This chapter shows Van's and Ada's first moments alone together--still perfectly innocent, despite Marina's qualms, as imagined by Van at the end of the previous chapter.
Just as Ulysses highlights a particular "art" in each chapter, this chapter focuses on architecture, as Ada shows Van and us around Ardis Manor. Teaching Austen, Nabokov would stress that "Without a visual perception of the larch labyrinth in Mansfield Park that novel loses some of its stereographic charm" (SO 157), and his Lectures on Literature feature his maps of Sotherton Court (31) and Mansfield Park (33), the latter with the comment "We shall never reach the moon or explore the blue mountains of Venus if [we] continue to prefer the general to the specific, the group to the individual." He wants his readers to be able to visualize Ardis almost as "specifically" as he does himself.
At the same time Ardis, with its ancestral portraits, its "mixture of overlapping styles and tiles," its Turgenevian ballroom that we are asked, à la Turgenev, to "pass by," has its generic side, as a parody of the manor in the nineteenth-century roman.
But the chapter foregrounds not so much Ardis's architectural and literary heritage as its sense of novelty, innocence, freshness. Because the unfamiliarity of Ada matches the unfamiliarity of Ardis, a comedy of awkwardness sets the scene. Ada has to keep Van walking over manor and estate to keep herself talking, while Van, disgruntled at once by his quarters, feels more and more out of sorts as the pressure on his bladder builds and increasingly exasperated at Ada's forced march and her parade of erudition. The chapter's charm lies in its presenting Ardis not as "charming," but in terms of the slightly disconcerting specificity of Van's first encounter with it all.
Everything stays in the bright key of alert surprise. A shimmer of fantasy, a tang of parody, and an ubiquitous flicker of play pervade the descriptions of the manor, while guide and guest share the innocent awkwardness of adolescent cousins, virtual strangers, with no stirrings of attachment, no hint of sexual availability (the mood will shift swiftly in the next chapter, as Van wakes up to Blanche, the maid). The nooks in Ardis's roof may be places where "You could clip and kiss,"and the teasing phantom candlesticks will turn out to have looked forward to the erotic leap of the Night of the Burning Barn, but unlike the previous chapter, this one concentrates largely on the present, with few gleams of Van's past or his future. We may suspect that the Ardis so new to Van right now will come to mean something else for Ada and him, but we are offered no sure glimpse of what lies ahead. Ardis is emphatically not yet the Palace of Earthly Delights it will become for the two "cousins."
41.01; the great library on the second floor: MOTIF: library (Ardis).
41.03-04: a Thousand-and-One Best Plays in her boudoir: with a sexual pun on “play” and a hint of the intermittent eroticism of the Thousand and One Nights; cf. 44.23 “blue magic rug with Arabian designs”; 131.13-18: “he would have . . . his father’s librarian . . . . post to Ardis Hall . . . a whole circus of Shastras and Nefsawis”; 217.26: “Now I’m Scheher . . . and you are his Ada”; 344.11-16: “an obscene ancient Arab . . . the best method of mating with obese or hunchbacked females (The Perfumed Garden . . . ).” Cf. also 349.25: “the thousand and one memorial floramors” and I.6 Afternote.
41.02: "browse": Cf. Pnin, ch. 2: “Laurence, on going up to his study one day, . . . was incensed to find the mellow lights on and fat-naped Pnin braced on his thin legs serenely browsing in a corner: ‘Excuse me, I am only grazing,’ as the gentle intruder (whose English was growing richer at a surprising pace) remarked” (40) (Kyoto Reading Circle, Krug 3:2, 26); Pnin, ch. 3: “Before leaving the library, he decided to look up the correct pronunciation of ‘interested’ . . . in the Browsing Room” (78).
41.05-06: the ghost of his father who had died there of a stroke: Ardelion Veen, d. 1848. Dan himself will suffer from two strokes.
41.07-08: collected works of unrecollected authors: MOTIF: collect . . . recollect.
41.12-13: a botanical atlas . . . open on a colored plate of orchids: Cf. Ada's flower-paintings from this atlas, and Van's stealthily approaching her as she paints, 99-101.
41.13: orchids: MOTIF: orchids.
41.13: divan: MOTIF: divan.
41.13-14: black velvet, with two yellow cushions: It may be only coincidence that Gwendolen Harleth's black and yellow bedroom forms a motif (chs. 3, 21, 24, 44) in Daniel Deronda (1876), by George Eliot (1819-1880). MOTIF: black-yellow.
41.14: placed in a recess: Cf. 358.13-15: "It was not Ardis, it was not the library, it was not even a human room, but merely the squalid recess. . . . "
41.16: man-made lake: Cf. 5.10-11: "that large, oddly rectangular though quite natural body of water" at Dan's other estate, Lake Kitezh.
41.16-18: pair of candlesticks, mere phantoms . . . stood, or seemed to stand, on the broad window ledge: Cf. 42.23-25. On the Night of the Burning Barn, Van will place his and Ada's candlesticks on this ledge (117.02-04) just before their first attempt at making love; the candlesticks here are "phantomic," therefore, because that fateful night is yet to come.
41.19: A corridor leading off the library: MOTIF: library (Ardis).
41.19-20: our silent explorers: Cf. 466.05: Dan "belonged to the silent-explorer type." MOTIF: explorer.
41.20-42.08: Mr. and Mrs. Veen's apartments . . . staircase spiraled them . . . to the upper floor. . . . The bedchambers . . . were more than modest: Cf. SM 88-89: "I would leave the upper floor, where we children dwelt, and slowly slide along the balustrade down to the second story, where my parents' rooms were situated."
42.03-04: she, pale-thighed, above him, taking longer strides than he, three steep steps behind: MOTIF: behind.
42.08: next to the library: MOTIF: library (Ardis).
42.11-12: the dismal poorhouse bed: Cf. 123.02: "his otherwise austere bed."42.12-13: self-creaking wardrobe: Cf. 430.30-431.10: "those old wardrobes . . . excruciating creak. . . . "
42.14: chain-linked knobs (one missing): Cf. 34.20: "brass button deprived of its twin."
42.15-18: old bureau . . . stuck: he found the knob . . . and handed it to Ada who threw it out the window: Not the same as but pointedly related to the bureau in the library which Ada and Lucette cannot remember how to open; Van feels for and finds its “little organ.” (374.01-25)
42.17-18: handed it to Ada who threw it out of the window: Cf. 116.31-32: "She [Ada] dropped the found shoe in a wastepaper basket."
42.19: never seen a washstand made specially for the bathless: Van will use a collapsible rubber tub (189.10-11), as Nabokov did in Russia and the emigration (SM 79, DB 67). Nabokov remembered with vivid disgust "the first time in my more or less conscious life when I spent one day without a bath" (Andrew Field, Nabokov: His Life in Part, 123) . In Glory a bath is seen as "a kind of heroic defense . . . against the obstinate attack of the earth advancing by means of a film of insidious dust, as if it could not wait to take possession of a man before his time." (182)
42.21: satanic snake encircled the porcelain basin: Cf. especially 60.12-14: "A fat snake of porcelain curled around the basin, and as both the reptile and he stopped to watch Eve and the soft woggle of her bud-breasts in profile. . . . "; 248.08-09: "beautiful dragon-entwined flambeaux." MOTIFS: Eden; satanic; snake; .
42.21: twin of the one . . . : MOTIF: twin.
42.23-25: brass candlestick with a greasepan and handle (whose double he seemed to have seen mirrored a moment ago--where?): Cf. 41.16-18, where he presumably has not seen either Ada's candlestick or this one from his own bedroom, but only those "phantoms" from the future.
42.27: tossing her hair: MOTIF: tossing hair [Ada].42.28-30: a door of some playroom or nursery stood ajar and stirred to and fro as little Lucette peeped out, one russet knee showing: Cf. 357.01-03: "one knee raised. . . . a door standing ajar." MOTIF: little Lucette.
42.31-32: Cobalt sailing boats adorned the white tiles of a stove: Cf. "the Dutch stove with its little blue sailing boats in the nursery of Ardis Manor in 1884 and 1888" (546.16-18); cf. "cobalt sky . . . green tiles" (477.20-22) on the boat where Lucette tries desperately to get Van into her cabin.
42.33-34: toy barrel organ . . . stumbling little minuet: By Joseph Haydn (1750-1805) (see 44.16-17). By 1887 Lucette will herself be learning the piano. In his TS, VN deletes the two lines that followed, which had formed a paragraph by themselves: "(That's the sweetest thing anybody ever wrote about me, thank you, sweet Van. In her hand.)"
43.01-02: Of the many ancestors along the wall she pointed out her favorite: Her favorite, because a botanist. In his autobiography Nabokov pointed out with pleasure the scientist in his family tree, his mother's maternal grandfather Nikolay Kozlov (SM 65; cf. also SO 187). Cf. Eugene Onegin II.ii.07: "portraits of grandsires on the walls."
43.03-06: old Prince Vseslav Zemski . . . his barely pubescent bride and her blond doll in his satin lap: Princess Sofia Temnosiniy, 14 or 15 at their marriage in 1770 (see Family Tree). Cf. 147.10-11: "Prince Zemski had one for every bed of his harem of schoolgirls"; 399.07-09, a painting of the bride, Sophia Zemski, at twenty, five years after her marriage. In his taste for young partners, Prince Zemski anticipates Demon in his older years; the young girl seated in a lap anticipates the 1884 and 1888 picnic scenes and the "behind" motif. His son, Peter Zemski marries Mary O’Reilly, a name that derives from that of the wife of the real figure Peter Vyazemski (see 3.10n). John Rea suggests that Mary O’Reilly may also echo Mary Louise O’Murphy (or Marie-Louise or Louison Morfy or O’Morphy, 1737-1814), who became mistress to Louis XVI of France and bore him a daughter, Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine de Saint-André (1754-1774). She is said both to have been Casanova’s mistress first, or to have been noticed by him, and to have been at fifteen the model for Boucher’s famous painting, Girl Reclining, now at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, which is also said to have been a job application to become the King’s mistress. (John A. Rea, NABOKV-L, 30 November 2004).
43.03: (1699-1797): Longevity runs in the family.
43.04: Linnaeus . . . Flora Ladorica: Flora Lapponica (1737) first established the reputation of the great Swedish botanist and founder of modern taxonomy, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). MOTIF: Flora.
43.07: the rosebud-lover: Demon too has his roses ("a lovely Irish wild rose . . . Rose . . . his . . . life, anyway, was a rose garden all the time," 150.26-151.20), who become younger as he gets older. MOTIF: rose.
43.07-09: the rosebud-lover in his embroidered coat: The late Sumerechnikov, American precursor of the Lumière brothers: The combination of “rosebud” (the personal mystery at the heart of Citizen Kane (1941), the film written, directed by and starring Orson Welles (1915-1985) that has long been regarded by many as the greatest movie ever made, and the Lumière brothers (see 43.09n), the earliest filmmakers in history, seems more than accidental.
43.08-09: Sumerechnikov . . . Lumière brothers: Cf. 399.16-18: "'Sumerechnikov! He took sumerographs of Uncle Vanya years ago.' 'The Twilight before the Lumières.'"
43.08: Sumerechnikov: Darkbloom: "the name is derived from 'sumerki' ('dusk' in Russian)." The -nikov means "maker." Cf. SM 81: "Summer soomerki--the lovely Russian word for dusk."
43.09: Lumière brothers: Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), photographers and inventors of an early motion-picture camera and projector (1895).
43.13: Empire style: Style fashionable during the First Empire of France (1804-1814), "characterized by classic and oriental motives, long curving lines, some carving, and ornamentation in brass and ivory." (W3
43.16-25: paulownia . . . companion: MOTIF: Ada’s taxonomy.
43.16-21: paulownia . . . named . . . thought Van: Cf. the first of Ada's speeches cited in the novel, 8.21-9.05, and the analysis of her conversational style at 61.14-17.
43.16-19: paulownia tree . . . Paul-minus-Peter: Paulownia is a small genus of Chinese trees, family Scrophulariaceae, of which P. tomentosa, also known as imperialis (popular name sometimes Princess or Empress tree), with its showy violet-purple foxglove-like flowers and large heart-shaped leaves, is the most widely cultivated. Anna Pavlovna (1795-1865) was the sixth daughter of Tsar Pavel I (1754-1801), who according to scandalous gossip was the son of the future Catherine the Great not by her husband the grand duke Peter (later briefly Tsar Peter III), but one Colonel Saltykov. Cf. 522.15: "princely paulownia ('mulberry tree!' snorted Ada)"; 37.28-29: "you could not feed the birds without Lady Amherst's permission, or so he understood" and n.; EO, III, 10-11: "commemorating (like the dahlia) the name of an old botanist or (like the camellia) that of a roving Jesuit back from Luzon."
43.17-18: after the patronymic, mistaken for a second name or surname: Cf. the mistaken patronymic at 3.03 ("Anna Arkadievitch Karenina") and n.
43.21: I’m going to scream, thought Van: Cf. 95.21-22: "her natural history had long begun to get on his nerves"; 373.10-11: "Almost as bad as the other with her Blemolopias and Molospermas."
43.22: oryx: A genus of large African antelopes with long, cylindrical and nearly straight horns. The true oryx is the east and northeast African beisa oryx (O. beisa).
43.23: okapi: Okapia johnstoni, on Earth not known to science until found in the jungle of the Belgian Congo in 1900; smaller than an ox, it somewhat resembles a giraffe (to which it is closely related) with a much shorter neck.
43.26-27: reproducing the first maps of four and a half continents: Martin Waldseemüller (1470-1518) was the first cartographer to draw the Americas unambiguously as a distinct new (though rather slender) continent, in his Cosmographia Introductio of 1507, where in his descriptive text he suggested the country be named "America" in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. Cf. "Perfection": "How beautiful, for instance, are ancient charts! Viatic maps of the Romans, elongated, ornate, with snakelike marginal stripes representing canal-shaped seas; or those drawn in ancient Alexandria, with England and Ireland looking like two little sausages; or again, maps of medieval Christendom. . . " (Stories 334). MOTIF: explorer.
43.27-28: the music room with its little-used piano: It will be used much more in 1888, with Philip Rack acting as Lucette's piano teacher.
43.29-31: stuffed Shetland pony which an aunt of Dan Veen’s, maiden name forgotten, thank Log, once rode: Ada has forgotten this name because the aunt is dull Dan's relative; but it is in fact "Trumbell," deriving from "Turnbull," as Dan "was prone to explain at great length" (4.29-32), and hence chimes oddly with the aunt's riding the Shetland pony. The implicit horse-bull combination bizarrely echoes the explicit "Centaur"-"St.Taurus" pairing (26.28, 27.19).
43.30: thank Log: MOTIF: Log.
43.31-33: the ballroom, a glossy wasteland with wallflower chairs. "Reader, ride by" ( . . . as Turgenev wrote): The ballroom is a wasteland, and the reader urged to "ride by," presumably because there are no Turgenevian or any other kind of balls at Ardis while Van is there. Cf. 105.25-28: "Ada explained to her passionate fortuneteller that the circular marblings she shared with Turgenev's Katya, another innocent girl, were called 'waltzes' in California ('because the señorita will dance all night')."
43.33: "mimo, chitatel'," as Turgenev wrote: In the novel Dym (Smoke, 1867), ch. 19, Sozont Ivanovich Potugin, who loves Irina Pavlova Osinin without reward, will not tell the hero Grigory Mikhailovich Litvinov why he has the charge of a young girl, the illegitimate daughter of another of Irina's lovers, but Turgenev quickly fills the "dark, terrible story" in for the reader, then comments: "Strashnaya, temnaya istoriya. . . Mimo, chitatel' mimo!" ("A dark, terrible story. Past, reader, go past!"). For Dym, see 131.24-26 and n. Cf. "Lips to Lips": "'Mimo, chitatel', mimo!'" ('Wrong, reader, wrong!') answered Ilya Borisovich (misinterpreting Turgenev)." (Stories 310) When Carl Proffer declared in "Ada as Wonderland: A Glossary of Allusions to Russian Literature" (Russian Literature Triquarterly, 3 , 407) that he could not find that Turgenev had written exactly this, Nabokov noted in the margin, having apparently forgotten the original context: "He did. 'Mimo, chitatel', mimo,' i.e. let us not stop, reader, at these sordid details (of the attack on Turgenev)." He wrote to Proffer on 21 July 1972: "Mimo, chitatel', mimo (meaning 'let us not stop, reader, at those sordid details' does occur in Turgenev's peevish piece ('Dovol'no,' I think)." Ardeur 37: "'Passe, cavalier, passe,' comme disaient Tourgueniev et Yeats." "Under Ben Bulben" (1939) by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) ends: "Under bare Ben Bulben's head / In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid. / An ancestor was rector there / Long years ago, a church stands near, / By the road an ancient cross. / No marble, no conventional phrase; / On limestone quarried near the spot / By his command these words are cut: / Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by!"
43.33-34: The "mews," as they were improperly called in Ladore County: Alluding to the chiefly British usage, plural in form but usually construed as a singular, to mean stables, or living quarters developed from them, or a court or street on which the stables or living quarters open.
44.05-06: sham grotto, with ferns clinging to it shamelessly: The ferns are real, and "unashamed" to be growing naturally, "shamlessly," in this fake grotto.
44.06: artificial cascade: Cf. 140.26: "the Cascade in the larch plantation of Ardis Park" and 141.23: "the little cascade" (apparently a different cascade from this).
44.07: from some brook or book: May echo the famous line "books in the running brooks," As You Like It, 2.1.16.
44.09-10: two painted and powdered maids: Blanche and French.
44.09-14: servants' quarters . . . she had visited them once in the explorative stage of her childhood . . . which settled the matter: Cf. SM 44: the mushrooms VN's mother collected "were bundled away by a servant to a place she knew nothing about, to a doom that did not interest her"; SM 45: "Not only were the kitchen and the servants' hall never visited by my mother, but they stood as far removed from her consciousness as if they were the corresponding quarters in a hotel."
44.13-14: a canary and an ancient machine for grinding coffee: Matt Morris (personal communication) points out that this combination of canary and coffee could echo Anna Karenin, I.34: “Baroness Shilton, Petritsky’s lady-friend, her lilac satin dress and rosy fair face shining, and her canary-like Parisian talk filling the whole room, was sitting at a round table making coffee” (trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, London: Penguin, 2006, 113).
44.16-17: A dwarf Haydn again played a few bars: Cf. 42.33-34.
44.22-34: Rolled up . . . "jikker" . . . banned by the air patrol . . . hawking-tubes . . . gliding at a safe ten-foot altitude: MOTIFS: gravity; jikker; technology.
44.23-31: "jikker" or skimmer, a blue magic rug with Arabian designs . . . his Ada and he: a coinage, from "magic carpet" (81.31: "those delightful gliders called Magicarpets (or 'jikkers')") but influenced by jigger, "a mechanical device or contrivance, contraption, thingumabob." For Arabian motifs, see 41.03-04n. The link with "his Ada and he" confirms the shadow of Sheherazade.
From the time he began to prepare to teach literature at Cornell, VN saw writers as storytellers, teachers and enchanters, and stressed that it was the enchanter that interested him most (SL 78, Lectures on Literature 5).
Cf. SM 139: "I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip." In the Russian version of his autobiography, VN makes the flight of the magic carpet slightly more explicit: "I confess I do not believe in the transience [fleetingness, flight past] of time--light, smooth, Persian time! I have learnt to fold this magic carpet so that one pattern fits another" (DB 128: "Priznayus', ya ne veryu v mimoletnost' vremeni--legkogo, plavnogo, persidskogo vremeni! Etot volshebnyy kovyor ya nauchilsya tak skladyvat', chtoby odin uzor prikhodilsya na drugoy"). In a passage just before the sentences quoted from Speak, Memory, Nabokov wrote: "Anyway, on my butterfly hunts I always preferred hiking to any other form of locomotion (except, naturally, a flying seat gliding leisurely over the plant mats and rocks of an unexplored mountain, or hovering just above the flowery roof of a rain forest). . . . " (SM 137) Hunting butterflies in the Alps in the 1960s, Nabokov would take chairlifts to reach high alpine terrain, and could revise his preferred mode of locomotion: "My favorite method of locomotion, though, is the cableway, and especially the chairlift. I find enchanting and dreamy in the best sense of the word to glide in the morning sun from valley to timberline in that magic seat, and watch from above my own shadow-with the ghost of a butterfly net in the ghost of a fist-as it keeps gently ascending in sitting profile along the flowery slope below, among dancing Ringlets and skimming Fritillaries. Some day the butterfly hunter will find even finer dream lore when floating upright over mountains, carried by a diminutive rocket strapped to his back" (SO 200).
Cf., for the wider implications of the motif, Nabokov's remark: "Innermost in man is the spiritual pleasure derivable from the possibilities of outtugging and outrunning gravity, of overcoming or reenacting the earth's pull" (SM 301). He often associates overcoming gravity and overcoming mortality.
"Skimmer" is the name of several long-wonged shore-birds and a dragonfly.
Aleksey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, 16 July 2014, notes that in his review of Elan’ (Belgrade: Russkaya Biblioteka, 1929), a collection of stories by Alexander Kuprin (1870-1938), Nabokov comments with pleasure that “V etom nebol’shom sbornike est’ rasskazy ne tol’ko o loshadyakh, no i o sobakakh, o tsirke, o volshebnoy skripke, o kovre-samolyote” (“In this small collection there are stories not only about horses, but also about dogs, about a circus, about a magic violin, about a flying carpet”) (Rul’, 23 October 1929, p. 5).
44.29: hawking-tubes: as VN notes in A1, "invented."
44.31: his Ada and he: Se also 44.23-31n. Cf. 217.26-27: "Now I'm Scheher . . . and you are his Ada, and that's your green prayer carpet"; 257.06-08: "we manage, Ada and I, . . . we ride, we bike, we even jikker." MOTIF: his Ada.
45.15-16: Owing to a mixture of overlapping styles and tiles (not easily explainable in non-technical terms to non-roof lovers): A comment as applicable to Ada as to Ardis. Cf.. 350.20-21 and I.6 Afternote.
45.17: continuum, so to speak: The TS deletes the parenthesis that follows: "(we shall meet that word many times later)."
45.20: clip and kiss: Cf. 405.32-33: "clumsy Romany clips"; Lolita 170: "Innumerable lovers have clipped and kissed" (and Ulysses 3:384: "In the darkmans clip and kiss").
45.22: the inkline of larches: With pun on "incline" (see next n.). Cf. 231.05-06: "rain . . . in parallel pencil lines against the darker background of a larch plantation." MOTIF: larch.
45.22-23: larches that marked the boundary of the nearest estate miles away: Cf. 129.14-15: "the larchwood which closed the park on the steep side of the rocky rise between Ardis and Ladore."
45.29-31: Andalusian architect whom Uncle Dan wanted to plan an "artistic" swimming pool for Ardis Manor: Cf. 354.26-30 (see I.6 Afternote below), and 399.18-20: "Hey, and here's Alonso, the swimming-pool expert. I met his sweet sad daughter at a Cyprian party." A parodic exaggeration of a real-life model, SM 41: "an excellent modern [tennis] court had been built at the end of the 'new' part of the park by skilled workmen imported for Poland for that purpose"; perhaps also an echo of the hospital that an architect builds at Vronsky's estate (Anna Karenina, VI.xx), where there is also a tennis court and "the new European kind of luxury which she [Dolly] had only read about in English novels" (VI.xix).
45.31-34: Uncle Dan had intended to come, . . . but had caught the Russian "hrip" . . . good old Alonso. MOTIF: Dan's plans
45.32: hrip: When Carl Proffer identified hrip as Russian for "snore" and grip as Russian for "flu," VN on p. 407 of his copy of the article (see 43.33n.) wrote beside "snore": "no--rasping cough."
45.32-33: Spanish flu: Cf. NWL 87: "I went to bed with a bad attack of flu. . . . In Russia this illness was dubbed 'ispanka' (the Spanish lady)."
46.03-09: "I could show him . . . " "We also have . . . wasp upon it.": Cf. Van's and Ada's competitive exchange, also including allusions to painting, at 8.16-9.10.
46.04: nature morte: French, "still life." Cf. 111.19-21: "her natures mortes were considered (in 1888 and again 1958) incomparably superior to the works of the celebrated old rascal. . . . "
46.05: Juan de Labrador of Extremadura: Juan Fernandez "el Labrador" (fl. 1630), Spanish still-life painter, born at Jaraicejo, a small town in Extremadura. Charles Sterling, La Nature morte de l'Antiquité à nos jours (Paris: Piere Tisne, 1952) praised the then long-forgotten Labrador as a worthy forerunner of Sánches Cotán and Zurbarán (see next n.). Nabokov would have seen if not this edition, then at least its first English translation, Still-Life Painting From Antiquity to the Present Time (1959), in the course of his researches in 1964-65 for his uncompleted Butterflies in Art project. The painting Ada describes resembles the one painting that Sterling thought confidently attributable to Labrador: "Unfortunately no work unquestionably his has so far been found. The one with the most legitimate claim to authenticity is a fruit piece at Hampton Court, assigned to Labrador in the catalogue of the collection of Charles I of England. It represents a bowl of apples and grapes on a table, on which lie some acorns and other pieces of fruit. Leafy vine branches hang over the apples and fill the entire picture surface. . . . the light makes forms turn powerfully and renders them plastic. At the same time, the lighting respects the elegant precision of silhouettes: the faintest scalloping of leaves and the sinuous contours of apples stand out in bright lines, skillfully reserved against the shadowy sections of the background. Everything that goes to make up this style, broad and incisive at once, would be inconceivable without Caravaggio's influence. . . . A pronounced chiaroscuro gives an advanced look to the fruit piece at Hampton Court. . . . Labrador would thus emerge as a highly personal interpreter of Caravaggio, and would assume a leading role in the history of the Spanish still life; to him would go the credit for introducing that monumental grandeur which is so striking in Cotán and Zurbaran." (1952 ed., p. 63; cited from 2nd. English ed. [New York: Harper & Row, 1980], 94). Sterling notes in the second English edition (p. 19) that two other Labrador paintings have since been identified (in the 1970s), one dated 1636 and therefore suggesting that he was indeed younger than, not a coeval of, Caravaggio, and more a contemporary than a forerunner of Zurbarán than had been thought in the 1960s. [check also Sybille Ebert Schifferer, Still Life: A History (New York: Abrams, 1998), which not only suggests his role in spreading a Caravaggesque quality, but also his particular knack for portraying grapes; there is a flower-painting (lilies and dark red carnations) at the Prado, cat 2888)]Unlikely also to allude to the stock character Juan Labrador, symbol of the hard-working Spanish peasant, immortalized in Lope de Vega's play El villano en su rincòn (c. 1611), or despite the Vineland-Tobakoff-discovery theme, to João Fernandes Lavrador, the Portuguese discoverer of Greenland.
Cf. 3.10-11: "Bras d'Or." MOTIF: dore.
46.08-09: some Zurbarán fruit . . . Tangerines . . . and a fig of sorts, with a wasp on it: Since Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) painted few independent still-lifes, this would be a particular treasure, especially as such still lifes as survive are luminous (and inspired a large number of mostly anonymous followers whose works have often been attributed to him). The "tangerines" seem to reflect the brilliant orange of his most famous still life, "Lemons, Oranges, Cup and Flower" (1633, Norton Simon Museum, Los Angeles).
46.14-16: canastilla . . . en regard translation of a lovely Spanish poem in one of his schoolbooks: Darkbloom: "really two poems--Jorge Guillén's Descanso en jardin and his El otono: isla." VN owned a copy of Guillén's Cantico: A Selection, ed. Norman Thomas di Govanni (Boston: Little, Brown, 1965), with the poems "Descanso en jardín" ("Repose of Gardens") on pp. 46-47 (ll. 1-4, 17-20: "Los astros avanzan entre / Nubarrones / Hacia el último jardín. / Losas, flores. / . . . / Haya para el gran cansancio / Sombra acorde. / Los astros se acercan entre / Nubarrones": "The planets advance among / Thunderheads / Toward the ultimate garden. / Gravestones, flowers. / . . . / On that massive repose / May the darkness fall suitably! / The planets draw near among / Thunderheads now") and "El otoño: isla" ("Autumn: Island") on pp.52-55 (ll. 9-12: "Y una canastilla / De alegres racimos / Cela un equilibrio / De sueños en minus": "And a small basket / Of jubilant bunches [of grapes] / Conceals an equilibrium / Of potential dreams"). Guillén (1893-1984), one of Spain's foremost twentieth-century poets, was Nabokov's colleague, neighbor, friend and admirer at Wellesley College in the 1940s, and presented him with an inscribed copy of the 1945 edition of Canticos.
46.17-18: mariposa, butterfly, and the names of two or three birds (listed in ornithological guides) such as paloma, pigeon: Cf. SM 148: "From him I learned . . . that 'butterfly' in the Basque language is misericoletea--or at least it sounded so" (in fact, misirikote). Mariposon can mean, colloquially, "fickle flirt" and paloma, "prostitute." MOTIF: butterfly; whore.
46.19: hazel hen: Cf. 254.12 (and 256-258): "hazel hen."
46.20: anatomical term with a "j" hanging in the middle: El ojo means "the eye" and was the title of the 1967 Spanish translation of Nabokov's novella The Eye; cojon means "testicle."
46.23-24: French, intentionally but vainly italianized: Cf. 201.01-02: Marina's "a little zucchero" to Pedro by the completed pool in 1888.46.25: was over: emended by DN from 1969, "over."
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 6