Father Time and Orpheus (the Astrologer)

Anonymous, sixteenth-century Venetian, reproduced by permission of the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. It is a small furniture panel, 12 x 19.5cm, in the style of Giorgione (1477- 1511), and known as 'Father Time and Orpheus', or by the earlier title 'The Astrologer'.

The musician has been considered to represent either Apollo or Orpheus. Infra-red analysis reveals an underdrawing showing the musician placed near two deer confronting each other, which favours the Orphic interpretation. The buck is visible in the painting, but the hind has been covered by the figure with the hourglass. The angelic musician plays the lira da braccio, the instrument used by Marsilio Ficino in his invocations. This suggests that the astrologer times the planetary hours for the musician, commencing the day with the first planetary hour at the moment of dawn.

See the study pp119-20 by Jaynie Anderson Giorgione: the painter of "poetic brevity" (translated from the French edition originally published in 1996: English edition published by Flammarion, Paris and New York, 1997). Jaynie Anderson assumes that the picture shows a setting Sun, but I believe it is symbolically appropriate to treat this as the moment of sunrise.

Angela Voss describes an omen inspired by this mysterious painting, and uses it as a path of entry to the imaginal world of Ficino's Orphic hymns; see her essay Father Time and Orpheus. Angela Voss's website is www.angelavoss.freeuk.com

There resides in this picture, and in its naming, the hermeneutic circle of a te et a scientia, 'by you and by the science'.

< ^ 7 Sep 03