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1˜e Petrifying Gaze of Medusa: Ambivalence, Ekplexis , and the Sublime Caroline van Eck C.A.van.Eck@hum.leidenuniv.nl Recommended Citation: Caroline van Eck, fi˜e Sublime and the fi˜e Petrifying Gaze of Medusa: Ambivalence, Ekplexis , and the Sublime,fl JHNA 8:2 (Summer 2016), DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2016.8.2.3 Available at https://jhna.org/articles/petrifying-gaze-medusa-ambivalence-explexis-sublime/ Published by Historians of Netherlandish Art: https://hnanews.org/ Republication Guidelines: https://jhna.org/republication-guidelines/ Notes: ˜is PDF is provided for reference purposes only and may not contain all the functionality or features of the original, online publication. ˜is PDF provides paragraph numbers as well as page numbers for citation purposes. ISSN: 1949-9833 Volume 8, Issue 2 (Summer 2016)

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1The Dutch art theorists Junius and van Hoogstraten describe the sublime, much more explicitly and insistently than in Longinus™s text, as the power of images to petrify the viewer and to stay ˜xed in their memory. This e˚ect can be related to Longinus™s distinction between poetry and prose. Prose employs the strategy of enargeia ; poetry that of ekplexis , or shattering the listener or reader. This essay traces the notion of ekplexis in Greek rhetoric, particularly in Hermogenes, and shows the connections in etymology, myth, and pictorial traditions, between the petrifying powers of art and the myth of Medusa. DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2016.8.2.3THE PETRIFYING GAZE OF MEDUSA: AMBIVALENCE, EKPLEXIS , AND THE SUBLIME Caroline van Eck 1Introduction In his autobiography the Dutch poet, civil servant, and patron of the arts Constantijn Huygens recalls viewing a Medusa™s head painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1617Œ18˜in an Amsterdam collection (˚g. 1). It le˛ him confounded in that typical mixture of fear, desire, fascination, and horror we now call the sublime: It is as if of Rubens™ many paintings, one always appears before my mind™s eye . . . It represents the severed head of Medusa, encircled by snakes that appear from her hair. In this painting he has composed the sight of a marvellously beautiful wom – an, who is still attractive but also causes horror because death has just arrived and evil snakes hang around her temples, with such inexpressible deliberation, that the Fig. 1 Peter Paul Rubens (1577Œ1640), Medusa, ca. 1618, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 118 cm. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum (artwork in the public domain; photo: KHM-Museumsverband)

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2viewer is suddenly caught by terrorŠsince usually it is covered by a curtainŠbut that the viewer at the same time, and inspite of the horror of the representation, enjoys the painting, because it is lively and beautiful. 1Ambivalence is indeed one of the de˚ning characteristics of the sublime. Sublime speech, accord – ing to Longinus, inspires wonder and transports the public out of themselves. fiA well-timed ˝ash of sublimity,fl he adds, fishatters everything like a bolt of lightning.fl ˙e sublime inspires both fear and admiration, wonder and amazement, the apprehension of the terrible and the appreciation of beauty. But its eˆects also endure. ˙e images conjured up by means of the˜ phantasia ˜of the orator are diˇcult to resist; they enter into the memory of the listener to stay there and cannot be shaken oˆ. 2˜As the Dutch philologist and art theorist Franciscus Junius (1589Œ1677) put it, fi˙at is great indeed . . . which doth still returne into our thoughts, which we can hardly or rather not at all put out of our minde, but the memorie of it sticketh close in us and will not be rubbed out.fl Junius also describes how viewers become tongue-tied and trans˚xed by the sight of art: figreat rings of amazed spectators together are led into an astonished extasie, their sense of seeing bereaving them of all other senses; which by a secret veneration maketh them stand tong-tyed.fl 3˙is phenomenon would be repeated in almost identical terms by Rembrandt™s pupil Samuel van Hoogstraten in his˜ Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst : fi[T]hat is truly great . . . which appears time and again as if fresh before our eyes; which is diˇcult, or rather, impossible for us to put out of our mind; whose memory appears to be continuously, and apparently indelibly, impressed on our hearts.fl 4˙ese claims for the trans˚xing eˆects of sublime oratory or art raise many questions. Longinus devotes the greatest part of his treatise to a discussion of the means by which they are achieved: the famous analysis of the ˚ve sources of the sublime, which includes the power of grand con – ceptions, the inspiration of vehement emotions, the proper construction of ˚gures, the nobility of language, and a digni˚ed and elevated arrangement of words. ˙e resulting sublime fielevates us and stays in the mind.fl 5˜Grand conceptions and vehement emotions are produced by means of˜ phantasiai ˜(visualizations). As Longinus explains, fi[T]he term˜ phantasia ˜is applied in general to an idea which enters the mind from any source and engenders speech, but the word has now come to be used predominantly of passages where, inspired by strong emotion, you seem to see what you describe and bring it vividly before the eyes of your audience.fl Longinus refers here to the well-known rhetorical doctrine that the maximum force of persuasion is exercised when the orator makes his audience forget that they are listening to his words and instead see before their mind™s eye what he describes. He continues: fi˙at˜ phantasia ˜means one thing in oratory and another in poetry you will yourself detect, and also that the object of the po – etical form is to enthral [ ekplexis ], and that of the prose form to present things vividly [ enargeia ], though both indeed aim at the emotional and the excited.fl 6˜˜Most followers of and commentators on Longinus explain this process of visualization resulting in vivid presence or enthralment by means of an account that draws on the human tendency to experience emotions expressed in a way they recognize by other human beings or their rep – resentations. Cicero and Quintilian had already drawn attention to the universally recognized 234526

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3expressive power of gesture and facial expression. As ˙ijs Weststeijn shows in his essay for this volume, Franciscus Junius drew on the ekphrastic writing of the Philostrati to explain the process of emotional empathy that is excited by representations of emotions felt to be lifelike. Enargeia In a recent study of the concept of˜ enargeia ˜Ruth Webb has argued that this concept should not be understood as has traditionally been done in terms of its result, as the somewhat mysterious power of words to convey images that enter into the mind of the listener to excite emotions. 7˜In-stead,˜ enargeia ˜is the result of a correspondence between the orator™s power to use words that can excite in the mind of the public visual images; and the public™s power to visualize what is represented so vividly. As a result the public is led to believe that it experiences at ˚rsthand what is represented in words or images.˜Vivid speech therefore does not conjure up, magically, the living presence of the person or situation described, but excites in the mind of the listener memories that allow him or her to visualize what is described. ˙ereby presence is not recreated, but the˜ experience ˜of seeing what is described. Similarly, statues or paintings do not by their vivid lifelikeness miraculously dissolve into the living being they represent. Instead, they as well excite images in the mind of the viewers that are animated by their memories of similar situations and living beings, and thus recreate not their presence, but the˜ experience˜ of their presence. ˙e living being is not recreated, but the experience of seeing it, by means of˜ phantasia . ˙is, Aristotle would say, is the result, literally the impact or impression, of a sense perception. 8˜Vivid images, like vivid words, trigger memories that feed mental images and thus make us relive the experiences of living beings while looking at their marble representations. In other words, although˜ enargeia ˜is a form of mimesis, like the visual arts or the theater, its eˆect on the viewer is not based on its lifelike – ness, but on the power of words to activate the experience of seeing in the listener. 9˜As Ruth Webb elegantly puts it, fiPlutôt que faire voir une illusion, [ l™enargeia ] crée l™illusion de voir.fl 10˙e rhetorical understanding of˜ enargeia , based on Aristotelian and Stoic views of memory and perception, thus oˆers an important clue to understanding why an audience can react as if they are looking at a living being instead of listening to its description or looking at its representation. Works of art in the rhetorical view are externalizations taking the place of the orator™s words, or the˜ phantasiai ˜in the artist™s mind, that by their vividness trigger memories in the mind of the viewer of living beings.˜When viewers attribute life to a work of art, the experience of looking at a living being is recreated while looking at it, just as the work of art itself recreates such a being. Ekplexis:˜ Terrifying, Shattering, and Petrifying So much for˜ enargeia . But what about˜ ekplexis , which for Longinus was the vivid eˆect reached by sublime poetry? It is a distinction with important implications for the arts, since they were con – sidered in antiquity and the early modern period to be more akin to poetry than to prose. 11˜Even though it might be putting too much weight on Longinus™s pairing of prose with˜ enargeia ˜and po – etry with˜ ekplexis , I do think it worthwhile to pursue the poetical variety of the sublime, because it may tell us more about the nature of the sublime in the arts, and because Dutch varieties are particularly telling. We also move here from theoretical accounts of the sublime to its ˚gurations, because Netherlandish artistic literature, as far as I can see, is rather silent about the striking, terrifying, or even paralyzing and petrifying variety of the sublime. 789

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4101314Enargeia˜ and˜ ekplexis ˜have very diˆerent etymologies and hence connotations.˜ Enargeia ˜is derived from˜ argos , a strong light, comparable to the almost white ˝ash of lightning in the Mediterranean, or a spotlight. Homer uses it to describe the epiphany of the Olympian gods.˜ Ekplexis ˜is derived from˜ ekpletto , which means to strike, confound, paralyze, or render somebody beside themselves with fear, surprise, or amazement, a much more negative eˆect than the shining vividness˜ enar -geia ˜evokes. 12˜Longinus pairs˜ enargeia ˜with prose, and˜ ekplexis˜ with poetry. ˙is distinction alerts us that the eˆect of sublime˜ phantasia ˜is not simply a very intense variety of˜ enargeia ; it may also turn out to be much more negative, threatening, unsettling, or even petrifying. In˜ Peri hypsous ˜these terrifying aspects of the sublime are illustrated repeatedly by the rhetorical powers of Demosthenes, who, as Longinus describes it, fiwith his violence, yes, and his speed, his force, his terrifying power of rhetoric, burns, as it were, and scatters everything before him, and may therefore be compared to a ˝ash of lightning or a thunderbolt.fl And, he adds, at the end of the surviving text, fiYou could sooner open your eyes to the descent of a thunderbolt than face his repeated outbursts of emotion without blinking.fl 13˜˙e brilliant illumination of˜ enargeia ˜has here turned into the shattering ˝ash of˜ ekplexis .˙e term Longinus uses here to de˚ne the awe-inspiring, terrifying aspects of the sublime is˜ to deinos , meaning the terrible, awe-inspiring, or forceful but also the excessively or incomprehen -sibly cra˛y or virtuoso. He brie˝y mentions this when discussing Homer. For a more extended discussion, which connects˜ ekplexis ˜with the terrifying eˆects of speech, we have to turn ˚rst to the treatise on style long believed to be by the rhetorician Demetrius of Phaleron, a student of Ar -istotle, and now generally dated around 150˜bc. 14˜Unlike the authors of the majority of rhetorical handbooks he does not distinguish three kinds of style (elevated, middle, and low), but four: the grand, elegant, plain, and forceful ( deinos ) style. It is the last variety that concerns us here, be -cause Demetrius observes that the eˆect of this style is o˛en to trans˚x and shatter the audience with fear mixed with awe or admiration. Combinations of hyperbole and allegory (in the sense of allegorese) for instance achieve this eˆect: ˙is is an example: fiAlexander is not dead, men of Athens: or the whole world would have smelled his corpse.fl ˙e use of fismelledfl instead of finoticedfl is both allegory and hyperbole; and the idea of the whole world noticing implicitly sug – gests Alexander™s power. Further, the words carry a shock [ ekplektikon ] . . . ; and what shocks is always forceful, since it inspires fear. 15To deinos ˜is also, like the sublime, ambivalent. It inspires fear mingled with admiration but can also consist, according to Demetrius, of the terrible or horrible mixed with the ironic, the comic, or the grotesque. 16˙is combination of characteristicsŠthe fear-inspiring, the terrible, the grotesque, or even com – icŠwhich result in an eˆect of shattering or trans˚xing the public, can also be found in one par -ticular group of mythological ˚gures: the Gorgons, and chief among them Medusa. As Giovanni Lombardo has recently suggested, it is precisely in accounts of these sisters and their actions that we ˚nd the complex of terrifying awe that arrests the public, which Demetrius and Longinus tried to describe with the terms˜ deinos ˜and˜ ekplexis ˜and which is more usually associated with Burke™s 1112

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5much later rede˚nition of the sublime as the terrible that at the same time fascinates. 17˜˙e mon -strous aspect of the Gorgons is o˛en described as˜ deinos ; the petrifying agency of their snake hair and gaze as˜ ekplexis˜ or˜ kataplêxis .18˜In a highly original twist, Demetrius observes that such mix -tures of the terrifying with the comic, the ironic, or even the graceful are o˛en most eˆective in captivating the audience. Homer is the past master of producing such˜ phoberai charites ˜(fear-in -spiring graces), for instance in the horrible gloating with which Polyphemus announces the order in which he will devour Odysseus and his comrades. 19Medusa as the Original Sculptress Armed with all this knowledge we can now return to Dutch accounts of Medusa. Rubens was not the only artist to produce literally stunning versions of this ˚gure, nor was Huygens the only viewer who le˛ an account of the impact of these images.˜Other versions of Medusa in the Dutch Republic also le˛ their viewers fascinated but terri˚ed, torn between a desire to gaze into her eyes and the impossibility of leaving the scene. ˙e Dutch excentric nobleman and poet Everard Mey – ster for instance, in his panegyric on the new Town Hall of Amsterdam, describes the stunning eˆect of looking at Quellinus™s Medusa in the Vierschaar (˚g. 2): . . . the infernal monster Erynnis, and Medusa, had wanted to tear us apart and trample us while still alive; we can hardly remain on our feet and tremble, when we think of it, and methinks, they still follow us. 20In the˜ Mengelrymen ˜of Pieter RixtelŠthe poem which has a central role in the contribution of Lorne Darnell in this volumeŠthe Town Hall herself speaks, brought to life by the art of Ber -ckheyde (˚g. 3). ˙e poem plays on the entire gamut of sublime topoi, from the elevation of the building into the skies to its ambition to embrace the entire circle of canals and its power to instill Fig. 2 Artus Quellinus (1609Œ1668), Medusa, 1650Œ52, marble, 70 x 25 cm. Amsterdam, Koninklijk Paleis (artwork in the public domain: photo: Tom Haartsen 2015) 1516

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72019he describes how the sculptor touches the ivory, feeling and caressing it in the hope that it might turn out to be alive, and easing himself into this illusion. Persuaded by his own artistry, Pygma – lion is in˝amed with desire: Indeed, art hides his art. He marvels: and passion, for this bodily image, consumes his heart. O˛en, he runs his hands over the work, tempted as to whether it is ˝esh or ivory, not admitting it to be ivory. He kisses it and thinks his kisses are returned; and speaks to it; and holds it, and imagines that his ˚ngers press into the limbs, and is afraid lest bruises appear from the pressure. 23When he returns home from sacri˚cing to Venus and praying her to give him a wife similar to the statue, fifor he dares not ask for an ivory virgin,fl he kisses the statue again; but this time, her body grows so˛ and warm under his caresses. 24˜Startled, he again explores her body, and feels how her veins throb with life under his hand: ficorpus erat,fl the narrator exclaims, she has become a living body. A very diˆerent tale of the life and agency of statues is told in the story of Medusa. In the˜ Meta -morphoses ˜Perseus recounts it as an episode in the tale of how he rescued Andromeda and vanquished Phineus, her intended bridegroom. It has rarely been noted that the Gorgon is here presented as a kind of anti-Pygmalion, petrifying where the sculptor animates. ˙e countryside surrounding the home of the Gorgons is described as a statue garden, full of the petri˚ed victims of their gaze. Later on, a˛er Perseus has decapitated Medusa and uses her head to defeat Phineus and his comrades, Ovid employs words to describe their petrifaction that are usually associated with statuary: fi˙escelus became a statue, poised for a javelin throwfl; fithere he stood; a ˝inty man, unmoving, a monument in marblefl; fiAstyages, in wonder, was a wondering marble.fl Finally, Phineus sees the˜ simulacra , the stone statues of his comrades in arms, and calls their names. Like Pygmalion he does not believe what he sees and touches their bodies because he fears their meta – morphosis, only to realize that they have been turned into stone. fi˙ey were marble,fl he cries out, fimarmor erant fl˜in a clear echo of Pygmalion™s ficorpus eratfl: Fig. 4 Hans Speeckaert (1535Œ1575/80, Allegory of Sculpture , 1582, etching (artwork in the public domain; photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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82122[Phineus] sees them all, All images, posing, and he knows each one By name, and calls each one by name, imploring Each one for help: seeing is not believing, He touches the nearest bodies, and ˚nds them All marble, all. 25Representations of Medusa as a petrifying sculptress are not very frequent, but some seven -teenth-century versions, such as the one by Sebastiano Ricci (shown here) and a number of Dutch versions to which we will return, play on the similarities between her petrifying powers and those of the sculptor by locating this scene in a statue gallery (˚g. 5). Ovid™s version of the Medusa myth ˚gures the ambivalences surrounding the agency of art when it becomes very close to living beings in its power to ˚x and petrify, and in particular in its sug – gestion that sculpture is an act of petrifaction that can become uncomfortably close to Medusa™s paralyzing gaze. Here she turns out to be a sculptor, but not an entirely benign one. Very few stud – ies have distinguished this aspect of the myth, with the notable exception of the French ancient historian Françoise Frontisi-Dutroux, who has drawn attention to what she calls the paradigm of˜ ikonopoesis ˜or ˚guration presented by the myth. 26˜First, the Gorgon™s petrifying gaze, changing living beings into lifeless statues; second, Medusa™s ˚guration on the re˝ecting mirror of Perseus; and third, the petrifaction resulting from a confrontation with that mirror image. ˙ese three kinds of ˚guration, or image making, all thematize the agency of art and the dangers of looking. Viewers die, petri˚ed by the power of Medusa™s gaze, or, one might say, they die by representation. Underlying these Medusean paradigms of ˚guration and petrifaction is an uneasy awareness that the relation between a living being and its image is not a matter of harmless distancing or abstrac – tion through representation in another medium. It is an ambiguous, precarious relation, in which Fig. 5 Sebastiano Ricci (1659Œ1734), Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa , ca. 1705Œ10, oil on canvas, 65 x 80 cm. Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. no. 86.PA.591 (artwork in the public domain; digital image courtesy of Getty Open Content Program)

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923inanimate images turn out to possess the same agency as the living being they represent. ˙e closeness between the sculptor™s act and Medusa™s petrifying gaze is o˛en thematized in the art of the Low Countries. Rubens o˛en plays on it, for instance in his designs for the˜ Pompa Introïtus Ferdinandi ˜(˚gs. 6 and 7). As I have argued elsewhere, many of the designs he made for the gates play on the theme of animation and petrifaction and the diˇculty of discerning whether the deities, grotesques, or mythological beings he includes in his gate designs are living beings on the point of being petri˚ed or statues that are so vivid that they come alive. 27˜˙is theme can be traced back to sixteenth-century work done at Fontainebleau. In the Grotte des Pins, for instance, human forms gradually emerge from the rustic stones, suggesting ˚rst, when looked at from Fig. 6 Peter Paul Rubens (1577Œ1640), Temple of Janus (sketch for the Joyous Entry of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand), 1634, oil on panel, 70 x 65.5 cm. St. Petersburg, State Museum of the Hermitage (artwork in the public domain) Fig. 7 Theodoor van Thulden (1606Œ1669), after Peter Paul Rubens, The Temple of Janus , etching, 531 × 454 mm (from Johannes Casper Gevartius, Pompa Introïtus Ferdinandi [Antwerp, 1641]). Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. no. RP-P-OB-70.270 (artwork in the public domain) Fig. 8 Primaticcio (1504Œ1570), Grotte des Pins, begun ca. 1528, Château de Fontainebleau (artwork in the public domain; photo: author) Fig. 9 Primaticcio (1504Œ1570), apartment of the duchesse d™Étampes (detail showing caryatids), 1541Œ44, Château de Fontainebleau (artwork in the public domain; photo: ©Château de Fontainebleau – RMN/Jean-Pierre Lagiewski)

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10le˛ to right, the gradual stirring of living forms from inanimate stone, and then their gradually subsiding into stone again (˚g. 8). 28˜In Primaticcio™s decorations of the rooms of the duchesse d™Etampes the caryatids framing the paintings and surrounding the herms and rams™ faces are so vividly sculpted that they seem to step out of the wall, move into it, touch the frames, and interact with each other and the viewer (˚g. 9). In fact it is diˇcult to tell whether we are looking here at a very vivid sculptural representation of human ˚gures, or at the representation of petri˚ed human beings becoming alive again. ˙ere is also a drawing associated with Jacopo Zucchi, probably made for Fontainebleau, representing Perseus killing Medusa, which ˚gures in a very insistent manner the closeness of sculpting and petrifying (˚g. 10). In Rubens™s un˚nished treatise as well, some of the drawings of male torsos reduce the body to a combination of blocksŠor reveal these to be its underlying essence (˚g. 11). ˙e Cabinet des Estampes of the Louvre has a drawing by Fig. 10 Attributed to Jacopo Zucchi (1540Œ1595/6), Design for a Fountain with Perseus Killing Medusa and Pegasus , ca. 1600, pen and brown ink, brown wash, 45.7 x 33.4 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Estampes, inv. no. 4553 (recto) (artwork in the public domain) Fig. 11 Peter Paul Rubens (1577Œ1640), Study of the Farnese Hercules , pen and ink on paper, 15.3 cm x 19.6 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, inv. no. D.1978.PG.427 (recto) (artwork in the public domain)Fig. 12 Leonaert Bramer (1596Œ1674), Perseus , date unknown, gray ink and wash on gray paper, 20.9 x 30.5 cm. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Estampes, inv. no. 22528 (recto) (artwork in the public domain)Fig. 13 Attributed to Bertholet Flémalle (1614Œ1675), Perseus Brandishing the Head of Medusa , ca. 1650, oil on canvas, 165 x 243.4 cm. London, National Gallery (artwork in the public domain)

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