ANDRÉ DURAND Twenty-First Century Paintings
LE LAGRIME DI SAN PIETRO
Dimensions: 132 X 112
Oil on linen
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Sperlonga
Lagrime di San Pietro
Museo Nazionale di Sperlonga
Le lagrime di San Pietro/Tears of Saint Peterby Luigi Tansillo (Venosa, 1510 – Teano, 1 dicembre 1568)
The anguish and the shame but greater grew
In Peter’s heart as morning slowly came;
No eye was there to see him, well he knew,
Yet he himself was to himself a shame;
Exposed to all men’s gaze, or screened from view,
A noble heart will feel the pang the same;
A prey to shame the sinning soul will be,
Though none but heaven and earth its shame can see.
Orlando di Lassus published his first books of madrigals later in life, but obviously composed many either during, or in memory of, his travels in Italy in the 1540s and 1550s. He generally favored settings of Petrarch’s poetry, using sensitive and starkly expressive musical gestures to convey a very close reading of his text. He published the Lagrime di San Pietro (the “Tears of St. Peter”), on the other hand, in the last year of his life, completing the cycle of compositions six weeks before his death and possibly thinking of death while writing this dolorous, but farsighted, cycle of Madrigali spirituali.
Lagrime di San Pietro
Museo Nazionale di Sperlonga
This important madrigal sub-genre (pioneered by Palestrina) used the techniques of madrigal composition to set vernacular sacred texts, apparently for amateur performance in private chambers. The vernacular texts sometimes rearranged popular love songs, substituting the Virgin Mary for the Beloved, but were often freely composed devotional lyrics. A strong penitential cast to the entire repertory reflects the severity of Counter-Reformation piety. Lassus’ cycle sets 20 ottave from a contemporary cycle of poems, followed by a single Latin stanza. The 20 stanzas of Italian poetry come from a longer (though incomplete) poetic cycle by Luigi Tansillo. The form of each is ottava rime, the classic eight-line Italian stanzaic form, with rhyme scheme ABABABCC; the severe and pessimistic set describes the contrition of St. Peter as an old man, as he remembers his betrayal of Christ. The first six stanzas use a variety of images to describe the old man’s recollected painful moment (described in Luke 22:61-62) when, after Peter’s denial, Jesus turned and their eyes met. Stanzas seven and eight quote the rebuke he imagined in Christ’s gaze at that moment. The six following recall Peter’s desperate escape from these eyes and the flooding of his own with tears. Stanzas 15 to 20 speak in the first person of the despair which he felt then and which still, near the hour of his death, makes him feel unworthy of salvation. Appended to this selection is a single Latin stanza, which serves the same function as a figure in an altarpiece painting whose eyes look outward — to make the drama personal for the viewer. The voice of Christ Himself is evoked in this final stanza, asking all who pass by to consider the suffering He endured, and His greater suffering at humankind’s ingratitude. Lassus’ cycle of three times seven stanzas, set for a lush seven-voiced texture, displays both an almost atomistic concern for local motifs and an innovative large-scale tonal arch over the entire cycle. The seven voices offer a variety of textures, often counterpoising antiphonal groups. In contrast to the floridity of his earlier madrigal style, these late pieces conjure up small images in the text by means of much smaller motifs and much subtler tonal motions. But at the same time, the Lagrime as a set build powerfully on one another through key relationships. The first 15 madrigali move gradually through related keys (each key thought at the time to carry its own intrinsic emotional affect) in glacially increasing intensity. Madrigals 16 to 20 in the cycle shift suddenly and affectively to the “flat” side of the tonal spectrum, the more mournful and despairing; the specific line of text upon which the shift occurs is “O vita troppo rea, troppo fallace” (“O wicked, deceptive life!”). The final Latin stanza receives the most evocative tonal treatment, even venturing into outright chromaticism in its dramatic concluding pathos.
The Tears of St. Peter 1645
Georges de la Tour
Cleveland Museum of Art, USA
Three gospels agree; one does not, supposedly. Only Mark says that the rooster would and did crow twice. In order to examine this claim, though, we need to look at the verses of concern and offer some textual-critical data — because there are actually three we need to talk about.
Mark 14:30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Mathew 14:68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Luke 14:72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
The textual tradition is not unanimous for any of these verses. In all cases, some say twice; others lack it, and there is a mix of combinations.
But what it runs down to, in terms of weight of evidence, is that 14:30 and 14:72 are likely to have been part of Mark originally, whereas the key verse in 14:68 (“and the cock crew”) is not, and was likely added to make the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction more exact.
That said, what of the fact that the other gospels do not say “twice”?
Strictly speaking, there is no contradiction in action, since of course if Peter denied before the cock crowed once, he also did it before the cock crowed twice. In that light, I would suggest that Mark offers the original verbiage of the prediction (as might be expected, if Mark is recording from Peter), while the other gospels contain a modified and simplified oral tradition that follows the usual oral-tradition pattern.
Bear in mind that within this context, this is not considered contradiction or error. No ancient reader would have thought this. Compromises in narrative presentation were often necessary to make a text more memorable for a population that was 90% illiterate. Intentional, structured changes for a purpose are not, under such a semantic contract, an error.
A salient point: A cock’s crowing lasted as long as five minutes and occurred at all hours; as Cicero wrote: “Is there any time, night or day, that cocks do not crow?” The cock crowing a second time was usually associated with the dawn.