3-3-3 Brawl at Issus
Famous Pun of Innumerable Generations of German-speaking Pupils
of Bloodiest Seriousness
in these November Days 2350 Years ago
As a whole as in details since times of yore re-enacted and extolled in all variants of communication, depending on inclination from the hymn on the victorious weapons of the heroic Alexander to the invitation to see a picture of the wild victor in the shape of a bloodthirsty predator (Brockes), generally to cast a glance behind the scenes of praised Hellenism, from whose innermost the tiger bounded forth, a voluptuous cruelty shone out of his fearful eye (Nietzsche, Homer’s Contest).
How nice to associate such a darkness with a light as not given to everyone, yet affair not least of a grande nation of a gallant century. And so to the slaughter of the previous day, the flight of the Persian grand king Darius III, a new day follows. And witnesses
two gallant young gentlemen
paying a visit to the ladies of the captured royal family.
Rendered the joint visit of Alexander and his confident Hephaestion, whom the ladies confound with the king, in the morning after the legendary-famous battle three/three/three … It is the modern Erzyn. At this time still youthful-brisk the king took the mistake sovereignly by the way with the words “for this man too is Alexander” (Quintus Curtius).
By the victor’s Alexander behavior towards the ladies as reported by the latter following old accounts, by his respect paid to them, his chivalrously self-controlled and therefore royal attitude towards the virtuous beauty of the two daughters Le Brun quite complied with the expectations of his gallant court.
“ In the Grand Siècle the story was to be seen in a new light, and the pictorial accents which LeBrun gave to his picture
were unique in the history of the subject …
“ The dramatic emphasis of the picture is thus entirely on Alexander’s attitude toward the beauteous and despairing women, on his gesture of gallant gentleness … By illustrating this ‘honorable and princely’ action, as Plutarch calls it, LeBrun made his picture a lesson in formalized gallantry, in the ethic of royalty ”
(Donald Posner, Charles LeBrun’s Triumphs of Alexander, in The Art Bulletin XLI , no. 3, 237 ff.).
“ This painting , first in the series on Alexander ,
was the most famous during (Le Brun’s) lifetime …
it was on the strength of this painting
that Le Brun was nominated First Painter to Louis XIV. ”
“ Alexander’s exemplary behavior on this occasion seems to have so impressed the seventeenth century Frenchman that Félibien, who discussed the painting at length in an essay published in 1663, could call the Macedonian’s action ‘une des plus Glorieuse qu’Alexandre ait jamais Faites’. It was glorious because it was possible only by ‘se Surmontant Soy-Même … le Vainqueur de toutes les Nations’ ”
(Posner as above, noting with reference to Félibien that characteristically this essay Les reines de Perse aux pieds d’Alexandre was published three more times before the end of the century, then, in English-French version, in London 1703).
This then also the tenor of the sheet’s caption of the print version (28⅜ × 35⅝ in [69.5 × 90.2 cm] illustrated here, worked about 1671 by Gerard Edelinck (Antwerp 1640 – Paris 1707) by order of le Roi Soleil (28⅜ × 35⅝ in [69.5 × 90.2 cm] with specification of the number of prints: 900; the painting was created 1661/62 in the size of 117⅜ × 178⅜ in [2.98 × 4.53 m] ! ).
By his above demeanor and his solicitude towards the ladies during their entrainment amongst the army Alexander earned a lifelong good commemoration in the heart of the Queen Mother culminating in great grief on the Macedonian’s early death which appears to have advanced her own demise soon after. Just as then Alexander in turn cruelly punished her son’s cowardly assassination by one of his satraps in the aftermath of the Battle of Arbella (331 BC) and royally entombed the dead Darius. The latter then had hated his conqueror as much as he had admired him, indeed, had even requested Persia’s tutelary deities, so they should be unwilling to retain him on the throne, to grant at least his other wish, that is “that no other may be king of Asia than this just enemy, this humane conqueror”. Over whom to prevail at Issus the Persians’s chances had been given away even before the beginning of the battle due to a tactical mistake of the king. For he had at his command no less than “5-600,000 men, among which 100,000 well-armed Asian infantrymen and 30,000 Greek mercenaries”, adequately supported by the cavalry. Yet so “The complete Persian camp with enormous treasures fell into Alexander’s hands” (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed., I , 317).
Literature, Drawings and Engravings
Beginning with Quintus Curtius Rufus as the source and The Triumphs of Alexander in the as imperial as grandiose etchings by Girard Audran and Gerard Edelinck after Charles Le Brun and drawings on blue paper by François Verdier with further highlights from this unique life through to the change of his image in the 18th century with Johann Elias Ridinger. More …
Accordingly especially in the Europe of the 17th century it was many a crowned head’s ambition to have at least a slice of the glory of that mighty conqueror descend on his own person, indeed to immortalize himself as an Alexander of his own time. Above all Louis XIV of France, in whose empire the sun did not settle and for whose premier minister Colbert “no expense was too great when the king’s fame, la gloire, was in consideration”.
This then the intention for first a painterly,
then also a graphical Alexander cycle.
Le Roi Soleil in the conceived character of “Alexander the Great as Master of the Battle”. And Louis’s personal aura could inspire the artists indeed. So 1665, creating the portrait bust, the great Bernini said on the spot “the king has Alexander’s head”. With the result that “The magnificent bust of the young king … represents the self-assured character of the sovereign in an incomparable manner: it is something like Jupiter which shows from the monarch’s serene features” (each Weigand, Der Hof Ludwigs XIV., 3rd ed, Insel-Verlag 1925 — here available as preferential edition in gilt-tooled red morocco — pp. 59, 152, 43). And so then also in the present case
“ Final consensus was
that no one other than Le Brun
( 1619 Paris 1690 )
could have created (Alexander’s Histories/Triumphs) ”.
Those culminations of acting by a man whose name just is program by its own. “Alexandros … the ‘men protecting’, Greek male name”. Here then “the Great” (356-323 B.C.),
“ the greatest conqueror of all times, son of king Philip and Olympias … His first tutor was Leonidas … then from his 13th year on the famous philosopher Aristotle. To this the honor is due of having awakened in the impulsive boy the idea of greatness, that sublimity and rigor of thinking which ennobled his passions and gave his power moderation and consciousness. A. always showed his teacher the sincerest reverence; frequently he said to his father he only owes his life, to his teacher that he lives decently … Already in his lifetime A. was glorified by the fine arts as no hero of antiquity before him ” (Meyers, op. cit., 316 ff. ) .
With the here then painterly result of
Charles Le Brun’s
Grand Peintre du Grand Siècle
First Painter to Louis XIV
gigantic Alexander cycle
on five canvasses of 117⅜-185 × 178⅜-498 in (2.98-4.7 × 4.53-12.65 m) !
from the years 1661-1668 .
— see their 13 (5 folded) color plates plus B/W plates of drawings in Michel Gareau, Charles Le Brun. First Painter to King Louis XIV, New York, Abrams, 1992 —
To which latter 1671/78
at request of Louis XIV
with engraved specification of the number of copies published
as absolutely elitist in the graphic arts
And for the realization of which no others but Girard Audran (Lyon 1640 – Paris 1703) and for
The Family of Darius before Alexander
November 333 BC
Gerard Edelinck were qualified. „ (I)n two plates and in the first state with Goyton’s name “.
“ Famous Main Sheet ”
“ His full virtuositiy he developed in the Tent of Darius ”
Inscribed/captioned as follows:
C. le Brun Pinxit / G. Edelinck sculpsit
Il est d’vn Roy de ce vaincre soy mesme
Alexandre, ayant vaincu Darius prez la ville d’Jsse entre dans vne tente ou estoient la Mere la femme et / les filles de Darius, ou il donne vn exemple singulier de retenüe et de clemence GoyTon (dotted)
Graué par le Sr. Edelinck d’apres le tableau qu’en a faict Mr. le Brun premier peintre du Roy. et que sa Maté: prenoit plaisir de luy voir peindre a fontainebleau en lannée 1661
Sui victoria indicat Regem
Alexander, Dario ad Jssum victo tabernaculum Reginarum ingreditur, vbi singulare / clementiæ ac continentiæ præbet exemplum / GoyTon (dotted) .........
Æri incidit Gerardus Edelinck adtabulam Caroli le Brun Regii Pictoris primarij, quem, illam pingentem Rex videre delectabatur apud fontem bellaquæum anno. 1661.
And like the other four Audran sheets in the first impressions
with ( !! ) the name of the royal printer Goyton.
According to British Museum Jean Goyton (1629 – Paris 1714) was publisher and printer in Paris since the 1670s and
“ Perhaps the first such to be permitted
to add his name to the plates that he printed. ”
By which in regard of Goyton’s Alexander prints the matter by no means rests. For the strange row of a varying number of dots following his name immediately or yet closely was deciphered by Ebert – but only on occasion of those 5 sheets !! –
as specification of the number of prints , 100 per dot
as utterly unusual in the graphic arts, for which again and again the as old as but vaguely answerable question about the number of prints is discussed. Here then their number would be between 700 and 900. Nonetheless 1763 already Wille was “finally so lucky … to have got hold … of the great Battles of Alexander” (Décultot/Espagne/Werner [ed.], Joh. Gg. Wille [1715-1808]. Briefwechsel, , 302 f.). And already years before Christian Ludwig Hagedorn, soon afterwards Dresden Pope of Art, had mentioned these
“ masterpieces of the chisel ”
in his Betrachtungen über die Mahlerey by the words “in any impressions exceedingly rare” (p. 597). As predominantly royal presentation copies within the scope of the grand series Cabinet du Roy they had come into hands of long wind.
Which latter then here and now, too, blows at us, thematically from pre-Christian, artistically by the distance of three and a half centuries. In this certainly not deathly piercing, rather with the full warmth of human activity, the one as the other filled by grandeur.
“ a wondrous paroxysm , a dream
which conjured up the Homeric ages
from the grave ”
(Oswald Spengler on the Alexander Campaign)
The complete set of the 5 (3 folded) sheet (27⅜-28⅜ × 35⅝-62¾ in [69.6-72 × 90.4-159.3 cm] on guards) printed from 15 (not 16!) plates & joined in etching with engraving by Girard Audran (4) & Gerard Edelinck
in first impressions on heavy laid paper
of uniform marvelous, still blackening print quality of vibrant chiaroscuro with the name of the royal printer Jean Goyton (1629 - Paris 1714) and his unique specification of print runs
in ruby cow-hide design binding
over wooden boards with 4 ornamental raised bands enclosed by lines, spread over lines on the covers each with 4 large Bourbon fleurs-de-lis in the corners, two-piece artist & title stamp on the front and large ligated R(oi)S(oleil) monogram as centerpiece on the back cover. More …
“ Pursuant to your last kind e-mail, I am placing my personal check in the amount of US$ … in the mail today. When it arrive, please send the print … It has been a pleasure dealing with you ”
(Mr. + Mrs. R. G. S., October 30, 2002)