Paul Cadmus 1904-1999
- Paul Cadmus
- signed Cadmus, l.l. and inscribed Notturno Bologna on the reverse
- egg tempera on gessoed panel
- 11 1/2 by 16 in.
- (29.2 by 40.6 cm)
- Painted in 1957.
Acquired by the present owner's parents from the above, 1972
Connoisseur, October 1968, illustrated
Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, New York, 1984, p. 157
Notturno-Bologna is closely related to Night in Bologna, 1958, in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Lincoln Kirstein observed: "In Night in Bologna [Cadmus] projects Bolognese architecture for one of his largest, most impressive, and most admired egg-tempera compositions. A town of major historical significance, site of a great ancient university, capital of the province of Emilia and headquarters of a military district, it prompted the painter toward his most accomplished realization of recessive perspective with human figures set in geometric space. Narratively, it is his most subtle, tightly structured work, a psychologically acute chart of sexual attraction. The tension within its formal confines is akin to the scope of a novel rather than that of an anecdotal incident. Its basic plot is the scenario of a triangular theorem stating the interaction of three aligned bodies, natures, and desires.
"A lonely Italian enlisted man, free from night garrison duty but far from home, is spotlit electrically in the famous slim-pillared arcades of Bologna's covered streets. Evening is late; restaurant tables have long been cleared. The soldier stares hungrily at the tightly sheathed body of a satiny whore who is still hoping to glean whatever could be left her in the town's deserted center. But her particular target sits anxiously alone at a far table, his well-traveled suitcase his only companion. This sad tourist, in turn, longs only for the predatory male animal in sharp military jacket, trousers, and boots, whose gaze is riveted on the girl in gold" (Paul Cadmus, 1984, p. 85-88).
In the present painting, this lone soldier looms largely in the foreground, on the threshold of the viewer's space. He leads us into the composition along a row of steeply receding columns which go past the composition's natural vanishing point. In this mysterious and slightly menacing world and claustrophobic space the soldier loiters suggestively as the curious tourist cranes his neck in his effort to see around the column. Cadmus not only objectifies the seductive soldier for the tourist but for the viewer as well, given his intimate closeness that reaches out almost beyond the picture plane. Without the presence of the prostitute as the third member of this human triangle, the sexual tension and overtones between the muscular, overtly masculine figure in uniform and the ghostly tourist form a very different narrative than the one Cadmus paints a year later in Night in Bologna.