Weddings Past

SOMEONE JUST GOT MARRIED across the pond. Who exactly? Prince Harry and Kate Moss? No, that’s not right. Andrew, maybe? No, that’s not it either. A quick Google and I’ve got: Prince William and Kate Middleton. There. That’s better. [My apologies for not paying closer attention before coming to the keyboard.]

Royal weddings are a bit off my radar screen but I do love weddings. Especially the iconography of weddings that come to us across time and seas. This 4th century mosaic comes from Tunisia. It illustrates that moment in The Iliad when Iobates, King of Lycia, hands his daughter Philonoe over to Bellerophon, tamer of the winged horse Pegasus. The king first crowns his daughter with a lush headdress of plants:

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The Master of the Campana Cassone, an early 15th century Florentine, dives into The Odyssey. He gives us Ariadne in Naxos, Greece, abandoned on her bed by the faithless Theseus. Is that her wedding chest turned over on the ground? In one version of the Homeric tale Ariadne goes on to marry Dionysus. Still, I think of this processional as an unwedding scene.


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The Borromeo Book of Hours, a Latin manuscript illustrated by Christophero de Predes circa 1440, illustrates a wedding that was both supremely consequential and widely ignored beyond the Middle Ages.  The wedding of Mary and Joseph, imagined here in medieval setting and dress, provided the Virgin with the protection of marriage and the Christ an earthly dad.):

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The Borromeo Book of Hours, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

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Jacopo Tintoretto used the wedding motif to affirm the importance his age placed on Poetry and its cousin, Rhetoric. The complexity of composition leaves no doubt about the seriousness of poets and their craft. Here, Hercules, the West’s first superhero surpassing all others, looks on as the great Apollo himself joins a poet and his mistress/muse.

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Crossing the pond and coming forward some in time, is this 19th century colored lithograph of the wedding of a black man and a Creole woman. The bride’s father carries a palm frond to honor the couple’s union:

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More in keeping with the solemnities of William and Kate, was this image of a Windsor wedding. The couple are not identified but the image is titled “The Marriage, Windsor” and dated 1863. That was the date of marriage between Edward VII and Alexandra, his queen:

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In the collection of the library, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

For you hopeless tabloid bluffs, here were Edward and Alexandra, betrothed, the year before their wedding:

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Alexandra was a beautiful young woman; Edward, a handsome man. Still, my favorite wedding couple is this one:

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Wedding set of 4th Earl of Dysart, France, c. 1728

A thoroughly engaging couple, yes? They reside in the Victoria and Albert Museum, should you be in the mood for visiting royalty while you are in London.


© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey