Sunday, January 21, 2024

Suggested translation passage from "Les Onze"

The original passage we are working from can be found here 



Obviously we are here in the presence very much of a literary style, so formal words and latinate words are very welcome.

Again, it is handy to think of the time periods involved. Mostly historical, but the paintings are still extant, so some present tenses will be involved.

He was of unimpressive[1] stature, and of  reserved character, but he caught people’s[2] attention by his feverish silence, his dark excitement and his manners, which were in turn  arrogant and obtuse : baleful,[3] some have said[4].

  At least, that is how he was perceived in later years[5]. Nothing of the sort is apparent in the portrait which Tiepolo made of him, at twenty years of age, in the wedding procession[6] of Frederick Barbarossa, painted on the ceilings of Wurtzburg, specifically on the south wall of the Emperor’s Hall.

 They say you can find him there, and you may go to see him there, perched among a hundred princes, a hundred high constables and mace carriers, and a similar number of slaves and merchants, porters, animals and cherubs, Gods and merchandise, clouds and all four seasons continents, as well as two irrefutable painters, they who have brought this world together in its entire catalogue, and yet are of the world themselves :

 Giambattista Tiepolo and Giandomenico Tiepolo, his son. He is therefore also present, as the tradition insists that he be, and that he be the one who carries, on a cushion embroidered with gold thread, the crown of the Holy Roman Empire [7];

 One can see his hand beneath the cushion, and his face,  bent over a little, looks at the ground ; all his quivering bust seems to move with the weight of the crown : he yields beneath the empire, with tenderness and softness. He has blonde hair.



This is a most seductive identification, even it it turns out to be pure fantasy : this pageboy is a type and not a specific portrait : Tiepolo took him from Veronese, not among his little assistants ; it is a pageboy, it is the pageboy, it is nobody.


A no less dubious tradition has him appear 40 years later[8] , once more perched high up, on the windows shaken by the wind, among those who witness the Tennis Court Oath in the sketch made of it by David : here, he is the ageless silhouette showing to some small children the uplifting, stormy sight of five hundred and sixty raised hands.


[1] Average is too neutral

[2] Impossible to say « the ». Attention is a personal attribute like an arm. Also « one’s is not good here, because we are not speaking of a single unidentified individual.

[3]  Surly ¿ menacing, sinister

BALEFUL | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary

Cambridge Dictionary

https://dictionary.cambridge.org › ...


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threatening to do something bad or to hurt someone: He gave me a baleful look. his baleful influence.


[4] Someone tried “as mentioned above » This is not the meaning.

[5] « Later on » is too informal.

[6] This wedding took place on 9 June 1156.

[7] This is what it is called in English, although some have commented that it was « neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire ».

[8] Tiepolo’s painting dates from 1753, the Tennis Court Oath was in 1789, David’s sketch was produced in 1792

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