The Twixt Picture

Some details of pictures become just as or even more famous than the main painting itself: the cherubs on Raphael’s Sistine Madonna or the hands of Adam and God in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. We have to admit the two putti, symbolizing heavenly and earthly love, sitting on the floor by Danae’s bed in Correggio’s painting always are our main focus when we look at the depicted scene.

The painting was painted around 1531 and depicts one of the four stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses about the loves of Jupiter. It was commissioned by Frederick II Gonzaga in Mantua as a present for Charles V. It has changed hands and houses many times over the centuries and now it hangs in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

What we love is the way the putti sit there in the lower right hand corner, wholly oblivious to Danae’s fine form as she is lounging and waiting to receive Jupiter, impregnating her in the form of golden rain descending on her, while a child Eros undresses her. They are so busy with their own little project they pay no attention at all.

Actually, they really look exactly like two mischievous children, deeply buried in mischief, and so they are. They are testing the metal point of an arrow of gold against a goldsmith’s stone to see if it is sharp enough. After that, no doubt, the two rascals will waste no time in handing over the fateful arrow to Eros, who will aim his bow at an unsuspecting couple and cause them to fall in love.

 To us this picture of unsuspected mischievousness while greater events are going on elsewhere close by perfectly represents what we wanted to do when we set out to write Twixt Two Equal Armies. The framework was that familiar and loved story of Pride and Prejudice between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy but we added our own unsuspecting couple right beside their classic love story. We also transported all of them away from Hertfordshire and Derbyshire to an even more northern location. Mischievous indeed! And arrows and sharpening certainly fits our story the way Holly and Baugham clash before they surrender!

So maybe we have to concede that the detail of the little scoundrels says as much about us as our story although we do prefer the epitaph of scheming wenches to chubby putti. Anyway, next time you look at a monumental painting, it would be good to pay attention to the smaller details. Who knows, there might be a fascinating story lurking about where you least expect it!

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  1. tina
    24/02/2011 at 4:51 pm Permalink

    At my summer book club party for “Twixt,” after we hung up with you– someone asked “I wonder why they picked that picture for the cover?” NOW I can pass this along. Thanks.