Tuccia and her Sieve: The Nachleben of the Vestal in Art

Sarah Eycken
Deze transhistorische scriptie onderzoekt het Nachleben van het motief van de Vestaalse maagd Tuccia en haar paradoxaal ondoorlaatbare zeef in de kunst. De scriptie bestaat uit drie delen. Het eerste deel gaat over Tuccia als een symbool voor het onbevlekte Rome. Het tweede behandelt het motief van Tuccia op het vlak van gender. In het laatste hoofdstuk wordt ingegaan op de 'Sieve Portraits' van Elizabeth I als moderne Tuccia.

Imagebuilding in de Tudortijd: de Vestaalse maagd Tuccia als rolmodel voor Elizabeth I van Engeland

Tussen 1579 en 1583 produceren artiesten aan het Britse hof intrigerende portretten van koningin Elizabeth I (1533-1603) waarop ze staat afgebeeld met een zeef. Wat is de betekenis hiervan? Wat kan de inclusie van het huisraad mogelijk verraden over deze machtige vorstin? Door het mysterie van het motief van de zeef te ontrafelen, krijgen we meer vat op Elizabeths personaen op haar eigen visie en die van haar raadgevers op haar publiek imago. 

Afbeelding 1: The Plimpton Sieve Portrait door George Gower (1540-1596)

 

Wie was Tuccia?

 

In The Plimpton Sieve Portrait (Folger Shakespeare Library, 1579; Afb. 1) en The Siena Sieve Portrait (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena, 1583; Afb. 2) houdt de regale Elizabeth een zeef vast. Dit attribuut verwijst naar de Vestaalse maagd Tuccia, die geruchten van onkuisheid weerlegde met behulp van een zeef. Tuccia bewees haar onschuld door een zeef te vullen met water van de Tiber. Vervolgens liep zij met de zeef terug naar het schrijn van Vesta, zonder een druppel te verliezen. De ondoorlaatbare zeef stond dus symbool voor Tuccia’s maagdelijkheid. Die maagdelijkheid was cruciaal voor de Vestalinnen, die de stad Rome vertegenwoordigden. De Romeinen geloofden namelijk dat de reinheid van deze priesteressen de stad vrijwaarde van nederlagen en rampen. De Vestaalse maagden fungeerden dan ook als apotropaia(beschermers tegen het kwaad) van Rome. Het is daarom opvallend dat in tijde van rampspoed een aantal ongelukkige Vestalinnen de zondebokken werden van algemene paniek. Deze ‘onkuise’ meisjes moesten het dan ook met hun leven bekopen om zo de verstoorde banden met de goden terug te herstellen. 

Siena Sieve Portrait van Quinten Massijs (II) (1543-1589) of Cornelius Ketel (1548-1616)

In een vroegzeventiende-eeuwse gravure van Raffaello Guidi (1585-1615) uit het prentenkabinet van het Rijksmuseum komt die connectie tussen Tuccia’s maagdelijkheid en de triomf van een onbevlekt Rome tot uiting op een bijzondere wijze (Afb. 3). Achter Tuccia, die met haar zeef water schept uit de Tiber, trekt een triomftocht door de stad. Dit toont het verband tussen de Vestaalse maagdelijkheid en de triomf aan. Daarnaast, schijnt Tuccia ook aanzien te worden als de beschermer van de eeuwige stad tegen het onstuimige temperament van haar rivier, de Tiber. In het vergezellende Latijnse onderschrift staat namelijk dat Tuccia de Tiber controleert, net zoals het water in haar zeef. Het vers is vermoedelijk geschreven naar aanleiding van de overstromingen die Rome teisterden in de zestiende en zeventiende eeuw, waardoor de stad besloot de koers van de rivier te rectificeren. 

Vestaalse maagd draagt water in een vergiet om haar onschuld te bewijzen door Raffaello Guidi (1585-1615)

Het mirakel van Tuccia en haar zeef moet ook bekeken worden vanuit het oogpunt van gender. Petrarca (1304-1374) voegde de maagd toe aan zijn “Triomf van de Kuisheid,” waardoor de legende populair werd in humanistische kringen. Het motief van de Vestaalse maagd en haar attribuut duikt dan ook meermaals op in het huishouden van de Italiaanse gegoede klassen als didactisch model voor de vrouwen des huizes: op huwelijkskistjes, doopkistjes, wanddecoraties van slaapvertrekken, etc. Kuisheid was immers de belangrijkste deugd die een vrouw kon bezitten! Vrouwen zoals Vittoria della Rovere (1622-1694) lieten zich dan ook afbeelden als Tuccia om hun deugd te benadrukken. Ook in emblemataboeken werd de zeef afgebeeld als symbool van kuisheid. Er ontstond ook een analogie tussen Tuccia en haar paradoxaal ondoorlaatbare zeef en de maagd Maria, die tevens aanzien werd als een gesloten vat.

 

Elizabeth, moderne Vestaalse maagd

 

Hoe komt het nu dat het attribuut van de Vestaalse maagd opduikt in de twee Sieve Portraits van de Britse koningin Elizabeth? Het antwoord is meervoudig. De context waarin deze portretten gemaakt zijn, is van cruciaal belang. In deze periode maakt Elizabeth een verandering door van huwbare koningin tot Virgin Queen. Van 1572 tot 1582 maakt de Franse hertog Francis d’Anjou (1555-1584) Elizabeth het hof. In 1579 kwam de hertog zelfs naar Engeland, een bezoek dat huwelijksonderhandelingen in gang zette. De koningin, die oprechte sympathie en affectie voor de hertog toonde, kon door dit verbond met Frankrijk het vijandige Spanje in toom houden. Het Britse volk reageerde echter verdeeld op de mogelijke verbintenis. De protestanten hadden namelijk angst voor de heropleving van een katholiek bewind. Elizabeth verbrak dan ook de ‘Anjou match’ en ontpopte zich tot de iconische Virgin Queen, die in ons collectief geheugen gegrift staat. Tijdens het schilderen van Gowers Plimpton Sieve Portraitkan de zeef die Elizabeth vastheeft nog gelezen worden als een teken van kuisheid van een huwbare koningin, terwijl in het ernstigere Siena Sieve Portrait, Elizabeth de zeef draagt als het attribuut van haar alleenheerschappij als maagdelijke koningin. 

 

Naast de vele gelijkenissen tussen de twee portretten, heeft het Siena Sieve Portrait een grotere iconografische gelaagdheid. Op het schilderij staat een zuil met medaillons van het verhaal van Dido en Aeneas. Zowel Aeneas, die Rome stichtte, als de Carthaagse koningin Dido symboliseren de imperialistische expansiepolitiek die Elizabeth voerde. Als erfgenaam van Brutus van Troje, trachtte Elizabeth haar eigen wereldrijk — een nieuw Rome — uit te bouwen. De zeef  van Tuccia in dit portret verwijst dan ook naar de triomf die de maagdelijke koningin beoogde. Zoals Tuccia de Tiber controleerde, wilde Elizabeth de zeeën beheersen door het uitbreiden van haar zeemacht. Tuccia, die de begrippen van de triomf en de maagdelijkheid met elkaar verenigde, werd dus het ideale rolmodel voor Elizabeth. 

 

Nog een ander facet van Tuccia sprak Elizabeth aan. De koningin startte haar eigen protestantse cultus van de Virgin Queen, die rivaliseerde met de katholieke verering van de Heilige Maagd Maria. Door de associatie met de heidense Mariafiguur Tuccia, verkrijgt Elizabeth ook het aura van de Heilige Maagd. Elizabeth en haar raadgevers beseften dat kunst als propagandamiddel haar imago als mythische maagd kon verspreiden. Door zich te vereenzelvigen met Tuccia plaatste de koningin zich boven al haar vrouwelijke onderdanen, die lekkende seksuele wezens waren. Elizabethaanse toneelschrijvers alludeerden in hun komedies op het lekkende, onreine bestaan van vrouwen (leaky vessels). Door zich te distantiëren van de gewone vrouw, kon Elizabeth haar koningschap valideren.  Elizabeth als ondoorlaatbare zeef, als gesloten vat, als moderne Vestaalse maagd kon zo Engeland belichamen en regeren, net zoals Tuccia en de andere priesteressen Rome vertegenwoordigden. 

 

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Staples, Ariadne. From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and Category in Roman Religion. London: Routledge, 1998.

 

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Catalogues

 

Ann Arbor/ Wellesley 2002

Dixon, Annette (ed.). Women Who Ruled: Queens, Goddesses, Amazons in Renaissance and Baroque Art. exh. cat. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art/ Wellesley, David Museum and Cultural Center. London: Merrell, 2002.

 

Antwerpen 2007-2008

Katlijne van der Stighelen, “‘Vrouwen als boeketten verpakt’ beeld en bekentenis van de vrouw in de kunst.” In Vrouwenportretten uit de collectie Mayer van den Bergh, ed. by Annemie Van den Eynden, exh. cat. Antwerpen, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, 47-63. Antwerpen: Museum Mayer van den Bergh, 2007.

 

Baltimore/ Dallas/ Basel 1995

Reeder, Ellen D (ed.). Pandora: Women in Classical Greece. exh. cat., Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery/ Dallas, The Dallas Museum of Art, Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

 

New York 2008

Koeppe, Wolfram and Annamaria Giusti. Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe. exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Haven/ London: Yale University Press, 2008.

 

New York/ Fort Worth 2008

Edwards, Nancy. “144. The Vestal Virgin Tuccia.” Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, ed. by Andrea Bayer, exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum,   313-314. New Haven/ London: Yale University Press, 2008.

 

Nijmegen 1985

Bange, Petty, Ton Brandenbarg, Grietje Dresen, et al. Tussen heks & heilige: Het vrouwbeeld op de drempel van de moderne tijd, 15de/16de eeuw. exh. cat., Nijmegen, Commanderie van Sint-Jan. Nijmegen: SUN, 1985.

 

Rome 2002

Ricci, Emiliana. “La cosidetta ‘Alcova Torlonia.’” In Il Museo di Roma racconta la città, by Rossella Leone, Federica Pirani, Maria Elisa Tittoni et al., exh. cat., Rome, Museo di Roma, 324-325. Rome: Gangemi Editore, 2002.

 

Viterbo 1998-1999

Lo Bianco, Anna and Valter Curzi (eds.). Domenico Corvi. exh. cat., Viterbo, Museo della Rocca Albornoz. Rome: Viviani arte, 1998.

 

Washington 1990

Russell, Helen Diane and Bernadine Barnes. Eva/Ave: Woman in Renaissance and Baroque Prints. exh. cat. Washington, National Gallery of Art. New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1990.

 

Washington 2001

Brown, David Alan (ed.). Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. exh. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art. New Jersey/ Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, 2001.

 

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Collins, Billy. “Death of Allegory,” Poetry Foundation, last access on the 12th of August, 2017, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/37694/the-death-o….

 

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Drummond, Anna. “Marriage and murder: two wedding chests with representations of Judith.” Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria 53 (2014): last access on the 13th of August, 2018, https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au.

 

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Gellius, Aulus. Attic Nights. I.12. trans. from Latin by John C. Rolfe. Perseus Digital Library: last access on the 9th of February, 2018, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/.

 

Goldenberg Stoppato, Lisa. “Suttermans [Susterman; Sustermans; Sutterman], Giusto [Josse; Juste; Justus].” Grove Art Online (2003): last access on 15 May 2018,  http://www.oxfordartonline.com.

 

Gordon, Richard. “Vesta. Vestals.” Oxford Classical Dictionary: last access on the 18th of February, 2018, classics.oxfordre.com.

 

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Hollingsworth, Mary. The Medici. London: Head of Zeus, 2017, n. p., Google books: last access on the 11th of May, 2018, books.google.be

 

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Morrill, John S. and Stephen J. Greenblatt. “Elizabeth I: Queen of England.” Encyclopaedia Brittanica: last access on 12th of June, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elizabeth-I.

 

Nordberg, Jenny. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. New York: Penguin Randhom House, 2015, n. p., Google Books: last access on the 14th of August, 2018, books.google.be

 

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Pietersz. Pers, Dirck.  “Cesare Ripa's Iconologia of Uytbeeldinghen des Verstants.dbnl: last access on the 14th of August, 2018, https://www.dbnl.org/tekst/pers001cesa01_01/.

 

Phillips, Robert. “Fordicidia.” Oxford Classical Dictionary: last access on the 18th of February, 2018, classics.oxfordre.com.

 

Pliny the Elder. Historia Naturalis, 28.3(2). trans. from Latin by John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley. Perseus Digital Library: last access on the 12th of August, 2018,

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Plutarch. Numa. X. trans. from Greek by Bernadotte Perrin. Perseus Digital Library: last access on the 7th of March, 2018, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/.

 

Plutarch. Quaestiones Romanae. I. trans. from Greek, ed. by William W. Godwin. Perseus Digital Library: last access on the 15th of February, 2018, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/.

 

Pope, Alexander. “Eloise to Abelard.” Poetry Foundation: last access on the 13th of February, 2018, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44892/eloisa-to-abelard.

 

Rijksmuseum. “Tuccia bewijst haar onschuld, Theodoor Galle, naar Jan van der Straet, 1653 - 1654.” Rijksmuseum: last access on the 12th of April, 2018, http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.581818.

 

Rijksmuseum, “Vestaalse maagd Tuccia draagt water in een vergiet om haar onschuld te bewijzen, Jacob Matham, after Bartholomeus Spranger, 1608,” Rijksmuseum: last access on the 12th of April, 2018, http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.337100.

 

Victoria & Albert Museum. “Tuccia (Chastity).” V&A: last access on the 7th of April, 2018, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O125590/tuccia-chastity-tempera-paint….

Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master in de Kunstwetenschappen
Publicatiejaar
2018
Promotor(en)
Prof. dr. Barbara Baert
Kernwoorden