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VMs: Swallow tails + Iconography
> In the picture I've seen, I did not see any swallow-tail
> merlons. But it was not a very good one.
> Could you point me to a clear picture?
Hi, I had decided to keep silent until I had sorted all my new data but now
I can't resist anymore. We need independently verifiable references and
dates :-) so here I have some good ones for you.
And there is a very interesting iconographic curiosity at (nr.3) and at the
end (nr. 5) where I need your help.
Verona is full of swallow tails (see for example: Lanfranco Lanzoni, Verona,
1978, Edizioni Storti, p13 - this is not as scientific as it sounds, it's
tourist guide). "The Castelvecchio was the second and final residence of the
Della Scala (or Scaliger) family; built over a period of some twenty years
from 1345 to 1375 by Cangrande and Cansignorio, it was immediately
complemented by the construction of a three-arched bridge."
Swallow tails are depicted in frescoes by Giotto. For example in the "Scenes
from the life of St Francis" in the Upper Church in Asisi (see: Luciano
Bellosi, Giotto, 1981, Becocci Editore - another tourist guide) - plate 27 -
Exorcism of the demons at Arezzo - plate 31 - Ecstasy of St Francis.
Curiously enough Giotto also paints castles *without* swallow-tails - plate
19 - St Francis giving his mantle to a poor knight.
And he also paints fantasy, "allegoric" architecture that is reminiscent of
the "spire from the square hole" on f85/86 - plate 49 - Liberation of Peter
"Giotto was probably working is Assisi by about 1290, more than a decade
before he began work on the Arena Chapel. The St Francis cycle was probably
painted at about this time, though it is usually dated after 1296." (p.3)
More swallow tails in the Arena Chapel. "The date of the frescoes is not
certain and is variously placed between 1304 to 1312/13." (p.31) - plate
60 - The meeting at the Golden Gate - plate 81 - Entry into Jerusalem.
And in the Lower Church in Assisi. "We now know they were executed before
1309." (p.59) - plate 126 - Allegory of Chastity - plate 131 - Raising of
In one of the bridges between the rosettes "west" and "southwest" there is a
diamond shape with rounded points. This is very reminiscent of the plan of a
classic fortress. One such fortress is depicted in the painting "The last
phase of the conquest of the Porta Ercole - June 10, 1555" by Vasari that
hangs in the "Hall of the Five Hundred" in the Palazzo Vecchio. (see:
Eugenio Pucci, Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, 1976, Bonechi
BTW - Palazzo Vecchio has *no* swallow tails on it's wall, but *has* swallow
tails on its tower. And many cities on the (period 1500 - 1555) paintings
have *no* swallow tails: Pisa, Casole, Siena, Milan, Florence.
Lake Garda is full of castles with swallow tails: Malcesine (built 1300 by
the Scaligeri), Lazize (built by the Scaligeri), and wonderful Sirmione
(rebuilt around 1450 by the Scaligeri). All the castle towers are square -
not round. The only round tower I found is at Brescia castle (built by the
Venetian Republic - no date given). From: Climate, history and art of the
Lake of Garda, Antonio Melluso, 1971, Brunner & Co.
A Dutch translation of "Studies in iconology. Humanistic themes in the art
of the Renaissance." 1962, by Erwin Panofsky has a plate that looks very
much like one of our nymphs - plate 114 - "Nuda veritas" - Opicinus de
Canistris, dated 1350 - 1351 AD, Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, cod. Pal. lat.
1993, fol. 26. But this is a very bad reproduction. Maybe someone of you has
an original copy of this book?
BTW - Plates 86 and 87 also show naked ladies in streams, and they have the
round bellies and strange breasts of our nymphs. But the drawing is much
more skilled than the "Naked truth" - plate 86 - Blind Cupid, Venus and the
three Graces, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, ms. Fr. 373, fol 207, 14th
century - plate 87 - Blind Cupid, Venus and the three Graces, Copenhagen,
Royal Library, ms. Thott, fol. 9, verso, ca. 1480 AD
BTW - Plate 8 has a drawing of Atlas carrying the skies that is strangely
reminiscent of the star-filled circles in the VMS. - plate 8 - Atlas and
Nimrod - Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Cod. Pal. lat. 1417, fol 1, ca. 1100 AD
I have scanned through a book about Gothic art and the VMS does not have a
Gothic "look and feel". Not square enough, not rigid enough. It should be a
None of the Italian castles with "swallow tails" that I mentioned above has
any towers with "lightning conductors". This still has a north- middle
european feeling for me, but I have no evidence.
Further research - I'm looking through books on ancient maps to see if I can
find any matches and I will look through my books on Lombardy and Czech
Castles to see how far north the swallow tails extended. Also check what
kind of castle walls Durer painted. Then I think we will be able to close
the chapter on "castles" and move on to the "spire in the square hole" that
I find very interesting.
That's all folks :-)