Business and Humanities

Written on December 11, 2007 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui

Sandrobotticelliprimavera108951 Many of you will be aware that one of Botticelli’s most famous paintings, The Spring, has recently been discovered not to be The Spring, after all. That will be something for Julián to write about some day, when A finds out that he is not A. People will speak about him not with his new name, whatever it is (B sounds good enough, and looks as if I was doing some serious logic). He will be “so called A”, or “former A, now B”. I have often seen that when labels are found inadequate, they do not disappear, but incorporate their refutation. I knew somebody, for example, called Pete the Monk because he was in some sort of monastic order. When he gave it up people did not call him again Pete, but “Pete the Monk who then left the convent”. It seems impossible not to think of A as A, even if is just to say he is not A. Just think about it and you will see you all know some self-refuted nicknames. So let us all prepare to hear about Botticelli’s “so-called Spring” from now on. Frankly, I doubt very much that the "Wedding of Philology and Mercury" will succeed as a title to attract mass tourism.

          It did appeal, however, and very much so, to the Medici in Florence when, to celebrate their alliance to the Vespucci, who held the control of iron mines in Elba, they ordered a painting inspired in De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. That was the title of a quite obscure Late Antiquity mystic poem of Martianus Capella, who allegorized according to neo-Platonic trends the union of trade and literature. Philology (the figure we used to call Venus or the Spring) is accompained by Rhetoric (she was not Flora!) and Poetry, while Mercury, the god of trade, seems to be thinking of something else, unaware that Cupid is pointing at him with his arrow. With all due respect for Capella, I have to say I find Botticelli’s painting much better than its source. In fact, it was equally good before we knew its theme. Even if many guides talk mostly about the iconography of the paintings, what we like in a painting is precisely what goes beyond the subject and transforms it into trascendent and perennial beauty. But today I will do as a “self-proclaimed art critic who finally was not an art critic” and focus only on the subject of the painting, Mercury and Philology, or to put it in our terms, business and humanities.

          In 15th century Florence this marriage was at its prime, and the wealthy Medici made of their protection of arts and literature a distinctive sign of their power and influence. Some of the finest paintings of all times are due to their combination of refined taste and boldness to encourage new techniques. Also, a great part of ancient literature was published and translated because of their tireless efforts to find out and study ancient manuscripts. Those were the happy days in the marriage of these two gods, when they resisted Savonarola’s attempt to kill both young brides burning together books and jewels. But even the best couples (people who know say) have ups and downs. Nowadays mutual love seems to have cooled down the ancient fire, and business and humanities wake up most days distant and aloof. There has been too much selfish caring about oneself and not about the partner on both sides. And more than one infidelity, also on both sides. Mercury says he was forced into that marriage by his family, Philology says that she has been deceived. But the good thing about gods is that, being immortal, they have time to get over quarrels and disappointments. Look at the emphasis on humanities of the Instituto de Empresa. Look at this blog. It looks good, doesn’t it?, as one of those dinners of reconciliation. If I were a god-gossiper, I would give the scoop that Philology and Mercury are giving themselves another opportunity and trying to save their long marriage for the benefit of their children.


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