Our trusty Poliphilo has met up with his beloved Polia and is led hither and yon by her. He can barely restrain himself when he sits beside her: She is so beautiful, so celestially dazzling that his blood is inflamed, he is short of breath, and all he can imagine is throwing himself on her, moving his hands over her breasts, unlacing those delightful red leather slippers with the blue silk laces and half-moon ornaments, and… Yes, that’s the level of detail he goes into as he sings her praises – he loves her clothes, and every square inch of alabaster glowing skin they conceal. Which does he love more? It’s not always clear. But, he does restrain himself, and she directs him towards some absolutely fascinating classical ruins that he must go see. How could he resist? Antique architecture makes his heart beat (and his manhood grow rigid?) as much as Polia’s goddess-like forehead does.
Amidst all the broken architecture are numerous urns and plaques with incriptions in Latin telling of the woes encountered by lovers cursed by fortune. Included among them is a married couple that died on their wedding night, before consummating their love, when their house collapsed, crushing them to death in each other’s arms. None of these sorry tales – mostly involving spurned or lost lovers who take their own lives – cools Poliphilio’s love.
The images below show a massive architectural ensemble that Mr. P. finds and describes in great detail. I was reminded of this painting by Cosima Tura, one of my favorites, that is in the National Gallery in London. Tura was from Ferrara, midway between Venice, where Colonna, the author the Hypnerotomachia, lived, and Florence. He painted this at the same time that Hypnerotomachia was being written, but years before it was printed and published in the famous Aldus edition in Venice. Click on the images to see enlargements.