REASONS FOR TRAVELLING TO ITALY – Part 1 – UNDER THE TELEFONINO
A conversation between: Jacob Philipp Hackert, Charles Gore and Richard Payne Knight
I say Hackert might that be your Telefonino?
Ja Gore, but be a good fellow und use it to call Goethe, he will soon be arriving in Rome. We must inform him zat we are here on the 27th of May 1777 beside the ruined tower of Philosopher Empedocles.
Hang on a minute old chap I do think Payne Knight should have first go and inform Mr. Burke of this sublime Etna eruption. What was that you just said Payne Knight… the wind took your words…
…they were not addressed to you Gore, nor to Herr Hackert, nor his frozen dog Peliccione… I was simply remarking, to posterity, that “ I felt myself elevated above humanity & looked down with contempt upon the mighty objects of ambition under me“.
If Hackert’s telefonino is the object to which you refer, might I dare observe that its presence in this setup is as questionable as our own.
Ha Gore, and who is responsible for laying the seeds of doubt – not poor Hackert who is so busy pumping out vedutes for us English Dilettante that it will take five more years before he commits the three of us here on Etna to gouache (244×358 mm); perhaps his chum Balthazar Anton Dunkler who quick smart in that same year (1782) whipped out a lithograph to flog to all and sundry – a runner I might add, so much so that one C.Taylor again copied it with diligence in 1804 (only a few stones out of place) and I myself will most likely bequeath my Dunkler (and also even a few of your amateur scrachings, which Hackert takes such pains to correct) to the British Museum.
Hang on old chap, don’t forget that flea-bag hiding behind the epigram ‚Anonimo Napoletano‘ who’s scurrilous incisione is taken direct from Hackert and Dunkler but, to my great personal injury, with only two surviving figures. Myself along with the mutt Peliccione are edited, gone, erased from history.
Now your getting warm Gorey – one could well enquire which media might be responsible for evaporating your good self? Who was it who subsequently copied that froggo Höuel’s figures into his less than original drawing (262x343mm Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Graphische Sammlung) of that desperate Goats Grotto we were forced to put up in last night. You even had the nerve to ascribe the names of Richard Payne Knight, Jakob Philipp Hackert and Charles Gore to the appropriated scruffy figures…. and then to top it all, that erroneous detail which diligent art historians (Andreas Stolzenburg) could not fail to spot – that tree in full bloom – casting my diary notes of snow flakes and the first buds of spring into historiographic disrepute. You even managed to transform poor Peliccione into a night-black mongrel.
You Payne-Knight are one to talk – you will probably trot back to the realm of King George and pursue an illustrious career theorizing the Picturesque. I’ll have you know that Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Hoüel, whose details I have indeed had cause to quote, includes in his 4 volume Voyage Pittoresque des Isles de Sicile et de Lipardi (1782-87) the exact scene in which we now stand. Picturesque ha! – Etna is not erupting, the supposed Tower of Empedocles is being hastily thrown together by a pair of rustics, a mimetic prop for Grand-Tourists no doubt …. and as for we three gentleman, you with cane and wide cap, me in my elegant blue cape (here I thank Herr Hackert for the accuracy of his memory) are rendered as lumpy ruffians, rude staff in hand, more concerned with holding on to their hats than the sublime panorama unfolding before them.
Gentleman, Gentleman, allow me, the artists responsible for this controversial set-up to remind you zat you are both British…. it may vell be zat those colonists are right now giving you a spot of trouble on ze other side of the Atlantic but all ze more reason to take a long term perspective on image status, forms of visibility, originality, technology, reproducibility. All art is construct, even more so when it brings me a healthy income. It may well be zat I have grafted one of Hamilton’s Vesuvius eruptions onto the Sicilian peak …. and yes indeed, zat is my Telefonino. I urge you to take is as a memento-mori, a fold in time – a counter-factual history – if I may so anticipate Signor Borges.
Payne Knight and Gore (in unison) – well said Hackert old chap, it is a pleasure indeed to take instruction from you …. a sentiment we would also have no hesitation extending to your esteemed countrymen Goethe and Winkelmann.