Saturday 10 July 2021

Geoffroi the Lady's Knight?

David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887) was a painter and photographer whose circle became known as the St John's Wood Clique, after the north London suburb where they gathered. The ODNB relates that the group ‘would meet once a week at each other's homes or studios, choose a subject (usually taken from history, mythology, or the Bible), and give themselves a set time in which each to devise a composition. They would then “grill” one another over the success or otherwise of the results.’

Most of the group, the ODNB goes on, ‘specialized in what is now called “historical genre”, paintings set broadly within medieval and Renaissance times featuring historical, domestic, or romantic incident.’ Moreover, Wynfield displayed ‘a propensity for subjects with tragic overtones’.

So the Rudel legend was right up his alley, and in 1873 he produced a painting that seems to have a connection with it. Its title is The Lady’s Knight.

Nothing much, on the face of it, to evoke the tale of the troubadour. But an online search also yields this engraving: 

The caption reads: ‘Geoffroi Rudel - from a picture by D. Wilkie Winfield, in the exhibition of the Royal Academy’.

Did the engraver (who has apparently signed himself ‘MorganSc’ in the lower right-hand corner) attach the Rudel name to his rendition of Wynfield’s original for the sheer romantic heck of it? The spelling ‘Geoffroi’ crops up occasionally elsewhere - most notably via Étienne-François de Lantier’s 1825 verse epic - but what it’s doing beneath this obscure English knock-off of Wynfield’s painting is anyone’s guess.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Rudel in bronze

The artist Bertrand Piéchaud (b.1941) is the scion of an old Girondine family and therefore more geographically connected to our troubadour than many Rudel-renderers. 

One can find details of a small number of his sculptures online, including depictions of the Roman poet Ausonius (another native of Bordeaux), the painter Paul Gaugin - and Poète Jaufré Rudel, a work in bronze.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Rostand redeemed

Edmond is a work by the French-British actor, writer and director Alexis Michalik, which premiered as a stage play in 2016. It concerns Rostand, of course, and recounts his rebound from the disaster of La Princesse Lointaine with the feverish creation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Edmond was nominated for seven Molieres, of which it won five. It then became a graphic novel illustrated by Léonard Chemineau, and was released as a feature film (directed by Michalik) in January 2019.

Cyrano, needless to say, was Rostand’s high-water-mark; the Rudel connection obliges me to concentrate on the low-water-mark. Somehow, that suits the Rudel legend: PG Wodehouse used him as a comic peg, Angela Thirkell had some fun at his expense - and yes, there’s a bit of a stench of failure emanating from Jaufre’s story.

If you’re waiting for a ‘But...’ I don’t really have one. Rudel’s sad end - as emphasised in Edmond - is a kind of punchline, a low point from which Rostand must recover in order to fulfill his destiny. But the legend of Rudel remains, as a marker that writers and artists can’t help touching upon now and then.

Oh look, I had a ‘But...’ after all.

Friday 22 February 2019

Rambaldo aka Rudel

Nino Berrini (1880-1962) was an Italian journalist, playwright and director.

His play Rambaldo di Vaqueiras (1921) ('poema drammatico cavalleresco', or 'a chivalric dramatic poem') is a fanciful take on the titular troubadour poet, who falls in love with his patron's daughter Beatrice. It is said to owe much to Edmond Rostand's work, in particular his Rudel play, La Princesse Lointaine (of which plenty elsewhere on this blog) - for example, Berrini's Rambaldo is mortally wounded and dies in Beatrice's arms. If your Italian is up to it, you can compare and contrast at the Internet Archive, which has the full text of Rambaldo di Vaqueiras

Berrini's obscurity these days may simply be down to the mediocrity of his work or to the whims of posterity; but it might have been assisted by the story of an incident during World War Two that, if true (or even if not), can't have done much for his reputation. While living in the Piedmont town of Boves, Berrini became caught up in an operation by the German SS to burn the town to the ground. A terrified Berrini scoured his library for  a German newspaper cutting that quoted Hitler's appreciation of the writer's work, and took the article to show to the SS commander. Berrini's house was saved, but the other townfolk never forgave him. That, at least, is the story told on Berrini's Italian wikipedia page.

Friday 14 November 2014

Rudel retold (again)

Another treatment of the Rudel legend has popped up on Amazon. 

La Légende de Geoffroy Rudel, Prince de Blaye by Fernande Bourdeau Lhérisson was first published in 1933 by Société des Bibliophiles de Guyenne. This slim volume also includes Alfred Jeanroy’s edition of the surviving Rudel songs. 

There's very little info on the author: the only other traceable work by Lhérisson is a book about the convicted murderess Marie Lafarge

Thursday 23 October 2014

Four equestrian princesses

It seems that Rostand's reach extended to the animal kingdom: according to the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database, there have been four thoroughbred horses named 'Princesse Lointaine'.

The first is recorded in 1902 (which makes sense given the date of the Rostand production); others in 1941 and 1963, with a fourth sometime around 1954.

Monday 31 March 2014

Jaufré, by George

Here's another indication of how Rostand's La Princesse Lointaine spread the Rudel legend more widely by influencing the visual arts. Besides the work by Mucha, Erté, and Vrubel, there were also illustrations by a famous-ish English artist.

George Sheringham (1884-1937) was best known as a stage designer, but he also illustrated books by the likes of Max Beerbohm, Arthur Conan Doyle, Cyrus MacMillan, and - it so happens - Edmond Rostand. 

This edition of La Princesse Lointaine was published in 1919 and featured 26 illustrations by Sheringham. It was a limited run of 100 copies and was printed by J. Meynial, 'Aux dépens d'un Amateur' named Eugène Renevey.

Sheringham was evidently well qualified to take on the Rudel legend: he spent the final five years of his life as an invalid, though not from pining for an idealised woman, lointaine or otherwise. 

The edition sometimes comes up on rare book websites (from where I sourced most of the pics).