Veritas filia Dei. 4. Daughter of God

Veritas filia Dei
1. The Ithika
2. The naked Truth
3. Time and Truth
4. Daughter of God
Fritz Saxl in his essay quoted in the previous chapter, discussing the story of the Renaissance topos of Truth revealed by Time, devoted special attention to the occurrences of the motif in England. And it was no accident. In fact, in 16th-century England two queens following each other found this formula appropriate to resume the essence of their reign – in opposition to their predecessor.

When in 1553, after the short reign of the child Edward VI (and Jane Grey), in spite of all efforts of the Protestant Council of Regency, the Catholic Mary Tudor came to the throne, this unexpected turn was accepted with surprise all over Europe. “Profound wonder at the amazing turn in the fortunes of the Queen – and with hers, those of the whole Christian world – is expressed in the letters of diplomats and in the reports of ambassadors”, writes Saxl. Among others, Cardinal Pole greeted Mary like this:

“And see howe miraculouslye God of hys goodness preserved her hyghnes contrarye to the expectation of manne. That when numbers conspyred agaynste her, and policies were devised to disherit her, and armed power prepared to destroye her, yet she being a virgin, helpless, naked, and unarmed, prevailed.

From Pole’s letter there emerges the emblematic image of the oppressed but prevailing Truth, and this image played an important role in Mary’s royal representation. Already the drama presented at her coming to the throne included the allegorical figure of Truth, “with a boke in her hand, whereon was written Verbum Dei”. She chose as a personal motto to be used in her crest, seal and coins the saying Veritas temporis filia. * This motto expressed what Cardinal Pole formulated in another letter in this way: “Time is now come, in order that the true religion and justice return into the kingdom.”

Penny of Queen Mary, with the legend VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA on its reverse, from here

Five years later, in 1558 it was Mary’s half-sister, the Protestant Elizabeth to be received with the same allegory while proceeding to her coronation:

“Between… hylles was made artificiallye one hollowe place or cave, with doore and locke enclosed; oute of the whiche, a lyttle before the Quenes Hyghnes commynge thither, issued one personage, whose name was Tyme, apparaylled as an olde man, with a sythe in his hande, havynge wynges artificiallye made, leadinge a personage of lesser stature then himselfe, whiche was fynely and well apparaylled, all cladde in whyte silke, and directlye over her head was set her name and tytle, in Latin and Englyshe, «Temporis filia, The Daughter of Tyme”… And on her brest was written her propre name, whiche was «Veritas», Trueth, who helde a booke in her hande, upon the which was written, Verbum Veritatis, the Woorde of Trueth.” With these explanatory verses:

This olde man with the sythe, olde Father Tyme they call,
 And her, his daughter Truth, which holdeth yonder boke,
Whom he out of his rocke hath brought forth to us all,
 From whence for many yeres she durst not once out loke.
Now since that Time again his daughter Truth hath brought,
 We trust, O worthy Quene, thou wilt this Truth embrace. *

It is possible that the Protestant followers of Elizabeth consciously used here the personal allegory of Mary, precisely to “restore its truth”. But apart from this, the appearance of Truth in stage plays was a vivid tradition in England. This is also indicated by the play mentioned by Saxl which, according to the description by Collier, was presented in 1513 in Richmond before the King, and where Truth was saved by Time from Ignorance and Hypocrisy, just as we see it in the woodcut by Marshall described in the previous chapter.

Collier, History of Dramatic Poetry, London 1831, I. 65.

William Marshall, Goodly Primer in Englysshe, 1535, frontispiece

However, this stage tradition also included a hitherto unmentioned element. Donald Gordon in his study * cited in the previous chapter refers to a play entitled Respublica, presented in 1553, the first year of Mary’s reign. It introduced Truth with a book in her hand which, instead of the legend “Verbum Dei” referring to the Bible, displayed the following inscription: “Veritas de terra orta est – I am sproong oute of the earth”.

Saxl, when describing the woodcut of Marshall, also mentions the 1521 printer’s device of Johann Knoblouch of Strassburg – editor of Luther, Melanchthon and Erasmus –, where Truth, framed by fresh sprouts of garlic which refer to the printer’s name, emerges from the earth, with the same motto: Veritas de terra orta est.

The motto is taken from verse 11 of Psalm 85 (84 in the Vulgate) which speaks about the glorious reign of the Lord to come: Veritas de terra orta est, et iustitia de caelo prospexit – “Truth is sprung out of the earth, and justice has looked down from heaven.” The previous verse also refers to Truth as well as to three companions of her: Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi, iustitia et pax osculatae sunt – “Mercy and truth have met each other, justice and peace have kissed.” In the Middle Ages these four figures were the main characters of a morality play which, entitled The reconciliation of the Heavenly Virtues or The Parliament of Heaven, was very popular from the 12th to the 16th century either as a separate play or as part of other works.

The history of this topic was reviewed by Hope Taver in his The Four Daughters of God. * Its origins, surprisingly, go back to an 11th-century Midrash, a treatise by Rabbi Simon on a place of the Book of Genesis. According to this, before the creation of Adam the heavenly virtues – in the Midrash, the angels – began to debate whether this is a wise decision:

“Mercy said, “Create him; because he will practise mercy.” Said Truth, “Create him not; for he will be full of lies.” Justice spoke. “Create him; for he will be just.” Peace opposed it because he would be contentious. Mercy and truth thrust at one another. Justice and peace fought together.” (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 8.5) 

The author of the Midrash “creatively interpreted” the two verbs in the Biblical verse. He took “encounter” in the sense of “clash”, while he associated the verb נשק nashaq, “kiss” to the noun of the same root nesheq, “weapon”. This is how this verse of the psalm became a commentary of the Book of Creation, which reached through Hugh of St-Victor, interpreter of the Hebrew source, to Saint Bernard and (Pseudo-)Bonaventure. Through their extremely popular meditations on the Annunciation and the life of Christ the story became known all over the Medieval world. Its Christian version which became an organic part of medieval literature through the widely known writings of Nicholas Love, Lydgate, Walter Kennedy and Grosseteste, the Piers Plowman, Ludus Coventriae, the English Gesta Romanorum and other works, sounded like this. A powerful king has four daughters, a son, and a servant, who proves to be evil. The servant is thrown into prison, whereupon the daughters gather to debate the prisoner’s worth and his fate, whether he will be pardoned or condemned. In order to end the debate, reconcile the sisters, and respect the father’s merciful nature, the son offers to accept the servant’s crime and suffer his punishment. Through his gratuitous sacrifice, the son redeems the evil servant, unites the dissenting sisters, and joins the servant with the merciful king. Peace will reign all over the world, and truth springs out of the earth and justice looks down from heaven.

This image of Truth as a “daughter of God” appeared not only in literature, but also in the visual arts. Besides the printer’s device of Knoblouch, Saxl also mentions another example. After a fire in 1577, Palma Giovane made a large painting for the hall of the Magistrato della Quarantia Criminale in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, now preserved at the Accademia. This image is a good example of the paintings in town halls and law-courts, mentioned in our second chapter, which harmonized with each other the allegories of Truth and Justice. On this image Justice looks down from the heaven on Truth, who springs from the earth symbolized with a globe and turns toward the heaven symbolized with a sun. With her right hand she points to the sun, while keeping a book and a palm leaf in the left hand. In the open book we read this verse: Veritas de terra orta est et iustitia de caelo prospexit.

Here we have, then, the accurate model of the allegory of the Truth of Ripa and, with his mediation, of Ithika. Ripa obviously saw this picture – or a copy or a model of it – and took it over into the Iconologia. By this way the two parts of the allegory of Ithika, the picture and the poem stand in a sharp contrast to each other as to their original meaning. The poem speaks about the truth of the ancients, hidden but gradually revealed, the daughter of Time, while the picture represents the always glorious heavenly truth, the daughter of God.

Вся время губит и вся покрывает
Вся тлит время и в конец превращает
Едину истину аки свое племя
Хранит блюдет и открывает время.
Time destroys and covers up all,
all is decomposed and brought to end by time.
Only truth and its offsprings
are conserved, protected and revealed by time.

Nevertheless, Ripa did not understand the meaning of the model of his own allegory, and so first he changed the Truth of the psalm, sprung from the earth and gloriously advancing to the heaven, with the naked Truth of the Calumny of Apelles, and then he interpreted her attributes one by one, as he usually did. But his readers who knew the morality play of the four daughters did realize the original meaning. This is exemplified by the two statues of Truth made by Bernini with twenty years of difference.

The statue of Truth in the Galleria Borghese of Rome, made between 1646 and 1652, accurately copies the allegory of Ripa. This was the statue whose model in the Iconologia led Émile Mâle to the discovery of Ripa’s work in 1927. As Saxl did not know about Ripa’s allegories, he traced back Bernini’s work immediately to the model composed by Palma Giovane. However, we think that the model of Bernini was Ripa’s engraving, and just like Ripa, he did not know about the medieval precedents and Biblical background of the figure. This is why he gave a hour-glass into her hand and wrote on the pedestal the legend Simulacrum Veritatis Tempore detegendae – “Statue of Truth to be revealed by Time”. By this he referred to his own personal injury, the defeat suffered at the competition for the new façade of St. Peter’s.

Within a couple of years, however, the situation essentially changed. In 1655 the great builder pope Alexander VII came to the throne, and he immediately made Bernini his court artist. And Bernini created his greatest works during the twelve years of Alexander’s reign, the last one being the sepulchral monument of the pope in St. Peter’s. According to the study on this monument by Michael Koorbojian, * the pope started to plan his tomb together with Bernini immediately after his election. The planning continued until his death, and at least six different phases can be distinguished in it. A note in the pope’s diary on January 26, 1660 attests that by that time the essence of its iconography was established: “modestia et veritas obviaverunt, s’incontrino, iustitia et pax, si abbraccino, e la pace volti più in qua e la morte in cambio del libro habbia la falce” (“Modesty and Truth obviaverunt, they should meet, Justice and Peace should embrace each other, Peace should turn more in this direction, and death should hold a scythe instead of the book”).

Pope Alexander wanted to decorate his tomb with the four allegories of verse 10 of Psalm 85, similarly to the several works of art inspired by this favorite verse of him, from his first papal medal through the Silva Chapel in Sant’Isidoro to the new façade of his “family church”, the Santa Maria della Pace. * In spite of all changes – also attested by the above diary note – this composition was finally realized in 1671. The praying figure of the Pope is surrounded by the “four daughters of God”, Justice and Peace in the background and Mercy and Truth in the foreground. After so many years of working together, Bernini understood well the importance of this verse, and he transformed accordingly the figure of Truth. Here she covers with a veil her original nakedness, she tramples on the globe of the earth – more precisely, on England * – and embraces the sun as the highest goal of her efforts. And she, being eternally manifest, is not revealed any more by Time, no: on the contrary, the veil stretched out by the four virtues covers up death and time for eternity.

4 comentarios:

Ellen dijo...

Truth covers everything with a veil? Hmmn.

Don't forget that in his Advancement of Knowledge, advocating the scientific method, Francis Bacon had written: "Truth is the daughter of Time, not Authority." Notice how, as a true humanist, Bacon couches his assault on authority with appeals to the same. We s

MOCKBA dijo...

I don't think that for the orthodox thinkers of the time, there existed a contradiction between Truth as divine word and Truth as hidden at first, revealed by Time later. That's pretty much the essence of Nikonian argument for restoring the original rites and symbols of the Church, how the true word of G*d lay hidden but ended up revealed in its full glory.

In the years of Peter's reign as now, the Schismatics and the Nikonians both argued that their truth is older and therefore more true. And Ukraine remains a haven of Old Believers today.

Also interesting XXth century parallels and Kiev links may be found in Bulgakov? Revealed story of ha-Nozri and manuscripts which never burn ... truth eternal and truth protected by time itself.

BTW the third line, "аки свое племя", is literally filia temporae, "like its child" ("аки" = like).

Studiolum dijo...

Yes, this is exactly what I also say: that as for the orthodox thinkers there existed no contradiction between Truth as filia temporis and Truth as a divine word (“filia Dei”), therefore they saw no problem in compiling the two iconographic formulae which had different origins in the West. BTW, by this time the two formulae were used in various combinations also in the West where such contradiction did not exist either – their “puristic” use in the art was limited to the short period of the 16th century, as long as the literary sources behind them were generally known.

Thank you for the Bulgakov parallel! The recently discovered Lead Codices, were they not fake, would be an interesting – unalterable and never burning – parallel to the ha-Nozri manuscripts. And thanks also for ‘аки’ as ‘like’: I was influenced in the translation by Slovakian ‘ako’, which, apart from the same, also means ‘as well as’ (although by considering that свое refers to Time rather than Truth, I should have opted for ‘like’).

MOCKBA dijo...

Lead, right. I couldn't help instantly remembering our own Lead Scroll with Lee's personal account of Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Prophet's role in it. Of course the underlying Truth of the Church has been preserved and uncovered in an even more durable metal ... the golden tables of Cumorah Hill with the pillar of light pointing to the cache. Lee's Scroll later proved to be a fake too, of course.