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Sunday, November 29, 2015



"L'atleta" is a Roman statue, Early imperial, AD 1-40. H.: 22 cm. Collezione di Leon Levy.

The athlete with headband is a variation on the so-called DISCOFORO of Polyclitus.

The athlete stands quietly with his weight on his right leg and his relaxed left flexed.

His weight-bearing hip is skewed far to the side.

His right arm is bent at the elbow.

The forearm is extended diagonally forward and outward.

His right hand -- fingers bent and tumb partly missing -- is extended with open palm.

The palm itself has an uneven surface from the attachment of some object.

His left arm hangs at his die.

A  circular hole for a now-missing object passes horizontally between his thumb and index finger.

The athlete's head is bent toward his active right hand, but oddly his eyes are cast upward.

A ribbon or fillet rings his head and is knotted in front.

A projection above and below the line of the ribbon might be either its ends or else a separate rectangular object of woor or metal.

The ribbon is probably a piece of athletic apparatus since the figure is nude.

Athletes frequently have their stephane knotted in front in fifth-century vase painting.

A votive inscription is incised on his right leg, "Publius Achaicus, having vowed, dedicated."

A six-rayed star is incised on his left leg.

Several abbreviations make the brief text somewhat puzzling.

The star is frequently an emblem of the Dioscuri, and possibly the statuette had its companion, in which case the group could have dedicated to this pair of divinities.

The inscription was cut after the statuette had ben cast.

Small lumps of material pushed up by the chisel can be seen at the end of the strokes of many letters.

The letters have a form found in Roman Imperial times.

The workmanhsip is highly clasical and refined.

The anatomy is elaborately articulated, and the  hair is built of a multitude of carefully striated J- and S-shaped locks.

In wave-like succession they march back alng his forehead, hooking outward along the lewft side and alternating inward and outward curls on the right.

The curling ends of the locks are given decorative emphasis by circular cavities, probably made by twirling the end of a pointed stick in the wax of the model.

With the exeption of the enormous eyes, the facial features are small and delicate.

Curiously, the soles of the feet do not follow a plane perpendicular to the axis of the figure.

The figure seems designed for a sloping base or mounting.

The composition is clearly derived from a famous lost statue known through many replicas and variant, universally attributed to Polyclius.

It has been conjectured that the fifth-century statue was an athlete carrying a discus.

Since many bronze statuettes of this type are equipped with the attributes of MERCURIO, some have argued that his was also the identity of the Polyclitan original.

However, rejecting the idea that any of the trappings of the ROMAN MERCURIO could go back to the fifth century, some have attempted to show that the prototype was a figure of TESEO.

The stance of the position of the limbs of the LEVY ATHLETE BRONZE generally agree with those of the putative classical model.

The squarish, sharply defined musculature of the torse and the curly locks of the hair are quintessentially Polyclitan.

The variations are themselves intereseting, as in a bronze statuette in Basel, the back is relatively broad and tall, and the hips are narrow.

The left shoulder is level with the right, rather than tilted upward as usual.

Most radically changed is the head.

The headband (without a knot) and the essentials of the hair arrangement are found in the marble variant of the DISCOFORO in Aphrodisias.

A headband with a central roundel appears in a DISCOFORO from Gaul.

The headband probably does not belong to the original, since it is present in only one of the full-sized marble versions of the figure.

The distant, upward cast of the eyes is seen in the famous bronze statuette in the LOUVRE, probably of Augustan date.

The sheer size of the LEVY bronze's eyes can be paralleled in the ASCLEPIUS found in VOLUBILIS, Morocco.

The meaning of the statuette is somewhat unclear, as it should.

Unlike most of the other other DISCOFORI, it does not seem to have been a MERCURIO.

No wings sprout fom the head, and it is very unlikely that the right hand held a moneybag.

It seems much more probably that the figure was simply a decorative creation evoking athletes of the fifth century BC.

It has much in common with one of the classicistic statuettes recovered from the Anticythera wreck of 75-50 BC.

The figure in question stands in a very similar pose, wears a headband and probably poured a libation fom a phiale in its outstretched right hand.

Its left seems to have once held an object that has not been reconstructed.

The refined workmanship in general and the sharply articulated overlya of well-defined locks in particular suggest a date in Julio-Claudian times.

The circular perforations marking the ends of curls are a decorative approach best paralleled from Tiberian times on, as in the bustd of a lady from Herculaneum.

Although the figure seems to lie in the tradition of the Anticythera statuettes, the elaborately emphatic detailing of its hair and anatomy is far from their sketchy simplicity.

The inscription's large, roughtly formed letters suggest re-use at a somewhat later date.

The warrior

WARRIOR IN A CORINTHIAN HELMET -- Ancient Roman statuary


The Warrior in a Corinthian Helmet is an ancient Roman statue -- late Republican or early Imperial, 40 BC -- AD 30. Collezione di J. Pierpont Morgan.

The bearded, nude figure wears his helmet pushed back on his mane of hair, either in anticipation or or in a sequel to combat.

The pose establishes fluid shifts of axis, but his limbs are arranged in a contrast of mobility and stasis that is in the Polyclitan tradition.

The warrior is supported on his right leg, his left is set back slightly and the heel is raised in movemet. His right arm points downward with a slight flex, while the left is bent sharply.

The warrior's head is turned from the static to the mobile side, which creates a sense of smooth, continuous, flow.

Transitions in the simply but intelligently rendered anatomy are soft and gentle, and contours have a curvilinear elasticity.

The expression is altered by the loss of inlays in the right eye and the lips.

A faint circular line on the right pectoral, nearly concealed by the modern patination, suggests that the nipples were originally inlaid with copper.

Curls of the beard are rendered with circular indentations.

It has been hypothesised that the figure copies a lost statue of PERICLE by KIRESILA.

It has been observed that the head is however not a portrait, but that a military commander could welll have been presented in these generic terms.

The stance is Polyclitaa, a suggestion that might lead ato a slightly later date and different identification altogether!

The pose is associated particularly with statues ascribed to the first generation of pupils of POLYCLITUS: the Pan and the Dresden Statue.

The modelling of the musculature also has a reticent quality that differs from earliesr robustness.

Only the angle of the head, turned up rather than down, differs fom the these post-Polyclitan figures, whose prototypes were apparently created in the span 420-405 B. C.

Other Roman bronze statues of generals similar to this one have been connected with the monument to LISANDRO and a multitude of other Spartan and allied commanders set up at Delphi in 405-401 BC after the end of the Pelonnesian War.

This piece has at least as good a claim as any of them to reflect that project -- caried out largely by pupils of POLYCLITUS.

The suave elegance of the composition does, indeed, have a sophisticated flavour, but such influenced have often noted in the work of the Argive school in their own version of the Rich Style of around 400 B. C.

The figure probably supported a shield on its left arm and held a spear with its right hand, but no clear-cut evidence of such attachments is visible on the pitted and ecrusted surface.

The arms of most bronzes of helmeted warriors, from the monumental fifht-cntury warriors of RIACE to Roman statuettes, are held in just this position, presumably in order to bear weapons.

The statuette has a refreshing originality in its soft but anatomically sure modlling and could be pre-Imperial.

It lacks the elaborate academic definition of high quality Imperial work, like the PARMYTHIA statuettes or the LEVY athlete.

A few details, however, make it clear that the execution is post-Classical.

The upturned head gives the figure an anachronistic Lysippan or Hellenistic expression, and the indnted centres of the curls of the beard reflect an illusionistic approach more at home in Roman imperial times.

The technique appears, for example, in the bust from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum.

The broad surfaces and gentle simplicity of the anatomy, however, strongly recall the three classicistic statuettes from the Anticythera shipwreck of 75-50 B. C.

The treatment if even gentler and less sharply defined here.

They, too, make use of inlays in eyes, lips, and nipples.

The relationship is close enough to suggest a workshop connection.

Although the workshop that produced the figure must have come from Greece, in all likelihood it must have been transferred to Rome.

The piece is a failed cast filled with bubles, and surely would not have been deemed fir to export, even thout it was evidentaly passable in a local market.

The statue was found in the TEVERRE near ROMA.

Saturday, November 28, 2015



ERCOLE, statua. Early Imperial, circa 30 BC -- AD 20. H: 14.5 cm. Collezione di J. H. Fund.

ERCOLE stands in a quiet yet fluid pose.

The stance is frontal.

ERCOLE looks directly forward, and his relaxed left leg is scarcely advanced beyond his weight-bearing right.

Yet his right hip projects strongly to the side, and his upper body sways back toward his bent, outstretched arm, over which the skin of the Nemean lion is draped.

The knotty, swollen musculature ripples powerfully to intensify the fluid effect, as do his elegantly asymmetrical genitals.

ERCOLE's outstretched left hand originally held the apples of the Hesperides, and his lowered right once carried his club, proejecting forward at a 45-degree ange as if to balance the tilt of his torso.

He is crowned with a diadem formed by a twisted ribbon, made of a twisted silver wire.

ERCOLE's expertly rendered anatomy has been turned into that of a weight-lifter or a workman accustomed to the heaviest manual labour.

His belly is massive in a way usually confined to representations of the drunken ERCOLE or the closely related theme of ERCOLE urinating.

Even ERCOLE's head, with its swelling forhead, puffy, curly beard, and tiny eyes -- looks mucle-bound.

At the same time, there is a refinement and even elegance in the characterisation.

The closely cropped hair, slim nose, small ears, and piercing glance turn the muscle-man into a formidable champion on more than one level.

This is not one of ERCOLE's well-publicised weaker moments.

ERCOLE is alert in control of himself.

The workmanship is unusually refined and subtle.

The back is as beautifully finished as the front.

The lion's pelt is filled with turbulent asymmetries and rich modelling.

Details are finely shaped from the lion's teeth to ERCOLE's toes, genitals, and facial features.

The massive locks at the front of his beard gradually shrink to tiny curls at the back of his jaw.

The hair of his head and pubes is suggested impressionistically in contrast with the careful chiseling of the beard.

A club-carrying ERCOLE standing quietly extending the apples of the Hesperides with an arm draped in a lionskin is a sculptural theme popular ever since MIRONE's lost masterpiece of the mid-fifth century B.C.

ERCOLE appears with these attributes and in just the stance of this bronze in large-scale statues, whose original has been atributed to the fourth century.

These statues, however, generally depict ERCOLE as youthfully beardless and with a relatively trim, athletic waistline, as in a colossal bronze in the Vatican or a basalt colossus of Flavian date from the Palatine.

The bearded version is more difficult to document in large-scale sculpture, and it may be a late Hellenistic variation on the composition.

The heavy belly of the statuette probably reflects the influence of drunken ERCOLI popular in Hellenstic and early Imperial times.

Examples in marble and bronze come from HERCULANEUM, and a fine fragmentary bronze statuete from Smyrna is in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The fat, bearded version of ERCOLE with the apples may then have been created around the end of the Hellenistic period.

Although the bronze statuette is hard to parallel exactly in large-scale sculpture, it does represent a well-established type in the repertory of craftsmen producing small-scale bronze statuettes.

Recently, an almost identical ERCOLE, complete with base, was found at Weissenburg on the Danubian frontier in Bavaria.

The two are even the same size.

The Weissenburg ERCOLE is a mere three millimetres taller.

A clumsier version from RIMINI is in the British Museum.

The Weissenburg statuette is thought to have been made in the second half of the second century A. D. and was buried in a hoard of bronzes around the middle of the third century.

In spite of the close physical and typological similarities, there are significant stylistic differences.

The Weissenberg figure is more emphatic and overt.

Not only does ERCOLE wear a flamboyant laurel wreath, but he also glances out in the direction of his more pronounced step, giving him a stormy, aggressive quality that has much in common with portraits of the later Antonine emperors.

His musculature is sharply outlined, and he has a more conventionally acceptable waist.

Although the two are probably the producs of a single workshop, the shop may well have been a long-lived one.

Our bloated-but-refined ERCOLE may be substantially earlier and stem from a time close to the formualtion of the type.

A similar mixture of bulky body and refined head is found in a terracotta relief of ERCOLE in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The relief, said to come from CAPUA, continues the Italic middle Republican tradition of fine terracottas, probably not later than the early first century B. C.

The modelling of the Hellenistic drunken ERCOLE in New York also has much in common with that of the bronze statuette.

The almost archaistic frontality and delicacy of detail in this bronze piece may relfect a date that is later, but not necessarily after the second half of the first century B. C.

Its association with the bronze Lar, however, makes it likely that the ERCOLE was produced after 12 B. C.

ERCOLE running


Hercules Running -- CARACALLA COME ERCOLE.


"Hercules Running" is a Roman statue.

Later Imperial, Late Severan, or Early in time of Soldier-Emperors. AD 215-250. H: 31.2 cm.

Collezione Franco L. Babbott.


ERCOLE runs carrying a lion-skin draped over his extended forearms.

The pelt wraps ERCOLE's body so that mask, tail, and paws, all hang over his left arm.

ERCOLE is crowned with a wreath which seems to alernate laurel leaves and flowers, and is tied with broad ribbons fluttering down onto his shoulders.

His broad, lumpy face is given a fiercely LEONINE expression by a pattern of crossing diagonals.

The massive frown lines in his brow are continued by furrows in his cheeks extending down from the corner of eyes and nostrils.

Much use is made of incision to render the anatomy, particularly in the tendons and muscles of the lower legs.

The pectorals, shoulder muscles, and shulder blades are sharply outlined in emphatic, conceptualised fashion.

On the back, anatomical detail is scarcer, and the surface is rougher.

ERCOLE's hair and beard are rendered with rough, chunky locks, while the hair of the lion's pelt is indicated with rough dots and slashes.

The texture does not continue behind ERCOLE's arms or back, thereby making it clear that the STATUE WAS MEANT TO BE VIEWED EITHER DIRECTLY FROM THE FRONT OR FROM SLIGHTLY TO HIS LEFT.

In back, a pair of vertical grooves segregate the area of the pelt over ERCOLE's buttocks.

The action is quite UNcharacteristic for ERCOLE.

He runs forward as if to present the trophy of one of his assigned labours: killing the Nemean king.

The running pose with fontal chest and symmetrical flexed arms recalls marble statues of runners in the PALAZZO DEI CONSERVATORI in ROMA, whose original is ascribed to a fourth-century BC follower of POLYCLITUS.

There, however, the front leg is flexed, while the back is straight.

The tensile strengh of BRONZE makes it possible to LIFT the back foot from the ground here, as in the life-sized Hellenistic bronze runner in the IZMIR MUSEUM from the Aegean Sea near Kyme.

Oddly, the position of the lion skin seems dictated as much by modesty as by the demands of narration.

ERCOLE is shrouded front and back as if by a pair of shorts or a bath towel.

Although there are precedents for some aspects of the pose, as a whole the composition is highly original.

His battered and ferocious face is the focus of the composition.

The X-shaped patterns of lines slashing across a secondary grid of horizontals is extremely dynamic and expressive.

This X-pattern emerged in the portraits of CARACALLA, and its influence, as traced by Wood, continued into the tijme of GALLIENUS.

It is within this time span that this bronze statuette should be placed.

The turbulent plasticity of hair, beard, and face suggests a date under CARACALLA himself.

Lower relief and less stormy effects characterise the following reigns.

Several considerations, however, indicate that the piece was cast somewhat later.

The IMPRESSIONISTIC, linear texturing of the lionskin recalls techniques seen in marble work of the time of SEVERO ALESSANDRO (AD 222-235) and thereafter.

The deep indentations of the hairline at the temples evoke hairlines in portraits of the Soldier Emperors (AD 235-285).

Perhaps an ideal date of about AD 235 might be imagined.

The rough technique and primitive rendering of anatomy can seem surprising in an age of such suave marble work in ROMA.

The arts of EGYPT, however, offer excellent parallels.

A colossal granite head of CARACALLA from COPTOS, now in the University Museum, Philadelphia, presents very similar harsh simplifications while focusing on the X-pattern of wrinkles.

Hair is shown in similar lumpy balls.

The statuette manifests this provincial style in particularly vivid, spontaneous terms.

The running ERCOLE is one of the few pieces that seems to reprsent a distinctly local phenomenon: a vigorous Egyptian folk art at the service of Imperial ideology.

Monday, November 23, 2015

PERCIVALLE -- Titurel is Percivalle's great grandfather. Percivalle's father is GAMURET (Percivalle's mother is Herzeloyde). And Gamuret's father is Frimutel, son of Titurel. Gamuert is Amfortas's brother -- so, Amfortas is Percivalle's uncle. Lohengrin is Percivalle's father (Lohengrin's mother is Condwiramurs). Lohengrin has a brother -- Percivalle's eldest son: Kardeiz. -- CFR. THE LADY ORGELUSE, Percivalle's affair with her in Atto II -- a former affair of his uncle AMFORTAS.


The name of J. L. Weston is familiar to scholars of European literature
on account of her studies of medieval literature in relation to Celtic and
Germanic mythology, and in particular for her books and articles about the
Holy Grail legend.

In Legends of the Wagner Drama Weston discussed the relation between
various Riccardo Wagner melodrammi and those medieval poems and
sagas on which Wagner had based his dramas.

In her treatment of Percivalle, Weston compares and contrasts the action of 
Wagner's drama with the poem Parzival of the German poet-knight 
Wolfram von Eschenbach (a character in Tannhauser!) and
with the earlier Percivalle, ovvero Li Conte del Graal
of Chistiano di Troyes, together with other,
lesser poems of the same period.

Weston is perceptive in identifying the elements of
these sources that were adopted and adapted by Wagner.

Weston also indicates where Wagner has deviated from the story as
told by Wolfram for purposes of his own that
Weston does not attempt to explain.

Weston's interpretation of Parsifal has been
(and continues to be) highly influential for the
understanding of Wagner's PERCIVALLE throughout
the English speaking world.

Right: The Grail Castle
in the midst of a forest.
Cover of King Ludwig's Diary.
Image: Grail Castle in the midst of a forest. Cover of King Ludwig's Diary

The keynote of the drama is struck in the peace of the opening scene.

The repose of the Grail watchers, the solemn call to prayer from the castle,
and the rising sun flashing the lake mists in the background.

Wagner has followed his source [i.e. Wolfram] in
placing the mysterious castle in the midst of a forest,
and representing its discovery as a task in which both
human skill and energy are unavailing.

Both in the poem and in the drama the guidance must
come from above.

And the fact that Wagner apparently considers the guiding
power to be the Grail itself, while Wolfram
believes the guidance to come directly and
immediately from God, is apparently
due to the more definitely Christian character ascribed to the Grail
by the dramatist.

The name of the castle, Monsalvato, is of course derived from the Monsalväsch
of the Parzival (a name peculiar to the legend), where
the derivation appears to be 'Mont Sauvage', or "Saved Mount".
from the wild and lonely character of the surrounding district,
a feature emphasized in the poem.

But some scholars would explain the
terms rather as signifying Mount of Healing (or
Salvation), a rendering to which Wagner,
from the form given to the name, seems to

And also anyone familiar with the Italian versions (Bologna) of both Lohengrin and Percivalle.

As  to its locality Wolfram is by no
means explicit: he certainly never says it is in Northern Spain,
where Wagner places it.

And in any case, Wagner's inspiration was ITALY!

According to his statements it was within thirty-six hours' ride from Nantes.

Writers later than Wolfram, however,
do locate the Grail Castle in Spain,
and the idea seems to have originated with the writer of Der jünger Titurel,
a poem which deals very fully with the Grail and
its guardians, and, long attributed to Wolfram, is now
known to be the work of
Alberto di Scharffen Burg, a very inferior poet.

This location of the Grail Castle in Spain is of course favoured
by those scholars who regard the Grail myth as of "oriental" origin,
and the Spanish Moors the medium of communication to

But as a matter of fact there is practically no evidence to connect the Grail with Spain,
saving the statement, which Wolfram refers, and probably correctly,
to his French source, that the legend of the Grail
was originally found in an Arabic manuscript at Toledo.

The truth of this statement may be gauged by the fact
that the same manuscript is stated to have contained the story of
Parzival, the Indo-European origin
of which is beyond doubt.

It is much more in accordance with the general
indications of the legend to believe that the poets
imagined the castle to be situated in the northwest of France.

Image: Neuschwanstein

But in the process of development which the legend has undergone,
the nature of the castle to which the hero pays at first an abortive,
and afterwards a successful, visit has passed through various transformations.

At first it probably symbolised the abode of the departed,
and was as such identical with the castle of Brynhild
which figures in theThidreksaga, the saga of Dietrich von Bern, and the Nibelungen Lied.

And the hero's task was to break the spell of death or
slumber binding the inhabitants.

In the performance of this task certain talismans not infrequently
played an important part.

Gradually these talismans became Christianised.

And now inthe Grail legends we have two castles.

One, that of the Grail.

The other, retaining its pre-Christian character, being 
known by varying names, the Castle of Maidens,
the Château Merveil, or as here, Klingsor's Castle.

Such a bespelled castle is undoubtedly an original and essential feature of
the Percivalle story.

The Percivalle gives no account of the building of Mon Salväsch,
such as Wagner puts into the mouth of
Gurnemanz, but simply speaks of Titurel
as being first king and ruler of the Grail and its knights.

But elsewhere Wolfram is more explicit.

Among the works which the poet-knight has left are poems, or songs,
with the loves of Sigune and Schionatulander,
four in all, but critics are doubtful whether more
than the first two can be rightly ascribed to Wolfram.

In the first of these poems, which are classed together under the name of
"Titurel", we find Titurel, oppressed,
resigning his kingdom to his son Frimutel, and telling
him that he received the Grail from the hands of angels,
that he was the first mortal to whose charge it was committed,
and that the rules for the order of Grail knights were found on the mystic stone.

There is no mention of St. Longino's Spear here,
nor of the building of Mon Salväsch, the reason
probably being that both castle and weapon
were older than the Grail myth, and the writer
accepted them as he found them.

It is doubtful whether the Titurel preceded or followed the Percivalle.

Probably the latter, and Wolfram's intention
was to fill up lacunae in the history of Sigune,
who plays an important part in the Parzival.


Its statements agree with those of the more important work,
and a common source is evidently at the root of both.

The knight Gurne Manz, who is so prominent in the drama,
is also a characteristic figure in the original Percivalle legend,
where his office is to instruct the hero in knightly customs and bearing
-- instruction of which he has much need.

The Welsh version, "Peredur", represents this
character as identical with the Fisher-King,
and as uncle to the hero.

But he is, as a rule, distinct from both,
and the relationship of uncle rather pertains to the Hermit,
also an essential character of the legend, whose office it
is to direct the hero's spiritual development (Bildungsroman)
whereas the knight's teaching is directed rather
to his outward bearing (combined in the case of Gurne Manz of Graharz
with a good deal of ethical teaching).

In Chrêtien's poem the name of the knight is
Gone Mans di Gelbort; Gerbert.

One of Cristiano's continuators, calls him Gornu Mant, of
which form Gurnemanz is obviously the German rendering.

It will be seen that in the drama Wagner
has united the characters of these two instructors
in the person of his rather didactic knight.

The Gurnemanz of Atto I answering to Gurnemanz of Graharz,
who appears in the Third Book of the
poem and not again,
though he is frequently alluded to as a model of knightly wisdom,
skill and courtesy.

The Gurnemanz of the ATTO III answering to the Hermit Trevrezent,
who in the Ninth Book of the poem unfolds to Percivalle
the mystery of the Grail, and restores him to faith in God.

Image: Family Tree
Family Tree of Percivalle, according to Wolfram von Eschenbach

And here it may be well to remark that Wagner's treatment
of the Percivalle legend differs in some essential characters
from his treatment of the other legends he has dramatised.

He has handled it with far more freedom and boldness,
and, while adhering faithfully to the spirit of the original,
he has recast the incidents with great gain to the dramatic form,
and in more than one detail with a happy insistence on
what was probably an original feature of the legend.

The result of this treatment has been that, though
the story of Percivalle is really longer and more full
of incident than is that of Siegfried, the salient points are so happily brought out,
and the balance of the whole is so well preserved, that,
though treated in one drama instead of in two, it
in no way suffers from compression.

It is a new rendering of an old myth.

Image: Watercolour by Eduard Ille, 1869
Scenes from Wolfram's Parzival in a watercolour by Edoardo Ille, 1869.

The Fisher-King, the wounded lord of the Grail, appears in every
version of the Grail myth.

In the English Sir Percivalle, in which the Grail does not appear,
alone is he missing.

Belonging to that part of the Percivalle legend which has been
most strongly and directly affected by the development of the
Grail myth, the character of
the wounded king has now become so closely associated
with the Christian talisman, that even when the earlier form of the
legend has become obscured, and Percivalle himself has ceased
to be par excellence the hero of the quest,
the wounded king, the Rich Fisher (varying names for the same character),
still retains his connection with the object of that quest.

As  a rule the king is represented in the romances as noble.

That Anfortas, in the Percivalle, appears in the prime of
life and manly beauty is due to
the properties of the Grail.

Trevrezent, the Hermit, who is spoken of throughout
as noble, is Anfortasyounger brother.

In his representation of the Grail king,
Wagner has, on the whole, followed the
indications of his source.

One generation has been dropped out, and Amfortas appears as
Titurel's son, and not his grandson, thus heightening the tragic
effect of the king's refusal to unveil the Grail; and the relationship between himself
and Percivalle no longer exists.

The distinctive feature of Wolfram's version,
and that which has given Wagner the hint for the
colouring 'motif' of his drama, lies in the fact that
he represents
Anfortas as wounded in punishment for an unlawful love -- with the woman in ATTO II.

In other versions the king is wounded in battle,
or accidentally, by handling a mysterious sword
destined for the use of another.

This change, thoroughly in harmony
with the high spiritual and ethical treatment which raises
Wolfram's version of the legend so immeasurably
above those of the French poets, has been utilised by
Wagner to the great benefit of the character of Amfortas,
which in the drama possesses a significance
altogether lacking in the legend.

Why Wagner changed the name of the king from Anfortas to Amfortas does not appear: the original form is supposed to have been derived from the French Enfertez = the sick man, with Provençal ending -as; names derived from Provençal French being a marked feature in Wolfram's poem.

In his account of the weapon with which the king has been wounded
Wagner departs boldly from his source, and from what was almost certainly the
oldest form of the story.

For we are here confronted with what was evidently
one of the original features of the legend.

In most of the earlier forms, e.g. in Chrêtien, in Peredur,
and in the prose Percivalle, we find a bleeding
Lance (Longino's lance) accompanied by another talisman,
which latter is eventually identified with the Grail.

The Spear is in
Cristiano the subject of a longer digression and explanation than is the Grail itself.

And while Perceval goes in quest of the Grail,
and to ask the question which will heal the wounded
king, Gawain goes in search of the Spear.

Nur eine Waffe taugt: die Wunde schliesst der Speer nur, der sie schlug.

We not infrequently meet with the statement, in print,
that it was Cristiano de Troyes who first identified the
Spear with the Spear of Longino, and the Grail with the
vessel of the Last Supper.

But both these statements are incorrect.

True, the Spear is so spoken of in the introduction to Cristiano's poem,
and Spear and Grail are alike Christian
symbols in the minds of Cristiano's continuators.

But the introduction is no less the work of a
hand other than Cristiano's,
than is the continuation (or, to be more correct, continuations),
and he himself gives no account of the origin of either.

The fact seems to be that the Spear was, as
Wolfram represents, the weapon
with which the king was wounded; and although
Wagner has radically changed the character of the weapon,
yet in representing theSpear, rather than the Grail,
as the object of the hero's quest, and
the animating motive the desire of healing the maimed king,
he is probably reproducing with fidelity original features of the story.

No one can quarrel with Wagner for having represented both Spear and Grail
under the more fully developed Christian character in
which they are most familiar to us.

The fact that he has done so bears out
the contention advanced above, that in the Percivalle
Wagner has been singularly happy in
emphasizing the spiritual significance of the legend
without detriment to its original form.

The episode of the swan,
with which the hero makes his entry upon the scene,
was doubtless suggested by a beautiful passage in the poem,
where Wolfram depicts PERCIVALLE
as slaying the birds in pure thoughtlessness,
and then overwhelmed with remorse for the harm he has unwittingly done.

But when the feathered songster 
of the woods at his feet lay dead,
In wonder and dumb amazement 
he bowed down his golden head,
and in childish wrath and sorrow 
tore the locks of his sunny hair;
and his heart was with sorrow filled,
And the ready tears of childhood 
flowed forth from their fountains free
as he ran to his mother, weeping, 
and bowed him beside her knee.
"what aileth thee, child?" quoth the 
"but now wast thou gay and glad";
but childlike, he gave no answer, 
scarce wist he what made him sad.

Kaufmann and Pape with the Swan.
Metropolitan Opera, New York.  
Image: The swan incident in a Met production of 'Parsifal'

The identification of the swan as the bird
of the Grail is a later feature, due to the connection
with the myth of the swan-knight, who, in
the latest forms of the story, became
identified with LohengrinParzival's son,
and appointed heir to the Grail kingdom.

The bird of the Grail is, more correctly, the dove,
the badge of the Grail knights in the poem as in the drama.

But Wolfram alone knows of this feature,
and we cannot consider it part of the original legend.

In the legend Percivalle is not, as in the drama,
driven from the hall with contumely but awakes in
the morning to find himself alone in the castle,
all the inhabitants having vanished.

And it is as he rides forth from the castle that an
unseen hand raises the drawbridge, and the voice
of one unseen pours mockery upon him for his failure to ask the mystic question:
Image: The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882
Goose that thou art, ride onward, 
to the sun's hate hast thou been born!
Thy mouth hadst thou thought to open, 
of these wonders hadst asked thine host,
Great fame had been thine.  But I tell thee, 
now hast thou this fair chance lost!

The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882. After the design by Paolo di Joukowsky

- words in which we find the source of Gurnemanz's taunt,
cast by Wagner in a more homely and proverbial form.

The whole incident has an unmistakable 'folklore' flavour about it,
though perhaps it is more common in folk-tales to find that not
the folk alone, but castle or palace itself, has
vanished, and the hero awakes to find himself lying on
bare ground.

Castle in the wilderness - Schloss Duwisib, Namibia

This is Klingsor's magic castle.

Concerning this sorcerer dark things are said.

No one has seen him.

He is known only by his power.

That power is magic.

The castle is his work, raised miraculously in what was previously a desolate place with only a hermit's hut upon it.

Wagner's 1865 Prose Draft.

With the ATTO II, we reach the most important deviation which
Wagner has made from the original form of the story.

The substitution of a sharp and sudden test of his hero's
purity and steadfastness, for the long period
of trial and slow development which the poem assigns to him.

There is no doubt that, dramatically, the story
gains much by the change, but as regards the
character of the hero himself the advantage is not so obvious.

In the Percivalle Klingsor never appears personally.

He is lord of the Château Merveil, that
mysterious Magic Castle which in one form
or another appears so often in the Grail legends, and
which in the poem seems to be regarded rather as a
parallel to the Grail Castle than its opposite,
as suggested in the drama.

It is not Klingsor and his captives,
but King Arthur and his court who, in the Parzival,
form the worldly and carnal foil to the spiritual conception of the Grail and its knights.

The character of Klingsor is, so far as we can tell,
peculiar to the German version of the legend.

One of the continuators of the Conte del Graal relates
the story of a certain King Carduel of Nantes and a magician,
which, in some features, strongly resembles the account given by
Wolfram of Klingsor.

But this is the only parallel, and the name appears nowhere
save in the Percivalle.

But for some reason difficult to discover the character took a strong
hold of the popular mind, and Wolfram's magician seems to
have become in the eyes of medieval German writers as real and historical
as Wolfram himself.

In the Wartburg Krieg both are represented as
taking part, and engaging in a riddling contest,
in which Wolfram, as he certainly ought to do,
proves victorious.

One tradition even represents Klingsor as a bishop -- a curious transformation!

But nowhere does Klingsor appear
as of so really evil character as he does in the drama.

Immoral as he is, and to a certain degree revengeful,
as his dealings in magic are by Wolfram, as
by Wagner, ascribed to his desire to avenge his
own well-deserved punishment upon others.

But the dwellers in his Magic Castle are
surrounded by luxury and splendour,
and have nothing, save their separation from their friends,
to complain of.

Nor are they other than innocent in life.

Orgeluse (THE KUNDRY OF ATTO II) expressly states that Klingsor
is both wise and courteous, and, moreover, strictly
observant of his pledged word.

For the dramatic presentment of Klingsor as an embodiment of evil,
the sworn foe and opponent of the Grail king and his knights,
Wagner is alone responsible.

The Percivalle legend has no traditional villain like Regin or Hagen
in the Siegfried saga.
Image: Elaine by D.G.Rossetti

Elaine the Grail Maiden by D.G.Rossetti.

Nor is the Kondrie of the poem as
closely connected with the magician -- true, she visits the Magic Castle,
but it is apparently at her own free will that she comes and goes.

Nor does Klingsor appear to be resident there.

But the parallel of Kundry as represented in the drama
will be sought for in vain elsewhere.

The elements of her many-sided character
are indeed present in the legend.

But to Wagner alone belongs the credit of having combined these scattered
indications in a creation neither out of harmony with itself
nor with its original elements -- a conception as artistically true as it is dramatically powerful.

For the rightful understanding of so complex a
personality we must look beyond the poem which was
Wagner's ostensible source, though we shall find
that much is due to the indications of the Parzival,
utilised by the dramatist with rare skill.

Wagner's Kundry represents alike

-- Wolfram's Kondrie,
the loathly messenger of the Grail,


-- the Lady Orgeluse, the sometime love of Anfortas,
in whose service he received his incurable wound,
who offers herself to Percivalle
(who alone, of all knights, refuses to serve her for such guerdon),
and finally marries Gawain.

The messenger of the Grail figures in several versions of the story,
her appearance being far more repulsive than c
ould be represented on the stage, and
in more than one instance we find that this hideous aspect is simply
the result of a spell, and when the hero achieves
the quest the damsel is released and transformed into surpassing beauty.

The fact that Wolfram knows of a second
Kondrie,Gawain's sister, resident in the Magic Castle,
who is 'Kondrie la Belle' (KUNDRY LA BELLA)
seems to indicate that the Kondrie of the Percivalle, too,
had originally this double character.

That Orgeluse (THE KUNDRY OF ATTO II) though clearly
distinct from Kondrie,
has also a supernatural origin, appears probably,
both from her surpassing beauty and the fact that
Gawain finds her beside a spring of water,
a very general indication of the fairy nature of the lady,
and also from her close connection with the Magic Castle.

Therefore, in representing Kundry both as
undergoing transformation from extreme ugliness to
brilliant beauty, and as closely and intimately
connected with Klingsor and his castle,
Wagner is in all probability reproducing
features which, if not originally united in the same person,
are yet a very old and integral part of the legend.

But into this strange personality of Kundry
are interwoven other elements, foreign to the
Percivalle legend, yet of great antiquity,
and calculated to emphasise at once her
unearthly nature and her close connection with the
spiritual significance of the drama.

The names by which Klingsor invokes his slumbering tool
-- HerodiasGundryggia --
point clearly to the mythical element in her character.

Both names are known in Germany as appellations of the Wild Huntress:
Gundryggia or Gundr is also the name of one of the Valkyrie,
otherwise there appears to be no special legend
attached to the character; but with Herodias this is not the case.

There is a weird story which relates how the enmity of Herod's queen
towards John the Baptist was really caused
by the saint's rejection of her proffered love.

When after death she would have covered the severed head
with tears and kisses, it recoiled, and from the dead lips issued a
blast of wind so powerful that Herodias was carried away by it,
and like Dante's sinful lovers sweeps
for ever onward before its resistless force.

This curious legend appears to owe its origin to a misunderstanding of
Hrödes, one of the many names of Wotan,
who, in his elementary character of the air,
is the original Wild Huntsman.

Among the many explanations traditionally
given of the object of this mysterious chase
we find the god represented as pursuing his flying
bride; and viceversa the deserted goddess seeking her lost husband.

This chase being closely associated with
St. John's (Midsummer) Day, the remembrance of the
saint, coupled with the misunderstanding of the
name, probably contributed to the evolution of
this quaint legend. Cf. Simrock,
Deutsche Mythologie, 'Herodias'.

The effect of the introduction of this mythical element, so far
as the drama is concerned, is to heighten the interest of the struggle between
Kundry and Parsifal, which becomes not merely the
struggle between evil and good,
but specifically the struggle between evil and
good as represented by paganism and Christianity.

Heathen and Christian myth are here brought into
sharp opposition, the powers of the elements, the
earliest object of worship, with the fully developed and
mystical Christianity symbolised by the Grail.
Image: Sir Galahad, by G.F. Watts

PERCIVALLE by G.F. Watts (1817-1904).

The fact that Wagner hints at a legend similar to that of the Wandering Jew
as connected withKundry emphasizes the identification which the
name of Herodias has suggested.

Students of mythology will be well aware that there is
a common origin for the two legends,
and the 'Ewige Jude' and the 'Ewige Jäger'
are, to say the least, very near relations.

If Wagner, in adopting and laying such stress upon the temptation incident, has departed
somewhat from the older form of the Percivalle legend, if we must look
for the poet's type of his hero rather in Galahad than in Parzival,
it cannot be denied that he has treated the episode with a
force and genius which raise it immeasurably above the level of
any of the trials besetting the hero of the later Grail legends,
and this gain in interest is undoubtedly due to the greater prominence
given to the character of Kundry.

The conception of this wonderful Second Act
may throughout be considered as the work of Wagner's genius.

There are certainly hints and suggestions in Wolfram's poem
which doubtless gave to Wagner the impulse of casting
his drama in the particular form he chose, but they are but hints,
and only a great dramatic genius could have made such use of them.

In the episode of Gawain and Orgeluse (the original KUNDRY-OF-THE-ATTO-II)
the lady bids the enamoured knight fetch
her steed from a garden where it is tied beneath a tree,
but to take no heed of any warning addressed to him by those within:
there he saw many a maiden, and knights so brave and young,
and within that goodly garden so gaily they danced and sung...
they cared for that lovely garden, on the greensward they stood or lay,
or sat 'neath the tents whose shadow was cool 'gainst the sunlight's ray.

Image: Stage design for act 2 by T.E. Mostyn 1914.

Left: Design for Atto II of Percivalle by Tommaso Edwin Mostyn, 1914. Bradford Art Galleries and Museums.

But the garden has no connection with the Magic Castle, nor are the dwellers
 in it other than 'good men and true'.

We are told of no garden round the Château Merveil, 
and the introduction of the magic element and the 
Flower Maidens into this version of the legend is 
due to Wagner alone.

But when we consider the symbolical nature of the drama,
and the typical nature of the hero, so strongly emphasized in the last
Act, we cannot but feel that there is a dramatic
significance and propriety in Wagner's choice of the scene of
Parsifal's trial which cannot be overlooked.

Old theologians were wont to dwell lovingly
upon the fact that a garden was the scene alike of man's Fall
and of his Redemption.

What more fitting than that Parsifal, the
type in the theological sense of the Saviour of mankind,
should be tempted, and conquer, in a garden?

And here we touch what is the real inwardness,
and to many minds will form the undying fascination,
of this great drama, viz. the spiritual
significance which Wagner has attached to the character of

The mystical presentation of
his legendary healing task.

The identification of the hero of the
Grail quest as a type of Christ.

What led Wagner so to remodel the legend?

In the first place his aim was undoubtedly philosophical.

Deeply impressed by Schopenhauer's philosophy,
he was desirous of embodying in dramatic form certain of the leading principles,
or formulae, of that philosophy.

One of these, the renunciation of the will to live,
in other words, the sacrifice of self for the sake of another = altruism,
lies at the basis of Wagner's conception of the drama.

But why did his choice fall on this special legend, and why did
he select its hero as his knight of compassion,
type of the only perfect sympathy and
self- renunciation the world has known?

Here we must give to Wolfram von Eschenbach his
true meed of honour.

It was his genius which has impressed on the
hero of the Grail quest those characteristics which
rendered him the fitting medium for Wagner's message to the world.
Image: Parzival and Trevrezent on Good Friday

The Good Friday meeting with the Hermit is undoubtedly
part of the traditional story, and occurs both in the Welsh and in
more than one French version.

But nowhere is the incident treated so fully, or with such solemnity and dignity,
as in the Parzival.

Wolfram devotes the longest and, on the whole,
the finest of his sixteen books (the ninth) to this episode,
putting into Trevrezent's mouth a full
account of the Grail (paralleled by Gurnemanz's recital in the First Act),
besides an exposition of the plan of salvation, extremely characteristic of the
theological teaching of the day.

There are, however, important differences here between
poem and drama.

Kondrie does not appear on Good Friday in the former,
and Gurnemanz fills the rôle not only of
Trevrezent but also of
the pilgrim knight who directs Parzival to the Hermit's cell.

The reproach which Gurnemanz addresses toParsifal,
for bearing arms on Good Friday, is in the
poem spoken by the knight.

An essential difference, too, is found in the fact that
is in this concluding Act
that the spiritual significance of the hero's character and
career becomes clearly manifest.

Here Parsifal is no longer, as in the poem, the absolved,
but the absolver, and as a consequence of this change the entire
Good Friday scene, as rendered by
Wagner, is touched with a mystical beauty
and tenderness which are indescribable, and have no
dramatic parallel -- it is, emphatically, Char freitags Zauber.

The closing scene of the drama owes its suggestion directly to the poem.

In a fine passage at the commencement of the last Book,
Anfortas, despairing of cure, demands death at the hand of his knights,
and reproaches them bitterly when, relying on the succour promised by the Grail,
they refuse to yield to his prayers.

He attempts to bring himself to bring about the desired result
by closing his eyes for eight days to the life-giving sight of
the Grail, for it is one of the special features of the Grail
as described by Wolfram that none beholding it can die within eight days of the

But bodily weakness conquers Anfortas' will.

When borne by his knights before the Grail
he cannot keep his eyes closed, and is
therefore preserved in life till the coming of Parzival.

It will be understood from this that the Grail is
not veiled as in the drama, and neither
Titurel nor the Grail knights are therefore involved,
save through sympathy, in the tragedy of the king's suffering.

It is somewhat difficult to understand why Titurel,
who beholds the Grail equally with the other inhabitants of the castle,
should be represented by Wolfram as noble,
while the other members of the family, Anfortas himself and Repanse de Schoie,
retain their beauty.

The reason probably is that the character was an original part of the story,
and did not undergo modification with the varied developments
of the Grail talisman.

In the healing of Amfortas the different character
ascribed in the poem and drama to the weapon with
which he was wounded naturally affects the situation.

AMFORTAS, healed in the drama by the touch of Longino's Spear, is,
in the legend, healed by the mysterious question,
and at once becomes possessed of super-natural beauty,
exceeding even that of Percivalle.

He loses his kingdom,
not as the result of a voluntary act of
resignation on his part, but at the
declared will of the Grail, which has
foretold from the first that with the coming of the
promised knight and healer Anfortas shall lose his power.

The reason being that he has transgressed the
rules of the Grail Order by vowing himself tMinne dienst.

Image: Set design for the Good Friday Meadow by Joseph Harker, Covent Garden 1914
Design for Atto III of Parsifal by Giuseppe Harker, 1914. 

Throughout, the effect of this last Act,
with its Good Friday episode and closing scene,
is to reinstate the hero, by means of an element foreign
to the original legend, in the position which rightfully belongs to him,
i.e. to emphasise Parsifal as a hero of divine origin,
though that divinity had become very completely obscured.

Wolfram represents his hero as a brave man, but slowly wise.

And the attainment of knowledge by suffering,
of truest wisdom by compassion's power, is the task Wagner sets his hero.

As a music-drama, the position assigned to Wagner's
latest work may vary; as an attempt to retell an old
legend with due reverence for its traditional form,
and full sympathy for the modern spirit, the Parsifal will,
in all probability, remain eternally unrivalled.