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fig 7 Girl Carrying a Basket: The Candle, c. 1630 Jacques II Geubels after Jacob Jordaens Tapestry, wool and silk, 375x305cm Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire National Trust/Robert Thrift hardwick hall enclosure but still wearing his spurs. While he eyes the glass of wine he nonchalantly rests his hand upon the woman’s breast. One of her hands entraps his hand while the other coyly pushes it away; the two ‘lovers’ are acting out a charade, in f ront of the older, hard-nosed woman. This is not a domestic scene between man and wife. There is an emblem on the cartouche of two hands squeezing a heart, and the theme of love is most poignantly found in the kissing doves in the roundels on the bottom of the columns, while the ‘love hunting’ aspect is indicated by the quivers that hang f rom the triple angel head device on the side pillars.
It is the interpretation of the humour rather than the element water, symbolised by the wine glass, which leads us to believe that these signs of love are ironic. The humour associated with water is phlegmatic; in George Glover’s Phlegmatick from his The Fowre Complexions (1630s), we see a single female accompanied by a glass of wine and a tobacco pipe, with the accompanying ‘moral’ – ‘If She shall any way be craz’d or sick, wine and tobacco cures the phlegmatic, who snatcheth up her cloathes, as she would shove rhumes bred above may be drawn down below’ (Fig. 1). Has our cavalier, feeling a little phlegmatic, gone off for a ‘cure’ – of wine and illicit sex. This is most likely a brothel scene, the older woman a procuress.
The sanguine humour was almost invariably represented by music-making, most often with a lute,30 and Jordaens’s Love on a Balcony: The Feather (Fig. 6) clearly owes a great deal to Maarten de Vos’s Sanguineus from the Four Temperaments (Fig. 5). In the same way that de Vos associates the sanguine humour with the element air, by including a windmill in the background of his scene of a music-making couple, Jordaens isolates the element with the feather held by the lady. The present happylooking couple is more at ease than are the protagonists in Love under a Trellis: The Wine Glass. The prosperousness of the pair is not only evident in their sumptuous clothing and lustrous oriental carpet, but through the overflowing bounty of the architectural and decorative ornament – the swags of pears, grapes and peaches suspended f rom the columns and the overflowing cornucopia held by the putti in the upper f rieze. Fertility is signified everywhere, especially by the infant satyrs underneath the cartouche that suck f rom the ends of cornucopia like nuzzling babies. Elements of lust are certainly present, but there are also many suggestions of conjugal fecundity – the clearest of which is the emblem of entwined snakes at the bottom of the pillars, which symbolises concord and timeless love.31 This is also the import of the small Pomeraniantype dog, which, as in the famous Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck of 1434, symbolises faithfulness. The fullblooded (sanguine) marital eroticism of The Feather is in great contrast to the commercial liaison of The Wine Glass.
Unlike the spaces in the three scenes so far described, that in the Girl Carrying a Basket: The Candle (Fig. 7) is enclosed and ominous. A servant girl in clogs carrying a basket of f ruit passes by a dark doorway and to her right, on a bench, is a feathery spread of dead birds: a peacock, a duck and small birds tied onto a stick for roasting. While the setting does not at first strike one as a kitchen scene, it clearly relates to the larger Kitchen tapestry (Fig. 13), much as the servant girl has a parallel in Feeding Chickens: The Basket of Grain (Fig. 3). Here, however, the key motif is not the wicker basket held by the servant girl, but the candle held in the hand of the woman in the shadows. As can be seen in sets of Elements by George Glover and Abraham Bosse (c. 1602–76), the candle was often the significant object for the element of fire. And it is the candle that lights up the choleric proceedings behind the door, where in the blackness a couple, highlighted in a strong, devilish-red colour, grope each other. The unbridled lust behind the door is underlined by the architectural symbolism: the cartouche includes a ram’s head and an evil-looking satyr’s head, while the faces in the column capitals are pointedly expressive. The one on the left looks horrified, while the one on the right is resigned. Most risqué of all are the pot-bellied faun statues, whose hands both conceal and draw attention to their genitals. If The Wine Glass represented phlegmatic love, and The Feather sanguine love, this represents hot-tempered choleric love, probably amongst the servants. It is no accident, therefore, that the faces of the gropers in the doorway have exaggerated red highlights; red was associated with the choleric humour, with violence and hot temperedness.
In the Return from the Hunt (Fig. 8), one of the four larger tapestries, a cavalier in a plumed hat holds a falcon while he rears his horse. In contrast, a bearded old man, accompanied by a dejected melancholic dog, stoops under the burden of the hind carried on a pike over his shoulder. Carrying the dead weight of a large animal for any distance would be no easy matter for a man of any age,
7 and nothing could better illustrate social inequality than the contrast between the toiling servant and the young aristocrat, riding home care-free while performing fancy equestrian manoeuvres. In Goltzius’s influential set of the Elements, Earth (Fig. 9) is personified by a huntsman carrying his game after the hunt, whereas air is personified as a falconer (Fig. 10). In de Gheyn’s Elements, earth and air are likewise personified as a returning huntsman and a falconer. Jordaens includes both motifs in one scene to striking effect. Yet it is the contextual interpretation of the humour that leads one to believe this is the element earth. As in Feeding Chickens, the old man’s melancholy is induced by heavy toil and it is he rather than the cavalier who anchors the meaning of the scene. And as in Feeding Chickens, the large, melancholic dog signifies a degree of envy – like their master, the cavalier’s hunting dogs run home with care-free abandon.
The Rest from the Hunt (Fig. 11) is the only true landscape design in the series, and with The Kitchen it is also the largest tapestry. An aristocratic huntsman sits by the side of a lake with his pack of dogs, patting one of them with great affection. While the ornamental detail refers to hunting, it also alludes to water: the satyr and nymph half-body bracket figures that support the arches have entwined dolphins. If the element is water, the humour should be phlegmatic. A phlegmatic temperament was associated with mild, passive, sensitive character traits, but also laziness, sluggishness and indolence, all of which apply rather well to our resting hunter.32
Attack of the Falcons (Fig. 12) is far removed f rom restful indolence. Here we witness a pair of falcons attacking the barnyard, and a barefoot servant girl running into the scene beating away the birds of prey (this part of the tapestry is hidden). The falcons have caused the barnyard fowls to panic. Attack of the Falcons parallels the social contrast found in the Return from the Hunt – between those who can fly (hunters), and those rooted to the ground (labourers). Andrea Alciato’s (1492–1550) Emblemata (1550), one of the most influential emblem books ever published, uses a scene of a falcon attacking a duck in the emblem ‘imparilitas’ – inferiority. The accompanying Latin verse translates: ‘As the falcon cleaves the thin air flying high, as the jackdaw, the goose, the duck feed on the ground, so mighty Pindar soars above the highest heaven, so Bacchylides knows only how to creep along the ground’.33 This goes some way to explaining the emblems that Jordaens has included on the bottom of the columns: to the left, a tortoise within snakes; and to the right, a crab within snakes.
In Attack of the Falcons, the falcons represent air and the chickens earth, just as the aristocrat represents air and his servant earth in the Return from the Hunt; the aristocracy soar like falcons whilst the servants crawl along the ground like chickens or crabs. The Cavendishes, like other patrons of Jordaens’s Scenes from Country Life, were aristocrats, and in order to soften this brutal allegory, eagles were included, flanking the upper cartouche and supporting the arches. As symbols, eagles were considered more positive than falcons. In Ripa’s Iconologia, the eagle was emblematic of liberalita – liberality. Although hunters, eagles would not
stoop to terrorise a barnyard and always left scraps for other animals, as good aristocrats would do for their underlings. The associated element to the Attack of the Falcons is obviously air. While most representations of the element air did involve birds, the eagle in particular was used to symbolise the sanguine humour, as in images by Martin van Heemskerk (1498–1574), Virgil Solis (1514–62) and many others. This probably derived f rom the association of the eagle with Jupiter, god of the sanguine humour.
Finally, in The Kitchen (Fig. 13) we see a vast and sumptuous array of produce: a swan, ducks, a peacock, chickens, deer, a boar, rabbits, lobsters, oysters, grapes, apples, cabbages, artichokes and peas. Amongst the dead animals there are living ones, such as the cat to the left of the swan. Perhaps the most poignant moment, a meeting of life and death, is the dog shown almost nose to nose with the dead deer. As they go about their chores, we recognise, f rom the Return from the Hunt and Feeding fig 8 Return from the Hunt, c. 1630 Jacques II Geubels after Jacob Jordaens Tapestry, wool and silk, 375x405cm Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire National Trust/Robert Thrift fig 9 Terra f rom a set of the Four Elements, c. 1590 Johann Israel de Bry (1565– 1609) after Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617) Engraving, 18 x 12.3cm © The Trustees of the British Museum, London fig 10 Aer f rom a set of the Four Elements, c. 1590 Johann Israel de Bry after Hendrick Goltzius Engraving, 18 x 12.3cm © The Trustees of the British Museum, London