3.03.2010

Notes from week 22: What Not to Say at Dinner


"It looks as though it were done with nothing at all," resumed the painter. "No more chance of discovering the trick than there is in the 'Night Watch,' or the 'Regents,' and it's even bigger work than either Rembrandt or Hals ever did."

REMBRANDT (Dutch painter, 1606–69). Essay and larger image are at this Rembrandt site.   Real title is Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch; in French, "La Ronde."




HALS, Frans (Dutch painter, c. 1580–1666).  There are several Hals paintings in the Louvre, but not the Regents.  Franz Hals' Women Regents of the Haarlem Almshouse (1664)
Franz Hals (Wiki)
"Except at the moment when he had called it "bigger than the 'Night Watch,'" a blasphemy which had called forth an instant protest from Mme.Verdurin, who regarded the 'Night Watch' as the supreme masterpiece of the universe (conjointly with the 'Ninth' and the 'Samothrace')..."
That would be Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (listen to the midi here, no downloading required) ; here's the Wiki write-up.  It certainly was no stretch for Mme. Verdurin to regard this as a masterpiece -- so did everyone else!

<== Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre:  different photos, Wiki write-up of Winged Victory, a fantastic audio/video exploration of the statue in detail, long view of the Daru staircase in the Louvre.
 ~~~~~~~~
    "It's not a Japanese salad, is it?" she whispered, turning towards Odette.
    And then, in her joy and confusion at the combination of neatness and daring which there had been in making so discreet and yet so unmistakable an allusion to the new and brilliantly successful play by Dumas, she broke down in a charming, girlish laugh, not very loud, but so irresistible that it was some time before she could control it.
The salad is described in the Dumas fils play Francillon.  Here's the NY Times review (1887) and an academic essay (page 1 only) on Proust & Dumas fils.  An etching of a scene from the play is for sale. 

Here is a recipe (and photos) of the dish, made by Shari at her food blog, Whisk (she calls it "Salade Francillon"), with directions taken from the text of the play.  Mme. Cottard's witty salad retort seems to be made of potato salad with mussels and truffles.  Oh, here is a second write-up; apparently this dish became quite a Parisian fad!
"Now, Serge Panine--! But then, it's like everything that comes from the pen of M. Georges Ohnet, it's so well written. I wonder if you know the Maître des Forges, which I like even better than Serge Panine."                                                                                                                            Pardon me," said Swann with polite irony, "but I can assure you that my want of admiration is almost equally divided between those masterpieces."
Swann's word "masterpieces" echoes Mme. Verdurin's, a few paragraphs earlier.  Forchville says:
What with him and M. Bréchot, you've drawn two lucky numbers to-night...
mis-pronouncing Brichot's name for the second time. He's the hit of the party, but can't call the faithful by their correct names. Is he just careless? Brichot himself will later mispronounce de La Trémouailles Then he destroys Swann's carefully-maintained persona, by aligning him with "bores":
The creature spends all his time shut up with the La Trémoïlles, with the Laumes and all that lot!" 
Now then. The La Trémoïlles  were a real French family line. The Laumes are created characters; however, we have already met them (in the future) in Combray and will be with them for the whole novel.  The Princesse des Laumes will become Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes (who looked at the Narrator in "her" church); the Prince des Laumes will become Basin, Duc de Guermantes when he accedes to the title. (He is also the brother of Charlus [in the garden with Gilberte & Odette in Combray, wearing white linen slacks] and Mme de Saint-Loup).
When Mme Verdurin hears this, she goes all catatonic:
"He saw then that in her fixed resolution to take no notice, to have escaped contact, altogether, with the news which had just been addressed to her, not merely to remain dumb but to have been deaf as well, as we pretend to be when a friend who has been in the wrong attempts to slip into his conversation some excuse which we should appear to be accepting, should we appear to have heard it without protesting, or when some one utters the name of an enemy, the very mention of whom in our presence is forbidden; Mme. Verdurin, so that her silence should have the appearance, not of consent but of the unconscious silence which inanimate objects preserve, had suddenly emptied her face of all life, of all mobility;...  "
actually echoing the white stillness of the Winged Victory statue a few paragraphs before. Then, to preserve the unanimity of the group, they attack Swann, insult his friends, Odette gets into the act, Forcheville and Brichot want to discuss Fenelon's concepts of intelligence, Saniette is berated for no good reason, but feels compelled to make up a nasty story that the Duc didn't know George Sand was a woman. 
 She had remarked, more than once, how Swann and Forcheville suppressed the particle 'de' before that lady's name. Never doubting that it was done on purpose, to show that they were not afraid of a title, she had made up her mind to imitate their arrogance, but had not quite grasped what grammatical form it ought to take. 
There is a trick to it. And it's on this page... the Particule. Another reason she rejected their society?

Gustave Moreau paintings. Proust wrote an essay on him in 1898: Notes on the Mysterious World of Gustave Moreau.

Links :
 George Sand   
{"And, in the first episode of the "Overture" to Swann's Way - the first novel in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time sequence - a young, distraught Marcel is calmed by his mother as she reads from François le Champi, a novel which it is explained was part of a birthday package from his grandmother which also included La Mare au Diable, La Petite Fadette, and Les Maîtres Sonneurs. As with many episodes involving art in À la recherche du temps perdu, this reminiscence includes commentary on the work."}
Palais de l'Industrie 
Mme de Sevigné and Wiki (she reappears frequently)
 "Se non è vero, è ben trovato."  Translation: "If it's not true, it's a good story."
Henri d’ORLÉANS, duc d’ AUMALE  (1822-1897)  Académy;   Wiki
Kept woman vs. courtesan 
Sonate de Vinteuil (Fr.)
Saint-Cloud
l’île des Cygnes ; great 360-view from the island