Friday, July 10, 2015

16C Golf - Connection between "farmers' golf" & David & Bathsheba

Lucas van Gassel (Dutch artist, 1490-1568) The grounds of a Renaissance palace illustrating episodes from the story of David & Bathsheba using Tennis & Beugelen

During the 1500s, artist Lucas Gassel of Helmond 1490-1568 & some of his contemporaries, painted landscapes of Charles V's main palace & its extensive gardens.  They used them to illustrate the biblical story of David & Bathsheba.  They saw the emperor’s extensive gardens as a perfect setting to play a game of tennis, buegelen, or a variety of other courtly pastimes which served as tempting symbols of courtly pleasures easier to enter than to escape.

Lucas van Gassel (Dutch artist, 1490-1568) Landscape with courtly pleasure grounds illustrating David & Bathsheba's temptations with Tennis & Beugelen 

Tennis is visible on the right side of these paintings, and in a smaller walled area on the left is a court for an early form of beugelen (a Belgian/Dutch game, sometimes called farmers' golf), though it looks suspiciously like lawn billiards, which claims common ancestry with the French pall mall. 

Henri met de Bles (Southern Netherlandish artist, 1480-1555) a copy of Lucas van Gassel  Illustrating David & Bathsheba using Tennis & Beugelen

The principal literary source of inspiration for these paintings came from the pen of Antonio de Guevara, in particular his Del Menosprecio de la corte y alabanzade la aldea (A Dispraise of the Life of a Courtier), published in 1539, one year before Gassel’s production of the 1st allegorical painting of this sort. Guevara served Charles V as preacher & chronicler. On the one hand the Menosprecio is a eulogy of country life with all its simple pleasures, on the other it is a bitter attack on the machinations at court. On several occasions Guevara alludes to the potentially corrupting qualities of tennis & other games in his writings, especially if they involved money.

Another depiction of palace grounds illustrating the temptations of David & Bathsheba using Tennis & Beugelen

At the end of his preface to the Menosprecio, the author refers to the adultery of David & Bathsheba, as described in the bible. Gassel probably included the maze in his paintings as a tempting symbol of courtly pleasures from which it would be difficult to escape. The subject obviously appealed to the nobility, because between 1540-1560, about 12 copies were made at Gassel’s workshop of the original, all very similar in their layout & all including games such as beugelen & an open tennis court.