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Sophia Hawthorne, Henry James, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "curious aversion" to nudity in art.

Most critics judge that Henry James's 1879 book on Hawthorne reveals as much about James as about Hawthorne. James's portrait of his predecessor serves as a foil, representing a writer against whom he can define himself. James's Hawthorne is provincial and puritanical. James's James is cosmopolitan. I want to focus on just one of James's criticism--what he calls Hawthorne's "curious aversion to the representation of the nude in sculpture"--because it figures centrally in James's attempt to paint a portrait of his predecessor with which he can contrast himself. Hawthorne "apparently quite failed to see that nudity is not an incident, or accident, of sculpture," James claims, "but its very essence and principle; and his jealousy of undressed images strikes the reader as a strange, vague, long-dormant heritage of his straight-laced Puritan ancestry" (Hawthorne 161). James based this conclusion on his reading of Hawthorne's Italian notebooks, which he reviewed for the Nation in 1872. Hawthorne "remains unreconciled to the nudity of the marbles," James insisted there. He was not "without taste; but his taste was not robust" (Review 311). It has long struck me as odd that James paints with such a broad brush, failing or choosing not to see and appreciate passages in the Italian notebooks where Hawthorne seems fascinated by painted or sculptural nudity and in fact writes in relatively complex and self-consciously analytical fashion about his responses to naked sculptures.

Many critical assessments of Hawthorne's attitude toward nudity have followed James's lead. Randall Stewart, for example, repeats the idea that Hawthorne's approach to sculpture and painting was "less esthetic than moral" and, like James, considers him a Puritan (197). James R. Mellow follows suit, noting that Hawthorne's "puritan morals were engagingly shocked by the lasciviousness of Raphael's La Fornarina and then observing that nudity in painting and sculpture "was a continuing complaint in Hawthorne's Roman journal" (488). Rita Gollin and John Idol echo James in noting Hawthorne's "aversion to coarse or startling nudes" (105), although they acknowledge that the "beautiful brazen nudes he would see in Italy would present more complicated aesthetic problems" (80). Dolly Sherwood also follows James in representing Hawthorne as a Puritan when she asserts that, like "other Americans," Hawthorne was "offended by the unclothed body, the ghosts of his Puritan ancestors rising to haunt him in this as well as in other aspects of his psychic inheritance" (172). Brenda Wineapple considers Hawthorne a "prude" because he "blanched" and "cringed" before John Gibson's Tinted Venus (299). Even Deanna Fernie, who devotes an entire book to Hawthorne and sculpture, largely dismisses his responses to actual sculpture, which she considers "bathetic" (4) or "flat" (27), in favor of examining "sculptural allusions and metaphors" (26) in his fiction. Such summary judgments overlook the complexity of Hawthornes responses to nudity in

painting and sculpture, as well as his efforts to understand and express his analytical and emotional reactions. A significant number of passages in his Italian notebooks show him in a hyper self-reflective state--alternately fascinated and ashamed as he comes to terms with his attraction to nudity and the desire his interest provokes.

These negative judgments of Hawthorne's response to nudity are all the more surprising because we now have much more information available than Henry James enjoyed when he wrote in the nineteenth century. Enter Sophia Hawthorne. The book on which James based his conclusions about Hawthorne and art is not the same Italian Notebooks we read today. James read and reviewed Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books (1871), a volume that Sophia published after Hawthorne's death. (1) Comparing that volume to the complete version (published more than 100 years later in the Ohio State Centenary Edition) reveals that Sophia redacted many significant passages and also changed wording in order, arguably, to make Hawthorne seem less interested and engaged in observing artistic nudity than he actually was. Sophia placed ellipses wherever she deleted text, but those signposts of course tell us very little and would have told nineteenth-century readers, such as James, even less. Her motive may be inferred from a comment she makes in the short preface--her very earnest hope that the volume "will dispel an often-expressed opinion that Mr. Hawthorne was gloomy and morbid." Although she acknowledges his "pensiveness and gravity," she assured readers that his "mood was always cheerful and equal, and his mind peculiarly healthful" (Passages ix). (2) Complicating efforts to sort out Hawthorne's attitudes toward art and the conclusions nineteenth and even twentieth and twenty-first century readers might have formed about them: Hawthorne used many passages from his Italian notebooks in The Marble Faun, including some of the passages Sophia either deleted or revised. Sophia did leave intact some passages we might have expected her to cut or change, but her revisions almost always preempt conclusions about Nathaniel's fascination with painted or sculpted nudity.

For example, when Hawthorne visited Cephas Thompson's Rome studio, he was struck by a painting of a Circassian Slave, whom he described as "voluptuously beautiful, and a noble womanhood stirring within her" (14:72). Sophia deleted that sentence, which contains the only mention of this painting. It's as if Hawthorne never saw it--thereby eliminating the possibility that he might have been stirred by the figure's "voluptuously beautiful" womanhood.

When Hawthorne describes his encounter with Raphael's Fornarina at the Barberini palace, James would have been right to conclude that her nudity made no impression on him, for Sophia's entry reads simply, "Close beside Beatrice Cenci hangs the Fornarina" (Passages 83). Period. Hawthorne hardly even noticed her in Sophia's account--except that he actually wrote the following detailed description:

   the Fornarina, a brunette, with a deep, bright glow in her face,
   naked below the navel, and well pleased to be so for the sake
   of your admiration--ready for any extent of nudity, for love or
   money,--the brazen trollope that she is. Raphael must have been
   capable of great sensuality, to have painted this picture of his
   own accord and lovingly. (14:93).

And Hawthorne, too, needless to say, must have had similar sensual capacities to write such an admiring passage. The passage Sophia deleted illustrates a key principle, in fact, in Hawthorne's encounters with sculpted nudity--the way he emphasizes the subject-object relationship created by the male gaze and the way he speculates on the gaze reversing. (3) Looking as he does at the Fornarina's nudity "below the navel," he imagines her matching his own desire to look with a desire to be looked at. (4)

Hawthorne seems equally fascinated by Veronese's Rape of Europa, as he gushes:

It must have been, in its day, the most brilliant and rejoicing picture, the most voluptuous, the most exuberant, that ever put the sunshine to shame. The bull has all Jupiter in him, so tender and gentle, yet so hot and passionate with desire that you feel indecorous to look at him; and Europa, under her thick, rich stuffs and embroideries, is as much a woman as if she were naked. (14:178)

Sophia let almost all of this passage stand--almost, because she deleted "as if she were naked" and replaced the phrase "as much" with the word "all." Europa is now "all a woman," so you have to look beyond Sophia's words to understand that Hawthorne saw her naked breast and then-- with X-ray vision--imagined the rest of her naked body beneath her "embroideries." (5)

In effect, if not in intention, Sophia and James conspired to produce a prudish, puritanical Hawthorne. Put another way, Sophia's redactions and editorial changes played into James's hands in his desire to paint a Hawthorne prudishly averse to nudity. The Hawthorne whom James critiqued was, at least in this respect, a Nathaniel that Sophia reconstructed and wished to promote. James wanted Hawthorne to be "the last pure American." Hawthorne wasn't that pure.

To be sure, there are places where Hawthorne seems prudish or at least skittish in the presence of naked statues. Rita Gollin and John Idol note that "Hawthorne (like most Victorians) had a special problem with paintings of nudes"; he "suspected that most painters of nudes were prurient, and he scorned their sensual indulgences." They do acknowledge, on the other hand, that the "beautiful brazen nudes he would see in Italy would present more complicated aesthetic problems" (80). On April 22, 1858, relatively early in his visit to Rome, for example, Hawthorne encountered Edward Bartholomew's Eve Repentant in the artist's studio. He was not terribly impressed by this "Eve, after the fall, with her wreath of fig-leaves lying across her poor nudity; pretty in some points, but with an awful volume of thighs and calves." In fact, he concluded, "I do not altogether see the necessity of ever sculpting another nakedness" (14:177). He would change his mind, or at least feel grateful for "nudities" already sculpted. Ten days before he saw Bartholomew's Eve he marvels that those who have not visited Italy "can have no idea of what beauty and magnificence are produced by these fittings up of polished marble" (14:174). He refers to the Villa Borghese and the magnificent sculptures he discovered there. Among them is Canova's statue of Pauline, "who is represented with but little drapery, and in the character of Venus, holding the apple in her hand." It is "admirably done" Hawthorne judges, "and, I have no doubt, a perfect likeness; very beautiful, too; but it is wonderful to see how the artificial elegance of the woman of the world makes itself perceptible in spite of whatever simplicity she could find in almost utter nakedness. The statue does not afford pleasure in the contemplation" (14:175). William Vance cites Hawthorne's concluding judgment as evidence of his inhibited sexuality (2:85), but it seems to me that Hawthorne's tag line, immediately following his recognition of the statue's "utter nakedness," seems forced. The statue has obviously afforded him considerable "pleasure in the contemplation."

Hawthorne was hardly alone among American tourists in feeling challenged aesthetically, morally, and imaginatively by what he archly called an "apotheosis of nakedness" (14:111). For viewers and artists alike, nudity created challenges and strategies designed to modulate the pleasure of contemplation. William Gerdts notes, for example, that "nudity was acceptable as long as sensuality was sublimated--suggested

at second hand through the purity of virginally white marble" ("Marble" 62). Gerdts also notes the "peek-a-boo" strategy many artists employed--leaving only one breast undraped or placing drapery of some sort only partially in front of the woman's lower body ("Marble" 65). Artists, as well as viewers, developed strategies for mitigating and controlling potential responses to nudity. The so-called "pudica" pose in which a statue of a woman was shown covering her breast with one hand and her genitals with the other was a favorite among sculptors. Joy Kasson quotes Hiram Powers describing his strategy for presenting The Greek Slave: "her hands [will be] bound and in such a position as to conceal a portion of the figure thereby rendering the exposure of the nakedness less exceptionable to our American fastidiousness" (qtd. in Kasson, Marble Queens 50). The Reverend Orville Dewey was so moved by the figure's spirituality that he saw her as "clothed all over with sentiment; sheltered, protected by it from every profane eye" (qtd. in Kasson, Marble Queens 58). According to Kasson, "Dewey went one step further, suggesting that the viewer could see The Greek Slave without seeing her body at all" (.Marble Queens 59). Kasson concludes that viewers' descriptions of The Greek Slave "vibrate with ambivalence: desire expressed and denied simultaneously" ("Mind" 81)--a characterization that describes the challenge Hawthorne faced. But whatever ambivalence he felt, he definitely saw bodies--and vibrated to the sight.

The Hawthornes arrived in Rome in late January 1858. They left Rome for Florence on May 24, arriving on June 2 and staying through the end of September. They returned to Rome in mid-October and remained there (in large part because of Una's battle with malaria) until the end of May 1859. In Rome Hawthorne visited the Capitoline Museum (which includes the marble faun) several times, but he preferred the Vatican Museum. In Florence he visited the Uffizi gallery numerous times, as well as the Pitti Palace. Throughout his Italian visit he kept a meticulous record of the works of art he saw, and he devoted significant space in his notebook to expressing and analyzing his responses. One of the first sculptures to fascinate him--in William Wetmore Story's Roman studio, Valentine's Day 1858--was the new-born Cleopatra (Fig. 3), "only fourteen days advanced in the clay." A "grand subject," Hawthorne observes. Story "certainly is sensible of something deeper in his art than merely to make beautiful nudities and baptize them by classic names." Hawthorne writes rather dismissively, but in a later passage, with Cleopatra now four months old, he responds in a way that explains why Cleopatra finds her way into The Marble Faun as the product of Kenyon's hands. We "have seen again William Story's Cleopatra," Hawthorne reports; a work "representing a terribly dangerous woman, quiet enough for the moment, but very likely to spring upon you like a tigress" (14:177). An extreme form of Pygmalion-ism, Hawthorne's hyper-realistic sense of vulnerability both excites and frightens him. Cleopatra is not unique in this regard, as a number of the sculpted women he saw seduced him into an intimate subject-object relation that threatened his ability to control his responses.

Hawthorne encountered Bernini's Rape of Proserpine (Fig. 4) in the Villa Ludovisi, for example, and this "most striking object" inspires an obvious identification and participation. As spectator, Hawthorne triangulates himself with the male and female figures in the sculpture, his gaze moving from one to the other, participating voyeuristically in the "rape": "Pluto (an outrageously masculine and strenuous figure, heavily bearded, and with a prodigious muscular development in mad activity) ravishing away a little tender Proserpine, whom he holds aloft, while his strong gripe impresses itself into her soft, virgin flesh." In this detail, Hawthorne's gaze has traveled to Proserpine's thigh, where Pluto's fingers do indeed dig into the marbled "flesh." As he does so many times, Hawthorne catches himself right at this moment of excess desire. "It is very disagreeable," he observes; "but it makes one feel that Bernini was a man of great ability" (14:149). (6) Hawthorne judges his own desire as much as Bernini's statue. Catching himself in the act, he censures his own desire and gaze, projecting a judgment of himself on the sculpture as an aesthetic critique.

Hawthorne also saw John Gibsons Tinted Venus in Rome. (7) Gibson was experimenting with color--tinting his white marble sculptures to make them look more life-like. In the presence of the Venus, Hawthorne finds himself in a state of aroused tension, but in an intriguing example of conflicted feelings dictating conflicted syntax, he suppresses his own desire. Sophia suppressed that desire even more, by deleting most of the passage Hawthorne wrote. In Sophia's version of their visit to Gibson's studio, Hawthorne says simply, "We saw a Venus and a Cupid, both of them tinted; and, side by side with them, other statues identical with these, except that the marble was left in its pure whiteness" (Passages 140). But the lengthy passage Sophia cut paints a different picture of Hawthorne--tints, if not tarts, him up:

   I must say, there was something fascinating and delectable in the
   warm, yet delicate tint of the beautiful nude Venus, although I
   should have preferred to dispense with the colouring of the eyes
   and hair; nor am I at all certain that I should not, in the end,
   like the snowy whiteness better for the whole statue. Indeed, I
   am almost sure I should; for this lascivious warmth of hue quite
   demoralizes the chastity of the marble, and makes one feel
   ashamed to look at the naked limbs in the company of women.

As if catching himself in a state of arousal that makes him feel ashamed, he shifts his gaze from the Venus's body to her hair and eyes, before effectively bleaching the statue of its seductive and demoralizing color in order to restore its chastity. It is, of course, his own desire that Hawthorne critiques and polices. Imagining himself in the company of women, he recognizes that the desire his gaze arouses in himself might be visible to his female companions. In this imagined triangle--Hawthorne-Venusother women--he understands that the desire aroused by viewing naked bodies cannot be limited to the straight line between each spectator and the sculpture. It spills out into the room. Each spectator becomes both subject and object of the others' gazes.

Hawthorne is fascinated enough by Gibson's Venus that, when he gets to Florence and becomes friends with Hiram Powers, he asks Powers' opinion of Gibson's tinting practice. Powers, who called Gibson's statue the " Tainted Venus" (Vance 1:191), objects to the technique. But Hawthorne, in modest disagreement, thinks that tinting gives "warmth and softness to the snowy marble, and so bring [s] it a little nearer to our hearts and sympathies" (14:292). Hawthorne could have said "passion," for it seems to me he still cannot get past the vivid impression Gibson's Venus made on his desire. (8) This conclusion becomes clearer when Hawthorne returns to the subject. "The best thing [Powers] said against the use of color in marble," he recalls, "was, to the effect that the whiteness removed the object represented into a sort of spiritual region, and so gave chaste permission to those nudities which would otherwise be licentious." Sophia actually reproduced this passage, although she substituted the phrase "suggest immodesty" for Hawthorne's "be licentious"--a significant difference. Either way, Hawthorne quite frankly expresses--and is still wrestling with--the effect that the tinted Venus has had on his imagination and his feelings. For he goes on in the final sentence of this entry to acknowledge that he has "felt the truth" of Powers' observation about the power of pure whiteness--felt the truth "in a certain sense of shame as I looked at Gibson's colored Venus" (14:293). Tinting highlights Hawthorne's naively realistic response to sculpture--his Pygmalion-like tendency to view sculpture as all-too-real. In this overdetermined passage, Hawthorne seeks and reports Powers' artistic judgment as a way to confirm his own judgment about the dangers of tinting and to save him, in effect, from the impulses the statue has aroused.

At the very least, Hawthorne's response to the Gibson Venus is much more complex than James could have imagined--given what he read. In fact, I can imagine the passage I just read appearing in a James novel--in third person rather than first, of course. Here it is as James might have written it:

   He had to acknowledge there was something fascinating and
   delectable in the warm, yet delicate tint of the beautiful nude
   Venus, although he should have preferred to dispense with the
   colouring of the eyes and hair; nor was he at all certain that
   he should not, in the end, like the snowy whiteness better for
   the whole statue. Indeed, he was almost sure he should; for this
   lascivious warmth of hue quite demoralizes the chastity of the
   marble, and makes one feel ashamed to look at the naked limbs
   in the company of women.

If I were teaching this material, I would be tempted to ask my students from which James novel the foregoing passage comes. It doesn't take much to convert Hawthorne into James.

Hawthorne experiences similar conflicts when he turns his attention to Powers' own sculptures--for example, Powers' California, "lately finished, and as naked as Venus." Hawthorne is impressed by this "very good work"--good, it seems, because she is "not an actual woman, capable of exciting passion, but evidently a little out of the category of human nature" (14:281). We see this tension throughout Hawthorne's tour--a struggle between the passion such naked figures excite and a defensive need to idealize and distance himself from them. Hawthorne can't seem to help responding to naked sculptures as if they were naked men and women. Inspired by his desire, his imagination plays Aphrodite to his inner Pygmalion, effectively bringing the statues to "hot life" and turning marble into living flesh. At the same time, as if analyzing the results of an eye-tracking experiment, he feels embarrassed to note where his eyes go. "In one hand," he notes with some relief, California "holds a divining rod, which luckily does the office of a fig-leaf." 'She says to the emigrants,' observed Powers, 'here is the gold, if you choose to take it'" (14:281). With lovely ambiguity, the divining rod does not do the work Hawthorne had commissioned. Bypassing his conscience, so to speak, the divining rod, like some nineteenth-century Olympic flame, directs his gaze to "the gold."

James's critique of Hawthorne's taste in nude sculptures is more general than specific. In fact, he mentions only one sculpture by name--the Venus de' Medici in Florence. Hawthorne became fascinated by the Venus, returning to it again and again "as to a mistress," in Brenda Wineapple's delightful terms (307). His son Julian would later credit him with having seen "as much" in the statue "as any one, not a sculptor, has seen" (2:196). He first toured the Uffizi Gallery on June 8, 1858, and he could hardly wait to see the Venus. "The mystery and wonder of the gallery--the Venus de Medici--," he wrote, "I could nowhere see, and indeed was almost afraid to see it: for I somewhat apprehended the extinction of another of those lights that shine along a man's pathway, and go out in a snuff the instant he comes within eye-shot" (14:296). Hawthorne constructs himself here as a voyeuristic virgin, whose own virginity he projects upon the Venus--worried for both of them that their subject-object relationship would result in a kind of death, given the potential of the eye-shots Hawthorne imagines to snuff the Venus's light. Hawthorne goes on searching, however, still hot on the trail. As "I passed from one room to another," he admits, "my breath rose and fell a little, with the half-hope, half-fear, that she might stand before me." Here he is the nervous adolescent suddenly confronting his own desire, both nervous and surprised by his state of arousal. "Really," he concludes, "I did not know that I cared so much about Venus, or any possible woman of marble" (14: 297). But finally, there she is. "She is very beautiful," he manages to observe; "very satisfactory; and has a fresh and new charm about her" (297-98). "I felt a kind of tenderness for her," he continues, warming to his analytical task: "an affection, not as if she were one woman, but all womankind in one." Hawthorne generalizes her to type, abstracting her and his relationship to her. If she is "all womankind" rather than an individual woman, then any subject-object relationship becomes more intellectual and aesthetic than "hands-on." But not so fast. Hawthorne can't hide his fascination, and the lengthy passage he devotes to the Venus in his notebook makes it clear that, at least with his eyes, he imagines a very intimate relationship with this marbled woman. "Her modest attitude--which, before I saw her, I had not liked, deeming that it might be an artificial shame--is partly what unmakes her as the heathen goddess, and softens her into woman." The eyes have it. Hawthorne is transfixed. "There is a slight degree of alarm, too, in her face," he notes; "not that she really thinks anybody is looking at her, yet the idea has flitted through her mind and startled her a little." Hawthorne is the one startled, of course, but whatever alarm he experiences does not stop him immediately from continuing to look. Indeed, he creates a kind of dialogue with the Venus: he looks at her while she watches him look. Her awareness heightens his excitement. "Her face is so beautiful and intellectual, that it is not dazzled out of sight by her body," he goes on. "Methinks this was a triumph for the sculptor to achieve. I may as well stop here. It is of no use to throw heaps of words upon her; for they all fall away, and leave her standing in chaste and naked grace, as untouched as when I began." Hawthorne does finally stop himself from looking at the naked Venus, repressing the words she evokes precisely because not doing so would touch her in some sense and thereby threaten her chastity and grace. And as he had done in reporting his reaction to Gibsons Tinted Venus, here too he tries to shift his gaze away from the statue's body; he tries to stop his words from flowing almost as soon as he finds himself recalling the Venus's dazzling body. This repression does not hold, for Hawthorne goes on immediately in a stunning passage to use his words to touch the Venus in a violent, brutalizing fashion.

   The poor little woman has suffered terribly by the mishaps of her
   long existence in the marble. Each of her legs has been broken into
   two or three fragments; her arms have been broken off; her body has
   been broken quite across at the waist; her head has been snapt off
   at the neck. Furthermore, there have been grievous wounds and
   losses of substance in various tender parts of her body. But,
   partly by the skill with which the statue has been restored, and
   partly because the idea is perfect and indestructible, all these
   injuries do not in the least impair the effect, even when you see
   where the dissevered fragments have been re-united. She is just as
   whole as when she left the hands of the sculptor. I am glad to have
   seen this Venus, and to have found her so tender and so chaste.

Intentionally or not, Hawthorne verbally anatomizes the Venus, touching every part of her body, brutalizing, wounding, dismembering the statue before restoring her to an illusory wholeness through a distancing, idealizing process we have seen before. Indeed, immediately after noting the "grievous wounds and losses of substance in various tender parts of her body," he begins the process of disinvesting--repressing--the arguably sadistic desire with which he has touched her. Then, to conclude, in a deft touch, he effectively displaces the sado-erotic relationship he has both cultivated and denied by projecting it onto another figure.

Immediately after noting how glad he is to have found the Venus "so tender and so chaste," he shifts his gaze to Titian's Venus of Urbino, in the same gallery that displays the Venus de' Medici, as the painting by Johann Zoffany (Fig. 9) shows: "On the wall of the room, and to be taken in at the same glance, is a painted Venus by Titian, reclining on a couch, naked and lustful." (14:298-99). Sophia retained this short description and judgment, perhaps because she thought it reflected Nathaniel's agreement with her own judgment that the Venus was "really intolerable, positively disagreeable," and "really indecent" (Notes 353). (9) But Nathaniel seems less judgmental than descriptive, and his recognition (or projection) of "lust" suggests that he saw through the figure's pudica pose and accepted the tacit invitation to enter the painting imaginatively. (10) As David Rosand notes, the painting "represents an invitation to participation, an invitation that engages the imagination on several levels. Indeed, it is out of the interplay of intellectual response and sexual fantasy, of social function and private satisfaction, that the possibilities of meaning in the Venus of Urbino emerge" (54). Hawthorne seems an apt pupil, ready to accept an invitation for imaginative play even as intellectually he censors himself (and the artist). Whatever judgment he inserted into his notebook, Hawthorne found the Titian Venus fascinating, all the more so because of her proximity to the Venus de'Medici. In fact, his attention and desire arc between these the two Venuses, attempting to keep them separate--"good girl" and "bad girl"--but ultimately collapsing any difference between the two. They occupy the same visual space. He sees them both with one glance.

Hawthorne kept returning to the Venus--three days later on June 11, for example--this time determined, it would seem, to maintain his visual and rhetorical distance. He is in full idealizing mode. The morning after, so to speak, he takes pleasure in finding the Venus unchanged--still "one of the treasures of spiritual existence." "Surely," he apostrophizes in his best platonic mode, "it makes one more ready to believe in the high destinies of the human race, to think that this beautiful form is but Nature's plan for all womankind, and that the nearer the actual woman approaches to it, the more natural she is. I do not, and cannot, think of her as a senseless image, but as a being that lives to gladden the world, incapable of decay and death; as young and fair today as she was three thousand years ago, and still to be young and fair, as long as a beautiful thought shall require physical embodiment" (14:308). Hawthorne's language is so different in this passage that we might wonder if he is viewing the same statue. But that, I think, is the point--the insight these passages provide into Hawthorne's struggles to come to terms with this naked statue and the feelings she provokes. This second passage doesn't stop where I paused. Hawthorne goes on to question the "impertinence" displayed by any other sculptor who would "aim at any other presentation of female beauty." "I mean no disrespect to Gibson, or Powers, or a hundred other men who people the world with nudities," he exclaims, "all of which are abortive compared with her; but I think the world would be all the richer if their Venuses, their Greek Slaves, their Eves, were burnt into quick-lime, leaving us only this statue as our image of the beautiful." "She is a miracle. The sculptor must have wrought religiously, and have felt that something far beyond his own skill was working through his hand" (14:308). Of course, I'm suggesting that something indeed was working through Hawthorne's hands as he gazed at the Venus--but I don't think it was religious, except perhaps in the self-consecrating way Hester Prynne suggests.

We can gain some rare insight into the triangulated relationship that Nathaniel and Sophia enjoyed with works of art they both viewed by examining their reactions to Titian's Penitent Magdalene and then noting how Sophia managed their differences when she came to represent her husband's judgment in her edition of his notebook. For Nathaniel, Titian's Magdalene was very attractive indeed,

   with the golden hair clustering round her naked body. The golden
   hair, indeed, seemed to throw out a glory of its own. This
   Magdalene is very coarse and sensual, with only an impudent
   assumption of penitence and religious sentiment, scarcely so deep
   as the eyelids; but it is a splendid picture, nevertheless, with
   those naked, lifelike arms, and the hands that press the rich locks
   about her, and so carefully let those two voluptuous breasts be
   seen. She a penitent! She would shake off all pretence to it, as
   easily as she would shake aside the clustering hair and offer her
   nude front to the next comer. Titian must have been a very
   good-for-nothing old man. (14:333-34)

Sophia deleted the clause "and offer her nude front to the next comer," but she kept Hawthorne's concluding judgment about Titian, no doubt because it echoed her own. In her Notes in Italy, she writes her own assessment of the painted woman:

   As to Titian's Magdalen, a very large woman, quite nude, and
   gathering about her a world of golden hair, amazing as is the
   beauty of her hair, I do thoroughly detest the picture. Such a
   woman would be incapable of repentance. She is coarse and
   earthly in every fibre of her frame, and in every recess of her
   mind. It is a pity that such a woman should be painted so well.
   I have no doubt it is a portrait, and I am sorry that Titian knew
   such a person and contemplated her so minutely. It seems to
   show a depraved taste and nature. (392)

The Hawthornes agree that the Magdalene is unrepentant and defiant. However, whereas Sophia detests the picture, Nathaniel obviously finds it fascinating, even transfixing, and it inspires him to create a brief narrative in which his desiring gaze is reciprocated, albeit deflected. Hawthorne's response to the Magdalene offers another good example of the complexity of subject-object relationship he establishes with works of art. The Magdalene is splendid because lifelike, and Hawthorne's eyes follow the figure's hands, which not only do not cover her naked, voluptuous breasts, but seem to invite the viewer to ogle them. Hawthorne deflects the reciprocal circuit of desire, however, by imagining the woman offering her "nude front" to some anonymous "next comer." Hawthorne makes himself one of a crowd rather than the specific object of the Magdalene's sexual desire.

Although he reacted negatively to some nude sculpture, it is not fair to conclude that Hawthorne had a "curious aversion to the representation of the nude in sculpture." More often than not, he was fascinated by nudity even as he struggled to control and understand his responses to what he saw. If anything, Hawthorne acts like one of James's complex focal characters--Rowland Mallet or Lambert Strether. Hawthorne in the presence of the Venus de' Medici compares to Strether in the French countryside with Chad Newsome and Marie de Vionnet or Mallet contemplating Roderick Hudson's relationship with Christiana Light. Still, recognizing that James did not have access to a full data set, so to speak, of Hawthorne and nude sculpture does not entirely let him off the hook. Although it is intriguing to speculate what difference it might have made if he had read the passages Sophia redacted, I don't think it would have made a world of difference. James needed Hawthorne as a foil--needed to define himself (the Cosmopolitan writer) against Hawthorne (the "straight-laced Puritan"). James needed to ignore or downplay some of his predecessor's complexity, especially in the context of his visit and response to Europe. This was the territory James was clearly marking out for himself.

I want to conclude my assessment of Hawthorne's Italian tour with Hiram Powers and a sculpture Hawthorne saw just prior to leaving Florence in September 1858, America, or Liberty, which Hawthorne thought had "great merit,"

   and embodies the ideas of youth, freedom, progress, and
   whatever else we choose to consider distinctive of our country's
   character and destiny. It is a female figure, youthful, vigorous,
   beautiful, planting its foot lightly on a broken chain, and
   pointing upward. The face has a high look of intelligence and
   lofty feeling; the form, nude to the middle, has all the charms
   of womanhood, and is thus warmed and redeemed out of the
   cold allegoric sisterhood, who have generally no merit in chastity,
   being really without sex. I somewhat question whether it is quite
   the thing, however, to make a genuine woman out of an allegory;
   we ask, who is to wed this lovely virgin? Who is to clasp and enjoy
   that beautiful form?--and are not satisfied to banish her into the
   realm of chilly thought. (14:436)

Hawthorne allegorizes the statue, unsexing her, but his gaze, which moves up and down the figure, leads to arousal. Her form, "nude to the middle" and with "all the charms of womanhood," warms the statue and frees her from the "cold allegoric sisterhood" to which the sculptor--and the viewer--have relegated her. Moreover, Hawthorne inserts himself into the story of America when he wonders who will wed his "lovely virgin" and thus have the opportunity to "clasp and enjoy the beautiful form." Gone is the federal allegory in favor of a potential--virtual--relationship between the viewer and the statue. Hawthorne imagines wedding the lovely virgin and clasping and enjoying her beautiful form. I doubt that it will surprise us to learn that Sophia, while keeping her husband's first question ("who is to wed this lovely virgin?), elided the second question ("who is to clasp and enjoy that beautiful form?"). Would it have surprised Henry James to see Hawthorne imagining such sexual intimacy? It certainly would have challenged his determined desire to paint Hawthorne as a Puritan. Challenged to his core by the naked statues he encountered in Rome and Florence but also enjoying the chance to look and play with erotic possibilities, Hawthorne neatly finds a way, as he contemplates this last nude woman--named America, no less--to make an honest man of himself. Like Pygmalion, he will marry the lovely virgin.

In the 1881 edition of The Portrait of a Lady, James stages a pivotal scene in the gallery of Rome's Capitoline Museum that includes the marble faun, as well as the Dying Gaul. Isabel has just bidden farewell to Lord Warburton, who has announced his departure for England. After Warburton decamps, Isabel sits alone in the gallery, soothed it seems by the "noble quietude" of the statues. She even compares the wounded Warburton to the Dying Gaul. Enter Gilbert Osmond, who feigns surprise at finding her alone. "I thought you had company," he observes. '"So I have--the best,"' she replies. And James notes that she "glanced at the circle of sculpture" (Portrait 1881, 311). Now, in his book on Hawthorne James had insisted that The Marble Faun forms "part of the intellectual equipment of the Anglo-Saxon visitor to Rome, and is read by every English-speaking traveler who arrives there, who has been there, or who expects to go" (Hawthorne 165). So, James would have us believe that Isabel, the "intellectual" one of three sisters (.Portrait 1881, 30) who has had "uncontrolled use of a library full of books" that have provided the "foundation of her knowledge" (Portrait 1881, 24)--has not read The Marble Faun. How else to account for her sitting in the gallery that contains the faun and not noticing it? Well, in a letter James wrote to his sister Alice, recounting his visit to the Capitol Museum and to this same gallery in November 1869, he mentions seeing only the "dying Gladiator, the Lycian Apollo, the Amazon, etc.--all of them unspeakably simple & noble & eloquent of the breadth of human genius." James even goes on to add, "There is little to say or do about them, save to sit & enjoy them & let them act upon your nerves & confirm your esteem for completeness, purity & perfection" (Complete Letters 2:178). It is inconceivable of course that he missed the marble faun, relegated to the "etc" of his experience, even as he apparently sat there for some time, as Isabel will later do, so that he could enjoy the remarkable lineup of sculptures. Surely he looked long and hard at the sculpture that had inspired Hawthorne. The word "unspeakably," as well as the comment that there is "little to say," becomes ironic in view of the unacknowledged presence of the sculpture about which James (and Isabel) should have had the most to say. Acknowledging his own belated viewing--viewing the marble faun in Hawthorne's shadow, so to speak--was not something James chose to do. Not until he revised The Portrait of a Lady for the New York Edition did he acknowledge the Praxiteles statue. This time, when Osmond cattily observes that he thought Isabel had company in the gallery and she replies, "'So I have--the best,"' James allows her to glance at the Antinous and the Faun (.Portrait 1908, 4:9). Perhaps James, who wanted to distinguish himself from Hawthorne and from every other "English-speaking" tourist, now felt confident enough in his own literary achievements to notice a sculpture that virtually all of his readers would expect him to know. Perhaps he had also finally gotten over his "curious aversion" to acknowledging Hawthorne's interest in nudity in painting and sculpture.

University of Cincinnati


(1) Thomas Woodson notes that Sophia finished copying Hawthorne's English notebooks in June 1869 and then spent July and August readying her own Italian journal for publication by Putnam. She then reread The Marble Faun. After reading proofs for her own book in October, she began copying what she called Nathaniel's "Continental journals" on November 1 ("Historical Commentary" 921-22).

(2) Although he does not consider Hawthorne's responses to art, Sterling Eisiminger observes that "those portions of The French and Italian Notebooks that Sophia Hawthorne omitted are of great interest to us for they support the idea that Hawthorne was a cigar-loving, sensual man who had a fine sense of humor touched with 'irony and skepticism'" (89). Thomas Woodson also notes that Sophia's "imposition of a tone of propriety and genteel conventionality considerably exceeded Hawthorne's own tendencies in that direction, and readers of her text of the notebooks were presented with a less colorful and realistic account than her husband wrote" (14:925).

(3) Although Sophia deletes virtually all of Hawthorne's response to this painting, parts of the passage had already appeared in The Marble Faun. "And who can trust the religious sentiment of Raphael," the narrator wonders, "or receive any of his Virgins as Heaven-descended likenesses, after seeing, for example, the Fornarina of the Barberini palace, and feeling how sensual the artist must have been, to paint such a brazen trollop of his own accord, and lovingly!" (4:337).

(4) Although he does not mention Hawthorne, David Lang Clark produces a viewing of the Fornarina that seems compatible with Hawthorne's account: "the voyeur is drawn into a tableau of foreplay that encourages a fantasy about a strip-tease. The sitter's right hand toys with the cord which holds her chemise, tempting the voyeur to imagine that he can untie the cord, bare the breasts, and then press the flesh that she presses with her fingers." He goes on to observe that the "voyeurism of the male gaze is thoroughly repugnant to many today; it is considered a mark of sophistication to suppress such ogling. But an image like Fornarina has a power that lasts through successive versions of repression" (8).

(5) Sophia herself admired this painting, although her emphases are far different from her husband's: "All the luxury and splendor of rich womanly beauty are in the form and face of Europa, who is superbly arrayed in stuffs of silk and gold, shining with jewels, and brimmed with the rapture that perfect, material well-being gives. It is a glory of earthly felicity, without anything divine or ethereal in it." (Notes 246). Although Sophia emphasizes Europa's body, she keeps herself and her language at a much greater distance. Nathaniel's gaze moves into the painting and enables him to imagine Europa underneath the clothing that so impressed his wife.

(6) Sophia left this passage almost intact, deleting only the phrase about Pluto's "muscular development in mad activity" and making a few minor changes, such as substituting "forcible" for "strong" (Passages 1:134).

(7) It is worth noting that the passage describing Gibson's Tinted Venus is sandwiched between the notorious passage (resulting from his visit to John Mosier's studio) in which Hawthorne condemns Margaret Fuller (14:155-57) and a lengthy description of his impression of American sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who shared a studio with Gibson. Hosmer fascinated Hawthorne because of her gendered ambiguity, although Sophia bowdlerized much of Nathaniel's description--and deleted Hosmer's name {Passages 1:140-42). One example will suffice. In Sophia's version, Hawthorne describes his leave-taking in matter-of-fact terms: "I shook hands with this frank and pleasant little person, and took leave, not without purpose of seeing her again" {Passages 1:142). In Hawthorne's original version, however, there appears an intriguing and awkward interjection: "I shook hands with this frank and pleasant little woman--if woman she be, as I honestly suppose, though her upper half is precisely that of a young man--and took leave, not without purpose of meeting her again" (14:159). Context is important: Hawthorne tried to come to terms with Gibson's Venus at the same time he was processing his reactions to Mosier's report about Margaret Fuller and his own firsthand encounter with Harriet Hosmer. All three female figures challenged his views of womanhood and, implicitly, his own manhood.

(8) Gibson's "coloured Venuses" receive notice in The Marble Faun when Miriam mentions them to Kenyon in chapter 14 ("Cleopatra"). When Kenyon tells her he is working on a new statue, she responds, "Not a nude figure, I hope!" (4:123), and she goes on to criticize sculptors' preference for nude figures. For this passage Hawthorne actually transcribed segments from four separate notebook entries (14:281, 209, 157, 179), and he has Miriam conclude, "But as for Mr. Gibson's coloured Venuses, (stained, I believe, with tobacco-juice,) and all other nudities of to-day, I really do not understand what they have to say to this generation, and would be glad to see as man heaps of quick-lime in their stead!" (4:123-24).

(9) In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain "feigned intense moral outrage," according to David Lang Clark (2), when he labeled this painting "the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses," not because she is "naked and stretched out on a bed," but because of the "attitude of one of her arms and hand" {Tramp 354). Rebecca Harding Davis reports a similar comment from Hawthorne himself: "Hawthorne, when he saw the Venus of Uffizi Palace, acknowledged its greatness, but added, 'To my mind Titian was a very nasty old man'" (Lasseter 123).

(10) In the pudica pose, of which the Venus de' Medici is a classic example, the female figure holds one hand over her breasts and the other over her genitals. As Rona Goffen points out, however, the Venus of Urbino may allude to the pudica pose but "Titian departed from the venerable prototype in two significant ways": "Venus does not cover her breast with her right arm but instead props herself up on pillows while clutching a bouquet of roses. The second variation, however, is problematic: unlike the ancient Venus pudica, she does not merely conceal, she caresses herself" (152). It is also fair to say--and consistent with some of Hawthorne's responses--that attempts to cover up eroticized parts of any body can have the opposite effect of directing the viewers gaze toward those very parts.

Works Cited

Clark, David Lang. "The Masturbating Venuses of Raphael, Giorgione, Titian, Ovid, Martial, and Poliziano." Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art 6 (2005): 1-16. Print.

Dewey, Orville. "Power's Statues." The Union Magazine of Literature and Art 1.4 (Oct 1847): 160-61. Print.

Eisiminger, Sterling. "Mrs. Hawthorne's Editing of The French and Italian Notebooks." The Nathaniel Hawthorne Journal 1978. Ed. C. E. Frazer Clark, Jr. Detroit: Gale, 1978). 89-92. Print.

Fernie, Deanna. Hawthorne, Sculpture, and the Question of American Art. Surrey: Ashgate, 2011. Print.

Gerdts, William H. The Great American Nude: A History in Art. New York: Praeger, 1974. Print.

--. "Marble and Nudity." Art in America 59 (May--June 1971): 60--67. Print.

Goffen, Rona. Titians Women. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1997. Print.

Gollin, Rita K., and John L. Idol, Jr. Prophetic Pictures: Nathaniel Hawthorne's Knowledge and Uses of the Visual Arts. Westport: Greenwood P, 1991. Print.

Hawthorne, Julian. Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife: A Biography. 2nd Edition. 2 vols. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1885. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The French and Italian Notebooks. Vol. 14 of The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 23 vols. Ed. William Charvat et al. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1980. Print.

--. The Marble Faum or, The Romance of Monte Beni. Vol. 4 of The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 23 vols. Ed. William Charvat et al. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1968. Print.

--. Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1871). Ed. Sophia Hawthorne. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, 1880. Print.

Hawthorne, Sophia. Notes in England and Italy. New York: G. P. Putnam & Son, 1869. Print.

James, Henry. The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855--1872. 2 Vols. Ed. Pierre A. Walker and Greg W. Zacharias. Lincoln, NE, and London: U of Nebraska P, 2006. Print.

--. Hawthorne. London: Macmillan, 1879. Print.

--. The Portrait of a Lady (1881). New York: Vintage Books/Library of America, 1992. Print.

--. The Portrait of a Lady (1908). Vols. 3 & 4 of the New York Edition. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908. Print.

--. Review of Passages from the French and Italian Note-books of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Literary Criticism: Essays on Literature, American Writers, English Writers. 2 vols. New York: Library of America 1984. 1:307-14. Print.

Kasson, Joy S. Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth-Century American Sculpture. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990. Print.

--. "Mind in Matter in History: Viewing The Greek Slave!' Yale Journal of Criticism 11.1 (1998): 79-83. Print.

Lasseter, Janice Milner, and Sharon M. Harris, eds. Rebecca Harding Davis: Writing Cultural Autobiography. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2001. Print.

Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.

Rosand, David. '"So-And-So Reclining On Her Couch'." Titians "Venus of Urbino. " Ed. Rona Goffen. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. 37-62. Print.

Sherwood, Dolly. Harriet Hosmer: American Sculptor, 1830-1908. Columbia and London: U of Missouri P, 1991. Print.

Stewart, Randall. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Biography. New Haven: Yale UP, 1948. Print.

Twain, Mark. A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Other Travels. Ed. Roy Blount, Jr. New York: Library of America, 2010. Print.

Vance, William L. America's Rome. 2 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989. Print.

Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Print.

Woodson, Thomas. "Historical Commentary." The French and Italian Notebooks. Vol. 14 of The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 23 vols. Ed. William Charvat et al. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1980. 903-935. Print.
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Author:Person, Leland S.
Publication:Nathaniel Hawthorne Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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