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20 February 2009

Canto XXVI

Two themes to this canto, I think: parade and ostentation; and the relationship of servants, including artists, to patrons. There are a lot of passages from letters here, and as always, I don't know if they're real or invented.

But we start with a passage that's completely impenetrable to me, but it mentions gondolas, so we're in Venice.

The first letter appears to be dated 12 October 1462, addressed to Nicolo Segundino. It's about diplomacy, and papal relations.

Shortly after, there's a lengthy section about various people coming 'here' (to Venice), with descriptions of the kind of clothing they wear and the articles they bring. There's a sense of Venice being the diplomatic hub of the Christian world. Let's find a representative quote:
And to greet the doge Lorenzo Tiepolo,
Barbers, heads covered with beads,
Furriers, masters in rough,
Master pelters for fine work,
And the masters for lambskin
With silver cups and their wine flasks
And blacksmiths with the gonfaron
et leurs fioles chargies de vin,
The masters of wool cloth
Glass makers in scarlet
Carrying fabrecations of glass;

A later section includes more religious figures,
And in February they all packed off
To Ferrara to decide on the holy ghost
And as to the which begat the what in the Trinity.

And then there are sections describing Venice's role in trade, before we come on to the main section of letters. The first is to Sforza from Pisanellus and is largely about buying horses. The second from "Don In. Hnr. de Mendoça" to Cardinal Gonzaga of Mantua, dated February 1548 is about the killing of Lorenzo de Medicis, and an apparent attempt to frustrate the effort to find the killers. The third is from Victor Carpathio, a painter, to Gonzaga, about the sale or theft of a Jerusalem (presumably a painting of the crucifixion). Finally, an extract from a letter from Mozart to the Archbishop of Salzburg, asking for permission to leave his service. I'll quote this in full, and the closing line of the canto that follows it. I know something of Mozart's difficult relationship with the archbishop, and of his tendency to scurillity. I don't know how genuine this is.
To the supreme pig, the archbishop of Salzburg:
Lasting filth and perdition.
Since your exalted pustulence is too stingy
To give me a decent income
And has already assured me that here I have nothing to hope
And had better seek fortune elsewhere;
And since thereafter you have
Three times impeded my father and self intending departure
I ask you for the fourth time
To behave with more decency, and this time
Permit my departure
Wolfgang Amadeus, august 1777 (inter lineas)

"As is the sonata, so is little Miss Cannabitch."

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