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Claude Lorraine, Queen of Sheeba

Clause Lorraine, "The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheeba"

Claude appears as a name in Stevens' poem "Botanist on Alp (No.1)" and almost certainly refers to the French painter Claude Lorraine, whose 17th century landscapes brought prominence to what was considered an un-classical and extremely secular form. Though peopling his pictures with demi-gods, saints, and other mythic figures to satisfy his public's demand for "high seriousness," Lorraine was much more interested in atmospheric effect and light, and his work often includes a veiled Sun and deep horizons. In the poem, Stevens says that "Panoramas are not what they used to be" and complains that thinkers like "Marx" have ruined nature, but contends that Claude approaches a "central theme" despite the mechanical fixtures of arches, pillars, and statues in his painting. We can gesture toward this central theme by suggesting Stevens sees beyond the necessary and familiar religious and cultural tropes Claude used in his paintings to the expression and interpretation of a joyous "atmosphere" ("ecstatic air") that contends with the "panorama of despair" when you figure in the classical tragedies his work portrays. Stevens sees through to the real delight of the paintings, which lie in their expressions of light and nature.

Likewise, Stevens refers to Claude by his full name in "Phases," where he says "Peace means long, delicious valleys,/ In the mode of Claude Lorraine," and further emphasizes in this poem his view of Lorraine as expressing a harmonious artistic appreciation for nature and process, especially as this reference comes in a poem which meditates on the relation of art and war.
Claude Lorraine, Queen of Sheeba

Clause Lorraine, "The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheeba"