TWO GRIFFINS: HATE (?)

Griffin attacking a horse. Venetian patere, 12th-13th century.  Left:  Venice, Castello, Fondamenta S.Ana  Photo: Chiara Enzo, 2016  Right: Venice, Castello, Seco Marina (the heads of the two animals slightly damaged).  Photo: Gloria Vallese, 2017

Griffin attacking a horse. Venetian patere, 12th-13th century.

Left:  Venice, Castello, Fondamenta S.Ana

Photo: Chiara Enzo, 2016

Right: Venice, Castello, Seco Marina (the heads of the two animals slightly damaged).

Photo: Gloria Vallese, 2017

What happens here?  In the previous post, we left the two celestial Horses perfectly loving in springtime. And now Pegasus appears in the act of aggressing his little companion Equuleus from the air, dealing him a lethal blow on the head! 

How sad. 

And yet, the situation is not as bad as it appears.

More than a change in love, what we are facing here is a change of perspective.  

The scene is the same as described in the previous post, but from a different point of view. We are no more watching the two celestial horses from behind and above, but from one side.

Hate is actually love seen from sideways! 

As observers on the surface of the Earth, we are still South enough to see Pegasus and his companion upright, and not capsized (see previous post).

Pegasus (the griffin in our patera) and Equuleus, the little horse or foal,  are still keeping their fixed course from East to West, parallel to the Equinoctial Circle. Therefore the direction they face is West, the one they are coming from is East.

The exact whereabout of their celestial quarrel is given by some details in this remarkable patera of the 12th-13th century, site on the facade of a nice Gothic house in Venice, in the district of Castello, near the Arsenale.  

Griffin attacking a foal. 12th-beginning 13th century.   Venice, Castello, Fondamenta S.Ana   

Griffin attacking a foal. 12th-beginning 13th century.

 Venice, Castello, Fondamenta S.Ana

 

Besides the two main characters, this patera contains three other elements, in form of vegetal sprouts, located below the figures and on the left side all along the rim.

In the patere's language, the tree or sprout is a visualization of the celestial circles; the vegetal metaphor of a growing tree gives for them both a location and a direction, a "movement towards" being suggested by the direction of growth.

In this case, the three sprouts surrounding the two main characters stand in place of three directional constellations: Andromeda and the Northern Fish (sprout at the bottom, N°1), Cygnus the Swan (next sprout clockwise, under the muzzle of the little horse, N°2), and Aquila (in front of the griffin, N°3). There is a fourth element, in the form of a volute at the tip of the griffin's foremost wing, of which we'll say more later. 

Clockwise from bottom left: 1.  Andromeda  and Fish , 2.  Cygnus ,  3.  Aquila , and 4.  Delphinus, in th e patera and in a detail of De Wit's   Planispherium.

Clockwise from bottom left: 1. Andromeda and Fish , 2. Cygnus,  3. Aquila, and 4. Delphinus, in the patera and in a detail of De Wit's  Planispherium.

1. Andromeda. The leaves of this sprout spread into the four cardinal directions, symbolizing Andromeda the Princess' open arms, her head (the star Alpheraz, being until recent times considered in common between the constellations Andromeda and the neighboring Pegasus).  The fourth leaf is the Northern of the two Zodiacal Fishes, which seems to penetrate Andromeda's side under an arm.

In this beautiful illustration of the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, we can observe the connection between Andromeda the princess, the Northern of the Zodiacal Fishes, and Pegasus: Andromeda's head (the star Alpheraz), seems to penetrate the horses's belly; hence the Arab name, Al Surat al Faraz, 'The Navel of the Horse'. In turn, the huge menacing Piscis Boreus, the Northern Fish, seems to attack Andromeda from one side; to the point that some Arab and Persian miniatures show it as made one with the human figure (see reproductions below).

Johannes Hevelius, Constellation  Andromeda , from  Firmamentum Sobiescianum  sive  Uranografia , Gdansk 1690 (rotated for easier comparison with the previous image)

Johannes Hevelius, Constellation Andromeda, from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranografia, Gdansk 1690 (rotated for easier comparison with the previous image)

In the following image, the rendition of Andromeda and Fish by another Western astronomer, Gerardus Mercator, and in an Arabic miniature.

Andromeda Constellation_Gerardus Mercator_Celestial Globe
Andromeda and Fish . From: Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi,  Kitāb Ṣuwar al-kawākib (al-thābitah), ("Book of the images of the fixed stars"), a revision of Ptolemy's  Almagest  with Arabic star names and drawings of the constellations. Dated 1009-10 (A.H. 400).  Oxford, The Bodleian Libraries, MS. Marsh 144     Photo: Martin Poulter via Wikimedia Commons. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, Book of the Fixed Stars Auv0175 andromeda, CC BY 4.0   

Andromeda and Fish. From: Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, Kitāb Ṣuwar al-kawākib (al-thābitah), ("Book of the images of the fixed stars"),a revision of Ptolemy's Almagest with Arabic star names and drawings of the constellations. Dated 1009-10 (A.H. 400).

Oxford, The Bodleian Libraries, MS. Marsh 144

 

Photo: Martin Poulter via Wikimedia Commons. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, Book of the Fixed Stars Auv0175 andromeda, CC BY 4.0

 

 

2. Cygnus. The second sprout from the right in our patera has the unmistakable profile of the constellation Cygnus, in its typical pose of plunging, head down, from the heavens, the long neck stretched, the tail and one wing slightly bent as if to steer. By the way, the soft swaying movement of the celestial figure appears better renderend in the ancient patera than in De Wit's Planisphere.

Here a comparison with a modern celestial map:

On the right: Constellation Cygnus. Sky map by Torsten Bronger, Via Wikimedia Commons.

On the right: Constellation Cygnus. Sky map by Torsten Bronger, Via Wikimedia Commons.

Johannes Hevelius, Constellation  Cygnus , from  Firmamentum Sobiescianum  sive  Uranografia , Gdansk 1690

Johannes Hevelius, Constellation Cygnus, from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranografia, Gdansk 1690

3. Aquila: this sprout reproduces in a very recognizable likeness the profile of Constellation Aquila, the rising Eagle. In this case also, the patera offers a very faithful likeness, more than the baroque sky map. 

Here a comparison with a modern sky chart of the constellation: 

 Comparison with Constellation Cygnus in the IAU map.

 Comparison with Constellation Cygnus in the IAU map.

4. The element number 4 , not a sprout this time, but a volute at the tip of Pegasus' wing (a singular element on which many ancient representations of the griffin insist), recalls for its form and location the characteristic loop of the constellation Dolphin, located straight in front of the two celestial horses as if it were a lure to attract them forward.

Let's repeat from the previous post this beautiful detail from Francesco Coronelli's Celestial Globe of 1693, showing Pegasus, Equuleus, and Delphinus:

 

Pegasus, Equuleus, and Delphinus. Detail (capsized) from  Francesco Coronelli,  Celestial globe . Edition Paris 1803, from the original plates of 1693.  Venice, Museo Storico Navale, Inv. N° 5935.   Gift of Licio Salvagno, Former Collection Beistegui  Photo: Chiara Enzo and Marta Naturale, 2016

Pegasus, Equuleus, and Delphinus. Detail (capsized) from  Francesco Coronelli, Celestial globe. Edition Paris 1803, from the original plates of 1693.

Venice, Museo Storico Navale, Inv. N° 5935. 

Gift of Licio Salvagno, Former Collection Beistegui

Photo: Chiara Enzo and Marta Naturale, 2016

As a provisional conclusion, here a comparison between a celestial map and the patera considered in this post.

On the left: Andreas Cellarius,  Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem, et novam exhibens.  Plate 24, detail.  Photo: Wikimedia.     

On the left: Andreas Cellarius, Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem, et novam exhibens. Plate 24, detail.

Photo: Wikimedia.