Paulo Uccello Replies to Vasari

800px-Paolo_Uccello_047b

This is another in my Vasari series which I hope to include in a book. Giorgio Vasari published the 2nd edition of his famous book Lives of the Artists in 1568 in which he comments on 160 artists and architects. I can highly recommend the edited version published in Penguin Classics Translation by George Bull.

*

I knew you’d like my triads how I posed

three characters, made the cave triangular

and lanced the whole composition

into jousting triangles. I knew you’d like

my hint of supernatural powers broiling

in the cloud top right corner of the canvas.

Not forgetting the stylised dragon of course.

I knew you’d highlight my fallen soldier

deftly foreshortened; my speciality you wrote

and the way the lances disappear at a vanishing point.

* * *

But why must you spread rumours with your gossipy pen!

I didn’t stay up all hours unravelling the mysteries

of perspective and foreshortening; I didn’t tell my wife,

“What a sweet thing perspective is.”

And why did you go on and on about that abbot

feeding me cheese as if I was a mouse. Yes, I know

I wrote in my diary, “If he went on any more I wouldn’t

be Paulo Uccello, I’d be pure cheese.” But I don’t want

to be remembered as the ‘cheese artist,’ it was a joke!

* * *

Although I honour your veneration of artistic perfection

I find it difficult to forgive your epitaph – that throwaway

line after writing that Paulo painted animals, the first man

and woman in a beautiful accomplished style, that he depicted

ploughed fields, furrows, meadows, trees and other details

of country life, “in that dry and hard style of his.” In short

Giorgio, you’ve got things out of perspective: I’m shocked

you think I squandered my time and energy in obsessive

compulsive experiments with multiple vanishing points.

I’m disappointed you depict me in two dimensions living

in disgruntled old age in a hovel at the end. It’s just

not proportionate – not measured, not a balanced picture.

Advertisements

2 comments on “Paulo Uccello Replies to Vasari

  1. janewilliams says:

    Love this poem. Has it been published outside your blog?

    Like

  2. erikleo says:

    Thanks Jane for your encouraging remark. I hope to publish this along with others as a book.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s