the internal female genitals. In this particular drawing, the limits of Leonardo’s knowledge about the internal anatomy of the female body are apparent, although I think Freud exaggerates the grotesque nature of the figure’s body, and I see no reason to believe Leonardo knew any less about women’s bodies than other learned men of his time, many of whom still believed in such obvious superstitions as the womb’s ability to move around inside the body causing the condition known as hysteria, and reduced the reproductive role of the woman to being but a ‘vessel’ for the development of the male seed, considered the sole source of embryonic development. Certainly, the fragments written into Leonardo’s Notebooks, such as his remarks about the effect of the mother’s emotions on the unborn child (100–1), show a better knowledge of female anatomy than Freud gives him credit for or than was held by his contemporaries. Given the great number of women’s portraits and female figures drawn or painted by Leonardo, it seems difficult to argue that he had, as Freud intimates, any particular problem with the female body as such, even if he is said to have avoided intercourse with women. An avowed aversion to the ‘act of procreation’ in and of itself does not imply an aversion to women or to all forms of sexuality. But whether or not Leonardo could bear the sight of the female body or hated sexual contact seems less interesting here than Freud’s own unwillingness to deal with Leonardo’s ‘feminized’ self. Freud writes: He was gentle and kind to everyone; he declined, it is said, to eat meat, since he did not think it justifiable to deprive animals of their lives; and he took particular pleasure in buying birds at the market and setting them free. He condemned war and bloodshed and described man as not so much the king of the animal world but rather the worst of the wild beasts. But this feminine delicacy of feeling did not deter him from accompanying condemned criminals on their way to execution in order to study their features distorted by fear and to sketch them in his notebook. Nor did it stop him from devising the cruellest offensive weapons and from entering

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


the service of Cesare Borgia as chief military engineer. He often gave the appearance of being indifferent to good and evil . . . (69; emphasis added)

It is precisely this ‘feminine’ attitude that Freud has the most trouble with, and that is at the bottom of his perplexity about Leonardo’s supposed split between art and science, or about the extent to which his homosexuality was latent. The above quote is worth analysing in depth not only for what it may reveal about Freud and Leonardo, but also for the similarity it bears to Freud’s later discussion of female narcissism. The narcissistic woman is similar to Leonardo in that she is also supposedly devoid of a higher moral conscience yet is also capable of great criminality, is marked by sensitivity yet is also capable of remaining ‘indifferent to good and evil.’8 Proximity to animals is also a common trait. The narcissistic woman is said to be like a ‘cat’ or a ‘bird of prey’ (among other predatory animals [Raubtiere]),9 while Leonardo’s empathy with birds is well known as is his vegetarianism, since he did not want ‘to deprive animals of their lives.’ At the same time, though, Leonardo morbidly sketched prisoners about to die while inventing weapons of destruction. It is hard to know in this text whether Freud wishes to juxtapose Leonardo’s feminine ‘delicacy’ with a masculine insensitivity, on a par with the split between artist and scientist, or whether the contradictory series of attributes is supposed to define femininity itself. And, of course, the Freudian definition of homosexuality as femaleidentified object-choice in men further begs the question. Let us speculate that Leonardo’s desire not to eat meat is somehow analogous to his desire not to procreate, or rather his disgust for ‘the act of procreation,’ not because he finds the female body disgusting, as Freud would have us believe, but because of some perceived relation between carnivorousness and carnality, because of the archaic mythic depiction of male heterosexual desire as aggressive orality, if not cannibalism as in the myth of Zeus and Metis: desiring her, Zeus rapes then swallows her.10 According to such a view, procreation would be a violent event, a predatorial penetration of the woman’s body that then obliterates that body as it denies her subjectivity. In the act of ‘procreation’ – in etymological terms what occurs in place of creation, that is, as a substitute for creation – the woman would suffer and risk occupying the same position as those animals whom Leonardo does not want to see slaughtered. It is perhaps a heightened sensitivity to the female condition rather than a formal disgust of woman that seems to align Leonardo with an aesthetics/ethics that is ‘feminized.’ (To wish to preserve


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the lives of animals may be a displaced identification with the position of women: if it were the phallic operative that Freud would wish us to believe, then we would have a meat-eating, pro-war enthusiast, who would paint still-lives of slaughtered rabbits and the like next to oranges and apples.) ‘Social meanings often predetermine personal ones, and the masculine consumption of female subjectivity, language and bodies is no exception,’ writes Carol Adams in The Sexual Politics of Meat, where she argues that the circulation of women since the advent of the (male) hunter/(female) gatherer society bears noticeable similarities to the partitioning of meat.11 In the patriarchal language of consumption, the butchering of animals and the rape of women become homologous, generating countless metaphors for the eros of the hunt and the predation of sexual conquest. Concomitantly, the male fear of women and of animals is that they in turn will eat him, that the monstrous bestiality of their devouring mouths, or vaginae dentatae, will prove too much for the phallic penetrators of teeth, penis, or spear.12 Can all this be related back to Leonardo’s infamous and provocative childhood dream/phantasy of being struck on the mouth by a ‘nibio,’ a kite, miscontrued by Freud as ‘geier,’ in English a vulture?13 In spite of Freud’s well-known mistake, the basic interpretation of the bird as phallic mother is certainly provocative and may indeed prove indisputable, while all the debate and discussion over what kind of bird is involved in Leonardo’s dream/phantasy works to repress a key element of the scenario, which Freud too seems to ignore. What is absent in Freud is any recognition of the violence,14 or at least aggressiveness, of the bird’s gesture of ‘striking’ the infant on the mouth with its tail, which also points to something else besides a blissful nostalgic phantasy of suckling on the mother’s breast. Sexual and species difference appears as erotic violence, positively valued in its sublimated form as Leonardo’s lifelong passion for the possibility of flight, yet literally denied in his abstinence from meat and procreative intercourse. How to understand this sexual and oral ambivalence? Two passages from the Notebooks are instructive. In his ‘Bestiary,’ Leonardo gives the following entry under the rubric of ‘envy’: ‘We read of the kite that, when it feeds its young ones growing too big in the nest, out of envy it pecks their side, and keeps them without food.’15 Here we have the description of a scene that is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s kite phantasy, but more insistent on food deprivation as a function of parental envy and the wish to keep children as children, to keep them in the nest

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and prevent them from growing up, a theme that can be easily decoded as the aggressiveness of maternal overprotection. But while this kite ‘pecks’ at the side of its young and withholds food, the kite in Leonardo’s ‘childhood recollection’ presents the more ambiguous image of a feeding that isn’t, of a striking that is also a nurturing, of a penetration that is also an offering, of an act that is as sexual as it is nourishing as it is aggressive. Now, the ambiguity of nourishment is the subject of a lengthy commentary in the second passage from the Notebooks, a series of fragments under the rubric ‘How the Body of Animals Is Constantly Dying and Being Renewed’ (103–5). The first of these notes presents the thesis that ‘the body of anything whatever that takes nourishment constantly dies and is constantly renewed; because nourishment can only enter into places where the former nourishment has expired and if it has expired it no longer has life’ (103). In contradistinction to the Platonic/Plotinian view of an eternal soul that infuses its life into the degeneracy of matter,16 Leonardo proposes a materialistic view of a body that is the support of life but whose own life as an integral being is called into question through the dialectic of life and death that is the fate of nourishment. The body only is to the extent that it takes in nourishment to replace what in itself has already died. One literally is what one eats, according to this view, but this state of affairs is only temporary, for the constant dying of the ingested nutrients that make up the body requires the continuous ingestion of other nutrients. At its limit, all this exchange implies that the body never stays the same, as the composite state of one’s nourished physical body is continuously altered. ‘Appetite,’ he writes in another note, ‘is the support of life’ (103). Yet not only is the body continuously living and dying by what one eats, but ‘our life is made by the death of others’: ‘In dead matter insensible life remains, which reunited to the stomachs of living beings, resumes life, both sensual and intellectual’ (104). Leonardo, however, evades a too facile materialist notion of the cyclical nature of life and death in a long note, which takes the form of an apostrophe to a horrifically carnivorous and vainglorious humanity: ‘King of the animals – as thou hast described him – I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest – because thou doest only help them, in order that they may give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulcher for all animals; and I would say still more, if I were allowed to speak the entire truth’ (103–4). The unspeakable horror of humanity, doubly underscored by the lexi-


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cal shift from ‘animal’ to the pejorative ‘beast’ and by Leonardo’s concluding reticentia, is that it is the beast that eats all the other beasts, the biggest predator of them all, whose ‘gullet’ becomes a kind of universal pet cemetery. And while the kite consumed by its petty envy may prevent its young from eating, man is a true ogre in his not just starving but actually eating the offspring of other beasts. Leonardo then moves on to describe the even greater horror of this orally aggressive humanity: ‘But we do not go outside of human matters in telling of one supreme wickedness, which does not happen among the animals of the earth, inasmuch as among them are found none who eat their own kind’ (104). Man is not only the supreme beast for eating the other beasts but also for eating other men, cannibalism being the final stage of aggressive orality, where it comes full circle or closes back in on itself, sundering all social and familial relations: ‘But thou, besides thy children, devourest father, mother, brothers, and friends; nor is this enough for thee, but thou goest to the chase on the islands of others, taking other men and mutilating their membrum virile and testicles thou fattenest, and chasest them down thy own throat’ (104). Oral aggression has moved here from deprivation of food to children to their ogre-ish devourment, to generalized cannibalism, to colonialism as hunting for human quarry, to a final image of grotesque anthropophagic fellatio. Leonardo closes the apostrophe by recommending a diet of vegetables, the simple food of nature, or the more complex meatless dishes described by Bartolomeo Sacchi and other scholars. The oral is a highly charged and ambiguous zone for Leonardo, and thus confirms my first observation about his childhood memory. For Freud, of course, the bird is a nostalgic figure of union with the mother, who as Freud reminds us bore Leonardo as his father’s illegitimate child and raised him until about the age of five, when he was adopted by his father in the wake of the inability of his own wife to have children. Since his biological mother raised the child as a single parent, thus fulfilling the roles of father as well as mother, the phallic imagery of the bird is thereby explained according to Freud. The bird phantasy would be the remembrance of the child’s blissful communion with the phallic mother as dual parent, in the wake of that child’s separation from the biological mother and relocation into a new home with biological father and stepmother. The problem, though, given the preceding analysis of orality in Leonardo’s Notebooks, is how to explain the scene’s muted but clearly implied violence and aggression. Either Leonardo’s feelings towards his mother are not unequivocally tender,

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or the bird is not unequivocally his mother, in keeping with the psychoanalytic axiom of overdetermination. Could the bird with its invasive tail not be a condensation of both mother and stepmother (or even father)? After all, such a combination is already set in motion by Freud in his analysis of the painting St Anne with Two Others (figure 6), where Freud reads the Madonna and her mother as Leonardo’s two ‘mothers’ and finds in the folds of the Madonna’s dress an anamorphic representation of a vulture. The painting establishes a matriarchy that is at once protective and restrictive of the child, shown here playing with a lamb, a traditional image of Christ as well as a key element of the Mediterranean diet. In fact, the painting does not simply depict two mothers but mother, child, and beast, all under the watchful eye of the mother of the mother, a true matriarchy, which Freud does not see because his insistence in this essay on the univocal identification between image and person (as in the case of the kite – or vulture – equalling Leonardo’s biological mother) means he is not being psychoanalytic enough. Perhaps this is because his vision here is obscured by his desire to identify himself within a genealogy and ideology of male genius, of the great man whose opus he reveres and to whose greatness he himself aspires, but whose insertion in some matriarchal order cannot make any sense for someone well ensconced in the nineteenth-century patriarchal world. (A case in point is Freud’s concluding the essay with a quote from Leonardo said to ‘recall’ the words of Hamlet, thus anachronistically markng the latter as Da Vinci’s predecessor.) While Freud would most certainly have leapt at the question of multiple fathers, in the case study of Leonardo it hardly occurs to him to ask what it might mean to have more than one mother. Who are these powerful women of Leonardo’s childhood, of whom we know next to nothing, save that the mother conceived the child out of wedlock and the stepmother took in the same child in the wake of her infertility? What suppressed stories lie behind these events? Leonardo’s mother, Caterina, was poor (‘probably a peasant girl,’ writes Freud [81]) and alone, no doubt vulnerable to advances, abuse, perhaps even rape by a rich and powerful man such as Ser Piero da Vinci, which is not to say that any of that necessarily occurred between them. As for the stepmother, Donna Abiera, one wonders what kinds of pressure and abuse she would have suffered in her apparent infertility at the hands of a man (about whom, of course, we know much more!) who, like some Tuscan Henry VIII, married no fewer than four times, but succeeded in begetting a legitimate son only with his third wife (when Leonardo was


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6 Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin and Child with St Anne, ca. 1510 (Louvre, Paris)

Psychoanalytic Intermezzo


already twenty-four and an apprentice under Verrocchio), and sated his patriarchal drive with ‘his fourth and last wife, whom he married when he was already in his fifties, [and by whom] he had nine more sons and two daughters’ (120). Certainly, Leonardo’s transfer to the Da Vinci household must have been of some social and economic benefit to the young child, and it may have solved some major social dilemmas for his mother and stepmother, but his father certainly took no steps to legitimate his son in any way, and was obviously content to wait instead nearly a quarter of a century for a legitimate male heir. Curiously, in one of the few documents relating to Leonardo’s early life Ser Piero lists the young boy as another ‘bocca’ or mouth in order to request a tax deduction.17 What Freud does not see, or see fit to remark upon here, is the singular lack of the father in Leonardo’s matriarchal fantasies. In his overeagerness to diagnose Leonardo’s ‘latent’ homosexuality as the result of an excessive identification with ‘the’ (?) mother, Freud misses how Leonardo has apparently rewritten the confusing and undoubtedly conflicted domestic space(s) of his infancy as a world outside patriarchy. Now, the domestic space of the Italian Renaissance household, as we know from the time of Alberti, Barbaro, and Della Porta, was run by a pater familias who took care of any ‘external’ or ‘public’ affairs while ruling over his own ‘private’ realm or castle, in which women, children, servants, and livestock were essentially equivalent ‘property.’ This regime required the sort of appropriate management techniques detailed by the above three authors and other numerous Renaissance writers on the hot fifteenth-century topic of family life.18 What a Painting like St Anne with Two Others interestingly depicts is the internal domestic space that is supposedly dependent on the patriarchal will, without that will being anywhere in sight and functioning as an apparently autonomous world with its own set of rules, order, and hierarchy. If there is a nostalgic bliss in this painting or in the countless depictions by Leonardo of smiling or laughing women, including of course the Mona Lisa, is it not to a world beyond or prior to patriarchy (hence its continuing fascination and ‘mystery’ for the aesthetic sensibility of the world of Western patriarchy)? The referent is the world of mothers, whether alive or dead, celebrated or abused, loved or raped, which Leonardo has incorporated into himself and lived as the repudiation of meat, the setting free of birds, the condemnation of war, colonialism, and the other atrocities of man qua ‘king of the beasts,’ as well as the quest for knowledge based on experience and not the word of author-


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ity and the inability ever to be fully satisfied with the products of his artistic creation, his evident inability to let go of the unrepresentable representations of the matriarchal imaginary. No melancholic, Leonardo may nonetheless be performing a type of mourning through these activities and propensities. But loss for him does not constitute, as it does for so many a Renaissance thinker (or even Freud), a condition of transcendance or narcississtic beatitude. For Leonardo, loss is not in and of itself the sign of genius, as it is for Ficino and others, that is, the imprimatur of an intelligence beyond the corrupt, degenerate realm of matter and body, which is again not without coincidence where humanism puts women, children, animals, and all other subaltern beings. Leonardo’s sense of loss, finitude, incompletion, and so on, is situated rather in the material world itself. He seeks not some imaginary flight à la Plato/Plotinus/Ficino to the atemporal realm of pure ideas but real flight through the material substance of the air, in the manner of a bird, like the one that visited him in the childhood phantasy. The obsession with learning the secret of flight is as much the legacy of early loss as it is, following Freud, of successfully sublimated sexuality. Far from having no emotions or repressing the body, again as Freud would have it, Leonardo’s mourning rejects the mind/body split that Descartes would later make canonical. Even the apparent denial of the body, such as his refusal to eat meat, testifies to the very presence of the body as well as an emotionality about eating animals (which Freud describes under the rubric of ‘feminine delicacy of feeling’). Dietary habits in general bespeak a ritualistic relation to the body, an exercice as mental as it is physical, and potentially as coercive of the mind as of the body, hence wreaking havoc on the distinction between mind and body, or in philosophical terms between the intelligible and the sensible. Hunger is no doubt the oral equivalent of the expression of loss, and Leonardo’s infancy must have been a hungry one indeed given the great quantity and variety of references to food, hunger, nourishment, and orality in general throughout his written and pictorial works. And, of course, his insatiable ‘appetite’ for knowledge, as well as Freud’s suggestion of oral sexuality, can readily be deduced following traditional psychoanalytic techniques. In evidence of Leonardo’s repressed emotionality, however, Freud exhibits the page from the Tuscan’s diary that gives a calculation of funeral expenses for a certain Caterina, whom Freud and others take to be Leonardo’s own mother.19 While such repressed expressivity may appropriately depict a nineteenth-century bourgeois male’s blocked

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sensitivity, Freud may be missing an important element of historical context here. While the early Italian Renaissance is known to have allowed lavish funerals for women as well as men, the rise of civic humanism and the spread of sumptuary laws seriously restricted ostentatious burials and took as a particular object of attack and suppression public mourning by as well as for women.20 Rather than affection smuggled in under the form of a numerical obsession, Leonardo’s listing of funerary expenses for a woman we can presume to be his mother historically should appear as a rather explicit statement of filial care and as another instance of Leonardo’s radical departure from the ‘humanism’ of his time and place. Once again, Freud’s dehistoricization and decontextualization fuels the self-interested image of the genius whose brilliance is in direct proportion to his level of personal repression/sublimation, and itself serves to repress the elements of a Vincian matriarchal order. Loathing war, the ‘procreative act,’ colonialism, the slaughter and oral consumption of animals, Leonardo appears greatly engaged in a resistance to the early modern patriarchal culture whose incipient reorganization of European society was witnessed, theorized and in many cases advanced by his contemporaries. The point here is not to paint Leonardo in the colours of contemporary ‘political correctness,’ although the confluence of certain views at the dawn and dusk of the modern age certainly gives food for thought – to stick with a contemporary metaphor Leonardo would also undoubtedly enjoy. Rather, it is the radicalism of this resistance so early on that a thorough psychoanalytic reading must explain without simply running to the topoi of the contradiction between genius and social adjustment, or between artist and scientist, which the humanist counter-current to Leonardo was already deploying in his day and to which Freud and many others still adhere today. Historical research must accompany psychoanalysis not to prove it wrong – or even right – but to radicalize it by widening its field of meaningful differences and possibilities of overdetermination. Again, the problem with Freud’s reading of Leonardo is not that it is ‘too psychoanalytical,’ but that it is not psychoanalytical ‘enough,’ that it is too busy trying to come to a quick closure in its analysis and too content with predictable explanations. In one of his last essays, ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable,’ Freud questions whether one can ever get to the bottom of the unconscious – a doubt that Lacan of course will turn into one of the very cornerstones of his own analytical technique and theory.21 We can add to the insight of the elder Freud the axiom that historical difference adds to the intermina-


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bility of the analysis, making the analysis of someone as productive as Leonardo literally inexhaustible. This is not to reintroduce surreptitiously the category of genius, but to allow a sufficient quotient of complexity, something the ideology of genius occludes under the notion of ‘mystery.’ Finally, a feminist input into this equation must also consider seriously any traces of the critique of patriarchy as well as the possibilities of other symbolic orders, including matriarchal ones, whether those traces are found in the writings of men or women, gay or straight, far back in history or as part of our contemporary world. Perhaps the rereading of some canonical figures holds more surprises than are thought by its critics.

6 Versions of Diana: Gender and Renaissance Mythography

I began this study with a reading of Titian’s Venus of Urbino to unpack its implications about Renaissance domestic space. The visual matrix of la bella and her domestic bestia served us well in elaborating a set of issues and themes concerning animal passions and the unpredictability of desire and object choice in various writers, artists, and thinkers from the early modern period down to the present. There is, however, another powerful Renaissance icon that posits a communion of women and beasts, this time not within or even at the limit of domestic enclosure, but distinctly outside it. The icon is that of Diana, goddess of the hunt, of childbirth, and of women’s physiology, typically accompanied in rustic fantasy by her nymphs and greyhounds. Widely recirculated via the popularity of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and its ‘moralized’ renditions, the myth of Diana underwent some interesting inflections during its various Renaissance reappropriations. In its classic Ovidian version, of course, the confrontation between Diana/Artemis and Actaeon serves as a cautionary tale (and male fantasy) about the dangerous attractions of women. The beast here does not simply appear as the mediator or obstacle of desire, but instead as the consequence of an erotic encounter: the ego-shattering and fundamentally transformative force that is the desire of the other. And in the Ovidian world, this very powerful Other is always a god and encounters with them have all the force and pathos of a transgression. That the god in question here happens to be a female deity and the inadvertent voyeur a male human, and that they are both identified with hunting in the company of same-sex companions, that a simple exchange of the gaze has the most far-reaching and fatal effects, helps underscore the


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uniquely sexual and powerfully transgressive quality of their encounter. Turned into a stag upon seeing the naked Diana and then devoured by his own hunting dogs, Actaeon appears in a typical Ovidian scenario as the victim of an arbitrary and vindictive goddess (‘aliis violentior aequo visa dea est’).1 In no way connected to Diana by desire or genealogy, Actaeon’s ‘crime’ is that of blundering (‘non certis passibus errans’) by chance (‘sic illum fata ferebant’) into the goddess’s sacred, secret grove at the very moment when she by coincidence is taking her bath sine veste.2 Deprived of her pudor as well as her arms – the silver quivers and bow she has consigned to one of her nymphs while taking her bath – Diana can do nothing more than splash her bathwater in the man’s face, although the metamorphic powers of that water will be more than a sufficient means of defence. The price, however, that the unknowing Actaeon pays for this penetrating act and invasive gaze is to see himself transformed into that which he takes pleasure in destroying, a prey animal, that is, not only a beast that serves as a prey to others but also one that is prey to its own instincts. Not content to give Actaeon the physical characteristics of a stag, Diana also ‘adds in’ the instinctual component, in this case, fear (‘additus et pavor est’ [198]). In fact, the key to Actaeon’s punishment is in feeling the humiliation of losing mastery not only over himself but also over his hounds. Even before they track him down, he remains frozen and not able to choose between conflicting instincts: ‘repetatne domum et regalia tecta an lateat silvis? pudor hoc, timor impedit illud’ [Shall he go home to the royal palace, or shall he stay skulking in the woods? Shame blocks one course and fear the other (204–5)]. Concomitant with this loss of self-control and volition is the loss of articulate speech, as all his attempts to verbalize his predicament issue forth only as grunting and groaning noises such as animals make. The height of irony is achieved in this respect when he tries to call out to his dogs, ‘I am Actaeon! Recognize your master!’ (‘Actaeon ego sum: dominum cognoscite vestrum!’ [230]), only to have his words fail. Instead of recognizing their master’s voice, the hunting hounds make the air resonate with their barkings (‘resonat latratibus aether’ [231]), calling mistakenly for Actaeon the alpha to come finish off the prey and not realizing that the prey whose flesh they are tearing is Actaeon himself. So ‘was the wrath of quiver-bearing Diana appeased’ (‘ira pharetratae fertur satiata Dianae’ [252; trans. modified]). In the face of this tale of a seemingly unpredictable and boundless wrath of woman, Actaeon will emerge in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance as a figure

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whose various interpretations and revisions define an entire range of male fantasies about women in the Renaissance. This range might be cursorily circumscribed by the proper names of Bersuire, Petrarch, Boccacio, Rabelais, and Bruno and the respective genres of Christian allegory, the eroticized poetics of masochism, heteronormative comedy, burlesque misognyny, and intellectual heroism. For Pierre Bersuire, author of an Ovidius moralizatus in the fourteenth century, the myth of Diana and Actaeon is to be construed in Christian allegorical fashion as the fate of Jesus Christ, the son of God (Actaeon), whose contemplation or instantiation of the divine essence (Diana) – which is also in himself and indeed is Himself – is coupled with the death of his human manifestation at the hands of his own people, the Jews (the pack of hounds). Notice how such an interpretation reconstructs Actaeon’s fate not as something horrible or terrifying, a warning about the mortal dangers of consorting with gods, but instead as a positively transcendent experience, were it not for the outrage of betrayal by one’s own (dogs/Jews). Anti-Semitism and mysticism are thus combined in this liturgical transcoding of the pagan myth. With Petrarch’s Rime sparse, a powerful new inflection is given the myth, making Actaeon’s fate, as in the case of Christian allegory, desirable and even one to be envied. This result is not achieved by an process of interpretation and abstraction; rather, it is had by motivating the relation between Diana and Actaeon. What is nothing more than happenstance of fate for Ovid becomes the destiny of love for Petrarch. The short poem number 52 illustrates Petrarch’s revision of the myth quite well: Non al suo amante più Diana placque quando per tal ventura tutta ignuda la vide in mezzo de le gelide acque, ch’ a me la pastorella alpestra et cruda posta a bagnar un leggiadretto velo ch’ a l’aura il vago et biondo capel chiuda; tal che mi fece, or quand’ egli arde ‘l cielo, tutto tremar d’un amoroso gielo. [Not so much did Diana please her lover, when, by a similar chance, he saw her all naked amid the icy waters,


Beasts and Beauties as did the cruel mountain shepherdess please me, set to wash a pretty veil that keeps her lovely blond head from the breeze; so that she made me, even now when the sky is burning, all tremble with a chill of love.]3

Actaeon’s fatal vision of the goddess, just as the poet’s sight of Laura, is also a gift of pleasure between lovers, amorous ‘pleasure’ being understood, of course, in Petrarch’s unique way as a sensation of extreme contradiction (pleasure with pain, heat with cold, etc.). True to the Ovidian text, the metamorphic amoroso gielo the poet experiences on an otherwise torrid day flows straight from the gelide acque of Diana’s bath. Canzone 23 fully develops this theme of love’s metamorphic power and the lover’s masochistic pleasure in transformations – into a laurel tree, a white swan, a rock, a fountain – all transformations that are punishments (pena) befitting the sin (peccato) of desire. In the course of this lover’s saga, Petrarch treats a number of Ovidian episodes (Cygnus, Battus, Babylis), culminating in a further revision of the Actaeon story. By the time the wandering hunter actually appears on the scene of this poem, he is not the aimless victim of ill fate that we found in the Metamorphoses, but the last in a series of Ovidian guises that spin out the vicissitudes of the poet’s relation to his beloved. The poet as Actaeon is earnestly seeking his lady, ‘following’ his desire far and wide until at last he spies the object of his hunt: I’ segui’ tanto avanti il mio desire ch’ un di, cacciando sì com’ io solea, mi mossi, e quella fera bella et cruda in una fonte ignuda si stava, quando ‘l sol più forte ardea. [I followed so far my desire that one day, hunting as I was wont, I went forth, and that lovely cruel wild creature was in a spring naked when the sun burned most strongly.]

Fulfilment of desire is also the culmination of the hunt for a beauty that is the beast (quella fera bella er cruda). The sight of this quarried bella/ fera is the only vision capable of appeasing the hunter/poet: ‘Io perché d’altra vista non m’appago/ stetti a mirarla’ [I, who am not appeased by any other sight, stood to gaze on her]. After the splash of cold water

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in his face as retribution for his transgressive gaze, however, the poet too becomes transformed into a beast still in flight from his own dogs: ch’ I’ senti’ trarmi de la propria imago et in un cervo solitario et vago di selva in selva ratto mi trasformo, et ancor de’ miei can fuggo lo stormo. [I felt myself drawn from my own image and into a solitary wandering stag from wood to wood quickly I am transformed and still I flee the belling of my hounds.]

Stopping the rendition of the Actaeon myth at this point highlights the marvellous quality of the transformation over its potential morbidity. The poet is left to linger in the suspense of a metamorphosis that follows upon the minimal but meaningful satisfaction of desire in the mere apperception of the naked Diana figure. The metamorphosis could also be said to have a degree of satisfaction in his being ontologically brought closer to his beloved (through her transformative magic they are now both beasts), even if he is still driven to solitary wandering (solitario et vago) in quest of her and away from his dogs. Just as he hunted her with them, so now they hunt him as well as her, a commonality that further intensifies the eroticization of the danger that is passion. Finally, this masochistic eros, the poet’s beati dolori, is of course also the inspiration for the poetry not only of the Rime sparse but also of that written for the next four centuries in imitation of Petrarch, as for example in the following sonnet from Ronsard: Franc de raison, esclave de fureur, Je voys chassant une Fere sauvage, Or sur un mont, or le long d’un rivage, Or dans le bois de jeunesse & d’erreur. J’ay pour ma lesse un cordeau de malheur, J’ay pour limier un trop ardent courage, J’ay pour mes chiens, & le soing, & la rage, La cruaulté, la peine & la douleur. Mais eulx voyant que plus elle est chassée, Loing loing devant plus s’enfuit eslancée, Tournant sur moy la dent de leur effort, Comme mastins affamez de repaistre, A longz morceaux se paissent de leur maistre,


Beasts and Beauties Et sans mercy me traisnent à la mort. [A freeman by reason, a slave by fury, I go hunting a wild Beast, Now upon a mount, now along a riverbank, Now in the wood of youth and error. I have a hangman’s rope for a leash I have an overly ardent heart for a bloodhound I have for dogs worry and rage Cruelty, pain, and sorrow. But when they see that the more she is chased The more she flees far, far up ahead, They turn the teeth of their efforts back on me, Like famished mastiffs feasting, Feed themselves by large morsels of their master, And mercilessly pull me down to my death.]4

A very different appropriation of the Diana/Actaeon myth can be found in the first work penned by Petrarch’s contemporary Boccaccio, his La caccia di Diana (Diana’s Hunt). A fanciful text in celebration of the high-class women of Naples, many of whose names are thus catalogued by Boccaccio, La caccia di Diana fantasizes them in a woodland setting as nymphs of Diana. A long set of canti describes how the virgin goddess organizes this community of women along with their dogs and falcons in the hunting, snaring, and slaying of all kinds of beasts, both real and imaginary. At high noon, which in Ovid is when Actaeon calls off his own hunting activities and then fatefully wanders into the sacred grove where he encounters the angered goddess, Diana calls all the women back with their slain prey, commanding them to make a pile of all these slaughtered animals, which they are then to light as a sacrifice to her. One of the women, referred to only by the epithet of la bella donna, speaks up then to admonish Diana, ultimately sparking a revolt that obligates the deity to leave them and ‘return to the heaven whence she came.’ Specifically, la bella alleges a new need that Diana cannot supply: Infino a qui, sì come avete detto e commandato a noi qui adunate, così abbiam seguito con effetto. Or non vogliam più vostra deitate

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seguir, però ch’accese d’altro foco abbiamo I petti e l’anime infiammate [Up until now, all of us here gathered have followed exactly everything you have said and commanded. Now we no longer wish to follow your divine power since our breasts are enkindled with another fire and our souls are aflame.]5

This altro foco is nothing other than sexual desire, whose satisfaction requires that Diana be banished and be replaced by Venus. Venus soon appears in the form of an ignuda giovinetta (naked maiden) born upon a ‘bright and beautiful cloud,’ and promises to give to each of them what they ask on the condition that they follow her (and not Diana). Venus then proceeds to enact what amounts to a reversal of Diana’s vengeful transformation of men into beasts: the slaughtered prey burnt on the sacrificial pyre are, as if by some miracle, brought back to life not as beasts but as beautiful, young men (mutata in forma d’uom … giovinetto gaio e bello). Their transformation is rendered complete by their jumping in a little stream, out of which they emerge fully dressed in noble vermillion cloaks. And in the very last canto, we learn to our surprise that the narrator too is also ‘turned back into a man from a brute beast,’ specifically a stag, as per Actaeon himself, and offered up to the bella to serve and fulfil her desires. By rewriting the ancient distinction between Diana and Venus, Boccaccio’s text could thus be said to carry out a domestication or normatization of the Actaeon fantasy/threat. Instead of a self-sufficient community of women who not only appropriate the manly art of the hunt for their own pleasure but also turn men into beasts, we have the rebellious assertion by women (headed by la bella) of their need for men (or sense of lack in the company of other women) and the consequent humanization of man the animal through the work of heterosexual desire, a theme pursued by Boccaccio in his Ameto and subsequent major works, including of course the Decameron. What appears as a kind of heteronormative comedy in Boccaccio becomes burlesque degradation and unforgiving misogyny in Rabelais’s Pantagruel. In particular, Panurge’s infamous revenge on the haulte dame de Paris, who refuses his advances, reverses and reorganizes key elements of the Diana/Actaeon myth while resituating the action, as we would expect from Rabelais, on the level of material, bodily functions. The result is to vacate the pathos of the story


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and instead to replace it with coarse and tendentious humour, directed against the Parisian lady and by implication all uppity ‘bitches’ who would think themselves above men. Dousing her with the finely chopped glands of a bitch in heat he found and killed, Panurge causes the lady to be victimized by the excessive affections of all the male dogs in Paris, who try to mount her and proceed to urinate and defecate all over her ‘beautiful garments’: ‘ces villains chiens la conchioient toute et compissoyent tous ses habillemens, tant qu’il y eust ung grand lévrier qui luy pissa sur la teste, et luy culletoit son collet par derrière, les aultres aux manches, les aultres à la crope: et les petitz culletoient ses patins. En sorte que toutes les femmes de là autour avoient beaucoup affaire à la saulver’ [these villainous dogs shit all over her and pissed over all her clothes, until a great greyhound pissed on her head and fucked her neck from behind, others did the same to her sleeves, others to her rump: and the little ones fucked her slippers. All in such a way that all the women around there had a great difficulty in saving her].6 Literally hounded all the way home, the lady suffers not only the humiliation of a degraded canine version of a gang rape, but also a kind of social death that dehumanizes and transforms her from being a haulte dame de Paris into a beast herself. As Panurge exclaims, ‘Je croy que ceste dame là est en chaleur, ou bien que quelque lévrier l’a couverte fraischement’ [I believe that lady there is in heat, or else that some greyhound has freshly covered her (124)]. Either she has herself become a bitch or she is the object of a bestial desire that emanates from Diana’s favourite breed, that is, she is either a beast or is desired by one. Home at last, the lady has no reprieve as she sees her door front converted into a degraded version of Diana’s spring: ‘[les chiens] compissèrent si bien la porte de sa maison, qu’ilz feirent ung ruysseau de leurs urines, où les cannes eussent bien nagé’ [the dogs pissed so much upon the door of her house that they there made a stream out of their urine in which ducks could have swum (125)]. And, of course, instead of the naked female body exposed in a cascade of pure and cold spring water, we have the soiling of a splendidly clad and adorned one. What all these versions of the Actaeon myth present is once again the trope we have seen many times throughout this study, namely, the figural slippage of the beast as metaphor of desire whereby it comes perversely to occupy at some point or other every single term of the relation: subject, object, and intermediary. To desire or to be desired is to become a beast, just as beasts in the intermediary role can in turn

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become either subjects or objects of desire. And if passion itself can be understood as animal, we also see why the hounds associated with Actaeon also become the privileged companions of Artemis. And perhaps also, given the perverse natures they thus come to represent, we can perhaps see the reason why the conquistadors conceived of no better punishment for the sin of sodomy than to be devoured by dogs.7 So, too, we can grasp the assimilation of an extensive world of sylvan references based on the myth of Diana with the elite pleasures of courtly society, such as we find concretized in the school as well as the chateau of Fontainebleau, where the French king, François I, does not appear to see any problem (and certainly no irony) in having himself painted as an unperturbed Actaeon gazing upon the sight of a gloriously nude Diana and nymphs. Perhaps it takes the power of a king to gaze with impunity upon feminine divinity revealed. Finally, with Giordano Bruno’s De gli eroici furori, we find Petrarch’s masochistic eros developed into a full-blown trope of intellectual heroism, or more precisely of that peculiar blend of the two known as amor heroycus. This Neoplatonic theme, developed most notably by Ficino in his Convivio, posits the love of knowledge – philosophy – as superior to all other forms of eros because it elevates the inspired contemplator beyond our vulgar, material world and towards the celestial realm of ideas and truth, which is also the kingdom of God in this syncretism of Christianity and Platonism. In Bruno’s heretical and allegorized version, the ultimate truth of God/the universe in its infinity is a vision as blinding as that of looking into the sun, and is therefore represented by the figure of Apollo. His counterpart, Diana, is the finite or visible expression of this infinite being: Questa veritá ê cercata come cosa inaccessibile, come oggetto inobiettabile, non sol che incomprensibile. Peró a’ nessun pare possibile de vedere il sole, l’universale Apolline et luce absoluta per specie suprema et eccellentissima: ma si bene la sua ombre, la sua Diana, il mondo, l’universo, la nature che é nelle cose, la luce che é nell’opacitá della materia, cioé quella in quanto splende nelle tenebre. [Truth is sought as something inaccessible, an object beyond objectivity and beyond all comprehension. For that reason it is impossible for anyone to see the sun, the universal Apollo and absolute light as the supreme and most excellent species; but very possible to see its shadow, its Diana, the world, the universe, the nature which is in things, the light shining through the obscurity of matter and so resplendent in the darkness.]8


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Then, in a long and extraordinarily beautiful passage, Bruno mobilizes the Actaeon myth to describe the joyful plight of those precious few who arrive at a vision of Diana: Rarissimi, dico, son gl’Atteoni alli quali sia dato dal destino di posser contemplar la Diana ignuda, et dovenir á tale che dalla bella dispositione del corpo della natura invaghiti in tanto, et scorti da qué doi lumi gemino splendor de divina bontá et bellezza, vegnano trasformati in cervio, per quanto non siano piu cacciatori, ma caccia. [I say few are the Actaeons to whom destiny gives the power to contemplate Diana naked, and the power to become so enamoured of the beautiful harmony of the body of nature, so fallen beneath the gaze of those two lights of the dual splendor of goodness and beauty, that they are transformed into deer, inasmuch as they are no longer the hunters but the hunted (225).]

Most thinkers hunt only ‘wild and less illustrious beasts’ or find ‘nothing to catch’ (225), but the true intellectual Actaeon by achieving such a view of the divine and the universal understands that he is himself enveloped by the truth that he has discovered. So, instead of seizing and devouring the object of his thought ‘through the mouth of his particular intelligence’ (ibid.), he is in fact captured by that object, hunted by it as a result of having hunted for it. Such an understanding, according to Bruno’s allegory, is powerfully transformative and makes the subject of such an apprehension ‘free as a deer’ and ‘like a god’ (ibid.). In this frenzy of amor heroycus that gives the book its title, the privileged beholder becomes so enraptured by his vision that he effectively dies to the world of the vulgar. This is where Actaeon’s treacherous hounds enter the allegory: Cossi gli cani, pensieri de cose divine, vorrano queste Atteone, facendolo morto al volgo, alla moltitudine, sciolto dalli nodi de perturbati sensi, libero dal carnal carcere della materia; onde non piu vegga come per forami et per fenestre la sua Diana, ma, havendo gittate le muragla à terra, é tutto occhio á l’aspetto de tutto l’orizonte … onde il Furioso si vanta d’esser preda della Diana, á cui si rese, per cui si stima gradito consorte, et piu felice cattivo et suggiogato, che invidiar possa ad altro huomo. [The result is that the dogs, as thoughts bent upon divine things, devour this Actaeon and make him dead to the vulgar, to the multitude, free him from the snares of the perturbing senses and the fleshly prison of matter, so that he no longer sees his Diana as through a glass or a window, but

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having thrown down the earthly walls, he sees a complete view of the whole horizon … That is why the frenzied lover boasts of becoming the prey of Diana to whom he renders himself, of whom he is esteemed a worthy consort, and so happy a captive under his yoke, that he has no reason to envy any man. (226)

As opposed to the Ovide moralisé, where Actaeon’s dogs represent the treacherous pull of the vulgar and the material on the divine, here the dogs are themselves the transformative agents of the divine and what free the philosopher from the ‘prison of matter.’ The price paid for such transcendence is not only alienation from the vulgar, but also servitude to a most domineering Diana, with whom the frenzied lover enjoys a masochistic relationship as he is hounded by his thoughts to a state of otherworldly ecstasy. It is thus not surprising that such bliss belongs only to a very restricted elite of intellectual heroes and cannot – indeed must not – be sought by other (mere) mortals: Bisogna che siano arteggiani, meccanici, agricoltori, servitori, pedoni, ignobili, vili, poveri, pedanti et altri simili, perche altrimente non potrebono essere philosofi, contemplativi, coltori degl’ animi, padroni, capitani, nobili, illustri, ricchi, sapienti et altri che siano heroici simili à gli dei. [It is necessary that there be artisans, mechanics, farmers, servants, pedestrians, the ignoble, the base, the poor, the pedants and others of the sort; for otherwise there could not be the philosophers, saints, educators, lords, captains, noblemen, illustrious men, wealthy men, wise men and others who are as heroic as are the gods (217).]

The rarity of heroes is part of the cosmic order and any attempt on the part of those who are not so destined to attain such stature can only bring disruption and unhappiness. The above passage also alludes to the reputed derivation of the word hero or heroes from eros to refer to those born of the sexual union of a human with a god (typically transformed into a beast, it should be added!). The ‘heroic’ furore or frenzy Bruno describes is thus an eroticized state of closeness to God for those rare predisposed ones, an intellectual epiphany that is also the terror of a self-annihilation. The intellectual is thus a true hero, in the modern sense as well, whose progress to truth requires an act of courage as well as the enthusiasm of eros. Thus concludes one of the sonnets in De gli eroici furori explicitly written on the Actaeon theme:


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I’ allargo I’ miei pensieri Ad alta preda, et essi á me rivolti Morte mi dan con morsi crudi et fieri. [I stretch my thoughts to the sublime prey, and these springing back upon me, bring me death by their hard and cruel gnawing (123).]

Such a masochistic heroism of the mind remains a hallmark of the modern intellectual, resurfacing perhaps most dramatically in Jacques Lacan’s analogy of the psychoanalyst as Actaeon in ‘The Freudian Thing.’ There, Freud appears as ‘an Actaeon perpetually slipped by dogs that have been tracked down from the beginning, and which he strives to draw back in pursuit, without being able to slacken the chase in which only his passion for the goddess leads him on.’ But Freud is a successful Actaeon whose intellectual thirst is quenched by a ‘chthonian Diana’ who offers him ‘with the smooth surface of death, the quasi-mystical limit of the most rational discourse in the world, so that we might recognize the place in which the symbol is substituted for death in order to take possession of the first swelling of life.’9 Freud, though, seems to have survived this dread encounter and so resembles more closely those other ancient heroes, Hercules, Odysseus, or Aeneas, whose keenness and courage allowed them to accomplish the supposedly impossible task of returning from a visit to the underworld. The followers of Freud, however, meet Actaeon’s fate, albeit it seems without the gift of his vision: As we know, this limit [of the most rational discourse] and this place [Diana’s grotto] are still well outside the reach of his disciples, if indeed they make any attempt at all to seek it, and so the Actaeon who is dismembered here is not Freud, but every analyst who can measure up to the passion that consumed him and which has made him, according to the signification that Giordano Bruno gave this myth in his Furori eroici, the prey of the dogs of his thoughts. (ibid.)

Lacan misreads Bruno to say that the mediocre thinker – or pedant, as Bruno would say – is the one who falls prey to ‘the dogs’ of thought and so never even reaches the place from which Diana can be glimpsed. In Bruno, of course, the fate of being devoured by thought’s dogs is the ‘result’ at once spiritual and mortal of having seen the truth of Diana. Lacan has reversed the causality of the myth (Actaeon is punished

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because he does not see Diana), a view consonant with his remark several pages later about guilt as an obstacle on the path to truth. Freud, as we saw, had the necessary passion and drive to make his way to the goddess, but not so the Actaeons who came after: For truth proves to be complex in essence, humble in its offices and alien to reality, stubborn to the choice of sex, akin to death and, all in all, rather inhuman, Diana perhaps … Actaeon, too guilty to hunt the goddess, the prey in which is caught, O huntsman, the shadow that you become, let the pack pass by without hastening your step, Diana will recognize the hounds for what they are. (145)

In other words, the hunter should not allow himself to be turned into a prey object, but should continue aggressively to hunt down his object. Hesitation and flight are the dangers to be avoided, not the blinding sight of something ‘inhuman.’ Of course, this truth that is ‘inhuman’ and ‘akin to death’ is also understood as feminine. Such fables of intellectual heroism with regards to the other as truth can also be read inversely as strategies for confronting that dreaded other that is woman. In Lacan’s version, Freud is the only one to have had the tenacity to descend all the way down into the uterine landscape of Diana to learn what it is women ‘want.’ Notice once again how this journey into femininity is also staged as a journey to the realm of the dead, underscoring the fundamental level of masculine terror that structures, whether positively (as masochistic ecstasy) or negatively (as the treachery of humiliation, betrayal, and annihilation), the various versions of the Diana/Actaeon myth we have seen until now. Bruno’s misoygnist suppositions, however, are at once more overt and more enlightening about possible alternatives. Despite the lauded bliss of servitude to Diana, mortal women are distinctly not only not eligible for heroic frenzy but are among the chief obstacles to men’s philosophic fulfilment: Certamente quello che circa tai supposti abomino é quel studioso et disordinato amor venereo che soglono alchuni spendervi, de maniera che se gli fanno servi con l’ingegno, et vi vegnono á cattivar le potenze et atti piu nobili de l’anima intellettiva. [Truly, with regard to that sex, what I abominate is that zealous and disordered venereal love which some are accustomed to expend for it, so that


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they come to the point of making their wit the slave of woman, and of degrading the noblest powers and actions of the intellectual soul. (65–6)]

Being the celestial Diana’s slave is fine, but to be too enraptured by a real flesh-and-blood woman is a problem, if it is not, as in Petrarch’s case, the very sign of a ‘lack of genius’: … lui per non haver ingegno atto á cose megliori, volse studiosamente nodrir quella melancolia, per celebrar non meno il proprio ingegno sú quella matassa, con esplicar gl’ affetti d’un ostinato amor volgare animale et bestiale, ch’abbiano fatto gl’altri ch’han parlato delle lodi della mosca, del scarafone, de l’asino, de Sileno, de Priapo. (99; emphasis added) [ … for lack of genius apt for higher things he set himself the task of nourishing his melancholy, and belaboring his wit in confusion, by analyzing the effects of an obstinate vulgar love, animal and bestial, as so many others have done who formerly have sung the praises of a fly, a beetle, an ass, of Silenus, of Priapus. (65; emphasis added)]

Again, if heroic love leads to one’s metaphorical existence as a stag devoured by dogs, vulgar love in Bruno’s view seems hardly separable from bestiality itself. If psychoanalysis would seem to posit the feminine in conjunction with death, Renaissance humanism seems inescapably to place together women and beasts in a single category understood as distinct from and inferior to that of ‘men.’ On the other hand, Bruno in a transparent move to curry royal favour and protection, as he had earlier enjoyed in France under Henri III, repeatedly connects the allegorical and celestial Diana, who is after all but the finite representamen of the universe in the infinity of its being, with the currently reigning queen on the throne of England, Elizabeth I. The servile necessity of placating women in power leads of course to the philosophical nicety of a revision of the category of women itself, or at least of British women, who should not be confused with the women of other countries: dove si raggionasse de tutto il sesso femenile, non si deve ne può intendere de alchune vostre, che non denno esser stimate parte di quel sesso; perche non son femine, non son donne. ma (in similitudine di quelle) son nimphe, son dive, son di sustanza celeste; trà le quali é lecito di contemplar quell’ unica Diana, che in questo numero est proposito non volgo nominare. (101)

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[any discourse regarding the whole feminine sex could not and would not include any of your (British) women, they are not women, they are not ladies, but, in the guise of ladies, they are nymphs, goddesses and of celestial substance, among whom it is permitted to contemplate that unique Diana, whom I do not desire to name in the rank or category of women. (65)]

That ‘unique Diana’ is Elizabeth, of course, but the assimilation of the ancient goddess to so powerful a woman is not at all unique. Furthermore, in an era when men’s minds seem to have been so obsessed by the figure of Diana, it hardly seems surprising that certain women skilfully reappropriated that figure to empower themselves. If we are to sort out from this tradition a distinctly ‘unique’ Diana, she would have to be, not Elizabeth and others who cleverly imitated her, but the French Duchess of Valentinois, better known as Diane de Poitiers. A remarkable and ambitious woman, she is said to have saved her father’s life after he had been condemned to public execution for his supposed role in a treasonous plot by obtaining his pardon from King Francis I in exchange for sexual favours. Later, she appears as the allpowerful mistress of Henri II, despite his being twenty years her junior, and having even gained the reluctant deference of that monarch’s proud wife, Catherine de Medici. There is, of course, nothing particularly noteworthy about a French king having publicly kept a mistress, but Diane was a phenomenon all her own, with a power and prestige equivalent to that of a legitimate queen. Despite her age and relative unattractiveness, her sway over Henri II could not have been more complete, as he wore her colours at public functions, used an amalgamation of the letters H and D in his livery, and bestowed upon her duchies, chateaux, royal pensions, and all manner of gifts and favours. In fact, the Venetian diplomate Marcantonio Contarini reported that the king slept with the queen his wife only upon the explicit urging of his mistress, who wished to maintain a certain decorum.10 And in this she had good reason, as rumours flew, especially given the king’s unfailing devotion and fidelity even as she grew older, that she had somehow magically ‘charmed’ or ‘bewitched’ the king.11 At the same time, Diane insisted upon an unusual amount of discretion in regards to the exact nature of her liaison with the king and played to the hilt the role of austere widow and impossible love object which requires the most subservient behavior from her royal admirer.12 A veritable ‘ice queen,’ in today’s terminology, Diane found an almost ready-made personalized


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iconography in the mythological figure of Diana. As Françoise Bardon writes in her remarkable study, ‘She had the good fortune to live in an era where such attitudes were allowed, and even extolled, where the prestige of royalty required the glorious equivocation of a mythology adapted to reality.’ Thus, ‘her character explains in part her legend; the complexity of mythographic interpretations and the free plasticity of the Diana theme suited her naturally’ (39). Furthermore, the earlier iconographical development of that theme in the court context at Fontainebleau, as well as in the Petrarchist poetic tradition, primed its free exploitation by a powerful woman bearing the same name as the goddess of the hunt. To this end, she richly decorated her chateaux of Anet and Chenonceau with the Diana motif, had her praises sung by poets like Du Bellay, Ronsard, and de Magny, and commissioned tapestries and paintings which portrayed her under various guises of the goddess. Royal entries featured a triumphant Diana (the goddess) attended by ‘petitz levriers et Espaigneux en lesse de gros cordons de soye blanche et noire’ (the colours of Diane de Poitiers) [miniature greyhounds and spaniels leashed by black and white silk cords].13 As Bardon notes, ‘Diane wanted to be assimilated to the austere and chaste goddess whose name she bore, she desired this assimilation for reasons of her intimate pride, in order not to be confused with the subaltern race of royal mistresses, and she succeeded in casting doubt on the true character of her relations with the king; for political reasons too: the more remarked her chasteness, the greater would be her prestige and the more fruitful her influence (50). The success of her efforts might be summarized by a couplet from an allegorical poem by François Habert: Mais peu à peu Venus s’abolira, Et en son nom Diane on publiera [But little by little Venus will be abolished, And in her stead Diana will be published.]14

Diane’s eclipse, not only of the reigning queen but also of the goddess of love, indicates that the triumph of Diane and her appropriation of the Diana myth also comes with some unique revisions of that myth. Rather than a distant, foreboding, and even fatal (if glimpsed) persona, we have a discrete but alluring nymph. François Clouet’s Diana Bathing [figure 7] depicts Diane de Poitiers as Diana among a group of almost identical-looking nymphs surrounding by two satryrs, while in the left background a man (Henri II/Actaeon) approaches on horseback, accompanied by a single greyhound. The nymphs are busy holding up

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7 François Clouet, Diana Bathing, 1565 (Museu de Arte, São Paulo)

cloaks to shield Diana from view as a satyr blows his horn. Curiously, Diana’s nudity is shielded from all points of view except those of the viewer and of the incoming rider. To the right we see in the distance a stag felled by two dogs. The painting breaks from convention in at least two respects: (1) instead of an Actaeon already undergoing metamorphosis, typically with pointed ears and antlers if not already a stag head, Clouet splits the identity of Actaeon between the horseman on the left, before the fatal encounter, and the stag on the right, presumably after the fatal vision; (2) instead of depicting panic and shame as the nymphs react to Actaeon’s intrusion, Clouet’s nymphs appear as attendants to a lady primping for the arrival of a gentleman caller. All this contributes to a lessening of the terrifying or tragic element of the encounter between man and goddess and a more lighthearted, secularized insistence upon the sylvan decor of nymphs, satyrs, and the world of the hunt. Aside from the obvious political problem of representing a reigning monarch as Actaeon (although Henri’s sudden death from a lance in the eye in a tournament accident curiously repeats the theme of a fatal vision and death at the hands of one’s own, in this case the sorrowful Comte de Montgoméry), the necessity of developing a per-


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sonalized mythography for Diane de Poitiers in her ambitious rivalry with the queen would thus be a good reason to lessen the importance of the Actaeon myth. Such a devaluation is effected both by making reference to Diana’s other relations (with Orion and Endymion, for instance) as well as by insisting upon the self-sufficiency of Diana as the ruler of an entire forest world where she communes with nymphs, dogs, and stags, at the same time showing herself to be far more proficient at the hunt than the men who claim the exclusive privilege of enjoying it. In point of fact, such an iconography came to be of tremendous appeal to aristocratic women to the extent that it visually legitimized a certain measure of power within the political world of men as countless portraits of huntswomen à la Diana appeared over the next few centuries. The famous portrait that hangs today in the Louvre of Diane de Poitiers as the Huntress Diana is the inevitable inspiration for this tradition [figure 8]. Executed by an anonymous member of the École de Fontainebleau, the painting depicts an all but nude Diana walking in profile, her head turned towards the viewer in a three-quarter’s angle, accompanied by a greyhound, and set against a woodland background. Aside from the sheet draped over her shoulder and the crescent on her head traditionally symbolizing her relation to the Moon, all other objects in the painting – her attributes – are rigorously phallic: the tree trunk behind her that follows out the line of her left thigh, the arrow in her right hand, the bow in her left hand, the quiver of arrows slung from the strap over her left shoulder, and the greyhound disynchronously running while she walks and marking a horizontal space perpendicular to the striking verticality and, consequently, the apparent height of her body. This complex of phallic attributes is reinforced by the masculinized quality of her body. If, for example, one were to cancel out the small woman’s head (shorthaired of course!) and diminutive breast, one would be hard pressed to qualify this broad-shouldered, long-limbed body as traditionally feminine. The tradition of the ‘virgin huntress’ that this painting reinvigorates only exacerbates the problem. In other words, this apparent gender bender from the sixteenth century would seem to effect an erasure of gender difference rather than its production, in much the same way as do those warrior maidens of Renaissance epic whose virago status simply situates them as another one of the guys (viri). If we were to follow Freud at his word in his analysis of ‘Medusa’s Head,’ where he maintains that a plurality of the phallus is as much a sign of castration and castration anxiety as is its

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8 Fontainebleau School, Diana the Huntress, 16th century (Louvre, Paris)



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significant absence, we would expect this painting to be an image of terror, which it obviously is not.15 Far from being like the Medusa’s head whose sight is as exciting and fatal to its male beholder as is Actaeon’s glimpse of Diana bathing, Diana the huntress, like the phallic woman in general, functions more as a palliative fetish of woman’s difference, denying it while giving it a symbolic tipping of the hat in terms of the woman hunter’s manifestly borrowed phallic attributes (down to the large hunting dog, which we earlier saw to be the private domain of aristocratic men). Finally, what Diane de Poitiers’s appropriation and domestication of the Diana myth did was to turn herself into a successful fetish for the powerfully apotropaic gaze of a monarch. By absconding with the king’s body, she basked moonlike in the reflected glow of his power, but all her glory vanished as soon as he was gone, losing everything upon his death but Anet and a few familial inheritances. One consequence is the literalized domestication of the Diana figure as a maternal figure surrounded by children and by dogs that certainly seem more like household pets than hunting animals, such as in later paintings of Gabrielle d’Estrées or Marie de Medicis [figure 9]. Such domesticating moves precisely rejoin, of course, the tradition described in earlier chapters of this study. Given the limits, then, of any such reappropriation of a female figure of male desire/fear, are there any alternatives that we can locate in the history of women’s desire? Are there, for instance, versions of Diana less recuperable and more problematic than the one pursued by Diane de Poitiers? We might consider, to begin with, her rival, Queen Catherine de Medicis, as detested a figure in French culture as Diane is beloved and romanticized. Brantôme tells of a story that – whether suppressed historical fact or fictional fantasy – gives the lie to Catherine’s reputed tolerance of her husband’s unending affair with the lady of Anet. According to him, Catherine’s jealousy impelled her to see what was really going on for herself. With the help of a woman friend, she occupied the room immediately above where her husband and rival met for their trysts, and had ‘several holes’ drilled in the floor so she could observe what happened. After ‘having seen and perceived everything,’16 however, Catherine was devastated, bursting into tears at the sight of those ‘folies’ taking place between Henri and Diane so sorely lacking in her marriage with the king. In response to her friend’s attempts to console her, she answered: ‘Helas, ouy! j’ay voulu voir chose que je ne devois avoir voulu voir, puisque la veue m’en fait mal’ [Yes, alas, I wanted to see something I ought not to have wanted to see, since its sight injures me].17 Does this voyeuristic pain make Catherine

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Image Not Available

9 Ambroise Dubois, Gabrielle d’Estrées en Diane, 16th century (Château de Chenonceaux, France). Also attributed to Francesco Primaticcio, with subject being Diane de Poitiers

a sort of female Actaeon, or is it the pain of the nymphs before the sight of a male intruder gazing upon their Diana? What is the metamorphosis this queen would undergo if it is not becoming the beast that is the thrill/horror of masculine desire? Given what Brantôme later adds, the queen’s transformation is not physiological but libidinal, as she revers-


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es, then eroticizes the affect of her gaze before she reorients the object choice of her desires: Toutefois, aprés s’estre consolée et resolue, elle ne s’en soucia plus, et, le plus qu’elle pust, continua ce passe-temps de veue, et le convertit en risée, et possible, en autre chose. [Nevertheless, after having consoled herself and made up her resolve, she worried no more about it, and, as much as she could, she continued this visual pastime, and turned it into a subject of laughter and, possibly, of something else.

Tears turn to laughter and shock gives way to the auto-erotic thrill of an obsessive voyeurism. The further development of Catherine’s sexuality, long after both Henri and Diane have passed from the scene, is then described in the following section of Brantôme’s Dames galantes. There, we learn that this ‘grandissime’ lady, ‘married and widowed,’ was also a ‘great whore’ (grand putain), unable to restrain her ‘natural lasciviousness,’ and took especial pleasure in seeing the most beautiful of her ‘dames et filles’ stripped, then spanking or whipping them.18 Another source, Pierre de L’Estoile, corroborates this queenly predilection, situating such events more particularly as taking place at Chenonceau, a chateau that once belonged to Diane de Poitiers herself, who had prominently decorated it with her Diana motif.19 How do we get from the scopic fulfilment of jealous rage to the staging of these massive sadomasochistic stag parties? Can we infer from Catherine’s case the possibility of a lesbian Actaeon? The forbidden sight of another woman’s pleasure (folies) triggers not just disillusion with an unfaithful spouse but the arousal of desire for the other woman, in particular the desire to be that other woman and as such the occasion to make other women laugh or cry as she once had upon seeing what she ‘ought not to have wanted to see’: ‘ou pour les faire rire, or pour plorer’ [either to make them laugh or cry]20 is said to be what excites her in spanking other women. To realize such desires in one of the locations most symbolically linked with Diane/Diana is to succeed in the ultimate act of reappropriation. Catherine de Medeci and not Diane de Poitiers is the one who succeeds in becoming a true Diana, powerful in her own right (as the Queen Mother to three successive French kings), with her own retinue of nymphs, naked and ready to service her every need, and a country retreat where her secret, forbidden rites could be pursued. And if the mythographic

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project of Diane de Poitiers revealed its vulnerability in her dependence on the phallic authority of another (King Henri II), Catherine de Medici is par excellence the powerful woman figure of the Renaissance who needs no man, but whose approval men (such as her son kings) need. Hence, the truly menacing quality of her challenge to the sixteenth-century political order in France. Remember Agrippa d’Aubigné’s description of her in terms that strongly suggest comparison with the terror of femininity Freud described in ‘Medusa’s Head’: ‘savage et carnaciere beste,’ ‘ce serpent monstrueux,’ ‘Cett’ Hydra renaissant,’ ‘de basilique veuë’ [wild and carnivorous beast, that monstrous serpent, that Hydra reborn, with the gaze of the basilisk].21 A savage beast/woman, terrible if not fatal to behold, involved in unspeakable acts with other women, such is the negative iconography attributed to this powerful queen. With all the self-sufficiency of a Diana, any comparison whether positive or negative was surprisingly not blocked by Catherine herself, under whose ascendancy the mythography explicitly linked with her erstwhile rival was virtually silenced, while in every other respect she in practice accomplished the ambitions represented by Diane de Poitiers’s cultural politics. Not that we should in any way view Catherine’s success and the outrage it provoked with any kind of nostalgia or idealizing viewpoint. A truly powerful personage she was and her implication in the bloody wars of religion, including the terrible St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, that ravaged France in this period is beyond dispute, even though the exact nature and extent of her involvement remains a subject of much historical debate. Catherine’s example thus seems to be as non-recuperable as Diane de Poitiers’s is all too recuperable in terms of the Diana cult as a potential locus for representing alternative visions of the feminine. And despite their manifest differences, both of them keep us within the relatively limited sphere of empowered aristocratic women (queens and mistresses to kings). A different set of possibilities and issues emerges if we consider a bourgeois, provincial poetess like Louis Labé, whose Sonnet 19 puts us once again in the world of Diana, although from a novel point of view: Diane estant en l’espaisseur d’un bois, Après avoir mainte beste assenee. Prenoit le frais, de Nynfes couronnee: J’allois resvant comme fay maintefois,


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Sans y penser: quand j;ouy une vois, Qui m’apela, disant, Nynfe estonee, Que ne t’es tu vers Diane tournee? Et me voyant sans arc et sans carquois, Qu’as tu trouvé, o compagne, en ta voye, Qui de ton arc et flesches ait fair proye? Je m’animay, respons je, à un passant, Et lui getay en vain toutes mes flesches Et l’arc après: mais lui les ramassant Et les tirant me fit cent et cent bresches. [Diana, being in the thickness of a wood, After having struck down many a beast, Was refreshing herself, surrounded by Nymphs: I was dreaming along as I often do, Without thinking: when I heard a voice, Calling me, who said, hey wide-eyed Nymph, Why are you not turned towards Diana? And seeing me without bow or quiver, What did you find, o compagnon, in your path, That took your bow and arrows as prey? I got excited, I answered, by a passerby And in vain I flung all my arrows at him And then the bow: but picking them up And shooting them, he breached me in a hundred and a hundred places.]22

The first quatrain presents the traditional situation of Diana after the hunt resting in her boshci cooling off in the company of her nymphs. It is quite a surprise, then, when we learn in the following quatrain that the daydreaming narrator is not the unsuspecting Actaeon about to stumble upon the goddess but a wayward nymph, aberrant precisely because she is not ‘turned’ towards the deity. When asked what happened to her missing bow and quiver, we expect to hear of a failed hunt, one where the prey has gotten away or taken away the very weapons of the hunt as prey. Instead, we get an elaborate metaphor

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of failed desire that transcodes the bow and arrows of Diana’s nymph into those of Cupid, thus confounding loyalty to Diana with service to Venus. At stake is the reciprocity of desire, a key theme in Labé’s poetry. The arrows shot in the direction of the person passing by either miss the target or have no effect while their being flung back wounds the narrator, opening her up in ‘a hundred and a hundred’ places. The prey has turned back on the huntress, turning her into prey herself as she finds herself ripped open by the force of her own weapons turned back on her, just as was Actaeon by his own hunting companions/weapons, the dogs. As an avatar/companion of Diana herself, however, the nymph narrator also suggests a reading of the dangers of straying too far from the circle of women, of the risks of heterosexual relations where the attempt to arouse desire in the other, far from metamorphosing him into an amorous stag only leaves the woman vulnerable, wounded and alone. It is the lack of male reaction and consequent hurt, it would seem, that leads Labé in the direction of seeking solace in the community of women, to whom she addresses herself in both her final elegy and concluding sonnet. Is there any justification, however, for seeing such a utopic fulfillment of women’s community in what we know of the ancient cult of Diana/Artemis and its possible successors? One of the peculiar traits of the iconography surrounding the goddess is the accumulation not only of different but also of contradictory attitudes: both ideal virgin and goddess of childbirth, maiden and mother, protectress of animals and goddess of the hunt, safeguarder of the young and bringer of sudden death, sensitive to the plight of even the tiniest creature yet demanding the bloodiest of sacrifices, etc. A relatively minor figure in the Greek pantheon as it is represented in the extant literature, she was nevertheless in practice among the most worshipped of all the gods. As Carole Law Trachy has brilliantly argued, this situation may be the result of ‘a lack of empathy’ among the early Greek makers of myth and image, ‘causing some elements to be suppressed and others to be stressed.’23 This relative lack of interest in the goddess on the part of these male poets and artists is best explained, she maintains, by Artemis’s being essentially a female deity and one primarily concerned with the biological processes of women’s bodies: menses, fertility, parturition, and so on. Ruling over the entire physiological life of women, whether maiden, nymph, or crone, she is thus readily both the ‘virgin of virgins’ and the ‘mother of mothers,’ a giver of life as well as of death (in the throes of childbirth). Obviously, a crucial deity in the daily lives of women,


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‘the very essence of a female deity,’ she has also been, not surprisingly, ‘the most popular goddess in Greece.’24 It becomes, then, all the more important to distinguish the Artemis of myth from the Artemis of cult and the reason why the narrower representation of the virgin huntress should prevail in the Artemis of myth, while the broader understanding of the goddess as patroness of women remained current among those who worshipped her in practice. Trachy concludes: ‘The virgin huntress was the aspect of Artemis which the masculine world could understand. Artemis, the goddess of menses and parturition, was alien to [that] world view.’25 The strength of her cult was epitomized by the great temple and shrine at Ephesus in Asia Minor, a place of pilgrimage in the ancient Mediterranean, comparable in many ways, it has been said, to modern-day Lourdes.26 When Paul tried to convert the Ephesians in 54 AD, he was met by an angry crowd chanting, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians.’27 The town was later ‘converted’ in the usual Christian way by transforming the pagan goddess into a liturgical figure with the same attributes, in this case, that of the Virgin Mother. The basilica that was then founded at Ephesus was the first to be built in the Madonna’s honour and points to one of the most important continuations of the pagan deity in the guise of the cult of Mary – and this is exactly why the official Church maintained an ambiguous and even hostile attitude towards a popular movement that kept alive one of the more resistant pagan religions. Unfortunately, as in other similar pagan survivals, their less discrete rivals and followers were branded with the accusation of witchcraft and sorcery. Diana seems to have had a particular prominence in such accusations. As early as the tenth-century Canon episcopi, warnings are uttered about ‘some wicked women, perverted by the Devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, [who] believe and profess themselves, in the hours of the night, to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of the night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights.’28 The text goes on to utter further concerns that such ‘false opinions’ are believed by ‘an innumerable multitude,’ who are thus at risk of leaving the faith and embracing the ways of the pagans. The seriousness of the matter is such that this passage was incorporated by Gratian into the text of Canon Law and later reappears verbatim in Sprenger and Kramer’s infamous Malleus maleficarum of 1484, used as an aid to inquisitors conducting

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the witch trials of the early modern era. Clearly, the threat of multitudes of women and animals congregating at night to honour Diana, goddess of the Moon, posed a direct challenge to Catholic authority, as it testified to the persistence of a popular pagan cult – and a feminocentric one at that! – from antiquity well into modern times. And in a ghastly repetition of ancient Greek mythography’s celebration of one aspect of Artemis/Diana to the exclusion of others, the same era that saw the rise in secular, aristocratic depictions of the virgin huntress also saw the widespread burning of witches, usually identified as women, especially those living outside male company, practising midwifery or keeping animals (or ‘familiars’) – all attributes that are easily identifiable with the pagan cult of Diana. The extensiveness and brutality with which ‘witches’ were hunted down and eradicated throughout most of Europe makes the historical work of understanding the exact nature of the presumably gynocentric culture that could have triggered such a rage for extermination extremely difficult, of course. In some cases, especially in England, the familiars were executed along with their owners. Even today, women who are too old or too poor or too lonely or have too many pets face the risk of all kinds of ostracisms, persecutions, incarcerations in asylums, or worse: in 1976 an impoverished German spinster was suspected by her fellow villagers of being a witch, notably by dint of her ‘keeping familiars in the form of dogs.’ Verbal threats and harassment escalated into rock throwing and setting fire to her home, leading to her suffering terrible burn injuries and the death of her pets.29 One of the more hopeful terrains of investigation is Italy, where the witchcraft craze was far less virulent than in northern Europe. Traces of la vecchia religione survived into the late nineteenth century, when Charles Leland uncovered various poems, incantations, and stories that make up what is known as Il vangelo delle strege (the Gospel of the Witches). What these texts make very clear is the relation between a traditional, popular cult of magic in Italy and the remarkable persistence of the pagan deity Diana, here explicitly invoked as the ‘regina delle strege’ or ‘queen of the witches.’30 Although ‘witch’ is the standard translation for ‘strega,’ the word is actually much closer to the sense of ‘sorcerer’ or ‘enchantress’ and carries in Italian none of the negative associations connected with the English word, witch. In particular, there is no connection with the kind of Satanism or devil worship successfully imputed by the Church to the witches of the North. Instead, what we find in Il vangelo delle strege is a set of practical invo-


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cations and prayers that with a typically pagan blend of reverence and irreverence implore, beg, cajole, bargain with, and even threaten the deity to bring about some desired aim, one’s good fortune, or someone else’s ill fortune. We are also, without surprise, treated to the discussion of a set of domestic and sacred rituals, involving food, drink, herbs, precious stones, the sabbath, gift-giving, and so forth. More interesting is the overt designation of Diana as the supreme being out of whom all creation springs, including her brother Lucifer (the ‘bearer of light’ and an obvious refashioning of Apollo before the Church in turn redesignated him, despite his name, as the ‘prince of darkness’). Such a cosmology is also remarkably close to Bruno’s allegorical imagery (though without his evident misogyny), which makes us mindful of the fact that he was one of the few persons actually burned at the stake as a ‘witch’ in Italy. Even more interesting, though, in Il vangelo is the expansion of Diana’s role beyond the protection of women, the young, and animals to include all the oppressed and marginal of society. Absolutely no one, no matter how wretched or sinful, is estranged from her, as we see in such passages as the following: Diana, tu che siei la regina Del cielo e della terra e dell’inferno, E siei la prottetrice degli infelici, Degli ladri, degli assassini, e anche Di donne di mali affari se hai conosciuto, Che non sia stato l’indole cattivo Delle persone, tu Diana Diana li hai fatti tutti felici. (‘Scongiurazione della pietra bucata,’ 22) [Great Diana! thou Who art the queen of heaven and of earth, And of the infernal lands – yea, thou art Protectress of all the unfortunate ones, Of thieves and murderers, and of women too Who lead an evil life, and yet hast known That their nature was not evil, thou, Diana, Hast still conferred on them some joy in life. (‘Invocation to the Holy-Stone,’ 23; trans. modified)] Voi altri poveri soffrite anche la fame,

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E lavorato malo e molte volte; Soffrite anche la prigione; Mapero avete une anima, Una anima più buona, e nell’ altra, Nell’ altra mondo voi starete bene, E gli altri male. (3) [Ye who are poor suffer with hunger keen, And toil in wretchedness, and suffer too Full oft imprisonment; yet with it all Ye have a soul, and for your sufferings Ye shall be happy in the other world, But ill the fate of all who do ye wrong! (5)]

One can see how such a generous embrace of all who are downtrodden and rejected from society puts this cult in direct competition with the proclaimed Christian message of hope and care for the oppressed. But Il vangelo goes even further in the following long passage, which unmasks the hypocrisy of priests, feudal lords, and rich peasants and advocates revenge for their injustices: Tui sarai (sempre) la prima strega, La prima strega divenuta nel mondo, Tu insegnerai l’ arte di avvelenare, Di avvelenare (tutti) i signori, Di farli morti nei loro palazzi, Di legare il spirito del oppressore, E dove si trova un contadino ricco e avaro, Insegnerai alle strege tue alumne, Come rovinare il suo raccolto Con tempesta, folgore e balen, Con grandine e vento. Quando un pretre ti fara del male, Del male colle sue bene di’ Zioni, Tu le farai (sempre) un doppio male Col mio nome, col nome di Diana, Regina delle strege. (2–3) [And thou shalt be the first of witches known; And thou shalt be the first of all i’ the world;


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And thou shalt teach the art of poisoning, Of poisoning those who are great lords of all; Yea, thou shalt make them die in their palaces; And thou shalt bind the oppressor’s soul (with power); And when ye find a peasant who is rich, Then ye shall teach the witch, your pupil, how To ruin all his crops with tempests dire, With lightning and with thunder (terrible), And with the hail and wind. And when a priest shall do you injury By his benedictions, ye shall do to him Double the harm, and do it in the name Of me, Diana, Queen of witches all! (4–5)]

It is not difficult to see how such a radical populism could have threatened the feudal establishment and in particular the Church with its proclaimed interest in the poor and the meek. Perhaps the lesson of Actaeon in the Ovide moralisé is to be understood anagogically rather than allegorically, that is, less as the transcendance of Christ murdered by his own than as the Holy Church itself which, when confronted with a powerful alternative religion, will be torn asunder by its own most humble followers. Interestingly, Actaeon himself appears nowhere in these texts (perhaps because his story is in fact peripheral to the concerns of the goddess and may be no more than the veiled account of certain men’s inability to comprehend this feminine force and presence far beyond them). We do have other interesting metamorphoses, though. Like Christ in this too, Diana is constrained if she wishes ‘to become chief of goddesses’ to become mortal, but instead of becoming human she takes the semblance of that most reviled of animals in the Christian Middle Ages, the cat. In this form, she then lay with her brother, Lucifer, to produce a daughter, Aradia or Herodia, who of course in turn became a celebrated sorceress. Then, by a series of miraculous deeds, Diana gained her stature of supremacy over the heavens, the earth, and the underworld. Perhaps the particular hatred of cats as Satanic creatures emanates from such mysteries as this. Finally, a ritualized spell is included in the Vangelo to be repeated by a poor man in love with the daughter of a rich lord. If Diana gives in to his prayer, she will convert the beloved into a dog who will then come

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to visit him. Why a dog? ‘Because,’ we are told, ‘Diana has ever a dog by her side’ (35): Chiamerai tua figlia Aradia, Al letto della bella fanciulla Le mandera Aradia, La fanciulla in una canina convertira, Alla camera mia la mandera, Ma entrata in camera mia, Non sara più una canina, Ma tornerà une bella fanciulla, Bella cane era prima, E cosi potrò fare al amore A mio piacimento, Come a me piacera. Quando mi saro divertito A mi piacere dirò. Per volere della Fata Diana, E di sua figlia Aradia, Torna una canina Come tu eri prima! (‘Scongiurazione a Diana,’ 36) [Then call, I pray, thy daughter Aradia, And send her to the bedside of the girl, And give that girl the likeness of a dog, And make her then come to me in my room, But when she once has entered it, I pray That she may reassume her human form, As beautiful as e’er she was before, And may I then make love to her until Our souls with joy are fully satisfied. Then by the aid of the great Fairy Diana And of her daughter, fair Aradia, May she be turned into a dog again, And then to human form as once before! (‘Invocation to Diana,’ 37)]

Shades of Adonio! We seem to have come full circle indeed, as, once again, an animal serves as medium or mediator of desire. That the power controlling these transformations between human and beast is


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itself a female principle points to the mystery of Diana, as it in turn suggests a possible grounding in the popular culture of la vecchia religione for Ariosto’s tale (and incidently, to recall the sorceress Manto, one of Diana’s other manifestations in Il vangelo is as the queen of serpents). Diana, friend of women and of the poor, is here called upon not to incite desire (for that would properly be the work of her rival, Venus) but to make possible the concealed transition from one domestic space to another. Through her powers to metamorphize the beloved into and out of the shape of her favoured beast, the dog, Diana makes possible a communication between different realms of the private without a concomitant passing into and out of the public. Her specific magic is thus to make possible the connection between the otherwise isolated units of the private and the domestic in a way that is independent of and invisible to the public order as a patriarchal mind such as Alberti’s would understand it. Notice that in the invocation to Diana, the girl is always in human form when inside the two private spaces, but takes the shape of a animal when she is outside them. Inside either home, she is a girl, outside them she is a dog. The domestic dog is, of course, the ideal metaphor for such a transition, being by nature on the edge of the domestic: household pet or wild beast? And is that creature, then, not in fact the perfect familiar for a divinity who rules over the divide between what is domestic and what is not? That divide is to be found, though, not at the front door that opens onto the public sphere but in the recessed space Titian paints behind the Venus at Urbino, the space behind the green curtain where maid and matron sort through a chest before a window with a potted plant and view to outside trees. In fact, if Venus looks to the front, does not Diana look to the back, to the world behind the green curtain and the woods we see through the window? Not to the phallic hierarchy of the social but to the interface between domestic relations and the natural physiology of bodies, to that inner zone outside culture where beauty commingles with the beast. The inner border of the domestic is where Diana rules, not in some wooded wilds such as the male phobic myth of Actaeon describes. Not the wilds of nature but the displaced order of the domestic is what appears to Actaeon when he sees Diana taking her bath in the sole company of nymphs and beasts, that secret, communal place of women which is an utterly other kind of public sphere at the other edge of the domestic. But if there is then a wildness of the domestic, what we could call a polymorphous domesticity – one that cannot be readily contained

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or enclosed – then wildness would be what is most subversive about women’s culture. It would be what so troubles Actaeon’s unsuspecting gaze and unleashes the Inquisitors’ all-suspecting wrath. Much better to give that sight a utopic setting far out in the forest and to celebrate the chaste virgin of the hunt than to accept the possibility of such nymphic goings-on and bestial transformations inside one’s own home, better that than to admit that la bella might just be another version of Diana.

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Introduction 1 Arguably the leading journal in the field, Society and Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies regularly publishes articles whose perspectives derive from all these disciplines and others, and any given issue is likely to feature essays on such diverse topics as the ethics of animal research, the history of the animal rights movement, the representation of animals in art and literature, issues dealing with the domestication of animals, animal welfare questions, and so on. Breaking down the major thematic concerns in animal studies, one could propose the following rough typology. The oldest and strongest current of animal studies is no doubt the one engaged in the long-standing debate over whether and in what capacity animals can be said to have ‘rights.’ And among the many key players here we must of course count Peter Singer (Animal Liberation [New York: HarperCollins, 1975] and his edited volume In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2006]) and Tom Regan (‘The Case for Animal Rights,’ in Peter Singer, ed., In Defense of Animals [New York: Harper and Row, 1985], 13–27), as well as Paola Cavalieri (The Animal Question: Why Nonhuman Animals Deserve Human Rights [New York: Oxford University Press, 2001]) and Martha Nussbaum and Cass Sunstein (eds, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004]). A second major area of concern is that of the cognitive and emotional life of animals, an area spearheaded by the likes of Vicki Hearne (Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name [New York: Knopf, 1986] and Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog [New York: HarperCollins, 1991)] and Jeffrey Masson (When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals [New York: Delacorte Press, 1995]), and currently well represented by scholars such as Marc Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of


Notes to page 3 Animals [Novato: New World Library, 2007]) and Marian Stamp Dawkins (Through Our Eyes Only: The Search for Animal Consciousness [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998]). Another powerful current stems from the scattered reflections on the question of the animal/human divide to be found in late poststructuralist philosophy, particularly Jacques Derrida (L’animal que donc je suis [Paris: Galilée, 2006]), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi [London: Athlone Press, 1988]), Giorgio Agamben (The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004]), and Leonard Lawler (This Is Not Sufficient: An Essay on Animality and Human Nature in Derrida [New York: Columbia University Press, 2007]). Feminist interventions have not been lacking either: Carol J. Adams (The Sexual Politics of Meat [New York: Continuum, 1990] and her co-edited volume with Josephine Donovan, Animals and Women [Durham: Duke University Press, 1995]) and Mary Midgley (Animals and Why They Matter [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983]). Finally, considerable work has been done on the representation and social construction of animals in human art and culture: see especially Harriet Ritvo (The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987]), James Serpell (In the Company of Animals [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996]), Midas Decker (Dearest Pet, trans. Paul Vincent [London: Verso, 1994]), John Simons (Animal Rights and the Politics of Literary Representation [Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002]), and Steve Baker (The Postmodern Animal [London: Reaktion Books, 2000]). All these strands are brought most powerfully together in two crucial thinkers, who must be viewed in a class all their own: Carey Wolfe and Donna Haraway. Haraway, in a series of influential meditations from Primate Visions (New York: Routledge, 1989) to The Companion Species Manifesto (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003) to When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), comes at the question of the animal from a critical science-studies perspective that radically decentres humanist anthropocentrism. Wolfe, by contrast, represents the most sophisticated distillation of the poststructuralist contribution to the question, and in a stunning variety of publications (especially Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003] and his edited volume Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003]) he takes the insights of Derrida, Deleuze, and others to a new level of coherence and critical energy. In a very real sense, Wolfe and Haraway refocus the diversity of animal studies in new and promising directions. And there is most certainly something symptomatic to be said here about Wolfe’s current

Notes to pages 4–15








service as editor for the University of Minnesota Press series ‘Posthumanisms.’ Erica Fudge, Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002); Renaissance Beasts: Of Animals, Humans and Other Wonderful Creatures (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006). ‘On Wifely Duties,’ in The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society, ed. Benjamin Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, trans. Benjamin Kohl (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 189–288; LeonBattista Alberti, I libri di famiglia, trans. Renee Neu Watkins (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969). See Constance Jordon, Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1990). Also see Lynda Burke’s recent article ‘Intimate Familiarities? Feminism and Human-Animal Studies,’ on the connection between feminism and animal studies, in Society and Animals: Journal of Human Animal Studies, special 10th anniversary issue (1992–2002), ‘The State of Human Animal Studies,’ 429–36. See introduction to At the Borders of the Human: Beasts, Bodies and Natural Philosophy in the Early Modern Period, ed. E. Fudge, R. Gilbert, and S. Wiseman (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1999; Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). See Manfred P. Fleischer, ‘“Are Women Human?” The Debate of 1595 between Valens Acidalius and Simon Gediccus,’ Sixteenth Century Journal 12:2 (1981), 107–20. Also see Steve Baker, Picturing the Beast: Animal Identity and Representation (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001), esp. xv–xvii and 77–119. Fudge et al., eds, At the Borders of the Human, 2.

1 ‘Jewels of Women 1 Arcangeli Tarabotti, La semplicita ingannata (1654); a recent edition/translation of this work has recently been done by Letizia Panizza under the title Paternal Tyranny in The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). 2 Leon Battista Alberti, Della famiglia (1441); in English translation, The Family in Renaissance Florence, trans. Renée Neu Watkins (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969); Francesco Barbaro, De re uxoria (1416); Giovan Battista Della Porta, Della fisonomia dell’uomo, ed. Mario Cicognani (Parma: Ugo Guanda, 1988).


Notes to pages 16–31

3 Midas Deckers, Dearest Pet (London: Verso, 2000), 176. 4 Juliet Clutton-Brock, ‘Origins of the Dog: Domestication and Early History,’ in James Serpell, ed., The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 7–20. 5 Cf. Marc Shell, ‘The Family Pet,’ Representations 15 (Summer 1986), 121–55; Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 6 Juliana Barnes, The Boke of Saint Albans (1486) (New York: Abercrombie & Fitch, 1966). 7 Christine de Pisan’s case is interesting, moreover, to the extent that she combines the roles of woman and philosopher, the latter iconographically triggering the dog as ‘the philosopher’s animal’ and the former motivating the type of dog as the lapdog associated with women. On the philosophical tradition, see Patrik Reuterswärd, ‘The Dog in the Humanist’s Study,’ in The Visible and Invisible in Art: Essays in the History of Art (Vienna: IRSA, 1991), 206–25; and Karl Josef Höltgen, ‘Clever Dogs and Nimble Spaniels: On the Iconography of Logic, Invention, and Imagination,’ Explorations in Renaissance Culture 24 (1998), 1–36. While the philosophical hunt for truth thus iconographically motivates the hunting dog as the philosopher’s companion, we still find a lapdog when it is a case of a woman thinker and writer. 8 Charles Ricketts, Titian (London: Methuen, 1910), 92. 9 Ludovico Ariosto, Satire e lettere, ed. Cesare Segre, intro. Lanfranco Caretti (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), ll. 259–64, p. 64. 10 Alberti, Il cavallo vivo, critical edition and trans. by Antonio Videtta (Naples: Stampa et Ars, 1981). 11 Juliana Schiesari, ‘The Domestication of Woman in Cantos 42 and 43 of the Orlando furioso: Or a Snake Is Being Beaten,’ Stanford Italian Review 11:2 (Fall 1991). 12 Ariosto, Orlando furioso (43.78.5–8). 13 Edward Topsell, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (London: Printed by William Iaggard, 1607), 1: 135. 14 On these Wunderkammern, see Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). 15 P.C. Blin and J.M. Favreau, ‘Anomalies du comportement sexuel,’ in Psychiatrie animale, ed. A. Brion, Henri Ey, et al. (Paris: Brouwer, [c. 1964]), 276. 16 Denis Leigh, ‘The Psychology of the Pet Owner,’ Journal of Small Animal Practice 7:8 (August 1966), 518.

Notes to pages 31–44


17 Carla Freccero, ‘The Pleasures of History,’ in ‘Premodern Sexualities in Europe,’ ed. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero. Special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1.4 (1995), 6. 2 Portrait of the Poet as a Dog 1 The best edition of this versed letter remains that by Enrico Bianchi in Francesco Petrarca, Rime, Trionfi e Poesie latine (Milan and Naples: Riccardo Ricciari editore, 1951), 778–83. In addition to the Latin original, this edition also provides a translation into Italian. The letter has also been translated into English by Ernest Hatch Wilkins in his Petrarch at Vaucluse: Letters in Verse and Prose (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 63–8; a reprint of which can be found in Thomas G. Bergin, ed., Petrarch: Selected Sonnets, Odes and Letters (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson [Crofts Classics series], 1966. Throughout this chapter, I will cite Bianchi’s Latin edition by verse number only. I have closely consulted both his Italian translation and Wilkins’s English rendition, and while staying fairly close to them, I have consistently modified them when citing the text in order to stay closer to the Latin. A version of this chapter appeared in Italica, 2007. 2 Though clearly following in the footsteps of Horace and Virgil, Petrarch in texts such as this metrical epistle can rightly be viewed as a key predecessor for Montaigne, Rousseau, Emerson, Walt Whitman, John Muir, and such contemporary ‘nature poets’ as Robert Hass and Gary Snyder. 3 On this and other details of Petrarch’s biography relative to the writing of this letter, see Ernest Hatch Wilkins, Life of Petrarch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 58–73. 4 Ibid. 3 Alberto’s Cavallo vivo 1 Luigi Gianoli et al., Horses and Horsemanship through the Ages, trans. Iris Brooks (Il cavallo e l’uomo, Longanesi & C., 1967) (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1969), 103–4. Also see The Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline, and Identity in the Early Modern World, ed. Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker (New York and Houndmills, Eng.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). This last volume is heavily centred on England and France. The chapter ‘The Palio Horse in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy,’ by Elizabeth Tobey, while correct in her understanding of the origin of horsemanship in Renaissance Italy, also fails to note the importance of Alberti’s treatise in the Italian context. The editors do point out, however, that overall the owning and


2 3 4 5


7 8

9 10 11

Notes to pages 44–52

riding of the horse was considered a masculine activity and was defined as such, which thus raised the status of the horse to a place that could exceed that of woman, the same position Alberti takes in the work I analyse in his chapter. This chapter appeared in an earlier version in Rinascimento, ed. Francesco Erspamer and Michele Ciliberto (Florence: Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, 2004), 103–13. Ginoli, Horses and Horsemanship, 11–12. I use Antonio Videtta’s Italian translation, Il cavallo vivo, from the Latin De equo animante, a critical edition. Leon Battista Alberti, The Family in Renaissance Florence, trans. Renée Neu Watkins (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969). See the excellent discussion of Alberti’s Della famiglia by Sister Prudence Allen, RSM, The Concept of Woman:Volume II, The Early Humanist Reformation, 1250–1500 (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 798–9. Although I agree with much of the analysis of Alberti’s gender hierarchy, nonetheless, and without wanting to support his gender discrimination, I would argue that he indeed allows the woman some dignity inside the home. After all, she was the mistress of the house, albeit to an extremely limited extent and under the supervision of the Father’s eye. William Woodward, Studies in Education during the Age of the Renaissance, 1400–1600 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 53. Also see Joan Kelly-Gadol, Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 214–15; and also Allen, The Concept of Woman, Vol. II, 798–9. Allen, The Concept of Woman, 798. ‘Let the father of the family follow my example. Since I find it no easy matter to deal with the needs of the household when I must often be engaged outside with other men in arranging matters of wider consequence, I have found it wise to set aside a certain amount for outside use, for investments and purchases. The rest, which takes care of all the smaller household affairs, I leave to my wife’s care. I have done it this way, for to tell the truth, it would hardly win us respect if our wife busied herself among the men in the marketplace, out in the public eye. It also seems somewhat demeaning to me to remain shut up in the house among women when I have manly things to do among men, fellow citizens and worthy and distinguished foreigners’ (The Family 3, p. 207). Allen, The Concept of Woman, 800. Gianoli, Horses and Horsemanship, 104–5. One, of course, only needs to think of Alberti’s 1430 treatise On Painting to understand not only how nature is filtered through an ideal but also how

Notes to pages 52–5


the artist is the one in charge of this ‘divine’ practice. Alberti, On Painting, trans. J.R. Spencer (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1956; repr. 1966). 12 The Family 3, p. 207. 13 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, trans. S.G.C. Middlemore (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1921; 2nd ed., illustrated , 1958), 402–3. 4 Della Porta and the Face of Domestication 1 Ludovico Ariosto, ‘Satire V,’ in Satire e lettere, ed. Cesare Segre (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), 64, ll. 260–1. On the dog as a fetish of domestication in Ariosto, see my ‘The Domestication of Woman in Orlando Furioso 42 and 43, or A Snake Is Being Beaten,’ Stanford Italian Review 10.1 (1991), 123–43. Please also see Juliana Schiesari, ‘Della Porta and the Face of Domestication,’ in Women, ‘Race’ and Writing in the Early Modern Period, ed. Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker (New York: Routledge, 1994), 55–73. 2 Pico della Mirandola, ‘On the Dignity of Man,’ in Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, ed. Oskar Kristeller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979). 3 Joan Kelly, ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’ in Women, History and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). 4 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, trans. S.G.C. Middlemore (New York: Harper, 1958). 5 Kelly, ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’ 21–2. 6 Francesco Barbaro, ‘On Wifely Duties,’ in The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society, ed. Benjamin G. Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, trans. Benjamin G. Kohl (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 189–228; Leon Battista Alberti, I libri della famiglia, translated as The Family in Renaissance Florence, trans. Renée Neu Watkins (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969). On the commodification of women in Alberti’s domestic politics, see Carla Freccero, in ‘Economy, Woman, and Renaissance Discourse,’ in Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance, ed. Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 192–208. 7 On the history of the querelle, see Joan Kelly, ‘Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des femmes,’ in Women, History and Theory, 65–109; Constance Jordan, Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), esp. 2, 86, 94, 100–1, 104–5, 191; and Juliana Schiesari, ‘In Praise of Virtuous Women? For a Genealogy of Gender Morals in Renaissance Italy,’ in Annali d’italianistica 7 (1989), 66–87. Also see


8 9 10

11 12



Notes to pages 55–7

the introduction to Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). Leon Battista Alberti, Il cavallo vivo, ed. Antonio Videtta (Naples: Stampa et Ars, 1981), 199. Fernand Méry, The Life, History and Magic of the Dog (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1970), 45–63. On the relation between femininity and animals, see especially Barbara Spackman, ‘Inter musam et ursam moritur: Folengo and the Gaping “Other” Mouth,’ in Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 19–34; and Marilyn Migiel, ‘The Dignity of Man,’ ibid., 211–32. Francesco Petrarca, ‘How a Ruler Ought to Govern His State,’ in The Earthly Republic, ed. Kohl and Witt, 52–3 and 77–8. Giovan Battista Della Porta, Della fisonomia dell’uomo, ed. Mario Cicognani (Parma: Ugo Guanda, 1988). While Della Porta’s book represents a key moment in the history of physiognomy generally, it should be recognized that many of his assertions are recognizably derived from the ancient Physiognomica somewhat dubiously attributed to Aristotle. For a later text, in turn influenced by Della Porta’s rendition, see Charles Le Brun, La physionomie humaine comparée à la physiognomie des animaux (Paris, 1665). On the history of physiognomy, see Jean-Jacques Courtine and Claudine Haroche, Histoire du visage: Exprimer et taire ses émotions (XVIe–début XIXe siècle) (Paris: Rivages, 1988). On the relation between Della Porta and Renaissance scientific literature see Paula Findlen, ‘Jokes of Nature and Jokes of Knowledge: The Playfulness of Scientific Discourse in Early Modern Europe’ Renaissance Quarterly 43.2 (1990), 292–331. With regards to the question of lycanthropy, which surfaces briefly and allusively here in Della Porta, it is intriguing that there does not occur the elaborate obsession with werewolves and wolf men in Italy as is found in northern Europe. And, in general, cases of lycanthropy appear to be exceedinly rare in Italy, perhaps owing to the more favourable cultural tradition about wolves dating back to the Romulus and Remus legend. Renaissance physiognomy drew, of course, on the extensive medieval concern with the interpretation of visual features, from the superstitious notion that a pregnant woman who saw a wolf would give birth to a wolflike child to the abstract relation of beauty with honour and ugliness with evil. And in the aristocratic ideologies that reached full flower in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the relation between noble birth and a given physical and moral disposition solidified in the assimilation of racial

Notes to pages 61–73

15 16





21 22 23 24

25 26


superiority to the specificity of a bloodline. See, on this question, Arlette Jouanna, Ordre social: Mythes et hiérarchies dans la France du XVIe siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1977). I wish to thank Ann Jones for pointing this interesting reversal out to me. Ian Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Woman: A Study in the Fortunes of Scholasticism and Medical Science in European Intellectual Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). See Manfred P. Fleischer, ‘“Are Women Human?”’ The Debate of 1595 between Valens Acidalius and Simon Gediccus,’ Sixteenth Century Journal 12.2 (1981), 107–20. James S. Serpell, In the Company of Animals (London: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 122–3. See also C.W. Hume, The Status of Animals in the Christian Religion (Potter’s Bar, Herts.: Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 1957), 29–89. See Tom Conley, ‘Montaigne and the Indies,’ Hispanic Issues 4 (1989), 225–6. For a more detailed discussion of the debates, see Lewis Hanke, All Mankind Is One: A Study of the Disputation between Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepulveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974. René Descartes, Discourse on Method, in Descartes’s Philosophical Writings, ed. Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, 1971), 41. Descartes, Meditations, in Philosophical Writings, 73. Descartes, Les passions de l’âme, in Oeuvres philosophiques, ed. Ferdinand Alquié (Paris: Garnier, 1963). Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Madame de Sévigné, Correspondance, ed. Roger Duchêne (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), 1: 337, 464. See Jean de La Fontaine, ‘Discours à Madame de La Sablière,’ in Fables choisies mises en vers, ed. Georges Couton (Paris: Garnier, 1962), 266–70, and Couton’s commentary, 508–17; and François Bernier, Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi (Paris, 1674–82). On Madame de La Sablière and her salon, see Samuel, vicomte Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière (Paris, 1923), esp. 65–83. Menjot d’Elbenne, Mme de La Sablière, 85. By ‘La Fontaine,’ Madame de La Sablière is referring to the person of the poet. Ibid., 241.

5 Psychoanalytic Intermezzo 1 Sigmund Freud, ‘Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood,’ The





5 6 7

Notes to pages 73–83

Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1957), 11: 59–137. All references to Freud in the text will be indicated by volume number and page only. An earlier version of this chapter appeared as ‘Mothers of Invention: Rereading Freud and Leonardo,’ in Repossessions: Psychoanalysis and the Phantasms of Early Modern Culture, ed. Timothy Murray and Alan K. Smith (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998). In his introductory note to Freud’s essay in the Standard Edition, James Strachey already states its ‘having been greeted with more than the usual amount of disapproval,’ although with seeming apology and discomfort admitting surprise that critics had only ‘recently’ come across the work’s ‘weakest point’ (60–1). In his Aesthetic Theory, T.W. Adorno lists the psychoanalytic study of Leonardo as a prime example of the reduction of artistic production to its author’s ‘neuroses’ [trans. Christian Lenhardt] (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 11). Cf. also Earl Jackson, Jr, Strategies of Deviance: Studies in Gay Male Representation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). See my The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 96–159. Freud’s interest in Leonardo was expressed by him as early as October 1898 in a letter to Fliess, in which he states that ‘perhaps the most famous left-handed individual was Leonardo, who is not known to have had any love-affairs.’ Also see Jackson, Strategies of Deviance, 70. Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York and London: Routledge, 1992), 373. See Richard A. Goldthwaite, Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy, 1300– 1600 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 145. Michael J. Roche cautions us not to view homosexuality in Renaissance Italy as a hidden practice, but rather insists that we understand homosexuality in Italy as neither marginal nor as a subculture. See his Friendly Affections, Nefarious Vices: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming), and his ‘Il controllo dell’ommosessualità a Firenze nel XV secolo: Gli Ufficiali di Notte,’ Quaderni storici 66.3 (1987). Also see Guido Ruggiero, The Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985). On questions of prohibition, sexuality, and the production of pornographic literature in Renaissance Italy as well as the relative tolerance and acceptance of erotica, see Paula Findlen’s ‘Humanism, Politics and Pornography in Renaissance Italy,’ in The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500–1800, ed. Lynn Hunt (New York: Zone Books, 1993), 49–108.

Notes to pages 83–91


8 Freud, ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (14: 89). See Sarah Kofman’s feminist deconstructive explication of this passage in ‘The Narcissistic Woman: Freud and Girard,’ trans. G. Van Den Abbeele, Diacritics 10.3 (1980), 36– 45. 9 See Kofman’s discussion of this term in ‘The Narcissistic Woman,’ 213. 10 On this mythic image see Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 1990), 48–9. 11 Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat, 42–4. 12 On gaping mouths as metaphors of male fear of women see Barbara Spackman, ‘Inter musam et ursam moritur, or Folengo and the Gaping ‘Other’ Mouth,’ in Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance, ed. Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991). Also see my ‘The Domestication of Woman in Cantos 42 and 43 of the Orlando Furioso: or A Snake Is Being Beaten,’ Stanford Italian Review 10.1 (1991), 123–43. 13 On Freud’s mistake, see Strachey’s introductory note, p. 61. 14 One small trace of this implicit violence is again to be found in Freud’s misconstruing the kite as a vulture, with its connotation of morbid carnivorousness. 15 The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, ed. Jean Paul Richter (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), 2: 261. 16 On the all-important Ficinian reconcatenation of this Neoplatonic theme, see J.B. Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981). 17 Leonardo da Vinci’s Advice to Artists, ed. Emery Kelen (New York: Bantam Books; Philadelphia: Running Press, 1974), 12. 18 Francesco Barbaro, ‘On Wifely Duties,’ in The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society, ed. Benjamin G. Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, trans. B.G. Kohl (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 189–228; Leon Battista Alberti, Della famiglia, in Opere volgari, ed. Cecil Grayson (Bari: Laterza, 1960); Giovan Battista Della Porta, Della fisonomia dell’uomo, ed. Mario Cicognani (Parma: Ugo Guanda, 1988). 19 Freud’s deduction is inspired by D.S. Merezhkovsky’s quasi-fictional Leonardo da Vinci (London, 1903). 20 On gender and funerary practices in Renaissance Italy, see Sharon Strocchia, ‘Funeral and the Politics of Gender in Early Renaissance Florence,’ in Refiguring Woman, ed. Migiel and Schiesari, 155–68; and my The Gendering of Melancholia, 160–90. 21 Freud, ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable,’ 23: 211; Jacques Lacan, ‘The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,’ in Écrits, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977).


Notes to pages 94–116

6 Versions of Diana 1 Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3: 253–4. 2 Cf. Ted Hughes: ‘Destiny, not guilt, was enough / For Actaeon. It is no crime / To lose your way in a dark wood’ in Tales from Ovid (London: Faber & Faber, 1997), 105. 3 Francesco Petrarca, Petrarch’s Lyric Poems: The Rime sparse and Other Lyrics, trans. and ed. Robert M. Durling (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976). 4 Pierre Ronsard, Les amours, ed. Charles Weber (Paris: Garmier, 1963), 113, p. 71. 5 Giovanni Boccacio, La caccia di Diana, ed. Vittore Branca (Padua: Liviana, 1958). 6 François Rabelais, Pantagruel, ed. Verdun Saulnier (Paris: Droz, 1946), 124. 7 As most famously represented by Théodore De Bry’s copperplate illustrations of Bartolomeo de Las Casas (Americae Pars IV (Frankfurt, 1594). 8 Giordano Bruno, The Heroic Frenzies / De gli eroici furori, ed. and trans. Paul Eugene Memmo (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965), 224–5. 9 Jacques Lacan, ‘The Freudian Thing,’ in Écrits, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Routledge, 1977), 124. 10 Mark Strage, Women of Power: The Life and Times of Cathérine de Medici (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), 58. 11 Pierre de Brantôme, Les dames galantes (Paris: Librairie générale francaise, 1962), 268. 12 Françoise Bardon, Diane de Poitiers et le mythe de Diane (Paris: PUF, 1963), 39. 13 Cited ibid., 45. 14 François Habert, Déploration poétique de feu M. Antoine du Prat, en son vivant chancelier et légat de France, avec l’Exposition morale de la Fable des trois Déesses: Vénus, Juno, et Pallas (Lyon, 1545), 45; cited in Bardon, 41. 15 Sigmund Freud, ‘Medusa’s Head,’ in Standard Edition 25: 105–6. 16 Brantôme, Les dames galantes, 269. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Pierre de L’Estoile, Journal de Henri III, May 1577. 20 Brantôme, Les dames galantes, 270. 21 Agrippa d’Aubigné, Les tragiques, ed. Jacques Bailbé (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1968), ‘Misères,’ ll. 783–992. 22 Louise Labé, Oeuvres poétiques, ed. Françoise Charpentier (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), sonnet 19.

Notes to pages 117–19


23 Carole Law Trachy, The Mythology of Artemis and Her Role in Greek Popular Religion (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1977), 3. 24 Ibid., 31. 25 Ibid., 127. 26 Freud, ‘Great Is Diana of the Ephesians,’ in Standard Edition, 12: 342. 27 Acts of the Apostles 19:28. 28 Canon episcopi. 29 Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (San Rafael, CA: Morningstar Books, 1995). 30 Charles Leland, Aradia: or, The Gospel of the Witches [Il vangelo delle strege], ed. Raymond Buckland (Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing, 1990), 3.

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Note: Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi (Bernier), 71 Actaeon: Catherine de Medici as, 114; and Christian allegory, 95; François I as, 101; Freud as, 104–5; Henry II as, 108–9, 109; in Labé, 117; in Ovid, 93–4, 138n2; in Petrarch, 95–7; and philosophy, 102 Adams, Carol J., 84, 127–9n1 Adonia (character), 22–6 Adorno, Theodor, 136n2 Aesthetic Theory (Adorno), 136n2 Agamben, Giorgio, 127–9n1 Alberti, Leon-Batista, 45–53; biographical information on, 45; Cavallo vivo, 44–53; De equo animante, 45–7; Della famiglia, 51; Elizabeth Tobey on, 131–2n1 (chap. 3); on family, 6–7, 15; on horses, 21; I Libri di famiglia (Book of the Family), 48, 55, 132n5; On Painting, 132–3n11 Alcidalius, 69 Alexander the Great, 38, 41, 47

Allen, Prudence, 48–9 Ameto (Boccaccio), 99 amusement, 37 anatomy, 82 animal(s): and Actaeon, 94; animal/ human divide, 127–9n1; animality, 67–9; animal ownership, 16–19; animal studies, 3, 127–9n1; comparisons to, 83; and desire, 100–1; as living beings, 45; and others, 4; in Pantagruel, 100; and passion, 101; phobias about, 55; and physiognomy, 56–70; social construction of, 127–9n1; status of, 69–70; wild vs. domestic, 64–5. See also names of specific animals Anselmo (character), 23–6 anthropomorphism (of dogs), 36–7, 40 Apollo (god), 101, 120 Aradia (goddess), 122 Argia (character), 22–6 Ariosto, Ludovico, 21–7, 54; Orlando furioso, 21–7 Aristotle, 69–70, 134n12



art: of coercion, 52; and lapdogs, 19; and nature, 132–3n11; riding as, 44; and science, 74–9, 81. See also names of specific artists and paintings Artemis. See Diana (goddess) Art of Horsemanship (Xenophon), 49 Aubigné, Agrippa de, 115 automata, 70–1 Baker, Steve, 127–9n1 Barbaro, Francesco, 15 Bardon, Françoise, 108 Barnes, Juliana, 19, 27 beards, 61–2 beasts. See animal(s) beauty, 46 behaviour: of dogs, 16, 30, 37–9, 41; and physiognomy, 56–70 Bekoff, Marc, 127–9n1 Bernier, François, 71 Bersuire, Pierre, 95 bestiality, 25–6, 31. See also sexuality bird imagery, 77, 84, 86–7 Boccaccio, Giovanni, 98–9 body: and animality, 68; bodily symptoms, 57, 59; and da Vinci, 81–2, 85, 90; and domestic space, 15–16; fear of, 26; mind/body split, 81, 90 Boke of Saint Albans (Barnes), 19 Book of the Family in Renaissance Florence (Alberti), 48, 55, 132n5 borders and boundaries: between civilized and wild, 15; and domestic space, 28–9, 124; of humanity, 11; with nature, 32, 36–7 Brantôme, Pierre de, 112–14 breeding (of dogs), 8–9, 19, 30, 59–60 Bruni, Leonardo, 49

Bruno, Giordano, 70, 101–7, 120 Brutal Reasoning (Fudge), 4 Bucephalus, 47 Burckhardt, Jacob, 52, 54, 74 Caccia di Diana, La (Diana’s Hunt) (Boccaccio), 98–9 Caius, Johannes, 27, 31 de canibus Britannicus (Caius), 27 cannibalism, 83, 86 Canon episcopi, 118 Carpaccio, Vittore, 28, 29 Cartesianism, 70–1 cats, 17, 55, 58, 122 Cavalieri, Paola, 127–9n1 Cavallo vivo (Alberti), 21, 44–53 Chamfort, Nicolas, 71 character, 37–9, 41–2, 48 Charles V (Titian), 17, 18 chastity, 23 Christianity, 69, 95 Christine de Pisan, 19, 20, 130n7 Christ, Jesus, 95 cinanthropy, 68 Circe, 68 class (social), 19, 60, 103 climatology, 66 Clouet, François, 108–9, 109 coercion, 52 cognitive life (of animals), 127–9n1 Colonna, Giovanni, 32–43 companion animals. See pets consumption, 84 Contarini, Marcantonio, 107 counter-transference, 79 courtesans, 19, 28 cross-referencing, 57 culture: cultural differences, 64; cultural pluralism, 65; rural vs. urban

Index culture, 33–4; and sublimation, 80 Culture of the Horse, The (ed. Raber and Tucker), 131–2n1 (chap. 3) Dames galantes (Brantôme), 114 Da Vinci, Leonardo, 73–92; The Last Supper, 78; Mona Lisa, 89; Notebooks, 82, 84–5; Virgin and Child with St Anne, 87, 88, 89 Dawkins, Marion Stamp, 127–9n1 death (realm of), 104–5 Decameron (Boccaccio), 99 Dekkers, Midas, 16 Deleuze, Gilles, 127–9n1 Della Mirandola, Pico, 11, 54 Della Porta, Giovan Battista, 56–70, 58, 134nn12–13 Derrida, Jacques, 127–9n1 Descartes, René, 70–1 desire: and Actaeon, 96; and Louis Labé, 117; and love spells, 122–4; and women, 105, 112–14 Diana (goddess), 93–125; Catherine de Medici as, 114–15; and Christian allegory, 95; cult of Diana/ Artemis, 117–18; Diana Bathing (Clouet), 108–9, 109; Diana the Huntress, 110, 111; Diane de Poitiers as, 107–15, 109, 111; domestication of, 112; Elizabeth I as, 107; and Louis Labé, 115–17; in Ovid, 93–4; and philosophy, 101–2; and witchcraft, 118–24 Diane de Poitiers, 107–15, 109, 111 ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’ (Kelly), 54 dietary habits, 90 discipline, 46, 51–2


‘Discours à Madame de La Sablière’ (La Fontaine), 71 Disputatio nova contra mulieres (Alcidalius), 69 disruption (potential for), 14–15 dogs: and Actaeon, 94; aggressiveness of, 37–9, 41; breeding of, 59; and domestic space, 124; function of, 55; with human souls, 67–8; intelligence of, 36–7, 41–2; and love spells, 122–4; in Orlando furioso, 24–6; in Pantagruel, 100; and Petrarch, 32; and philosophers, 130n7; and physiognomy, 59–60; position of domestic, 32; in Ronsard, 97; symbolic abilities of, 28; as transformative agents, 103; in Venus of Urbino, 13–16. See also hunting dogs; lapdogs domestication: of Diana figure, 112; domestic animals, 64–5; in early modern period, 6–7; of horses, 49, 51; and physiognomy, 67; social and familial, 46; of wives, 21, 54–5 domestic space: and da Vinci, 89; and Diana, 124–5; domestics, 60; in Due dame veneziane, 28; entities within, 21; invention of, 6; and sexuality, 27; and Venus of Urbino, 13–16; and women, 54–5. See also family Donovan, Josephine, 127–9n1 Doutes (Bernier), 71 dreams, 75 Dubois, Ambroise, 113 Due dame veneziane (Carpaccio), 28, 29 eagle, 62–3



Elizabeth I, 106–7 emotional life (of animals), 127–9n1 English Renaissance, 4 Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Fontanelle), 71 envy, 84 Ephesus, 118 Epistola metrica III, 5 (Petrarch), 32–43, 131nn1–2 (chap. 2) equestrian arts, 44–53, 131–2n1 (chap. 3) equo animante, De (Alberti), 45–6, 49–52 eroici furori, De gli (Bruno), 101–7 ethnic characterization, 57 facial features, 56 Famiglia, Della (Alberti), 51 family: Alberti on, 48; hierarchy of, 46–7; household management, 52; mastery of father, 49–52, 132n5. See also domestic space fantasy (male), 95. See also sexuality feminine and femininity: and animality, 68–9; and da Vinci, 82–3; and feminism, 11, 127–9n1; and horses, 50; male anxiety about, 21–7; and sexuality, 16; terror of, 115; truth of, 105. See also gender; women fisionomia dell’uomo, Della (On the Physiognomy of Man) (Della Porta), 56–70, 58, 134nn12–13 Fleming, Abraham, 27 flight, 84, 90 Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de, 71 food, 84–6 Foucault, Michel, 53, 72 François I, 101 Freccero, Carla, 31

‘The Freudian Thing’ (Lacan), 104–5 Freud, Sigmund: as Actaeon, 104–5; and da Vinci, 73–92, 136n4; on dreams, 75; and female narcissism, 83; on femininity, 115; on homosexuality, 77; The Interpretation of Dreams, 75; ‘Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood,’ 73, 135–6n1, 136n2; ‘Medusa’s Head,’ 110, 115; ‘On Narcissism,’ 80; on phallic imagery, 110; references to, 135–6n1; on sublimation, 78–9 Fudge, Erica, 4, 11 functions, 46 funeral expenses, 90–1 Gabrielle d’Estrées en Diane (Dubois), 113 Galen of Pergamum, 65 Gassendi, Pierre, 70 gender: Alberti on, 49; and Diana the Huntress, 110; and dogs, 17, 19, 130n7; hierarchy, 48–9, 132n5; and physiognomy, 60–4; and snakes, 22–3. See also feminine and femininity genius, 73–6, 81, 87, 106 Gesner, Conrad, 27–8, 30 goals (of man), 47–8 Gobineau, Joseph-Arthur de, 57 government, 50 Grissone, Federico, 44 Guattari, Félix, 127–9n1 Habert, François, 108 Haraway, Donna, 127–9n1 Harrison, William, 27 Hearne, Vicki, 127–9n1 Henry II, 107–10, 109, 112, 115

Index Herodia (goddess), 122 heterosexuality: in Boccaccio, 99; and Louis Labé, 117; in Orlando furioso, 25–6. See also sexuality Historiae animalium (Gesner), 27 Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, The (Topsell), 27–8 homosexuality: and Leonardo da Vinci, 77–81, 83, 89, 136n7; in Orlando furioso, 26. See also sexuality horses: horsemanship as metaphor, 50; nature of, 46–7; and species polarity, 49; training of, 21, 44–53, 131–2n1 (chap. 3) housedogs, 60. See also lapdogs household. See domestic space humanism: anthropocentrism of, 3; categorizations of, 106; and da Vinci, 73–92; and Madame de La Sablière, 71; and others, 56; and Petrarch, 9; and physiognomy, 63, 65; post-humanism, 3; and sumptuary laws, 91 humans: da Vinci on, 85–6; definition of, 5–6; human (as category), 11; human superiority, 6 humours (system of), 65–6 hunger, 90 hunters and hunting, 59, 93–4, 98–9. See also Diana (goddess) hunting dogs: in Charles V, 17, 18; in Diana the Huntress, 110, 111, 112; and philosophers, 130n7; and physiognomy, 59–60; skills of, 37. See also dogs imagery: bird imagery, 77, 84, 86–7; phallic, 110, 112 imperfect forms, 62–3


innate reasoning, 70 intellectuals, 101–7 intelligence (of dogs), 36–7, 41–2 Interpretation of Dreams, The (Freud), 75 interpretive sensitivity, 43 Italian naturalist school, 70 Jackson, Earl, Jr, 79–80 Jesus Christ, 95 jewellery, 13–15 Kelly, Joan, 54 kites, 84–5, 137n14 Labé, Louis, 115–17 Lacan, Jacques, 104–5 La Fontaine, Jean de, 71, 135n25 language, 70 lapdogs: development of, 19, 55; housedogs, 60; Maltese dogs, 24–6, 30; and philosophers, 130n7; and sexuality, 27–8; in Venus of Urbino, 13–16, 18; and wealth, 24–5, 30. See also dogs La Sablière, Marguerite de, Madame de, 71, 135n25 Las Casas, Bartolomé de, 70 Last Supper, The (da Vinci), 78 Lawler, Leonard, 127–9n1 leadership: Alberti on, 51–2 Leland, Charles, 119 Leonardo da Vinci, 73–92; The Last Supper, 78; Mona Lisa, 89; Notebooks, 82, 84–5; Virgin and Child with St Anne, 87, 88, 89 ‘Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood’ (Freud), 73, 135–6n1, 136n2 Leonello of Ferrera, 45



leopards, 62–3, 68 lesbianism, 25–6, 114–15. See also sexuality L’Estoile, Pierre de, 114 libri di famiglia, I (The Family in Renaissance Florence) (Alberti), 45–6, 55 lions, 60–3 Livre des chiens pour la chasse (Tardif), 59 Lombroso, Cesare, 57 loss, 90 love, 95–7, 106 Lucifer, 120, 122 lycanthropy, 57, 59, 68, 134–5nn13–14

Medici, Catherine de, 107, 112–15 ‘Medusa’s Head’ (Freud), 110, 115 Memling, Hans, 28 Metamorphoses (Ovid), 93–4, 138n2 metaphorical links, 33–4 Metis (mythological figure), 83 Middle Ages, 17, 55 Midgley, Mary, 127–9n1 mistresses, 107–8. See also sexuality Mona Lisa (da Vinci), 89 monkeys, 58 moral constructs, 23 Moro, Ludovico, 77–8 mothers, 84, 86–91. See also women mouths (gaping), 84, 137n12. See also sexuality

Macchiavelli, Niccolo, 53 machines (living), 70–1 Maclean, Ian, 69 Madonna, 118 make-up, 64 male attributes, 60–1 Male Subjectivity at the Margins (Silverman), 77 Malleus maleficarum (Sprenger and Kramer), 118–19 Maltese dogs, 24–6, 30. See also dogs; lapdogs management, 50 Manto (character), 23–7 Mary (cult of), 118 masculinity: and horses, 50; male attributes, 60–1; masculine activities, 47–8, 131–2n1 (chap. 3). See also patriarchy Masson, Jeffrey, 127–9n1 mastery, 94 matriarchy, 86–90 meat, 82–4

Naples, 98 narcissism (female), 83 national temperaments, 65–6 nature: Alberti on, 46; and art, 132–3n11; of horses, 46–7, 51; and human nature, 11; Italian naturalist school, 70; natural principles, 57; nature poetry, 32, 131n2; and physiognomy, 66 Niccolo III d’Este, 45 nobility, 38, 41, 134–5n14 Notebooks (Da Vinci), 82, 84–5 nourishment, 84–6 nudity (canine), 15–16 Nussbaum, Martha, 127–9n1 Odyssey (Homer), 68 Oeconomicus (Xenophon), 49 Oedipus complex, 77 d’Olivet, 71 ‘On the Dignity of Man’ (della Mirandola), 11 ‘On Narcissism’ (Freud), 80

Index On Painting (Alberti), 132–3n11 oral gratification, 28, 31. See also sexuality ordini del cavalcare, Gli (Grissone), 44 Orlando furioso (Ariosto), 21–7 ornithological imagery, 77, 84, 86–7 other (the): domestication of, 56; in English Renaissance, 4; and heterosexuality, 117; and humanism, 5–6, 11–12, 54–72, 90; in Ovid, 93; women as, 105 Ovid, 93–4, 138n2; Ovide moralisé, 103; Ovidius moralizatus, 95 pagan survivals, 118–24 ‘The Palio Horse in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy’ (Tobey), 131–2n1 (chap. 3) Pantagruel (Rabelais), 99–100 partridge, 62–3 Passions of the Soul (Descartes), 70 patriarchy: and da Vinci, 89, 91; and home, 23; and sublimation, 80. See also family; masculinity Pellison, 71 Perceiving Animals, Renaissance Beasts (Fudge), 4 perversity, 25–7, 31. See also sexuality Petrarch, Francesco, 32–43; on aggressive dog behaviour, 37–9; analysis of letter, 40–3; anthropomorphism by, 34–6; on dog intelligence, 36–7; on dog as protector, 35–6; and humanism, 9; as nature poet, 131n2 (chap. 2); on others, 56; request by, 39–43; Rime, references in text to, 131n1 (chap. 2); on rural vs. urban culture, 33–4; on time and gifts, 32–3


pets: eroticism of, 31; function of, 15; invention of, 6–7; revival of, 55. See also names of specific animals phallic attributes, 110, 112 phallic monsters, 21–2 Phébus, Gaston, 59 philosophers and philosophy, 101–7, 130n7 physical form, 60 Physiognomica (Aristotle), 134n12 physiognomy, 56–70, 134n12, 134–5n14 Pignatelli, Battista, 44 Plato, 61 pleasure, 96 ‘The Pleasure of History,’ 31 Plutarch, 68 Pluvinal, Antoine de, 44–5 Poitiers, Diane de, 107–15, 109, 111 Politics (Aristotle), 69–70 populism, 122 possessiveness, 37–8 post-humanism, 3. See also humanism power: matriarchy, 86–90; patriarchy, 23, 80, 89, 91; power politics, 52–3; and women, 106–7 prey, 37–8, 94, 116–17 procreation, 81–3 property, 51 protector (dog as), 35–6, 41 psychoanalysis, 73. See also Freud, Sigmund public vs. private, 54–6. See also borders and boundaries; domestic space Queen of Sheba, 63–4 Querelle des femmes, 7–8, 55



Rabelais, François, 99–100 racism: and physiognomy, 56–7, 66–7; racial superiority, 134– 5n14 rape, 100 Regan, Tom, 127–9n1 reproduction. See breeding (of dogs) Rime sparse (Petrarch), 95–7 Ritvo, Harriet, 127–9n1 Roche, Michael J., 136n7 Ronsard, Pierre de, 97–8 rural vs. urban culture, 33–4 sadomasochism, 114. See also sexuality salons, 71 Satire (Aristo), 54 savage, 64–5 schooling, 52 science, 74–9, 81 Seisenegger, Jakob, 17 self-discipline, 46 self-sufficiency (feminine), 14 Seneca the Younger, 61 Sepulveda, Juan Ginés de, 70 Serpell, James S., 69, 127–9n1 serpent, 22–3, 62–3 servants, 60 service (of horses), 46, 50–1 Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Madame de, 70–1 sexuality: and animals, 100–1; bestiality, 31; and consumption, 84; development of, 31; and dogs, 16; domestic space and, 27; and economics, 30; erotic violence, 84, 137n14; fear of female sexuality, 16, 26, 84, 137n12; heterosexuality, 25–6, 99, 117; homosexuality, 26, 77–81, 83, 89, 136n7; lesbianism,

25–6, 114–15; male fantasy, 95; mistresses, 107–8; nudity (canine), 15–16; oral gratification, 28, 31; perversity, 25–7, 31; pleasure, 96; sadomasochism, 114; sexual desire, 99; The Sexual Politics of Meat (Adams), 84; sublimation of, 75, 78–81 Silverman, Kaja, 77, 79–80 Simons, John, 127–9n1 Singer, Peter, 127–9n1 slave trade, 69–70 snakes, 22–3 social class, 19, 60, 103 social consciousness, 38 social order, 60 Society and Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, 127–9n1 Solmi, E., 81 Solomon (biblical king), 63–4 Sonnet 19 (Labé), 115–17 soul, 67–71 species: differences between, 62–3, 69, 84; species identity, 4; species polarity, 49; species unity, 50 spells, 120, 122–4 statues, 46–7, 49 status, 46–7, 131–2n1 (chap. 3) stereotypes, 57, 66–7 Strachey, James, 136n2 strega, 119–20 Sunstein, Cass, 127–9n1 symptomatology, 57 Tarbotti, Arcangeli, 14–15 Tardif, Guillaume, 59 temperament, 65–8 terminology, 56, 67 time, 32 Titian: Charles V, 17, 18; Venuses

Index series by, 19, 21; Venus of Urbino, 13–17, 14, 19, 28 Tobey, Elizabeth, 131–2n1 (chap. 3) Topsell, Edward, 30 toy dogs, 13–16, 18. See also dogs; lapdogs Trachy, Carole Law, 117–18 training, 44–53 Traité de la vénerie (Phébus), 59 transformations: of Actaeon, 94; and Diana Bathing, 109; of lovers, 96–7; into men, 99; and physiognomy, 67–8; and social death, 100 truth, 105 Ulysses, 68 urban (as concept), 33–4, 64–5 vangelo delle strege, Il (the Gospel of the Witches) (Leland), 119–24 Vanity (personification of), 28 Vecelli, Tiziano. See Titian vegetarianism, 82–4, 86 Venus (goddess), 99, 108 Venus of Urbino (Titian), 13–17, 14, 19, 28 violence: erotic violence, 84, 137n14; and procreation, 83–4. See also sexuality vipers, 62–3 Virgin and Child with St Anne (da Vinci), 87, 88, 89 Virgin Mary, 118 virtue, 23, 43, 46–7 visual features, 134–5n14 vulture, 84, 137n14


wealth, 24–5, 30 werewolves, 57, 59, 134–5nn13–14 wild animals, 64–5 Wilkins, Ernest Hatch, 33 witches, 118–24 wives (management of), 49, 51–2, 54, 132n5. See also domestic space; family; women Wolfe, Carey, 127–9n1 wolves: and human souls, 68; and lycanthropy, 57, 59, 134–5nn13–14; in Western mythology, 16 women: aristocratic women, 106–15; and Boccaccio, 98–9; categorizations of, 106–7; and consumption, 84; and cult of Artemis, 117–18; dangers of, 93; and da Vinci, 81–4; desires of, 105; and economics, 30; hunting by, 98–9; matriarchy, 86–90; mothers, 84, 86–91; nature of, 7–8; persecution of, 118–19; and philosophy, 105–6; and physiognomy, 61–4; pregnant women, 134–5n14; role in family, 49, 51–2, 54, 132n5; and souls, 69; status of, 46–7, 131–2n1 (chap. 3); treatment of, 21. See also feminine and femininity Wunderkammern, 28. See also domestic space Xenophon, 49–51; Art of Horsemanship, 49; Oeconomicus, 49 Zeus (god), 83