Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alternative question

When I first read the alternative question, I immediately thought of Leona, not Bonadea, as someone who was described in a similar way to our interpretation of Klimt's painting, although there are some differences. In terms of descriptions of her physical person, Leona is described as striking in "the moist darkness of her eyes, the dolefully passionate expression on her handsome, regular, long face"(17). She is also "curvaceously slender [and] provocatively lifeless" (16). All of these resonate with Klimt's depiction of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele is slender yet the contours of the gold and silver suggest a curvaceousness to her figure. I think that she definitely seems to have a "handsome, regular, long face"; her features seem plain and "regular" individually, but there is something about their totality that the description "handsome" captures. The medium of painting could lend itself to a description of "provocatively lifeless." It is lifeless in the sense that it is a painting, and it is suspending and capturing a moment in time. However, it is provocative because his depiction is so interesting and attention-grabbing and, well, provocative in the sense that there is no clear way to interpret it. Leona is also described as capturing the "banished ideal beauty of an earlier period"(17). This seemed particularly relevant to Klimt's painting in terms of technique and style. The vibrant and soft way that her skin, hands, and face are painted and their lack of definition remind me of Renaissance (or earlier) depictions of women.

Leona, however, is in an entirely different echelon of society than Adele. I think that Adele represents what Leona would like to be. Leona is "an incredible glutton"(17) who desperately wants to move up in society. Adele, in Klimt's painting, looks as if she is being enveloped by wealth and decoration and excess in a very gluttonous way. This is similar to Leona's eating episodes, where she eats until her seams almost burst. So, the two women, although in different social classes, seem to be portrayed in a similar manner by their respective observers/creators.


Mina said...

It is interesting that you say this, because I also first thought of Leona rather than Bonadea to be similar to Mme. Adele. The physical description that you listed is one thing for sure. I also imagine Leona as a person who lives in her own world, sort of distant from real-life, and having a distant gaze. This is also a feature that I find in Klimt's painting of Adele. I find her very beautiful yet her expression is definetely ennui, and I feel sort of distant when I look at her face. That same distant-ness is what I see in both Adele and Leona.

If I was to speculate for the reason accounting for this, I guess I would say that the only way to preserve your true self in a society that constantly evaluates you is to retreat within yourself.

Lasica said...

I too had an immediate feeling that Leona was more physically similar to Adele than Bonadea, but Adele and Bonadea definitely belong to the aristocratic class. There are some similarities between the two that are certainly evident. But I can see parts of both Bonadea and Leona in the portrait of Adele. Leona is not even bourgeois exactly, yet her physical description certainly matches that of Adele. The name Leontine means “lion” but the name Leona means “strong as a lion”. There is a distinction between the two…One is actually the lion, the other is similar to the lion…perhaps Leona wants to be a lion? I am curious why Musil chose to name his character like this, it does add a new layer to his narrative. I became curious when I realized from the other post that “Ulrich” had such a specific meaning. The name Adele means “noble.” but Bonadea, well, I think it must mean something like “good god.” I think this tells us something very important about Klimt’s painting and also about Musil’s writing. I am definitely interested in exploring this in Musil’s book. I will have to keep a careful eye on names throughout this novel to determine how he uses names and language. It definitely adds a new layer.