Nabokov and the Art of Painting 9789048505463

A richly illustrated and comprehensive discussion of all the explicit pictorial references in Nabokov's oeuvre and

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Table of contents :
Table Of Contents
Foreword
Note On Abbreviations And References
1. Nabokov And The Two Sister Arts
2. The ‘Mad Pursuit’ In Laughter In The Dark
3. The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight. Its Colours And Painting
4. Pnin And The History Of Art
5. Lolita And Aubrey Beardsley
6. Pale Fire Zemblematically
7. Leonardo And ‘Spring In Fialta’
8. A Shimmer Of Exact Details: Ada’S Art Gallery
9. Ada And Bosch
Appendix I: Passages In Nabokov’S Novels, Stories Or Autobiography Referring Or Alluding To Paintings
Appendix II: Painters Mentioned Or Obviously Referred To In Nabokov’S Works
Notes
Bibliography
List Of Illustrations And Acknowledgements
Corresponding Pages In The Volumes Published By Vintage International And Penguin Books
Index Of Authors
Index Of Artists
Recommend Papers

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Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Painting

Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Painting

Gerard de Vries and D. Barton Johnson with an essay by Liana Ashenden

Amsterdam University Press

Cover illustration Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542), Circe, Galleria Borghese, Rome (photo: Archivio Fotografico Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Romano)

Cover design Kok Korpershoek, Amsterdam Layout Paul Boyer, Amsterdam isbn 90 5356 790 9 nur 640 / 617 © Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2006 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book.

Table of Contents Foreword 7 Note on Abbreviations and References 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Nabokov and the Two Sister Arts 11 The ‘Mad Pursuit’ in Laughter in the Dark 30 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Its Colours and Painting 39 Pnin and the History of Art 44 Lolita and Aubrey Beardsley 59 Pale Fire Zemblematically 67 Leonardo and ‘Spring in Fialta’ 87 Gerard de Vries 8 A Shimmer of Exact Details: Ada’s Art Gallery 98 D. Barton Johnson 9 Ada and Bosch 145 Liana Ashenden Appendix I: Passages in Nabokov’s Novels, Stories or Autobiography Referring or Alluding to Paintings 167 Appendix II: Painters Mentioned or Obviously Referred to in Nabokov’s Works 178 Notes 181 Bibliography 197 List of Illustrations and Acknowledgements 207 Corresponding Pages in the Volumes Published by Vintage International and Penguin Books 212 Index of Authors 214 Index of Artists 219

Foreword

The plan for the present study was first discussed during the Nabokov Centenary Festival at Cornell in 1998, itself an event that exuberantly showed the arts in which Vladimir Nabokov was interested, combining literature with theatre, an art exhibition and a concert. In the following years, various suggestions for approaching the references to the visual arts in Nabokov’s work were considered. Should the throng of fictitious painters be included, should the subject be addressed directly, thematically or, more safely, through the novels which include these references? More ambitious avenues were relinquished when it proved difficult to continue in an unmapped area. Ada, in many ways Nabokov’s pièce de résistance, particularly so from the point of view of the fine arts, demanded so much attention that it needed an exclusive focus. Even then, we were happy to see that Liana Ashenden accepted our invitation to contribute her study on Ada and Bosch.

Santa Barbara, D. Barton Johnson Voorschoten, Gerard de Vries1

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Note on Abbreviations and References

Citations from the works by Vladimir Nabokov listed below are specified by the abbreviation of the title and page numbers. Short references to the works by Vladimir Nabokov (other than citations) and other writers will be given in the endnotes to the various chapters by the author’s name, (year of publication when more than one work is referred to) and page numbers. Full data are presented in the bibliography. Ada AnL BS Carr Def Des EO

Gift Glory Hero

IB Igor KQK LatH LitD LL LRL Lo LoS

Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. 1969. New York: Vintage International, 1990. The Annotated Lolita. Ed. with preface, introduction and notes by Alfred Appel, Jr. 1970. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Bend Sinister. 1947. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Carrousel. Aartswoud: Spectatorpers, 1987. The Defense. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Despair. 1966. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Eugene Onegin, A Novel in Verse by Aleksandr Pushkin. Trans. with a commentary by Vladimir Nabokov. 4 vols. 1964. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975. The Gift. New York: Vintage International, 1991. Glory. New York: Vintage International, 1991. Mikhail Lermontov. A Hero of Our Time. Trans. Vladimir Nabokov in collaboration with Dmitri Nabokov. With Foreword and Notes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984. Invitation to a Beheading. New York: Vintage International, 1989. The Song of Igor’s Campaign. Trans. Vladimir Nabokov. New York: Vintage Books, 1960. King, Queeen, Knave. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Look at the Harlequins! 1974. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Laughter in the Dark. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Lectures on Literature. Ed. Fredson Bowers. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. Lectures on Russian Literature. Ed. Fredson Bowers. London: Picador, 1983. Lolita. (The Annotated Lolita). New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Lolita: A Screenplay. 1961. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.

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Mary NB NG NWL PF Pnin PP RLSK SL SM SO Stikhi Stories TT USSR

Mary. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Nabokov’s Butterflies. Eds. Brian Boyd and Robert Michael Pyle. London: Penguin, 2000. Nikolai Gogol. 1944. New York: New Directions, 1961. The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971. Ed. Simon Karlinsky. 1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Pale Fire. 1962. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Pnin. 1953. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Poems and Problems. 1970. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. 1941. New York: Vintage International, 1992. Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977. Eds. Dmitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. Speak, Memory. 1947. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Strong Opinions. 1973. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Stikhi. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1979. The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Transparent Things. 1972. New York: Vintage International, 1989. The Man from the USSR & Other Plays. Trans. and Introduction Dmitri Nabokov. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Articles, Notes and Reviews ‘NtA’ ‘Notes to Ada by Vivian Darkbloom.’ In Ada 591-606. ‘PRP’ ‘Pushkin, or the Real and the Plausible.’ Trans. Dmitri Nabokov. The New York Review of Books 31 March 1988. ‘RLC’ Review of Life and Death of Conder, by John Rothenstein. The New York Sun 21 January 1941. ‘RSD’ Review of Serge Diaghilev: An Intimate Biography, by Serge Lifar. The New Republic 18 November 1940: 699-700.

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1 Nabokov and the Two Sister Arts And made a string of pictures of the world Betwixt the ins and outs of verb and noun, (Robert Browning, ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’)

I It was in a sunlit mountain lodge in Utah, in 1943, that Vladimir Nabokov explained to a puzzled publisher the aims of his eccentric and brilliant study of Nikolay Gogol; when in Speak, Memory Nabokov recalled a locomotive his St. Petersburg drawing teacher had drawn for him, he imagined it had come from Utah; and it was in Utah where he caught an entirely new species of butterfly, Nabokov’s Pug.1 Utah seems to be a nodal point for Nabokov’s main interests: literature, lepidoptera and the visual arts. Nabokov’s passion for butterflies and its impact on his writing are well known. Much less familiar is his deep love of the visual arts and their ubiquitous influence on his verbal art. ‘I think in images,’ Nabokov says, and representing new observations with suggestive pictures is a prominent quality of his art (SO 4). Visual impressions rivet his attention, but not ‘the sequence and relationship of sounds like those in music’ (SO 35). ‘Literature’, he says, ‘is not a pattern of ideas but a pattern of images. Ideas do not matter much in comparison to a book’s imagery and magic’ (LRL 166). The capacity to observe with astuteness seems the main prerequisite for authors. ‘All the great writers have good eyes’ says Nabokov, and it is only on occasion that he refers to the verb ‘describe’ instead of ‘picture’ to discuss a certain passage (LRL 141). Literary art is persistently compared to painting, and this applies most conspicuously to the masters of Russian literature. An attractive pastoral scene in Chekhov is in Nabokov’s view a ‘beautiful little picture’ (LRL 271). ‘Turgenev at his very best’ offers ‘mellow coloured little

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paintings – rather watercolours than the Flemish glory of Gogol’s art gallery,’ he says (LRL 65). Chekhov’s portraiture is compared to that of ‘Sargent the painter’ (LRL 288). Nabokov uses the expression ‘word picture’ to denote delightful images, like those presented by himself: images of light and shade, actions, gestures or landscapes, but most often of scenes in which peoples are caught in a way they have never been portrayed before (LRL 200). Even colours seem powerful enough to evaluate literary works: ‘by keeping all his works in the same exact tint of gray, a tint between the colour of an old fence and that of a low cloud,’ Chekhov ‘managed to convey an impression of artistic beauty far surpassing that of many writers who thought they knew what rich beautiful prose was’ (LRL 253). In a technical way, too, Nabokov owes much to the visual arts. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, the celebrated painter of St. Petersburg cityscapes, and the best of the drawing masters Nabokov’s father hired for his first-born, made young Nabokov ‘depict from memory, in the greatest possible detail, objects [he] had seen thousands of times without visualising them properly’ thereby ‘requiring a precision of linear expression’ which he applied, in his adult years, to ‘certain camera-lucida needs of literary composition’ (SM 92). The gift of seeing, to visualise ordinary objects into trenchant treasures, is so essential in Nabokov’s view that he attaches moral values to this endowment. It is thanks to the ‘capacity to wonder at trifles,’ he says, ‘that we know the world to be good (LL 374)’. ‘For someone who knows how to look, everyday existence is as full of revelations and delights as it was to the eyes of the great poets of the past,’ is Nabokov’s firm belief and, consequently, he is inclined to think that ‘what we call art is, essentially, but the picturesque side of reality’ (‘PRP’ 42). Picturesque comes from the Italian pittoresco, a term that describes the ‘painter’s view,’ the ability attributed to painters for seeing in an unalloyed way.2 At times, Nabokov seems to couple his art as closely as possible with that of the painter, as if the difference lies only in the tool: the pen or the brush.

II While reading the Russian classics, Nabokov must have noticed the many references made to painters and painting. A few examples: Pushkin refers to Albano (Eugene Onegin), Rembrandt (A Journey to Arzrum) and Lebrun (The Queen of Spades); Gogol mentions Perugino in ‘Nevsky Avenue’ and, in ‘The Portrait’, a story about the fall of a painter, he refers to Correggio, Van Dyck, Guido, Raphael and Titian; Turgenev writes of Allori, Raphael (Spring Torrents), Luini and Leonardo (The Song of Love Triumphant); and in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy refers to Titian, Raphael and Rubens in the paragraphs in which Vronsky’s and Anna’s visits to the artist’s studio are described. Almost all these

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names are mentioned to particularise features of some of the characters, or to compare fictitious painters and paintings with existing ones. Of the examples presented here, Pushkin’s Lebrun alone is invoked to limn the interior of the Countess’ bedroom. The paintings Nabokov mentions are, in many cases, those observed as part of an interior, and are also part of the devices of the story or novel and helpful in disclosing its veiled meaning. In other cases, paintings are a source of inspiration to him, and may have an impact on the course of the narration. The comparison and interchange between literature and visual art, especially between poetry and paintings, have been discussed ever since Horace’s celebrated phrase ut pictura poesis. This subject was introduced into English literature by Dryden through his translation of the Latin poem De arte graphica by Charles du Fresnoy, to which he added an introduction, the Parallel of Poetry and Painting. About two decades before Dryden’s translation. Marvell, in his ‘Last Instructions to a Painter’, stresses the similarities between the two arts: ‘How well our arts agree, Poetic picture, painted poetry’ (943-4).

Marvell, whose ‘The Garden’ is cited in Ada, wrote ‘The Unfortunate Lover’ as a collection of congenial epigrams to the Amorum Emblemata, a set of engravings by Otto van Veen, whose name is one likely source for that of Ada’s protagonist, Van Veen.3 Pope, the favourite poet of Pale Fire’s protagonist, John Shade, dwells upon the parallels between the ‘sister arts’ as well: Like friendly colours found them both unite, And each from each contract new strength and light. How oft in pleasing tasks we wear the day, While summer suns roll unperceived away? How oft our slowly-growing works impart, While images reflect from art to art; How oft review; each finding like a friend. Something to blame, and something to commend?4

John Shade’s face ‘reminded one of a fleshy Hogarthian tippler’ (PF 26). Of the great eighteenth-century satirist of debauchery, it has been said ‘other pictures we see, Hogarth’s we read.’5 And the verses in which John Shade depicts his wife’s countenance are referred to as ‘his painting [of ] that poetical portrait’ (PF 206). These syncretising statements suggest that both arts serve similar ends, but, in this respect, opinions differ widely. Leonardo, the artist Nabokov probably

nabokov and the two sister arts

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admired most, was resolutely convinced of the superiority of painting, as letters and words are inferior to things and the imagination is inferior to the eye.6 Nabokov, notwithstanding the special standing he attributes to the eye among the natural senses, has a different opinion: ‘let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous masterpiece of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement’ (LL 3). At a ‘superhigh level of art,’ Nabokov said, literature ‘appeals to that secret depth of the human soul where the shadows of other worlds pass’. This demanding formula comes from Nabokov’s study on Gogol (149), and is most apposite to his own work. His unpredictability (the denouement of Mary and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight), his inconclusiveness (the endings of Invitation to a Beheading and Glory), his secretiveness (who is hiding behind Quilty and Kinbote?) and his attempt to make the wall surrounding our earthly existence as osmotic as possible (Speak, Memory; ‘The Vane Sisters’): all these qualities (‘art’s indirection’ as Brian Boyd has named it) contribute to an elevating suggestiveness which permeates his oeuvre.7 Paradoxically as this may sound, Nabokov achieved this revelatory power of his imagination by using images as concrete as possible. ‘The act of art,’ he says, ‘is the artistic re-combination of actual events’. The artist is only successful when these events are retained with ‘the utmost truth of the detail’ (SO 186). This paradox might be explained by looking at Hazlitt’s observations about the merits of the various arts. Comparing writing with painting he notices: ‘I have more satisfaction in my own thoughts than in dictating them to others: words are necessary to explain the impression of certain things upon me to the reader, but they rather weaken and draw a veil over than strengthen it to myself… The ideas we cherish most, exist best in a kind of shadowy abstraction’. Hazlitt, trained as a painter and an accomplished portraitist, continues: ‘But I cannot say, from my own experience, that the same process takes place in transferring our ideas to canvas; they gain more than they lose in the mechanical transformation. One is never tired of painting, because you have to set down not what you knew already, but what you have discovered. In the former case, you translate feelings into words; in the latter, names into things’.8 The lesser effort needed to process limpid thoughts into words, which Hazlitt describes, is easily recognisable in Nabokov’s saying: ‘I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child’ (SO xi). Nabokov, however, avoided this consequence by translating feelings not into abstract words, but – like a painter – into things. In his Lectures on Literature, he quotes Middleton Murry who wrote that ‘if you try to be precise you are bound to be metaphorical’ (208). Like Bronzini in his Allegory of Love, he clothes his thoughts in an exuberance of images and pictures, often serving as signals and motifs. The entire work of art might cause an unfathomable fascination, but it is composed of the

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most finely delineated concrete details. It is through the accurate understanding of Nabokov’s imagery that we can ascertain his ideas. As Berdjis remarks with respect to The Gift, ‘images provide a hunting ground for the reader’s imaginative effort to reconstruct different protagonists’ and characters’ thoughts’.9 From this point of view, a painter has an advantage over a writer. But painters seem to have their flaws as well, as is generally acknowledged, in two respects. Firstly, a painter can capture only moments, not developments and, secondly, he can render thoughts and emotions by gestures, expressions and appearances alone. ‘The image stained upon the canvas possesses no spiritual element of growth or change,’ writes Oscar Wilde.10 One can argue, however, that an artist’s greatest achievement lies in his power to detach moments from the course of events that, without the artist’s interference, would otherwise be lost. One of the greatest tributes one can pay to a poem or novel is that it leaves the reader with indelible lines or images, and when painters confine themselves to these exquisite moments ‘in which portrayed events forever stay’ one can hardly call their art deprived (PF 46). Moreover, in Nabokov’s case, the dimension of time is not indispensable. In his autobiography he writes that following ‘thematic designs through one’s life’ is the true purpose of his memoir (SM 27). These themes are part of an overarching, artistic composite that has no chronological origin: ‘I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another’ (SM 139). Elsewhere he remarks: ‘the element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it’ (LL 3)11 The second flaw in painting compared to writing has, in Nabokov’s case, no meaning either, although the deficiency is serious enough. In discussing Mansfield Park, Nabokov enters upon a ‘wonderful emotional scene’ and notices how Fanny’s emotions, while watching what is going on from her vantage point, ‘are exquisitely depicted’ (LL 19). Although a painter can give a heroine all sorts of melancholy or pensive moods by selecting a specific demeanour, mien or expression, disclosing the wealth of her different musings, reflections and anxieties is beyond his domain. As Wilde says, it is ‘only through its physical equivalents that he can deal with psychology’ ; Wilde then goes on to amplify the inadequacy of this restriction.12 In spite of this, art critics have claimed that painters reach their highest achievements in the spiritual sphere. Paintings ‘are the bright consummate essences of things’, says Hazlitt and Reynolds’ statement is in the same vein: ‘what pretence has the Art to claim kindred with Poetry, but by its power over the imagination?’13 However, although we might agree with Kenneth Clark that ‘Mona Lisa’s smile is the supreme example of that complex

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inner life, caught and fixed in durable material’, and that this smile is ‘the pure illumination of the spirit’, we have no way of ascertaining the nature of her inner life in the slightest degree.14 Remarkably enough, with respect to crucial emotions, Nabokov prefers the painter’s mode. In discussing ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’, Nabokov notes that ‘Chekhov, instead of describing his mood or intensifying his difficult moral position, gives what is artistic in the highest sense of the word: he notes the gray carpet, made of military cloth, and the inkstand, also gray with dust, with a horseman whose hand waves a hat and whose head is gone’ (LRL 259/60). We very often see Nabokov doing the same. An example is at the poignant end of Glory; when Sonia is informed about the disappearance (and in all likelihood the death) of Martin, who is so dear to her, we are told that ‘an electrician was also there, busy mending a socket and plug, looking up and down again as the light went on and off ’ (204). And ‘Signs and Symbols’, one of Nabokov’s most impressive and moving stories, finishes with a display of different fruit jellies in little jars (Stories 599). Depicting scenes in this way seems indeed more accessible for painters than for writers, and in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Carswell, the painter of Knight’s portrait, says that he had to confine himself with respect to the details he would have liked to add, because he ‘was afraid of story-telling instead of painting’ (118). In Nabokov’s case, writing as a painter seems an appropriate way: ‘[s]ince [the] entire structure, dimly illuminated in one’s mind, can be compared to a painting, and since you do not have to work gradually from left to right for its proper perception, I may direct my flashlight at any part or particle of the picture when setting it down in writing’ (SO 32).15

III Nabokov came into contact with the visual arts early in his childhood. His maternal grandfather had a few fine Old Masters. In his paternal St. Petersburg house a Perugino, ‘small, honey-bright Dutch oils’ and works by Benois, Bakst and Somov adorned the walls (SM 190).16 His mother made many watercolour paintings for him and accomplished artists were hired to give young Nabokov drawing lessons.17 He was destined to become a painter but, being called by Dobuzhinski ‘the most hopeless pupil [he] ever had’ (SM 94), he lacked the talent with which so many Russian authors, such as Zhukovsky and Lermontov, were endowed.18 His illustrations for his Lectures are rather poor and the same goes for his drawing of the Dents du Midi, the mountain ridge east of Lake Geneva.19 He did, however, doubtless due to lifelong practice, acquire some skill in depicting butterflies, which he daubed on

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the door and tiles of his room in St. Petersburg. He did the same in his apartment in Montreux, using lampshades as well.20 Nabokov transferred this leniency towards the material to be used for his drawings to some of his fictitious characters like Ruby Rose, ‘the lady who painted flowers on her breast’ (Stories 423), or the lady ‘who painted her sunsets on live spiderwebs’ (‘RLC’). Another instance of body painting is presented in Ada in which Lucette informs Van about her nights with Ada, ‘if my skin were a canvas and her lips a brush, not an inch of me would have been unpainted and vice versa’ (382). His handling of paintings can be original as well. In Glory, the protagonist is tempted to enter a painting, much like Nabokov in his childhood, and the same happens in ‘La Veneziana’.21 In ‘The Visit to the Museum’, a fellow tries to borrow a light for his cigarette from a portrait of an old gentleman smoking a cigar. In Laughter in the Dark, Albinus cultivates the idea of bringing pictures to life through the technique used to make animated cartoons. ‘What a tale might be told, the tale of an artist’s vision, the happy journey of eye and brush, and a world in that artist’s manner suffused with the tints he himself had found’ (LitD 9). With this idea, Nabokov seems to suggest that painters, instead of reducing a story by compressing its content into one single image, can create works of art which show, beyond the static representation, the series of events from which it was selected. Some of Nabokov’s fictitious painters are endowed with this ability. The narrator in ‘The Vane Sisters’ is convinced that Cynthia Vane will contact him from the beyond by sending him some messages. He is, however, unable to detect them although they are almost a copy of the images represented in Cynthia’s painting ‘Seen Through a Windshield’, his favourite. His superficiality, limiting his interest in Cynthia to her outward appearance, prohibits him from noticing the recurrence.22 In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, it is Knight’s portrait, more specifically the spider it contains, which helps Sebastian’s brother to identify the lady who was so important to Knight during the last stage of his life. In Lolita, paintings are employed to reveal what is suppressed in Humbert’s self-absorbed account: the sufferings of Dolly. When he has taken advantage of the child, he informs the reader about what he might have thought up had he been a painter and had the management of The Enchanted Hunters (the name of the hotel in which they stayed) commissioned him to redecorate their dining rooms. He suggests a number of scenes showing predators, a sultan helping ‘a callypygean slave’, a series of ‘luminous globules of gonadal glow’ and a group ‘Canoeing, Coranting, Combing Curls’. At a point when the reader is flummoxed by the digressions presented, the passage continues with another scene: ‘a fire opal dissolving within a ripple-ringed pool, a last throb, a last dab of colour, stinging red, smarting pink, a sigh, a wincing child’ (Lo 134/5).

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Despite the ways Nabokov assimilates paintings into the lush patterns of his prose, he never takes refuge in pictures because his literary gifts might seem superior to those of the pictorial artists. The description, for example, of Fra Sebastiano’s Giovanna romana detta Dorotea in ‘La Venezia’ is at least as impressive as the masterpiece itself, and delicately enriched by the foreshadowing of Dorotea’s finger adjusting her fur to Maureen’s relocating the strap on her bared shoulder.23 Similarly, Nabokov’s verbal description of Gogol’s portrait in his eponymous monograph exceeds by far the expressiveness of the daguerrotype.24 Painting and prose, pen and pencil become, at least as far as Nabokov’s prose is concerned, interchangeable. This phenomenon is reproduced literally in Speak, Memory where there is a ‘typographical’ portrait of Tolstoy, ‘wholly composed of printed matter’. ‘A complete Tolstoy story (“Master and Man”) had gone to make its author’s bearded face’ (154).

IV Nabokov’s vast admiration for the visual arts, as is evident from the numerous references to paintings, might be explained as being the main origin for the emphasis he, as an author, put on ‘the picturesque side of reality’. His affinity for painting stems, however, from his visionary perceptiveness. ‘Nabokov’, says Boyd, ‘devotes his whole oeuvre to ascertaining our “position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness”.’25 Like the metaphysical poets, Nabokov, through close observation, drew on his actual surroundings and amplified trivial details (like the peeling of an apple in a single strip) into philosophical concepts: poetic vision emerging from conscientious inspection. Emotional episodes in Nabokov’s oeuvre are predominantly marked by a heightened awareness of the actual circumstances, rather than by a delineation of the emotions themselves. Take, for example, the encounter on the train between young Nabokov and Tamara, his first love, a meeting which in the end proved to be a final farewell. Nabokov also has lent the details of this meeting to the protagonists of Mary. Nabokov notices the rocking and rasping of the car, the way Tamara ate her bar of chocolate, the smoke arising from burning peat, the smell and dust of the station where Tamara leaves the train; in Mary, even more details are given such as the brand of the chocolate.26 Indeed, this accumulation of detail has great impact on the reader because of the author’s expanded sensory sensitivity which could only have been caused by the shock of the chance meeting with his first love. The principal kinship between Nabokov’s art and painting thus rests on the relationship between the artist and the visible world. His admiration for the

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originality, craftsmanship and imagination painters have displayed is clear from the impressive number of references and allusions to painters and their techniques. There are more than 150 references to painters in Nabokov’s oeuvre, and this number is limited to those references which are either explicit or recognisable. In all likelihood, Nabokov drew inspiration from countless works of art beyond those mentioned explicitly. With respect to Invitation to a Beheading, many paintings have been investigated which, in all plausibility, Nabokov must have had in mind while composing this novel, among them works by Delacroix, El Greco, Fra Angelico, Ge, Mantegna and Titian.27 Nabokov’s predisposition to view the world with a painter’s eye might explain why critics are tempted to compare his art with the visual arts. Flemish and Dutch masters like Van Eyck, Saenredam, Steen and Vermeer are mentioned for various reasons; at the same time, these painters have much in common as their artistry shows a meticulous precision and a delight in details.28 Another Dutch artist, Escher, is mentioned by various critics, obviously because he is the best illustration of Nabokov’s dictum that ‘all art is deception’ (SO 11).29 In 1965-66 Nabokov visited many museums in Florence, Venice, Rome, Pompeii and Milan in pursuit of painted butterflies. This took a great deal of time because the paintings he saw seldom contained a butterfly.30 This research was undertaken in preparation for a book he was planning to write, ‘Butterflies in Art’, ‘devoted to the evolution of butterfly painting from ancient times and through the Renaissance, to 1700’, a project he had had in mind since 1949 (SL 508).31 In 1970, he told Appel that he was still working on this book and in 1973 he informed the senior vice-president of McGraw-Hill that he regarded this project as ‘a fascinating, never-before attempted and not too complicated’ one, and that he had already collected more than a hundred samples (SL 508). The book was never published, although, says Boyd, it would at least help stock the lavish picture galleries of Ada.32 He had a collection of art books in Montreux, where the Nabokovs had been living since 1961. Long before then, he must have been interested in art books, as is apparent from the various references to such books in his novels and stories, like ‘Nonnenmacher’s History of Art’ in Laughter in the Dark (67), the ‘History of Modern American Painting’ in Lolita (199) and the study of the history of painting and its cave origins in ‘Tyrants Destroyed’ (Stories 438). He was interested in technical matters as well, for example, in the mixing of pigments as the Old Masters did, ‘with honey, fir juice, poppy oil, and the slime of pink snails’ (Pnin 98). And, given the high standards he set himself regarding his research, it is noteworthy that in 1942 Nabokov gave a lecture on Leonardo da Vinci, whose Last Supper, or its shadow, leaves its mark in almost all his works of fiction.33

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V Nabokov, as a painter with words, expects the reader to translate verbal descriptions into visual ones. The writer, with his superior power of observation, functions as a sort of medium, enabling the reader to see with the same measure of acuity as the author. In order to enjoy Tolstoy’s art, for example, ‘the good reader must wish to visualize… such combinations of details as yield the sensual spark without which a book is dead’. ‘Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings,’ Nabokov says with respect to Ulysses, ‘instructors should prepare maps of Dublin’ (SO 157). Diagrams and other visual reconstructions are helpful as well; hence the drawings and maps Nabokov added to his Lectures. From this point of view, the lavish illustration of novels in the nineteenth century with engravings and woodcuts might be the best way to retranslate images of prose into visualised ones. It is instructive that scenes Nabokov describes from his childhood reading are often those illustrated. But even if Turner, a favorite of Nabokov’s, who illustrated works by Byron, Campbell, Rogers and Scott, could have been Nabokov’s illustrator, much would have been lost because his engravings could not express the abundance of colours in his works. Nabokov attached immense importance to colours. This interest in colour is a long-standing one: ‘the sense of color, the love of color, I’ve had all my life’ (SO 17). ‘Some of my best concerns are microscopic patches of color’, he answers to the question about what concerns him the most (SO 182). Even his most cherished memories have to do with colour: ‘one of the ways he [the good memoirist] achieves his intent [to preserve the utmost truth of the detail] is to find the right spot on his canvas for placing the right patch of remembered color’, and the same holds for his wife whose ‘picture has often been reproduced by some mysterious means of reflected color in the inner mirrors of my books’ (SO 186; 191). Then there is the connection with his literary art. Like Proust, Nabokov was endowed with alphabetic chromesthesia or coloured hearing.34 Each letter of the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets evoked a specific colour. In this way, colours provided a trait d’union between the visual and literary arts, a link amplified in Speak, Memory into one of its main themes: it is to this alphabetic chromesthesia that, as is argued by Johnson, Nabokov attributed ‘the very genesis of literary creativity’.35 Colours are essential in the intricate patterns Nabokov invented, to which they contribute mythological, conventional and cultural connotations. An example of colours providing multiple meanings and allusions can be found in Lectures on Literature in which Nabokov discusses ‘a mauve color, the violet tint that runs through the whole book, the very color of time. This rose-purple mauve, a pinkish lilac, a violet flush, is linked in European literature with certain sophistications

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of the artistic temperament’ (241).36 Nabokov also uses colours to illustrate the evolution of Russian literature.37 In the notes to his translation of The Song of Igor’s Campaign, composed in the first half of 1187 by an unknown poet, he discusses ‘blue lightnings’: ‘Our bard is far ahead of his first editor’s time. The blue throb of an electric discharge is a modern conception. Most people with some amount of color sense today see lightning as a flash of ozone blue. Writers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries rationalized whatever impact lightning had on their sluggish retinas as ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ because logic told them that this was the color of fire’ (Igor 103). Colours were discovered quite late in Russian literature, which was before Gogol and Pushkin ‘purblind. What form it perceived was an outline directed by reason: it did not see color for itself but merely used the hackneyed combinations of blind noun and dog-like adjective that Europe had inherited from the ancients. The sky was blue, the dawn red, the foliage green, the eyes of beauty black, the clouds grey, and so on. It was Gogol (and after him Lermontov and Tolstoy) who first saw yellow and violet at all…. I doubt whether any writer, and certainly not in Russia, had ever noticed before, to give the most striking instance, the moving pattern of light and shade on the ground under the trees or the tricks of color played by sunlight with leaves’ (LRL 24/5). And ‘Turgenev was the first Russian writer to notice the effect of broken sunlight or the special combination of shade and light upon the appearance of people’ (69).38 Nabokov’s interest in colours made him reflect on the diverse colours used in different languages at various stages of time. He notices that ‘in different languages different colors were used in a general sense before shades were distinguished. (In French, for example, the ‘redness’ of hair is now expressed by ‘roux’ meaning rufous, or russet, or fulvous with a reddish cast.) For me the shades, or rather colors, of, say, a fox, a ruby, a carrot, a pink rose, a dark cherry, a flushed cheek, are as different as blue is from green or the royal purple of blood (Fr.“pourpre”) from the English sense of violet blue’ (AnL 364). His comments on the different colours of wine are remarkable as well: ‘one recalls that the Greeks saw the dark-blue sea as wine-colored (for the interpretation of which there is no need to drag in a reflected sunset as some color-blind Homerians do). A very dark red wine does have a purple – blue depth of tone like the southern seas – especially in warm patches near the coast. In fact, I would have said ‘purple wine’ had not the epithet almost turned to blood-red under the influence of Continental, especially French, concepts of pourpre’ (Igor 113/4).39 Although Russian writers were slow in observing the interplay between light and shade and colours, it was well known in ancient literature. Plutarch said of Apollodorus that he was the first man to discover the gradation and change of

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color in shadows. He was called ‘the shadow-painter’, or skiagraphos in Greek, the forerunner of the Italian skiagrapher Nabokov mentioned in Pnin.40 Considering Nabokov’s remark on Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, expressed in Pale Fire, that it contains ‘light and shade effects rivaling those of the greatest English poets’ (162), it is likely that he studied in great detail the facets of chiaroscuro as presented in the literary and visual arts.41 Fascination with this phenomenon must have had its origin in his early youth. As Nabokov recalls in Speak, Memory, summer evenings showed this spectacle of interacting and blended colours: ‘colors would die a long death on June evenings. The lilac shrubs in full bloom before which I stood, net in hand, displayed clusters of a fluffy gray in the dusk – the ghost of purple’ (134). Colours captivated him so thoroughly that they are the first particulars to be recollected in later years. ‘Thoughts are much more faintly remembered than shadows or colors,’ he notes in Ada (280). In his correspondence with Lolita’s annotator, Appel, he explains Rita’s question ‘why blue when it is white?’ (LO 263): ‘What Rita does not understand is that a white surface, the chalk of that hotel, does look blue in a wash of light and shade on a vivid fall day, amid red foliage. H.H. is merely paying tribute to French impressionist painters. He notes an optical miracle as E.B. White does somewhere when referring to the divine combination of “red barn and blue snow.” It is the shock of color, not an intellectual blueprint or the shadow of a hobby.’42 Colours seem to be a primary stimulus to Nabokov’s senses, not only to his sight but to his auditory and olfactory faculties as well: ‘sounds have colors, colors have smells’ (Ada 419). Not only the past and present are full of colours, names are also connately associated with them. In Speak, Memory he gives his first love, Valentina, a different name but identical in colouring impact, because ‘Tamara’ is ‘concolorous with her real one’ (229). In Ada, Van’s ‘favourite purple passage ‘from A la recherche du temps perdu concerns the name Guermantes, ‘with whose hue his adjacent ultramarine merged in the prism of his mind’ (9). In The Guermantes Way, to which volume Nabokov is referring, Proust discusses in detail the colours evoked by names, ‘the tints which in the course of our existence have been successively presented to us by a single name.’43 In Ada, many personages, through their names or characters, are clothed in colours.44 Proust ‘saw himself as a literary painter wielding the pen instead of the brush’, an aspiration, as we have seen, shared by Nabokov.45 Ada, the novel in which the literary and visual arts concur most prominently, represents, as Rivers says, ‘the most serious attempt since A la recherche to combine the aesthetics of painting and the aesthetics of literature’.46

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VI Although Nabokov frequently declared his views on painters and their works, he has not left an elaborate appraisal on the visual arts. In reply to the question of which artists have meant the most to him, he answered: ‘Oh, many. In my youth mostly Russian and French painters. And English artists such as Turner. The painters and paintings alluded to in Ada are for the most part more recent enthusiasms’ (SO 166/7). Looking at the painters he mentioned in his oeuvre, it appears that Italian painters are most often referred to, followed by Russian and Dutch artists. The same groups emerge when catagorising the painters whose individual works are mentioned. However, in this case Dutch, Italian and Russian painters lead ex aequo. Nabokov’s predilection for Dutch painters can be explained by the immaculate perfection of Flemish and Dutch masters to represent true-to-life scenes and still lifes. The technical skills Jan van Eyck acquired to this end have never since been surpassed. His compositions are outstanding as well: numerous minutiae correspond perfectly with the grand designs of which they are part. Rembrandt’s expressions and histrionic gestures must have attracted Nabokov, who once contemplated writing a book on gestures, as well. The sumptuous art of the Italian Renaissance, ranging from the enigmatic portraits by Leonardo and the iconographic wealth and gracefulness of Botticelli to the serene harmony of Raphael, must have strongly appealed to Nabokov who frequently referred to these three Florentine painters. Similarly, the Venetian school, with its opulence, sensuousness and luminous coloration, evidently must have fascinated Nabokov, as he returned to it extensively in Ada after having celebrated its art in the story ‘La Venezia’ some fifty years earlier. Although Nabokov said that only ‘talent’ (SO 33) interested him in paintings and that the nationality of an artist was of ‘secondary importance’ (SO 63), he had a special reverence for those Russian painters who belonged to the World of Art, ‘the experimental decade that coincided with [his] childhood’ (SO 170). The World of Art movement sought to embrace the literary arts as well as the visual arts (not to forget music and dance). The early work by Symbolists such as Blok, Bely and Balmont was published in the World of Art magazine, the first issue of which appeared in October 1898 and the last in 1904.47 The first issue devoted much attention to Beardsley, who, four years earlier, in 1894, edited a magazine called The Yellow Book, which had already combined the visual and literary arts. Painters, such as Leighton, Rothenstein and Sickert, contributed to this magazine, as did authors such as Moore, Garnett, Dowson and Yeats.48 The 1899 issues of the World of Art magazine were in Nabokov’s father’s library.49 By fusing the visual and literary arts, both magazines asseverate the belief of their editors

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that their quest for innovation was a multicultural affair. Theirs ‘was a great age for asserting the connections between the arts’.50 Essential for the Symbolists was the attempt to make the elusive tangible: ‘the abstract idea must be expressed in visual forms’.51 With such a pursuit in mind, it is only natural that writers became oriented towards the visual arts and that painters looked for inspiration in the literary ideas of their fellow artists. Mallarmé, the most important writer of the Symbolist movement, is a case in point to illustrate this intercourse.52 For a period of ten years, Mallarmé met Manet on a daily basis and, as has been demonstrated, their exchanges of view led to distinct results, such as experimental changes in Manet’s En bâteau, which were copied by corresponding innovations in Mallarmé’s L’Après-midi d’un faune.53 The fusion of the arts, however, was nowhere as complete as in the ‘Russian Ballet,’ another enterprise of Diaghilev’s, editor of the World of Art magazine. In his ballets, “the greatest artistic enterprise in Europe” of that time, Diaghilev had composers, poets, painters and choreographers work together, with minute attention given to costumes, timing and lighting.54 The ballet, based on L’Après-midi d’un faune, with settings and costumes by Bakst, was one of its greatest successes.55 To Nabokov, who prided himself on his gift for ‘coloured hearing’ and whose mother was not only a synesthete but also ‘optically affected by musical notes’ , this concurrence of the arts must have appeared as befitting (SM 35). In the seventh chapter of Bend Sinister, an example of such a synthetic mode is presented: Hamlet is reworked into a number of ‘pictorial possibilities’ (‘we shall also see…’, ‘we might be shown’, ‘See?’) and the death of Ophelia is set to music (‘Liszt’s Les Funérailles’) (BS 112/3). In this novel references are made to Mallarmé’s poem and to Dowson’s Cynara, while the notion of the hereafter is symbolised in a visible puddle.56 Not only in Bend Sinister, but in his whole oeuvre, Symbolist motifs can be found.57 The Dutch and Italian painters whose works are mentioned by Nabokov, all, with one single exception, belong to the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of the Russian work he alluded to dates from the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. Nabokov’s liking for this period might be explained by what Wordsworth calls, ‘those firstborn affinities that fit/our new existence to existing things’.58 Does Nabokov’s predilection for paintings from former centuries indicate a traditionalist’s point of view? Traditionalists, says Gombrich, ‘believed that there were objective standards by which a painting could and should be judged…’, which ‘led the traditionalist to dismiss any artist’s departure from visual truth as a symptom of incompetence.’59 Nabokov, who strongly believed in literary evolution, would certainly not deny the visual arts a similar development. Indeed, he repeatedly expressed his distaste for the conventionalism of the ‘rank

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academician’ Semiradski, the ‘repellently academic paintings by Shishkin … and by Harlamov’, and the ‘frankly academic painter’ he presented in Pnin (Gift 238; SM 235; Pnin 127). Furthermore, his admiration for Turner, (the younger) Picasso, Steinberg and Balthus, none of whom were supporters of naturalism, shows that Nabokov was not hindered by tradition in his appreciation of the art of painting.60

VII In reviewing the allusions Nabokov made to individual paintings, it is striking how unconventional and even recusant he was. Firstly, he had some preference for referring to paintings which are not unique. He mentions, for instance, Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, but Böcklin made five different versions of this composition. Similarly, four different paintings of Van Gogh’s La Berceuse exist, the same number of versions that Chardin made of The House of Cards. As delectable characteristics of this painting he mentions, in Bend Sinister, ‘the conspicuous cards, the flushed faces, the lovely brown background,’ even though each painting shows just one boy (34). Even more indefinite are the references to Vrubel’s Demon, Fra Angelico’s Gabriel, Romney’s Lady Hamilton or Teniers’s Fête Flamande, as, in each case, many paintings have been made of the same subject. Romney, for example, painted Lady Hamilton at least fifty times. Still more mystifying are the allusions to paintings which do not exist, although they have a most plausible title. Shishkin’s Clearing in a Pine Forest, Levitan’s Cloud above a Blue River, Benois’s Rainy Day in Brittany and Somov’s watercolour (young birch trees, half a rainbow) cannot be identified although the descriptive titles correspond very closely with a number of paintings made by the respective artists.61 Another puzzling category consists of paintings which positively recall existing ones but differ markedly from these in some details. The description of Baugin’s Still Life with Chessboard, for instance, differs in some minor respects from the original: the mandoline is a mandora, the white carnation appears to be red and not a single one but a threesome. The calèche which Degas is supposed to have immortalised is shown only in part, and certainly not a pivotal detail. The characters in Aldobrandini’s Wedding are misidentified, and none of the boys in Chardin’s House of Cards flushes as conspicuously as the one depicted in The Young Draftsman. In Ada, the references to paintings by Parmigianino, Bronzino, Labrador of Extramadura and Zurbarán in every case recall existing paintings because of their allusion to some striking details, but do not correspond with others. The same applies to Serov’s Five-petaled Lilac, whose description immediately makes one think of his Girl with Peaches, but differs from it in other respects.

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At times, one gets the impression that Nabokov tried to recompose existing paintings. Such a creative impulse might well have been an alternative to actual painting, which Nabokov may also have attempted in his later life, as we know that he was instructed to become a painter in his youth. The description of Luzhin’s exercises with watercolours and pencils in The Defence is so convincingly factual that it is most likely that they were based on personal experiences. Considering the number of attempts at painting Luzhin made, among which, ‘a vase with flowers’, ‘a sunset’, ‘a train on a bridge’, ‘a skull on a telephone directory’, ‘oranges’ and a ‘conversation between a cone and pyramid’, his persistence may well have had its origin in his creator (207/8).62 Nabokov’s familiarity with the art of painting might have helped him to recompose these ‘scrambled’ pictures, but to what end did he present them in his novels (SM 310)? Nabokov is famous for ‘interlarding his narratives with thinly disguised bits of literary criticism and in playing a variety of literary games involving allusion to and parody and citation of other men’s writings’.63 Nabokov’s most astute readers, (wo)men of letters, delight in unravelling these references, but how are they to deal with allusions to those arts beyond their domain? Focussing on specific paintings to which Nabokov referred seems the most logical next step. But this is not what Nabokov aimed for when embedding his art in the cultural history of the Western world. When lecturing on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Nabokov came across two quotations which contained eight words borrowed from Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel. He instructed his students to read its first two cantos, which comprise 797 lines.64 The perfect reader, says Nabokov, does not concentrate on a specific book, but identifies himself ‘with the mind that conceived and composed that book’ (LRL 11). By presenting his allusions to the visual arts in the enigmatic way just shown, Nabokov tempted his readers to acquaint themselves not just with one individual painting but also with the whole oeuvre of the painters which interested him so greatly.

VIII The final section of this introduction discusses the question of why Nabokov has so frequently referred to the art of painting and what the role of the specific allusions is. Of course these questions are dealt with in the following chapters, particularly in respect to novels and themes, which leaves room for some general remarks. Nabokov’s concern with the art of painting should not be seen as an appraisal of it. Although there is evidence of his scholarly interest in the art of painting (see his lecture on Leonardo, his warm review of John Rothenstein’s biography of Charles Conder, his reading of Erwin Panofsky, his

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library of art books, his interest in the technical aspects of painting as a medium as shown in Pnin and The Defence), nowhere does he show any intention of reviewing its merits as he did in literature and lepidoptera. Nor does he seem to be interested in investigating the kinship in the development of the visual and literary arts, ‘the common patrimony of themes’ as Mario Praz calls it, as he did in poetics.65 It is, however, without doubt that the inventions of painters did inspire Nabokov: the casting of shadows; the richness of colours; the wide range of gesticulations and expressions; the landscaping; and the power of the seasons. He must have marvelled at the steel blue shadow of the potholes in the snow of Levitan’s The Month of March and its grey reflection of the sunlit, smoother parts. Equally, in Monet’s Argenteuil paintings, he must have admired the way in which water absorbs sunlight, mirrors the surrounding trees and changes colour in the shadowy patches. Pale Fire’s ‘blood-orange sun’ might have been inspired by Turner’s colour studies of sunset skies (PF 36).66 And if one reads about a ‘melting outline of a cheek which looked as though it were painted by a great artist against a rich dark background’ (LitD 20), Ingres’s Grande Odalisque is brought to mind, while ‘a long tunnel… half-promised a circlet of light at its far end’ (LatH 243) is a matter-of-fact description of Bosch’s Ascent of the Blessed. Besides the naturalistic and imaginative qualities, Nabokov’s references most often apply to the subject matter of the paintings to which he alluded. The visual art is integrated in the anfractuous patterns, which express and elaborate the thematic richness of Nabokov’s novels. Although botanical, ornithological and scientific references need to be investigated, it seems that the visual arts, after literature and lepidoptera, provide the most important source for Nabokov’s referential art. His ‘visual subtexts’ seem to have a significance that is equivalent to the literary ones.67 Frequently, both types of ‘subtexts’ are interlinked. In Bend Sinister, for instance, Nabokov couples Botticelli with Shakespeare, a most prolific alliance as will be argued in the chapter on Pale Fire. An interesting, ‘word golf ’-like sequence, springs from Look at the Harlequins!’s ‘Le Tramway ivre’, combining Gumilev’s Zabludivshiisia tramvai with Rimbaud’s Le Bâteau ivre and linking Bosch’s Bâteau ivre, mentioned in Ada, as well as Mallarmé’s ‘sans pitié du sanglot dont j’étais encore ivre,’ a line quoted in Bend Sinister and borrowed from L’Après-midi d’un faune which inspired Bakst’s decorative art for the eponymous Russian Ballet.68 Another example is connected with the barely impenetrable maze in Speak, Memory in which ‘Nabokov… “mixes and joyfully levels” art, science, and religion’.69 In chapter eleven of his autobiography, Nabokov describes the growth of his poetic mind and his literary career, embracing the art of Fra Angelico, Somov and Bakst.70

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There is, however, one striking difference between the literary and the visual ‘subtexts,’ as the latter enriches the emotional and moral values of Nabokov’s art. As is well known, moral issues in his work were discussed long after his aesthetics had been acknowledged extensively. This is due to the fact that Nabokov’s ethical concerns have been difficult to reveal. Martin, the protagonist of Glory, with whom Nabokov said that he shared ‘certain childhood memories, certain later likes and dislikes’, ‘learned early to control his tears and conceal his emotions’ (Glory xi; 13). The visual arts seem to have been helpful in this concealment, and for this reason also provide the key to disclose these hidden values. The bathetic nature of Beardsley’s art could have helped the reader to understand the coldness and obduracy of Humbert, Lolita’s blandishing hero. The carnal horrors in Bosch’s Hell, which are discussed rather substantially in Ada, could have guided the reader’s appreciation of the libertinisms this novel contain. The allusions to Christ’s life and sufferings are not only connected with Nabokov’s best known themes of loss, love and death, but also denote the moral dimension of his art. To unravel the visual ‘subtexts’ therefore seems indispensable for a proper understanding of Nabokov’s moral stances.71 The deepening of moral issues by religiously inspired art might suggest that these concerns are of a religious nature as well. This conjecture, however, is highly disputable. The art of painting arguably reached its highest achievements during the Renaissance: up until that period (and well after), Christian religion and Greek mythology were used as main sources for its themes. The appreciation of paintings from this epoch inevitably means an involvement in its religious motifs. To illustrate ethical values by referring to themes and images in these paintings does not necessarily imply that one adheres to the religion that inspired those works of art. Even so, Nabokov fostered no adverse feelings towards religion: he discusses with affection ‘the deep appeal’ his mother found ‘in the moral and poetical side of the Gospel’, and that her intense and pure religiousness gave her ‘faith in the existence of another world’(SM 39). In Pale Fire, Kinbote, Nabokov’s sole Christian protagonist (and a sedulous one at that), connects his ‘deep Christian faith’ with the concept of ‘spiritual survival’, moral questioning (the permissibility of suicide) and the poeticising to which his ponderings lead (‘an ode to the sweet urge to close one eyes’); this is the same tryptich (poetry, morality and afterlife) Nabokov noted about his mother (PF 219/21). Nonetheless he more than once enunciated his ‘utter indifference to organized mysticism, to religion, to the church – any church’ (SO 39). And the religious themes to which Nabokov refers so frequently provide idle evidence: his preference for ‘Byzantine imagery,’ says Nabokov ‘has been mistaken by some readers for an interest in ‘religion’ which, beyond literary stylization, never meant anything to me’ (PP 13/14). Indeed, it would have been

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incomprehensible if Nabokov, who integrated all sorts of cultural phenomena and manifestations in his work, had excluded the rich heritage of Christianity.72 That moral concerns are articulated by means of the visual arts, as is discussed in the chapters on Laughter in the Dark, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Lolita, ‘Spring in Fialta’ and Ada and Bosch, is not surprising either. Nabokov’s reserve and indirection is most extant when moral questions are considered because he regarded moralising as disastrous for literary works. Referring to paintings which could exemplify his sentiments provided him with excellent hiding places for his ethical concerns. This example might show that the picture gallery in Nabokov’s work is not just an exquisite collection well befitting the richness of his oeuvre, but also the result of careful selections to match the various themes in his novels, thus contributing to the profoundness of his art.

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2 The ‘Mad Pursuit’ in Laughter in the Dark

‘Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.’ With this epitome, Nabokov opens his novel Laughter in the Dark. The title of the Russian original version of this novel, Camera Obscura, Latin for ‘dark room’, possibly refers to the dark room – a cinema – where Albinus first meets his mistress, and the room where she kills him. The last room is ‘dark’ because he has become blind during the affair. ‘Camera obscura’ might also be related to the device used by painters: a darkened room with a small hole in one of its walls through which external well-lit objects are projected – in an inverted way – onto the opposite wall.1 Renaissance painters used such a contrivance to be able to copy as precisely as possible the outline of the image they selected for their paintings. A ‘camera obscura’ operates like an eye, the hole being the lens and the wall the retina. Nabokov said of Laughter in the Dark that, ‘in that novel… I tried to express a world in terms as candid, as near to my vision of the world, as I could’.2 The sinister undertone produced by the darkness, implied in both the Russian and English titles, should not be neglected. The obscurity of the characters of Margot, the mistress, and of Rex, her clandestine lover, can be noticed only in the light of moral values. Margot’s vile nature is in sharp contrast with her physical beauty. To Albinus, an ‘art critic and picture expert’, Margot had been ‘his most brilliant discovery’ (8; 257). His first impression of her reminds him of beauty as exquisite as that rendered by a famous painter: ‘the melting outline of a cheek which looked as though it were painted by a great artist against a rich dark background’(20). Her long eyes strike him as ‘Luini-esque’(22).3 (See colour illustration 1.) Laughter in the Dark has many overt references to the arts. Wagner’s Lohengrin is mentioned, as well as music by Hindemith. Literary allusions include Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Butler’s The Way of All Flesh and Shakespeare’s Othello. Proustian resonances ring as well.4 Less scattered than these are the references to the arts

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dependent on the sense of sight. Apart from Rodin’s Thinker, many painters are mentioned: Barcelo, Baugin, Botticelli, Bruegel (Proverbs), Cumming, Holbein (Henry VIII), Leonardo (Mona Lisa), Linard, Luini, Lotto, Ruisdael and Fra Sebastiano del Piombo. The details given of the paintings by Baugin, Linard and Lotto, although few in number, suffice to identify these as Still Life with Chessboard (1630), Basket of Flowers, and Pietà (1545) respectively. The most noticeable reference to the visual arts is Albinus’s idea to animate pictures, which was suggested to him by the fictitious author Udo Conrad. Like in a cartoon, figures in a painting could be brought into motion, passing sceneries from the same painter and finally returning to the setting in the first picture. To begin with, Albinus thinks of the Dutch School, ‘say, a pot-house with little people drinking lustily at wooden tables,’ which tableau recalls the many inns and tipplers painted by Adriaen Brouwer, Jan Steen and David Teniers the Younger (8). Then, according to Albinus, ‘you could try the Italians: the blue cone of a hill in the distance, a white looping path, little pilgrims winding their way upward’(9). The image of travellers climbing along mountain paths returns in Lolita: ‘pilgrims and mules winding up wax-pale roads in old paintings with blue hills and red little people’ (212/3). In ‘Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster,’ we meet these travellers again, ‘labouring upwards’ (Stories 608). Many Italian Renaissance painters have rendered their versions of the adoration of the Magi, but, as might be expected, their retinue is descending rather than rising. This is, for example, the case in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Adoration of the Shepherds: the blue hills are present, the travellers wear red clothes and the winding paths are white, but the cavalcade is coming down. Benozzo Gozzoli’s The Journey of the Magi is an exception to this rule; it satisfies all the features in the description.5 (See colour illustration 2.) The repeated recollection of the image of these travellers suggests that it was imprinted in Nabokov’s mind. Udo Conrad, whose phrase suggested introducing motion into pictures to Albinus, has been regarded as Nabokov’s representative and their affinity is acknowledged by the author.6 Although Nabokov repeated Conrad’s idea of bringing movement into a picture in Lolita and in one of his stories, he usually did the contrary in his writings. As a storyteller, Nabokov relied heavily on images. The course of a story is frequently interrupted by pictorial interludes. In this way, Franz’s voyage to Berlin in King, Queen, Knave might be regarded as a succession of colourful vignettes. ‘I think,’ he writes in ‘A Guide to Berlin’, ‘that here lies the sense of literary creation: to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times.’ Instead of bringing images into motion, he makes stills out of movements. A fine example of this is the celebrated passage in Lolita in which Dolly is captured on a tennis court, just as she is about to serve. In that split second, in an attitude allongée, she is waiting

the ‘mad pursuit’ in

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for ‘the small globe suspended so high in the zenith of the powerful and graceful cosmos she had created for the express purpose of falling upon it with a clean resounding crack of her golden whip’ (231/2). The expressiveness of this depiction of Dolly can easily compete with that of Truth in Botticelli’s allegory Calumny of Apelles, who, captured in the same posture, resembles her presence in many respects: bent knee, raised arm and face turned up to the sky. In his ‘Afterword’, Nabokov says that when he thinks of Lolita, he always returns to certain images, and the passage just mentioned is one of these.Then he continues: ‘these are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted’ (316). Surprisingly, a most gifted storyteller like Walter Scott adhered to the same view, considering his dictum: ‘What the devil does the plot signify, except to bring in fine things?’7 Whatever the course may be, when creating a plot which engenders fine images or pictures assembled into a story (or, most likely, a simultaneous process), a writer, unlike a painter, has to attend to what precedes his images and what follows from them. For this reason, when regarding a picture, authors are predisposed to ponder on the foregoing or ongoing events. William Wordsworth thus, upon the sight of a beautiful picture, wonders what ‘stopped that band of travellers on their way.’8 The best-known example of such a retrospective prevision is presented in Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn.’ In this ode, Keats considers the superiority of the plastic arts compared to literary art because of its suggestiveness: ‘Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweeter;’ and its thought-provoking spell: ‘What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?/ What pipes and timbrels?’ The perfection of great art may, once the stupefying amazement resulting from the first confrontation has been overcome, unleash artistic expressions which rival the excellence of the igniter. In writing his ‘Ode’, Keats was probably inspired by various masterpieces such as Raphael’s The Sacrifice at Lystra, Claude Lorraine’s View of Delphi with a Procession, the Sosibios Vase and the Elgin Marbles.9 In his cartoon, Raphael – a favorite of Keats’s – depicted many images which return in the ‘Ode’: the small chubby-cheeked piper completely absorbed in his play, the altar, the priest and the multitude of people attending or participating in the oblation. Keats is also incited to question the origin of this company: ‘What little town by river or sea-shore,/Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,/Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?’ Keats is contrasting the multivalence of the timeless ‘silent form’ with the desire to understand it. The more artful the ‘silent form’ of the Grecian urn is, the more numerous the ideas and interpretations it engenders are. This proliferation, however, is not easy to reconcile with common sense, which says that, in reality, a unique episode belongs to one single course of events. It might be that this dissociation between artful imagery and reality is what teases Keats ‘out of thought’.

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Paintings have the great advantage over novels and poems in that they do not tell a story, yet their perfection may suggest a story of equal excellence. Comparing prints taken from the fresco of a church in Milan to the works of Shakespeare, Keats prefers the former because ‘there was left so much room for Imagination’.10 Of course, this preference is highly dependent on the imaginative powers one has at one’s disposal, and it is improbable that Albinus’s idea to baste accomplished masterpieces in an effete row by the jejune technique of animated cartoons, could be traced back to Conrad’s phrase. Finally, it is suggested that Bruegel’s Proverbs might serve as a painting to be set in motion. (See colour illustration 3.) The selection of this picture has received some attention. Dewey refers to the red-robed lady in the centre of the painting, who covers a man with a long, hooded cloak, illustrating the proverb which denotes a wife’s infidelity to her husband. Appel directs us to another proverb: the blind leading the blind.11 Bruegel’s picture contains about a hundred representations of maxims and several apply to Albinus’s fate. As this painting is singled out with the purpose of animating it, we might as well look at the movement enclosed in it. Pictures are read from left to right, and diagonals coming from the left are interpreted as advancing.12 In Bruegel’s Proverbs, there is a clear movement visible: passing through what might be called the main street of the village, crossing the ford and then proceeding along the hedgerow. At the far end of this avenue, the last icon, are gallows.13 Albinus’s death is the logical outcome of his life, and although he has not committed a crime, his sins are many. Bruegel’s painting may be regarded as a commentary on Albinus’s life. In Laughter in the Dark, almost everyone has something to do with art: Albinus is an art critic and a picture expert; his wife the daughter of a theatrical manager, his mistress an artist’s model; her lover a draughtsman (‘a very fine artist’); and among Albinus’s acquaintances we count authors, painters, poets and a singer. As an actress, however, Margot is a failure. To some extent, as an expert, Albinus is also a failure. His collection of paintings contains a ‘sprinkling of fakes’ (146). A Lotto might be a forgery, the Baugin is one. His Still Life with Chessboard strikes Albinus as modern, ‘almost surrealistic’ (146), an impression which might result from the fact that in Baugin’s picture its vanishing point lies well outside the painting. The most artistically gifted person seems to be Albinus’s child, Irma. In the pattern on the ceiling cast by the light of a bedside lamp, she detects ‘a fisherman and a boat,’ which shows that she possesses what Leonardo calls ‘the spirit of invention.’14 And when her uncle, who cuts his face shaving, shows ‘a bright red patch… spreading through the froth on his chin,’ she is prompted to respond with: ‘strawberries and whipped cream’ (156). In contrast to this creative form of imagination is the unreliable superficiality of the appreciation Albinus has

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for the arts, which make him vulnerable to the attraction of speciosity. He becomes aware that ‘everything… in his past life was overlaid with the deceptive charm of colours’. Not only are some of his paintings fakes, also ‘his most brilliant discovery’ – Margot – proves to be a most catastrophic blunder. Although he deems her ‘better than the most loyal wife’, she appears to be willing to kill him (257/8). Albinus notices the downcast eyes of the Virgin in several of Luini’s paintings celebrating the Nativity, but during the birth of his own child his feelings are not at all devout. He is tempted by the thought how he ‘might find a friendly girl and bring her back to his empty bedroom’(17). And Lotto’s Pietà, that adorns his room, in which the tremendous sorrows of Mary after her son’s death are represented, is by no means an example or a reminder to Albinus, who doesn’t even attend the funeral of his child. (See colour illustration 4.) Although Albinus seems to value the Lotto so much that he exhibited it in his house, he must have been a complete stranger to its emotions, such as the prostrating grief of Mary that is at the heart of his painting. For these reasons, Laughter in the Dark has often been regarded as a demonstration of ‘the ultimate kinship of moral and artistic vision.’15 Religious themes, too, underlie the two still lifes shown in the rooms of Albinus’s apartment, a painting after Baugin’s Still Life with Chessboard and Linard’s Basket with Flowers. Far from being detached representations of art objects, utensils, flowers and food, these paintings from the seventeenth century harbour an iconographical wealth of religious motives. Together with Stosskopf, Baugin and Linard belong to an isolated Protestant community in Paris, strongly oriented towards their Dutch co-religionists, among whom painterly realism flourished.16 Linard’s painting attempted to glorify God’s honour with pictures of flowers. Cut flowers soon fade, in contrast to the everlasting glory of God. Proverbs, taken from the Bible to illustrate this disparity, are often represented in such depictions of bouquets.17 Linard is purported to have been the first, in 1627, to have painted an allegory representing the five senses, and he composed another one in 1638; this subject was chosen by Stosskopf and Baugin as well. The latter three paintings all show a purse, a deck of cards, flowers, a mirror and a music book. In Stosskopf ’s and Linard’s paintings, the music displayed has been identified as psalms to honour God’s creation, and Baugin’s music will certainly have the same purport. The purse ands cards denote man’s inclination to ruin and perdition, and Linard’s picture presents a ruined castle. In Baugin’s painting, imitated by Rex, the five senses are easily to discern: hearing is represented by the music book and the mandoline; touch by the purse, cards and chessboard; sight by the mirror; smell by the flowers; and taste by bread and wine. The latter two

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Jacques Linard, Basket with Flowers

allude to the Eucharist as well, one of the main events of the Last Supper. Baugin’s painting, and the changes Rex made in his forgery, synopsise the story which is related in Laughter in the Dark. Destruction is caused by Rex, a cardplayer and a thief, and Margot, the vicious lover, is symbolised by the big pearl which can be seen in the painting next to the deck of cards and the purse.18 The carnation, symbol of pure love, suits the unselfish love of Albinus’s wife. Conspicuous in the otherwise realistic painting is the mirror without reflections.19 The mirror, symbolising ‘sight’, is blinded, just as Albinus is. In a letter, Rex reminds Albinus of his blindness: ‘beauties of colour and line… make sight the prince of all our senses’(246). Baugin’s masterpiece is the perfect apologue of Nabokov’s novel. Moreover, the painting demonstrates the limitations of Albinus as an art expert. The ‘power of art to perpetuate sensuous enjoyment called forth, in the mind of the religious, the need to counteract such sinful leanings’, writes Gombrich.20 Clearly not a religious man, Albinus as an art expert must have been aware of the wealth of

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Lubin Baugin, Still Life with Chessboard, 1630

pious connotations in Baugin’s and Linard’s paintings. His superficiality, however, prevented him from integrating this knowledge in his daily life. Like Rex, Albinus shares much of Margot’s callousness. Their lack of responsiveness is accentuated by a reference to another sense, that of hearing. During a dinner, Albinus watches Margot while ‘she was listening to things she did not understand’, in this case, someone’s ‘ideas about Hindemith’s music’ (127). Hindemith has emphasised the importance of the responsive mind: ‘music, whatever sound and structure it may assume, remains meaningless noise unless it touches a receiving mind.’ If this is the case, ‘music structures impress us; we receive them, either submitting our minds to the ethical power of music, or transforming the impression into moral strength.’21 In the same way, Albinus has always been blind for the meaning of his paintings beyond the beauties of colour and line. Some of the paintings mentioned in this novel seem to make a serendipitous appearance. Nabokov was familiar with the portrait of Henry VIII, which he saw daily in the Hall of Trinity College in Cambridge where his meals were served.22

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Fra Sebastiano del Piombo was an old acquaintance as well. In September 1924 Nabokov wrote the story ‘La Venezia’ which centers on Piombo’s Portrait of a Young Roman Lady. This painting together with Bruegel’s Proverbs and one of Van Ruisdael’s best-known pictures, View of Haarlem, belong to the Berlin Gallery, which has some Lottos and Botticellis as well. Among the pictures by Lotto is Christ Taking Leave of His Mother, in which, like the Pietà, the swooning Mary is the central figure. At the time of writing Laughter in the Dark (winter 1930-31), the Nabokovs lived in the Luitpoldstrasse about a kilometre south of the Tiergarten. The Berlin Gallery, at that time housed in the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, was a mere kilometre away from the park’s eastern border.23 As Dmitri Nabokov suggests with regard to Piombo’s picture, Nabokov might have seen these paintings there.24 Besides these pictures, a reference is made to another one, though not explicitly. In one of the most suggestive passages in the novel, Nabokov powerfully depicts a beach scene. It is so evocative that one is compelled to stay with this inspiring visualisation, imbued by hues. This passage ends with: ‘gay parasols and striped tents seemed to respect in terms of color what the shouts of the bathers were to the ear’ (113). This sentence evokes the numerous parasols as well as the black shadowy strips and bleak columns of the tree trunks in Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. (See colour illustration 5.) At the time of the painting of this picture, Seurat was heavily involved in Sutter’s studies. One of Sutter’s statements was that ‘the laws of aesthetic harmony in colour can be taught as the rules of musical harmony can be taught’.25 This correspondence is nicely echoed in the similarity Nabokov notes between the clamorous colours and the bright shouts of the bathers, quoted in the sentence above. Nabokov also describes ‘a hairy man in orange-red pants who stood at the edge of the water wiping his glasses’ (113). This person is a most original description of one of Seurat’s figures. In Seurat’s painting he can be seen near the water’s edge, clothed in orange trousers and jacket, his conjurer’s hands in midair. But the reader ‘cannot unsee once it has been seen’ what Nabokov makes of it (SM 310). He has been wiping the reader’s glasses as well. Seurat’s personage is actually playing a French horn. Substituting a musical instrument for an optical one is an original illustration of the equivalence between sounds and colours that synaesthetes experience. Nabokov was endowed with one type of synaesthesia, chromesthesia, a gift – one in which sounds evoke colours – he regarded as rather significant for his literary career.26 An understanding of synaesthesia, the correspondence between music and colours, was regarded by the Impressionist movement as beneficial for the arts;

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this interest originated with Newton.27 Gauguin suggested that his painting could be understood as a kind of visual music.28 Albinus, in his blindness, tests the possibilities of his synaesthetic qualities: he attempted ‘to transform the incoherent sounds into corresponding shapes and colors. It was the opposite of trying to imagine the kind of voices which Botticelli’s angels had’(241/2). It may be assumed that Albinus’s attempt was in vain, because he came to realise that he has only been a ‘narrow specialist’, like a ‘virtuoso who is only a fleshy accessory of his violin’ (257). To clarify this assumption, one can refer to Nabokov’s definition of art: ‘beauty plus pity – that is the closest we can get to a definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for the simple reason that beauty must die’(LL 251). The latter phrase – beauty must die – is a line borrowed from Keats. As has been explained elsewhere, it is the same contrariety as has been noted in Linard’s still life – the ephemerality of flowers compared to the infinity of God – which inspired Nabokov’s definition: the briefness of human life compared to the infinite sensation caused by a work of art.29 It seems highly improbable that Nabokov would have attributed the gift of chromesthesia to Albinus, who failed to notice this contrariety altogether.

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3 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Its Colours and Portrait

In Lolita, Nabokov refers to ‘Whistler’s Mother,’ the well-known painting by James McNeill Whistler of his mother, which is titled Arrangement in Grey and Black (Lo 184). Likewise, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight could have been subtitled ‘Composition in Violet and White.’1 The colour violet – or purple, which is the same hue but of a higher intensity – is encountered in the book in various forms, including ‘sugar-coated violets’, ‘violet sweets’, a pension called ‘Les Violettes’, ‘purple pansies’ and ‘violets’, ‘a mauve dress’, a ‘talc-powder tin with violets figured between its shoulders’, ‘an Oriental amethyst’ (purple or violet quartz), ‘a purple passage’, ‘purple facings’, ‘violet words’, ‘violet dark eyelids,’ and ‘violet-blue night-lamp’.2 There is also a plethora of flowers, either white flowers or flowers which have white varieties like ‘syringa’, ‘bluebell’, ‘lotus flowers’, ‘crocuses’, ‘roses’, ‘iris’, ‘bindwood’, ‘lilies’, ‘chrysanthemums’, ‘waterlily’, ‘carnations’, ‘pinks’, and ‘jasmin’.3 Violet or lilac can be obtained by mixing blue and red, as Nabokov learned at an early age from his mother who painted in watercolour for him (SM 36). In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, this combination can be noticed frequently: the ‘sticky reds and blues’ from Sebastian’s paintbox , the ‘blue water and scarlet wrists’ of a sunlit laundry, the ‘blue dragonflies’ which fly above a river whose bank is of ‘red clay’, and a ‘red and blue pencil’.4 The novel contains the story of the endeavours of V., a young man of Russian extraction, to write a biography of his half-brother, Sebastian Knight, a successful writer. One theme concerns Knight’s determination to establish himself as an English author, although his Russian is superior to his command of his adopted language. Another theme touches on the possibility that the deceased (in this case, Sebastian Knight, who died six months before V. started on his biography) can interfere with earthly life and can exert an influence on the actions of those who were nearest to him during his lifetime. Repeatedly, the presence of a ‘ghost’ is speculated on, and, most strikingly, on a number of occasions when Knight’s novels

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foreshadow what would happen after his death. The loves of Sebastian form a third theme. At the age of sixteen he is painfully deserted by Natasha Rosanov, but much more tragic is Sebastian’s rejection of Clare Bishop, his lovely and devoted companion, with whom he shared his life and work for six happy years. He leaves her for Nina Rechnoy, who, in her turn, spurns him after some months although he is completely enthralled by her. The quest for the identity of this femme fatale occupies a third of the length of the novel. It has often been observed that a number of incidents in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight are distinctly autobiographical. To some degree, this also holds for the themes just mentioned. The transition from Russian to English (The Real Life of Sebastian Knight was Nabokov’s tenth novel but the first to be written directly in English) was, as Nabokov said, ‘exceedingly painful – like learning anew to handle things after losing seven or eight fingers in an explosion (SO 54)’. And the affair with Nina can, as Brian Boyd says, be regarded as ‘a stylised alternative continuation of his own recent past’, his short-lived relationship with Irina Guadini,5 which endangered his marriage to Véra , the muse as well as the ancilla of his art. And the death of his father, which might be regarded as one of the most incisive occurrences in his life, has often inspired Nabokov to think about the hereafter and about how he could have contact with it. The pattern of colours as well as the portrait of Sebastian Knight of which, of course, only the description is given, illustrates and illuminates the themes presented above. Violet is the last colour of the primary rainbow, which, as D. Barton Johnson has explicated, represents ‘Nabokov’s literary creation in his native Russian,’ and the first colour of the secondary rainbow, representing his English language writing.6 Thus violet marks the passing from Russian to English and the twofold employment of this hue, in its more intense form of purple, is reflected in the roots of this word. Its etyma are the Greek porphyra, denoting the colour and the Latin purpureus in pannus purpureus (purple passage), indicating the brilliance of a text. Violet can be decomposed into red and blue and these colours, too, are associated with Nabokov’s switch from his native language to that of his adopted country. Throughout his career as a Russian author, writes Brian Boyd, Nabokov kept the name Sirin as his nom de plume.7 His English works were published under his own name. Nabokov had the faculty of coloured hearing, which allowed him to associate individual letters, Cyrillic and Roman, with specific colours. In the writer’s chromaesthetic system, says Gavriel Shapiro,’ “V” belongs to the red group as “S” to the blue,8 “V” and “S” being the initials of Nabokov’s first and pen names’ . The same initials return in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: ‘V’ being the narrator’s initial, and ‘S’ the initial of Sebastian Knight. (There is no reversal regarding the real initials of

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which the ‘S’ belongs to the Russian writer Sirin and the ‘V’ to the English author Vladimir, as ‘V’ in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, before starting his biography, decided to take up a ‘be-an-author’ course while S[ebastian], in his letters to Nina, returned to the Russian language.9) Like the ‘S’ and ‘V’ of Sirin and Vladimir, the ‘S’ and ‘V’ of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight also belong to the same person: ‘I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I,’ says the narrator, ‘V’, in the last sentence of the novel, thus merging the accompanying colours into violet. Despite their name, violets have white varieties, and these flowers grew on the grave of Nabokov’s father, whose body, laid in an open coffin on the day of his burial, was covered with white flowers.10 In Speak, Memory, Nabokov adorned his remembrances of his father’s death with lilies and a Florentine iris, both white flowers (SM 32; 49). To pair death with white flowers, the bright splendour of natural life, and not with memories of grief or the black attributes of mourning and burials, signifying darkness and decay, suggests a belief in the continuation of life after death. As a symbol, white represents timelessness and is identified with paradisiacal spheres.11 Both flowers indicate the beginning of a new life, as in early Renaissance art the Annunciation is represented by the archangel Gabriel holding an iris in his hand, substituted later by a lily as in the Florence Annunciation by Leonardo.12 Violets, too, bring forth the notion of a new life. In Hamlet, to which Nabokov refers five times in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and in which play the supernatural, the ghost of Hamlet’s father, is also an essential part of its design, violet, as hue and as flower, is important as well. After her death, Laertes wishes that violets would spring forth from Ophelia’s grave.13 The ‘fantastic garlands’ Ophelia wore when she drowned in the ‘glassy stream’ consisted of ‘crow-flowers, nettles, daisies and long purples’, two of which were white flowers and two violet ones.14 In ‘Lycidas’, one of the finest elegies in the English language, Milton also presents some flowers: the hyacinth, rose and violet, which in Greek mythology represent instances of a floral continuation of human life.15 In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight,both Sebastian and Clare expect supernatural beings to show themselves among the abundance of dead leaves in the deep and dark woods into which they have rambled, but, of course, violets will be the flowers to pop up first among withered leaves in spring (86,87). Violet, which serves as a vinculum between Nabokov’s Russian and English writings, thus appears to be a liaison between the earthly life and the afterlife as well, and of its two constituent parts, red and blue, it is the latter colour which points to the hereafter. In Nabokov’s chromatic order, blue is the colour of immortality, and as such this colour plays an important role in Nabokov’s novels.16 In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, V. spends the night after Sebastian dies sitting next to a lamp which provides a blue light (200, 201).

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In the novel, a painted portrait of Sebastian is presented in great detail: But as I look at the portrait Roy Carswell painted I seem to see a slight twinkle in Sebastian’s eyes, for all the sadness of their expression. The painter has wonderfully rendered the moist dark greenish-grey of their iris, with a still darker rim and a suggestion of gold dust constellating round the pupil. The lids are heavy and perhaps a little inflamed, and a vein or two seems to have burst on the glossy eyeball. These eyes and the face are painted in such a manner as to convey the impression that they are mirrored Narcissus-like in clear water – with a very slight ripple on the hollow cheek, owing to the presence of a water-spider which has just stopped and is floating backward. A withered leaf has settled on the reflected brow, which is creased as that of a man peering intently. The crumpled dark hair over it is partly suffused by another ripple, but one strand on the temple has caught a glint of humid sunshine. There is a deep furrow between the straight eyebrows, and another down from the nose to the tightly shut dusky lips. There is nothing much more than this head. A dark opalescent shade clouds the neck, as if the upper part of the body were receding. The general background is a mysterious blueness with a delicate trellis of twigs in one corner. Thus Sebastian peers into a pool at himself. ‘I wanted to hint at a woman somewhere behind him or over him – the shadow of a hand, perhaps…something…. But then I was afraid of story-telling instead of painting.’ ‘Well, nobody seems to know anything about her. Not even Sheldon.’ ‘She smashed his life, that sums her up, doesn’t it?’ ‘No, I want to know more. I want to know all. Otherwise he will remain as incomplete as your picture. Oh, it is very good, the likeness is excellent, and I love that floating spider immensely. Especially its club-footed shadow at the bottom. But the face is only a chance reflection. Any man can look into water.’ ‘But don’t you think that he did particularly well?’ ‘Yes, I can see your point. But all the same I must find that woman. She is the missing link in his evolution, and I must obtain her – it’s a scientific necessity.’ ‘I’ll bet you this picture that you won’t find her,’ said Roy Carswell (117-118).

On the first reading, the portrait seems to look like a dazzling composition showing much craftsmanship, adorned with shades of carefully selected colours and lights, and enriched with small, quaint ornaments as original as the waterspider, apparently added to sustain the suggestion that the portrait is mirrored in the water, a device enabling the artist to exhibit his mastery of pictorial techniques. Such an impression would be comparable to the first reactions to Nabokov’s literary works: much brilliance but to what end? This comparison can be continued: after intensive rereading, Nabokov’s novels reveal an almost

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inexhaustible number of themes – aesthetical, philosophical and moral – and this seems to remain true for Carswell’s portrait as well. The ‘suggestion of gold dust’ around the pupil may stress Sebastian’s literary gift: ‘all the great writers have good eyes,’ says Nabokov (LRL 141). The vein which seems to have burst must betray its fissure by showing some blood; its red together with the ‘blueness’ introduces the red and blue theme in the portrait. The impression that Sebastian’s face is mirrored Narcissus-like in clear water is a rich source to explore. As Sebastian spurned Clare, Narcissus rejected Echo cruelly. Each of them became ‘spellbound by his own self ’17; Narcissus because of his looks, Sebastian because he was ‘preoccupied with his own sensations and ideas’, too much ‘to understand those of others’ (157/8). Narcissus perished as ‘he was worn and wasted away with love’ and, instead of his corpse, there was ‘a flower with a circle of white petals round a yellow center.’18 A spider builds a web in which it has its victims trapped, then paralysed, injected and sucked dry. The latter is precisely what Nina, who had enthralled many admirers, did to one of her husbands who said that ‘[s]he sucked me dry’ (143). ‘A withered leaf ’ that has settled on the reflected brow’ is highly reminiscent of Keats’s ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, which Sebastian translated into Russian in his youth; I see a lily on thy brow With anguish moist and fever dew; And on thy cheeks a fading rose Fast withereth too.

Keats’s poem is about an enchantress none of whose lovers survived. In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight Nina says, ‘I once told a doctor that all flowers except pinks and daffodils withered if I touch them – isn’t it bizarre?’ (164) The trellis of twigs might refer to Sebastian’s true love, Clare, as it suggests a harmonious symbiosis of juveniles, whose relationship ended so rudely after Sebastian met Nina. The clubfooted shadow may hint at his callousness; in Greek legends a deformed foot denotes degrees of corruption, although V. prefers a more euphemistic expression: he (Sebastian) ‘usually chose the easiest ethical path’ (80). And, probably, this tone is justified as well, seeing how Sebastian, in a letter (part of his novel Lost Property), tries to exonerate himself: ‘I have been happy with you and now I am miserable with another,’ which suggests that he really sees himself as the victim of enthrallment by a Circe (111). Finally ‘the general background’ ‘is a mysterious blueness’ the same colour that shines after Sebastian died, suggesting the presence of a hereafter. Carswell’s painting might be a specimen of the kinds of paintings Nabokov would have made if he had been gifted enough to become a painter: highly original and showing much artistry, combined with elaborate, sumptuous colouring and iconography, a cornucopia of imagery and themes, a feast for the eye and the mind alike.

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4 Pnin and the History of Art

Pnin is a portrait of a Russian émigré who teaches Russian at an American university. His ex-wife has a son, Victor, who, as a boy, shows remarkable talent as a draughtsman. Victor’s instructor, Lake, ‘a recognized art expert’, has a profound knowledge of innumerable techniques, which he transmits to his pupil.1 Victor learns the theory of colours and is made aware of their shades, up to the point where they transcend ‘human perception’. He studies the blown up reflections of convex mirrors, the mediums and techniques of old masters and the transfigurations of objects seen through a glass of water. Of course, the mastery of these and other crafts does not make an artist; despite his skills and his having ‘the morose temper of genius’, Lake is not considered an accomplished artist as he ‘lacked originality’. The relative importance of arts and craft, of representation versus imagination, is the subject of an everlasting dispute. With respect to the plastic arts, the emphasis nowadays on originality and invention is so strong that skills are hardly considered complementary. Nabokov, of course, rejected this sort of art: ‘art is difficult. Easy art is what you see at modern exhibitions of things and doodles’ (SO 115). A lack of originality, as in Lake’s case, is just as serious. In Modern Painters, Ruskin discusses the polemic papers by Joshua Reynolds which were published in 1759 in the Idler. According to Reynolds, painting consisting only of imitation, cannot, whatever its degree of truthfulness and excellency, be considered ‘as a liberal art’ because it has no ‘power over the imagination’.2 The distinction between imitation and imagination in painting is illustrated by Reynolds with the Dutch and Italian School. ‘The Italian attends only to the invariable, the great and general ideas which are fixed and inherent in universal Nature; the Dutch, on the contrary, to literal truth, and a minute exactness in the detail, as I may say, of Nature modified by accident. The attention to these petty peculiarities is the very cause of this naturalness so much admired in the Dutch pictures, which, if we suppose it to be a beauty, is certainly of a lower order, which ought to give place to a beauty of a superior kind, since one cannot

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be obtained but by departing from the other’. Reynolds even goes so far as to say that the first requirement in poetry is ‘that it should be inattentive to literal truth and minute exactness in detail’.3 Although some modern artists, who have estranged themselves from basic aesthetic values by sacrificing everything in favour of unconventionality and eccentricity, may welcome Reynolds’s provocative approach, this opinion seems indefensible. Ruskin rejected it and concluded that painting should not be classified ‘according to the kind of details which it represents’,4 but no artist could have disagreed more with Reynolds’s point of view than Nabokov. ‘I believe in stressing the specific detail, the general ideas can take care of themselves’, he says, and also that ‘there is no science without fancy, and no art without facts’ (SO 55, 79). ‘The supremacy of the detail over the general’ is based on the fact that ‘the part is more alive than the whole’ (LL 373). It is worthwhile to give some attention to this relationship – antagonistic or synergetic – between reality and art. Reynolds’s preference for idealistic art and censure of mimetic art, seems a useful startingpoint to discuss the merits of photographic art which is treated rather deferentially in Pnin. One may safely suppose that one of the main reasons for Nabokov’s doubts about the artistic merits of Dostoyevsky is related to the absence of the real world: ‘if you examine closely any of his works, say The Brothers Karamazov, you will note that the natural background and all things relevant to the perception of the senses hardly exist. What landscape there is is a landscape of ideas, a moral landscape. The weather does not exist in his world, so it does not much matter how people dress’ (LRL 104). In this respect Dostoyevsky’s novels have their counterparts in the fantastic paintings by El Greco and the nightmarish ones by Goya.5 And even Constant’s ‘very attractive’ novel Adolphe is called ‘dry’ and ‘evenly gray’ because ‘physically, Adolphe hardly exists. He glides and sidles, a faceless figure in an impalpable world’ (EO III, 100/1). Contrary to these examples for Nabokov, ‘the sense of literary creation’ is ‘to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times’ (Stories 157). The reference to ‘future times’ implies an emotional dimension: in the future the present will be recalled with the help of these objects and the sentiments of the past will be associated forever with them.6 In Lectures on Literature (377), Nabokov has elaborated the role of objects in his creative process as a writer. Being aware of the likeness ‘between a bat and a bird, a dead twig and a twiglike insect’, the ability to see the differences as well, prevents the sensitive observer from becoming obsessed and enables him to turn his receptiveness into inspiration. By dismembering a familiar world the artist acquires a selection of apparently singular pieces with which he can create a new world, ‘as harmonious as the old’. This process of decomposition in order to make a new and unprecedented composition, this ‘passage from the dissociative

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stage to the associative one’, shows an unexpected similarity with the creative process of a painter, as has been analysed so admirably by Gombrich.7 To illustrate this process, consider a case in which a painter intends to represent a certain scene on canvas exactly as it is. If the painter places a pane of glass at arm’s length between himself and the scene, his task is to paint all its particles facsimilewise onto the glass. It seems that no mistake is possible with respect to size and colour and that the result must be identical to the painter’s vision. The problem is that it does not work out this way: ‘it would often be a grave mistake to paint [things] exactly as the eye sees them, however much this may look like a paradox’.8 Although a house seen through the glass is ‘in fact a patch on the window’, the ‘pure patch without extension and location can certainly not be painted; I doubt whether it can be thought of ’.9 The reason why is that shapes cannot be identified in isolation; ‘ size is relative and has no meaning except as a relation between objects’.10 The same goes for colours: ‘colour is wholly relative.’11 Instead of trying vainly to reproduce patches, the artist has to invent ‘comparisons which work’.12 He has ‘to probe his perceptions by trying alternative interpretations’ and to match these ‘in his medium’.13 So, inventing comparisons and establishing new relationships seems the main task for the artist, whatever his medium, pen or brush The originality of these links requires that the artist ignores the existing ones; the visual artist ‘must find means of battling down his knowledge of the familiar meaning of things’, in the same way as the writer has to dismember ‘a familiar world’.14 The course of life seems the same for both artists, to learn ‘the passage from the dissociative stage to the associative one.’ There seems no limit to the kind of new relationships an artist can create. In Invitation to a Beheading, Pale Fire and Ada, Nabokov presented entirely new environments. Visual artists can also deviate from reality to a great extent. Rembrandt’s drawings of landscapes like Six’s Bridge (1645), The Gold-Weigher’s Field (1651) and View of Amsterdam (c. 1640) are totally convincing, but are in fact narrow strips of land mostly consisting of horizontal lines, while Turner’s seascapes are masses of water with Alpine altitudes. Contrary to Rembrandt, he does not stretch his landscapes horizontally, but vertically. His watercolours Smailholm Tower (1832) and Loch Coriskin (1832) show elevations which deviate quite daringly from reality, but they contribute simultaneously to a better apprehension of the sceneries concerned.15 As can be concluded from his sketches, Turner transposed the steepness of the hill and tower as seen from a spot quite near the tower to a fairly distant viewpoint, thereby establishing a new relationship between hill, tower and sky.16 Although less obvious, the masters of the Dutch School, so deprecated by Reynolds, were not mechanical imitators either. Still life painting flourished in

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the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. Tables covered with expensive tablecloths and stacked with an array of fruits and fish, bottles and goblets, fluted glasses and decanters, and plates and trays of silver and pewter make brilliant compositions. A number of them may be regarded as studies of light: how it ends in little stars on the heavily polished, chased pewter, how it is broken by glass and water, how it is absorbed or turned into shadows. These so-called still lifes of ostentation rather mysteriously lack a concrete background, compelling the viewer to concentrate on the accumulation of wealth. It is because of these paintings that William Hazlitt said that ‘art is the microscope of the mind’.17 In Ada, Lucette tells Van that she loves ‘Flemish and Dutch oils, flowers, food’, and refers to ‘the riches of Holland’ (464). Somewhat later, another allusion to the Dutch is made: on her return to the sun terrace after a brief swim, she tells him, ‘…I always teeter on the tender border between sunburn and suntan – or between lobster and Obst as writes Herb, my beloved painter…’ (478). ‘Obst’, German for fruit, and lobsters are prominently presented in paintings by Abraham van Beyeren (1620-1690), Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1683/4) and Willem Kalf (1619-1693), for instance.18 If the still lifes do not fit in with Reynolds’s idea of purely mimetic art, there is one form which provides more likely candidates: photography. A photographer cannot establish new relationships by deviating from reality because he only has reality to copy. In Pnin, however, Nabokov deems photography as an art not distinct from painting. One photograph which is discussed is a picture of ‘a Russian pasture with Lyov Tolstoy trudging across it toward the camera and some long-maned horses behind him, their innocent heads turned toward the photographer too’ (73).19 Pnin happens to notice this snapshot and at night he dreams about these horses, ‘galloping away and tossing their silvery manes among the tall flowers’ in ‘a great field unmowed by time’ (82). The photograph seems to have such an impact that it becomes animated in his thoughts, the horses being startled, the grass growing, the flowers emerging. Next, Käsebier’s ‘photographic masterpiece “Mother and Child” (1897), with the wistful, angelic infant looking up and away (at what?)’ is compared to Rembrandt’s The Pilgrims at Emmaus ‘with the same, though slightly less celestial, expression of eyes and mouth’ (95).20 It seems that, as far as the lofty look is concerned, Nabokov prefers the photograph to the painting. Then, Gramineev is introduced, ‘a well-known, frankly academic painter, whose soulful oils – “Mother Volga”, “Three Old Friends” (lad, nag, dog), ‘April Glade’, and so forth – still graced a museum in Moscow’ (127). Some pages further, it appears that Mira, Pnin’s sweetheart of his youth, had a passion for photography. The subject of one of her ‘artistic snapshots’ is ‘an April glade with shadows of birches on wet-sugar snow’ (133). It is evident that Nabokov

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appreciates the clever catch of the shadows on the glistening snow compared to the picture coming from Gramineev’s studio. The rivaling concurrence of photography and painting is most clear in the case of Degas, whose painting Carriage at the Races (1871/2) is referred to in Pnin.21 This picture was inspired by photographs. The cutting off of the carriage in the foreground suggests that the composition is only a fragment: ‘the artist thus invites the viewer to supply the missing parts and creates a feeling of involvement seldom engendered by academic paintings’, writes Van Deren Coke, describing a reaction not unlike that of Pnin’s after seeing the photograph of Tolstoy.22 (See colour illustration 6.) In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the period of Impressionism, ‘painting and photography were in, and constantly presented as in, open competition’.23 Gertrude Käsebier tried, by means of photography, to ‘copy’ Millet’s Angelus, Whistler’s Mother and Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe.24 Degas made paintings based on his own snapshots. The instances presented in Pnin and briefly discussed above, clearly show that Nabokov supported this rivalry. Nabokov is more explicit in Strong Opinions, where, in answer to the question as to whether he was making a distinction between the mechanical process (of photography) and artistic inspiration (in the painter), he says that ‘the mechanical process can exist in a ludicrous daub, and artistic inspiration can be found in a photographer’s choice of landscape and his manner of seeing it’ (166). The juxtaposition of photographic and visual art is not discussed in Ada, however, in the section which is devoted to photographs. Ada and Van have received an album full of photographs taken in 1884, their first year together in Ardis. The album is a pictorial synopsis of their love affair and serves as a springboard to dive into the past. The photographs are beautifully described; they rather inspire art than represent it. And, although Ada detects ‘an istoshnïy ston (‘visceral moan’) of crippled art’ in the album, Van complaints that it has only ‘vulgarised our own mind-pictures’ (406). In Invitation to a Beheading, different sorts of photographs are described: in one ‘a girl in a bathing suit flew like a swallow so high over a pool that it seemed no larger than a saucer’, in another ‘a high-jumper lay supine in the air’, both suggesting ‘a remote world’, ‘a kind of perfection whose definition was absence of friction’ (50). These pictures anticipate the climax of the protagonist’s ‘reverie’ in which he ‘stepped straight from the window sill on the elastic air’ (97). Here, as in Ada, photographs seem to concentrate on some of the main themes of these novels (the past in Ada, the next world in Invitation to a Beheading) by selecting moments which illustrate them most effectively. Similarly, in the photograph used for advertisements, referred to in some novels, it is the subject matter which counts, rather than its artistic aspects.25 Departing from Nabokov’s dictum, ‘the passage from the dissociative stage to

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the associative one’, it is not easy to see how artistic merits can be attained at all in photography. Establishing new relationships for selected items seems an unusually severe task for a photographer. By making use of unfamiliar lights (the pastel glow of early sunrise, the bleaching shine appearing after a heavy thunderstorm) photographers can suggest a different sort of context, and by selecting the ‘right moment’ they are able to accentuate details which might otherwise be

Petrus Christus, St. Eligius and the Lovers, 1449

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lost.26 As an art form, however, photography has a distinct quality in that the camera can record the whole prospect within its field of vision, contrary to the eye which can focus on one small area at a time.27 It is precisely this quality which Nabokov praises in convex mirrors, ‘that very special and very magical small convex mirror that, half a millennium ago, Van Eyck and Petrus Christus and Memling used to paint into their detailed interiors’, giving a ‘microcosmic version’ of these interiors. The paintings referred to can easily be identified: Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wedding (1434) Christus’s St. Eligius and the Lovers (1449) and Memling’s ‘Holy Virgin with Apple’(1487). Why has Nabokov selected these paintings and not the Master of Flémalle’s Donor Presented by St. John the Baptist, Wing of the Werl Altarpiece (1438) or Quentin Matsys’s The Moneylender and His Wife (1514), whose mirrors are certainly more spectacular than Memling’s? (See colour illustration 7 and 8.) The fourth chapter of Pnin has two main themes: Pnin’s fatherly love for Victor and Victor’s engrossment in the art of painting. Apart from the pictures of the three Flemish masters, three more paintings are mentioned: Rembrandt’s The Pilgrims at Emmaus, Van Gogh’s La Berceuse and Degas’ Carriage at the Races. In addition to these, Käsebier’s photograph is recalled. Van Gogh’s painting is a remarkable one. He is certainly not one of Nabokov’s favourite artists, as he is called ‘second-rate’ (96). ‘La Berceuse’ means ‘the woman who rocks the cradle’. Van Gogh intended the painting to have a soothing effect and to remind the spectator of his childhood. If she were in fact rocking the cradle, one of her hands would have been in an active position and the rope she is holding would have been taut. If there is anything straitlaced it is rather the woman’s face than the rope. One may wonder how many of its admirers outside the Frenchspeaking world could have guessed the subject matter of this picture. Pnin, who lived in Paris, must have known what the Van Gogh represented. La Berceuse might have reminded Pnin of his childhood in yet another way. The wallpaper in the painting, green with bunches of rosy flowers, is very similar to that in Pnin’s bedroom when he was a child: green oak leaves with clusters of purple flowers. This pattern had a ‘soothing’ effect on Pnin (23).28 The Degas painting Carriage at the Races has a similar focus. In the calèche we see the Valpinçon family, together with nurse and dog. All the members of this group, including the dog, are entirely mesmerised by the baby at whom they are gazing most intensely. Family ties and parental affection can easily be noticed in the Flemish masterpieces as well. Van Eyck’s painting celebrates the marriage of the Arnolfinis and the small sculpture at the top of the chair, an image of St. Margaret, patron of safe childbirth, symbolises their desire to have a family. In Christus’s painting, two lovers buy a ring from St. Eligius, probably on the

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Vincent van Gogh, La Berceuse, 1888

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 1648

occasion of their betrothal or wedding. Memling’s painting shows the Madonna with her child. In contrast to these paintings are those of the Master of Flémalle and Matsys; the former shows the giver of the Altarpiece with St. John, the latter a couple counting their gold coins. Käsebier’s photograph, Mother and Child, is solely devoted to parental love and does not show anything other than the persons in its title. Rembrandt’s painting, however, does not seem to fit into this pattern. It is introduced as a comparison to the ‘celestial expression of the eyes’ of Käsebier’s child. With this comparison in mind, Nabokov might as well have

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chosen Veronese’s Pilgrims of Emmaus, as the degree of exaltation seems even more dramatic than Rembrandt’s, whose Christ looks far more reserved and subdued. An interesting difference between this picture and the populous representation by Veronese is that Rembrandt only added one figure to the two disciples who invited Christ to their supper, namely a serving boy, who contributes greatly to the serenity of the scene. Seemingly unaware of what is going on, his pleasing and even sweet appearance and the careful and selfeffacing way in which he performs his humble task, might indicate that he does in fact sense what is going on. The congeniality and complaisance which Victor showed during his visit to Pnin could have been borrowed from this young man, who, by the way, has the same ‘reddish-brown’ hair as Victor. So it seems that all six paintings and the photograph mentioned in this fourth chapter sustain, although far from ostensibly, one of its two main themes: the importance of family ties, especially that of parental love, the fatherly love Pnin feels for Victor. ‘Pnin’s relation to a son not his own will be the purest and most touching triumph in his story’, says Boyd.29 The second main theme, Victor’s passion for the visual arts, is presented in two ways. Firstly, a clear picture is given of all the artistic stages young Victor passed through as a draughtsman until his fourteenth year, the age at which the reader meets him. Secondly, detailed information is given about the tasks – set by himself or his instructor Lake – undertaken in order to become acquainted with the techniques, discoveries and mediums of the old masters. Victor’s remarkable progress is listed in a few sentences which will be discussed seriatim: ‘At two, Victor did not make little spiral scribbles to express buttons or portholes, as a million tots do, why not you? Lovingly he made his circles perfectly round and perfectly closed’. ‘Victor at three not only copied the researcher’s (Dr. Liza Wind’s) far from ideal square with contemptuous accuracy but added a smaller one beside the copy.’ ‘[W]hen pressed… to draw Mama… [he] responded with a lovely undulation, which he said was her shadow on the new refrigerator’. ‘At four, he evolved an individual stipple’. ‘At five, he began to draw objects in perspective – a side wall nicely foreshortened, a tree dwarfed by distance, one object half masking another’. ‘And at six, Victor already distinguished what so many adults never learn to see – the colors of shadows, the difference in tint between the shadow of an orange and that of a plum or of an avocado pear’. ‘At eight, he had once told his mother that he wanted to paint air’. ‘At nine, he had known the sensuous delight of a graded wash’.

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In many respects Victor’s development reflects various stages in the history of the visual arts. The beginning of the history of modern Western painting is most usually associated with Giotto (c. 1266-1337). Of Giotto, Vasari says that he could draw ‘a circle so even in its shape and outline that it was a marvel to behold’, a gift Victor showed at the age of two.30 The square Victor copied at three, and completed with a smaller one, echoes the introduction of geometry in Italian painting, strongly favoured by Leone Alberti, the great theorist of the fifteenth century.31 Also at the age of three, instead of drawing his mother, Victor depicted her shadow, reflecting the discovery in the fifteenth century: ‘Flemish painters diffused cast shadows, and Jan van Eyck discovered that truth which the Hellenistic painters had glimpsed but which had since been lost – that shadow is everywhere, even in brightness, and that light is everywhere, even in shadow’.32 The stipple, which Victor evolved at four, recalls a rather particular eighteenth century engraving technique. Perspective, invented by Victor at the age of five, follows the early fifteenth century’s ‘momentous discovery in the field of art, which also dominated the art of subsequent centuries’. Naturalism could be achieved by using perspective; figures that could be composed in groups, rather than in static tableaux. Apart from architecture and personages, the representation of nature profited hugely from the insights of perspective: ‘the famous avenue of trees leading back into the picture until it vanishes on the horizon’ could finally be depicted.33 The invention of how to translate space and distance onto canvas may well have promoted literary interest in the beauty of nature. Long before Wordsworth, painters and engravers had discovered the splendour of the Lake District. In Pnin, Nabokov lyrically describes how a shining road narrowed to ‘a thread of gold in the soft mist where hill after hill made beauty of distance’ (191).34 At the age of six, Victor learned to distinguish the colours of shadows, a reference to the major achievement of the Impressionists. Nabokov’s lifelong interest in shadow, its colours, gradations and changes must have roused his admiration for Impressionism. (As the Impressionists were primarily concerned with visual effects, they did not care for naturalistic accuracy, which Nabokov deplored: ‘certain impressionists cannot afford to wear glasses’ [SO 168].35) Among the Impressionists, Monet was the most absorbed by the mysteries of shadows and he discovered ‘how luminous with reflected light and color shadows could actually be’.36 Monet’s obsessive preoccupation with light and colours in shadows, as may be observed in his series of paintings of a line of poplars, haystacks, the façade of Rouen Cathedral and the water garden pictures of Giverny, recalls the persistence with which Nabokov has traced the development in the way writers have noticed colours.37 In Pnin he observes how on ‘a patch of sunlit snow, … a tree trunk’s shadow, olive-green on the turf,

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became grayish blue for a stretch’ (73). And Victor’s eagerness to learn makes his teacher think of him as an apprentice of ‘some great Italian skiagrapher’ (98). ‘Skiagrapher’ or ‘shadow painter’ is the title given to Apollodorus who, according to Plutarch, was ‘the first man to discover the gradation and change of colour in shadows’.38 At the age of eight, Victor wishes to paint air, in the same way that Dutch painters in the seventeenth century wished to give expression to the vastness of the sky above their flat country and seasides. Van Goyen and Jacob van Ruisdael in some cases used the larger part of their canvases to express their views on the subtle transitions of various cloud formations.39 A final stage in Victor’s extraordinary advancement as an artist is his mastering of ‘a graded wash’, a watercolour technique almost exclusively pertaining to English artists in the second half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, such as Turner. In conclusion, it seems that Victor’s development included some great discoveries made by the Italian, Dutch, French and English schools of art, discoveries of an artistic nature as those well as relating to the craftsmanship of painters. His affinity with the art of the Impressionists, however, seems outstanding. The most important representatives of the Impressionist movement are Monet and Manet, and Victor refers to both artists by choosing as his nom de guerre ‘Moinet’, one letter more than ‘Monet’ and one sound more than ‘Manet’.40 The immersion of the Impressionists in colours is not unlike that in Pnin, as its palette contains no less than 78 different hues, used 237 times in the novel.41 Nabokov’s characterisation that ‘Victor’s eye was his supreme organ’, recalls Cézanne’s comment on Monet: ‘he is only an eye, but what an eye!’42 Another interesting link between Victor and Monet is the antique glass bowl which Victor gave Pnin as a present. This ‘perfectly divine bowl’ (157) of a ‘greenish blue tint’ (158), a ‘brilliant aquamarine glass with a decorative design of swirled ribbing and lily pads’ (153), might have reminded Pnin of the ‘lily pond’ design(23) etched into a wooden screen in his bedroom when he was still a boy, living with his parents. And these lily pads bring to mind the many paintings Monet made of his waterlily pond at Giverny: ‘lily pads and flowers floating on the surface of the water, the overhanging willows and their reflections of clouds passing overhead’.43 He called the waterlily paintings Nymphéas (and not ‘nénuphans’, their common French name), whose name stems from ‘nymphs’, the enchanting girls from Greek mythology who live in the woods, water and mountains. These waterlilies and their overhanging willows, which evoke the Ophelian theme in Pnin, form a beautiful extension of the mermaid motif which imbues so many of Nabokov’s works.44 The first girl who enchanted young Nabokov was a ‘nymphean incarnation’ of Polenka, a peasant girl from a nearby village, whose image kept

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‘haunting’ him; the image of her bathing in a river, before she was forced to leave it because of the ‘water-lily stems’ thrown at her by a playmate (210/1). Victor’s apprenticeship would not have been complete without initiating him into ‘the passage from the dissociate stage to the associative one’, and teaching him to establish new relationships between selected items taken from the real world. Lake’s idea to master ‘this mimetic and integrative process’ is rather original. Victor is asked to study ‘a polished black sedan’ in which one of the ‘heavyish spring skies’ is reflected, as well as the elms and houses in the street where the car is parked, and then to ‘break the body of the car into separate curves and panels’ and ‘put it together in terms of reflections’. A mirror is an excellent medium for taking a fresh look at things: within a delimited frame it gives a selected portion of what the spectator can see in an original, i.e., reversed, way. In Lolita, the manifold reflection of the bed in the hotel room expresses Humbert’s erotic obsession most powerfully: ‘[t]here was a double bed, a mirror, a double bed in the mirror, a closet door with mirror, a bathroom door ditto, a blue-dark window, a reflected bed there, the same in the closet mirror, two chairs, a glass-topped table, two bedtables, a double bed: a big panel bed, to be exact, with a Tuscan rose chenille spread, and two frilled, pink-shaded night lamps, left and right’ (119). One may safely assume that for Humbert each of the six beds just seen are as real as the tangible one in his imaginary dormitory. In Speak, Memory this device is used to propel recollections from his youth: ‘I see again my schoolroom in Vyra, the blue roses of the wallpaper, the open window. Its reflection fills the oval mirror above the leathern couch…. The mirror brims with brightness; a bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling’ (76/7). Nabokov uses a mirror in very much the same way as artists used a Claude Glass in the seventeenth century as it enables the spectator to see the prospect condensed and framed, just like a painting.45 The fact that a mirror reflects what cannot be seen in the three-dimensional world, is used in Pnin where ‘the auroral breeze wrinkled a large luminous puddle, making of the telephone wires reflected in it illegible lines of black zigzags’ (110). The method recommended by Lake to view the world by its reflections on polished metal is not as new as it may seem. In Van Eyck’s Madonna of Canon van der Paele, one can observe the red silhouette of the Madonna reflected in each of the curved ribs of St. George’s helmet, and the full length of the painter can be admired in the lower part of the saint’s shield.46 (See colour illustration 9.) To compose a car by assembling elements of nature as reflected by its components, as was Victor’s task, is a process which Lake called the ‘ naturalisation ‘ of man-made things. Another idea Victor had was to place various objects behind a glass of water and to peer through the glass studiously: a pencil became

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a snake, a black pawn a couple of black ants and a comb a zebra cocktail. This process could be called the ‘animalisation’ of man-made things. It is difficult to overestimate the degree of originality a person’s mind has to possess in order to see in a visually distorted pencil or comb something other than a pencil or comb. Small wonder that Victor’s gifted eye was ‘his supreme organ’; ‘the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way’, says Ruskin, and also that ‘the mass of sentimental literature, concerned with the analysis and description of emotion…is altogether of lower rank than the literature which merely describes what it saw’.47 This leads to another interesting parallel between the sister arts, which is related to their physiognomical qualities. Before Giotto, painters conformed to traditional static patterns, with a regular distribution of rather rigid and expressionless figures. Giotto brought his figures to life, predominately by giving them appropriately eloquent gestures (rather than facial expressions).48 Since that time, artists have tried to improve the physiognomical qualities of their paintings, and Pnin testifies to Nabokov’s deep interest in this subject. Pnin’s landlord, Professor Clements, is a scholar of ‘the philosophical interpretation of pictorial and non-pictorial, national and environmental gestures’, and Pnin is a ‘veritable encyclopaedia of Russian shrugs and shakes,’ who is quite willing to share his knowledge and to show his landlord ‘the essentials of Russian “carpalistics”’: – ‘the one-hand downward loose shake of weary relinquishment’; – ‘the two-hand dramatic splash of amazed distress’; – ‘the “disjunctive” motion – hands travelling apart to signify helpless passivity’; – ‘the international “shaking the finger” gesture’; – ‘the Russian solemn symbol of pointing up, “the Judge in Heaven sees you!”’ – and the ‘German air picture of the stick – “something is coming to you!”’ As Pnin is giving this demonstration with a ‘Gioconda smile on his lips’ (Gioconda being the lady portrayed in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa), it is clear that, while pointing his finger upwards, he is mimicking Leonardo’s St. John, who has the same mysterious smile as the Gioconda (41/2). Later, when realising that he has definitely lost his ex-wife, Pnin repeats the ‘Russian “relinquishing” gesture’ in earnest (59), and when his distress is overcome by desolation, we see him beating ‘the table with his loosely clenched fist’ (61). The purchase of a simple soccer ball is enough reason for Pnin to outline ‘with wrists and palms… a portable world… the same gesture he used in class when speaking of the “harmonical wholeness” of Pushkin’ (99). When not amused, Pnin waves a hand ‘in a Russian disgusted “oh-go-on-with-you” gesture’ (160), while he, after being praised, bows deeply with ‘an “I-am-disarmed”

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spreading of both hands’ (161). When Pnin is informed that he will probably be dismissed he is seen ‘[l]eaning forward, his elbows propped on his knees, clasping and unclasping his hands’ (169), and finally, in resignation ‘clasping his hands and nodding his head’ (170). It is evident that Pnin’s extroversion has contributed greatly towards the novel’s reception: ‘Pnin seems the most amusing,’ of all Nabokov’s novels, writes Boyd.49 Pnin’s complete lack of reserve, combined with his decency and nobility, makes him so endearing. By turning Pnin’s subtle emotions into an outward display of easily recognisable actions, Nabokov has visualised his protagonist as much as possible for someone who only has words to play with. Making feelings visible, however, is a very rare achievement in the visual arts as well. Gombrich praises Rembrandt’s art precisely for this quality and he discusses a drawing in which Rembrandt expresses a man hovering between hope and disbelief. This drawing is a study for The Pilgrims at Emmaus and concerns the disciple sitting on Christ’s left hand. ‘I know few more moving illustrations of a conflicting emotion’, writes Gombrich.50 When Pnin is told that he might be dismissed rather soon, we see the rapid transition from one emotion to another, ‘clasping and unclasping his hands’, betraying an internal dispute. This twilight moment between repudiation and relinquishment is captured by Nabokov as much as by Rembrandt, and it is very likely that this likeness was one of the reasons why Nabokov referred to Rembrandt’s painting.51 The reference to Degas might have been inspired by the same physiognomical quality. In the Carriage at the Races, the members in the group are facing the baby and inclining their heads most intensely towards it. Even the dog seems to be mesmerised by the child. The summing up of life ‘in its essential gestures,’ was Degas’s definition of art.52 It is proof of Nabokov’s highly intricate art that he selected these paintings by Rembrandt and Degas, both of which serve the themes in Pnin in a threefold way: the relationship between photography and the visual arts, the love for and devotion to a child and the superiority of gestures in expressing emotions.

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5 Lolita and Aubrey Beardsley

Lolita, Nabokov’s best-known novel, is one of the most demanding with respect to the reader’s faculty of observation. It is after repeated readings that we are able to fully perceive the real tragedy incorporated in this seemingly blithe novel: the ruination of a young girl’s life. When this tragedy is recognised, Lolita appears to be, in Linda Kauffman’s words, ‘an uncannily accurate representation of fatherdaughter incest’.1 With respect to his stories, Nabokov noted that ‘a second (main) story is woven into, or placed behind, the superficial semitransparent one’ (SL 117). Humbert’s account is so well written that, albeit semitransparent, it is difficult to concentrate on the main story, the wreckage of Dolly’s life. The paintings mentioned in Lolita help to distinguish the veiled story from Humbert’s dominant and spectacular report. Apart from five contemporary painters mentioned rather en passant 2 and three painters mentioned to modulate certain images – ‘Claude Lorrain clouds’, ‘a stern El Greco horizon, pregnant with inky rain’ (152) and ‘three horrible Boschian cripples’(235) – six artists are mentioned who have a special bearing on the two stories told: Beardsley, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Prinet, Reynolds and Whistler. Beardsley’s work is not mentioned explicitly but the lascivious and ominous qualities of his work apply most fittingly to Humbert’s story. The same goes for Prinet’s Kreutzer Sonata ‘the unappetizing one in which a dishevelled violinist passionately embraces his fair accompanist as she rises from her piano stool with clammy young hands still touching the keys’ (LoS 37), a reference to Tolstoy’s story with the same title. In this story, Tolstoy fulminates against the vileness of physical love. To express his disgust, the word ‘swinish’ is frequently used.3 The remaining four paintings, Reynolds’s The Age of Innocence, Botticelli’s Venus, Van Gogh’s L’Arlésienne and Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black form a surprising quartet (198; 270; 36; 184). Together they represent a female’s life compendiously in four stages; a very young girl, a young adult, a middle-aged woman and an elderly lady. Moreover, the four portraits show their subject in a defenceless and fragile position. Reynolds’s young girl has a wary look and is

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barefooted, ill at ease, with a background showing excitement in the air. Botticelli’s Venus (whose pulchritude is dubbed ‘blurred’ by Humbert) with those illustrious melancholy eyes and reserved expression, is protecting herself against indecent looks. Van Gogh’s woman, although of a sturdy disposition, looks pensive with slightly raised eyebrows, and Whistler’s mother is fragile from sheer age. Humbert is as unobservant of these paintings as he is indifferent to Dolly’s life. (See colour illustration 10.)

Joshua Reynolds, The Ages of Innocence, 1788

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Vincent van Gogh, L’Arlésienne, 1890

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black, 1871

Beardsley recurs most frequently in Lolita. The first time this name is referred to is at the beginning of chapter 11, part one, when the names of Dolly’s class is listed, one of them being Aubrey McFate.4 Beardsley reappears as the name of the town where the Beardsley School for Girls is situated, the school which Dolly will attend for some time, as well as the Beardsley College for Women. And finally Beardsley’s full name is revealed by Quilty who registered himself under various masks in the hotels in which Humbert and Dolly stayed, one alias being ‘Aubrey Beardsley, Quelquepart Island’ (251). Aubrey Beardsley lived from 1872 to 1898, and it is very likely that Nabokov had been familiar with Beardsley’s work since his youth in St. Petersburg. In his autobiography Speak, Memory, Nabokov recalls the museums Tamara and he visited; in a section he finishes with the nostalgic reflection ‘“Art World”, Mir Iskusstva – Dobuzhinski, Alexander Benois – so dear to me in those days’ (236). And asked

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about his opinion of artists like Malevich and Kandinsky, Nabokov answers: ‘I prefer the experimental decade that coincided with my boyhood – Somov, Benois… Vrubel and Dobuzhinski’(SO 170).These painters all contributed to Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art), an art magazine whose first issue appeared in 1898. This magazine paralleled the Art Nouveau movement in Europe, especially in England. Alexander Benois was the driving intellectual force behind the development of the artistic avant-garde in Russia and Diaghilev became the editor of its magazine, Mir Iskusstva. Its literary section included some early works by Blok, Bely and Balmont and the painters mentioned by Nabokov provided for the illustrations.5 Works by these painters adorned the walls of the Nabokov’s St. Petersburg house, and Vladimir Nabokov devoured the verses of the Symbolist poets rapturously, especially Blok’s. Nabokov regarded Blok as the greatest poet of his time.6 The composition of Mir Iskusstva, and its aspiration, were very much like those of the magazines published earlier in the final decade of the nineteenth century and edited by Beardsley: The Yellow Book and The Savoy. The paintings and drawings which illustrated these magazines were generously complemented by innovative literature from authors such as George Moore, Henry James, Edmund Gosse and W.B. Yeats. Diaghilev called himself one of Beardsley’s greatest admirers and was acquainted with him.7 The first issue of Mir Iskusstva contained a number of Beardsley’s drawings together with an accompanying article by the critic MacColl, who belonged to the same circles as Beardsley. Given Nabokov’s admiration for the Russian journal, it must be assumed that he had seen reproductions of Beardley’s drawings in his youth. And, upon entering the United States, he must have been reminded of this artist when in 1940 he reviewed Lifar’s biography of Diaghilev for The New Republic, in which references to Beardsley are discussed on several occasions.8 And in 1941 Nabokov reviewed the biography of Charles Conder, an English painter and a friend of Beardsley’s.9 Aubrey Beardsley was, notwithstanding the brevity of his life and his very poor health, a most prolific artist. Although he drew his inspiration from the arts from all ages, ranging from mediaeval woodcuts to contemporary art such as that of Edward Burne-Jones (most of Beardsley’s females have a flowerlike upperlip, typically found in many Pre-Raphaelite paintings), he was an artist of great originality. His drawings are often framed by ample, tressy and meandering ornaments, and Beardsley’s style has had an influence on all kinds of decorative arts which has lasted for many decades. But the most characteristic trait of his work to his contemporaries was Beardsley’s prurience, which penetrated many of his drawings. Some of his work is corrupted by nefarious grotesquenesses and anatomic enormities. Part of his oeuvre illustrates editions of literary works by Aristophanes, Blake, Malory, Swinburne, Poe and Wilde, all authors referred to in Lolita as well.10

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Beardsley, together with Whistler, was regarded as the most important exponent of the fin-de-siècle decadence in England, whose gospel was ‘art for art’s sake’.11 The decadents, surfeited with conventional forms of art, yearned for artistic innovation and unexplored sensations, especially through sensuous and erotic eccentricities. Being a strong believer in literary evolution, Nabokov must have been attracted by the urge the decadents felt for refurbishing the modes of art. And the same can be said of the decadents’ interest in sexuality, concupiscence being Lolita’s main subject. ‘Were we to take him [Nabokov] seriously,’ writes John Bayley, ‘or earnestly rather, we should have to conclude him to be some sort of decadent, both in his own writing and in his literary tastes. By decadent I mean an artist who, while not necessarily corrupt or cruel, sensational or over-ingenious, is liable to make such an impression, in his evident wish to secure certain sorts of novel or striking effects’.12 Indeed, it cannot be denied that some novels gave some readers at some time (notably on the occasion of the first reading) the impression of callousness, Laughter in the Dark being the most obvious example. In fact, Nabokov’s affinity for decadent art does not go very far, no farther than the artistic component of it. ‘Although I do not care for the slogan “art for art’s sake” – because unfortunately such promotors of it as, for instance, Oscar Wilde and various dainty poets, were in reality rank moralists and didacticists – there can be no question that what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art’ says Nabokov, (SO 33). And he detested the actual life these artists led, like Oscar Wilde ‘flaunting a flamboyant perversion’ and Diaghilev whose ‘morals were frankly abnormal’ (SO 119; ‘RSD’699). Moreover, Nabokov would never have endorsed Wilde’s statement that ‘aesthetics are higher than ethics’.13 In his afterword to Lolita, ‘On a Book Entitled Lolita’, Nabokov gave four characteristics to specify what he understood by art: ‘curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy’. Two of these represent ethical values which were in Nabokov’s view indissolubly connected with aesthetical merits.14 And detecting the ethical dimension behind the ‘superficial semitransparent’ story might be the highest aesthetical reward a reader might receive, however brilliant that story otherwise might be. Like Humbert who hid his wrongdoings under the splendour of his eloquence, Beardsley had a morbid sexual obsession which is easily overlooked because of the striking perfection of his drawings. One of his most accomplished drawings, the cover for the illustrated edition of Ben Jonson’s Volpone,15 recreates this character, ‘a splendid sinner [who] compels our admiration by the fineness and very excess of his wickedness.’16 It is hard to find a better description of Humbert. Beardsley shows lasciviousness as Humbert would have liked us to see it: camouflaged by the exuberance of decadent art. But Beardsley’s art causes a feeling of discomfort that Lolita lacks. Take for example ‘The Coiffing’, in which

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Aubrey Beardsley, The Coiffing, 1896

the face of the barber draws our attention. It is an illustration by Beardsley to his ‘Ballad of the Barber’. This ballad tells us about a barber so ravished by the beauty of a girl of thirteen that he destroys her.17 Beardsley’s insalubrious work could have warned us. Beardsley’s art can represent Humbert’s eloquence but not Nabokov’s art. Because the more we reread Lolita the more our attention is drawn away from Humbert and towards the ‘little girl’s heartrending fate’ (SO 25).18

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6 Pale Fire Zemblematically

I In a much-quoted observation, Francis Bacon notices that ‘there is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion’.1 In the essay from which this citation is taken, Bacon discusses the way in which painters should compose portraits: ‘by a kind of felicity’, and not ‘by rule’. Proficiency does not make an artist. A successful work of art is marked by striking qualities, striking because of the originality and imagination the artist has employed in selecting its subject and rendering it with artistry, thus presenting the viewer or reader with knowledge, with ‘things unknown’, which would have gone unnoticed without the artist’s creation.2 Originality, imagination and artistry make the distinction between a mere representation and a true work of art, and it is the difference between these two which piques the spectator’s curiosity. Of the characteristics of ‘states of being where art… is the norm’, ‘curiosity’ is the first one which is mentioned by Nabokov (LO 315). ‘[W]hy imitation pleases, is,’ writes Hazlitt, ‘because, by exciting curiosity, and inviting a comparison between the object and the representation, it opens a new field of inquiry, and leads the attention to a variety of details and distinctions not perceived before.’3 One device to arouse curiosity can be achieved by using an unusual point of view. ‘To a person lying with his face close to the ground on a summer’s day, the blades of spear-grass will appear like tall forest trees’, writes Hazlitt.4 He might have been thinking of The Great Piece of Turf (1503) by Albrecht Dürer in which such towering blades and petioles are depicted, or of Marvell’s ‘unfathomable grass’ with its ‘green spires’, which show that an original perspective might serve painter and poet alike.5 In Bend Sinister, Nabokov chooses an opposite position: ‘[p]hotographed from above, they would have come out in Chinese perspective, doll-like, a little limp but possibly with a hard wooden core under their plausible clothes… and the secret spectator… surely would be amused by the shape of human heads seen from above (BS 147)’. Shifts of perspective can also be observed in Laughter in the Dark, which frequently

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amount, as Leona Toker writes, ‘to turning aesthetic distance into physical distance’.6 Selecting an exceptional angle to gaze at grass and people implies a degree of deception because stalks are not as high as trees and human beings do not look like puppets. This disproportion is an indispensable element in works of art. Leonardo, for example, observes that ‘those who want to produce a deceptively real imitation of nature must not copy nature, but deceive the observer’.7 In order to heighten the consciousness of their public, artists have to fluster it, to remove the familiarity with which the world is viewed, or even to replace the familiar world with another. ‘The true measure of genius is in what measure the world he has created is his own’, says Nabokov (LRL 106). Art requires a degree of deviation from everyday reality, which amounts to a sort of deception. ‘All art is deception,’ Nabokov says (LL 146). For the composition of his chess problems which, he says, possess ‘the same virtues that characterize all worthwhile art’ (PP 15), this holds as well: ‘[d]eceit, to the point of diabolism, and originality, verging upon the grotesque, were my notions of strategy’ (SM 289). Not only in chess but also in nature, in the ‘mysteries of mimicry’, Nabokov notices the same dissimulation as in art: ‘[b]oth were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception’ (SM 124/5). The pictorial arts have their own particular genre of mimicry: the trompe l’oeil painting. A trompe l’oeil painting differs from a realistic picture because it gives the spectator the impression that the objects he sees are real, not painted.8 The artistry required for executing trompe l’oeil paintings is of an exceptionally high level, and this is one of the reasons why Nabokov admires these works of art: ‘a good trompe l’oeil painting proves at least that the painter is not cheating’ (SO 167). Such an artist is Zembla’s court painter, Eystein, ‘a prodigious master of the trompe l’oeil’, whose mastery is shown in ‘the fallen petal or the polished panel that he rendered with such love and skill’ (PF 130). In some of his paintings, as Nabokov relates in Pale Fire, Eystein had ‘resorted to a weird form of trickery: among his decorations of wood or wool, gold or velvet, he would insert one which was really made of the material elsewhere imitated by paint’ (130). One of Eystein’s paintings is described in detail, a portrait of Count Kernel, a former Keeper of the Treasure. As in the course of the novel two Soviet experts are searching for Zembla’s crown jewels, this portrait catches their attention, as the Count was portrayed ‘with fingers resting lightly on an embossed and emblazoned box whose side facing the spectator consisted of an inset oblong made of real bronze, while upon the shaded top of the box, drawn in perspective, the artist had pictured a plate with the beautifully executed, twin-lobed, brainlike, halved kernel of a walnut’. Although the ‘Soviet professionals could be excused for assuming they would find a real receptacle behind the real metal… it contained nothing, however, except the broken bits of a nutshell’ (131).

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In Laughter in the Dark Nabokov calls this kind of threefold cunning a ‘Hegelian syllogism of humour’ (143). Transferred to Eystein’s painting, the following phases can be distinguished: thesis: the bronze oblong which might hide a repository containing the jewels is only a painted oblong; antithesis: the metal is not painted but is real and conceals a receptacle; synthesis: the repository doesn’t contain the jewels. These multiple layers under which the final answer is hidden is symptomatic for Pale Fire, which has been called by Mary McCarthy ‘an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game’.9 Its contents comprise references to the paintings of Hogarth, Leonardo, Picasso and Teniers. Fictitious painters are presented as well: Aunt Maud, Eystein, Fra Pandolf and Lang.10 Pale Fire covers many themes, important ones being the probing of the permeability of the screen between this world and the otherworld. These themes are woven into a superb story about the last of Zembla’s kings, who, imprisoned after a revolution, escaped and fled to the USA. He is persecuted by Gradus, a vengeful revolutionary. The exiled king, assuming the name of Kinbote, settles in New Wye, and becomes the neighbour of John Shade, whose poetry he admires immensely. Shade is, at that time, composing a poem about his life, his marriage, his deceased daughter, Hazel, and about the ‘consciousness beyond the tomb’ (39). By mistake Shade, and not Kinbote, is shot by Gradus. Kinbote edits Shade’s poem, adding an abundance of adscititious comments, which constitute the main body of the novel. The search for Zembla’s crown jewels is a minor theme and, as is so often the case in Nabokov’s fiction, this quest is a metaphorical one. The jewels denote, as Brian Boyd says, ‘the intangible richness of consciousness’.11 These riches, the fruits of spry observation and lusty imagination, have their origin in the human brain. The Soviets who disregard the painted ‘brainlike’ kernel, will never be able to find the jewels, and they deserve to stumble upon the empty nutshell. The reference to William Hogarth concerns the appearance of Shade, who reminds the narrator ‘of a fleshy Hogarthian tippler of indeterminate sex’. Selecting the obscurity of sexes as a feature of Hogarth’s paintings is a typical example of Nabokov’s eclectic skill; many of Hogarth’s elderly figures have this gender, as do youngsters, like the epicene players in Marriage à la Mode, IV: ‘the Countess’s Levée’. (See colour illustration 11.) Hogarth was a contemporary of Alexander Pope’s, Shade’s favourite poet. Hogarth and Pope both satirised the moral decay of their times, which was regarded as having the same root as the decay in art, of which Grub Street became the proverbial symptom. Pope’s ethical poems were published (by

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Warburton) as Moral Essays, and have objectives comparable to those of Hogarth’s moralising pictorial series like A Harlot’s Progress, The Rake’s Progress and Marriage à la Mode. The ‘Modern Moral Subjects’ or ‘Novels in Paint’, as these strip cartoons avant la lettre were called, show incidents which can also be found in Pope’s poetry.12 The postulated bawd, Mother Needham, for example appears in A Harlot’s Progress, I and in The Dunciad (I, 324) (and might also be the reincarnated Shakespearean ronyon, the ‘slapdash disheveled hag who ladles out the mash’ in Pale Fire [267].)13 Apart from adding some chequered threads to the texture of Pale Fire, the reference to Hogarth also serves its main theme, that of timelessness. According to his wife Véra, ‘a strange otherworldliness, the “hereafter”,’ permeates all that Nabokov has written.14 Especially in his pre-American poetry, this dimension is assayed intensively, culminating in a ‘kind of resurrection of the dead or survival of life after death’ as a recurring theme.15 In this respect, Hogarth’s famous Self-Portrait (1745) is of importance. This portrait is adorned with an empty palette above which lingers a line. Written on the palette is the text ‘The Line of Beauty and of Grace’.

William Hogarth, The Harlot’s Progress, I, 1731

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William Hogarth, The Painter and his Pug, (self-portrait), 1745

In was only eight years later that Hogarth, in his Analysis of Beauty (1753), explained the meaning of this puzzling line, the key being that a ‘serpentine curve’ is at the basis of all beautiful forms.16 In his self-portrait, this curved line has the shape of a mirrored S. However, it is the curvature which matters, not the angle from which it is looked upon; in the engraving, The Analysis of Beauty, I (1753), the

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miniature number 50 (enclosed in the engraving’s frame) shows a number of Sshaped curves.17 As early as 1745 it was known that Hogarth attached much significance to ‘the inimitable curve of beauty of the S undulating motion line.’18 This S-shape is of importance to Nabokov’s art as well, especially in connection with his metaphysics. In Pale Fire, Shade’s preoccupation with the question of what ‘awaited consciousness beyond the tomb’ (39) was so dominant that he decided ‘to explore and fight’ this mystery (39). He learned how to behave when … you’re made a ghost: Sidle and slide, choose a smooth surd, and coast, Meet solid bodies and glissade right through (53/4)

The second line cited here is quite remarkable in that every verb and noun contains an S, which makes this letter the most likely candidate for the ‘smooth surd’. In Invitations to a Beheading the same image can be found; ‘it was as if one side of his being slid into another dimension’ (IB 121). And in the story ‘Ultima Thule’, the painter and draughtsman Sineusov is also involved in solving this eternal riddle. D. Barton Johnson calls attention to this name as it evokes the Latin ‘sinus’, meaning ‘curve’.19 A trigonometric sinusoidal curve is a perfect representation of the letter S. As has been mentioned, the hereafter is a theme very often addressed in Nabokov’s poetry. Johnson has investigated the frequency of the words employed in his poetry, especially those related to the barrier between the two worlds. In respect to this latter theme, he concludes that: ‘two roots are of remarkably high frequency in the poetry: -skvoz- ‘through,’ and -skol’z- ‘slip’. With 57 and 27 occurrences respectively, they may be associated with transition through the barriers between worlds.’20 Note that both words, like -smert’- ‘death’, start with the letter S. Nabokov had no interest in the mobs and the populous gatherings Hogarth so often painted. And Hogarth did not reveal any interest in his paintings beyond the concrete setting of his pictures. He ‘only transcribes or transposes what was tangible and visible, not the abstracted and intelligible’, says Hazlitt.21 Their beliefs differed widely. In Hogarth’s very last picture The Bathos, the finality of everything, the arts included, is made most painfully clear.22 Even Father Time is expiring. Two miniatures illustrate the description; the right-hand one shows a line encircling a cone. What is visible is the S-shaped ‘line of beauty,’ which ceases where the cone ends. In Nabokov’s thinking the contrary happens: ‘[t]wirl follows twirl’ and every new arc in the spiral is ‘still ampler’ than the previous one, suggesting an eternal movement (SM 275). Apart from these fundamental differences, they share a scholarly interest in their respective arts, which they command so consummately.23

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The pictorial arts provide another illustration of Shade’s attempts to bridge ‘the inadmissible abyss’ (39). In Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode I, an interior is shown with many paintings, one a portrait of a gorgon. The best-known gorgon is Medusa, of whom Kinbote is reminded when he looks at a picture of his landlord, ‘a Medusa-locked hag’ (83). He replaces this picture ‘by the reproduction of a beloved early Picasso: earth boy leading raincloud horse.’ This oil, Boy Leading a Horse, shows a boy with a horse and a vague background in which the livid shades in the top left-hand corner may suggest clouds.

Pablo Picasso, Boy Leading a Horse, 1905

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The removal of the Medusa-like head might be interpreted as a sort of decapitation. In Greek mythology Medusa was beheaded by Perseus, thus giving birth to Pegasus, who sprang from her body. Pegasus, the winged horse, was beloved by the muses for whom he created the Hippocrene well by stamping his moon-shaped hoof. Still unbridled, it was tamed by Bellerophon, a mortal, which might explain the adjective ‘earth’ Nabokov uses.24 That Picasso’s horse is a wingless Pegasus is very likely as it is an exact replica of the Pegasus painted by Andrea Mantegna in his Parnassus (1497); both horses are depicted as approaching head on, their heads turned towards their companion and with their left forelegs gracefully upturned, their hooves elegantly finishing the rounding thus made. In Mantegna’s painting the cascading waterfall, which has its source high in the mountains, can be seen behind Pegasus. It is this spring which justifies the reference to the painting by Picasso. In probing the hereafter, Shade’s interest concentrates inter alia on the exact transition from this life to the next. During a near-death experience he has the vision of a ‘white fountain,’ and then he reads that a lady has seen this very same vision. Perplexed by the coincidence he visits her, only to learn that the report was not accurate. What she saw was not a white fountain, but a white mountain. After having swallowed his disappointment, he realises the bounty the combination of the two visions yields. The spring on the mountain alludes to the Hippocrene, the source of inspiration for poets, proving that it is his art which enables him best to investigate ‘the foul, the inadmissible abyss’. (The specification of Medusa’s tresses by Nabokov suggests another link between the arts and immortality. Medusa had serpents for locks, which recalls Hogarth’s serpentine curve, the basis of all beautiful forms.)25 Another Picasso painting is mentioned in Pale Fire as well: a still life, Chandelier, pot et casserole émaillée, adorning the wall of the King’s Zemblan pied-à-terre, above ‘a shelfful of calf-bound poets, and a virginal-looking daybed’ (76), thus combining the three arts, painting, literature and music, as part of his ménage.26 The oil represents its three objects highly stylised by the strong, bleaching light, so strong that the taper’s flame casts a shadow and that the jug reflects a figure eight while the mouth is reshaped in a triangle, thus adding two more instances to the numerous eights and threes in his novel. Nabokov, who had a copy of this painting on his writing desk in Montreux, when asked what aspects of Picasso he admired, said: ‘the graphic aspect, the masterly technique, and the quiet colors’.27 Leonardo is referred to, when a young university instructor is excusing himself while ‘spreading out his palms like a disciple in Leonardo’s Last Supper’ (268). This apostle is Saint Andrew, patron saint of Russia and Scotland, thus embracing

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Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Candlestick, 1945

the two cultures, Russian and Anglo-Saxon, whose interconnections are so crucial to Pale Fire.28 The juxtaposition of the two cultures might explain the reference to Teniers as well. In the room in which the king was confined two engravings hang on the east-side wall, one a ‘shabby and lugubrious Fête Flamande after Teniers’, the other showing the ‘blurry shapes of melancholy sheep’ (122). David Teniers the Younger painted several pictures with a Fête Champêtre or a Vlaamse Kermis, two of them showing an identical nobleman – the same pose, the same clothes – visiting different fairs, prefiguring the different positions of the king in Zembla and America.29 This nobleman reappears in Landscape with Noble Family and Fortress, enjoying a walk near his castle, a many-towered bulwark built on a pointy hill. The romantic setting is not unlike that of Pale Fire’s Onhava Palace with its many gates, linden copses, bastions and pleasure grounds, situated in a mountainous area as Mt. Falk is within view.30 Many of the peasant fairs Teniers painted show

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an inn with a flag put out. These flags invariably display St. George, who was often the patron saint of the guilds of archers which prevailed in Western Europe for many centuries. In honour of their patron saint, the guilds celebrated his feast day with a fair. In Bruegel’s Kermis at Hoboken, which is compositionally related to his St. George Kermis, the archers can be seen in the foreground.31 One of the earliest fairs by Teniers, Sint Joriskermis (St. George Fair) has been regarded as a pendant of The Liberation of St. Peter by an Angel. 32

David Teniers the Younger, Village Fair, 1649

Both companion pieces are relevant. St. George’s feast day is April 23, which is Nabokov’s birthday. In many of his books, Nabokov’s presence can be noticed in many different disguises and St. George as his representative is discerned as well in Pnin and ‘Spring in Fialta’.33 The Liberation of St. Peter by an Angel shows the interior of an ancient building, four soldiers gambling around a table, their halberds resting against the wall. In the background, beyond a hall, the prisoner can be seen. This spectacle is very similar to the events which precede King Charles’s escape in Pale Fire. Here we have four guards as well, visible by the prisoner, playing ‘lansquenet’.34 The word ‘lansquenet’ is derived from the German Landsknecht, coined in the sixteenth century; soldiers typically armed with long pikes or lances. ‘Lansquenet’ is also a card game in which players bet

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on single cards. Having alluded to Teniers, Nabokov evokes The Liberation of St. Peter by an Angel by one single, archaic word: ‘lansquenet’, its soldiers armed with lances, their gambling by cards and the ancient setting.35 Along with lending King Charles’s story a pictorial vividness, the reference to Teniers’ lifelike art – his Fête and through St. Peter to his Liberation as well – gives the romantic tale of the king’s fantastic escape a realistic tinge. In Pale Fire, Nabokov uses two expressions which are steeped in pictorial traditions, ‘Father Time’, and ‘Even in Arcady am I’. In his poem, Canto Two, Shade tells the distressing story of his unprepossessing daughter Hazel, who, spurned by boys, brings her loneliness to an end by committing suicide. As a child she played the part of ‘Mother Time/a bent charwomen with slop pail and broom’ (44) in a school pantomime and, when she committed suicide, ‘a watchman, Father Time’, (50) arrived too late to save her life. The personification of time as Father Time is as old as ancient art. Panofsky explains how, although the image of Father Time was initially associated with death, the idea of cosmic continuity advanced to replace the older image. Time was seen as representing the continuous cycle of procreation and destruction.36 Especially in the works of Bronzino and Poussin, Panofsky demonstrates, both forces are reconciled; the destructive powers of Time are unified in its creativeness. The presence of Father Time so close to the spot where Hazel took her life must be explained by the recreative powers of this allegorical symbol, as Father Time in his conventional role as harbinger of death ‘came too late’ (50). The connotation that Hazel is absorbed in the eternal cycle of death and new life is endorsed by Boyd’s new reading of Pale Fire in which it is argued that Hazel’s spirit returns ‘somehow transformed’ at the end of the novel.37 The other phrase ‘Even in Arcady am I’ is referred to twice. Reflecting on Gradus’s journey to Appalachia, Kinbote notes ‘Even in Arcady am I, says Death on the tombal scripture’ (174), and, musing on madmen, he improvises with ‘“Even in Arcady am I”, says Dementia, chained to her gray column’ (237). Nabokov discussed the adage with Edmund Wilson whom he informed that his understanding of it comes from the ‘excellent essay’ on this subject by Panofsky.38 Panofsky in his essay explicates how the interpretation of the phrase changed gradually; initially the ‘I’ denoted Death, then ‘a human being that once enjoyed the pleasures’ now bestowed on others, who, in Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego, became ‘immersed in mellow meditation on a beautiful past’.39 ‘[W]hat has been a menace has become a remembrance’.40 Finally, in Fragonard’s Tomb, the original meaning ‘Even in Arcady, there is death’, has turned into ‘Even in death, there may be Arcady’,41 turning the menace into a promise. Consequently, a kind of rebirth is suggested by the maxim, similar to the reference of the image of

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Father Time. Exploring the chances of human life beyond death, Nabokov not only employs his own powerful imagination but also ideas developed over the centuries as well.

II Along with Leonardo, Botticelli is mentioned rather frequently in Nabokov’s novels. His name is recalled in his sixth novel, Laughter in the Dark, and in his last one, Look at the Harlequins!, and also in some novels published in between, namely in Bend Sinister and Lolita. Although the artists are contemporaries, their paintings show a striking contrast. The abundant use of chiaroscuro by Leonardo, most manifestly in his Saint John the Baptist where the subject’s body seems to dissolve into the dark background, is totally absent from Botticelli’s best-known works. These are characterised by a linear grace that gives the personages pure and pellucid outlines. Leonardo’s St. John has qualities highly concordant with those of Nabokov’s art; his body is as difficult to ascertain as the characters in Nabokov’s novels. The pleasing and mysterious smile of St. John has the same deceivingly amusing tone as Nabokov’s prose and his index finger, pointing to somewhere outside the picture, resembles Nabokov’s many allusions which hint at a world beyond the visible one. In Pnin, the expression and gesture of Leonardo’s St. John is imitated, when, with ‘a Gioconda smile on his lips’ and his finger ‘pointing up,’ Pnin suggests that ‘the Judge in Heaven sees you’ (Pnin 41/2). In contrast to the profundity of Leonardo’s portraits is the plainness and transparency of Botticelli’s forms, which, in combination with their diaphaneity, makes many of his pictures so popular. In addition, Leonardo’s portraits are the result of incessant anatomical research and his landscapes are based on numerous studies, while Botticelli’s creations suffer from physical and botanical flaws. Leonardo and Botticelli represent two different traditions of Florentine art: Leonardo followed the adherents of scientific naturalism, Botticelli those of linear grace and fancy. Given Nabokov’s high standards of empirical accuracy and his affinity with Leonardo’s artistic values, it is clear that his appreciation of Botticelli’s art must be explained by different qualities. Twice, in Lolita and Look at the Harlequins!, Nabokov compares his heroines with the melancholy beauty of Botticelli’s female creatures. Lolita looks ‘like Botticelli’s russet Venus – the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty’ (LO 270), and Annette resembles ‘the flower-decked blonde with the straight nose and serious gray eyes, in Botticelli’s Primavera’ (LatH 107). (Humbert, who presented himself as a sort of scholar as he wrote some ‘tortuous essays’ and a paper entitled ‘The Proustian theme in a letter from

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Keats to Benjamin Bailey’, might have added that he was not the first author who compared the object of his love to a Botticellian beauty (LO 16). In Swann’s Way, Odette is compared to Zipporah, who, in Botticelli’s fresco Youth of Moses, is the girl standing to the left of the middle of the mural. Proust, with uncommon precision, compares Odette to Zipporah while she is standing next to Swann, looking at an engraving with her head inclined.42 In Look at the Harlequins! the narrator writes that ‘[t]he mad scholar in Esmeralda and Her Parandus wreathes Botticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers’ (LatH 162), a reference to the rigmarole on Hamlet in Bend Sinister. Primavera is one of Botticelli’s secular paintings, each of which are treasures of iconological details, which have induced numerous studies and interpretations. For this reason it has been concluded that Botticelli’s art ‘allegedly hides more than it reveals’.43 Apart from the splendour of Botticelli’s art, the richness of such polysemous details might have been another reason for Nabokov’s interest in this painter. Although using different modes, the three artists share a certain degree of secrecy. Great artists are gifted with hidden powers and these three virtuosi have in common that they have transferred these powers to their creations. Venus rose from the sea, and an ancient statue represented her as a mermaid.44 This distinction connects her with the many mermaids which surface in Nabokov’s novels. In Lolita Dolly is given Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for her thirteenth birthday. In the same chapter (II, 3) she is lauded for her ‘garland’ (a bi-iliac one, the Housmanian briefness of which is praised because Humbert loathes girls with a ‘low-slung pelvis’.). Immediately after receiving this present, the reader gets a glimpse of Dolly’s calculating mind (‘Lo’s glance skipping from the window to the wrist watch and back again’) which, after some less successful attempts, finally allows her to escape. In Pnin, Russian myths related to old pagan games are discussed. According to these myths, ‘peasant maidens would make wreaths of buttercups and frog orchises; then, singing snatches of ancient love chants, they hung these garlands on riverside willows’ (Pnin 77). This passage, of course, brings Pnin to Ophelia’s death, although, at first, he could not catch the association by its ‘mermaid tail’. As Johnson has explained, Pnin’s sweetheart, Mira Belochkin, who was killed in a German concentration camp during the war, is firmly linked to the mermaid theme.45 Bend Sinister opens with the death of Adam Krug’s adored wife Olga. During the first meeting with his friend Ember after her death, we witness how compassionately Ember shares Krug’s distress. To make things ‘less emotional’, Krug holds forth on Hamlet, which takes up a substantial part of the novel’s seventh chapter, and starts with the evocation of a ‘mermaid’ through the ‘fish scales’ of the shingle tiles of Elsinore while ‘burdock and thistle’ invade its garden (BS 111/2). Speak, Memory includes two mermaids,

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one from the fairy tale young Nabokov had just been reading about with his governess, the lovely Miss Norcott, who, for some reason, was asked to depart at once, leaving her pupil inconsolable (SM 87). The other is the incomparable Tamara, Nabokov’s first love, who, during the last summer of their romance, ‘like all little Russian mermaids’, weaves ‘crowns of flowers’ (SM 240). In Pale Fire, Fleur is reflected in a ‘fantastic mirror’, thus turning into ‘garlands of girls’ which finally recede into ‘the wistful mermaid from an old tale’ (PF 111/2). Fleur is rejected by Prince Charles, who compares Hazel Shade’s suicide following her rejection to that of Ophelia’s decease (PF 220). And it is during Ada’s impromptu lecture on the various names of marsh marigolds that Ophelia is mentioned (Ada 63). Nabokov’s fascination with the theme of Ophelia’s flowers, as noted by Boyd, is resumed once again during the high tea in the garden in Ada (chapter I,14).46 Ada’s sibling, Lucette, who committed suicide after being repudiated by Ada’s lover, Van, is twice compared to Ophelia, as well as with a mermaid.47 Lucette’s supposed last thought is the recollection of the garland Ada once made of daisies, one of the flowers Ophelia used for her wreaths (Ada 494, 89). In these frequent references to water nymphs, two persevering combinations can be observed. In all cases the loss, death or departure of a dearly beloved girl

Édouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863

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is involved. And, secondly, crowns or wreaths of flowers and garlands are mentioned, closely interwoven with the naiads. The interrelations between mermaid, garland and beloved girl are in some cases more obscure than the ones just mentioned. In Ada, for example, just before Lucette commits suicide, an unexpected association is given: ‘Dimanche. Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ (493).

Marcantonio Raimondi, The Judgement of Paris, ca. 1515

This might refer to Herb, Lucette’s favourite painter, or to the Sunday of chapter II, 8, the last occasion on which, at breakfast time, Ada, Van and Lucette were assembled (478). As Johnson has noticed, it also evokes Ophelia’s rue, or, as she calls it ‘herb of grace o’ Sundays’, which name has been explained as a symbol for ‘sorrowful remembrance’.48 In addition, Déjeuner sur l’herbe is the title of Manet’s famous painting of a pastoral waterside picnic. It is generally known that the picture was inspired by a lost painting by Raphael, which has survived thanks to an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondo, The Judgement of Paris. The poses of Manet’s three foreground figures are identical to Raphael’s, whose woman is a water nymph.49 The return from Manet to Raphael not only reveals the girl’s origins, but also provides her with the garland which Manet omitted,

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as well. As the story of Paris’s judgement has been regarded as the subject of the Primavera, this short pictorial jaunt brings us back to Botticelli. In Look at the Harlequins! Nabokov says that in Bend Sinister, ‘the mad scholar… eathes Botticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers (LatH 162). The passage in Bend Sinister, however, does not bear out this programmatic reference. There is just one observation related to Ophelia to stress the tenderness of her skin: ‘the uncommon cold of a Botticellian angel tinged her nostrils with pink and suffused her upperlip’ (BS 114). (See colour illustration 12.) And of ‘all her flowers’ – her farewell gifts from Hamlet IV. 5: rosemary; pansies; fennel; columbines; rue; daisies and violets, as well as the flowers for her garlands: crow-flowers; nettles; daisies and long purples (Hamlet IV. 7. 169) – only the last one, Orchis mascula, is mentioned (apart from the weeping willow – Salix babylonica). Burdock and thistle, although mentioned in Bend Sinister, are not among them (King Lear’s garland, however, contains burdocks, the ‘hardocks’ of IV. 4. 4). The relationship between Botticelli’s heroine and Ophelia is obviously quite important as Venus and Shakespeare’s mermaid have the same origin, ‘the ancient pagan Sea-goddess Marian’.50 By drawing attention to the flowers associated with them, Nabokov adds an interesting aspect to this relationship. In Look at the Harlequins!, because of her ‘Botticellian face’, Annette Blagovo is compared to ‘the flower-decked blonde … in Botticelli’s Primavera’, the central figure of which is Venus. This fair lady is the nymph Flora, and on the occasion of the Festival of Flora, Vadim arranges for the room where he is to meet Annette to be decorated with all kind of flowers: ‘carnations, camomiles, anemones, asphodels, and blue cockles in blond corn’ (LatH 112). (See colour illustration 13.) As the Primavera contains an infinite number of flowers – in the meadow alone there are 190 flowers, the greater part of which are identifiable – it is impossible to select those flowers whose double occurrence is the result of a deliberate choice.51 The ‘blue cockles in blond corn’ seems to defy this rule. The cockle, or corncockle, is a small scarlet flower, but the description seems to suggest the blue cornflower, the only flower which emblazons the white robe of the nymph who in Botticelli’s picture holds out a cloak to clothe Venus after her birth. It is also the flower which dominantly adorns Flora’s hairdress in the Primavera. The cockle, at least its shell, dignifies the hat in Ophelia’s song (IV. 5. 25), a token that the wearer has gone on a pilgrimage to St. James’s shrine), and is used by Venus as she sails on it to the shore in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. In the discourse on Hamlet in Bend Sinister, a reference is made to ‘Winnipeg Lake, ripple 585’ which is a pun on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (BS 114). In this

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novel’s pamphlet on ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’, we read ‘and after that she wove a garland for her hair. She pleated it. Of meadowgrass and riverflags, the bulrush and waterweed, and of fallen grief ’s of weeping willow’.52 Flowers and garlands seem indispensable requisites for Nabokov’s heroines who drown. In Nabokov’s oeuvre ‘[t]he drowned woman figure’, writes Johnson, ‘is one expression of the theme of the hereafter. None of the women simply dies; all continue to exist and act upon the living’.53 A mermaid is the perfect image to evoke the idea of a lovely creature disappearing into the water and emerging from it, while flowers are the perfect entourage and escort. Girls are honoured with flowers, which match their beauty. And flowers offer solace at moments of immense distress. Flowers wreathed into garlands are part of ancient spring rites to celebrate the rebirth of plants and trees. The circular shape of floral coronets illustrate this seasonal cycle as do the globular flower heads of the burdock and thistle. By coupling flowers with mermaids, Nabokov has given the idea of life after death a rich expression well embedded in the culture of the Western world. Although Johnson (as well as Grayson and Meyer) has explored this theme exhaustively, there is perhaps one reason to revisit it (apart from adding some flowers to his cornucopia).54 In his book on Pale Fire Boyd shows how Hazel, after her suicide, returns to interfere in her parents’s life. She emerges from the lake as a wood duck, turns into a Toothwort White and finally into a Vanessa atalanta. ‘Here in Pale Fire,’ writes Boyd, ‘by means of an exact description of the atalanta’s color and character, Nabokov manages to give the butterfly a powerful charge of resonant implication that we can make full sense of once we join it with the myth of Psyche, the art of Browning, Andersen’s fairy tale, Shade’s own contrapuntal art in the butterfly-and-shade pattern in his poem…’.55 Most readers of Pale Fire will endorse Shade’s conviction that his ‘darling somewhere is alive’ (69), but the very desolate way in which Hazel starts her metempsychosis, may puzzle the reader. The night she disappeared is cold, dark and wet and the scenery deplorable and desolate except for some ‘ghostly trees’ hardly visible in the inhospitable fog (49). The contrast with Ophelia’s death couldn’t have been greater: chanting and clothed in rich garments she floated mermaid-like on a glassy stream among white and purple flowers, sheltered by the overhanging foliage of willows. For Hazel there is only a ‘reedy bank’ (50 and 51). Now, to be sure, reed is not without its merits. Reed has purple flowers. Syrinx is turned into a reed to escape from Pan (who is dismissed as outlived in ‘Pale Fire’ [44] ). Reeds have the power to make sounds (cf. the ‘vocal reed’ in Milton’s Lycidas) which may be echoed in the many ghostly voices in Pale Fire. In Apuleius’s Golden Ass, the whispering reed helps Psyche to execute the tasks that Venus has given her. The recreative

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powers of the reed can be found in ‘Pale Fire’ as well: ‘the reed becomes a bird’ (59). In Lermontov’s ‘The Reed’, a murdered maiden grows into a living reed. And Botticelli’s Birth of Venus shows some bulrushes. But all these perspectives cannot make us forget the colourful flowers which, braided into garlands, would help us to recognise the series of transfigurations Hazel undergoes. Four garlands are presented in Pale Fire, but none is floral: undone garlands of shadows, mirrored garlands of girls (in fact garlands of Fleurs, a nominal guirlande of Flowers), the Housmanian garland and another garland of shade.56 The floral attributes of Ophelia seem so quintessential to the idea of rebirth that the weeping willow is equated with the word ‘if ’ (222), which in Canto Three of ‘Pale Fire’ is the pars pro toto for the possible existence of an afterlife. Although Shade abandoned his hope that some ‘white-scarfed beau’ would come and offer a bouquet of ‘jasmine’ (45) to his daughter, it appears that in an altogether different way she finally can claim such an homage. Hope is the password in Pale Fire. Hazel ‘always nursed a small mad hope’ (46). Shade is convinced that in his quest for the solution of the riddle of the universe, he could grope his way to some ‘[f ]aint hope’ (63). And Kinbote hoped most fervently that Shade was ‘composing a poem, a kind of romaunt, about the King of Zembla’ (296). At the crucial moment when Shade dies and Kinbote gets hold of the poem, the moment when they will realise whether their hopes are justified, a line is quoted from Matthew Arnold’s ‘The Scholar Gypsy’: ‘still clutching the inviolable shade’ (294). This is the second line of the 22nd stanza which starts with: ‘still nursing the unconquerable hope’. ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ is inspired by a seventeenth-century story about a student from Oxford who joined a company of vagabond gypsies in the hope of learning their secret. He hopes to acquire their whole truth. Like Shade, who devotes all his ‘twisted life to this /one task’ (i.e., ‘the truth/about survival after death’) (39), Arnold’s scholar had ‘one aim…one desire’.57 The constancy of his dedications empowers the scholar with an everlasting ‘spark of hope’: ‘none has hope like thine’.58 He is advised to ‘plunge deeper in the bowering wood’: the ‘bowers’ of Wychwood.59 In this wood he gathered flowers ‘ – the frail-leaf ’d, white anemone – /dark bluebells drenched with dews of summer eves –/ and purple orchises with spotted leaves –’, to present them to ‘[m]aidens who from the distant hamlets come/ to dance around the Fyfield elm in May’.60 In ‘Thyrsis’, the sequel to ‘The Gypsy Scholar,’ we see how these ‘purple orchises’ were used for garlands, ‘the coronals of that forgotten time’.61 These ‘purple orchises’ (Orchis mascula), mentioned in Bend Sinister (114) and the ‘Commentary’ on Eugene Onegin (II, 521) and highly reminiscent of Pnin’s ‘frog orchises’ (77) and Speak, Memory’s ‘fragrant bog orchid’(138) are, of course, Ophelia’s ‘long purples/that liberal

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shepherds give a grosser name,/ but our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.’ These three orchids, the Orchis mascula, the Habenaria viridis and the ‘nochnaya fialka of Russian poets’ or Plantanthera bifolia, all have the same features: lanceolate leaves from which a stout stem arises, culminating in a spikelike inflorescence with pronouncedly lipped flowers. (Pale Fire’s ‘toothwort’ [183], Dentaria diphylla and Dentaria lacinata, is a different sort of plant.) The flowers mentioned in ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ are rather important for sustaining the poet’s ideas and give the poem’s conclusion a palpable phase. The scholar is urgently advised to rely on his own fresh ‘powers’ and to pursue his ‘own fair life’ in the ‘pastoral’ recesses known to him alone.62 This counsel culminates in the lines 218/9: ‘Freshen thy flowers, as in former years,/ with dew’. These lines refer to those already quoted, with the names of the bedewed flowers the scholar has gathered to give them to the maidens who wreathe them into garlands.63 As this is the source for the scholar’s ‘unconquerable hope’, its transposition to Shade’s hope procures Hazel the most outstanding of Ophelia’s flowers, the purple orchises. As Kinbote’s hope seems justified because he discovered in ‘Pale Fire’ as a ‘long ripplewake’ (297) of his glory, the reference to Arnold’s poem suggests that the Scholar Gypsy has likewise discovered the key to fulfilment of his hope, that is, the gathering of flowers to be presented to maidens. Another poetic reference, to Comus, points to the same conclusion (273). The fate of Milton’s heroine, Sabrina, is similar to Hazel’s. Sabrina, too, ‘in hard-besetting need’, ‘commended her fair innocence to the flood’ and ‘underwent a quick immortal change’.64 Like Hazel, she interferes with the lives of mortals for which she is rewarded with songs and ‘sweet garland wreaths’.65 If we analogously transfer these floral tributes to Hazel, she is at last copiously and duly awarded with flowers and garlands which were so lamentably absent at the moment of her death. In Look at the Harlequins! the wreathing together of Botticelli’s Primavera and Shakespeare’s Ophelia has been explained by the ‘blue cockles in blond corn’ which encompasses the shell on which Venus drifted to shore, by the blue cornflowers embroidered on the garb of the nymph awaiting her and interlaced in Flora’s hair, and by the cockleshell in the hat of Ophelia’s song. In Pale Fire another illustration of this statement can be found in the phrase ‘the geranium bar of a scalloped wing’ (218). As Boyd has explained, this ‘can refer only to the wing of a Vanessa atalanta, as the Index confirms under “Vanessa”’.66 The ‘geranium bar’ perfectly matches the orange-red colour of the stripes on the butterfly’s wing. But what about its scalloped form? A scallop is, like a cockle, a fan-shaped shell. (Unlike a cockle, a scallop has two ears which form a hinge. Venus’s shell was one half of a scallop as is clear from Botticelli’s painting. There

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is, however, some uncertainty about St. James’s shell. The coquille de Saint Jacques – the model for Proust’s Madeleine, as Nabokov notices in Lectures on Literature (300) – is a scallop, but Shakespeare mentions a cockle. It is not known why a shell became the badge for the pilgrims who went to Compostella.67 Given the floral, bivalve and mermaid-like links between Venus, Ophelia and Hazel, and the latter’s metamorphoses into wood duck, Toothwort White and Vanessa atalanta, this phrase links Venus with the butterfly. Of course, as a naturalist, Nabokov cannot have selected this adjective, ‘scalloped’, simply for the sake of establishing this relationship. The shape of a butterfly’s outer wing is often similar to that of a scallop or cockle, while its venation shows the same pattern as the ribs of these shells (as Nabokov’s drawings might show, see Plates 26 and 27 of Nabokov’s Butterflies).68 Furthermore, the Red Admirable’s wings have an undulating edge just as a scallop has. That the ‘geranium bar of a scalloped wing’ frames Hazel’s afterlife from drowning to soaring, can be based on close observation needed to unravel the relevant implications of the pictorial and poetical references. The clarity and precision of Botticelli’s art contributes greatly towards making this small addition to Boyd’s artistic discovery.

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7 Leonardo and ‘Spring in Fialta’

No other painting has been admired as much and as enduringly by Nabokov as Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and references and allusions to this painting, or its painter, are numerous. His attachment to Leonardo’s masterpiece dates from an early age. In 1918 he composed a poem entitled, ‘The Last Supper’: The reflective hour of an austere supper, Prophecies of betrayal and parting. A nocturnal pearl illuminates the oleander petals. Apostle leans toward apostle. Christ has silvery hands. Candles pray brightly, and along the table nocturnal moths crawl.1

The leaning apostles clearly indicate that Nabokov had been thinking of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Pictures of the same subject by, for example, Fra Angelico, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Perugino, painted in the same century as Leonardo’s, show the disciples invariably in an erect and separate position. The poem was set to music by his cousin Nicolas in the same year as it was composed, and turned into a tableau vivant.2 In his first novel, Mary, the very first reference to the pictorial arts concerns ‘a lithograph of the Last Supper’, which decorates a wall of the dining room at a Russian pension in Berlin. (Mary 6). In The Defence, the protagonist Luzhin is taken by his wife to the museum where his attention is directed to ‘two dogs domestically looking for crumbs beneath the narrow, poorly spread table of “The Last Supper”’ (Def 191).3 In Bend Sinister ‘a mezzotint of the Da Vinci miracle’ (BS 23) adorns Krug’s flat, and, again, ‘Leonardo’s Last Supper’ is recalled in Pale Fire, as someone is ‘spreading out his palms’ like one of the apostles (PF 268). (See colour illustration 14.)

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Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503

Leonardo is referred to in Pnin as well as in Ada (Pnin 41, 98; Ada 488). In 1942 Nabokov lectured on Leonardo to Italian students.4 Indirect allusions to the Last Supper abound as well. In Ada ‘a dozen elderly townsmen’ walked in a forest near the spot where Ada celebrated her birthday by having a picnic. They sat down for a modest Italian lunch, the victuals for which they unwrapped with ‘sad apostolic hands’. On Van’s demand they move away somewhat from the picnic party: ‘a most melancholy and meaningful picture – but meaning what, what?’ (Ada 268-269)5 In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, someone ‘can write his name upside down in his ordinary hand,’ (RLSK 142) an artifice as exceptional as Leonardo’s writing which ‘cannot be read without a mirror’.6 Conspicuous are the last suppers which take place in several of Nabokov’s novels. In Invitation to a Beheading, Cincinnatus has his last ‘informal supper’ on ‘the eve of the execution’ during which he is offered fish and wine, apples and grapes, all of which he declines (IB 180, 182, 185).7 In Pale Fire, the poet Shade is invited to sup on wine, walnuts, tomatoes and bananas just before he is assassinated (PF 288), and, on the day she died in a traffic accident, Nina’s last meal (in ‘Spring in Fialta’) consists of shellfish (Stories 423).8 Leonardo’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa with, according to Vasari, ‘a smile so pleasing that it seems more divine than human’, is evoked in Speak, Memory by a number of delicate allusions, which, taken together, make the reference apparent.9 In chapter 10 of his autobiography, Nabokov discusses the years of ‘romantic agitation’ of his boyhood. Half of its paragraphs are devoted to the aphrodisiacal Polenka, who lives in a cottage in a village near the Nabokov estate, Vyra (SM 209-213). Nabokov describes how during the summer of 1911 he rode his bike to that village every evening; there he saw Polenka, standing in the doorway, ‘leaning against the jamb’ and bathing in the golden glow of the low sun. (Her image did not only haunt him during those years, but later as well, because in Ada Polenka’s pose is lent to Blanche, also standing in the doorway, ‘holding one hand…rather high on the jamb’, while Polenka’s curved comb has turned into a tortoise shell one in Ada (48).) In his Trattato, Leonardo observes that ‘[v]ery great charm of shadow and light is to be found in the faces of those who sit in the doors of dark houses’. And also ‘how the face yields its subtlest expression when seen by evening light’.10 Then Nabokov goes on by portraying Polenka’s face, ‘her dear features’, illuminated by the ‘enigmatic light’. ‘She would watch me approach with a wonderful welcoming radiance on her face, but as I rode nearer, this would dwindle to a half smile, then to a faint light at the corners of her compressed lips, and, finally, this, too, would fade…’.

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The lingering smile in the corners of her mouth is characteristic of the Mona Lisa as well. If one covers the corners of her mouth on a reproduction, one can notice that the smile disappears from her lips and is shifted to her eyes. ‘As soon as I had passed,’ Nabokov says,’…the dimple would be back…’ And he remarks how it is ‘[s]trange to say, she was the first to have the poignant power, by merely not letting her smile fade, of burning a hole in my sleep…’. Vasari relates how Leonardo, to prevent Mona Lisa’s smile from fading away, employed musicians and clowns to make her merry while he was painting her portrait. He concludes his portrait by reminding his readers that she is just a peasant girl whose ‘dirt-caked feet’ frighten him, but all the same he has endowed her with a noble beauty as effortless as Gainsborough. In The Honourable Mrs. Graham, Gainsborough portrayed an aristocratic young lady (eighteen-year-old Mary Cathcart) whom he, in another painting, turned into a housemaid who, broom in hands, is standing in a doorway of a dark cottage. It is, in a way, surprising that Leonardo’s Last Supper is regarded as ‘the keystone of European art’ considering that, of the paintings surviving from the Renaissance, it is in very poor condition.11 Already in 1556 Vasari reports that the painting is ‘so badly affected that nothing is visible but a mass of blots’. At the end of the eighteenth century, reconstructions were assigned to preserve the unique work for posterity. Of these, André Dutertre’s painting and Raphael Morghen’s engraving are regarded as the most successful.12 Although the many restorations could not reinstate Leonardo’s delicate details and famed finesses, they kept intact the painting’s composition and the postures of the figures. The twelve apostles, each one individually recognisable according to what is known from the Gospels, show an astonishing variety of gestures and, through them, many emotions as well. Apart from Thomas, the apostle next to Jesus on his left hand, all the upraised, pointing and suspended hands can be seen clearly. It is understandable that Nabokov, who seems gladly willing to sacrifice Dostoyevsky’s characterisation of his people ‘through ethical matters, their psychological reactions, their inside ripples’ in exchange for one felicitous and authentic gesture from Tolstoy, must have admired the wealth of movements and gesticulations in Leonardo’s masterpiece (LRL 104). ‘That figure is most praiseworthy,’ says Leonardo, ‘which by its action, best expresses the passions of the soul.’13 In his drama, Leonardo portrayed two moments: the intimation of betrayal and the promise of salvation. The betrayal by Judas is announced by Jesus as he says ‘one of you is about to betray me’, to which the apostles react with horror, sorrow, exculpation, curiosity, incredulity, indignation and compassion. The

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salvation is clear from the institution of the Eucharist; Jesus is reaching for the bread and wine, ‘which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins’.14 Forgiveness transpires even before the betrayal is committed. In ‘Spring in Fialta’, a comparable variety of emotions, those caused by betrayal and salvation included, can be discerned. It is a highly intricate story and, on the first reading, one gets lost among the many themes which rival for the reader’s attention: the richly detailed locality with its vistas, smells and atmospheres; the attributes of the traveling circus; the hints of eroticism and jealousy; and the discussion of modern art and literature. After repeated readings, the human drama which is unfolded becomes as clear as Leonardo’s. In ‘Spring in Fialta’ the harrowing story of Victor’s love for Nina is told. He has known her for fifteen years, his whole adult life. Although they met for only ten short encounters and were (happily) married to different people, Victor’s love for Nina kept growing steadily. The story’s style is, even for Nabokov, of an unusual richness, and its design is as dense and harmonious as Leonardo’s mandalic drawing, Leonardus Vinci Accademia: the many interwoven flashbacks and recollections can be compared to the knots in the drawing which, although ‘forming a circular field containing a very difficult and beautiful engraving’, ‘can be followed from one end to the other’.15 The story closely follows Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’.16 The outward ingredients are all the same: the backgrounds of warmth, sea and fog alternating with frost and snow; the adultery; the station platform on which the lovers separate; the conjured-up bouquets; the bizarre inkwells (taking on the shape of a headless horseman, in Chekhov’s case); the orchestras; the moral musings; the men’s families. More important is the similarity in the dramatic swing from lust to love, from gaiety to gravity, silently soaring into an indeterminate ending. Contrasting the convoluted movement is the straightforward development of Victor’s attitude towards Nina. During their first meeting the kiss they exchange is prompted by the gaiety of the moment; their second encounter shows that their mutual attraction is of an exclusively erotic nature, while during their third meeting Victor experiences a ‘ridiculous pang’ when he learns that she is about to marry. The fourth meeting marks the beginning of the ‘morbid pathos’ he is harbouring. He comprehends the impossibility of getting closer to her than their chance meetings allow, because of his wife and children (‘an island of happiness’), and because of her unfettered promiscuity. The hopelessness of the situation culminates in a ‘store of sadness’. But his love proves to be stronger than these censuring deliberations and at the penultimate meeting ‘his heart felt like

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breaking’. So it shouldn’t surprise the reader that finally, in Fialta, Victor tries to declare his love for Nina, which meets with incomprehension. They part and soon after that Victor learns at the platform of a railway station that she has been killed in a traffic accident and that is where the story ends. Having discussed one of Chekhov’s stories, ‘Agafia,’ as an example, Simon Karlinsky remarks that ‘[i]t is from such structures in Chekhov that Nabokov must have learned to end his narratives at unconventional points…’.17 This applies very much to ‘Spring in Fialta’ because the story gives the reader the impression that it begins where it ends. Now, one can object to this point of view that (Nina’s) death is by all means a natural end for a story. But Nina’s death has already been announced on the third page of the story and re-announced some three pages before the story ends. The story’s real drama is not Nina’s death itself, but the question of how Victor can reconcile the sincerity of his love with the spuriousness of Nina’s way of life, ‘the lies, the futility, the gibberish of that life’ and her past which is ‘teeming with protean partners’. What we would like to know is how Victor is going to remember her. When Anna Sergeevna leaves Gurov behind on the platform in Yalta, Chekhov writes that ‘it was as if everything had conspired to put a speedy end’ to their relationship as Gurov is sure that he would never see her again.18 But at home he is unable to forget her and he ‘remembered how he had said to himself, on the station platform… that everything was over… But how very far from over it all was!’ The same can be said of Victor when he learns of Nina’s death, on the railway station platform; the kind of reconciliation which is waiting for him can be found by returning to the story of their affair. Many images designate the story’s sequel. Victor rebukes Ferdinand for spinning ‘wheels of dismembered symbols’ along ‘the impossible spirals’ of his last play, contrasting the wheels of coherent symbols in ‘Spring in Fialta’ which adorn the story’s spiral, visualised by the train which, coming out of the depth of ‘as many tunnels as possible’, revolves around Mount St. George. Several of these symbols and images have their origins in Chekhov’s story. In its second part, Anna and Gurov take a carriage to Oreanda. They discuss the (origin of the) surname of Anna’s husband which must have made them conscious of her betrayal. In Oreanda they sit on a bench and Chekhov writes how ‘the monotonous, muffled roar of the sea, borne from below, spoke of peace and the eternal sleep that awaits us…. In this constancy and this complete indifference to the life or death of each one of us there lies concealed the pledge of our eternal salvation…’.

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The eternal sleep returns in ‘Spring in Fialta’ in that beautiful picture Nabokov gives of Nina ‘leaning upon a counter at Cook’s, left calf crossing right shin, left toe tapping floor, sharp elbows and coin-spilling bag on the counter, while the employee, pencil in hand, pondered with her over the plan of an eternal sleeping car’. Sleep is such a sweet and peaceful representation of death that it might be alluring, as in Hamlet’s soliloquy, to have recourse to it. The prospect of an afterlife is also suggested by the bouquet of violets which suddenly appears in Nina’s (as well as Anna Sergeevna’s) hands. In Hamlet, violets are mentioned twice, both times to mollify the idea of death.19 Nina’s actual death seems, however, far from peaceful. It is clear that she is burned in the fire following the car accident: no less than five times is there an allusion to fire, by means of the smell of burning or its glow, while Nina’s husband and his friend who escaped safely from the crash, are referred to as ‘salamanders’, animals mythically renowned to be impervious to fire. That this death is only seemingly cruel can be explained by looking at the Christian motif in ‘Spring in Fialta’. Christian motifs ‘from the New Testament and later Christian iconography’ have been noted in Nabokov’s work, notably in Invitation to a Beheading, for two decades already.20 ‘Spring in Fialta’ opens in the time of Lent, a period which is observed by Christians as a time of penance. Crucifixes are observed in a shop window, Nina is seen making ‘every time we parted’ ‘the sign of the cross’; yellowness is compared to ‘Russian churchwax’ and a poet is presented who sketches, on demand, ‘Adam’s Fall by means of five matches’. Much is made of Nina’s last meal, recalling the Last Supper which is referred to earlier in the story: ‘and then I saw the composite table (small ones drawn together to form a long one) at which, with his back to the plush wall, Ferdinand was presiding; and for a moment his whole attitude, the position of his parted hands, and the faces of this table companions all turned towards him reminded me in a grotesque, nightmarish way of something I did not quite grasp, but when I did so in retrospect, the suggested comparison struck me as hardly less sacrilegious than the nature of his art itself ’. The details given in this passage direct all to the Leonardo’s Last Supper. A conspicuous feature of Da Vinci’s painting is, as has been mentioned already, the fact that the hands of all the persons are clearly visible and that, which is even more remarkable, several show their hands with all the fingers spread. This aspect returns in Nabokov’s story in the pianist ‘with a dreadful expression of the fingers’, and in the ‘ten fingers dancing’ of Nina as well as her ‘last tenfingered farewell’. This farewell indicates, in the same way as their ten meetings do, to the ending of her life. St. George, after whom a nearby mountain is named, is also an important reference to the Christian religion. St. George rescued a girl by slaying a dragon to which she was offered as a sacrifice. St. George is often represented while

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Philips Wouwerman, The White Horse

mounted on a horse which is ‘usually white for purity’.21 The relevance of the whiteness of horses is emphasised by the reference to Wouwerman, the Dutch painter, renowned for his paintings of white horses.22 That St. George is introduced to suggest that Nina is rescued by purification, is confirmed by her death by fire. In Dante’s Divina Commedia, a fire is burning only in the seventh and uppermost circle of the ‘purgatorio’. In this circle the lustful are purified by its fire.23 That Nina deserves redemption is obvious if we reread her story in which her ingenuousness is stressed in many instances. We are acquainted with her ‘innocent naturalness’ and her giving the impression of being a ‘lost child’. And it is saddening to read how Nina, after Victor told her he had been waiting for her during the night, ‘clasped her hands in dismay’ as if assenting to these kinds of desires was her vocation in life, her duty, as if she was Lysistrata’s foil. We owe it to the narrator’s ability to understand Nina’s character so that we are dissuaded from judging Nina by her conduct. The lovingly depicted portrait of Nina at the counter at Cook’s, selecting a proper eternal sleeping car, the narrator’s perception of her restlessness, suggesting that she wants to abandon her way of life, clear the way to learn Nina’s true nature. There is a distinct difference between the betrayal portrayed in Leonardo’s painting and Nina’s betrayal. In the Last Supper, Judas is clenching his fist around his purse, denoting his covetous selfishness, while Nina’s bag is reported as ‘coin-spilling’. St. George as a Christian symbol and the narrator’s percipience tell us how Nina ought to be remembered after her death. This cooperation is beautifully expressed in the inkwell, ‘a dreadful marble imitation of Mount St. George’, ‘with a compartment for pens in the semblance of railroad tracks.’ Pen and ink, attributes of the artist, do what the spiraling train executes in reality: bringing the traveler – Nina – to higher circles, elevating her by art, towards ‘eternal salvation’ as Chekhov says.24 Pictorial representations of the myth attached to St. George’s life support this reading. Paintings by Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1432), Paolo Uccello (c. 1456), Raphael (who composed two ‘St. Georges’ in the early 1500s) and Tintoretto, all show the saint fighting a dragon with a despairing lady close by. (See colour illustration 15.) The dragon’s shelter, a grotto on the seashore, can often be noticed. This myth parallels that of Perseus, who liberated Andromeda, subjugated by the dragon. Titian’s Perseus and Andromeda (c. 1555) gives prominence to the captivated charmer, shackled by chains which rather help her to a graceful carriage. In Ariosto’s version, rendered by Ingres in Angelica Saved by Ruggiero, the female

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victim, manacled elegantly to a rock, dominates again, and she is in the very center of Giorgio Vasari’s Perseus Frees Andromeda (c. 1570), which shows Pegasus as well. With Pegasus, the winged horse which used to inspire poets, a literary partisan enters the scene and helps us to understand that the author rescues Nina not by means of a lance but by means of a pen. Perseus, at least in Ovid’s version, won Pegasus by decapitating Medusa’s head, an act that caused seaweed to turn into coral.25 Coral, usually as a string of beads, was often hung round children’s necks.26 In ‘Spring in Fialta’ we see ‘a girl of twelve or so, with a string of heavy beads around her dusty neck’ and another one as well, ‘a swarthy girl with beads around her pretty neck’. Nor is the dragon far away. The circus, visiting Fialta, has a ferocious tiger displayed on a billboard. The train, passing through many tunnels in the mountainous country, may serve as another substitute for the dragon; in the story ‘The Dragon’, a similar train is mistaken by a dragon as a relative (Stories 126). Finally, the narrator came to Fialta with the Capparabella express, while St. George came from Cappadocia. As has been noticed, Nabokov’s story has some of its main themes and patterns in common with Chekhov’s ‘Lady with the Little Dog’, especially the subliminal progression from lust to love. The reference to St. George suit this correspondence perfectly as Chekhov ‘was obsessed with the image of St. George’ and, moreover, correlated the legend of St. George with ‘the theme of marriage, love and sensuality’.27 The Englishman who twice appears in the story has been identified by several authors as Vladimir Nabokov,28 and this might explain why Nina reads Tauchnitz-editions (which, although published in Germany, contain English texts) when traveling; this is another instance of how train and art cooperate, the one symbolically, the other explicitly, in bringing Nina to her destination. The question to what extent ‘Spring in Fialta’ might be autobiographical, as several authors have suggested, is discussed in detail by Nicol. He mentions that ‘it seems an extraordinary and suspicious coincidence’ that the actual Irina Guadanini, with whom Nabokov had an affair, was married to a Russian with a job in the Congo and that Nina’s fiancé became an engineer in ‘a most distant tropical country’.29 This coincidence is all the more striking as Irina’s husband was a lieutenant and ‘a solitary sort’ and Nina’s fiancé was a ‘guardsman’ who became ‘lonesome’.30 As the affair began in February 1937, after the story had been written, it ‘could hardly have been alluded to,’ notes Nicol. According to Brian Boyd, Nabokov was invited to tea by Irina’s mother in February 1936.31 There he met Irina, who ‘was strongly attracted’ to him. As her mother acted ‘the procuress’ for her, Irina might have shown an erotic disposition which is so peculiar to Nina. Nabokov, who wrote ‘Spring in Fialta’ in

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April 1936,32 might have had her in mind. And St. George’s feast day, 23 April, coincides with Nabokov’s birthday. Nabokov wrote the story while working on The Gift which he began in 1933, and Boyd regards the story primarily as a scion of the novel. ‘In The Gift, fate repeatedly tries to bring together a young man and woman, who will fall in love and marry when at last they discover each other. “Spring in Fialta” seems a deliberate converse: here fate arranges for Nina and [Victor] to meet again and again, only to cut off consequences every time’.33 This reversal applies to the heroines as well. ‘Nina is above all a kind of converse of Zina: both brought to the hero-narrator repeatedly by fate, but Zina tardily, reluctantly, coyly, chastely, faithfully, enduringly, rather than, like Nina, prematurely, eagerly, promiscuously, repeatedly, fleetingly.’ Reflecting on Nina’s origin, Boyd adds that ‘she may also have been inspired by Nabokov’s first meeting with Irina Gaudanini, either by her character (about which I don’t think anybody now knows enough to say whether it resembles Nina’s in any significant way) or by Nabokov’s feeling of the sexual opportunity she might offer (to him or others), and the fact that in Nabokov’s Dozen Nabokov misremembered the place and date of composition as ‘Paris, 1938’, rather than the correct ‘Berlin, 1936’ strongly suggests that twenty years later he himself thought its composition was inspired by his knowing Irina. But whether Nina’s character is partly borrowed from Irina or not, her artistic role arose entirely for an artistic reason, an attempt to invert the Zina of The Gift’.34 Irina as a possible source of inspiration for Nina, and Nabokov’s involvement might clarify the emotional intensity with which the story’s theme of betrayal and salvation is presented, an intensity which is deepened by many religious symbols, linking it with the greatest representation of this theme in the visual arts.

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8 A Shimmer of Exact Details: Ada’s Art Gallery I don’t think in any language. I think in images… [N]ow and then a Russian phrase or an English phrase will form with the foam of the brainwave, but that’s about all. (Vladimir Nabokov, SO 14)

Ada is by far the most painterly of Nabokov’s novels.1 From childhood on, Nabokov’s life was unusually rich in the fine arts. The family had a substantial collection of paintings, many inherited from earlier generations; included were a Rubens, a Palma Vecchio, a Teniers, a Ruisdael, and a Zurbarán.2 The printed catalogue of the Nabokov family library shows not only dozens of art books in various languages but over a hundred well-illustrated volumes from the German series Künstler – Monographien.3 The children had private tutors for drawing and painting, among them Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, whose drawings of St. Petersburg scenes were to be commemorated in a 1926 Nabokov poem dedicated to his old teacher. A ‘rose-and-haze’ pastel of Nabokov’s mother by Leon Bakst, Dobuzhinsky’s colleague in the World of Art group, hung in his father’s study (SM 190). Works by other World of Art luminaries graced the house: Konstantin Somov (whose 1908 ‘Rainbow’ hung in the mother’s study) and Alexander Benois. The young Nabokov was no stranger to the great museums; his family lived within easy walking distance of the Hermitage, and their extended foreign travels provided opportunities to visit many of Europe’s major art collections. Not surprisingly, the young Nabokov hoped to become a painter. Fate dictated otherwise, but his love of painting proved to be life-long and was sustained during the two decades spent living in and near London, Berlin and Paris with their rich treasures of paintings and sculpture, and then once again when he returned to Europe. Nabokov’s love of painting was to leave a strong imprint on his prose. In his essay ‘Inspiration,’ where he attests the highly visual nature of his literary creativity, he describes the ‘forefeeling’ of a narrative as ‘an instant vision turning into rapid speech. …If some instrument were to render this rare

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and delightful phenomenon, the image would come as a shimmer of exact details’ (SO 309). Ada had its genesis in just such an eidetic vision. While the novel was taking shape in Nabokov’s mind in the mid-1960s, he was doing preliminary work on his projected but never-completed Butterflies in Art volume, which was to span ‘Egyptian antiquity to the Renaissance’.4 As Alfred Appel has noted, Nabokov usually had ‘at least two works-in-progress at roughly the same time, and these literary companions often turn out to complement each other in extraordinary ways’.5 We think immediately of Pale Fire and Nabokov’s work on his monumental Eugene Onegin:6 the commentary structure finally provided the narrative framework he had long sought to contain the story begun in ‘Ultima Thule’ and ‘Solus Rex’, and Kinbote’s ‘imperial’ narrative voice is only a parodic skip-step from Nabokov’s magisterial tone as commentator. The unfinished Butterflies in Art is Ada’s ghostly companion. As part of the research for this volume, the Nabokovs set off on an extended tour of museums and art galleries starting in the spring of 1965. Much of that art – from Egypt to the Renaissance and beyond – found its way into the book that became Ada.

Prelude: Art and Ardis Nabokov furnished his magnum opus with pretexts for many allusions to art and artists. Dedalus Veen, Van’s grandfather, bears the name of the mythical protoartist whose sculptures were said to live and move and who is often depicted with the wings that bore him from his Cretan exile – a story Nabokov doubtless knew from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.7 Demon Veen, the (winged) son of Dedaelus, is an art connoisseur and collector of Old Masters. Ada is a botanical illustrator; and Lucette a student of art history. Lucette’s father, Dan, is an art dealer who, although he has no particular liking for paintings, becomes obsessed with Hieronymus Bosch. Indeed, Bosch, and particularly his Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, are fundamental to the cosmology and metaphysics of Terra and Antiterra, the worlds of Nabokov’s novel. For that reason, it is treated separately in a chapter of its own. The painting theme is introduced in Ada’s very first scene. Rummaging about in the Ardis attic, Ada and Van find two key artifacts: Marina’s dried flower album and a newspaper photo. From this slender evidence they instantaneously deduce that they are brother and sister, not cousins. Ada incorporates this shared inference in a speech of such arcane complexity that few readers even realise its vital point.

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‘I can add, said the girl, ‘that the petal belongs to the common Butterfly Orchis; that my mother was even crazier than her sister; and that the paper flower so cavalierly dismissed is a perfectly recognisable reproduction of an early-spring sanicle that I saw in profusion on hills in coastal California last February. Dr Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don’t you, Smith?), has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot, B.E.A.R. my love, not my foot or yours, or the Stabian flower girl’s – an allusion, which your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine, would understand like this’ (American finger-snap). ‘You will be grateful,’ she continued, embracing him, ‘for my not mentioning its scientific name. Incidentally the other foot – the Pied de Lion from that poor little Christmas larch, is by the same hand – possibly belonging to a very sick Chinese boy who came all the way from Barkley College.’ ‘Good for you, Pompeianella (whom you saw scattering her flowers in one of Uncle Dan’s picture books, but whom I admired last summer in a Naples museum)’ (8-9).

Botanical lore, literary history, narrative technique and art history are all brought to bear on (and bury) certain key plot elements, as well as to establish the brilliance of the young sibling lovers. The paper early-spring sanicle, known popularly as ‘Footsteps-of-Spring,’ is identified by Krolik as ‘the Bear-Foot,’ from its Linnaean species name Sanicula arctopoides. It launches Ada on a flight of not quite free association: ‘Bear-Foot,’ not barefoot, as are she and Van or the Stabian flower girl in a fresco known to both children. (See colour illustration 16.) In his guise as Ada’s annotator Darkbloom, Nabokov identifies the mural painting as one from Stabiae, the seaside Roman resort town that was buried along with Pompeii and Herculaneum by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.8 The famous fresco – called ‘Footsteps of Spring’ and, more commonly, ‘Primavera’ – is at the Museo Nationale in Naples, where Nabokov saw it in 1966. He knew at once he had to place it in Ada’s opening chapter.9 Although the blonde Primavera figure does not physically resemble dark-haired Ada, the two images are linked: first, by the painting’s flowers – a motif that accompanies botanical Ada through the novel, and second, punningly, by Ada’s allusion to her own, Van’s, and the ‘Primavera’ figure’s bare/bear feet. Van signals recognition of her allusion by his reply: ‘Good for you, Pompeianella…’ The Pompeian Villa recurs when the nonagenarian Van reconstructs the early history of his desire for Ada. He recalls his arousal as he sat next to her as she built a card castle. He now confesses his hope that it would topple and that she would sink back on to his open palm. Ada corrects him: ‘It was not a castle.

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It was a Pompeian Villa with mosaics and paintings inside, because I used only court cards from Grandpa’s old gambling packs’ (113). Brian Boyd notes that Ada’s activity evokes a painting by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin as well, and remarks on Balthus’ predilection for using playing cards in some of his erotically charged paintings.10 (See colour illustration 17.) Chardin (1699-1779) did several versions of The House of Cards; Nabokov had previously alluded to one of them in chapter three of Bend Sinister. The writer also probably saw the version at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence when he visited. Although not far from Ada in age and colouring, the androgynous figure differs from Van’s recollection of a bare arm and Ada’s use of only court cards so as to create a picture gallery. Chardin’s painting in fact bears little resemblance to Nabokov’s erotic scene. The point of its posited presence in the scene must lie elsewhere. Ada’s explanation that she is not building a castle but a frescoed Pompeian Villa suggests that one link here is not so much with the flower girl of the Stabian frescoes but, given Van’s state of arousal, with those of the Lupanare, a Pompeian house of prostitution lavishly decorated with erotic frescoes. The

Juan Fernández el Labrador, Bodegón con dos racimos de uvas a shimmer of exact details:

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Nabokovs themselves, when they visited Pompeii, had failed to gain admittance to the old Roman brothel – ‘Closed for repairs,’ they were told.11 A pity, since, as we will see, it elegantly foreshadows the seaside Venus Villa, a once-elegant maison de plaisir that provided Nabokov’s first flash of inspiration for Ada. There is yet another line of association. Ada’s insistence that her precarious house of cards is ‘a Pompeian Villa with mosaics and paintings inside, because I used only court cards’ sounds a key theme – the nature of art and its relationship to the erotic. The meaning of Ada’s picture-gallery house of cards becomes apparent only later in Van’s account of his brief career as Mascodagama, the bizarre costumed figure who dances on his hands with a head-like mask atop: ‘It was,’ Van says, ‘Ada’s castle of cards’: ‘the rapture… derived from overcoming gravity was akin to that of artistic revelation in the sense utterly and naturally unknown to the innocents of critical appraisal, the social-scene commentators, the moralists, the ideamongers and so forth. Van on the stage was performing organically what his figures of speech were to perform later in life’ (185). Ada itself is Nabokov’s house – of cards picture gallery. Ada and Van’s artistic sophistication is showcased at their first dinner at Ardis. Marina and the two children are expecting a monolingual Spanish architect who is to plan a swimming pool. Marina asks Van and Ada to help entertain the dinner guest. ‘I could show him a copy, perhaps,’ said Ada, turning to Van, ‘of an absolutely fantastically lovely nature morte by Juan de Labrador of Extremadura – golden grapes and a strange rose against a black background. Dan sold it to Demon, and Demon has promised to give it to me on my fifteenth birthday.’ ‘We also have some Zurbarán fruit,’ said Van smugly. ‘Tangerines, I believe, and a fig of sorts, with a wasp upon it. Oh, we’ll dazzle the old boy with shop talk!’ (46).

Ada appears to be referring to Juan Fernandez el Labrador’s Still Life with Two Clusters of Grapes (circa 1620) perhaps conflated in her fancy with his Still Life with Flowers (See colour illustration 18). Van’s proffered Zurbarán is also somewhat retouched – it contains neither fig nor wasp, although both are common features of Dutch still life art. Both Van and Ada seem to blend paintings together. It is perhaps noteworthy that Ada, a painter of flowers, is fond of blending different species together to create fanciful orchid hybrids. This process may be reflected in much of the novel’s art imagery. Notice that the ‘strange rose against a dark background’ of El Labrador’s picture also applies to Van’s Zurbarán scene. This blending effect could be explained by memoirist Van’s fading recollections or, more probably, by

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Francisco de Zurbarán, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose, 1633

differences between the paintings on Antiterra, where the narrative is set, and on Terra, the world of the reader.

Demon If these preliminary allusions to paintings serve to demonstrate the sophistication of the eleven- and fourteen-year-old siblings, the next example plays a strategic plot role. The siblings’ parents, Marina Durmanov and Demon Veen, launch their affair during a performance of a play based, via Tchaikowsky’s opera, on Pushkin’s Evgenii Onegin. Marina plays the role of Tatyana. Following the famous scene in which Tatyana pens her letter to Onegin, Demon, momentarily enchanted, wins a wager with his neighbour that he can seduce Marina in the entr’acte. She then becomes Demon’s mistress: They reveled, and traveled, and they quarreled, and flew back to each other again. By the following winter he began to suspect she was being unfaithful to him, but could not determine his rival. In mid-March, at a business meal with an art expert, an easy-going, lanky, likeable fellow in an old-fashioned dress-coat, Demon screwed in his monocle, unclicked out of its special flat case a small pen-and-wash and said he thought … that it was an unknown product of Parmigianino’s tender art. It showed a naked girl with a peach-like apple cupped

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Francesco Parmigianino, Adam, Fresco from 1530s

in her half-raised hand sitting sideways on a convolvulus-garlanded support, and had for its discoverer the additional appeal of recalling Marina when, rung out of a hotel bathroom by the phone, and perched on the arm of a chair, she muffled the receiver while asking her lover something that he could not make out because the bath’s voice drowned her whisper. Baron d’Onsky had only to cast one glance at that raised shoulder and at certain vermiculated effects of delicate vegetation to confirm Demon’s guess. D’Onsky had the reputation of not showing one sign of esthetic emotion in the presence of the loveliest masterpiece; this time, nonetheless,

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Francesco Parmigianino, Eve, Fresco from 1530s

Francesco Parmigianino, Study for Adam

he laid his magnifier aside as he would a mask, and allowed his undisguised gaze to caress the velvety apple and the nude’s dimpled and mossed parts with a smile of bemused pleasure. Would Mr. Veen consider selling it to him there and then, Mr. Veen, please? Mr Veen would not. Skonky (a oneway nickname) must content himself with the proud thought that, as of today, he and the lucky owner were the sole people to have ever admired it en connaissance de cause. Back it went into its special integument; but after finishing his fourth cup of cognac, d’O. pleaded for one last peep (12-13).

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Demon’s stratagem is successful and he challenges Marina’s lover to a duel. The pen-and-wash drawing is indeed ‘an unknown product of Parmiginino’s tender art’ because it is a composite of three of the artist’s works set into a contemporary context.12 The Nabokovs visited the church in June 1966.13 Nabokov has conflated aspects of the two full-size (coloured) figures with a third, a small (9 x 3.3 cm) pen-andink preparatory study for the above Adam. While Parmigianino assigns the raised shoulder to Adam in his preliminary sketch, Nabokov gives the pose to Eve. Boyd particularly remarks on how her shoulder resembles a person muffling the phone while speaking to someone present in the room. Demon later invokes this image in his farewell letter to the unfaithful Marina: I rang you up at your hotel from a roadside booth of pure crystal still tear-stained after a tremendous thunderstorm to ask you to fly over at once, because I, Demon, rattling my crumpled wings and cursing the automatic dorophone, could not live without you and because I wished you to see, with me holding you, the daze of desert flowers that the rain had brought out. Your voice was remote but sweet; you said you were in Eve’s state, hold the line, let me put on a penyuar. Instead, blocking my ear, you spoke, I suppose, to the man with whom you had spent the night)…. Now that is the sketch made by a young artist in Parma, in the sixteenth century, for the fresco of our destiny, in a prophetic trance, and coinciding, except for the apple of terrible knowledge, with an image repeated in two men’s minds (16).

It is more than appropriate that the serpent lies at her Eve’s frescoed feet. Demon also finds his first pictorial representation in the above passage – ‘because I, Demon, rattling my crumpled wings’. The reference is to Mikhail Lermontov’s wildly Romantic poem ‘The Demon’ (1842), set in the splendor of the Caucasus. Lermontov’s best-known poem tells of a fallen angel soaring through space and time who falls in love with and seduces Tamara, a Georgian princess. Although he has sworn to forego his evil actions, his kiss proves fatal to Tamara and he loses her soul in battle with an angel. The Demon is the archetypal Romantic hero and has long been a favourite image for Russian painters. The most famous of these are by Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel (18561910). (See colour illustration 19.) Demon Veen is repeatedly linked to Vrubel’s images of The Demon. When Van sails for England, his father, with his current mistress, comes to see him off:

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Mikhail Vrubel, Tamara and Demon, 1890-01 Demon had dyed his hair a blacker black. He wore a diamond ring blazing like a Caucasian ridge. His long, black, blue-ocellated wings trailed and quivered in the ocean breeze. Lyudi oglyadïvalis’ (people turned to look). A temporary Tamara, all kohl, kasbek rouge, and flamingo-boa, could not decide what would please her daemon lover more – just moaning and ignoring his handsome son or acknowledging bluebeard’s virility as reflected in morose Van, who could not stand her Caucasian perfume, Granial Maza, seven dollars a bottle (180).

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The name of the cheap perfume is drawn from the phrase ‘gran’ almaza,’ in Lermontov’s poem – the ‘diamond facet’ of craggy Mt. Kazbek that provides the diamond incrustations of Vrubel’s picture.14 The facets are again referred to after Demon’s death when Van recalls ‘Vrubel’s wonderful picture of Father, those demented diamonds staring at me, painted into me’ (509). Demon’s ‘temporary Tamara’ is also provided by Vrubel.

Ada Nabokov’s verbal descriptions of Ada are the most fully developed in the long novel. These descriptions begin with the twelve-year-old Ada (I-9) and follow her through the years until old age.15 Unlike Lucette, who, as we will see, is assigned several very specific visual prototypes, Ada’s pictorial equivalents remain unspecified. They are nonetheless present, even if at an almost subliminal level. Nabokov spoke freely of his predilection for creating fictive characters’ images from paintings. In ‘Solus Rex,’ written in the winter of 1939-40, he describes life in the royal court of a remote, mythic northern kingdom. The central figure, Crown Prince Adulf, is a frivolous homosexual playboy. Near forty, he is described by Nabokov: ‘We have before us a well-fed, easy-going fellow, with a stout neck, a broad pelvis, a big-cheeked, evenly pink face, and fine bulging eyes. His nasty little mustache, resembling a pair of blue-black feathers, somehow did not match his fat lips, which always looked greasy… His dark, thick, unpleasantly smelling and also greasy hair lent a foppish something… to his solidly planted head’ (Stories 523). Nabokov’s 1973 introductory remarks to the English translation of ‘Ultima Thule’ and ‘Solus Rex’ name the man behind the description: ‘Prince Adulf, whose physical aspect I had imagined, for some reason, as resembling that of S.P. Diaghilev (1872-1929), remains one of my favorite characters in the private museum of stuffed people that every grateful writer has somewhere on the premises’ (Stories 654). The most famous image of the impresario of the Ballets Russes is by Valentin Serov (1865-1911) who contributed both to Diaghilev’s journal Mir iskusstvo (The World of Art) and to the scenic designs of the Ballets Russes. (Sergey Nabokov, Vladimir’s homosexual younger brother, reportedly attended the Diaghilev openings in Paris and was on the fringes of Diaghilev’s circle for some years.) Nabokov’s Prince Adulf indeed bears a marked resemblance to Diaghilev. Diaghilev is the subject of a fleeting allusion in Ada. In the course of her brief career as a film starlet, Ada has an affair with a bisexual actor, John Starling, a ‘lovely lad’ who ‘had been since pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf ’ (430). The transformation of Diaghilev into Dangleleaf refers to

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Nijinsky’s scanty costume in the ballet L’Après-midi d’un Faune. It is not, however, Diaghilev but his portraitist and collaborator, Valentin Serov (1865-1911), who supplies Nabokov with a visual prototype for Ada. Serov’s portraits of Russia’s social and artistic elite are among the highlights of Russia’s ‘Silver Age.’ Russian Nabokov scholar and translator Alexey Sklyarenko was the first to note that one of Serov’s ‘family portraits’ resembles the fictional Ada, as does the picture’s setting on a country estate. (See colour illustration 20.)

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While resemblance is not proof, and the Ardis-like setting could be almost anywhere, it is not without interest that the girl, a cousin of Serov, is named Adelaida, born, like Ada, in 1872. Adelaida is a fairly rare Russian first name and is often shortened to ‘Ada,’ although Serov’s cousin was nicknamed ‘Lyalya.’ Sklyarenko further notes that: She and her sister Nadezhda were married to the two brothers Derviz (or, more correctly, von Doerviz), Valerian and Vladimir, respectively. Valerian was a mathematician, and Vladimir, a painter, the friend of Vrubel and Serov. … It remains to add that the Nabokovs could have known, directly or through mutual friends, the Von Doerviz family who lived in a palazzo on the English quay not far from the Nabokov house on Morskaya street. The same can be said of the Nabokovs’ possible acquaintance with Serov.16

Sklyarenko goes on to remark that ‘half a century before, in the reign of Alexander I, such “cross-marriages” between a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters (or between two pairs of siblings) were prohibited by law as incestuous’. Incest is, of course, one of Ada’s major themes. Perhaps more to the point is an account by Nabokov’s close friend Vladislav Khodasevich describing a young poet’s (illegal) marriage to the younger sister of his brother’s wife, resulting in the ruin of all concerned. ‘The Life of Vasily Travnikov’ purported to be the discovery of a forgotten poet of genius but was in fact a hoax at the expense of Khodasevich’s Paris colleagues who enthusiastically greeted his discovery. Nabokov attended the Paris literary soiree where Khodasevich first read his fable and Sirin read some of his own short stories. There is, so far as I can discover, no direct reference to Serov or his Adelaida portrait in Ada, but Nabokov was certainly familiar with Serov’s works. The young Nabokov was home tutored in drawing by the well-known Mstislav Dobuzhinski, Serov’s colleague in the St. Petersburg World of Art scene. Although none of Serov’s works are found in the incomplete records of the Nabokov family’s art holdings, his paintings and portraits were very popular among their circle and his work was widely displayed in St. Petersburg museums and galleries. Valentin Serov is mentioned only once in Nabokov’s Russian fiction. In the 1934 story ‘A Russian Beauty’ (Krasavitsa), the heroine decorates the dresser in her boarding house room with a postcard of Serov’s portrait of the Tsar (Stories 382). It is only after Ada that Serov’s name begins to figure in Nabokov’s prose. In the 1974 Look at the Harlequins!, the pseudo-Nabokov protagonist, Vadim Vadimovich, brings Iris, his new bride, to meet his mysterious benefactor Count Starov.

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Count Starov ‘chewed his lips,’ as old men are wont to do in Russian novels. Miss Vrode-Vorodin, the elderly cousin who kept house for him, made a timely entrance and led Iris to an adjacent alcove (illuminated by a resplendent portrait by Serov, 1896, of the notorious beauty, Mme. De Blagidze, in Caucasian costume) for a nice cup of tea (50).

Serov did many high-society portraits but none fits the description of a notorious beauty in ‘Caucasian costume.’ The fictional Mme. Blagidze is the mother of one or more of Count Starov’s children who apparently know nothing of their parentage. The reader eventually realises that Count Starov is father to both Vadim and Iris (and a number of other characters, including Vadim’s subsequent wives). Vadim’s daughter, Bel, is taken by her mother, Annette, when she abandons Vadim. Annette dies when Bel is eleven, and the girl comes to live with Vadim: Scarcely a month after her arrival I was already at a loss to understand how she could have struck me as ‘plain.’ Another month elapsed and the elfin line of her nose and upper lip in profile came as an ‘expected revelation’ – to use a formula I have applied to certain prosodic miracles in Blake and Blok. Because of the contrast between her pale-gray iris and very black lashes, her eyes seemed rimmed with kohl. Her hollowed cheek and long neck were pure Annette, but her fair hair, which she wore rather short, gave off a richer sheen as if the tawny strands were mixed with gold-olive ones in thick straight stripes of alternate shades. All this is easily described and this also goes for the regular striation of bright bloom along the outside of forearm and leg, which, in fact, smacks of self-plagiarism, for I had given it both to Tamara and Esmeralda, not counting several incidental lassies in my short stories (see for example page 537 of the Exile from Mayda collection, Goodminton, New York, 1947) (Lath 168-69).

Vadim’s verbal description of Bel does not fit Ada. Bel is a composite. (Incidentally, some of her features, such as her hair colour and long neck, derive from her mother, Annettte, whose appearance is explicitly based on Botticelli’s Venus.) The narrator, Vadim, realises the inadequacy of his purely verbal description and, as in the case of Prince Adulf/Diaghilev, reverts to a pictorial prototype: The general type and bone structure of her pubescent radiance cannot be treated, however, with a crack player’s brio and chalk-biting serve. I am reduced – a sad confession! – to something I have also used before, and even in this book – the well-known method of degrading one species of art by appealing to another. I am thinking of Serov’s Five-petaled Lilac, oil, which depicts a tawny-haired girl of twelve or so sitting at a sun-flecked table and manipulating a raceme of lilac in

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search of that lucky token. The girl is no other than Ada Bredow, a first cousin of mine whom I flirted with disgracefully that very summer, the sun of which ocellates the garden table and her bare arms. What hack reviewers of fiction call ‘human interest’ will now overwhelm my reader, the gentle tourist, when he visits the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, where I have seen with my own rheumy eyes, on a visit to Sovietland a few years ago, that picture which belonged to Ada’s grandmother before being handed over to the People by a dedicated purloiner. I believe that this enchanting little girl was the model of my partner in a recurrent dream of mine with a stretch of parquetry between two beds in a makeshift demonic guest room. Bel’s resemblance to her – same cheekbones, same chin, same knobby wrists, same tender flower – can be only alluded to, not actually listed (169).

As with the pseudo-Serov Mme. Blagidze portrait, there is no Serov painting that exactly fits the above description of Ada (Bredow), but the prototype for Serov’s Five-Petaled Lilac is obviously his Girl with Peaches. Portrait of Vera Mamontova (1887), perhaps mentally blended with Serov’s Open Window. Lilacs (1886), now in the Art Museum of Belarus, Minsk. (See colour illustration 21.) Nabokov appears to have provided (partial) pictorial representations of Ada at approximately twelve and sixteen, perhaps corresponding to the magical Ardis summers of 1884 and 1886. The ‘fictionalisations’ of the Serov portraits are perhaps to be explained by the situation of the narrators in the Ada and Look at the Harlequins! In both there are two worlds, closely akin, but each differing in some respects from its counterpart. Just as the fictional writer Vadim Vadimovich in his delusional world produces a series of novels that are similar to, but different from, those of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, and Van in his memoir creates a semi-mythical world echoing our world, the almost-Serov portraits depict Antiterra’s Ada at two stages of her life. Vadim reinforces such a possibility: ‘That avenue of statues and lilacs where Ada and I drew our first circles on the dappled sand was visualized and re-created by an artist of lasting worth. The hideous suspicion that even Ardis, my most private book, soaked in reality, saturated with sun flecks, might be an unconscious imitation of another’s unearthly art, that suspicion might come later…’ (234). Thus it is only by backcasting from Look at the Harlequins! to Ada that the underlying imagery from Serov appears. A note of caution is in order, however: just as Nabokov’s portraits by Serov are not authentic but rather ‘in the style of ’, his backcasting of Serov’s work as a source of Ada’s image should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. After Demon’s death in 1905, Van and Ada meet in Switzerland, planning to begin a new life together. Their first encounter over a dinner attended by Ada’s

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husband, Andrey Vinelander, his odious sister Dasha, and several incidental guests is awkward. Van greets Ada, kissing her ‘her cygneous hand’ while closely noting ‘[h]er still blacker hair drawn back and up into a glossy chignon, and the Lucette line of her exposed neck, slender and straight…’ (511). Only after the meal do they find a moment alone together: ‘Their open mouths met in tender fury, and then he pounced upon her new, young, divine, Japanese neck which he had been coveting like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus throughout the evening’ (520). Ada’s neck is a constant point de repère for Van throughout the book, e.g., ‘Her neck had been, and remained, his most delicate, most poignant delight, especially when she let her hair flow freely, and the warm, white, adorable skin showed through in chance separations of glossy black strands’(216). The chapter is rife with ‘swan’ references. As with many of Nabokov’s allusions, this one is multidimensional. There are innumerable paintings based on the myth of Jupiter Olorinus (meaning ‘of the swan’) and Leda, wife of the King of Sparta. Jupiter assumes the guise of a swan in order to make love to Leda. Peter Paul Rubens’ Leda and the Swan is among the most famous.

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Kitagawa Utamaro, Girl Powdering Her Neck

Van, like Jupiter, is passing himself off as a swan (Ada’s cousin) in order to cuckold Andrey Vinelander. He quickly arranges an assignation with Ada the next morning at his hotel ‘Les Trois Cygnes’ where the emblematic (and presumably mute) swans are sworn to secrecy via a bribe to the manager. A second allusion is less obvious. Ada’s ‘divine, Japanese neck’ alludes to a genre of Japanese painting. The Japanese woodblock reproductions of the ukiyoe, ‘the floating world’ are famous for their images, often erotic, of long-necked women. Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806) was among the best known of these artists. Much of his work found its way to France, where Japonisme exerted an influence on artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec – whose Divan Japonais poster provides the basis for the Lucette image of the Barton & Guestier advertisement. The ‘divine’ of Ada’s ‘divine Japanese neck’ echoes the divan of the dance-hall name on the poster and, equally, the divan at Ardis Manor on which Van and Ada initiate their sexual relationship. The divan is also a motif throughout the novel, albeit not on a pictorial level; it is also associated with Van and Ada’s halfsister, Lucette.

Lucette Doomed Lucette is associated with far more pictorial images than any other character. Indeed, much of her life and fate are linked with paintings. Four years younger than her sister Ada and six years junior to Van, she competes vainly with Ada for Van’s love. Much of the imagery connected with her foreshadows her suicide by drowning, following Van’s cruelly abrupt final rejection. Brian Boyd, who sees Lucette as the moral center of the novel, has carefully traced Ada and Van’s thoughtless and sometimes unfeeling efforts to free themselves from Lucette’s intrusive presence. Among their earliest ploys is imprisoning the eightyear-old child in her bath, leaving them to pursue their pleasure around a corner,17 a prank that seems to foreshadow Lucette’s Ophelian death. After Van and Ada break up over Ada’s betrayals in 1888, the lovers do not meet again until 1892, when Lucette brings a letter from Ada. Lucette mimics Ada’s mannerisms, seizing the opportunity to try to supplant her in Van’s affections. Brian Boyd is one of many who have remarked that slender, green-eyed, redhaired Lucette is persistently evoked in connection with Henri de ToulouseLautrec’s famous poster for the 1890s Paris cabaret ‘Le Divan Japonais’. As Boyd points out, Nabokov’s immediate source for Lucette’s image is not the 1893 poster but rather a copy of it incorporated into a New Yorker wine advertisement. Nabokov himself identified the ad photograph, remarking that it ‘is meticulously described by Van… and should be looked up by all admirers of Lucette’.18

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Advertisment for Barton & Guestier wines, The New Yorker 23 March 1963

This image blends the Lautrec poster scene of dancer Jane Avril and art critic Edouard Dujardin with the foregrounded models of the New Yorker ad. Lucette’s image is based upon the New Yorker, but Nabokov draws on the original poster for details incorporated into his text. The name ‘Ed’ of Ed Fournier from the Lautrec poster and the ‘Barton’ of wineimporters Barton & Guestier are combined to create the fictional ‘Ed Barton’, who serves Lucette her pre-suicide drinks at the bar aboard the Admiral Tobakoff. In a subsequent scene, the cabaret’s director Fournier is transformed into ‘Ovenman’s’ on the rue des Jeunes Martyres inscribed at the top of Lautrec’s ‘Divan Japonais’ (459-60). All of this lies in the future, however; this initial

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Divan Japonais, 1892-93

appearance of the red-haired lady at the bar is only very indirectly associated with Lucette. After their first Ardis summer, Van and Ada have a very unsatisfactory date (with Cordula de Prey as chaperone) near Ada’s boarding school. It is raining and the trio seeks shelter in a tea room (169): ‘It was empty, save for a slender lady in black velvet, wearing a beautiful velvet picture hat, who sat with her back to them at a “tonic bar” and never once turned her head, but the thought brushed him that she was a cocotte from Toulouse.’ The figure is, of course, not yet Lucette (who is only eight), but we shall see that this particular image often flickers in and out of Van’s memories of her. The image appears again (307) in 1888 while Van, in pursuit of Ada’s lovers, is challenged to a duel. On the eve he dines alone in a restaurant where he sees ‘on

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one of the red stools of the burning bar, a graceful harlot in black – tight bodice, wide skirt, long black gloves, black-velvet picture hat… sucking a golden drink through a straw. In the mirror behind the bar, amid colored glints, he caught a blurred glimpse of her russety blonde beauty; he thought he might sample her later on, but when he glanced again she had gone’ (307). Although the details vary (the red bar stool, the straw, the drink, etc,), it is again Lucette’s (and Toulouse-Lautrec’s) image. Lucette herself next appears when she visits Van’s rooms at Kingston University some three years after their last encounter at Ardis. Lucette has long been obsessed with Van and has written him an impassioned love letter that he has ignored. She now appears in the role of a ‘paranymph’ bearing a last appeal from Ada for a reconciliation with Van. In spite of this intermediary role, she is determined to seduce an unwilling Van. To this end she does her best to imitate Ada’s speech and manner. Now a sixteen-year-old art history student, Lucette radiates her new sophistication. Seeing a postcard with a picture of Vladimir Christian of Denmark she casually remarks ‘Who cares for Sustermans?’ (See colour illustration 22.) Lucette’s offhand remark refers to an obscure portrait by the Flemish painter Joost Sustermans (1597-1681), at the court of the Dukes of Tuscany. One suspects that the Nabokovs saw and perhaps purchased the picture postcard during their Florence visit. Lucette’s identification is just one aspect of the brilliant display of erudition, linguistic acrobatics, and sensuality that she displays in her bid for Van’s love. The performance, however, is all in vain since Ada and Van do reunite until their disastrous discovery by Demon. The Sustermans allusion is odd in several ways. Van’s picture postcard has been sent from Florence by his former lover Cordula de Prey, now married to shipping magnate Ivan Giovanovich Tobak – who, she writes, is ‘the dead spit’ of the portrait on the card (383). Van identifies Tobak as a descendant of a famed Russian admiral after whom the Tobago (or Tobakoff ) Islands are named. The postcard picture of the Tobak lookalike is one of the first foreshadowings of Lucette’s suicide by leaping from the deck of the ‘Admiral Tobakoff ’ liner after a second failed attempt to seduce Van. Fate provides Lucette with one last opportunity. By chance 1893 finds her and Van in Paris, although unaware of each others’ presence. Van drops in for a drink at Ovenman’s (Fournier) on the rue des Jeunes Martyres. Upon entering, he stopped for a moment to surrender his coat; but he kept his black fedora and stick-slim umbrella as he had seen his father do in that sort of bawdy, albeit smart, place which decent women did not frequent – at least, unescorted. He headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed

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spectacles, made out, through the optical mist (Space’s recent revenge!), the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence, passing alone, drinking alone, always alone, like Blok’s Incognita. It was a queer feeling – as of something replayed by mistake, part of a sentence misplaced on the proof sheet, a scene run prematurely, a repeated blemish, a wrong turn of time. He hastened to reequip his ears with the thick black bows of his glasses and went up to her in silence. For a minute he stood behind her, sideways to remembrance and reader (as she, too, was in regard to us and the bar), the crook of his silk-swathed cane lifted in profile almost up to his mouth. There she was, against the aureate backcloth of a sakarama screen next to the bar, toward which she was sliding, still upright, about to be seated, having already placed one white-gloved hand on the counter. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved romantic black dress with an ample skirt, fitted bodice and ruffy collar, from the black soft corolla of which her long neck gracefully rose. With a rake’s morose gaze we follow the pure proud line of that throat, of that tilted chin. The glossy red lips are parted, avid and fey, offering a side gleam of large upper teeth. We know, we love that high cheekbone (with an atom of powder puff sticking to the hot pink skin), and the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye – all this in profile, we softly repeat. From under the wavy wide brim of her floppy hat of black faille, with a great black bow surmounting it, a spiral of intentionally disarranged, expertly curled bright copper descends her flaming cheek, and the light of the bar’s ‘gem bulbs’ plays on her bouffant front hair, which, as seen laterally, convexes from beneath the extravagant brim of the picture hat right down to her long thin eyebrow. Her Irish profile sweetened by a touch of Russian softness, which adds a look of mysterious expectancy and wistful surprise to her beauty, must be seen, I hope, by the friends and admirers of my memories, as a natural masterpiece incomparably finer and younger than the portrait of the similarily postured lousy jade with her Parisian gueule de guenon on the vile poster painted by that wreck of an artist for Ovenman. ‘Hullo there, Ed’, said Van to the barman, and she turned at the sound of his dear rasping voice. ‘I didn’t expect you to wear glasses. You almost got le paquet, which I was preparing for the man supposedly ‘goggling’ my hat. Darling Van! Dushka moy!’ ‘Your hat,’ he said, ‘is positively lautrémontesque – I mean, lautrecaquesque – no, I can’t form the adjective.’(460-61)

This is Nabokov’s most detailed and lyrical description of the woman in the foreground of the New Yorker ad for Barton & Guestier wines who is the prototype for the image of Lucette. ‘That ‘wreck of an artist for Ovenman’ is, of course, Toulouse-Lautrec, and ‘Ovenman’ is Fournier, the manager of the Divan Japonaise, the name of which is signaled here only by the reference to the ‘“sakaram” a screen,’ apparently a Nabokovian creation alluding to traditional Japanese screen painting.

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During their conversation in the cabaret Lucette tries to lure Van up to her hotel room: ‘I have a fabulous Japanese divan… I’ll stretch out upon the divan like a martyr… My divan is black with yellow cushions’ (464). Unsuccessful, she books passage on the transatlantic Admiral Tobakoff for which Van already has purchased a ticket. On board she renews her plans. The couple spend an afternoon by the ship’s pool. Lucette has a deep tan: Spring in Fialta and a torrid May on Minataor, the famous artificial island, had given a nectarine hue to her limbs, which looked lacquered with it when wet, but re-evolved their natural bloom as the breeze dried her skin. With glowing cheekbones and that glint of copper showing from under her tight rubber cap on nape and forehead, she evoked the Helmeted Angel of the Yukonsk Ikon whose magic effect was said to change anemic blond maidens into konskie deti, freckled red-haired lads, children of the Sun Horse (477).

Here the memory of swim-capped Lucette evokes for Van the tightly hooded and haloed ‘Mother of God’ image on so many wonder-working Russian icons: The Vladimir icon is among the most famous of all such representations, and Nabokov’s allusion to it has several echoes. The image arises from helmeted Lucette’s ‘nectarine’ suntan. The icon’s lacquered background is in rich gold and the Virgin’s face is a darker shade of gold. The introduction of the Yukonsk Ikon gives Nabokov a rationale for a display of verbal allusion as well. The magical Ikon is able to change ‘blond maidens,’ i.e., the pale, freckled Lucette, into a golden child of the Sun Horse. The allusion is to a Russian folk tale in which a ‘sun horse’ owned by the king provides the only light in his realm. The icon of the ‘Yukonsk Ikon’ also permits the duplication of the ‘kon’’ which is the Russian word for ‘horse,’ leading from icon to folklore. Nor should the tacit allusion to Vladimir Nabokov be ignored. The ‘suntan’ imagery now shifts from Van’s wonder-working medieval icon to Lucette’s allusion to a nineteenth-century French painting. She returned after a brief swim to the sun terrace where Van lay and said: ‘You can’t imagine… what oceans of lotions and streams of creams I am compelled to use – in the privacy of my balconies or in desolate sea caves – before I can exhibit myself to the elements. I always teeter on the tender border between sunburn and suntan – or between lobster and Obst as writes Herb, my beloved painter – I’m reading his diary published by his last duchess, it’s in three mixed languages and lovely, I’ll lend it to you’ (478).

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Yukonsk Ikon, The ‘Vladimir’ Mother of God Icon, twelfth century a shimmer of exact details:

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Gerard de Vries points out (in a personal communication) that Lucette’s punning description of her ‘nectarine hue’ as teetering between ‘lobster and Obst’ (German for ‘fruit’) plays on her knowledge of art history. He further suggests, among the possible candidates, a Dutch painting that juxtaposes a scarlet lobster with several (partly) pale nectarines. (See colour illustration 23.) The presence of the butterfly is particularly noteworthy. It appears to be the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) that flutters through several of Nabokov’s novels, but most prominently Pale Fire, where it ‘seems to be something like poet John Shade’s heraldic butterfly’.19 It is twice mentioned in Shade’s poem and appears just moments before his death. Nabokov has remarked that the insect is called ‘The Butterfly of Doom’ in northern Russia because it first appeared there in 1881, the year in which Alexander II was assassinated. Curiously, its under-wing pattern resembles the numbers 1881. Lucette’s allusion to the painting in which it appears would seem to foreshadow her suicide a few hours later. Lucette and Van’s erotically charged (but never consummated) relationship follows a pattern. Whenever Van seems on the edge of yielding to temptation, some reminder of Ada cools his ardor for Lucette. On this occasion, it is the poolside appearance of a striking blonde who seems to be a negative image of Ada: Simultaneously, a tall splendid creature with trim ankles and repulsively fleshy thighs, stalked past the Veens, all but treading on Lucette’s emerald-studded cigarette case. Except for a golden ribbon and a bleached mane, her long, ripply, beige back was bare all the way down to the tops of her slowly and lusciously rolling buttocks, which divulged, in alternate motion, their nether bulges from under the lamé loincloth. Just before disappearing behind a rounded white corner, the Titianesque Titaness half-turned her brown face and greeted Van with a loud ‘hullo!’ (479).

Lucette is immediately jealous of her rival, the lush film star Lenore Colline. Van offers Lucette a poolside drink but she replies ‘You’ll have them with Miss Condor (nasalizing the first syllable) when I go to dress.’ To which Van replies jokingly ‘Yes, Mademoiselle Condor. Best Franco-English pun I’ve heard.’ Nabokov explicated the pun in the margin of the copy of Ada he gave to his French translator: ‘Con d’or = Cunt of Gold.’20 Nabokov’s insistence on clarifying a fairly obvious pun to a French speaker is cause for reflection. The immediate allusion is to Miss Condor’s ‘lamé loincloth.’ The term lamé refers to fabric worked with gold and silver thread – hence the gold of Lucette’s nickname for her rival. But once again, the playful verbal detail involves a pictorial subtext. (See colour illustration 24.) This may evoke the ‘golden’ ‘Titianesque Titaness’, the poolside film star ‘Lenore Colline’, who catches Van’s eye. The Danae myth tells of Zeus in the form of a

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shower of gold penetrating the maiden’s sealed tower. The Prado version is bathed in a golden glow. Titian did at least five versions of the scene, a standard subject among artists of the Renaissance and after. The myth’s story has no relevance to the novel scene – apart from the obvious ‘gold’ connection – but the lovingly described film star has previously been mentioned as ‘a caricature of unforgettable features. That mulatto skin, that silver-blond hair, those fat purple lips, reenacted in coarse negative her ivory, her raven, her pale pout,’ i.e., a photo negative of Ada who had in fact served as Lenore’s stand-in in a film. That night the intrusive image of Ada appears yet once again in the film screened in the Admiral Tobakoff’s theater before Lucette is to join Van in his stateroom. By chance, Ada, now a fledgling movie starlet, has a small role. These images of Ada suffice to restore Van’s reluctance to forego further complication of the lives of the three siblings. When Lucette rings his room he leads her to believe that Lenore Colline is already there. Lucette tears the flyleaf from Herb’s Journal that she has earlier been reading to write a suicide note. She then goes to the promenade deck bar to stiffen her resolve: She drank a ‘Cossack pony’ of Klass vodka – hateful, vulgar, but potent stuff; had another; and was hardly able to down a third because her head had started to swim like hell. Swim like hell from sharks, Tobakovich! She had no purse with her. She almost fell from her convex ridiculous seat as she fumbled in her shirt pocket for a stray bank note. ‘Beddydee,’ said Toby the barman with a fatherly smile, which she mistook for a leer. ‘Bedtime, miss,’ he repeated and patted her ungloved hand. Lucette recoiled and forced herself to retort distinctly and haughtily: ‘Mr. Veen, my cousin, will pay you tomorrow and bash your false teeth in.’ Six, seven – no, more than that, about ten steps up. Dix marches. Legs and arms. Dimanche. Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Tout le monde pue. Ma belle-mère avale son râtelier. Sa petite chienne, after too much exercise, gulps twice and quietly vomits, a pink pudding onto the picnic nappe… (493).

Up to this point, Lucette’s image has been for the most part associated with the New Yorker Barton & Guestier wine model and its inset Toulouse-Lautrec poster. In the hours before her suicide, this image is replaced by that of another artist, Edouard Manet. The interior monologue quoted above refers to Manet’s 18621863 Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Picnic on the grass): ‘I always teeter on the tender border between sunburn and suntan – or between lobster and Obst as writes Herb, my beloved painter – I’m reading his diary published by his last duchess, it’s in three mixed languages and lovely…’. It appears that ‘Herb’ (from Manet’s herbe) is the Antiterran incarnation of Manet.

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The earlier association of Lucette with the Lautrec figure relies in part on the physical resemblance of the Lucette figures and the ‘bar’ scenes. The Manet/Herb scene is motivated by other considerations. Among them is Lucette’s memory of the two birthday picnics with Van and Ada.21 Lucette at twelve is already in love with Van, and the happiest moment of her life is when she sits on Van’s lap during their ride home from the picnic. Other aspects of the painting are important.22 Following Brian Boyd, Dana Draganoiu noted that Manet’s work echoes a series of earlier paintings by Marcantonio Raimondi’s Judgement of Paris (c. 1520), Giorgione’s Pastoral Concert (1508), and several other pieces. Although the match of the Herb/Manet painting is not as close as one might like, it is perhaps not too farfetched to read the figures in the painting as representing successive temporal layers of Ada’s characters. In the parents’ generation we might read Manet’s figures as Marina, Demon, Dan, and Aqua (who commits suicide at a picnic); for the more recent generation, as Ada, Van, Percy de Prey (?), and Lucette. The key elements that link the Dejeuner scene to Lucette are the water she stands in and her isolation from the others, none of whom direct their gaze toward her. These parallel the circumstances of her short life, i.e., her inability to enter into the emotional bond of her siblings and her suicide by drowning. Dana Draganoiu has taken note of the observations of early critics who assert that the bathing woman in Manet’s painting is in ‘problematic perspective’. Draganoiu has extended this argument in support of her theory that not only temporal but spatial relations are warped on Antiterra (vis-à-vis Terra). This line of reasoning finds support in that many of the descriptions of identifiable Terran paintings (and other representational forms) seem to differ in some degree from their counterparts in the reader’s world. The series of paintings associated with Lucette do not end with her death. Her spirit continues to hover over Van and Ada and to influence Van’s memories and pen. One of these manifestations involves a tinted engraving. In 1905, Ada (with husband and sister-in-law) meets Van in Switzerland, where the couple plan to start a new life together. Anticipating the reunion, Van reserves rooms at his usual hotel ‘Les Trois Cygnes’ (521). ‘The Three Swans’ is an Antiterran version of Nabokovs’ own residence hotel, the Montreux Palace, which consists in part of an older hotel named Hotel du Cygne. (The Nabokovs lived in the Cygne wing.) In the hallway of his rooms, Van notices an ‘engraving by Randon of a rather stark three-mast ship on the zig-zag waves of Marseilles Harbor…’ (521). As we know, Van and Ada’s plan comes to naught when Ada’s husband, Andrey Vinelander, falls ill and she resolves to stay with him until he recovers. He lingers on for seventeen years before the lovers finally reunite again in Switzerland. Van takes the same rooms and finds that the tinted etching Bruslot à la sonde is still there (533).

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Claude Randon, Bruslot à la sonde

Why this repeated detail? The picture perhaps evokes Lucette’s drowning at sea and suggests the presence of her generous spirit at the long-deferred reunion of her siblings. There is an orthographic oddity that supports this. Nabokov correctly gives the title of the engraving as Bruslot à la sonde, i.e, a ship taking a sounding, a depth reading. (A bruslot is a type of naval ship designed to combust and set fire to nearby vessels.) Other records, possibly due to orthographic differences, list the title as Bruslot au fond, suggesting the very different meaning ‘Bruslot to the bottom’ – Lucette’s the final resting place. A copy of the print may have graced the walls of the Cygne wing. Lucette is associated with still other paintings, although less specificially. Hoping to win Van for herself, Lucette visits him with a letter from Ada saying she will marry her suitor, Andrey Vinelander, if Van refuses her offer of reconciliation. Van relents and, before Lucette leaves, sends an aerogram asking Ada to meet him in his Manhattan apartment. Lucette appends a request that Ada bring her box of Dutch crayons she has left at Ardis (386). Ada arrives the next day and Lucette inopportunely arrives while the two are making love. Embarrassed, Lucette withdraws, saying ‘I only dropped in for my box’ (393). Ada, momentarily annoyed, remarks ‘I’m sure I did not bring her damned Cranach crayons’. Ada later finds the crayons: ‘I’m a good, good girl. Here are her special pencils. It was very considerate and altogether charming of you to

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invite her next weekend. I think she’s even more madly in love with you than with me, the poor pet. Demon got them in Strassburg’ (395). Lucas Cranach had close connections with Strassburg and his surname suggests the Russian karandash (pencil), as well as Caran D’Ache coloured pencils. (The latter were made by a Swiss company that took its name is from the pseudonym of the Russian-born French caricaturist Emmanuel Poiré (1858-1909).) Cranach did many variations of Eve and Venus. Almost all feature a slender young woman, often with reddish hair or head dress not unlike the Lucette figure in the Toulouse-Lautrec / Barton & Guestier wine advertisement. One painting, Eve, is held at the Uffizi where the Nabokovs visited as part of their art tour. Cranach’s

Lucas Cranach, Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey, c. 1531

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Eves and Venuses are especially appropriate to Lucette, who, hopelessly in love with Van, repeatedly plays the temptress as she tries to win him from or even share him with Ada. (See colour illustration 25.) A few days later Ada and Van, reunited in his Manhattan apartment, lie abed leafing through an album of compromising photos taken by kitchen-boy photographer and budding blackmailer Kim Beauharnais during the Ardis summers of 1884 and 1888. One of the more innocent photographs shows two spectacular moths which lead memoirist Van to think of Lucette: Two huge common Peacock moths, still connected. Grooms and gardeners brought Ada that species every blessed year; which, in a way reminds us of you, sweet Marco d’Andrea, or you, red-haired Domenico Benci, or you, dark and broody Giovanni del Brina… or the one I dare not mention (because it is Lucette’s scholarly contribution – so easily botched after the scholar’s death) who likewise might have picked up, at the foot of an orchard wall… on a May morning in 1542, near Florence, a pair of the Pear Peacock in copula, the male with the feathery antennae, the female with the plain threads, to depict them faithfully… in the so-called ‘Elements Room’ of the Palazzo Vecchio (II-7, 400).

This is the male of a pair, albeit not in copula, but the fresco image is unquestionably what Nabokov saw. Dieter Zimmer, the leading authority on Nabokov’s literary lepidoptera, provides a brilliant exegesis in his A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths 2001.23 Not only has he located the moth, but he has unraveled the history of the image and Lucette’s ‘scholarly contribution’

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memorialised by Van. The decoration of the then-new ‘Elements Room’ in Cosimo I di Medici’s Palazzo Vecchio was done under the supervision of Giorgio Vasari, later famed for his Lives of the Painters, by his assistants – who are named and individually characterised by Nabokov. The moth image is, of course, unsigned. Among the painters credited for participation, Zimmer notes the odd absence of Vasari’s close friend, chief assistant, and, perhaps, lover, Cristofano Gherardi, who specialised in fantastical fresco images. (There are several signed works by him elsewhere in the palace décor.) Zimmer speculates that someone not knowing that ‘sweet Marco d’Andrea’ was the moth painter may have assumed Gherardi to be its creator. This, presumably, is Lucette’s (and Nabokov’s) ‘contribution,’ although it is subsequently shown to be wrong. Zimmer also accounts for the oddly precise date and place of the collection of the in copula peacock moths that may have served as Marco d’Andrea da Faenza’s models. In May, 1542, a time when the Peacock Moth flies, Vasari was decorating his own home and garden about 40 miles from Florence. It is not known whether Marco di Faenza (1527?-1588) or Gherardi (1508-1556) assisted, but Zimmer cites a 1991 source for the identification of Marco d’Andrea da Faenza as the painter. Although Lucette’s scholarly hypothesis that it was Gherardi who picked up the model moth in the garden may be true, it was his younger colleague who painted it. Van commemorates Lucette and her love of art by establishing the elegant Lucinda Villa in Manhattan – ‘a miniature museum just two stories high, with a still growing collection of microphotographed paintings from all public and private galleries in the world (not excluding Tartary) on one floor and a honeycomb of projection cells on the other: a most appetizing little memorial of Parian marble, administered by a considerable staff…’(336-7). Apart from bizarre details appended by Van, the Lucinda Villa would seem to suggest New York’s elegant Frick Art Museum with its splendid research facilities in the former Frick mansion.

Forbidden Masterpieces In the summer of 1884 Van and Ada discover not only Uncle Dan’s collection of erotica in the Ardis attic, but a volume in the family library entitled Forbidden Masterpieces, ‘a sumptuous tome’ of a hundred paintings from the private part of the ‘Nat. Gal. (Sp. Sct.)’. Van later recalls that passionate summer in terms of scenes from this volume. This was (beautifully photographed in colour) the kind of voluptuous and tender stuff that Italian masters allowed themselves to produce in between too many pious Resurrections during a too long and lusty Renaissance. The volume itself

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had been either lost or stolen or lay concealed in the attic among Uncle Ivan’s effects, some of them pretty bizarre. Van could not recollect whose picture it was that he had in mind, but thought it might have been attributed to Michelangelo da Caravaggio in his youth. It was an oil on unframed canvas depicting two misbehaving nudes, boy and girl, in an ivied or vined grotto or near a small waterfall overhung with bronze-tinted and dark emerald leaves, and great bunches of translucent grapes, the shadows and limpid reflections of fruit and foliage blending magically with veined flesh. Anyway (this may be purely a stylistic transition), he felt himself transferred into that forbidden masterpiece, one afternoon, when everybody had gone to Brantôme, and Ada and he were sunbathing on the brink of the Cascade in the larch plantation of Ardis Park, and his nymphet had bent over him and his detailed desire. Her long straight hair that seemed of a uniform bluish-black in the shade now revealed, in the gem-like sun, strains of deep auburn alternating with dark amber in lanky strands which clothed her hollowed cheek or were gracefully cleft by her raised ivory shoulder. The texture, gloss and odor of those brown silks had once inflamed his senses at the very beginning of that fatal summer, and continued to act upon him, strongly and poignantly; long after his young excitement had found in her other sources of incurable bliss. At ninety, Van remembered his first fall from a horse with scarcely less breathlessness of thought than that first time she had bent over him and he had possessed her hair. It tickled his legs, it crept into his crotch, it spread all over his palpitating belly. Through it the student of art could see the summit of the trompe l’oeil school, monumental, multicolored, jutting out of a dark background, molded in profile by a concentration of caravagesque light. She fondled him; she entwined him: thus a tendril climber coils round a column, swathing it tighter and tighter, biting into its neck ever sweeter, then dissolving strength in deep crimson softness. There was a crescent eaten out of a vine leaf by a sphingid larva.… Whose brush was it now? A titillant Titian? A drunken Palma Vecchio? No, she was anything but a Venetian blonde. Dosso Dossi, perhaps? Faun Exhausted by Nymph? Swooning Satyr? (140-41)

The volume Forbidden Masterpieces does not exist. Nor do Van’s descriptions of its paintings accurately correspond to those of the artists enumerated. The painters’ names are real; the paintings are not – although there are very approximate correspondences. Caravaggio existed, but the ‘two misbehaving nudes’ are not in any of his known works. Van is stepping into a scene recreated by his own memory and fashioned in the style of various old masters, including Carravaggio. A master of detail who preferred to paint from life, Carravagio did few landscapes and none containing lovers. In his rare still lifes, however, he does attain the perfection of worm-eaten

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Dosso Dossi, Nymph and Satyr

leaves and fruits and the strong trompe l’oeil effects that Van so lushly describes; see, for example, his Still Life of a Basket of Fruit (1601). The trompe l’oeil element lies Van’s description of his own erect member semi-visible through Ada’s long hair as it ‘juts’ ‘out of dark background, molded in profile by a concentration of caravagesque light’. Van’s imagination now turns to other possible artists: ‘Whose brush was it now?’ He rejects both ‘titillant’ Titian and ‘drunken’ Palma Vecchio because of their Venetian preference for blond beauties. Titian’s Danae and the Shower of Gold, affords a typical example, as does Palma Vecchio’s Diana and Callistro (1525). Dosso Dossi, on the other hand, is a more promising prospect. Not only is there a long-haired ‘Ada’ with black hair and matte skin, but Van’s tentative title Faun Exhausted by Nymph parodies Dossi’s title Nymph and Satyr. The title is, of course, generic, and it occurs in several variants – Nymphs Surprised by Fauns, Faun and Nymph, Nymph and Shepherd, etc. Van next imagines the scene as the work of an unnamed Dutch master: ‘Girl stepping into a pool under the little cascade to wash her tresses, and accompanying the immemorial gesture of wringing them out by making wringing-out mouths – immemorial too’ (140-41). A Peter Paul Rubens’ drawing provides what might be a prototype for a Dutch stylisation of Van’s memory.

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As we will see, the Pan and Syrinx myth may also figure in Van’s subsequent account of a sexual encounter of the three siblings. The erotic album Forbidden Masterpieces resurfaces some two hundred pages later when Lucette visits Van at Kingston and tries to dissuade him from his

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passion for Ada. She explains that not only has Ada had male lovers, but has drawn Lucette into a lesbian relationship. Staying at Marina Ranch in Arizona, Lucette (when not engaged with Ada) passes the time by ‘copying beautiful erotic pictures from an album of Forbidden Masterpieces’ (376). She also reminisces about finding Uncle Dan’s Mongolian erotica left lying about by Ada and Van in the Ardis summer of 1888. Ada had explained away the volume as ‘illustrations of Oriental calisthenics’. Ada joins Van in his apartment and a few evenings later Van takes both girls out for a glamorous evening at a Russian nightclub in Manhattan. In the morning Lucette comes in to see Ada while Van is in the bath. Van soon emerges in full pride. Lucette tries to slip away but Ada strips off Lucette’s nightdress and begins to fondle her, drawing Van into the game. Once again, Van recreates the following scene as a work of art: What we have now is not so much a Casanovanic situation (that double-wencher had a definitely monochromatic pencil – in keeping with the memoirs of his dingy era) as a much earlier canvas, of the Venetian (sensu largo) school, reproduced (in ‘Forbidden Masterpieces’) expertly enough to stand the scrutiny of a bordel’s vue d’oiseau. Thus seen from above… we have the large island of the bed illumined from our left (Lucette’s right) by a lamp burning with a murmuring incandescence on the west-side bedtable. The top sheet and quilt are tumbled at the footboardless south of the island where the newly landed eye starts on its northern trip, up the younger Miss Veen’s pried-open legs. A dewdrop on russet moss eventually finds a stylistic response in the aquamarine tear on her flaming cheekbone. Another trip from the port to the interior reveals the central girl’s long white left thigh; we visit souvenir stalls: Ada’s red-lacquered talons, which lead a man’s reasonably recalcitrant, pardonably yielding wrist out of the dim east to the bright russet west, and the sparkle of her diamond necklace, which, for the nonce, is not much more valuable than the aquamarines on the other (west) side of Novelty Novel lane. The scarred male nude on the island’s east coast is half-shaded, and, on the whole, less interesting, though considerably more aroused than is good for him or a certain type of tourist. The recently repapered wall immediately west of the now louder-murmuring (et pour cause) dorocene lamp is ornamented in the central girl’s honor with Peruvian ‘honeysuckle’ being visited (not only for its nectar, I’m afraid, but for the animalcules stuck in it) by marvelous Loddigesia Hummingbirds, while the bedtable on that side bears a lowly box of matches, a karavanchik of cigarettes, a Monaco ashtray, a copy of Voltemand’s poor thriller, and a Lurid Oncidium Orchid in an amethystine vaselet. The companion piece on Van’s side supports a similar superstrong but unlit lamp, a dorophone, a box

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of Wipex, a reading loupe, the returned Ardis album, and a separatum ‘Soft music as cause of brain tumors,’ by Dr. Anbury (young Rattner’s waggish penname). Sounds have colors, colors have smells. The fire of Lucette’s amber runs through the night of Ada’s odor and ardor, and stops at the threshold of Van’s lavender goat. Ten eager, evil, loving, long fingers belonging to two different young demons caress their helpless bed pet. Ada’s loose black hair accidentally tickles the local curio she holds in her left fist, magnanimously demonstrating her acquisition. Unsigned and unframed. That about summed it up (for the magical gewgaw liquefied all at once, and Lucette, snatching up her nightdress, escaped to her room). It was only the sort of shop where the jeweler’s fingertips have a tender way of enhancing the preciousness of a trinket by something akin to a rubbing of hindwings on the part of a settled lycaenid or to the frottage of a conjurer’s thumb dissolving a coin; but just in such a shop the anonymous picture attributed to Grillo or Obieto, caprice or purpose, ober- or unterart, is found by the ferreting artist (418-420).

Memoirist Van first tries to recreate the scene as an episode from Casanova’s memoirs,24 but abandons that drab stylisation and repaints the scene as a fullcolour page from the much more vivid Forbidden Masterpieces. The fluid memory is frozen in time. The exquisite description is replete with specified point of view (vue d’oiseau as in an ornate brothel, lighting, colours, the positions of the figures, bedding, and adjacent still-life realia. All of the senses are brought into play – sight, textures, sound, odour, and (implicitly) taste. As Van says: ‘Sounds have colors, colors have smells’. Synesthesia writ large in a painting ‘unsigned and unframed’. This intensely sensuous scene raises a theme that hovers over Ada’s complex interplay of the verbal and the visual. In the earlier Forbidden Masterpieces episode, Van proposes possible stylistic progenitors for his description. In the present case, although he gives putative attributions, they are fake. The paragraph is in fact an encrypted meditation on art and ‘reality’. Although there was a Renaissance painter named Grillo, he has no connection with Van’s creation. There is no Obieto at all. Why does Nabokov introduce these nonexistent Italianate artists? German Nabokovian Ludger Tolksdorf suggested that ‘Grillo’ be read not as a proper name but as the word ‘grillo,’ meaning ‘cricket’ or ‘caprice, whim’.25 Following Tolksdorf ’s lead, I posed the question to Dmitri Nabokov, whose informative response follows: This is not terribly easy, and requires several frames (figuratively) of reference besides the overall metaphor-within-a-metaphor of which it is a part. On the surface, it is a reference to two painters. They are: 1) real (pretty definitely not the

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case); or 2) imaginary but real within the context of the book (not so); or 3) totally imaginary but thus named to suggest the degree of dependability of the attribution within the context in which the putative searching artist ferrets. They would presumably be Spanish, and named, at the extreme of least plausibility, Grillo (not in the primary sense of ‘cricket’ but in the more colloquial one of ‘irrational caprice’ as in ‘grillos para la caveza’, literally ‘crickets in one’s head’, the only connection with Italian, the language you propose, being the analogous expression ‘grilli per la testa’); and, at the other extreme, Obieto, or obieto, representing objective existence within the imaginary world of the metaphorical ferreting artist. Thus, ‘caprice or purpose,’ or, in German, ‘Oberart or Unterart’ [both of which really ought to be capitalised], are ‘superspecies or subspecies,’ as VN explains in the ‘Darkbloom’ notes to Ada – see, for example, Vintage 1990 or Penguin 2000 – analogously but in inverse order. Which suggests that Grillo, ‘caprice’ (fantasy, hence creativity), might be the superspecies, and Obieto, ‘purpose’ (down-to-earth reality) the subspecies, not in the taxonomic sense (or the racist) but the artistic.26

Thus ‘Grillo’ and ‘Obieto’ are not artists but contrasted terms meaning ‘caprice’ (fantasy, imagination, creativity) and ‘purpose’ (intent, plan, ‘real’) that fall into a binary semantic series with Oberart and Unterart, which Darkbloom defines as ‘superspecies’ and ‘subspecies.’ For the non-biologist this may require clarification. A ‘species’ is a major subdivision of a genus (or subgenus). It is the basic category of classification. Usually, a number of species make up a genus, while the species itself consists of a number of subspecies or races. A particular individual, an actual organism, is a ‘specimen’. The point to be made here is that ‘superspecies’, ‘species’ and ‘subspecies’ are all taxonomic categories in decreasing order of abstraction. Only the specimen is ‘real’. The actual specimen is ‘attributed’ to the abstract category by the investigator just as ‘the anonymous picture’ is attributed to fanciful Grillo or the down-to-earth Obieto by the ferreting artist. In a subsequent note, Dmitri Nabokov calls attention to ‘the bilingual word play of “Art” (“species” inGerman) and “art” (English)’. The application of the biological terms extends to works of art. Nabokov forewarns the reader about the cricket-caprice word play in his text. Note that ‘a rubbing of hindwings on the part of a settled lycaenid’ in the Grillo/Obieto sentence. That ‘rubbing of the hindwings’ by a ‘lycaenid’ (the group of butterflies in which Nabokov specialised) is more usually associated with the cricket who produces his song in that fashion. (It, like the frottage of the disappearing coin, is perhaps not unconnected with Ada and Lucette’s caressing Van’s ‘local curio’.) Nabokov is making a statement about the relationship between art and imitation. Ludger Tolksdorf also calls attention to the relationship between the

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passage discussed above and one, apparently unrelated, that occurs four hundred pages, and nearly ten years, earlier, while Van is attending boarding school:27 A few blocks from the schoolgrounds, a widow, Mrs. Tapirov… had a shop of objets d’art and more or less antique furniture. He [Van] visited it on a bright winter day. Crystal vases with crimson roses and golden-brown asters were set here and there…. He satisfied himself that those flowers were artificial and thought it puzzling that such imitations always pander so exclusively to the eye instead of also copying the damp fat feel of live petal and leaf. When he called next day for the object (unremembered now, eighty years later) that he wanted repaired or duplicated, it was not ready or had not been obtained. In passing, he touched a half-opened rose and was cheated of the sterile texture his fingertips had expected when cool life kissed them with pouting lips. “My daughter,” said Mrs. Tapirov, who saw his surprise, “always puts a bunch of real ones among the fake pour attraper le client. You drew the joker.” As he was leaving she came in, a schoolgirl in a gray coat with brown shoulder-length ringlets and a pretty face. On another occasion (for a certain part of the thing – a frame, perhaps – took an infinite time to heal or else the entire article proved to be unobtainable after all), he saw her curled up with her schoolbooks in an armchair – a domestic item among those for sale. He never spoke to her. He loved her madly (31-32).

Here Nabokov introduces the theme of the real versus the simulacrum, which he develops more fully at the end of the recreated ménage à trois scene. The relationship between the two passages is pointed up by the terms ‘object’ and ‘objets d’art’ (cf. ‘Obieto’), and ‘frame’, which is echoed in the ‘unframed’ painting that Van visualises as a projection of his ménage à trois scene (420). Ludger Tolksdorf tentatively (and plausibly) suggests that the ‘frame’ (for the ‘unsigned’ picture) may be the ‘unremembered’ object that the elderly Van can no longer recall. The memoirist would seem to be conflating recollections here – a phenomenon elegantly demonstrated by Charles Nicol in his pioneering essay ‘Ada or Disorder’. Nabokov reformulates the ‘Grillo/Obieto’ theme toward the end of his novel. Noting that even Van’s scholarly ‘epistemic tasks’ are in fact exercises in literary style, Ada and Ronald Oranger suggest that he ‘choose a big playground for a match between Inspiration and Design…’ (578). In response, Van launches his memoir Ada.

A Rogue’s Gallery We have examined allusions based on ‘real’ paintings by actual artists and to wholly imaginary paintings by both real and imaginary artists such as Grillo and

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Obieto. Before turning to the more difficult case of Paul Gigment, I will briefly review some of the more scattered allusions to painters – from Bronzino to Bruegel to Braque – that appear throughout the novel. Van first encounters homosexuality at his private prep school, Riverlane: ‘Every dormitory had its catamite. One hysterical lad from Upsala, cross-eyed, loose-lipped, with almost abnormally awkward limbs, but with a wonderfully tender skin texture and the round creamy charms of Bronzino’s Cupid (the big one, whom a delighted satyr discovers in a lady’s bower), was much prized and tortured by a group of foreign boys, mostly Greek and English…’ (32). (See colour illustration 26.) The painting seems an odd choice for Van’s point de repère. The scene is entirely heterosexual and while the awkwardly positioned Cupid may indeed display ‘a wonderfully tender skin texture and round creamy charms’, he is neither ‘crosseyed’ nor ‘loose lipped’. On the other hand, Venus, Cupid, Time, and Folly are all central themes in Nabokov’s Ada. The photo album of Ardis that blackmailer Kim Beauharnais presents to Ada provides the basis for another painting allusion. His picture of the servants dancing

Pieter Bruegel the Younger, Peasant Wedding, 1620

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evokes Ada’s comment ‘You can also make out Mr Ward and Mrs French in a bruegelish kimbo (peasant prance) at the farther end of the hall’ (401). The allusion is to Bruegel’s Peasant Wedding in which the dancers display arms ‘akimbo’. Nabokov not only links his favoured protagonists with paintings he admired, but impugns the taste and character of the less favored by assigning them and their scenes to artists and schools he disliked. The most prominent examples are Ada’s husband, Andrey Vinelander, and his sister Dasha. Lucette offers her comments Ada’s husband and sister. Her Andrey, or rather his sister on his behalf, he was too stupid even for that, collected progressive philistine Art, bootblack blotches and excremental smears on canvas, imitations of an imbecile’s doodles, primitive idols, aboriginal masks, objets trouvés, or rather troués, the polished log with its polished hole à la Heinrich Heideland. His bride found the ranch yard adorned with a sculpture, if that’s the right word, by old Heinrich himself and his four hefty assistants, a huge hideous lump of bourgeois mahogany, ten feet high, entitled ‘Maternity,’ the mother (in reverse) of all the plaster gnomes and pig-iron toadstools planted by former Vinelanders in front of their dachas in Lyaska (462).

‘Heideland’ (meaning ‘moor,’ ‘heathland’) refers to Henry Moore, famed for his sculptures of ‘Mother and Child’. (The troués refer to the holes characteristic of Moore’s figures.) Van presumably still has Moore in mind when he later refers to his distaste for all sham art, particularly ‘the crude banalities of junk sculpture’ (577). Ada’s first mention of future husband Andrey Vinelander is that he ‘owns horses, and Cubistic pictures….’ (385). Sister Dasha’s dinner conversation sparkles with her observations on ‘cubist mysticism.’ The very term ‘Cubist’ is one of execration. David van Veen, the dotty architect who memorializes his grandson Eric by building a hundred palatial bordellos to realise the boy’s fantasy scheme, is condemned for slipping into ‘Cubism’: ‘Eric’s grandfather’s range was wide – from dodo to dada, from Low Gothic to Hoch Modern. In his parodies of paradise he even permitted himself, just a few times, to express the rectilinear chaos of Cubism (with ‘abstract’ cast in ‘concrete’) by… such ultra-utilitarian boxes of brick as the maisons closes of El Freud, Austria, or the great-necessity houses of Dudok in Friesland’ (350).28 Similarly, it is noted that the luggage of Captain Tapper of Wild Violet Lodge, with whom Van fights a duel, is ‘colorblotted’ with ‘Cubistic labels of remote and fabulous places’ (304). Van thus amalgamates two of Nabokov’s bêtes noires – Freud and certain kinds of modern art. The origin of Cubism is closely associated with Pablo Picasso, an idol of the

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left, and Georges Braques, whom Van berates in a passing comment: ‘patterns of brass marquetry, and bric-à-Braques, and the ormolu horrors that meant “art” to our humorless forefathers’ (17). Then there are simply jokes: Peter de Rast, whose century-old lithograph of Ardis with its healthy old oak that appeared as ‘a young colossus protecting four cows and a lad in rags, one shoulder bare’.29 In at least one case, an apparently non-existent portrait provides motivation for an elaborate description of Marina Durmanov: Marina’s portrait, a rather good oil by Tresham, hanging above her on the wall, showed her wearing the picture hat she had used for the rehearsal of a Hunting Scene ten years ago, romantically brimmed, with a rainbow wing and a great drooping plume of black-banded silver; … Marina’s face was now made up to imitate her former looks, but fashions had changed, her cotton dress was a rustic print, her auburn locks were bleached and no longer tumbled down her temples, and nothing in her attire or adornments echoed the dash of her riding crop in the picture and the regular pattern of her brilliant plumage which Tresham had rendered with ornithological skill (38).

The artist’s name is an anagram of Lady Amherst, wife of a British Governor General of India after whom the pheasant decorating Marina’s hat is named Chrysolophus amherstiae.

Another Rogue: Mr. Nymphobottomus Then there are the tantalising but obscure cases. Among these is the pseudonymous elderly artist who pays undue attention to the young Ada on his visits to Ardis: the celebrated old rascal who drew his diminutive nudes invariably from behind – fig-picking, peach-buttocked nymphets straining upward, or else rock-climbing girl scouts in bursting shorts – ‘I know exactly,’ interrupted Van angrily, ‘whom you mean, and would like to place on record that even if his delicious talent is in disfavor today, Paul J. Gigment had every right to paint schoolgirls and poolgirls from any side he pleased. Proceed.’ …. [Every time he came] despite her gentle protests he would raise the child by her elbows, taking his time, pushing, grunting, saying: ah, how heavy and pretty she was – this went on and on… and what a relief it was, for everybody concerned,

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when in the course of that fraudulent ascension her poor little bottom made it at last to the crackling snow of his shirtfront, and he dropped her, and buttoned his dinner jacket’ (111-12).

Ada refers to him as ‘Paul Pigment,’ while’s Van’s private sobriquet is ‘Mr. Nymphobottomus.’ Brian Boyd has probed this allusion at some length in his ‘Annotations to Ada’ and concludes that there is no single prototype for the artist but points to several possible ingredients, discussing both Paul Gauguin and Balthus, although their works do not display undue fascination with buttocks.30 Nabokov has spoken well of Balthus, but has offered no prior observations on Gauguin – unlike the case of Van Gogh, whom he mocks in Lolita. (It was Van Gogh, rather than his colleague, who favored heavy pigments.) As Boyd suggests, the motif smacks more than a little of Lolita’s Humbert Humbert, whose preoccupation with ‘peach-buttocked nymphets’ and ‘rock-climbing girl scouts in bursting shorts’ is scattered throughout Lolita. In Ada, such images are more often associated with Lucette than her older sister. Although there is nothing obviously salacious about his work, Norman Rockwell, the most widely known American illustrator from the twenties through the fifties, was a sort of patron saint of both the Boy and Girl Scouts, featuring them in dozens of magazine covers and elsewhere. In Pnin, the narrator conveys on behalf of Victor’s art teacher Lake’ ‘That Dali is really Norman Rockwell’s twin brother kidnapped by gypsies in babyhood’ (96). Who or whatever may underlie ‘Paul J. Gigment’, Paul Gauguin’s imagery makes two appearances late in Ada. Circa 1926, Ada and Van have settled in at a tropical villa. Van, having thus far resisted temptation, decides not accompany Ada on an excursion ‘because he had just realized, what she, too, had realized – that the beautiful native girl smoking on the back porch would offer her mangoes to Master as soon as Master’s housekeeper had left for the Film Festival in Sindbad’ (574-75). Only at the last moment does Van reject temptation and depart with Ada. A few pages later a passing mention leads to the reasonable inference that Nabokov is here referring to a work by Gauguin. Although the correspondence is far from exact (no back porch or cigarette), the pictorial allusion is perhaps to Te arii vahine (The Noble Woman) also known as Woman with Mangoes. The painting deliberately echoes Manet’s provocative Olympia, which Gauguin had earlier copied (with permission) in 1890. (See colour illustration 27.) There are in fact several Gauguin paintings of vahines with mangoes and other tropical fruits. In at least one case there is biographical (as well as biblical) support for the association. Nancy Mowll Mathews, author of Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, calls attention to a Gauguin letter from Martinique in which he

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describes how a young negress offers him ‘a split guava squeezed at the end.’ As he is about to bite into it, a bystander warns him that the girl has bewitched the fruit by crushing it on her breast. He will be powerless against her charms. This image is also suggested by another Gauguin painting, Woman Holding a Fruit’ (Eü haere ia oe), that the young Nabokov probably saw at the Hermitage Museum a few blocks from the family’s St. Petersburg home. In their extreme old age, Ada and Van discuss the options should one of them die. Ada jokingly suggests to Van that he might marry his attractive young secretary Violet Knox. Both Van and Ada have often looked at the ‘enchanting blonde’ with frank sexual interest. But Van declines the option, saying J’ai tâté de deux tribades dans ma vie, ça suffit. Ada makes an alternative suggestion: ‘If not Violet, then a local Gauguin girl. Or Yolande Kickshaw’ (584). Ada is presumably referring to the Gauguin girl with mangoes discussed above. The Yolande Kickshaw allusion is a private joke between Van and Ada, alluding to Violet Knox’s presumed sexual inclinations. ‘Yolande’ derives from the Greek ‘iolanthe,’ designating a violet-colored mountain flower. Both violets and the colour are persistently linked with homosexuality throughout Ada. ‘Kickshaw’ is a quaint

Paul Gauguin, Aha oe Feii (What! Are You Jealous?), 1892

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term derived from the French ‘quelque chose’ and is here used in the sense of ‘something or other,’ ‘whatever-her-name is,’ cf. the phrase ‘tâté de quelque chose’ (to taste something) with Van’s ‘tâté de deux tribades.’ ‘Yolande Kickshaw,’ then, is simply variant name for Violet Knox (Violet What’s-her-name) suggested by Ada in order to spare embarrassment to Violet who will type Van’s manuscript. Gauguin (romantically and wrongly) conceived of Tahiti as an unspoiled paradise where no sexual taboos existed and even hinted at his own longing for a young Tahitian male. It is admittedly speculative, but we might point to his Aha oe feii (What! Are You Jealous? [1892]) as having lesbian undertones. In remarks about the painting, Gauguin described the pair as sisters speaking of past and future loves. In a personal communication art critic Nancy Mathews remarks ‘I too believe in the homoerotic meaning of such paintings as Aha oe feii and that a lesbian reading is Gauguin’s intent’. The parallels between the painting’s themes and Ada’s sexual romps with sister Lucette and the latter’s jealousy are suggestive. Perhaps Nabokov was not unaware of these parallels. Both of the above images echo Ada’s ‘dusky maiden’ motif, which marks various appearances of Ada and such Ada-esque figures as the charming Andalusian blyadushki (whorelets) Adora and Flora, as well as Ada’s role in the film Don Juan’s Last Fling, loosely deriving from Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen and Alexander Pushkin’s The Gypsies (1824). Cervantes’ novella The Gitanilla is also evoked several times.

The Villa Venus We are fortunate to have Nabokov’s account of the first stirrings of Ada (whose original title was Villa Venus), jotted down in late 1965: Sea crashing, retreating with shuffle of pebbles, Juan and beloved young whore – is her name, as they say, Adora? is she Italian, Roumanian, Irish? – asleep in his lap, his opera cloak pulled over her, candle messily burning in its tin cup, next to it a paper-wrapped bunch of long roses, his silk hat on the stone floor near a patch of moonlight, all this in a corner of a decrepit, once palatial whorehouse, Villa Venus, on a rocky Mediterranean coast, a door standing ajar gives on what seems to be a moonlit gallery but is really a half-demolished reception room with a broken outer wall, through a great rip in it the naked sea is heard as a panting space separated from time, it dully booms, dully withdraws dragging its platter of wet pebbles (SO 310).

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This seminal visual image, considerably revised and expanded in georgeously descriptive language, eventually appeared near the middle of Ada, in chapter 4 of the novel’s second section. Van has spent several days at a decaying Villa Venus in Italy, satiating himself in a simulacrum of Ada, named, she says, Adora. The worldwide chain of elegant bordellos are the ‘organised’ dream of another Veen, Eric van Veen, who dies in his youth. The details sketched by the boy include a ‘Venus Pink Shell Book’ in which the clientele may write their ‘impressions and desiderata’. The Venus Pink Shell Book is indeed appropriate since the birth of Venus is often represented as Venus stepping from an ocean-borne pink shell onto the shore of the isle of Cythera or Paphos. The allusion is patently to The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, a painter so admired by Nabokov that he is mentioned thrice in Look at the Harlequins!, twice in Lolita, and once each in Laughter in the Dark and Bend Sinister. Particularly affecting is the comparison of Lolita and Venus: ‘Curious: although actually her looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the day, how much she looked – had always looked – like Botticelli’s russet Venus – the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty’. The painting hangs in the Uffizi, which the Nabokovs visited near the beginning of Ada’s composition. As we have seen, Nabokov’s initial pictorial image of what was to become Ada evolved, in much elaborated form, into Van’s last visit to a decayed Venus Villa. A first visit is also recounted in detail. While his final visit is a poignantly narrated nature morte, the first draws directly upon an easily identifiable wall painting (see colour illustration 28): I had frequented bordels since my sixteenth year, but although some of the better ones, especially in France and Ireland, rated a triple red symbol in Nugg’s guidebook, nothing about them pre-announced the luxury and mollitude of my first Villa Venus. It was the difference between a den and an Eden. Three Egyptian squaws, dutifully keeping in profile (long ebony eye, lovely snub, braided black mane, honey-hued faro frock, thin amber arms, Negro bangles, doughnut earring of gold bisected by a pleat of the mane, Red Indian hairband, ornamental bib), lovingly borrowed by Eric Veen from a reproduction of a Theban fresco (no doubt pretty banal in 1420 B.C.), printed in Germany (Künstlerpostkarte Nr. 6034, says cynical Dr. Lagosse), prepared me by means of what parched Eric called “exquisite manipulations of certain nerves whose position and power are known only to a few ancient sexologists”, accompanied by the no less exquisite application of certain ointments, not too specifically mentioned in the pornolore of Eric’s Orientalia, for receiving a scared little virgin, the descendant of an Irish king, as Eric was told in his last dream in Ex, Switzerland, by a master of funerary rather than fornicatory ceremonies.

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Those preparations proceeded in such sustained, unendurably delicious rhythms that Eric dying in his sleep and Van throbbing with foul life on a rococo couch (three miles south of Bedford) could not imagine how those three young ladies, now suddenly divested of their clothes (a well-known oneirotic device), could manage to draw out a prelude that kept one so long on the very lip of its resolution. I lay supine and felt twice the size I had ever been (senescent nonsense, says science!) when finally six gentle hands attempted to ease la gosse, trembling Adada, upon the terrible tool. Silly pity – a sentiment I rarely experience – caused my desire to droop, and I had her carried away to a feast of peach tarts and cream. The Egypsies looked disconcerted, but very soon perked up. I summoned all the twenty hirens of the house (including the sweet-lipped, glossy chinned darling) into my resurrected presence. After considerable examination, after much flattering of haunches and necks, I chose a golden Gretchen, a pale Andalusian, and a black belle from New Orleans. The handmaids pounced upon them like pards and, having empasmed them with not unlesbian zest, turned the three rather melancholy graces over to me.… Only one of the girls stung me right in the soul, but I went through all three of them grimly and leisurely, ‘changing mounts in midstream’ (Eric’s advice) before ending every time in the grip of the ardent Ardillusian….’ (353-54)

The fresco depicts an elaborate funerary banquet in the vestibule of the ‘Tomb of Nakht’ dating from the XVIIIth Dynasty (1534-1296) at Thebes. Nakht was a scribe and Royal Astronomer at the Temple of Amun at Karnak; his wife, Tawa, was a musician at the Temple. The tomb’s frescoes became famous in 1917, when Egyptologist Norman de Garis Davies and his wife Nina published their wellillustrated The Tomb of Nakht. Nabokov’s description of the trio is quite accurate: ‘long ebony eye, lovely snub, braided black mane, honey-hued faro frock, thin amber arms, Negro bangles, doughnut earring of gold bisected by a pleat of the mane, Red Indian hairband, ornamental bib’. Photographic reproductions of the continuous fresco vary greatly, since they segment the wall paintings in different ways. Nabokov’s description specifically refers to the three foreground figures. He has transformed the ladies at a funeral feast, however, into Van’s attendants in a theme room at a Villa Venus. (In Belle Epoque Paris, and doubtless elsewhere, the most elaborate maisons closes had not only grottoes but Chinese rooms, Persian rooms, an Indian room, and so on.) Often reproductions of the Nakht tomb wall contain only these three foreground figures, the handmaidens who in Nabokov’s re-imagined version lovingly prepare Van for the young virgin. If, however, the version of the fresco scene Nabokov had at hand was from a wider angle, we find the second part of Van’s account depicted. Having failed to rise to the occasion, Van resurrects himself

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with the trio in the left background, particularly the Ada-like Andalusian – one of the recurring Ada surrogates in the book. Andalusia is a district in Spain where Gypsies, who were wrongly thought to come from Egypt, settled begining in the fifteenth century. We have come full circle: The Villa Venus bordello scene is superimposed on a fresco from the Egyptian ‘Tomb of Nakht,’ and both are foreshadowed by Ada’s early allusions to the frescoes of Pompeii, and, particularly, those from the famed bordel there that was, alas, closed when the Nabokovs sought entrance. Nabokov was keenly aware of the prominent role of painting in the composition of Ada. Not only do we have his statement about incorporating the Stabian Flora when he was beginning Ada, then called Villa Venus, but Ada’s final paragraph alludes to the book’s strongly visual character: ‘Not the least adornment of the chronicle is the delicacy of pictorial detail…’. The temporal span encompassed by paintings and painting styles is impressive. From the ‘Tomb of Nakht’ to Picasso takes in nearly 3,500 years. The geographical range is scarcely less imposing: from Egyptian tomb painting through Roman frescoes, Russia’s early icon tradition, Renaissance Italy, Flemish and Dutch work, Utamaro’s eighteethcentury Japan, Spain, France, and Germany. It has been suggested that Ada is a survey of the history of European literature in its wealth of literary allusion. The statement is no less true in regard to painting. What is most remarkable is the integration of the visual and the verbal. Nabokov has been acclaimed for the ingenious layering of his literary allusions: single allusions often prove to be double or triple; each allusion adds yet another dimension to his text and links one aspect to another often far removed. Note, for example, the ‘gypsy’ motif as a recurrent echo of Ada. It ranges from Pushkin’s unfaithful Zemphira in ‘The Gypsies’, the gypsy girl in the film pastiche of Don Juan, Ada as Carmen, Ada as Cervantes’ La Gitanilla (Borges), Ada as an ‘Egyptian’ courtesan, and so on. In Ada, Nabokov has intensified his longtime technique of enriching his prose with allusions to paintings and developing a wide range of ways to integrate the two modalities into a single work of art. Not only do the paintings allude to visual parallels, but they also provide the opportunity to describe scenes ‘in the style’ of various schools and artists. Ada’s paintings also provide a playground for interaction between imagination and artifact. Paintings and artists, both real and imaginary, afford Nabokov a playing field for exploring broad questions of the nature of art and representation. In Ada, Nabokov has created a hybrid entity created almost equally from library and art museum – the interaction between the written word and the visual arts. Ada is Nabokov’s supreme achievement in forging the two art forms into an organic whole.

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9 Ada and Bosch ‘…how passionately, how incandescently, how incestuously – c’est le mot – art and science meet in an insect, in a thrush, in a thistle of that ducal bosquet’ Ada ‘It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characteristics as some shams and shamans have said; it is rather the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art’ Lolita

Van’s memoir contains numerous instances of life and art reflecting each other, in addition to Ada’s orchid painting scenes and the trompe l’oeil roses.1 Ada’s relationship with prior art is an important part of the novel’s focus on imitation and resemblance, and allusions to painters and paintings are pervasive throughout. Of the many visual artists evoked in Ada, none is as central to the novel as the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). The novel refers to three of his paintings directly, The Ship of Fools, The Last Judgement and The Garden of Earthly Delights, and allusions to the latter are woven into Ada from the largest level of design to the smallest detail of the painting; indeed, Nabokov referred in an interview to ‘the Garden of Delights in Ada’ (SO 306).2 Ada’s emphasis on the planets, Antiterra and Terra, in a sense mirrors Bosch’s outer panels depicting the creation of the world, while events within Ada mirror the three inner panels, depicting Eden and the Fall, a fecund Garden paradise of sensual indulgence, and a Hell of demons, violence and cruelty. Allusions to Bosch also relate to important aspects of characterisation. Ada’s critique of Bosch’s incorrectly depicted Tortoiseshell butterfly demonstrates her interest in Lepidoptera and her attention to biological detail, Demon’s interpretation of the

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sexual delights in the central panel highlights his libertinism, and Van uses the triptych as an analogy in his exploration of time. The Bosch allusions raise key questions of relationship: between art and the world it seeks to depict, between literature and painting, between mimicry and mimesis, and between artistic imagination and scientific accuracy.

The Garden of Earthly Delights in Ada The Creation of Worlds When the side panels of Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights are closed, their outer surfaces portray the creation of the world, and bear a Latin inscription from Psalm 33: ‘For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast’. Painted in grisaille, the newly formed Earth, covered in strange plants and eerie shapes and shrouded in mist, is enclosed within a transparent globe. This haunting image of life’s primordial beginnings opens to disclose a panoramic vista of activity. Van’s description of Terra, with its ‘rainbow mist of angelic spirits’ restoring ‘myths of old creeds’ and ‘all the divinities and divines ever spawned in the marshes of this our sufficient world’ (21), curiously echoes Bosch’s image with its rainbow, myth of creation, and watery earth. Indeed, Ada reverberates with Bosch’s depiction of Creation. Nabokov believed that ‘the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world’ (LL 1), and that writing involved a ‘reinventing of the world’ (LL 2). The concept of the artist creating a unique world is comically literalised in Ada’s sibling planets Antiterra (or Demonia) and Terra, which mirror and distort each other and Earth. The planetary theme in Ada shades into metaphysics, as believers in Terra confuse the ‘Other World’ of Terra with the ‘Next World’ and ‘the Real World in us and beyond us’ (20). As the creator of Ada’s world, the designer of the novel’s complex, interlacing patterns and motifs, and the power of fate for the characters of his novel, Nabokov subtly intimates that a designing power may exist behind and beyond ‘this’ world. The physical structure of Bosch’s triptych is reflected in the relationship between the world of the reader and the world within Ada, as ‘unknown to Van, the book can be shut up and its whole world looked at from outside’.3 Eden The left panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights and the gardens and parks belonging to the Ardis estate both portray a sexual, rather than an innocent, Garden of Eden. The name Ardis is itself an anagrammatic play on paradise, and Van and Ada comically replay Adam and Eve and the Fall. Early in their relationship, Van catches a glimpse of Ada bathing at ‘an old-fashioned basin on a rococo stand’ with ‘a fat snake of porcelain curled around the basin’ (60). As

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Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Outer panels

Van and the serpent ‘watch Eve and the soft woggle of her bud-breasts in profile’ (60), the mulberry-coloured soap (a humorous version of the forbidden fruit) slithers out of Ada’s hand and crashes against the marble board.4 The shattal tree, which Van and Ada climb in part one, chapter 15, is ostensibly an apple tree – the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ from ‘Eden National Park’ (95).5 When Ada falls, Van kisses her between her legs as drupes (rather than apples) shower down around them. This first taste in the Tree of Knowledge leads to forbidden knowledge of another kind in the library, where they have sex for the first time in part one, chapter 19, and explore the literature and history of sex and incest in part one, chapter 21.6 Photos taken by Kim of Van and Ada in the early stages of their sexual exploration in the nooks and crannies of the garden depict the two young lovers

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as Adam and Eve. ‘Ada was represented by her two hands rearranging her hair while her Adam stood over her, a frond or inflorescence veiling his thigh with the deliberate casualness of an Old Master’s device to keep Eden chaste’ (406). Ada and The Garden of Earthly Delights also draw from traditions of love gardens in medieval poetry, such as the ‘Roman de la Rose,’ which Nabokov studied at Cambridge.7 Allusions to garden poems in Ada include Marvell’s ‘The Garden’ and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, while Bosch’s garden forms part of a long poetic and painterly tradition of romantic courtly love in immaculate gardens containing flowers, birds, and fountains, and buildings made from crystal, gems and precious metals. (See colour illustration 29.) Garden of Delights In The Garden of Earthly Delights, as in Ada, the Fall from the Garden of Eden seems a Fortunate Fall, leading into another kind of paradise, a sexual garden of erotic pleasures.8 Bosch’s central panel is a landscape riotous with sex, depicting male and female nudes (including Lucette-like beauties with golden or auburn hair and pale, peach-coloured skin) who have sex with each other and couple with fruit and other objects of the natural world in an organic orgy. Despite the crowded activity and sense of universal sexual pleasure, the lovers in Bosch’s Garden are frequently isolated, absorbed in their individual desires and enclosed within their own worlds, as is even represented symbolically by one couple contained within a bubble. The physical environment of the Garden reflects the lovers’ focus on sensuality. The rock and crystal formations pierce and penetrate each other, and the tower in the uppermost Pond of Lust sprouts ‘gleaming pink horns of cuckoldry’.9 The pools in and around which the nude figures of Bosch’s Garden flirt and make love have sexual connotations and reflect the belief that lovers were the children of Aphrodite, who was born from the foam of the sea. Aphrodite’s counterpart in Roman religion, Venus was ‘an ancient Italian goddess of bloom and beauty [and] protectress of gardens’,10 and the medieval Dutch expression for lovemaking was ‘swimming in the bath of Venus’.11 Bosch’s fecund garden is at the height of summer ripeness and lushness, teeming with butterflies, insects, fish, shellfish, animals and birds of all kinds. Gary Schwartz observes that the depiction in the left panel of God’s blessing to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28) explodes into literal form in the central panel.12 Bosch depicts an extravagant, comically literal embodiment of the blessing in his Garden. The busy landscape is permeated with fecundity and contains hundreds of identical nude young beauties and men who have ‘multiplied’ from Adam and Eve, replicating them on a grand scale and indulging in sexual temptations of every kind. The traditional meaning of God’s blessing as procreation, however, is not apparent in Bosch’s vision. There are no pregnant women and no babies or children, suggesting that the sexually active nudes are sterile. Schwartz observes

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that the huge strawberries, cherries, apples, oranges and other berries are ‘fruitful’ in other senses of the word, with numerous sexual connotations.13 In medieval Dutch, ‘to pluck fruit’ meant to make love,14 and Dirk Bax proposes that many of the fruits, and especially the strawberry, in Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights are metaphors for sexual organs. He analyses the fruits and shells which shelter lovers as a play on the medieval word ‘scille’ or ‘schel’, which meant, in addition to shell or rind, a quarrel or row, with the implication that it was a short step from quarrelling to making love.15 At the same time, the sweet, ripe, tempting fruits throughout Bosch’s landscape are an ambiguous echo of the Fall, reminding the viewer of the Original Sin. Flamboyantly unrestrained sexual activity also occurs in the garden of Ardis Park. Its bowers, glades, ‘glens and gullies’ provide the setting for Van and Ada’s exuberantly ‘immoderate exploitation of physical joy’ (139) and sexual exploration. The garden is full of birds and proliferates with flowers, trees, butterflies, wasps, flies and mosquitoes. Like the self-absorbed couples in Bosch’s painting, Van and Ada feel enclosed in their own world and focus on each other to the exclusion of everyone else. The descriptions of the natural world at Ardis and the sexually suggestive insects and flowers in Van’s memoir reflect this absorption, and the intoxication of their desire is reflected everywhere in the garden. Demon refers to a figure in the central panel of Bosch’s Garden of a man embracing a ‘woman-sized strawberry’ (437) and the sexual associations of Bosch’s fruit, alluding to the Fall, are applicable to Ada. Van sucks Ada’s hot tongue and compares it to a ‘large boiled strawberry, still very hot. He sucked it in as far as it would go’ (103). During a lunch at Ardis, Marina asks Price to bring Ada ‘enormous purple pink plums, one with a wet yellow burst-split’ (62). Ada’s immense sexual libido is paralleled by her enormous appetite for food, and the superabundance of food at Ardis and Van’s lavish descriptions of Ada eating complement the sense of lush growth and fertility in the garden. Moreover, Ada, Lucette and Van Veen are ‘the children of Venus’ (410), the lovers celebrated with such naked symbolism in Bosch’s central panel and its pools, and ‘the “arrow” in “Ardis” (Greek ardis, point of an arrow) alludes to the arrow of desire in Cupid’s quiver’.16 Appropriately, in the sections of the memoir set in Ardis’ garden, the ‘myths of Edenic or Arcadian innocence’ combine with ‘myths of sexual experience, of Venus, Cupid or Eros’.17 As with Bosch’s frolicking couples, and despite the emphasis on breeding in the early chapters of the Ardis section, Van is sterile and Ada does not conceive with any of her lovers or with her husband, Andrey Vinelander. Nabokov takes Bosch’s comically multiplied sexual acts and fruits from the central panel and extends it in Ada, ‘although what Bosch juxtaposes in space

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Nabokov mostly overlaps in time’.18 In an excess of ardour that is both a joke about youthful libido and a celebration of Van and Ada’s superiority in the act of love (as in so many other things), Van and Ada have sex as many times a day as they can find a moment alone, as well as in every nook and cranny of Ardis Park and manor. Van, Ada and Blanche each take multiple lovers, and the Veens’ love is ‘multiplied’ around Ladore in the myths and creeds spread by Blanche. In these sexual permutations of the theme of repetition that pervades Ada, Nabokov explores ‘what René Girard labels “mimetic desire,” the imitative nature of erotic love’.19 In the three panels of Bosch’s triptych, Brian Boyd argues, Nabokov found ‘his most complex image of the triumphs and torments of love’s singularity and repetitions’.20 Hell The right panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights depicts a nightmarish Hell on earth on the Day of Judgement. The dark, frozen wasteland flickering luridly with the flames of isolated fires depicts monstrous kitchen knives and giant musical instruments of torture on which humans are strung, cut and impaled. Hybrid monsters and demons of all forms take possession of the world, brutally killing, ravaging and mutilating the human figures. According to Peter Beagle, all three panels of Bosch’s triptych are located on the same earthly site, based on the similarities between the three landscapes – each with bodies of water and a common horizontal line interrupted with vertical structures.21 Ardis Park proves to be similarly complicated, with its own lake, pool, streams, bogs and shrubbery featuring in all the innocent, passionate and hellish dimensions of Van and Ada’s love. In the lyrical, exuberant excess of their early lovemaking, Ardis seems an untouchable paradise to Van and Ada, containing both Eden and the garden of sexual delight, yet despite Van’s fanatical denunciation of death and ‘the existence of physical pain in all worlds’ (136) in his two summers there, Ardis contains the Hell of Bosch’s third panel. With the discovery of Ada’s infidelities and the agony of betrayal and loss, Van is ‘expelled from Ardis’ (97) and his paradise rapidly disintegrates into hell, becoming the ‘poisoned point of Ardis. Arrowhead Manor. Le Château de la Flèche, Flesh Hall’ (318). Ada experiences hell at Ardis after Van leaves – her second letter begins ‘This is a second howl iz ada (out of Hades)’ (332), echoing Aqua’s signature at the bottom of her suicide note ‘My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’)’ (29). Ardis as hell is emphasized by Dan’s death at Ardis on another Boschean note in 1893, when he crawls into the very shrubbery or ‘bosquet’ around the Park where Van and Ada in 1884 and 1888, and Ada and Percy de Prey in 1888, had had sex so often. Dan’s death, reported by Demon and by Dan’s nurse ‘Bess (which is “fiend” in Russian)’ (435),22 is discussed in greater detail below.

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The novel proves a wider setting for Bosch’s hell panel, beyond Ardis Park. Antiterra is called Demonia and is inhabited by demons, including Demon Veen, whose name and wings underscore his many demonic attributes. Van describes Demonia’s demon enchanters as ‘noble iridescent creatures with translucent talons and mightily beating wings’ (20), but to believers in Terra, they are ‘vicious monsters, disgusting devils, with the black scrota of carnivora and the fangs of serpents, revilers and tormentors of female souls’ (21), a description that would be equally apt for the demons in The Garden of Earthly Delights. Demon and Van are physically violent towards their rivals and debased in their sexual exploitation of women, young girls and little boys. Van notes that ‘no sooner did all the fond, all the frail, come into close contact with him (as later Lucette did, to give another example) than they were bound to know anguish and calamity, unless strengthened by a strain of his father’s demon blood’ (20). Van and Ada are ‘two different young demons’ (420) as they caress Lucette in the ménage à trois scene in part two, chapter 8, and Ada, whose name contains the Russian ‘ad’ for ‘hell’,23 inherits Demon’s sexual libido and irresponsibility as well as his blood. Just as the figures in Bosch’s central panel are positioned ambiguously in the triptych between Eden and Hell, the sections of the memoir describing Van and Ada’s sexual paradise allude ambiguously to both innocence and torment.24 The multiplication of the sexual act celebrated in Van and Ada’s early love eventually takes its hellish form in Ada’s infidelities with Dr Krolik, Philip Rack and Percy de Prey, and in Van’s mistresses and prostitutes. ‘Veen’ not only evokes Venus, it also means ‘bog’ in Dutch. The ‘Ladoga bogs’ and ‘lovely rich marshes in the Ladore region’ (108) are a prominent feature of the land around Ardis, even producing ‘bogberr[ies]’ (72) and ‘bogflower[s]’ (489). Boyd believes that Nabokov made ‘the hell that complicates the heaven of love, the bog encircling the garden’25 into a central metaphor and structural foundation for the novel, linking the Dutch painter and Dutch bog with the Veen children and garden of Venus. Thus, in Ada, the Boschean allusions extend into the concept of a paradisal love garden that is ‘always at risk of subsiding into a hellish watery bog, a connection stressed by the very name Veen (peat, bog) and by Blanche’s village and surname, Tourbière (peat, bog), but pointing forward especially to Lucette’s watery grave.’26 Boyd focuses particularly on the hellish consequences for Lucette and Blance. Lucette is implicated in the bog theme through Ada’s bog orchids, the souci d’eau/ ‘marsh marigold’/‘care of the water’ motifs, and her surname Veen. The psychological ramifications of damaging sexual involvement with Van and Ada culminate in her suicide. Blanche is implicated in the bog theme through her village, peat-digger father, and surname (‘de la Tourbière’ would be ‘van Veen’ in Dutch27). ‘A negative Venus [afflicted by venereal disease], lover of an inverse Eros [Sore, the night watch-

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man], mother of a “hopelessly blind” Cupid, Blanche undermines completely the myths of love she has tried to disseminate’.28 The most confrontational of all of Ada’s hellish multiplications of sex occurs in the Villa Venus chapter, part two, chapter 3. Ardis is parodied and grossly distorted in the ‘floramor’ brothels of Eric Veen’s Villa Venus chain, where an utterly degraded and parodic sexual ‘paradise,’ characterised by violence, disease, corruption, and exploitation, is for sale. The pedophilia is particularly shocking, involving a kidnapped ‘green-eyed frail faunlet’ (355) in a French Villa Venus, a little boy of eleven or twelve called Cherry with whom Van has sex in an American Villa Venus, and a child called Adora who Van ‘fondled and fouled … many times’ (357). The most horrifying episode concerns Cherry,29 a ‘pretty catamite … exhausted by too many recent engagements,’ who is ‘defaced by the varicolored imprints of bestial clawings and flesh-twistings’ and has ‘dysenteric symptoms that coated his lover’s shaft with mustard and blood, the result, no doubt, of eating too many green apples. Eventually, he had to be destroyed or given away’ (355). Boyd believes that in this chapter Nabokov mostly closely approaches the hellish vision of Bosch’s triptychs: ‘The paragraph on Cherry alone can be read in conjunction with the right-hand panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights: the shafts of various kinds penetrating many a rectum, the unsavory anal and oral discharges, the ‘bestial clawings’.30 Just as Adora is a tragic double of Ada, Cherry and Lucette are linked in their red and green colours, their ‘copper curls’ and ‘girlish crupper’, the detailed descriptions of homosexuality, and the fact that they ‘both taste the fruits of sex too early, and to fatal effect’.31 When Van experiences the anguish of Ada’s infidelities, he remembers that ‘Aqua used to say that only a very cruel or very stupid person, or innocent infants, could be happy on Demonia’ (301). Aqua and Lucette are pervasively associated in Ada with motifs of martyrdom and torture. Aqua’s life becomes a misery of neglect and betrayals after Demon marries her ‘out of spite and pity, a not unusual blend’ (19). Her downward spiral into insanity is exacerbated by Demon’s infidelities and her confusion about the circumstances of Van’s birth, and she commits suicide when Van is thirteen. Lucette, whose suffering and place at the moral centre of Ada has been carefully documented by Boyd, commits suicide when she gives up hope of ever forming a love relationship with Van. Pointedly, Lucette’s suicide is couched in terms that recollect the central and hell panels of Bosch’s triptych and Van’s years at Ardis. Her dive into the Atlantic’s ‘disorder of shadows and snaking reflections’ (493) with a head that ‘had started to swim like hell’ (493) is prefigured by her ‘ardis [dive] into the amber’ (479) of the pool onboard the ship.32

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As Ellen Pifer notes, on Antiterra, ‘the Demonian appetite for supreme reality has eaten through the barriers of restraint and moderation, destroying, as well, the consolations – affection, loyalty, charity – which make relations among human beings bearable on earth’.33 Carl Linfert believes that the monsters in Bosch’s The Last Judgement are not devils, but ‘only humans disguised as monsters’ and that ‘Bosch leaves the condemned mortals alone and face to face with terror, to endure martyrdoms such as would seem to be among Hell’s fiercest punishments’.34 If the hellish panels in Bosch’s triptychs represent the nature of mankind, the hybrid demonic figures which inflict such pain and suffering on their human victims portray a chilling view of the human capacity for cruelty. The acts of brutality and sexual exploitation by Ada’s demonic Veens, reflecting Bosch’s Hell panel, seem to confirm this pessimistic view, but although the Boschean allusions woven into the novel reveal the demonic underside of Van and Ada’s Antiterran world, Ada is neither bleak nor pessimistic. On the contrary, Van’s memoir sparkles and scintillates, conveying life’s joy and humour as well as its agony, and Van and Ada recover paradise in a new form as their relationship extends into old age. Boyd observes that ‘Nabokov insists on the mixed nature of all experience that is anything like human’ and ‘keeps a firm focus on the blend of shine and shadow in Van and Ada’s lives, the overlap of heaven and hell in any imaginable world’.35 In a lecture on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Nabokov told his students that the closest definition of art is ‘beauty plus pity’. He explained that ‘Where there is beauty there is pity, for the simple reason that beauty must die: beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter, the world dies with the individual’ (LL 251). The link between art, beauty and mortality in Nabokov’s thought is conveyed vividly in Ada. As Van and Ada write their memoir together, Ada emphasises that the detail of their life and love ‘has to be heard, smelled and seen through the transparency of death and ardent beauty’ (71). Just before they die and the world they have created dies with them into the blurb, Van or Ada says ‘[t]he strange mirage-shimmer standing in for death should not appear too soon in the chronicle and yet it should permeate the first amorous scenes’ (584).

Dan’s Boschean Death The first allusion to Bosch in connection with Dan occurs in part two, chapter 1, when the Very Private Letters service delivers Ada’s second letter to Van ‘in the Louvre right in front of Bosch’s Bâteau Ivre, the one with a jester drinking in the riggings (poor old Dan thought it had something to do with Brant’s satirical poem!)’ (331). Bosch’s The Ship of Fools in the Louvre, Paris, depicts Sebastian

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Brant’s popular verse satire Das Narrenschiff or Ship of Fools (1494).36 Nabokov playfully conflates Bosch’s painting with Le Bâteau Ivre, a famous poem by Rimbaud. In part two, chapter 9, Ada refers to Bosch in the context of her acting, noting ‘he too was hooted by hack hoods in much older Amsterdams, and look how three hundred years later every Poppy Group pup copies him!’ (426). The notion of copying or imitation ironically foreshadows Dan’s death in imitation of another painting by Bosch in part two chapter 10. The last years of Dan’s life are tempered by failing health and he begins to hallucinate ‘that a devil combining the characteristics of a frog and a rodent desired to straddle him and ride him to the torture house of eternity’ (435). Dan’s devil alludes directly to a detail in the central panel Bosch’s triptych The Last Judgement, in the Vienna Academy of Art. The panel depicts a Judgement Day scene on earth that shows humans being tortured by hybrid demons in myriad grotesque ways. Bosch’s vision of a hellscape in dark black and red colours conveys a strong sense of nightmare. Growing increasingly tormented by this image, Dan escapes from Ardis Manor and crawls into the ‘brown shrubbery of

Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgement. Detail of the central panel

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Ardis’, in a re-enactment of the painting: ‘he was naked except for a red bath towel which trailed from his rump like a kind of caparison, and, despite the rough going, had crawled on all fours, like a crippled steed under an invisible rider, deep into the wooded landscape’ (435). He dies shortly afterwards in the new hospital in Ladore ‘raving about that detail of the picture’ (436). Dan’s imitation of Bosch’s painting overlaps in a particularly gruesome way with other instances of art and life mimicking and reflecting each other in the memoir. (See colour illustration 30.) Demon relishes the curious coincidence between art and life in Dan’s death. ‘Daniel Veen’s life had been a mixture of the ready-made and the grotesque; but his death had shown an artistic streak because of its reflecting (as his cousin, not his doctor, instantly perceived) the man’s latterly conceived passion for the paintings, and faked paintings, associated with the name of Hieronymus Bosch’ (433). When Ladore Hospital cables that Dan is dying, Demon sets off at once for Ladore via Manhattan, ‘eyes blazing, wings whistling’ (433), and visits Van’s apartment to tell him about Dan’s ‘odd Boschean death’ (436). Van appears in ‘a strawberry-red terry-cloth robe’ (434), causing Demon to ‘put down his cup rather jerkily on noting the coincidence of colour with a persistent detail in an illumined lower left-hand corner of a certain picture reproduced in the copiously illustrated catalogue of his immediate mind’ (435). Naked except for his red bathrobe, Van unknowingly mimics both The Last Judgement and Dan’s reenactment of the painting, and reminds Demon of the ‘strawberry’ from The Garden of Earthly Delights. While Demon raves about Bosch, Van desperately hopes Ada will not be discovered in the next room. As Van concedes at the beginning of part two, chapter 10, however, ‘nothing can change the end (written and filed away) of the present chapter’ (432). Bosch’s paintings not only dominate this crucial chapter when Demon discovers Van and Ada’s incestuous relationship, but the title of The Last Judgement reverberates comically in its context, since Dan’s Boschean death is Nabokov’s final judgement about his character’s fate, and in the next chapter, Demon will command Van to end his relationship with Ada. The link between Dan’s allusions to The Last Judgement and the hell panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights is underscored by Van’s state of mind following Demon’s interdict: ‘everything had gone to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach’im, of Jeroen Anthniszoon van Aken and the molti aspetti affascinanti of his enigmatica arte, as Dan explained with a last sigh to Dr. Nikulin and to nurse Bellabestia’ (438). Demon’s fate also relates to art, as Boyd suggests.37 Pieter Bruegel is often identified as Bosch’s ‘one great disciple’.38 His Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in

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D.M. van Buuren’s collection in New York shows Icarus with wings extended in the sky. The nearly identical Bruegel painting in the Musées Royaux des BeauxArts, Brussels, humorously depicts Icarus disappearing into the harbour with just one leg visible above the splash, as life continues in the landscape around him. Auden’s famous poem, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, concludes with a stanza celebrating Bruegel’s painting: In Bruegel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

With a father named Dedalus and the emphasis on Demon’s wings throughout Ada, Demon is an Icarus figure who dies, appropriately, in ‘a gigantic flying machine [that] had inexplicably disintegrated at fifteen thousand feet above the Pacific’ (504).

Insects, Hybrids and Art Bosch’s paintings are linked with Ada’s motif of insects and incest. The first hint that the novel’s insect motif and the Bosch allusions may be connected occurs in Dan’s description of his demon rider in The Last Judgement as ‘black, palebellied, with a black dorsal buckler shining like a dung beetle’s back and with a knife in his raised forelimb’ (435). (Dung beetles belong to the superfamily of insects, the Scarabaeoidea, and Dan’s dung beetle echoes Ada’s Ophrys flower imitating a moth imitating a scarab.) Demon explicitly articulates the thematic connection between insects and incest in Bosch, when he marvels ‘how passionately, how incandescently, how incestuously – c’est le mot – art and science meet in an insect, in a thrush, in a thistle of that ducal bosquet’ (436). Demon’s ‘ducal bosquet,’ combining ‘ducal’ in English with bosquet, meaning ‘grove’ or ‘copse’ in French, is a trilingual pun referring to the fact that Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken derived his painting name from his home town of ’s-Hertogenbosch, meaning the woods (bosch) of the Duke (hertog) in Dutch. Demon’s allusion to the thistle in his comment about incest shows that he is already thinking of the Tortoiseshell butterfly which rests on a large thistle in the central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights.

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Demon describes how Ada and Lucette identified ‘a Meadow Brown, female, in the centre of the right panel, and a Tortoiseshell in the middle panel’ (436) of The Garden of Earthly Delights. In 1949 Nabokov wrote a letter to Life magazine observing that ‘the butterfly wings in the third panel of the Bosch triptych, so beautifully reproduced in your issue of November 14, can be at once determined as belonging to a female specimen of the common European species now known as Maniola jurtina, which Linnaeus described some 250 years after good Bosch knocked it down with his cap in a Flemish meadow to place it in his Hell’ (SL 93-4). Bosch must have been equally casual about his Tortoiseshell butterfly, which is an inaccurate representation, as Ada and Lucette point out to Demon. Bosch ‘evidently found a wing or two in the corner cobweb of his casement and showed the prettier upper surface in depicting his incorrectly folded insect’ (437), rather than the underside of the wing which would be visible in the resting position with the wings closed above its back. This contrasts with the other painted butterflies in Ada, ‘a pair of the Pear Peacock in copula, the male with the feathery antennae, the female with the plain threads, [depicted] faithfully (among wretched, unvisualised insects) on one side of a fenestral niche in the so-called ‘Elements Room’ of the Palazzo Vecchio’ (400). (See colour illustration 31 a until e.) Demon’s discussion about Bosch’s incorrectly depicted Tortoiseshell butterfly raises issues about artistic imagination and scientific accuracy in representations of the natural world, an issue about which Nabokov felt strongly. While researching for his Butterflies in Art project in the mid-1960s, just before he began writing Ada, Nabokov studied many paintings by the Old Masters with inaccurate depictions of butterflies. ‘Only myopia condones the blurry generalizations of ignorance,’ he declared. ‘In high art and pure science detail is everything’ (SO 168). In his review of Audubon’s Butterflies, Moths and Other Studies, Nabokov queried ‘Can anyone draw something he knows nothing about? Does there not exist a high ridge where the mountainside of ‘scientific’ knowledge joins the opposite slope of ‘artistic’ imagination?’ (SO 330). Nabokov’s letter to Pyke Johnson about the designs for the jacket and title page of Poems shows that he believed artistic creativity and freedom of imagination could be reconciled with scientific accuracy and knowledge (and indeed that is exactly what he does in Ada, with his invented species and playful treatment of the natural world). ‘To stylize adequately one must have complete knowledge of the thing’ (SL 284). ‘I have nothing against stylization but I do object to stylized ignorance’ (SL 285). In contrast with Bosch’s inaccurate painting of the Tortoiseshell, Ada’s paintings of orchid hybrids combine artistic creativity with ‘exact knowledge’ (437) derived from the opened botanical atlases on the table and her own expertise. Ada ‘combined one species with another (unrecorded but possible), introducing odd little changes and twists’ (99).

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Ada’s ‘crossbreeding’ of two insect-mimicking Ophrys flowers in her painting overlaps with the play on insects and incest as anagrams of each other, and with the incestuous inbreeding of the Veen family tree. The Bosch allusions further establish a link between ‘crossbreeding casual fancies’ (437) in art and the crossbreeding/inbreeding and incest/insect motifs of the novel.39 Bosch is famous for his bizarre hybrid demons and creatures, which proliferate throughout The Garden of Earthly Delights, transgressing the basic categories of life by mixing humans with animals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles and plants, often in grotesque contortions of the body. Many of the demons in Bosch’s hell panel have the wings of insects, and the human figures in the central panel ‘crossbreed’ by interacting sexually with fruit, birds, flowers, and mussel and crustacean shells. Demons, incest, insects, ‘crossbreeding,’ hybrids and art are cleverly linked in the novel. Although Ada’s ‘possible’ hybrids contrast with Bosch’s fantastically ‘impossible’ hybrid monsters, animals and fruits, the hybridity of both artists represents the potency of artistic creativity. The hybrid monsters and creatures that evolve from Bosch’s endlessly original, creative mind manifest a kind of artistic fertility which also characterises Ada’s paintings of hybrid orchids. ‘Did Nabokov mean to suggest,’ writes Robert Alter, ‘that there is something ultimately monstrous about the artistic imagination itself; that, given absolute freedom, it will conjure up not only beautiful birds of paradise but the most fearful monstrosities as well?’40 As actress and writer, Ada and Van are artists in a planet ‘where artists are the only gods’ (521). Ellen Pifer suggests that in Ada, Nabokov ‘demonstrates that the ‘wildest flights’ of art, ardor, and science spring from the same vital source: inhuman desire and curiosity’.41 She observes that ‘[i]n Nabokov’s Eden, the act of incest embodies that creative principle of inbreeding which nurtures both nature and art’.42 Demon and Libertinism A winged, demonic character with a name that is ‘a form of Demian or Dementius’ (4), Demon is strongly associated with the Bosch allusions. In part two, chapter 10, he identifies the Boschean nature of Dan’s death and discourses at length on The Garden of Earthly Delights. In this chapter, Demon also amusingly reflects the popular notion that Bosch drew his fantastic creatures from visions stimulated by hallucinogenic drugs, as he himself has taken dragonara or volatina to cope with the aftermath of Dan’s death. His drugenhanced speech is an unstoppable torrent, ‘a crazy spectrum, a talking palette’ (437), and as the dragon drug wears off, he experiences a ‘starkness of thought as if all color were drained from the mind’ (439) that extends to his ‘gray dressing gown’ and ‘gray couch’ (439).

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Demon is also associated throughout Ada with the hero of Mikhail Lermontov’s poem The Demon, a fallen angel who roams Earth. The novel contains many allusions to Lermontov and to Mikhail Vrubel’s paintings of his poem, and Ada’s intensely romantic but cruel Demon echoes Lermontov’s Demon in his adoration and exploitation of women, his ‘inhuman passion’ (252), the tender strangeness of his speech, and his deep boredom with evil. The dark, melancholic hero of the poem is parodied by Nabokov’s Demon, however, who dyes his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes black, wears frilled shirts and makeup and cries facile tears in a burlesque version of the other Demon’s heavy teardrop and slow river of tears. Even Demon’s Lermontov associations disclose a Boschean connection. Like another triptych by Bosch, The Haywain, the left panel of The Last Judgement depicts Lucifer’s angels falling from the sky during the war with the heavenly host. As the rebel angels fall, they lose their translucence and lightness, darkening and metamorphosing into hybrid figures with insect wings. In Paradise Lost, the other great source of the Eden and Hell themes in Ada, Milton compares the numberless rebel angels on the floor of Hell to a ‘pitchy cloud / Of locusts’ (Book I: 340-1). The squat, brutish demons with insect wings and faces in hellish panels of The Last Judgement and The Garden of Earthly Delights are coarse derivatives of the original fallen angels of which Demon is a parody. (See colour illustration 32.) Demon rejects the art historian’s parlance of esoteric meaning, myth, allegory and historical or cultural context in Bosch’s ‘tremendous garden of tongue-incheek delights’ (436). ‘I’m allergic to allegory and am quite sure he was just enjoying himself by crossbreeding casual fancies just for the fun of the contour and color, and what we have to study, as I was telling your cousins, is the joy of the eye, the feel and the taste of the woman-sized strawberry that you embrace with him, or the exquisite surprise of an unusual orifice’ (437). Here Demon refers directly to the man hugging a woman-sized strawberry in the central panel. Strawberries are represented pervasively in the Garden as offerings or objects of love, and a giant strawberry is surrounded by a group of worshipful men. The strawberry is especially significant to The Garden of Earthly Delights because one of the earliest commentators on the painting, Father Siguenza, called it The Strawberry Plant, and said it centred around ‘a picture of the transient glory and the fleeting taste of the strawberry, and its pleasant fragrance that is hardly remembered once it has passed’43. Demon also refers directly to details of the central panel in his description of unusual orifices. In the Garden of Delights a crow pecks the anus of a male nude cavorting on horseback around the pool, and in the foreground two male figures look at the viewer as one inserts flower stems into the anus of his partner. Demon’s interpretation of Bosch’s intentions is highly suspect, however, because he is myopic to the moral dimensions of sexual

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Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail from the central panel: Demon’s woman-sized strawberry.

indulgence. Selfish, violent towards Marina’s lover, d’Onsky, and relentlessly exploitative in his pursuit of women and pre-pubescent girls for sexual gratification, he is more like an incandescent, lascivious demon in one of Bosch’s paintings than an objective art critic. Bosch’s Garden panel is often a colourful exploration of beauty, eroticism and human behaviour. The nudes in the central panel are both sexually alluring and innocent and their enigmatic innocence, flat affect, and emotional and moral neutrality exert a strange compulsion on the viewer. Although we readily agree

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Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail from the central panel: The strawberry cult.

with Demon that the visual enjoyment offered by the movement, colour, sensual beauty, eroticism and hypnotic dreamlike products of Bosch’s imagination should be enjoyed, The Garden of Earthly Delights ‘is not merely, as Demon Veen contends, an expression of an artist’s delight in freely manipulating the medium; it is also a disturbingly ambiguous conception of the terrestrial paradise’.44 Van’s memoir dazzles with the plenitude and wealth of the Veens’ aristocratic lifestyle, the intensity of Van and Ada’s youthful love, and the amazing fecundity of their paradisal garden, glossing over Lucette’s loneliness and the miseries of Blanche’s venereal disease. Similarly, Bosch’s ‘dazzling colors and joyous appearance are

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Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail from the central panel: Unusual orifices

meant to trap the viewer in his or her own desires, just as it has trapped those who dwell therein. If we look closer, what appears to be enjoyment soon comes to seem more and more uneasy, even frightening. The humans’ frantic, mindless pursuit of food and sex shows that they are being swallowed up by their unbridled appetites’.45 The strongest counterargument to Demon’s hedonist interpretation of Bosch’s garden of sexual delights is the visual impact of the triptych as a whole. The human

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Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail from the central panel: Unusual orifices

figures, animals and birds are mesmerising, but viewers in front of the central panel cannot avoid noticing the equally compelling third panel, with its gruesome depictions of violence and brutality. The tender and beautiful combine with the lurid, horrific and grotesque in a colourful riot of activity, detail and movement that draws the eye. The right panel even depicts a torture corresponding to the unusual orifices that amuse Demon, with a bent Christ-like male figure walking painfully with a flute rammed into his anus. The relevance of the third panel to Ada is graphically emphasised by the fact that following Demon’s discovery of Van

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and Ada’s incestuous relationship, Van immediately vents his rage at the separation from Ada and the loss of their paradise. With the help of bribable policemen, Van deals violently with two men in early 1893: ‘aging Miller was shot dead by an Italian policeman on a little known border trail’, and ‘Kim who would have bothered Ada again had he not been carried out of his cottage with one eye hanging on a red thread and the other drowned in its blood’ (441).

Van and Time Van weaves allusions to Bosch into his metaphysical speculations on time. Van’s Mascodagama act has a demonic quality and causes little children violent nightmares about the ‘swoosh of nameless wings’ (183). The parodic symbolism of the ‘clash of cymbals in the orchestra and a cry of terror’ (183) echoes Van’s nights in the hammock at Ardis, where Uncle Ivan ‘had cursed his blood cough and sunk back into dreams of prowling black spumas and a crash of symbols in an orchal orchestra’ (73). (The latter, suggests Darkbloom, is a skit on Freudian dream charades, while ‘orchal’ not only refers to a violet-coloured dye but also hints at the Greek ‘orchis’ for testes.) On these nights at Ardis, with the fireflies like ‘lucifers’ in the darkness, Van was haunted ‘by that meaningless space overhead, underhead, everywhere, the demon counterpart of divine time’ (73). The nightmarish, demonic elements, the orchestral cymbals and symbols, and the reference to time in these passages strongly evoke the third panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, where Bosch’s hell panel depicts monstrous kitchen knives and giant musical instruments of torture. Philip Rack, a musical composer with a torture-related surname, is oddly implicated in the Boschean allusions and its third panel of musical instruments. Poisoned by his wife, he dies in Kalugano Hospital as Van recovers from his duel. Van describes him as ‘amphibious’ (202), a live ‘corpse’ (202) and a ‘rotting rat’ (314), which also evoke the amphibious hybrids, rats and corpses of Bosch’s hellscapes. In Van’s mentally rehearsed speech in 1888, he tells Rack that ‘our awareness of being is not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting it and shining – no matter how narrowly – between the back panel and fore panel’ (314), just as there is a slit or fissure between the two outer panels depicting the globe and enclosing the world of time within. The analogy between the structure of the triptych and time recurs in part four as Van outlines his treatise on The Texture of Time, refuting the concept of the future, while he drives to meet Ada for their reunion in Mont Roux in 1922. The Garden of Earthly Delights is most commonly read as a religious allegory in which the outer panels show the creation of the world, the left

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panel depicts God’s creation of Eve from Adam and the blessing of their marriage, the centre illustrates the results of the first sin and shows the sexual promiscuity and license of Adam and Eve’s descendents, and the right panel portrays the excruciating tortures and hellish vision of the Day of Judgement. A chronological reading of the three panels is implicit in the traditional Christian interpretation. Van, however, refutes the metaphysical implications of this structure, asserting that he does not ‘believe that the future is transformed into a third panel of Time’ (550). ‘[T]ime is anything but the popular triptych: a nolonger existing Past, the durationless point of the Present, and a “not-yet” that may never come. No. There are only two panels. The Past (ever-existing in my mind) and the Present (to which my mind gives duration and, therefore, reality)’ (559-60). The mimetic, mirroring relationship between the text and Bosch’s paintings emphasises the theme of imitation that is explored in so many diverse ways in Ada. The resemblance of the novel to a painting transcends the difference in media and raises the theme of relationship between Ada and prior art, and between the world within a work of art and the outer world of the artist and reader. The memoir’s imitation of Bosch occurs literally in Dan’s Boschean death, and more subtly in allusions to The Garden of Earthly Delights. The larger structure of the Ardis and Villa Venus sections of the memoir is modelled on the Eden, Garden, and Hell panels of The Garden of Earthly Delights, and specific details from each panel are incorporated into the text. Yet despite the numerous echoes of Bosch’s work in Ada, the allusions fit into the context of the story, or rather are transformed by it, and the interpretation or possession of details of Bosch’s paintings by Dan, Demon, Van and Ada is in keeping with their interests and characterisation. The Boschean allusions are woven into motifs that involve mimicry, such as Ada’s orchid paintings and the connection between insects and incest. As in the key scenes of Ada painting her hybrid Ophrys flowers, Nabokov shows life imitating art imitating nature and vice versa in a dizzying ‘trick-crystal regression’ (494) that celebrates the deceptiveness, and the surprising interrelatedness, of art and nature.

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Appendix I List of Passages in Nabokov’s Novels, Stories or Autobiography Referring or Alluding to Paintings

Nabokov’s works include many references to painters and paintings, real and fictitious. A number of these passages refer to existing painters and their work. However, some of the paintings referred or alluded to may be nonexistent. In this section, the relevant passages are presented (in a chronological order) and an attempt is made to match or link these descriptions with the individual works of these painters. (Painters who are mentioned without a specific reference to their work are not listed in this appendix.)

‘La Venezia’. Page 92: ‘the portrait of a woman by Luciani’. Artist: Fra Sebastiano (Luciani) del Piombo, c. 1485-1547, Italian. Title of work: Portrait of a Young Roman Lady, c. 1512, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Page 100: ‘Flemish canvas with the Holy Family in the foreground, against a smooth, limpid landscape’. Page 101; ‘a Madonna with an azure corona, by the delicate Raffaello’. Artist: Raphael (Rafaello Sanzio) 1483-1520, Italian. Title of work: Madonna in the Meadow, 1505 or 1506, Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna Comment: Raphael painted many Madonnas, several of them against a blue sky. The selected one has a sky of a tender blue. Page 101: ‘Bernardo Luini … His best Madonna has long, caressingly lowered eyes, and her apparel has light-blue, rose-red, misty-orange tints. A gaseous, rippling haze encircles her brow, and that of her reddish-haired infant. He raises a pale apple toward her, she looks at it lowering her gentle, elongated eyes – Luinesque eyes’. Artist: Bernardo Luini, c. 1481-1532, Italian. Title of work: Madonna with Child, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

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Page 101: ‘the foggy, yellow skating rink of one of the Dutchmen’. Artist: Hendrick Avercamp, 1585-1634, Dutch. Comment: Avercamp painted many winterscapes. Some of them have frozen lakes and rivers of the same amber colour as the sky above, as The Delights of the Winter, c. 1610 (Mauritshuis, The Hague) which shows many skaters as well.

Mary Page 36: ‘Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead’. Artist: Arnold Böcklin, 1827-1901, Swiss. Title of work: Island of the Dead Comment: Böcklin painted five variations on this theme, all with the same title, Die Toteninsel. The first version (1880) is in the Kunstmuseum Basel.1

The Defence Page 38: ‘Phryne Taking Her Bath’. Artist: Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775-1851, English. Title of work: Phryne Going to the Public Bath as Venus, 1838, Tate Gallery, London. Comment: The mythological figure of Phryne has been painted by many artists. Page 190/1: ‘lilies and tender faces highly inflamed by colds caught in heaven’. Artist: Sandro Botticelli, c. 1445-1510, Italian. Title of work: The Virgin and Child with Singing Angels, 1477, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Comment: Angels who look like they have caught a cold are explicitly linked with Botticelli in Bend Sinister.

Glory Page 17: ‘Lida… would retire toward some rocks which she called Ayvazovskian in honor of that painter’s seascapes’. Artist: Ivan Ayvazovsky, 1817-1900, Russian. Title of work: Pushkin by the Cliffs of Gurzuf in the Crimea, 1880, Art Museum, Odessa. Comment: The scene from Glory is located in the Crimea. The painting is one of the few of Ayvazovsky’s works which show rocks, while the resting Pushkin, the rolling waves and the moon correspond greatly with the passage quoted.2 Page 34: ‘a portrait of Lady Hamilton’. Artist: George Romney, 1765-1815, English. Title of work: Lady Emma Hamilton, 1785, National Portrait Gallery, London. Comment: Romney painted Emma Hamilton about fifty times, quite often in an alluring pose, as is the case in the selected one.

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Page 138: ‘naked old chap armed with a trident rose out of his Böcklinian waves’. Artist: Arnold Böcklin 1827-1901, Swiss. Comment: In paintings like Playing in the Waves (1880-3), Naiads at Play (1886) and Sea Idyll (1887), Böcklin depicted sea gods and mermaids in wild seas amidst whom a Poseidon-like old man would often figure.

Laughter in the Dark Page 11: ‘designing say a Breughel film – the “Proverbs” for instance’. Artist: Pieter Bruegel, c. 1527-1569, Flemish. Title of work: Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Page 128: ‘her Mona Lisa smile’. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian. Title of work: Mona Lisa, 1503, Louvre, Paris. Page 130: ‘Cumming’s work … his last series – the Gallows and Factories’. Comment: Thieme and Becker’s Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler (36 volumes) presents two Cummings, one a clockmaker, one a painter of watercolours. Page 141: ‘Henry the Eighth (by Holbein)’. Artist: Hans Holbein, 1497/8-1543, German. Title of work: Portrait of Henry VIII, private collection.3 Page 146: ‘that Lorenzo Lotto with the mauve-robed John and weeping Virgin’. Artist: Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1480-1556, Italian. Title of work: Pietà, 1545, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. Page 146: ‘in Baugin’s best manner: a mandolin on a chessboard, ruby wine in a glass and white carnation’. Artist: Lubin Baugin, c. 1610-1663, French. Title of work: Still Life with Chessboard, 1630, Louvre, Paris. Comment: The description deviates from the painting; the mandolin is a mandora, the carnations (three) are red and the instrument is not on the chessboard, but next to it. Page 146: ‘a nice Linard – flowers and an eyed moth’. Artist: Jacques Linard, c. 1600-1645, French. Title of work: Basket with Flowers, Louvre, Paris. Comment: According to Zimmer the moth is probably an Oak Egger.4

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Despair Page 56: ‘an ordinary print found in every Berlin home: “The Isle of the Dead”’. Comment: See entry for Böcklin under Mary, above.

‘A Russian Beauty’ Page 382: ‘Serov’s portrait of the Tsar’. Artist: Valentin Serov, 1865-1911. Title of work: Portrait of Tsar Nicholas, 1900, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

The Gift Page 13: ‘Vereshchagin’s picture of the Moscow Fire’. Artist: Vasily Vereshchagin, 1835-1904, Russian. Title of work: The Kremlin Burns. Page 71: ‘Persian miniatures… one… by Riza Abbasi… man kneeling, struggling with baby dragons, big-nosed, moustachioed-Stalin!’. Artist: Riza-i’Abbasi, 1587-1635, Persian. Comment: Nabokov might have seen Kühnel’s book, published some thirteen years earlier than The Gift, which shows a big-nosed shepherd with a heavy beard and moustache (The Shepherd). Canby’s monograph, which covers Abbasi’s whole oeuvre, does not provide a better alternative. Page 115: ‘Marco Polo Leaving Venice’. Title of work: Marco Polo Leaving Venice, Miniature, Bodleian Library, Oxford.5 Page 215: ‘‘The Removal from the Cross’ – by Rembrandt’. Artist: Rembrandt van Rijn, 1620-1669, Dutch. Title of work: The Descent from the Cross, 1633, Alte Pinakothek, Munich. Comment: There is an etching with the same title from 1654, National Library, Paris. Page 223: ‘On her knees in a cave, Mary Magdalene was praying before a skull and cross, and of course her face in the light of the lampad was very sweet’. Artists: Guido Reni, 1575-1642, Italian. Georges de la Tour, 1593-1652, French. Title of work: Various versions of paintings of Mary Magdalene. Comment: Reni painted several Mary Magdalenes, one (located at the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica di Palozzo Barberini, Roma) in which she is sitting in a grotto, with skull and cross but without a lamp. Georges de la Tour painted a number of pictures of the repenting Magdalene. In one she is sitting with her hand resting on a skull, gazing at a wooden cross, her face illuminated by an oil lamp. One version, Magdalena with the Nightlight, is in the Louvre and another, Magdalena in a Flickering Light, is in the Los Angeles County Art Museum.

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‘Spring in Fialta’ Page 417: ‘the composite table… his parted hand… his table companions all turned towards him… the suggested comparison struck me as hardly less sacrilegious than the nature of his art itself ’. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian. Title of work: Last Supper, c. 1496, Santa Maria della Grazia, Milan Comment: See entry for Leonardo under Bend Sinister. Page 424: ‘… rather like Wouwerman’s white horse’. Artist: Philips Wouwerman, 1619-1668, Dutch. Comment: Wouwerman was fond of painting white horses. There is a White Horse in the National Gallery, London, another in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

‘The Visit to the Museum’ Page 278: ‘a copper helmet with a Rembrandtesque gleam’. Artist: Rembrandt van Rijn, 1620-1669, Dutch. Title of work: Man in a Golden Helmet, c. 1650, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Bend Sinister Page xviii: ‘that the urchins in the yard… have been drawn by Saul Steinberg’. Artist: Saul Steinberg, 1918-2003, American. Page 23: ‘A mezzotint of the Da Vinci miracle – thirteen persons at such a narrow table’. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian. Title of work: The Last Supper, c. 1496, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Comment: ‘The Last Supper’ mentioned in The Defence (191) has, unlike Leonardo’s masterpiece, two dogs. Page 34: ‘Chardin’s “House of Cards” the conspicuous cards, the flushed faces, the lovely brown background’. Artist: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1699-1779, French. Title of work: Boy with a House of Cards. 1740, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Comment: Chardin made several paintings with this subject (National Gallery, London, 1736-7; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1737; Uffizi, Florence, 1740). All feature a boy building a house of cards.6 Page 149: ‘Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy’’’. Artist: Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788, English. Title of work: The Blue Boy, 1770, H.E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, Pasadena.

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Page 149: ‘Aldobrandini’s ‘Wedding,’ of the half-naked wreathed, adorable minion whom the groom is obliged to renounce for the sake of a lumpy, muffled-up bride’. Title of work: Aldobrandini Wedding, first century B.C., Vatican Gallery, Rome. Comment: ‘The characters in it are jocularly misidentified here,’ says Boyd.7 Page 153/4: ‘those portraits of singulars beings (perhaps Neanderthal half-men – and direct ancestors of Paduk and his likes – used by Aurignacians as slaves) … in the painted cave of Altamira’. Comment: Palaeolithic wall paintings in a cave near Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain. Page 155: ‘in Raphael’s representation of the miraculous draught we find among nondescript piscine forms of the young painter’s fancy two specimens which obviously belong to the skate family, never found in freshwater.’. Artist: Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), 1483-1520, Italian. Title of work: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, c. 1515-6, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Lolita Page 36: ‘Van Gogh’s’ Arlésienne. Artist: Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch. Title of work: L’Arlésienne. Comment: Van Gogh portrayed Mme. Ginoux at least six times between 1888 and 1890. Page 38: ‘René Prinet’s “Kreutzer Sonata”’. Artist: René Prinet, 1861-1946, French. Title of work: The Kreutzer Sonata, 1898. Comment: The painting shows, in Nabokov’s words, an ‘ill-groomed girl pianist rising like a wave from her stool after completing the duo, and being kissed by a hirsute violinist. Very unappetizing and clammy but has “camp” charm.’8 Page 184: ‘Whistler’s Mother’. Artist: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1834-1903, American. Title of work: Arrangement in Grey and Black, 1871, Louvre, Paris. Page 198: ‘a sepia print of Reynolds’ “Age of Innocence”’. Artist: Joshua Reynolds, 1723-1792, English. Title of work: The Age of Innocence, 1788, Tate Britain, London. Page 199: ‘she wanted to know if the guy noon-napping on Doris Lee’s hay was the father of the pseudovoluptuous hoyden in the foreground’. Artist: Doris Lee, 1905-1983, American. Title of work: Noon.9 Page 270: ‘how much she looked – had always looked – like Botticelli’s russet… Venus…’. Artist: Sandro Botticelli, 1444-1510, Italian. Title of work: The Birth of Venus, c. 1485, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

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Pnin Page 34: ‘Hoecker’s ‘Girl with a Cat’’ (34). Comment: Unindentified.10 Page 34: ‘Hunt’s “The Belated Kid”’. Artist: William Morris Hunt, 1824-1879, American. Title of work: The Belated Kid, 1857 Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.11 Page 41: ‘Pnin … a Gioconda smile on his lips … demonstrating … the Russian solemn symbol of pointing up, ‘the Judge in Heaven sees you!’’. Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian. Title of work: St. John the Baptist, c. 1515, Louvre, Paris. Comment: Gioconda is the name of the sitter for the Mona Lisa. Pnin’s pose perfectly matches that of Leonardo’s St. John. Page 95: ‘Rembrandt’s “The Pilgrims of Emmaus”’. Artist: Rembrandt van Rijn, 1620-1669, Dutch. Title of work: The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 1648, Louvre, Paris. Page 96/7: ‘if Degas could immortalize a calèche’. Artist: Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, French. Title of work: Carriage at the Races, 1871-72, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.12 Page 97/8: ‘the microcosmic version of a room (with a dorsal view of diminutive people) in that very special and very magical small convex mirror that, half a millennium ago, Van Eyck and Petrus Christus and Memling used to paint into their detailed interiors, behind the sour merchant or the domestic Madonna’. Artist: Jan van Eyck, c. 1390-1441, Flemish. Title of work: The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434, National Gallery, London. Artist: Petrus Christus, c. 1415-1472/3, Flemish. Title of work: St. Eligius and the Lovers, 1449, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection, New York. Artist: Hans Memling, 1433-1494, Flemish. Title of work: ‘The Holy Virgin with the Apple,’ left wing of the Diptych of Martin van Nieuwenhove, 1487, Memling Museum, Brugge. Page 108: ‘Van Gogh’s “La Berceuse”’ (108). Artist: Vincent van Gogh 1853-1890, Dutch. Title of work: La Berceuse Comment: Van Gogh painted four similar pictures with the same title between 1888 and 1889. The first one is in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Page 154: ‘Jan van Eyck’s ample-jowled, fluff-haloed Canon van der Paele’. Artist: Jan van Eyck, c. 1390-1441, Flemish. Title of work: Madonna of Canon van der Paele, 1436, Groeninge Museum, Brugge.

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Pale Fire Page 76: ‘Picasso’s Chandelier, pot et casserole émailée’. Artist: Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish. Title of work: Still Life with Candlestick, 1945, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris. Comment: The description matches the painting, but the given title deviates from the French one, ‘Nature morte au chandelier.’ Page 83: ‘a beloved early Picasso: earth boy leading raincloud horse’. Artist: Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish. Title of work: Boy Leading a Horse, 1905, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Page 122: ‘Fête Flamande after Teniers’. Artist: David Teniers the Younger, 1610-1690, Flemish. Comment: Teniers painted many village parties or ‘Flemish Fairs’. Page 268: ‘Leonardo’s Last Supper’ . Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian. Title of work: The Last Supper, c. 1496, Santa Maria della Grazia, Milan. Comment: See entry for Leonardo under Bend Sinister.

Speak, Memory Page 55: ‘Menzel’s picture of Frederick the Great’. Artist: Adolph von Menzel, 1815-1905, German. Title of work: A Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssoucci, 1852, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Page 120: ‘Fra Angelico’s Gabriel’. Artist: Fra Angelico, c. 1387-1455, Italian. Title of work: Annunciation, c. 1449, Convento di San Marco, Florence. Comment: Fra Angelico painted a number of Annunciations.13 Page facing 160: “Alexandre Bénois … ‘Rainy Day in Brittany”’. Artist: Alexander Benois, 1870-1960, Russian. Comment: See ‘Introduction,’ note 61. Page 190: ‘the rose-and-haze pastel portrait of my mother by Bakst’. Artist: Leon Bakst, 1866-1924, Russian. Title of work: Mrs. V.D. Nabokov, 1909. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Page 226: ‘a Somov aquarelle (young birch trees, the half of a rainbow – everything very melting and moist)’. Artist: Konstantin Somov, 1869-1939, Russian. Comment: See ‘Introduction,’ note 61.

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Page 226: ‘a splendid Versailles autumn by Alexandre Benois’. Artist: Alexander Benois, 1870-1960, Russian. Title of work: Versailles, Autumn Evening, 1905, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.14 Page 235: ‘Shishkin (“Clearing in a Pine Forest”)’. Artist: Ivan I. Shishkin, 1832-1898, Russian. Comment: Shishkin painted many clearings in pine woods.15 Page 235: ‘Harlamov (“Head of a Young Gipsy”)’. Artist: Alexei Harlamov, 1842-1915, Russian.

Ada As all passages are discussed in the chapters on Ada; ‘A Shimmer of Exact Details: Ada’s Art Gallery,’ and ‘Ada and Bosch’, no comments will be presented here. Page 8: ‘the Stabian flower girl’. Title of work: Footsteps of Spring (Primavera), first century A.D., Fresco from Stabiae. Page 12: ‘an unknown product of Parmigianino’s tender art. It showed a naked girl with a peach-like apple cupped in her half-raised hand sitting sideways on a convolvulus-garlanded support’. Artist: Francesco Parmigianino, 1503-1504, Italian. Title of work: Eve, Fresco from 1530s, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Steccata, Parma. Page 32: ‘Bronzino’s Cupid (the big one, whom a delighted satyr discovers in a lady’s bower)’. Artist: Angelo Bronzini, 1503-1572, Italian. Title of work: Venus, Cupid, Time and Folly, c. 1543, National Gallery, London. Page 46: ‘Nature morte by Juan de Labrador of Extramadura – golden grapes and a strange rose against a black background’. Artist: Juan Fernández el Labrador, d. 1600, Spanish. Page 46: ‘some Zurbarán fruit …. Tangerines, I believe, and a fig of sorts, with a wasp upon it’. Artist: Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598-1664, Spanish. Page 140: ‘it might have been attributed to Michelangelo da Caravaggio in his youth…an oil on unframed canvas depicting two misbehaving nudes, boy and girl in an ivied or vined grotto or near a small waterfall’. Artist: Michelangelo da Caravaggio, 1573-1610, Italian. Page 141: ‘Whose brush was it now? A titillant Titian? A drunken Palma Vecchio? … Dosso Dossi, perhaps? Faun exhausted by Nymph? Swooning Satyr?’ Artists: Titian, c. 1488-1576, Italian.

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Palma Vecchio, c. 1480-1528, Italian. Dosso Dossi, c. 1489-1542, Italian. Page 141: ‘the Dutch took over: Girl stepping into a pool under the little cascade to wash her tresses, and accompanying the immemorial gesture of wringing them out by making wringing-out mouth’. Page 169: ‘a slender lady in black velvet, wearing a beautiful black velvet picture hat… a cocotte from Toulouse’. Artist: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864-1901, French. Title of work: Divan Japonais, 1892-93, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego. Page 331: ‘Bosch’s Bâteau Ivre’. Artist: Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1450-1516, Dutch. Title of work: The Ship of Fools, c. 1500, Louvre, Paris. Page 353: ‘a Theban fresco… 1420 B.C.’. Title of work: Fresco from the Tomb of Nakht, Thebes. Page 382/3: ‘Portrait of Vladimir Christian of Denmark…. Who cares for Sustermans?’ Artist: Joost Sustermans, 1597-1681, Flemish. Title of work: Valdemar Cristiano Principe di Danimarka, Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Page 400: ‘Marco d’Andrea, or … Domenico Benci, or … Giovanni del Brina … or the one I dare not mention … a pair of the Pear Peacock’. Artist: Marco d’Andrea da Faenza. Title of work: Peacock Moth, 1555-56, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.16 Page 436: ‘an odd Boschean death.… The picture is now preserved in the Vienna Academy of Art’. Artist: Hieronymus Bosch, 1450-1516, Dutch. Title of work: The Last Judgement, Gemäldegalerei der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna. Page 436: ‘that tremendous garden of … delights’. Artist: Hieronymus Bosch. Title of work: The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1510, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Page 493: ‘Déjeuner sur l’herbe’. Artist: Edouard Manet, 1832-1883, French. Title of work: Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863, Louvre, Paris. Page 509: ‘Vrubel’s wonderful picture of Father’. Artist: Mikhail Vrubel, 1873-1924, Russian. Title of work: Demon Seated, 1890, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Page 521: ‘the Bruslot à la s`onde picture’. Artist: Claude Randon, 1674-1704, French. Title of work: Bruslot à la sonde, engraving.

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Look at the Harlequins! Page 50: ‘portrait by Serov… of… Mme. de Blagidze’. Artist: Valentin Serov, 1865-1911, Russian. Page 86: ‘Demon, Vrubel has portrayed him’ (96). Artist: Mikhail Vrubel, 1873-1924, Russian. Comment: Vrubel painted a series of pictures showing Demon to illustrate Lermontov’s The Demon.17 Page 107: ‘Botticelli’s Primavera’. Artist: Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510, Italian. Comment: Primavera, c. 1482, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Page 164: ‘Levitan’s Cloud above a Blue River’. Artist: Isaac Levitan, 1861-1900, Russian. Comment: Levitan painted several waterscapes with distinct clouds such as Fresh Wind, The Volga (1895) and The Lakes (1898/9). Golden Autumn (State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1895) seems a plausible match because of the very bluishness of the river graduating from cobalt to cerulean blue.18 Page 169: ‘Serov’s Five-petaled Lilac, oil, which depicts a tawny-haired girl of twelve or so sitting at a sun-flecked table and manipulating a raceme of lilac in search of that lucky token’. Artist: Valentin Serov, 1865-1911, Russian. Title of work: Girl with Peaches, 1887, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Comment: The girl, Vera Mamontova, who is holding a peach instead of manipulating a raceme, is not searching but gazing at a point at the right of the painter’s head and, with hair distinctly darker than tawny, does not fully meet Nabokov’s description. The girls’ ages, however, are congruous.19

Painters Listed Alphabetically (number of paintings in parentheses) Abbasi, Avercamp, Ayvazovsky, Bakst (2), Baugin, Benois (3), Böcklin (2), Bosch (3), Botticelli (3), Bruegel, Bronzino, Caravaggio, Chardin, Christus, Cumming, Degas, Dossi, Van Eyck (2), da Faenza, Fra Angelico, Fra Sebastiano, Gainsborough, Van Gogh (2), Harlamov, Hoecker, Holbein, Hunt, el Labrador, Manet, Memling, Menzel, Linard, Lee, Leonardo (3), Levitan, Lotto, Luini, Parmigianino, Picasso (2), Prinet, Randon, Raphael (2), Rembrandt (3), Reynolds, Romney, Serov (3), Shishkin, Somov, Steinberg, Sustermans, Teniers, Titian, Toulouse-Lautrec, Turner, Vecchio, Vereshchagin, Vrubel, Whistler, Wouwerman, Zurbarán. Distribution of the painters of each individual work according to origin: Italian 24%; Dutch and Flemish 22%; Russian 19%; French 10%; English 6%; American 6%; German 5%; Spanish 4%; Persian 1%.

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Appendix II List of Artists Mentioned or Obviously Referred to in Nabokov’s Works

Abbasi, Riza The Gift (71) Apelles, The Gift (242) Audubon, John James Ada (47); Strong Opinions (329) Ayvazovski, Ivan Glory (17); Speak, Memory (67) Bakst, Leon Speak, Memory (page next to 160, 190) Balthus Strong Opinions (167) Bashkirtsev, Marie The Gift (169) Baugin, Lubin Laughter in the Dark (146) Beardsley, Aubrey Lolita (passim) Bellini, Gentiles “La Venezia” (Stories 94) Benci, Domenico Ada (400) Benois, Alexander Speak, Memory (226, 236); Strong Opinions (170) Böcklin, Arnold Mary (36); Glory (138, 187); Despair (56 ) Bosch, Hieronymus Lolita (235); Ada (331, 433, 436-8); Strong Opinions (168) Botticelli, Sandro The Defence (190/191); Laughter in the Dark (242); Bend Sinister (114); Lolita (64, 270); Look at the Harlequins! (107, 130, 162) Boucher, François Ada (178) Braque, Georges Ada (17) Brina, Giovanni del Ada (400) Bronzino, Angelo Ada (32) Bruegel, Jan Strong Opinions (168) Bruegel, Pieter Laughter in the Dark (11); Ada (401) Canaletto, Antonio Look at the Harlequins! (210) Caravaggio, Michelangelo da Ada (140) Cézanne, Paul Glory (60) Chagall, Marc Strong Opinions (170) Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Bend Sinister (34) Correggio, Antonio Ada (256) Cranach, Lucas Ada (393) Christus, Petrus Pnin (97) Cumming Laughter in the Dark (130)

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Cummings Speak, Memory (87, 90-93) Dalí, Salvador Pnin (96) D’Andrea, Marco Ada (400) Degas, Edgar Pnin (96) Dobuzhinski, Mstislav Speak Memory (92, 236); Strong Opinions (170) Dossi, Dosso Ada (141) Dürer, Albrecht Strong Opinions (168) El Greco Lolita (152) Eyck, Jan van Pnin (97, 154) Flatman, Thomas Pale Fire (268) Fra Angelico Speak, Memory (120) Fra Sebastiano (Luciani) del Piombo Laughter in the Dark (129); “La Venezia” (passim) Gainsborough, Thomas Bend Sinister (149) Gauguin, Paul Ada (584) Gentile, Francesco di Strong Opinions (168, 169) Giorgione “La Venezia” (Stories 94) Gogh, Vincent van Pnin (96, 108); Lolita (36) Harlamov, Alexei Speak, Memory (235) Hoecker Pnin (34) Hogarth, William Pale Fire (26) Holbein, Hans Laughter in the Dark (141) Hunt, William Morris Pnin (34) Hurd, Peter Lolita (199) Kandinsky, Vasily Strong Opinions (170) Labrador, Juan Fernández el Ada (46) Lee, Doris Lolita (199) Leonardo da Vinci Laughter in the Dark (128); Bend Sinister (23); Pnin (41, 98); Pale Fire (268); Ada (488) Levitan, Isaac The Gift (89); Look at the Harlequins! (164); Carrousel (20) Linard, Jacques Laughter in the Dark (146) Lorraine (Claude Gellée) King, Queen, Knave (91); Lolita (152); Carrousel (20) Lotto, Lorenzo Laughter in the Dark (146) Luini, Bernardino Laughter in the Dark (22); “La Venezia” (Stories 101) Malevich, Kasimir Strong Opinions (170) Manet, Edouard Ada (493) Marsh, Reginald Lolita (199) Matisse, Henri Strong Opinions (167) Memling, Hans Pnin (97) Menzel, Adolph von Speak, Memory (55) Merian, Maria Sybilla Speak Memory (122) Michelangelo Buonarroti “La Venezia” (Stories 94) Palma Vecchio Ada (141) Parmigianino, Francesco Ada (12) Perugino, Pietro Speak, Memory (190) Picasso, Pablo Pnin (96); Pale Fire (76, 83); Strong Opinions (167) Porpora, Paolo Strong Opinions (168)

appendix 11

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Prinet, René Xavier Lolita (38) Randon, Claude Ada (521, 553) Raphael Bend Sinister (155); ‘La Venezia’ (94, 101) Rembrandt van Rijn King, Queen, Knave (91); The Gift (215); Pnin (95); Ada (103); Look at the Harlequins! (10); “The Visit to the Museum” (278) Reynolds, Sir Joshua Lolita (198) Rockwell, Norman Pnin (96) Romney, George Glory (34) Rubens, Peter Paul “La Venezia” (101) Rublyov, Andre The Gift (39) Ruisdael, Jacob van Laughter in the Dark (145) Seghers, Hercules Strong Opinions (168) Semiradski, Henryk The Gift (238) Serov, Valentin Look at the Harlequins! (150, 169); “A Russian Beauty” (Stories 382) Shiskin, Ivan Speak, Memory (235) Soglow, Otto Speak, Memory (219); see Appel, 1991 (395) Somov, Konstantin Speak, Memory (226); Strong Opinions (170) Sorin, Savely Speak, Memory (248) Steinberg, Saul Bend Sinister (xviii); Strong Opinions (297) Sustermans, Joost Ada (382/3) Teniers, David Pale Fire (122) Titian Ada (141, 479) Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de Pnin (64); Ada (169, 461) Turner, Joseph Mallord William The Defence (38); Strong Opinions (167) Vereshchagin, Vasily The Gift (13) Vrubel, Mikhail The Gift (39); Ada (509); Look at the Harlequins! (96); Strong Opinions (170) Waugh, Frederic Lolita (199) Whistler, James Abbott McNeill Lolita (184) Wood, Grant Lolita (199) Wouwerman, Philips “Spring in Fialta” (Stories 424) Yaremich, Stepan Speak, Memory (92, 94) Zurbarán, Francisco de Ada (46)

Distribution of references according to origin: Italian 26%; Russian 18%; Dutch or Flemish 17%; French 13%; American 8%; English 7%; German 5%; Spanish 4%.

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Notes foreword 1

This author would like to thank Mrs. Quirine van Wijland-Kampman who, in the kindest way, generously helped to bring, through numerous versions, the first manuscript to the last typescript.

chapter 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

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Nabokov and the Two Sister Arts

Nikolai Gogol 151; Boyd (1992) 64; Speak, Memory 93 and 126. Hussey 9. Colie 150/2. Boyd-TN (Spring 1993) 26. Pope ll. 15-22. Jervas was a portrait painter who studied under Kneller and became Pope’s tutor in 1713. Hazlitt (1819) 133. See Howard 49. Boyd (1990) 308. Hazlitt (1824) 6 and 7. Berdjis 374. Wilde 871. His writing habits reflect this attitude: ‘I do not begin my novel at the beginning… I pick out a bit here and a bit there…’. (Strong Opinions 32). Wilde 875. Hazlitt (1824) 173. Reynolds is cited by Ruskin (284). Cf. Pope’s ‘On Sir Godfrey Kneller’, l. 1/2, ‘Kneller, by Heaven and not a master taught/Whose art was Nature, and whose pictures Thought’. Clark (1939) 111/2. There seems to be just one passage which implicitly discriminates painting unfavourably compared to writing; a passage in which he compares the reading of a drama with the seeing of it: ‘the one being in that part sensual (good show, fine acting), the other being in the corresponding part purely imaginative (which is compensated by the fact that any definitive incarnation is always a limitation of possibilities)’ (USSR 320). Boyd (1990) 39; Speak, Memory 72. Speak, Memory 36 and 90-3. ‘I think I was born a painter’, (SO 17); ‘I was really born a landscape painter’, in a letter to Appel (1992, 437); his son Dmitri testifies to his father that ‘he narrowly missed becoming a painter himself’, see his ‘Introductory Note’ in Carrousel (13). With respect to Zhukovsky and Lermontov, see: Pictorial Souvenirs of Russian Writers.

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19 See Ellendea Proffer 128. 20 See Boyd and Pyle; Boyd (1990) 102 and Carrousel 13. 21 Glory 4/5; Speak, Memory 86. The alluring path in the beechwood brings Nabokov in due time to America, see Speak, Memory (94). 22 Selected Letters 1940-1977 116. 23 The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 94, 92 and 642. 24 Nicolai Gogol 7/8, 155. The portrait is reprinted in Shapiro (1998, 143). 25 Boyd (1990) 294. 26 Speak, Memory 241; Mary 74. 27 Shapiro (1998). 28 Boyd (1990) mentions Van Eyck, Steen and Vermeer; Blot (7-8) mentions Saenredam and Vermeer. Cancogni (1) thinks that Ada’s Ardis Hall can be complemented most suitably by landscapes as painted by Van Ruisdael and Hobbema. 29 Barabtarlo (1993) 208; Connolly (1992) 220; Couturier 112 and Boyd (1992) 512. Cf. Reynolds’ maxim that ‘[p]ainting is… imitation operating by deception,’ quoted by Hazlitt (1824) 129. 30 Strong Opinions 169. 31 Boyd (1992) 481. 32 Ibid 482. 33 Ibid 41. 34 Lectures on Literature 235. 35 Johnson (1985) 18, see also 10-27. 36 For the use of colours in Invitation to a Beheading, see Shapiro (1998, 56-70). 37 Literary evolution is discussed in Nabokov’s translation of Pushkin (EO 2, 280; 2, 287; 3, 53). 38 See also Nabokov’s foreword to his translation of Lermontov, especially xv. 39 An example of the French usage with respect to pourpre is presented by Proust: ‘une ruine de pourpre presque de la couleur de la vigne vierge’, quoted by Chernowitz (151). 40 Encyclopaedia Britannica vol. 10, 847. 41 In Ada, Van is reading Chateaubriand’s collection of short stories, Ombres et couleurs (280). 42 Appel (1991) 437. Nabokov might have had Monet’s Les oies dans le ruisseau (‘The Geese in the Brook’, 1874, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts) in mind, which shows a bluish-looking whitewashed house amidst red foliage on a clear day in the autumn. 43 Proust 2, 6. See also Boyd-TN (Spring 1993) 47/8. 44 Rivers 145. 45 Chernowitz 185. 46 Rivers 144. Ada has its competitors; in Pnin a total of 78 different hues are presented while the incidence of various colours amounts to 237. See Barabtarlo (1993, 306). Another list of ‘less familiar colours’ containing 48 items is presented by Bodenstein (vol. II, Appendix 10.3). 47 Gray 39. 48 Weintraub 246; Benkovitz 96/7. 49 Shapiro (1998) 20. 50 Bowness 76. 51 Aurier cited in Huyghe (1965, 191). 52 Balakian 74. 53 Kearns 120. 54 Nicolas Nabokov 153. Nabokov gives a clear description of the actual process Diaghilev followed

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56 57 58 59 60 61 62

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71

in preparing a ballet, in this case the one based on Nicolas Nabokov’s composition, Ode. An excellent overview of the role of the ‘Russian Ballet’ is presented by Sweeney. Gray 42. Nabokov might have seen a performance of a Diaghilev ballet in Berlin. In King, Queen, Knave he mentions ‘a handsome, hairy young pearl diver ready to pry in the live pearl out of its rosy shell as in that Russian ballet they had seen’ (166). Diaghilev’s company visited Berlin in 1926, while King, Queen, Knave was ‘conceived’ in 1927 (vii). The description of the lively scene suggests that Nabokov saw the ballet, most likely Zephyr and Flora, which featured Lifar as its main dancer and who, born in 1905, was known for his very good looks. Bend Sinister xiv/v and xvii. See, for instance, Boyd (1990, 92-95) and Bethea. The Prelude I, 55-56. Gombrich (2002) 207. Strong Opinions 167 and 297. For a report of a ‘frustrated treasure-hunter’, see Grayson (2001, 22 and 24) and Sweeney (note 42). Central in Luzhin’s experiences and ‘what he constantly returned to – white cubes, pyramids, cylinders’, (207) was common practice for art students. See Clark (1985, 54), whose instructor kept repeating: ‘It’s all based on the cube, sonny, the cube, the cone and the cylinder.’ Acton’s drawing master ‘infused so much interest into the portrayal of cubes that it is a wonder we did not all become lifelong cubists’ (32). Cf. The Defence (163) ‘ “you’re a real cubist,” said his motherin-law’. These geometrical expedients stem from Cézanne’s advice that every natural form can be derived from the ‘cylinder, the sphere, the cone’ (quoted by Hunter 77). Another instance of probably autobiographical nature is presented in The Gift: ‘a straw-hatted boy, sitting very uncomfortably on a garden bench with his watercolor paraphernalia and painting the world bequeathed to him by his forebears’ (27). Karlinsky (1971) 87. Karlinsky (2001) 282. To indicate the desirable extent of the reader’s cultural competence, Tammi quotes Mandelstam who is reported to have said: ‘if you would read me, you must have my culture’ (12). Praz (1970) 104. Nabokov speaks of ‘the same fund of immemorial formulas’ (Eugene Onegin 3, 53). Turner (see Wilton 71/2 and 80) is certainly not the only candidate; ‘the part played by sunsets in romantic art is too large a subject for a single chapter,’ notes Clark in his study on Turner (1976, 253). For the notion of a literary subtext and its interrelation with the main text, see Tammi (3-5). For ‘word golf ’ see Pale Fire (315). Part of the sequence is presented in Tammi (41) who also mentions Lolita’s Le Bâteau Bleu and L’Oiseau Ivre, an allusion to L’Oiseau bleu by Maeterlinck. From this play’s protagonist Tyltyl, another step can be made to Doktor Amalia von Wytwyl, a character in Bend Sinister (218). Boyd (1999) 145. Johnson (1985) 10; De Vries (1999). I should have noticed that the geographical path of Nabokov’s literary career, from Russia to the USA via France, is not only reflected in topographical, arboreal and literary entities but by three visual ones as well: a Somov aquarelle, a Benois oil and a crayon drawing by Nabokov’s mother ‘that… will never be nationalized’ (Speak, Memory 226). The first article wholly devoted to Christian motifs in Nabokov’s work, Shapiro’s ‘The Salome Motif in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading’ relies strongly on references to the visual arts.

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72 In this respect Chekhov’s case seems very similar to Nakokov’s. Although ‘not a believer in any conventional, or, indeed, unconventional sense of that word,’ writes Jackson about Chekhov, ‘biblical and liturgical vision, imagery, and illusion permeate his art’ (Jackson 8-9).

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The ‘Mad Pusuit’ and Laughter in the Dark

Encyclopaedia Brittanica vol. 4, 698. See also Appel (1974) 255. Duval Smith 858. As an usherette, Margot’s face must have often been seen in an ‘inclined’ position (20) with downcast eyes such as can be admired in many paintings by Benardino Luini (1481/2-1532) like The Adoration of the Magi (Louvre, Paris); The Adoration of the Child (Academia Carrara, Bergamo) and The Saint Family (Ambrosian Library, Milan). Hyde (59) has stressed some parallels with Tolstoy’s story ‘The Devil’, another ‘condensed moral fable about a married man’s obsessive attraction’. Maude (xix) stresses the ‘intimately autobiographical nature’ of ‘The Devil’ and shows, by quoting from the memoir of the then tutor in Tolstoy’s family, how, in 1870, Tolstoy’s adulterous relationship was ended when he was detained one day by his son who called him from the window of his room. After that day, Tolstoy stopped meeting the girl in question. In Laughter in the Dark, Albinus’s daughter looks out of the windows, expecting her father in vain. It is one of the passages in which Albinus’s callousness is indicated most manifestly. For the Proustian parallel, see Forster 77-8. Gozzoli’s Il corteo dei magi consists of three parts, the first part showing the ascending parade (Rizzo 63). Stuart, especially 110-3, and Appel 262. In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (40), an author of a simple, famous book is reported to have rebuked Knight for being ‘Conradish’. Scott borrowed this saying from Bayes, see the ‘Introductory Epistle’ to The Fortunes of Nigel. (Bayes is a character from George Villiers’s The Rehearsal, 1672). ‘Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture’, sometimes listed under the heading of its first line ‘Praised be the Art whose subtle power could stay’. Keats (1977) especially 648-653. Keats (1947) 260. Dewey 29-31; Appel (1974) 266. Bodkin 34. During the dinner (see chapter 16) Cumming’s work is discussed, especially, ‘his last series – the Gallows and Factories’ (130). Quoted by Clark (1963) 82 from Leonardo’s Trattato della Pittura in which he describes many images to be detected on damp, stained walls. Boyd (1990) 367. Raguet-Bouvart (201) concludes that Albinus’s ‘unreliability in art reflects his spinelessness in life’. Margot’s lover, ‘a very fine artist’ as well as an unscrupulous scoundrel, shows that there is no fixed parallel between the sense of beauty and moral sense. Cf. De Vries (1995) 145-46. Bernsmeier 170. Ibid 319-320. Faré 112. Ibid 112. Gombrich (1978) 104.

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21 Hindemith 14 and 25. 22 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 44. According to Nassim Winnie Berdjis (315), the poker game that Rex plays in his imagination with Henry the Eighth, stresses ‘the kind of ruthless partner the caricaturist is willing to take on’. 23 Boyd (1990) 341; Klessmann ‘Introduction’. For Lotto see Bianconi. 24 The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 642. 25 Translated and quoted by Clark (1956) 130. 26 Johnson (1985) 10-27. 27 Gage 139-143. 28 Hunter 74. 29 De Vries (1995) 144-6.

chapter 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

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‘A title… must convey the colour of the book…’(RLSK 70). RLSK 8, 15, 17, 17, 17, 27, 35, 38, 66, 75, 81, 169, 190. Ibid 7, 25, 27, 49, 66, 72, 86, 110, 132, 136, 151-2, 164, 194. Ibid 14, 98, 136, 140. Boyd (1990) 501. Johnson (1985) 22. See also De Vries (1999) 33-34. Boyd (1990) 180. Shapiro (1998) 28, see also 67-69. RLSK 32 and 36 (‘in my language’). Rippl 68, 69. Cirlot 58, 342. Hall 19, 134. Hamlet V, I, 232. Ibid IV, VII, 168-169. The ‘crow-flower’ is the ‘ragged robin’, see Kerr 17. The ‘long purples’ is the Orchis mascula or ‘early-purple Orchid’. Carey 58. Together with Shakespeare, Pushkin and Tolstoy, Milton is among the four writers presented as examples of authors who deserve, in Nabokov’s eyes, the name of being a genius (SO 146). Shapiro 65-67. In the review in Rul of 28 January 1931, 2, Nabokov mentioned the blue ‘on Muse’s mantle’ (quoted and translated by Shapiro [1998] 65), most likely a reference to Milton’s ‘Mantle blue’ in the penultimate line of ‘Lycidas’. See for the treatments of the colour blue in Pale Fire, Boyd (1999) 237-242. Ovid 85. Ibid 87.

chapter 4 1 2 3 4

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Its Colours and Painting

Pnin and the History of Art

Unless stated otherwise, quotations from Pnin are from chapter four. Ruskin 284. Ibid 285/6 and 286. Ibid 289. A contemporary, eloquent refutation of Reynolds’s opinion is presented by Hazlitt (1824, 131-133).

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For example, El Greco, Opening of the Fifth Seal (1610/4, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Goya, Fantastic Vision (Museo del Prado). Cf. also Lectures on Literature (253)’every trail and individual tree… all in warm connection with his everyday work, and his childhood.’ At moment of great distress, circumstantial objects serve as anchors as well as means to articulate one’s feelings. Thus, in Bend Sinister the death of his wife makes Krug extremely observant of everything to be seen in the street (Ch.1 ). In Ada, Lucette, at the brink of death, sees a ‘few odds and ends’ (494). It should be noted that the characteristics Nabokov attributes to the ‘cool and deliberate work’ of a creative artist might apply more to himself than others (LL 377). In Joyce he praises the ‘constant shift of the viewpoint’ (289), in Flaubert ‘the inner force of style’ and ‘devices of form’ (147), and in Austen the (four) ‘methods of characterization’ (13/4). It is only in his lecture on Proust – the author who, according to Nabokov, parallels his art with the pictorial – that he, by quoting a copious passage from Swann’s Way, gives a description of the literary process (i.e., ‘the writer takes two different objects, establishes their relationship…’, 211) which is equivalent to the one he presents in his final lecture. Readers should not be content with the extract which the present writer has tried to give of the richness of the arguments of Gombrich (1960), especially those presented in Chapter IX, ‘The Analysis of Vision in Art’, most relevant for the case in question. Roland Fréart de Chambray, quoted by Gombrich (263). Ibid 254. E.G. Boring, quoted by Gombrich (254). John Ruskin, quoted by Gombrich (261). Even that master of inspection, Marcel Proust, complains that he had not ‘enough “power of observation” to isolate the sense of their colour’ (i.e., the colour of Gilberte’s eyes; Proust I, 153). Ibid 254. Gombrich 264 and 259. Ibid 258; Cf. Shelley’s ‘veil of familiarity’ which is stripped from the world by the force of poetry (A Defence of Poetry). Finley gives reproductions as well as photographs of the same localitions (109, 112, 135). See sketches no. 40, 41 and 43 (Finley 111 and 113). Hazlitt (1817) 74. Shellfish and fruit may represent the beginning of a new life after drowning. Waterfowl exemplify in Pale Fire and Ada the continuation of Hazel’s and Lucette’s life after they have been drowned: Hazel is associated with a wood duck and Lucette with a grebe (Boyd, 1999, 135-145; Johnson, 1992, 242). Waterfowl and lobsters have in common that they (can) exist outside water. Fruit evidences a successful fructifying, and the combination of lobster and fruit might symbolise a kind of regeneration. See also the chapter on Leonardo and ‘Spring in Fialta,’ note 8. This photo, taken in 1908, is reproduced by Gibelli (68). See also Barabtarlo (1989, 132). The name of Käsebier is already mentioned in Laughter in the Dark (168) and returns in The Gift (190). See also Shapiro (1999) 18-19. Pnin 96-7. Boyd (1996) 889. Van Deren Coke 81. Thomson 35. Michaels 24, 58, 84. The photograph Mother and Child is reproduced on page 47. See for example Appel (1991, 369) and Boyd (2001, 131). Karsh, who portrayed Nabokov (see for example the cover of Blot), called this the ‘brief moment’ of truth. (Quoted in The Economist, 20 July 2000, 77).

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27 Encyclopaedia Britannica. vol. 17, 801. 28 ‘Three different clusters of purple flowers and seven different oak leaves’, somewhat further specified as ‘rhododendron and oak’; the rhododendron reappears in the ‘green and purple park’ of Whitchurch (24). 29 Boyd (1991) 275. 30 Vasari 22. 31 Huyghe (1964) 88/9 and 95-7. 32 Ibid 58/9. 33 Gombrich (1953) 163 and 165. Murray 61. 34 The locus classicus about the many ways beauty can be made out of distance is Hazlitt’s ‘Why Distant Objects Please’. Cf. the beautiful passage in Scott’s Waverley (1814, Ch. XXIX), ‘distance, in truth, produces in idea the same effect as in real perspective’. See for the discovery of the Lake District the introduction in Bicknell. 35 The Impressionist’s ambition ‘to capture the general impression rather than the minute details’ (Thomson 87) is totally incompatible with Nabokov’s creed: ‘I believe in stressing the specific detail; the general ideas can take care of themselves’(SO 55). 36 Hunter 57. 37 For example, Nabokov notes that ‘Turgenev was the first Russian writer to notice the effect of broken sunlight or the special combination of shade and light upon the appearance of people’(LRL 69). For Monet, see Hunter (64) and Bowness (30). 38 Encyclopaedia Britannica vol. 10, 847. See also Barabtarlo (1989) 174. 39 For example, Van Goyen, Windmill by a River and Jacob van Ruisdael, View of Haarlem. Reproduced in Fuchs (120 and 136). 40 ‘Impressionism was born from the meeting of two men… Monet and Manet.’ Quoted by Thomson (87). 41 Barabtarlo (1989) 306. 42 Quoted in Huyghe (1965, 178). 43 Bowness 30. 44 A painting by Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, shows six nymphs rising from the water amidst flowering white waterlilies. 45 The name ‘Lake’ might have been inspired by the English Lakes as, in the seventeenth century, the Claude Glass (another convex mirror) ‘had become an essential article of equipment’ for every visitor (Bicknell 15). 46 Dhanens 226. The next page has a complete detail of the Canon which shows these reflections. Note that the tapestry behind the Madonna has red (and white) flowers on a green background. See also Shapiro (1999, 29). 47 Ruskin 404 and 405. 48 Fry thinks that this quality has remained unsurpassed by any other painter with the exception of Rembrandt (137). 49 Boyd (1991) 271. 50 Gombrich (1960) 293. 51 As Gombrich’s study was published a number of years later than Pnin, the selection of Rembrandt’s painting must have been Nabokov’s own choice. Nabokov’s interest in physiognomy when writing Pnin was very serious. Field (289) wrote that ‘Nabokov acknowledged to me that Pnin’s interest in gestures was really his own. A book on gestures was yet another book he had considered writing but put aside’. 52 Quoted by Levey (296). notes

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Lolita and Aubrey Beardsley

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Kauffman 161. Doris Lee, Grant Wood, Peter Hurd, Reginald Marsh and Frederick Waugh (199). Tolstoy, e.g., 147 and 169. Cf. the porcine reception of Humbert in The Enchanted Hunters (117-118). In Tolstoy’s story, the murderer lastly repents [‘a long time afterwards, in prison when the moral change had taken place’ (204)] as does Humbert. See note 13 below. 4 Shapiro (1996a), discusses two connections with Beardsley’s work, one related to the Tristam and Isolde legend and one to the Salomé theme. For a discussion of the Arthurian legend with respect to Lolita, see Rougemont; the Salomé theme is discussed by Shapiro (1996b). 5 Gray, 37 and 47. In a letter to Wilson, Nabokov wrote: ‘Blok, Bely, Bunin and others wrote their best stuff in those days. And never was poetry so popular – not even in Pushkin’s days. I am a product of that period, I was bred in that atmosphere.’ See Karlinsky (2001) 246. The complete set of the magazine for 1899 was available to Nabokov in his father’s library. See Shapiro (1998) 20. 6 Boyd (1990) 39 and 93. 7 Weintraub 246. 8 Lifar. 9 John Rothenstein, The Life and Death of Conder, London: Dent, 1938. The author is the son of William Rothenstein, another painter belonging to Beardsley’s social circle. This review was published in The New York Sun, January 21, 1941. 10 See Proffer. An exceptionally fine annoted edition of Beardsley’s work is Reade’s. For the relevance of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, see note 4. 11 Art for art’s sake as a doctrine was originated by Gautier in 1835. In Russia the debate about its merits took place in the 1860s as is well known to the readers of The Gift, the novel which contains a biography of Chernyshevsky, Russia’s most important radical utilitarian. Pater introduced this doctrine in England (‘… be sure it is passion, that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of this wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for art’s sake has most…’; Pater 632) and his followers, Swinburne and Wilde, formed the nucleus of the Aesthetic Movement. In his letter of January 30, 1947 to Nabokov, Wilson mentioned Pater’s Gaston de Latour, whose name recalls Humbert’s colleague in Beardsley, Gaston Godin. The main French proponent of literary decadence is Verlaine, while Huysmans’ A Rebours has been called ‘the Bible’ of the decadents. For references in Lolita to Verlaine, see Proffer. The interior of the home of Des Esseintes, the protagonist of Huysmans’ novel, shows a striking likeness with those of Gaston Godin’s and Quilty’s. There is a ‘boudoir’, its walls covered with mirrors, so many that they cause reflection ‘ad infinitum’. ‘Oriental rugs’ and ‘tiger skins’ clothe the floors. The dining room resembles a ‘ship’s cabin’ with a system of ‘pipes’ to supply an aquarium with fresh water. His study contains ‘rare books and flowers’ only. Des Esseintes owes very much to the eccentric, dandiacal aristocrat Comte de Montesquieu, whose home had much of the bizarre features of that of Des Esseintes’, and ‘a snow-white bearskin’ as well. (Huysmans, 25; 26; 31; 33; 34; 31; 8.) Gaston’s and Quilty’s abodes have similar furnishings. There is a ‘boudoir’, an ‘Oriental parlor’, ‘a room with ample and deep mirrors’, rugs, ‘a polar bear skin’, a ‘seaman’s chest’, ‘water pipes’, and a ‘library full of flowers’ (295; 294; 295; 181; 294; 302; 181; 294.). It is an interesting coincidence that while Gaston’s appearance leads Appel to compare him to Beardsley’s ‘Ali Baba’, Montesquieu describes his house as ‘Ali-Baba’s Cave’ (Appel [1991] 398; Huysmans, 8). Gaston and Quilty (who are both associated with Nijinski [181; 302], one of the principal dancers of the Diaghilev Ballet and whose appearance in

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15 16 17 18

the first ballet he choreographed was regarded as indecent and immoral [Grigoriev, 79]) have a penchant for larding their speech with scraps of French, an additional hint at the fin-de-siècle, ‘a term of respect for wickedness,’ the spirit of which was introduced into England by Beardsley (Gaunt, [1975] 177 and 137). Bayley 42. Wilde 897. Near the end of their lives decadents like Beardsley, Huysmans and Wilde repented their immorality, as does Humbert, who laments in retrospection the childhood he denied Dolly (283; 284-287; 308). In 1959, when the novel was launched in London by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Nabokov told Nicolson (as related by the publisher) that ‘in the end Humbert feels remorse for having destroyed a child. What people fail to realise is that the point of the book is contained in the last thirty pages, when Humbert discovers that he loves a creature for whom he had previously felt only a perverted form of passion’ (Nicolson, 201). After having left Beardsley Humbert baptised his car ‘Melmoth,’ after Charles Maturin’s wandering martyr and after the name Oscar Wilde adopted when released from prison. Several years later Wilde, considering to enter the Catholic Church, went to Rome to meet the pope. Beardsley, at the end of his life (but note the Madonna in his drawing ‘The Coiffing’), was converted and received into this Church, as was Huysmans. In the same tradition Humbert, a couple of years before he died, ‘turned over a Protestant’s drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure’ (282). For a discussion of Nabokov’s endeavours to synthesise ethical and esthetic values see Rorty. It is interesting to mention that Rorty (158, note 21) regards Nabokov’s definition of art as a deliberate answer to the slogan of the decadents. According to Reade, ‘one of the most exalted achievements of penmanship in the history of art’(Reade 364). Weintraub 238. In Praz (1966, 377) the crucial passage is quoted. Beardley’s ‘capable, brilliant’ barber (Reade 356) contrasts with Nabokov’s Kasbeam barber (Lo 213) whose haircut is of a ‘very mediocre’ quality, but who, babbling and spitting, brings back to life his son who has been dead for thirty years.

chapter 6

Pale Fire Zemblematically

1 2 3 4 5

Bacon 177. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream V, 1, l. 15. Hazlitt (1817) 73. Ibid 74. Marvell, ‘Upon Appleton House,’ l. 370 and 376. Cf. also Shelley’s experience ‘I find the very blades of grass & the boughs of distant trees present themselves to me with microscopical distinctness,’ citated by Holmes (392) and the engraving by George Wilhelm Kolbe, I too, was in Arcady, reproduced in Panofsky (1955, plate 94). 6 Toker 117. 7 Quoted by Hohenstatt (79). 8 See also Burling (12). 9 McCarthy 124. 10 Hogarth: 26; Leonardo: 268; Picasso: 76 and 83; Teniers: 122; Aunt Maud: 36; Eystein: 130; Fra Pandolf (the painter from Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’): 246; Lang (a possible allusion

notes

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11 12 13

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

36 37 38 39

to the painter of butterflies mentioned in Speak, Memory 122): 58; Bosch or Bruegel might be the painter of the ‘Flemish hells,’ 41. Boyd (1992) 159. Bindman 55. Hogarth was also a contemporary of Dr. Johnson’s, to whom four references can be found in Pale Fire. Hogarth and Johnson met once at Samuel Richardson’s, the novelist, as is related by Boswell. More coincidences are presented by Lane. Dmitri Nabokov 174. Connolly (1991) 335. Bindman 154. Reproduced in Bindman (152). Bindman 155. Johnson (1985) 214. Johnson (1991) 322. Hazlitt (1819) 147. Reproduced in Bindman (207). This might explain why Nabokov qualified Fielding’s laudatory comments on Hogarth in Tom Jones (I, II and II,3 for example) as ‘helpless’. See Karlinsky (2001) 311. See also De Vries (1991) 244. In ‘Ultima Thule’ the answer to the ‘riddle of the universe’ (Stories 505) is pointed to as ‘Medusa’ (505, 513) which might suggest that art, symbolised by Pegasus, is the trait-d’union between death and immortality. Interestingly enough, Falter, who possesses this answer, has been able to communicate (telepathically) with Sineusov’s deceased wife as he repeats the three things ‘she liked most in her life’, the first one of which is ‘poetry’ (506, 511). Nature morte au chandelier, 1945, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris. Strong Opinions 167. See Meyer. Kermesse flamande (‘Flemish Kermess’), 1652, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels; Fête champêtre (‘Country Feast’), 1652, Paris: Louvre. Szépmüvészeit Múzeum, Budapest. Reproduced by Gibson (159-160). Klinge 100. See also Shapiro (1999) and Tammi (1999) 106-8. For autobiographical elements in Pale Fire, see Alter (1993) and De Vries (1991). ‘two soldiers’… ‘under an enclosed poplar’ (122); ‘handsome Hal (131)’ and ‘the solemn and corpulent guard’ (129). As more than 2000 pictures are attributed to Teniers, the likelihood that Nabokov had these two paintings in mind, deserves attention. The Hermitage in St. Petersburg has a number of paintings by Teniers, among them several country feasts, one of these (Kermis, 1646) with a St. George pennon. The Liberation of St. Peter by an Angel belonged to the Berlin Gallery (it was destroyed in the Second World War) where Nabokov might have seen it as he lived in Berlin from 1922 to 1937. Panofsky (1939) especially 77 and 82. Boyd (1999) 145. Karlinsky (2001) 354; Panofsky (1955). Panofsky (1955) 359.

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40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68

Ibid 363. Ibid 367. Proust (vol. 1) 243. L. and S. Ettlinger 206. Graves 395. Johnson (1992) esp. 239-240. Boyd – TN Fall 1999. Ada 394; 421; 497; 559. Johnson (1992) 242; Verity 196. Cf. the ‘herb of repentance’ in Ada’s letter (384). Andersen 64. Graves 395/6. Baldini 101. Joyce 532. Johnson (1992) 244. Grayson (1992); Meyer. Boyd 145. Housman XIX; Pale Fire 34; 111; 196; 206. ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ l. 152. Ibid l. 188 and l. 196. Ibid l. 207 and l. 79. Ibid l. 87-9 and 82-3. ‘Thyrsis’ l. 115 and l. 117. ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ l. 161, 224, 216. Ibid l. 87-9. Comus l. 857, 831, 841. Ibid l. 850. Boyd (1999) 144. Hall 280. Boyd and Pyle 370-1, Plates 26 and 27.

chapter 7 1 2 3 4 5 6

7

Leonardo and ‘Spring in Fialta’

Stikhi, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1979, 16 (‘Tainaia vecheria’). Translated by D. Barton Johnson. ‘I remember setting a poem of his to music in Yalta, in the autumn or the winter of 1918. It was a tableau vivant of ‘The Last Supper’ (Leonardo’s, I suppose)…’ Nicolas Nabokov 111. Apart from Rembrandt’s drawing after Leonardo’s painting, which shows one dog, no dogs appear in other well-known imitations. See Heydenreich 69 and 113. Boyd (1992) 41. See also Barabtarlo (2000) 14. Vasari, 292. In an inspired article Barolsky sees Leonardo’s oeuvre (especially his mysterious Mona Lisa) as an invitation to disclose the real identity and spirit of the artist: ‘Clark’s Leonardo still resembles the artist of Freud, Merejkowski, Pater, and Baudelaire, as he evokes a galaxy of elusive modern artists, real and fictional, from Frenhofer and Flaubert to Sebastian Knight.’ Cf. Shapiro, (1998, 92): ‘Considering the novel’s plot as a whole, we may discern that it parallels the Passion of Christ, and specifically the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the Betrayal by

notes

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8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Judas, and the Road to Calvary, followed by the Crucifixion and Resurrection.’ For observations on the presence of the various fruits, see Berdjis, 115-6. In ‘Signs and Symbols’ the ‘crab apple’ combines shellfish with fruit. Vasari 294. Quoted by Clark (1963), 77 and 112. Clark (1963), 92. Heydenreich 18 and 20. Dutertre’s painting and Morghen’s engraving are reproduced in Heydenreich, 21. A reprint from the engraving was presented to Proust’s Swann (LL 221). Quoted by Clark (1963) 95. From The Gospel According to St. Matthew, quoted in Heydenreich, 73. Vasari 286. The ‘spiral plot structure’ of ‘Spring in Fialta’ is discussed by Nicol (1991, 175). In Lectures on Russian Literature (262), Nabokov calls Chekhov’s story ‘one of the greatest stories ever written’, and in an interview with Parker he singles both stories (Chekhov’s and his own) out as especially exemplary (Parker 69). See for a discussion of the parallels between the two stories Shrayer, 1999. Fialta is, unlike Yalta, a Mediterranean resort, which might explain the name of Segur, a friend of Nina’s husband, which recalls Mme. de Ségur, née Rostopchine, who, in her stories ‘was Frenchifying the authentic surroundings of her Russian childhood’ (SM 76). Karlinsky (1993) 35. Chekhov 270-292. IV. 5. 166 and V. 1. 233. Shapiro (1996b) 101. Hall 137. Encyclopaedia Brittannica, vol. 23, 800. In Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders (chapter 28). Wouwerman is also referred to in this respect. Dante 316-320. For references to Dante’s work in ‘A Guide to Berlin’ and in King, Queen, Knave see Shrayer (1997). In his poem ‘To my inkwell’, Pushkin’s thoughts wind up with meditating on falling ‘asleep for ever’ as well (Pushkin 11). Ovid 114. Hall 74. Senderovich 169 and 182. Nicol (1991). Ibid 182. See for the qualities of Irina’s husband, Boyd (1990) 433 and Field 176. Boyd (1990) 433. Ibid 426. Ibid 427. Brian Boyd, private communication, quoted with kind permission.

chapter 8 1

A Shimmer of Exact Details: Ada’s Art Gallery

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Brian Boyd, Dmitri Nabokov, Dieter Zimmer, Gerard de Vries, Alexey Sklyarenko, Carolyn Kunin, and many others who have generously shared their knowledge over the years. Special thanks are due Mary Bellino for both editorial and content assistance. I would also call attention to Brian Boyd’s ADAonline with its

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2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

25 26 27 28 29 30

annotations to all aspects of Ada, including paintings. Some of the attributions were firmly fixed only later (Myagkov). The new Soviet government confiscated seventy-nine out of a hundred and twenty paintings in the house: the majority were Western European (sixty-one), with the remainder of Russian origin. Klimenko provides an overview of the family library. Information on the library art holdings is from the anonymous Sistematicheskii katalog of V.D. Nabokov’s library. Appel (1983) 3. Appel (1983) 13. Cf. Boyd (1991, 416): ‘Sparked anew by the structure of his Eugene Onegin, Pale Fire was about to blaze.’ Ovid 184 (8. 183 ff ). Boyd – TN 30, 8.31. Boyd (1991) 512. Boyd – TN 47, 41. Boyd (1991) 512. Boyd – TN 31, 26; Boyd (2001) 284-87; (1991) 513. Boyd (1991) 512. Boyd (1996) 475. ADA 58-60. NABOKV-L posting of December 8, 2003. Ada 144-45. Boyd (1996) 806. Zimmer (1996) 275. Boyd (1996) 807 (note to page 385, line 17-18). Ada 77-88; 266-282. Gerard de Vries examines Manet’s Déjeuner in the context of the Lucette/Ophelia motif in this volume. Zimmer (2001) 2 54-57. See Giacomo Casanova, The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingal, chapter V, ‘An Unlucky Night I Fall in Love with the Two Sisters.’ Charles Nicol has argued that Mallarmé’s L’après-midi d’un faune also enters the equation (‘Ada or Disorder’ 234). We note above that Rubens’s drawing Pan and Syrinx, the myth underlying the Mallarmé poem, may also figure in Van’s erotic fantasy. NABOKV-L posting of October 18, 2000. Personal communication of October 23, 2003. See source note 25. Van’s exegesis on bordello architecture is explored by Suellen Stringer-Hye. The joke may not be original with Nabokov. I find the name ‘Peter de Rast’ on the website of a Dutch publisher that seems to specialise in gay literature. Boyd – TN 47, 41-42. Boyd remarks that Gauguin sometimes adopted the signature ‘PGO,’ a play on the slang pego (‘penis, prick’). One might also suspect the word ‘calliPYGian’ (having beautiful nates) lurking in the pseudonyms.

chapter 9 1

Ada and Bosch

Ashenden (2000) discusses the interrelationship between natural and artistic mimicry in Ada.

notes

193

2

3

4 5

6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24

For Boyd’s annotations to Bosch in Ada, see Ada Online I.1, 5; I.8, 56; I.9, 60; I.17, 103; I.20, 129; the Afternotes to I.1, I.9, I.11, I.14, I.15, I.16, I.20 and I.21, and the Forenotes to I.9 and I.21. The URL for Ada Online is http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/ada/index.htm. Boyd (2001) 111. To Boyd, this relationship is complicated further by clues that Nabokov has incorporated in the text pertaining to Lucette, ‘who allows us to see the infernal in Van and Ada that they themselves cannot see … and the celestial in and around them … to which they remain equally blind’ (Ibid. 111). The novel’s structural, moral and metaphysical focus on Lucette forms the centrepiece of Boyd’s analysis in his Nabokov’s Ada: The Place of Consciousness. For a discussion of the mulberry-coloured soap and Lucette, see Boyd Ada Online I.9, Afternote. The shattal tree is mentioned several times: ‘straddling the cool limb of a Shattal apple tree’ (78), ‘the glossy-limbed shattal tree at the bottom of the garden (94), ‘the Shattal Tree incident’ (96), ‘an inch of her skin hardly perceived by him sensually in the maze of the shattal tree’ (101). For Boyd’s annotations to ‘shattal’, ‘snake’, ‘Eden’ ‘paradise’ and the ‘tree of knowledge’, see Ada Online I.2, 13; I.3, 21; I.6, 42; I.8, 56; I.9, 59-60; I.13, 78; I.15, 94-5; I.16, 101; I.18, 113; I.19, 118; the Afternotes to I.1, I.2, I.4, I.11, I.14, I.15, I.16; and the Forenote to 1.9. See Boyd Ada Online I.21, Afternote. Boyd (2004) 111. Alter (1969) refers to a ‘Happy Fall’ and Appel (1970) to a ‘Fortunate Fall’. The theme of the Fortunate Fall in Bosch and Ada is traced in Boyd Ada Online Afternotes to I.9, I.15, I.16, I.20, I.21 and Forenote to I.15. Beagle 91. Webster’s 1949. Beagle 48. Schwartz. Ibid. Beagle 88, 90; Bax 44-45. Bosing 52; Bax 45. Boyd (2001) 153. Boyd (2001) 153. Boyd Ada Online I.15, Afternote. Boyd (2001) 284. Boyd (2004) 132-3. For Nabokov, ‘the tension between the singularity and the multiplicity of love is a central mystery’ (Boyd [2004] 132). Beagle 45. Describing the diabolical theme as it develops in part two, Boyd writes that Ardis ‘has degenerated into the hellish (fiend, torture house, hell curs), as if we have now reached the righthand panel of the Ardis triptych’ (Ada Online I.15, Afternote). ‘My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’)’ (29). ‘This is a second howl iz ada (out of Hades)’ (332). Also Boyd, Ada Online I.3, 29.28. After their first sex on the night of the burning barn in part one, chapter 19, Van and Ada begin ‘a frenzy of sexual repetition, that in Bosch as in Nabokov nevertheless also introduces elements of unease and danger that prefigure the panel of earthly Hell on the right as much as they recapitulate the Eden on the left’ (Boyd Ada Online I.20, Afternote). From part one, chapter 21 onwards, Nabokov creates ‘a number of chapters that reflect, repeat, concentrate and parody the themes of the ardors of Ardis’, each following Bosch’s triptych in evoking ‘the garden of Edenic innocence … the crowded parade of parodic repetitions … and hints of hellish consequences

194

25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39

40 41 42 43 44 45

(Boyd Ada Online I.21, Afternote). Boyd (2004) 113. Boyd Ada Online I.11, Afternote; Boyd (2004) 111. Boyd (2004) 118. Boyd (2001) 155. Cherry has an earlier counterpart in the ‘hysterical lad from Upsala’ at Van’s school, sexually ‘much prized and tortured by a group of foreign boys’ (32). Boyd, Nabokv-L, January 14, 2004. The archives for Nabokv-L are located at http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html. Boyd, Nabokv-L, January 14, 2004. Boyd Ada Online I.15, Afternote. Pifer 494. Linfert 84. Boyd (1995) 5. ‘Bosch’s Ship of Fools echoes the composition of the title pages in several editions of Brant’s book, which pictures a frail boat, overloaded with fools, sometimes captained by a young monk, who takes a swig from a wine flask’ (Dixon 78). Boyd, personal communication. Beagle 15. See Ashenden (2001) for a discussion of natural mimicry and the insect/incest motif in Ada. For detailed analyses of the orchid painting scenes see Ashenden (2000), chapter 3, and Boyd Ada Online, annotations to part one, chapter 16. Alter (1979) 117. Pifer 493. Pifer 491. quoted in Beagle 46. Alter (1979) 117. Beagle 83.

appendix 1 1 2 3

See Andree. See Novouspensky. See for an illustration Gaunt (1991) 18. This portrait is generally accepted as the only surviving one by Holbein. 4 Zimmer (2001) 182. 5 Reproduced as frontispiece in Nabokov Studies (7, 2002/2003). 6 See Boyd (1996) 681. 7 Boyd (1996) 691. 8 Appel (1991) 355/6. See also LoS, 37. 9 See Appel (1991) 403. 10 See Barabtarlo (1989) 90. 11 See Barabtarlo (1989) 90. 12 See Boyd (1996) 889. The only alternative shows an even smaller part of a carriage, see Boggs 107 (figure 63).

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13 14 15 16 17 18 19

See Boyd (1996) 700. Grayson (2001) 24. Shuvalova’s monograph shows 202 works, none with the titles Nabokov uses. See Zimmer (2001) 254-7 and 397. See Dmitriyeva. See Fiodorov-Davydov. Hilton, 126. See however Raguet-Bouvart.

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—. Art and Illusion. 1960. Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1986. —. The Preference for the Primitive. London: Phaidon, 2002. Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. London: Faber and Faber, 1986. Gray, Camilla. The Russian Experiment in Art, 1863-1922. 1962. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993. Grayson, Jane. ‘Rusalka and the Person from Porlock.’ Symbolism and After. Ed. Arnold McMillin. London: Bristol Classical Press, 1992. —. Vladimir Nabokov. London: Penguin, 2001. Grayson, Jane, Arnold McMillin and Priscilla Meyer, eds. Reading Nabokov. Vol. 2 of Nabokov’s World. 2 vols. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2002. Grigoriev, S.L. The Diaghiliev Ballet 1909-1929. 1953. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1960. Haight, G.S., ed. The Portable Victorian Reader. New York: The Viking Press, 1972. Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art. 1974. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Hazlitt, William. ‘On Imitation.’ The Round Table. Rpt. in The Round Table & Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays, 1817. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman’s Library, 1951. —. ‘On the Works of Hogarth.’ The English Comic Writers and Miscellaneous Essays. 1819. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1946. —. Table Talk. 1824. London: J.M. Dent & Sons. 1925. Heydenreich, Ludwig H. Leonardo: The Last Supper. London: Allen Lane, 1974. Hilton, Alison. ‘The Composed Vision of Valentin Serov.’ Russian Narrative & Visual Art: Varieties of Seeing. Ed. Roger Anderson and Paul Debreczeny. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994, 124-147. Hindemith, Paul. A Composer’s World: Horizons and Limitations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952. Hohenstatt, Peter. Leonardo da Vinci. Köln: Könemann, 1998. Holmes, Richard. Shelley: The Pursuit. 1974. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987. Howard, William Guild. ‘Ut Pictura Poesis.’ PMLA XXIV (1909): 40-123. Hunter, Sam. Modern French Painting. New York: Dell, 1956. Hussey, Christopher. The Picturesque. London: Frank Cass, 1967. Huyghe, René, ed. Larousse Encyclopaedia of Renaissance and Baroque Art. London: Hamlyn, 1964. —. Larousse Encyclopaedia of Modern Art. London: Hamlyn, 1965. Huysmans, J.-K. Against Nature. Trans. and Introduction by Robert Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968.

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Hyde, G.M. Vladimir Nabokov, America’s Russian Novelist. London: Marion Boyars, 1977. Jackson, Robert Louis. ‘Introduction.’ Reading Chekhov’s Text. Ed. Robert Louis Jackson. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993. Johnson, D. Barton. Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir Nabokov. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1985. —. ‘Preliminary Notes on Nabokov’s Russian Poetry: A Chronological and Thematic Sketch.’ Russian Literature Triquarterly 24 (1991): 307-327. —. ‘“L’Inconnue de la Seine” and Nabokov’s Naiads.’ Comparative Literature Summer (1992): 225-248. Joyce, James. The Essential James Joyce. Ed. Harry Levin. 1948. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. Juliar, Michael. Vladimir Nabokov, A Descriptive Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1986. Karlinsky, Simon. ‘Nabokov’s Russian Games.’ 1971. Rpt. in Phyllis A. Roth. —. ‘Nabokov and Chekhov: Affinities, Parallels and Structures.’ Cycnos 10 (1993): 33-37. —. Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya. The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971. 1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Kauffman Linda. ‘Framing Lolita: Is There a Woman in the Text?’ Rpt. in Bloom. Kearns, James. Symbolist Landscapes: The Place of Painting in the Poetry and Criticism of Mallarmé and His Circle. London: The Modern Humanities Research Association, 1989. Keats, John. The Letters of John Keats. Ed. Maurice Buxton Forman. 1931. London, Oxford University Press, 1947. —. The Complete Poems. Ed. John Barnard. 1973. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977. Kerr, Jessica. Shakespeare’s Flowers. Harmondsworth: Kestrel Books, 1969. Klessmann, Rüdiger. The Berlin Gallery. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971. Klimenko, L.F. ‘Biblioteka doma Nabokovykh.’ Nabokovskii vestnik 1 (1998): 193-200. Klinge, Margret. David Teniers de Jongere; Schilderijen – Tekeningen. Antwerp: Royal Museum of Fine Arts, 1991. Kühnel, Ernst. Miniaturmalerei im Islamitischen Orient. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer Verlag, 1923. Lane, Margaret. Samuel Johnson and His World. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1975. Lermontov, Mikhail. ‘The Reed.’ Trans. Irina Zheleznova. Selected Works. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976, 26-28. Levey, Michael. From Giotto to Cézanne. 1968. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. Lifar, Serge. Serge Diaghilev: His Life, His Work, His Legend. An Intimate Biography. London: Putnam, 1940. Linfert, Carl. Hieronymus Bosch. Trans. Robert Wolf. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.

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Mason, Bobbie Ann. Nabokov’s Garden: a Guide to Ada. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1974. Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Paul Gauguin. An Erotic Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. Maude, Aylmer. ‘Introduction.’ Leo Tolstoy. The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Tales. London: Oxford University Press, 1940. McCarthy, Mary. Rev. of Pale Fire. New Republic 4 June 1962: 21-7. Rpt. in Page. Meyer, Priscilla. Find What the Sailor Has Hidden: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1988. Michaels, Barbara L. Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992. Murray, Peter and Linda. The Art of Renaissance. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977. Myakov, P.I. ‘Zapadnoevropeiskaya zhivopis’ v sobranii sem’i Nabokovykh’ Nabokovskii vestnik 1 (1998): 209-16. Nabokov, Dmitri. ‘Translating with Nabokov.’ In Gibian and Parker. Nabokov, Nicolas. Bagázh: Memoirs of a Russian Cosmopolitan. New York: Atheneum, 1975. Nicol, Charles. ‘“Ghostly Rich Glass”: A Double Essay on “Spring in Fialta” Russian Literature Triquarterly 24 (1991): 173-184. —. ‘Ada or Disorder.’ In Rivers and Nicol. Nicolson, Nigel. Long Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977. Novouspensky, Nikolai. Aivazovsky. London and Sydney: Pan Books/Leningrad: Aurora Art Publishers, 1980. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Mary M. Innes. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971. Packman, David. Vladimir Nabokov: The Structure of Literary Desire. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1982. Page, Norman, ed. Nabokov, The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982. Panofsky, Erwin. Studies in Iconology. 1939. New York: Harper and Row, 1972. —. Meaning in the Visual Arts. 1955. London: Penguin Books, 1993. Parker, Stephen Jan. ‘Vladimir Nabokov and the Short Story.’ Russian Literature Triquarterly 24 (1991): 63-72. Pater, Walter. Studies in the History of the Renaissance. 1873. In Haight. Pictorial Souvenirs of Russian Writers. Moscow: Sovetskaya Rossia Publishers, 1988. Pifer, Ellen. ‘Dark Paradise: Shades of Heaven and Hell in Ada’. Modern Fiction Studies 25: 3 Autumn (1979): 481-97. Praz, Mario. The Romantic Agony. 1933. London: Collins, 1966.

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List of Illustrations and Acknowledgements

Colour Illustrations 1

Bernardino Luini (c. 1481/2-1532), Madonna with Child, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin (photo Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

2. Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1421-1497), The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1460, Palazzo Medici Riccardi (photo Palazzo Medici Riccardi) 3. Pieter Bruegel (1527-1569), Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin (photo Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) 4. Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1480-1556), Pietà, 1545, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (photo Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano, Courtesy of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Goods and Activities) 5. Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884-86, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (photo © The Art Institute of Chicago) 6. Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Carriages at the Races, 1871-72, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (photo © 2006 Museum of Fine Arts) 7. Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441), The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434, The National Gallery, London, (photo © National Gallery) 8. Hans Memling (c. 1433-1494), ‘Holy Virgin with Apple’, left wing of the Diptych of Martin van Nieuwenhove, 1487, Memling Museum, Brugge (photo Stedelijke Musea Brugge) 9. Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441), Madonna of Canon van der Paele, 1436, Groeninge Museum, Brugge (photo Stedelijke Musea Brugge) 10. Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), The Birth of Venus, c. 1485, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino) 11. William Hogarth (1697-1764), Marriage à la Mode, IV, 1743, The National Gallery, London (photo © National Gallery) 12. Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Virgin and Child with Singing Angels, c. 1478, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin (photo Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) 13. Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Primavera, c. 1482, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino) 14. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Last Supper, c. 1496, Santa Maria della Grazia, Milan (photo © 2005 Photo Scala, Florence, Courtesy of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Goods and Activities)

207

15. Paolo Uccello (c. 1397-1475), St. George and the Dragon, c. 1456, The National Gallery, London (photo The National Gallery) 16. Footsteps of Spring (Primavera), Fresco from Stabiae (photo Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Napoletano, Napoli) 17. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), Boy with a House of Cards, 1740, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino) 18. Juan Fernández el Labrador (d. c. 1600), Florero, Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) 19. Mikhail Vrubel (1873-1924), Demon Seated, 1890, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) 20. Valentin Serov (1865-1911), Portrait of Adelaida Simonovich, 1889, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg 21. Valentin Serov (1865-1911), Girl with Peaches, Portrait of Vera Mamontova, 1887, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) 22. Joost Sustermans (1597-1681), Valdemar Cristiano Prince of Denmark, Palazzo Pitti, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino) 23. Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1684), Still Life with Lobster, late 1640s, Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1952.25 (photo Toledo Museum of Art) 24. Titian (c. 1488-1576), Danae and the Shower of Gold, 1553, Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) 25. Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Eve, 1528, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Florentino) 26. Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572), Venus, Cupid, Time and Folly, c. 1543, The National Gallery, London (photo © National Gallery) 27. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), The Woman with Mangoes, 1896, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) 28. ‘A Banquet to the Dead’, Fresco from the Tomb of Nakht at Thebes (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) 29. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1503-10. Inner panels. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) 30. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). The Last Judgement, c. 1504-08. Gemäldegalerei der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Vienna (photo Gemäldegalerei der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien) 31. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Haywain, c. 1485-1502. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado)

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vladimir nabokov and the art of painting

32. 32a. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1503-10. Detail of the right panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) 32b. Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina (photo Mario Maier, SIEMENS Medical Solutions) 32c. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1503-10. Detail of the central panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) 32d. Large Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis polychloros (photo Mario Maier, SIEMENS Medical Solutions) 32e. Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae (photo Mario Maier, SIEMENS Medical Solutions)

Black-and-White Illustrations p. 35

Jacques Linard (c. 1600-1645), Basket with Flowers, Louvre, Paris (photo RMN-Arnaudet)

p. 36

Lubin Baugin (c. 1610-1663), Still Life with Chessboard, 1630, Louvre, Paris (photo RMNGérard Blot)

p. 49

Petrus Christus (c. 1415-1472/73), St. Eligius and the Lovers, 1449, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehmann Collection, New York (photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

p. 51

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), La Berceuse, 1888, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (photo Kröller-Müller Museum)

p. 52

Rembrandt van Rijn (1620-1669), The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 1648, Louvre, Paris (photo RMN-Hervé Lewandowski)

p. 60

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), The Age of Innocence, 1788, Tate, London (photo © Tate London, 2006)

p. 61

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), L’Arlésienne, 1890, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (photo Kröller-Müller Museum)

p. 62

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Arrangement in Grey and Black, 1871, Louvre, Paris (photo RMN-Jean-Gilles Berizzi)

p. 65

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), The Coiffing, Reproduction in The Savoy, no. 3. July 1896

p. 70

William Hogarth (1697-1764), The Harlot’s Progress, I, 1731, Engraving (photo © The British Museum, London)

p. 71

William Hogarth (1697-1764), The Painter and his Pug, 1745, Tate, London (photo © Tate London, 2006)

p. 73

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Boy Leading a Horse, 1905, Museum of Modern Art, New York (photo Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) / Scala, Florence)

p. 75

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Still Life with Candlestick, 1945, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris (photo Cnac-Mnam/Dist RMN-Jacqueline Hyde)

list of illustrations and acknowledgements

209

p. 76

David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), Village Fair, 1649, Rockoxhuis, Antwerp

p. 80

Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863, Louvre, Paris (photo RMN-Hervé Lewandowski)

p. 81

Marcantonio Raimondi (1480-1527), The Judgement of Paris, c. 1515, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (photo Rijksmuseum)

p. 88

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Mona Lisa, 1503, Louvre, Paris (photo RMN-R.G. Ojeda)

p. 94

Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668), The White Horse, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (photo Rijksmuseum)

p. 101

Juan Fernández el Labrador (d. c. 1600), Bodegón con dos racimos de uvas, Museo Cerralbo, Madrid (photo Museo Cerralbo)

p. 103

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose, 1633, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena (photo Norton Simon Foundation)

p. 104 Francesco Parmigianino (1503-1540), Adam, Fresco from 1530s, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Steccata, Parma (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) p. 105

Francesco Parmigianino (1503-1540), Eve, Fresco from 1530s, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Steccata, Parma (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague)

p. 105

Francesco Parmigianino (1503-1540), Study for Adam, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino)

p. 107 Mikhail Vrubel (1873-1924), Tamara and Demon, 1890-01, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow p. 109 Valentin Serov (1865-1911), Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev, 1904, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow p. 113

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Leda and the Swan, c. 1598-1600, Private Collection, New York (Reproduced by courtesy of the proprietor)

p. 114

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), Girl Powdering her Neck, Woodblock print, Musée Guimet, Paris (photo RMN-Harry Bréjat)

p. 116

Advertisment for Barton & Guestier wines, The New Yorker, 23 March 1963

p. 117

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Divan Japonais, 1892-93, San Diego Museum of Art (Gift of the Baldwin M. Baldwin Foundation), San Diego (photo San Diego Museum of Art)

p. 121

Yukonsk Ikon, The ‘Vladimir’ Mother of God Icon, twelfth century, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague)

p. 125

Claude Randon (1674-1704), Bruslot à la sonde, engraving

p. 126 Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey, c. 1531, Galleria Borghese, Rome (photo Archivio Fotografico Soprintendenza Speciale per il Museale Romano) p. 127 Marco d’Andrea da Faenza (c. 1527-1588), Peacock Moth, 1555-56, Fresco in the Elements Room, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (photo Dieter E. Zimmer, reproduced with kind permission.)

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p. 130

Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542), Nymph and Satyr, Palazzo Pitti, Florence (photo Gabinetto Fotografico, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino)

p. 131

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Pan and Syrinx, The British Museum, London (photo © The British Museum)

p. 136

Pieter Bruegel the Younger (1564-1638), Peasant Wedding, 1620, The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland)

p. 140 Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Aha oe Feii (What! Are you Jealous?), 1892, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (photo Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague) p. 147 Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1503-10. Outer panels. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado) p. 154

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Last Judgement, c. 1504-08. Detail of the central panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado)

p. 160 - 163 Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1503-10. Details from the central panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid (photo Museo del Prado)

list of illustrations and acknowledgements

211

Corresponding Pages in the Volumes Published by Vintage International and Penguin Books

References to most of Nabokov’s works apply to the Vintage International editions. To assist readers using Penguin Books, corresponding page numbers are provided in the table below. Vintage page numbers are listed in the first column. As an example, Perugino is mentioned in Speak, Memory on page 190 in the Vintage edition. Moving down the first column to the appropriate row (halfway between page numbers 180 and 200) and across to the column for Speak, Memory, Perugino is mentioned in the Penguin edition halfway between pages 140 and 156, i.e. 148. The table offers a rough guide only and readers should allow for small deviations in some cases.

212

VI Mary Glory Des LitD

IB

Gift RLSK BS

SM

Lo

Pnin

PF

Ada

1

9

13











20

29

29

27

13

19

26

40

46

46

43

26

35

60

62

63

58

39

80

80

80

74

100

95

97

120

13











7



19

29

18

20

17

19

23

25

22

43

36

43

33

40

34

35

38

44

38

51

61

53

59

49

59

50

51

53

64

54

52

67

79

69

74

64

80

67

66

67

83

69

89

65

85

97

85

90

79

100

83

82

82

103

85

114

104

77

102

114

101

107

95

120

100

98

97

100

140

132

119

90

119

132

118

121

110

140

117

113

113

114

160

149

134

103

137

149

135

137

125

158

134

129

128

127

180

166

150

116

154

167

153

150

140

178

151

144

143

143

200

183

166

129

171

184

170

167

156

198

159

158

158

220

142

189

202

183

171

218

175

173

173

240

154

220

200

185

238

190

188

188

260

167

238

200

258

204

205

280

180

256

215

278

220

222

300

274

230

299

235

237

330

301

260

360

328

283

390

306

420

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213

Index of Authors

Acton, Harold, 183 Alberti, Leona Battista, 54 Alter, Robert, 158, 190, 194-195 Andersen, Hans Christian, 83 ‘The Little Mermaid’, 79 Andersen, Wayne, 191 Andree, Rolf, 195 Appel Jr., Alfred, 181, 184, 186, 188, 193-95 Apuleius. The Golden Ass, 83 Aristophanes, 63 Lysistrata, 95 Arnold, Matthew. ‘The Gypsy Scholar’, 84-85, 191 ‘Thyrsis’, 84, 191 Ashenden, Liana, 193, 195 Auden, W.H. ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, 56 Aurier, Albert, 182 Austen, Jane, 100, 186 Mansfield Park, 15, 26 Bacon, Francis, 67, 189 Balakian, Anna, 182 Baldini, Umberto, 191 Balmont, Konstantin, 23, 63 Barabtarlo, Gennady, 182, 186-87, 191, 195 Barolsky, Paul, 191 Baudelaire, Charles-Pierre, 191 Bax, D., 149 Bayley, John, 64, 189 Beagle, Peter S., 150, 194-95 Bellino, Mary, 192 Bely, Andrey, 23, 63, 188 Berdjis, Nassim, 15, 181, 185, 192 Bernsmeier, Uta, 184 Bethea, David M., 183 Bianconi, Piero, 185 Bicknell, Peter, 187 Bindman, David, 190

214

Blake, William, 63, 111 Blok, Alexander, 23, 63, 111, 188 Incognita, 119 Blot, Jean, 182, 186 Bodenstein, Jürgen, 182 Bodkin, Thomas, 184 Boggs, Jean Sutherland, 195 Boring, E.G., 186 Bosing, Walter, 194 Boswell, James, 190 Bowness, Alan, 182, 187 Boyd, Brian, 14, 18-19, 40, 53, 58, 69, 77, 80, 83, 85-86, 96-97, 101, 115, 124, 139, 150-54, 172, 181-88, 190-96 Brant, Sebastian, 153, 195 Ship of Fools, 154 Browning, Robert, 83 ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’, 11 ‘My Last Duchess’, 189 Bunin, Ivan, 188 Burling, Valérie, 189 Butler, Samuel. The Way of All Flesh, 30 Byron, Lord, 20 Campbell, Thomas, 20 Canby, Sheila R., 170 Cancogni, Annapaola, 182 Carey, John, 185 Casanova, Giovanni de, 132-33 The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingal, 193 Cervantes. The Gitanilla, 141, 144 Chambray, Roland Friéart de, 186 Chekhov, Anton, 11, 12, 184, 192 ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’, 16, 91-96 ‘Agafia’, 92 Chernowitz, Maurice E., 182

Chernyshevsky, Nikolay, 188 Cirlot, J.E., 185 Clark, Kenneth, 15, 181, 183-85, 191-92 Colie, Rosalie, 181 Connolly, Julian W., 182, 190 Constant, Benjamin. Adolphe, 45 Couturier, Maurice, 182 Dante, 192 Divina Commedia, 95 Dewey, A. Katherine, 33, 184 Dhanens, Elisabeth, 187 Diaghilev, Sergey, see under Index of Artists. Dmitriyeva, Nina, 196 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 90 The Brothers Karamazov, 45 Dowson, Ernest, 23 ‘Cynara’, 24 Draganoiu, Dana, 124 Dryden, John, 13 Parallel of Poetry and Painting, 13 Duval, Peter Smith, 184 Ettlinger, L. and S., 191 Faré, Michel, 184 Father Siguenza, 159 Field, Andrew, 187, 192 Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones, 190 Finley, Gerald, 186 Fiodorov-Davydov, Alexei, 196 Flaubert, Gustave, 186, 191 Forster, Jr., John Burt, 184 Frenhofer, 191 Fresnoy, Charles du. De arte graphica, 13 Freud, Sigmund, 137, 191 Fry, Roger, 187 Fuchs, R.H., 187 Gage, John, 185 Garis Davies, Norman de, 143 Garnett, Richard, 23 Gaunt William, 189, 195 Gautier, Théophile, 188 Gibelli, Vincenzo, 186 Gibson, Walter S., 190

index of authors

Girard, René, 150 Gogol, Nikolai, 11-12, 14, 18, 21 ‘Nevsky Avenue’, 12 ‘The Portrait’, 12 Gombrich, E.H., 24, 35, 46, 58, 183-84, 186-87 Gosse, Edmund, 63 Graves, Robert, 191 Gray, Camilla, 182-83, 187 Grayson, Jane, 83, 191, 196 Grigoriev, S.L., 189 Gumilev, Nikolay, 27 Hall, James, 185, 191-92 Hardy, Thomas. The Woodlanders, 192 Hazlitt, William, 14-15, 47, 67, 72, 181-82, 18587, 189-90 Heydenreich, Ludwig H., 191-92 Hilton, Alison, 196 Hindemith, Paul, see under Index of Artists Hohenstatt, Peter, 189 Holmes, Richard, 189 Homer, 20 Horace, 13 Housman, Alfred, 79, 84, 191 Hunter, Sam, 183, 185, 187 Hussey, Christopher, 181 Huyghe, René, 182, 187 Huysmans, J.-K., 189 Against Nature, 188 Hyde, G.M., 184 Jackson, Robert Louis, 184 James, Henry, 63 Johnson, D. Barton, 40, 72, 83, 182-83, 185-86, 190-91 Johnson, Pyke, 157 Johnson, Samuel, 190 Jonson, Ben. Volpone, 64 Joyce, James, 186, 191 Ulysses, 20 Finnegans Wake, 82 Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis, 153 Karlinsky, Simon, 92, 183, 188, 190, 192 Kauffman Linda, 59, 188 Kearns, James, 182

215

Keats, John, 33, 38, 79, 184 ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, 32 ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, 43 Kerr, Jessica, 185 Khodasevich, Vladimir, 110 Klessmann, Rüdiger, 185 Klimenko, L.F., 193 Klinge, Margret, 190 Kühnel, Ernst, 170 Kunin, Carolyn, 192 Lane, Margaret, 190 Leonardo da Vinci. Trattato della Pittura, 184 Lermontov, Mikhail, 16, 21, 108, 181-82 ‘The Reed’, 84 ‘The Demon’, 106, 159, 177 Levey, Michael, 187 Lifar, Serge, 188 MacColl, D.S., 63 Maeterlinck, Maurice. L’oiseau bleu, 183 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 24 L’après-midi d’un faune, 24, 27, 193 Malory, Sir Thomas, 63 Le Morte d’Arthur, 188 Mandelstam, Osip, 183 Marco Polo, 170 Marvell, Andrew. ‘Last Instructions to a Painter’, 13 ‘The Garden’, 13, 148 ‘The Unfortunate Lover’, 13 ‘Upon Appleton’s House’, 189 Mathews, Nancy Mowll, 139, 141 Maturin, Charles, 189 Maude, Aylmer, 184 McCarthy, Mary, 69, 189 Merejkowski, Dmitri, 191 Merimée, Prosper. Carmen, 141 Meyer, Priscilla, 83, 191 Michaels, Barbara L., 186 Middleton Murray, John, 14 Milton, John, 185 ‘Lycidas’, 41, 83, 185 Comus, 85, 191 Paradise Lost, 148, 191 Montesquiou, Comte de, 188

216

Moore, George, 23, 63 Murray, Peter and Linda, 187 Myagkov, P.I., 193 Nabokov, Dmitri, 37, 133, 134, 181, 190, 192 Nabokov, Nicolas, 87, 182, 191 Nabokov, Véra, 70 Nabokov, Vladimir Ada, 13, 19, 22-23, 25, 27-29, 46-48, 80-81, 89, 98-165, 175-76, 178-80, 182, 186, 191-92 Bend Sinister, 24-25, 27, 46, 67, 78-79, 82, 84, 87, 101, 142, 178-80, 183, 186 Despair, 170, 178 Glory, 17, 27, 168, 178, 180, 182 Invitation to a Beheading, 14, 19, 48, 89, 93, 182-83 King, Queen, Knave, 31, 179-80, 183, 192 Laughter in the Dark, 17, 19, 29-38, 63, 67, 69, 78, 142, 169, 178-80, 184, 186 Lolita, 17, 19, 22, 28-29, 31-32, 39, 56, 59-66, 78-79, 145, 172, 178-80, 188 Look at the Harlequins!, 27, 78-79, 82, 85, 110-12, 142, 177-80 Mary, 14, 18, 87, 168, 178 Pale Fire, 13, 15, 22, 27-28, 46, 67-87, 89, 98, 122, 174, 179-80, 183, 185-86, 190-91, 193 Pnin, 19, 22, 25, 27, 44-58, 76, 78-79, 84, 89, 173, 178-80, 182, 186-87 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 14, 16-17, 29, 39-43, 89, 184-85 Speak, Memory, 11-12, 14-16, 18, 20, 22, 24-27, 37, 41, 56, 62, 68, 72, 79-80, 84, 89, 174, 178-83, 190 Strong Opinions, 11, 14, 19, 23, 48, 98-99, 145, 157, 178-83, 185, 190 The Defence, 26-27, 87, 168, 178, 180, 183 The Gift, 15, 25, 97, 178-80, 183, 186, 188 Stories ‘A Guide to Berlin’, 31, 192 ‘A Russian Beauty’, 110, 170, 180 ‘La Venezia’, 17-18, 37, 167, 178-80 Nabokov’s Dozen, 97 ‘Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster’, 31 ‘Signs and Symbols’, 16, 192

vladimir nabokov and the art of painting

‘Solus Rex’, 99, 108 ‘Spring in Fialta’, 29, 76, 87-97, 171, 180, 186 ‘The Dragon’, 96 ‘The Vane Sisters’, 14, 17 ‘The Visit to the Museum’, 17, 171, 180 ‘Tyrants Destroyed’, 19 ‘Ultima Thule’, 72, 99, 108, 190 Nabokov, V.D., 193 Nicol, Charles, 96, 135, 192 Nicolson, Nigel, 189 Novouspensky, Nikolai, 195 Ovid, 96, 185, 192-93 Metamorphoses, 99 Panofsky, Erwin, 26, 77, 189-90 Parker, Stephen Jan, 192 Pater, Walter, 191 Gaston de Latour, 188 Pifer, Ellen, 158, 195 Plutarch, 21, 55 Poe, Edgar Allan, 63 Poiré, Emmanuel, 126 Pope, Alexander, 13, 69, 181 Moral Essays, 70 The Dunciad, 70 ‘On Sir Godfrey Kneller’, 181 Praz, Mario, 27, 183, 189 Proffer, Carl R., 188 Proffer, Ellendea, 182 Proust, Marcel, 20, 30, 78, 86, 182, 184, 186, 191-92 Remembrance of Things Past, 22 Pushkin, Alexander, 13, 21, 57, 185, 188 Eugene Onegin, 12, 103 A Journey to Arzrum, 12 ‘The Queen of Spades’, 12 ‘The Gypsies’, 141, 144 ‘To My Inkwell’, 192 Pyle, Robert Michael, 182, 191 Raguet-Bouvart, Christine, 184 Reade, Brian, 189 Reynolds, Joshua, 15, 44-47 Richardson, Samuel, 190

index of authors

Rimbaud, Arthur, 27 Rippl, Daniela, 185 Rivers, J.E., 22, 182 Rizzo, Anna Padoa, 184 Rogers, Samuel, 20 Rorty, Richard, 189 Rostopchine, see Ségur Rothenstein, John, 26, 188 Rougemont, Denis de, 188 Ruskin, John, 44-45, 57, 185-87 Schwartz, Gary, 148, 194 Scott, Walter, 20, 32 Lay of the Last Minstrel, 26 The Fortunes of Nigel, 184 Waverley, 187 Ségur, Mme de, 192 Senderovich, Savely, 192 Shakespeare, William, 27, 33, 185 Hamlet (Ophelia), 24, 41, 55, 79-82, 84-86, 93, 115, 185, 193 Othello, 30 King Lear, 82 A Midsummernight’s Dream, 189 Shapiro, Gavriel, 40, 182-83, 185-88, 190-92 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 189 ‘A Defence of Poetry’, 186 Shrayer, Maxim D., 192 Shuvalova, Irina, 196 Sklyarenko, Alexey, 192 St. Matthew, 192 Stringer-Hye, Suellen, 193 Stuart, Dabney, 184 Sutter, David, 37 Sweeney, Susan Elizabeth, 183 Swinburne, Algernon, 63, 188 Tammi, Pekka, 183, 190 Thomson, Belinda, 186-87 Toker, Leona, 68, 189 Tolksdorf, Ludger, 133-34 Tolstoy, Leo, 22-21, 47-48, 90, 185, 188 Anna Karenina, 12, 30 ‘Master and Man’, 18 ‘The Devil’, 184 ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’, 59

217

Turgenev, Ivan, 11-12, 21, 187 Spring Torrents, 12 The Song of Love Triumphant, 12 Van Deren Coke, 186 Vasari, Giorgio, 54, 89-90, 128, 187, 191-92 Verity, A.W., 191 Verlaine, Paul, 188 Vries, Gerard de, 122, 183-85, 190, 192-93

Weintraub, Stanley, 188-89 Wilde, Oscar, 15, 63-64, 181, 188-89 Wilton, Andrew, 183 Wilson, Edmund, 77, 188 Wordsworth, William, 24, 32, 54 The Prelude, 183 ‘Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture’, 184 Yeats, William Butler, 23, 63 Zhukovsky, Vasiliy, 16, 181 Zimmer, Dieter E., 127-28, 169, 192-93, 195-96

218

vladimir nabokov and the art of painting

Index of Artists Page numbers in italics indicate black-and-white illustrations; bold numbers indicate the numbers of colour illustrations.

Abbasi, Riza, 178 The Shepherd, 170 Albano, Francesco, 12 Allori, Christofano, 12 Apelles, 32, 178 Apollodorus, 21, 55 Audubon, John James, 157, 178 Avercamp, Hendrik. The Delights of Winter, 168 Ayvazovski, Ivan. Pushkin by the Cliffs of Gurzur in the Crimea, 168, 178 Bakst, Leon, 16, 24, 27, 98, 178 Mrs. V.D. Nabokov, 174 Balthus, 25, 101, 139, 178 Barcelo, 31 Bashkirtsev, Marie, 178 Baugin, Lubin, 31, 33, 35, 178 Still Life with Chessboard, 25, 31, 33, 34, 36, 169 Beardsley, Aubrey, 23, 59, 62-66, 178, 188-89 The Coiffing, 64, 65, 189 Ali Baba, 188 Bellini, Gentiles, 178 Benci, Domenico, 127, 178 Benois, Alexander, 16, 62, 63, 98, 178, 183 Rainy Day in Brittany, 25, 174 Versailles, Autumn Evening, 175 Beyeren, Abraham van, 47 Böcklin, Arnold, 170, 178 The Isle of the Dead, 25, 168 Playing in the Waves, 169 Naiads at Play, 169

Sea Idyll, 169 Bosch, Hieronymus, 27-29, 59, 178, 190, 193 Ascent of the Blessed, 27 The Garden of Earthly Delights, 99, 145-146, 147, 148-153, 155-158, 160-163 (details), 16465, 176, 29, 32a and c The Ship of Fools, 145, 176, 195 The Last Judgement, 145, 153, 154 (detail), 155-56, 159, 176, 30 The Haywain, 159, 31 Botticelli, Sandro, 23, 27, 31, 37-38, 78-79, 86 Calumny of Apelles, 32 The Birth of Venus, 59-60, 82, 84, 111, 142, 172, 10 Primavera, 78-79, 82, 85, 177, 13 Youth of Moses, 79 Virgin and Child with Singing Angels, 168, 12 Boucher, François, 178 Braque, Georges, 138, 178 Breughel, see Bruegel Brina, Giovanni del, 127, 178 Bronzino, Angelo, 25, 77, 178 Allegory of Love; Venus, Cupid, Time, and Folly, 14, 136, 175, 26 Brouwer, Adriaen, 31 Bruegel, Jan, 178 Bruegel, Pieter, 178, 190 Netherlandish Proverbs, 31, 33, 37, 169, 3 Kermis at Hoboken, 76 St. George Kermis, 76 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 155

219

Bruegel, Pieter, the Younger. Peasant Wedding, 136, 137 Burne-Jones, Edward, 63 Canaletto, Antonio, 178 Caravaggio, Michelangelo da, 129, 175, 178 Still Life with a Basket of Fruit, 130 Cézanne, Paul, 55, 178, 183 Chagall, Marc, 178 Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon, 178 Boy with a House of Cards, 25, 101, 171, 17 The Young Draftsman, 25 Christus, Petrus, 178 St. Eligius and the Lovers, 49, 50, 173 Claude, see Lorraine Conder, Charles, 26, 163 Correggio, Antonio, 12, 178 Cranach, Lucas, 126, 178 Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey, 126 Eve, 126, 25 Cumming, 31, 169, 178, 184 Cummings, 178 D’Andrea, Marco, 127, 128, 179 Peacock Moth, 127, 176 Dali, Salvador, 139, 179 Degas, Edgar, 25, 58, 179 Carriages at the Races, 48, 50, 58, 173, 6 Delacroix, Eugène, 19 Diaghilev, Sergei, 24, 63, 108, 111, 182-83, 188 L’Après-midi d’un faune, 24, 109 Ode, 183 Zephyr and Flora, 183 Dobuzhinski, Mstislav, 12, 16, 62-63, 98, 179 Dossi, Dosso, 129, 175, 179 Nymph and Satyr, 130 Dürer, Albrecht, 174 The Great Piece of Turf, 67 Dutertre, André, 90, 192 Dyck, Anthony van, 12 El Greco, 19, 45, 59, 179 Opening of the Fifth Seal, 186 Escher, M.C., 19 Extramadura, see Labrador Eyck, Jan van, 19, 23, 50, 54, 179, 182

220

The Arnolfini Wedding, 50, 173, 7 Madonna of Canon van der Paele, 56, 173, 9 Faenza, see D’Andrea Flatman, Thomas, 179 Fra Angelico, 19, 25, 27, 87, 179 Annunciation, 174 Fra Sebastiano (Luciani) del Piombo, 31, 37, 179 Giovane romana detta Dorotea (Portrait of a Young Roman Lady), 18, 37, 167 Fragonard, Jean Honoré. Tomb, 77 Gainsborough, Thomas, 179 The Honourable Mrs. Graham, 90 The Blue Boy, 171 Gauguin, Paul, 38, 139, 179, 193 The Woman with Mangoes, 139, 27 Aha oe Feii (What! Are You Jealous?), 140, 141 Woman Holding a Fruit, 140 Ge, Nikolai, 19 Gentile, Francesco di, 179 Gherardi, Christofano, 128 Ghirlandaio, Domenico, 87 Adoration of the Shepherds, 31 Giorgione, 179 Pastoral Concert, 124 Giotto, 54, 57 Gogh, Vincent van, 59-60, 139, 179 La Berceuse, 25, 50, 51, 173 L’Arlésienne, 59, 61, 172 Goya, Francisco de, 45 Fantastic Vision, 186 Goyen, Jan van, 55 Windmill by a River, 187 Gozzoli, Benozzo. The Adoration of the Magi, 31, 184, 2 Guido da Siena, 12 Harlamov, Alexei, 25, 175, 179 Heem, Jan Davidsz de, 47 Still Life with Lobster, 23 Hindemith, Paul, 30, 36 Hobbema, Meindert, 182 Hoecker, 173, 179

vladimir nabokov and the art of painting

Hogarth, William, 13, 69-72, 74, 179, 189-90 Marriage à la Mode I, 70, 73 Marriage à la Mode IV, 69, 11 A Harlot’s Progress I, 70 The Rake’s Progress, 70 Self Portrait, 70, 71 The Bathos, 72 Holbein, Hans, 179, 195 Portrait of Henry VIII, 31, 169 Hunt, William Morris, 179 The Belated Kid, 173 Hurd, Peter, 179, 188 Ingres, Jean Auguste Dominique. Grande Odalisque, 27 Angelica Saved by Ruggiero, 95 Jervas, Charles, 181 Kadinsky, Vasily, 63, 179 Kalf, Willem, 47 Käsebier, Gertrude, 186 Karsh, Yousuf, 186 Kneller, Godfrey, 181 Kolbe, Georg Wilhelm, 189 I, too, was in Arcadia, 189 Labrador, Juan Fernández el, 25, 102, 175, 179 Still Life with Two Clusters of Grapes (Bodegón con dos racimos de uvas), 101 Still Life with Flowers (Florero), 102, 18 LaTour, Georges de. Magdalena with the Nightlight, 170 Magdalena with a Flickering Light, 170 Lebrun, Charles, 12, 13 Lee, Doris, 179, 188. Noon, 172 Leighton, Frederic, 23 Leonardo da Vinci, 12-13, 23, 26, 33, 68-69, 78, 90, 179, 186 The Last Supper, 19, 74, 87, 89-97, 171, 174, 191, 14 Mona Lisa, 15, 31, 57, 88, 89-90, 169, 191 St.John, 57, 78, 173 Leonardus Vinci Academia, 91 See also under Index of Authors Levitan, Isaac, 25, 179

index of artists

The Month of March, 27 Fresh Wind, TheVolga, 177 The Lakes, 177 Golden Autumn, 177 Linard, Jacques, 31, 36, 38, 179 Basket with Flowers, 31, 34, 35, 169 Liszt, Franz, 24 Lorraine (Claude Gellée), 59, 179 View of Delphi with a Procession, 32 Lotto, Lorenzo, 31, 33, 37, 179, 185 Pietà, 31, 34, 37, 169, 4 Christ Taking Leave of his Mother, 37 Luciani; see Fra Sebastiano Luini, Bernardino, 12, 31, 34, 179, 184 The Adoration of the Magi, 184 The Adoration of the Child, 184 The Saint Family, 184 Madonna with Child, 167, 1 Malevich, Kasimir, 63, 179 Manet, Edouard, 55, 123, 179, 187 En bâteau, 14 Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 48, 80, 81, 123, 176, 193 Olympia, 139 Mantegna, Andrea, 19, 74 Parnassus, 74 Marsh, Reginald, 179, 188 Master of Flémalle, 52 Donor Presented by St. John the Baptist. Wing of the Werl Altarpiece, 50 Matisse, Henri, 179 Matsys, Quentin, 52 The Moneylender and his Wife, 50 Memling, Hans, 52, 179 ‘Holy Virgin with Apple’, 50, 173, 8 Menzel, Adolph von, 179 A Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssoucí, 174 Merian, Maria Sybilla, 179 Michelangelo Buonarroti, 179 Millet, Jean François. Angelus, 48 Monet, Claude, 54, 55, 187 Nymphéas, 55 Les oies dans le ruisseau, 182 Moore, Henry, 137 Morghen, Raphael, 90, 192

221

Nijinski, Vaslav, 188 Palma Vecchio, 98, 129, 175, 179 Diana and Callistro, 130 Parmigianino, Francesco, 25, 103, 106, 175, 179 Adam, 104 Eve, 105, 175 Study for Adam, 105 Perugino, Pietro, 12, 16, 87, 179 Picasso, Pablo, 25, 69, 74, 137, 144, 179, 189 Boy Leading a Horse, 73, 174 Still Life with Candlestick, 75, 174 Porpora, Paolo, 179 Poussin, Nicolas, 77 Et in Arcadio Ego, 77 Prinet, René Xavier, 59, 172, 180 The Kreutzer Sonata, 59 Raffaello, see Raphael Raimondi, Marcantonio. The Judgement of Paris, 81, 124 Randon, Claude, 124, 180 Bruslot à la sonde, 124, 125, 176 Raphael, 12, 23, 95, 180 The Sacrifice at Lystra, 32 Madonna in the Meadow, 167 The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 172 Rembrandt van Rijn, 12, 23, 52-53, 180, 187, 191 Six’s Bridge, 46 The Gold-Weigher’s Field, 46 View of Amsterdam, 46 The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 47, 50, 52, 58, 173 The Descent from the Cross, 170 Man in a Golden Helmet, 171 Reni, Guido, 170 Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 59, 180, 182, 185 The Age of Innocence, 59, 60, 172 See also under Index of Authors Rockwell, Norman, 139, 180 Rodin, Auguste, The Thinker, 31 Romney, George, 168, 180 Lady Emma Hamilton, 168 Rothenstein, William, 23, 188 Rubens, Pieter Paul, 12, 98, 130, 180 Leda and the Swan, 113 Pan and Syrinx, 131, 193

222

Rublyov, Andrei, 180 Ruisdael, Jacob van, 31, 55, 98, 180, 182 View of Haarlem, 37, 187 Saenredam, Pieter, 19, 182 Sargent, John Singer, 12 Seghers, Hercules, 180 Semiradski, Henryk, 25, 180 Serov, Valentin, 109-111, 177, 180 Girl with Peaches, 25, 112, 177, 21 Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev, 109 Portrait of Adelaide Simonovich, 110, 20 Portrait of Tsar Nicholas, 170 Seurat, Georges. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 37, 5 Shishkin, Ivan, 25, 175, 180 Sickert, Walter, 23 Soglow, Otto, 180 Somov, Konstantin, 16, 25, 27, 63, 98, 174, 180, 183 Sorin, Savely, 180 Steen, Jan, 19, 31, 182 Steinberg, Saul, 25, 171, 180 Stosskopf, Sebastian, 34 Sustermans, Joost, 118, 180 Valdemar Cristiano Prince of Denmark, 118, 176, 22 Teniers, David, 25, 31, 69, 98, 174, 180, 189-190 Fête Champêtre, 75, 76 Landscape with Noble Family and Fortress, 75 St. Joriskermis, 76 The Liberation of St. Peter by an Angel, 76, 77 Village Fair, 76 Tintoretto, Jacopo, 95 Titian, 12, 19, 95, 122-23, 129-130, 175, 180 Perseus and Andromeda, 95 Danae and the Shower of Gold, 130, 24 Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, 115-119, 123, 176, 180 Divan Japonais, 115, 117, 119, 176 Turner, Joseph Mallord William, 20, 23, 25, 27, 180, 183 Smailholm Tower, 46 Loch Coriskin, 46 Phryne Going to the Public Bath as Venus, 168

vladimir nabokov and the art of painting

Uccello, Paolo. St. George and the Dragon, 95, 15 Utamaro, Kitagawa, 115, 144 Girl Powdering Her Neck, 114 Vasari, Giorgio. Perseus Frees Andromeda, 96 See also under Index of Authors Veen, Otto van, 13 Amorum Emblemata, 13 Vereshchagin, Vasily, 180 The Kremlin Burns, 170 Vermeer, Jan, 19, 182 Veronese, Paolo. Pelgrims of Emmaus, 53 Vrubel, Mikhail, 63, 106, 108, 110, 177, 180 Demon, 25, 106, 159 Demon Seated, 176, 19 Tamar and the Demon, 107

index of artists

Wagner, Richard, Lohengrin, 30 Waterhouse, John William. Hylas and the Nymphs, 187 Waugh, Frederic, 180, 188 Weijden, Rogier van der, 95 Whistler, James Abott McNeill, 59, 60, 180 Arrangement in Grey and Black, 39, 48, 59, 62, 172 Wood, Grant, 180, 188. Wouwerman, Philips, 95, 180 The White Horse, 94, 171 Yaremich, Stepan, 180 Zurbarán, Francisco de, 25, 98, 102, 175, 180 Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose, 103

223

1. Bernardino Luini, Madonna with Child

2. Benozzo Gozzoli, The Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1460

3. Pieter Bruegel, Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559

4. Lorenzo Lotto, Pietà, 1545

5. Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884-86

6. Edgar Degas, Carriages at the Races, 1871-72

7. Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434

8. Hans Memling, ‘Holy Virgin with Apple’, left wing of the Diptych of Martin van Nieuwenhove, 1487

9. Jan van Eyck, Madonna of Canon van der Paele, 1436

10. Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, ca. 1485

11. William Hogarth, Marriage à la Mode, IV, 1743

12. Sandro Botticelli, Virgin and Child with Singing Angels, ca. 1478

13. Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, ca. 1482

14. Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper, ca. 1496

15. Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, ca. 1456

16. Footsteps of Spring (Primavera). Fresco from Stabiae

17. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Boy with a House of Cards, 1740

18. Juan Fernández el Labrador, Florero

19. Mikhail Vrubel, Demon Seated, 1890

20. Valentin Serov, Portrait of Adelaida Simonovich, 1889

21. Valentin Serov, Girl with Peaches. Portrait of Vera Mamontova, 1887

22. Joost Sustermans, Valdemar Cristiano Prince of Denmark

23. Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Still Life with Lobster, late 1640s

24. Titian, Danae and the Shower of Gold, 1553

25. Lucas Cranach, Eve, 1528

26. Angelo Bronzino, Venus, Cupid, Time, and Folly, ca. 1543

27. Paul Gauguin, The Woman with Mangoes, 1896

28. ‘A Banquet to the Dead’, Fresco from The Tomb of Nakht

29. Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Inner panels

30. Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgement

31. Hieronymus Bosch, The Haywain

32. Bosch’s butterflies. a. Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail of the right panel. b. Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina. c. Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Detail of the central panel. d. Large Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis polychloros. e. Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae