Bronzino, Portrait of Giovanni (1545). Oil on wood, 58 x 48 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Why this little boy’s portrait is so important
Giovanni de Medici is just eighteen months old here while clutching a goldfinch in his right hand, thus the expression on his face is typical of Bronzino’s mannerist elegance and sophistication.
You can hardly see the brush-strokes in this polished picture, thus Bronzino has applied artistic virtuosity with an enigmatic quality, hence, the porcelain skin and mask face and extreme detail of his clothing.
He is holding a goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) because this enigmatic bird is symbolic in Christianity mainly because the goldfinch eats the thistle seed and is found in the thorns, hence the resemblance to the Passion of the Christ with the his crown of thorns on the cross and represents acknowledgement of the future Crucifixion.
The coral protects a child from harm hence the charms around the boy’s neck.
This portrait is animated and engaging unlike the distant, aristocratic looking portraits viewing the world with disdain that Bronzino normally did such as the portraits of the other Medici children.
This portrait of Giovanni is quite different because the 2-year-old child is as real as they come morphologically speaking, playing cheerfully for instance.
It is quite possible that Giovanni was portrayed differently to his brothers because his father had different aspirations for the rest of his life; the child has a chubby face with his baby teeth just pointing through with an active expression upon his smiling face.
Famous as a physician, dramatist and an author Chekhov is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history.
Boys was written in 1887 featuring Volodya who returns home to his family with a strange visitor. The pair of them plot to join the Californian Gold Rush!
Volodya’s sisters are intrigued by his new friend, Lentil, thus “Boys” is a little bit of fun, short-story for youngsters. The tale is set at Christmas and while the girls make decorations the boys sit near the window, whispering to one another planning something together.
Opening an atlas, they look carefully at a map and plot their route across Russia to the Behring Straits so they can sail towards America.
Lentilov tells the girls about stampeding buffalo, the earth trembling and Indians attacking trains. He pretends to be Montehomo, the Hawk’s Claw, Chief of the Ever Victorious!
Spying on the boys at night-time the girls discover their plans to run away to America and dig for gold taking a gun, biscuits, compass, cash and knives. The “Boys” are prepared to fight tigers.
Volodya needs encouragement from Lentilov who sings the praises of America and Lentilov growls like a tiger to impress the girls. When the boys vanish, out goes a search party thus when they are found Lentilov must return home but he left a message in one of the sister’s books: “Montehomo, the Hawk’s Claw, Chief of the Ever Victorious.”
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born on 29 January 1860 in Taganrog, Russia and practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career claiming medicine to be his “lawful wife” but literature to be his mistress!
Chekhov initially wrote stories for financial gain, but as his talent and enthusiasm grew, quantity thus became quality; he made formal innovations and “Boys” is just one good example of where he has greatly influenced the evolution of the modern short story as a genre in world literature.
Originality and innovation in Chekhov’s work consists of an early use of the stream-of-consciousnesstechnique, something that was later adopted by James Joyce and other modernist writers.
Combining this new technique with the rejection of moral conclusion as an end to the traditional story structure, Chekhov’s narratives became very popular. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them!
Boys is the quintessential Chekhovian adventure tale for youngsters. The subtlety, precision and grace can also be listened to on track number 3, Stephen Fry Presents – Short Stories, by Anton Chekhov. Available now on audio CD it is published by HarperPress.