Friday, 28 February 2014

Alexander's Cup

^Still from Cadbury Flake Advert, 1992

Extract from p88 of the 2013 Penguin translation by Lara Gochin Raffaelli of Gabriele D'annunzio's 'Il Piacere'

This basin was historic: it was called Alexander’s Cup. It had been donated to the Princess of Bisenti by Cesare Borgia before he left for France to deliver the bill of divorce and the dispensation for marriage to Louis XII; and it must have been included among the fabled baggage carried by sumpter-mules that Valentinois brought with him when he entered Chinon, as described by the Seigneur de Brantome. The design of the figures that encompassed it and of those that arose from the rim of the two ends was attributed to Sanzio.

The cup was called Alexander’s because it had been created in memory of that prodigious one from which, at his great feasts, the Macedonian would prodigiously drink. Throngs of Sagittariuses encircled the sides of the vase with bows drawn, rioting, in wonderful poses like those Raphael painted, naked and shooting arrows toward the herm in the fresco found in the Borghese Gallery, decorated by Giovan Francesco Bolognesi. They were pursuing a great chimera, which rose up from the edge, like a handle, at one side of the vase, while on the opposite side bounded up the young Sagittarius Bellerophon with his bow drawn against the monster born of Typhon. The decorations of the base and the rim were of a pleasing elegance. The inside was gilded like that of a ciborium. The metal was as sonorous as a musical instrument. Its weight was five hundred pounds. Its entire form was harmonious.

Often, on a whim, Elena Muti would take her morning bath in that basin. She could immerse herself in it quite well if she did not stretch out; and nothing, in truth, was equal to the supreme grace of that body resting in the water which the gilt tinged with indescribably delicate reflections, because the metal was not yet silver, and the gold was fading.