Several years ago my favorite postcard went missing. I use them as bookmarks and assumed I had accidentally left it in a book I returned to the library. I lost this particular bookmark before. Luckily I missed it almost immediately and raced back and found the book reshelved in the Yorkville branch of the New York Public Library with my bookmark still inside!
This morning while doing some research I opened a book and viola!
I’ve had this postcard since my freshman year of college. I bought it at the campus bookstore at Washington University in St. Louis little knowing that I would go on to study the Pre-Raphaelites for my senior project and later my MA thesis. And I found the bookmark in an exhibition catalog for a show at the Peabody Essex Museum on the Maya – the subject of my second MA thesis. Not sure what the universe is trying to tell me – one obsession lost and lodged within another, both of them pushed aside too often as I work through my daily life in a largely unrelated field.
The subject of the painting is from Tannhäuser, a German Minnesinger (writer of lyric poems and songs), who died after 1265. Little is known about him, his poems date from 1245 to 1265, and his lineage is assumed to related to the Lords of Thannhausen in Bavaria. He was a courtier at the court of Frederick II of Austria (1230–1246),
Here he wears the habit of the Teutonic Order and may have fought the Fifth Crusade (1213–21). Tannhäuser became a legend and was transformed over the centuries into a knight and poet who found the Venusberg (Venus’ underground dwelling) and lived with her there, worshipping the goddess. For a year. He if silly leaves and travels to Rome to ask forgiveness from Pope Urban IV. The Pope declares this as impossible as it is for his papal staff to blossom and Tannhäuser leaves. Three days later, Urban’s staff blooms with flowers. Messeengers are sent to recall the knight but he has returned messengers to Venusberg and is never to be seen again.
Though the Tannhäuser story is only a legend I feel that the current Pope would not have sent Tannhäuser away with that answer.