Mourning into Joy: Music, Raphael, and Saint Cecilia.
Biblical themes of joy-into-mourning (Job, Lamentations, penitential psalms) and its converse mourning-into-joy (Esther) are of central concern in Connolly's version of the development of Cecilian myth. Much space is given to the iconographic tradition of the penitent David, which shares some features (David's discarded harp) with Raphael's Cecilian program and, to a lesser extent, with its predecessors, still few in number despite the author's determined search to find Cecilian depictions fitting his argument. As with many other strands of the book's argument, David's connection with Cecilia seems to me more one of casual resemblance than of substantial link.
There are many subjects pursued here. One of the most fascinating is that of the rise of Cecilian legend. Revered as a (married) virgin/martyr, the "historical" Cecilia seems to have lived after the age of persecution; her legend was subsequently interwoven with that of several male martyrs in the Passio Sanctae Caeciliae (c. 500?), which contrasted the cantantibus organis of the saint's wedding music with the internal music of adoration in Cecilia's heart. From the work of the seventh-century English bishop/monk Aldhelm, the "exterior" musical references passed into Cecilian liturgical texts, forming the foundation for the saint's eventual identification with sounding music - a link that Connolly thinks false and that is indeed refuted in Raphael's painting with its broken instruments at Cecilia's feet and a decrepit organ about to fall from her hands. Cecilia was buried in a catacomb but her body was removed to her titular church in Trastevere where, surviving several exhumations and much alteration to the ninth-century church fabric, it remains today.
Saint Cecilia in Trastevere is near the site of a late-antique shrine to the Roman goddess Bona Dea, a proto-feminist healer whose cult Connolly thinks was absorbed into that of the saint. This connection, even if not really provable, is tantalizing, and perhaps constitutes the most interesting thing in the book.
Much else - too much to summarize here - is introduced to thicken the web of Cecilian legend, including medieval devotional writing (primarily that of the fourteenth-century Jean Gerson), scholastic theology, and various iconographic elements. All of this is pressed into service to explicate the scheme of Raphael's painting. The result is impressive if perhaps over-elaborate; I wonder what the reaction of art historians to it will be.
An immense amount of work over a long period of time went into this book. It is persuasive in argument, well written, and elegantly printed. Most of it is sober reportage and balanced discussion. Yet the voice is that of an enthusiast, with occasional glints of fanatic dedication to the message. Several of the chapters are really sermons, a continuation by the author of the devotional tradition he espouses. The combination is a perplexing one, but the achievement is considerable. All in all, an extraordinary book.
JAMES HAAR University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1997|
|Previous Article:||Studies in the History of Italian Music and Music Theory.|
|Next Article:||Orlando di Lasso's Imitation Magnificats for Counter-Reformation Munich.|