NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1590 __ Color-music
Gregorio Comanini (ca 1550-1607), Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593)
Comment : In 1590, Gregorio Comanini described an invention by the Mannerist painter Arcimboldo of a system for creating color-music based on apparent luminosity (light-dark contrast) instead of hue. Lionello Levi shows that Arcimboldo took as his starting point the "pythagorean harmonic proportions of tones and semitones" which he subsequently translated into their corresponding colour values, using both his artistic "instinct" and a scientific method. And indeed Arcimboldo must have been quite successful in his endeavour, because, according to Comanini, Arcimboldo once gave instructions to Mauro Cremonese, Rudolph II's court musician: having painted a number of chords on paper, he asked the musician to locate them on his harpsichord, which he did with success. "This extremely inventive painter," wrote Comanini, "knew not only how to find the relevant semitones, both small and large, in his colours, but also how to divide a tone into two equal parts; very gently and softly he would gradually turn white into black, increasing the amount of blackness, in the same way that one would start with a deep, heavy note and then ascend to the high and finally the very high ones." In this way, step by step, starting from the purest white and adding more and more black, he managed to render an octave in twelve semitones, with the colours ranging from a "deep" white to a "high" black. He then did the same for a range of two octaves. "For just as he would gradually darken the colour white and use black for indicating heights, he did the same with yellow and all the other colours, using white for the lowest notes that one could sing, then green and blue for the middle ones, then brightly glowing colours and dark brown for the highest notes: this was possible because one colour really merges into another and follows it like a shadow. White is followed by yellow, yellow by green, and green by blue, blue by purple, and purple by a glowing red; just as tenor follows bass, alto follows tenor and canto follows alto." This account of Gregorio Comanini's probably only describes the beginning of Arcimboldo's research. As the artist himself did not leave any notes, we can only speculate that he intended to extend the system along the lines of a "theory of perception". It is unlikely, however, that Giuseppe Arcimboldo wanted to abolish the system of musical notation, which had already been fixed at the time, and substitute his own colour scale for it. In fact Gregorio Comanini probably gives us the best id of his aims: "So you can see that the art of music and the art painting walk along the same path and follow the same laws of creation.". (Compiled from various sources)
French comment : En 1590, Gregorio Comanini a décrit une invention du peintre maniériste Arcimboldo à propos d'un système pour créer la musique-couleur basée sur la luminosité apparente (contraste lumière-foncé) au lieu de la tonalité. Dans cette glorification s'accomplit un rêve d'harmonie, de correspondance suprême que ne cessera de poursuivre Arcimboldo. Même en musique ! Il inventera un système de correspondances des couleurs et de leurs nuances avec les sons, assombrissant par exemple le blanc pour reconstituer l'octave de douze demi-tons, allant du blanc grave au noir du son le plus aigu. Pour Arcimboldo, le monde est une musique. Le monde est un jardin. (Compiled from various sources)Comme certains tableaux d’Arcimboldo, ces « grotesques » sont les meilleurs représentants de la peinture « fantastique», qui compose des motifs insolites et des personnages fictifs à partir d’éléments réels. Dans Il Figino, traité sous forme de dialogue paru en 159128, Gregorio Comanini différencie ainsi l’imitationicastica, fidèle aux apparences, et la fantastica, créatrice de formes nouvelles par jeu, mais fait de la dernière le propre du poète plutôt que du peintre. Relèveraient d’une élaboration de cette nature, dont on voit qu’elle se démarque du modèle mimétique au sens strict, certains poèmes tels que ceux du Livret de folastriesou Les Démonsde Ronsard, où les associations et les combinaisons visent à reproduire le chaos qui émane de la «fantaisie»; en relèveraient aussi les «fantaisies» de Montaigne lui-même, productions beaucoup plus erratiques que les ara- besques calculées de la musique du temps si l’on en croit le chapitre «Du repentir » (« Les fantaisies de la musique sont conduites par art, les miennes par sort» (III, 2, 44B (805))), échelonnées selon un ordre qui, à l’image de celui que le chapitre «De la vanité» reconnaît à l’œuvre au sein du Phèdre de Platon ou du Démon de Socratede Plutarque, sollicite des rapprochements par delà la trame linéaire («Mes fantaisies se suivent: mais par fois c’est de loin: Et se regardent, mais d’une vue oblique» (III, 9, 322B (944).)). (Guerrier Olivier. Le dictionnaire fantastique. In: Réforme, Humanisme, Renaissance. N°64, 2007. pp. 47-58)
Original excerpt : « [...] As for the sixth and last element of tragedy, that is, harmony, you know that it is not a function of the poetic faculty but of music, which has nothing to do with painting either. Nevertheless, painting doest approach music, as poetry sometimes does. On this point I would offer Arcimboldo as proof. He has discovered tones and semitones and the diatesseron and the diapente and the diapason and all the other musical consonances within the colours, with the same are with which Pythagoras invented the harmonic proportions. Pythagoras observed in blacksmith’s forges that hammer blows on the anvils produced harmonis according to the weights of the hammers. [...] The painter, putting on canvas an extremely white colour and gradually darkening it with black, has employed the nine-to-eight proportion and the tone itself. He surpassed Pythagoras in doing so. [...] The superingenious painter, however, not only has managed to re-create these greater and lesser semitones in his colours, but has done even the division of the tone into two equal parts as well, delicately and gradually darkening white with black, always ascending step by step to greater blackness, just as from the lowest pitch one rises to the higher and the higher still. [...] » (Gregorio Comanini, p. 102 ; Translated by Ann Doyle-Anderson et Giancarlo Maiorino)
Source : Comanini, Gregorio (1591), “Il Figino, overo del fine della pittura, dialogo del R. P. D. Gregorio Comanini”, Mantua, F. Osanna, 1591.
Source : Comanini, Gregorio (1591[2001]), “The Figino, or On the purpose of painting : art theory in the late Renaissance”, Ann Doyle-Anderson et Giancarlo Maiorino (Eds and Trans.), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.
Urls : http://www.all-art.org/early_renaissance/arcimboldo04.html (last visited )

No comment for this page

Leave a comment

:
: