MONAMY & MASONRY

   
    List of London Lodges, 1723.

"A correspondent writing to the Daily Journal of 5 September 1730 opened by remarking that '....the Subject of Free-Masonry has, in the Dearth of News, filled up many a Paper .....', and it is a fact that after 1722, and up into the mid-1730s, there was a remarkable increase in public interest in the Craft. ..... the Fraternity ..... seemed almost to be going out of its way to invite outside attention, with its public processions, theatrical bespeaks, press notices of its activities, and the like. The result was an extraordinary profusion of broadsheets, pamphlets, newspaper articles on masons and masonry."
From Grand Lodge, 1967, ed A.S.Frere; Chapter II, The Formation (i) 1717 to 1751, by T.O.Haunch, p 75.

The exact coincidence of time and place of the formation of English freemasonry, 1717-1751, with Monamy's relocation and residence in Westminster, c 1719-1749, seems too curious to be ignored. What a reasonably dedicated non-joiner is supposed to make of it is another matter. The icons and mysterious rituals of masonry have to be regarded with bewilderment by the non-adept. Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear that masonry was a powerful underground influence on a great number of 18th and 19th century painters, composers, poets and other writers, as well as politicians.

Hogarth was certainly very prominent among these: see Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Hogarth on the Square: Framing the Freemasons, in The British Journal for 18th Century Studies, Vol 26, No 2, 2003. In about 1981 Joseph Rykwert told me that Hogarth's father-in-law, and Monamy's fellow Painter-Stainer, Thornhill, had been the Master of a Lodge, and a note by Mulvey-Roberts (28; p 268) confirms that he was a Worshipful Master in 1725, and a Senior Grand Warden in 1728. After being told of Monamy's dates and domicile, Rykwert expressed the opinion that he must have been "in the thick of it"; and the fact that I had found no documentary proof meant nothing.

It can be difficult to establish firm evidence of an artist's involvement in masonry, even when masonic imagery is strongly suspected in his work: thus, in her Dossier on Courbet's Studio, p.269, Hélène Toussaint noted, 1977, "Despite the kind co-operation of the librarian and archivists of the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Grand Lodge of France and the Grand Orient, we have not been able to establish that Courbet was in fact a Freemason. ..... On the other hand many of his attitudes, writings and paintings suggest that he was a Mason ....."   Leon Plantinga, in a review of Maynard Solomon's Late Beethoven, in the TLS, May 28, 2004, remarks that "One subject that gains great prominence ..... is Beethoven's putative ties to Freemasonry, the eighteenth-century institution that affected the trappings of ancient chivalric brotherhoods while promoting the philosophical views of the Enlightenment, social equality, often anti-clericalism, and (in the minds of some) political sedition. ..... [but] it cannot be shown that Beethoven was ever a member of any lodge ....."

In a website, here, Maximianno Cobra discusses the künstlerische Verwandtschaft of Schiller's An die Freude to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and remarks that "Es besteht kein Zweifel daß beide Künstler sich von den freimaurerischen Prinzipien inspirierten. Trotz der Zuneigung aber bleiben sie immer außerhalb dieser Gesellschaft." Cobra points out that Freude was originally conceived as Freiheit. A hymn to Joy strikes me as inherently silly: a hymn to Freedom makes politically dangerous sense.

Mulvey-Roberts also comments, p.252, on "the Masonic malaise between 1730-1760", and notes that "Horace Walpole, the son of the Prime Minister and Freemason Robert Walpole, was to remark in 1743: 'The Freemasons are in [...] low repute now in England [...] I believe nothing but a persecution could bring them into vogue again.'" She adds, p.255, that "the Whig Prime Minister and Freemason, Robert Walpole, had no compunction in using the network of lodges as a system of espionage." She doesn't, however, appear to take note of Sir Robert's energetic suppression of any tendency to political opposition or sedition among his fellow Whigs. The Walpoles were prone to persecute.

A much more prominently masonic politician was George Washington; and many other figures come to mind, such as Rabbi Burns and Rudyard Kipling, not to mention the divine Mozart --- Johann Sebastian Mozart. Somehow it's difficult to smother a gentle smile when contemplating freemasonry.

The images above and to the right come from

First issued in 1766, this work, of 148 small pages, is said to be by a M.Berage, with an additional four pages translated from the German of Karl, Freiherr von Köppen. The most secret mysteries of the freemasons will remain a mysterious secret on this website.

Two concepts are being jumbled together on this page: the benefits of belonging to a fraternal organisation; and the geometric substructure of a work of art. The rest of the page will look more closely at the second of these.

   

   

"It is reported then that Michael Angelo vpon a time gaue this observation to the Painter Marcus de Sciena his scholler; that he should alwaies make a figure Pyramidal, Serpentlike, and multiplied by one two and three. In which precept (in mine opinion) the whole mysterie of the arte consisteth ....." From Hogarth's Preface to The Analysis of Beauty, 1753. His illustration of the precept is shown left.

Ignore the eyes in the pineapples, which have been frivolously inserted into the drawing. The pillars may have significance, however, for according to Hélène Toussaint (see below): "Part of the essential furnishings of a [masonic] lodge consists of the two Pillars of the Temple ....". Though waves may be serpentlike, the only pillars which come to mind in a marine context are the Pillars of Hercules. Images of the sea are resistant to any form of architectural construction. Which is not the case with any other genre of painting.

The underlying geometric complexities of the rather well-known painting below have been widely recognized and commented on; and they undeniably add to the exceptional impact which this work has had on all who have seen it. Which means in imperfect reproduction for the vast majority, of course. The reality of its permanent and continuous deterioration, conservation and restoration merely seems to add to the impression it gives of having a sentient life of its own.


see website here

The grouping of the twelve apostles into four pyramidal sets of three is only slightly less obvious than the convergence of the whole of the rest of the composition upon the figure of Christ, with a focal point, it has been noted, centred on the right eye. The figure itself is framed in a perfect equilateral triangle. Mulvey-Roberts, p 262, notes that "Bernard E.Jones points out that every balanced example of an architectural structure provides the points from which an equilateral triangle can be drawn." She adds that Jones, in the Freemason's Guide and Compendium, mentions "that an equilateral triangle was used as the base for many important Georgian buildings." p.522. Leonardo da Vinci's dates are 1452-1519, and his membership of the fraternity is open to extremely serious question by non-members, however. The equilateral triangle in the Last Supper seems instead to express the three-in-one of the Trinity.


Detail from Mark Harden Artchive

    Turner's triangles over Raphael's Transfiguration print. See here.

In fact, the underlying structure of Raphael's print seems to me more nearly that of a pentangle.    

Perhaps both figures are present.

                                                                                                                       

From The Dossier on The Studio by Gustave Courbet, article by Hélène Toussaint, 1977
     

Toussaint's analysis of Courbet's The Studio is fascinating; especially the section entitled The 'atelier' and the 'loge'. Since the Courbet exhibition catalogue only came into my hands on 10 June 2004 I had no conception of any latent masonic influences when originally proposing an improbable affinity between Monamy and Courbet: see here. Courbet was of course not even a marine painter, although the catalogue mentions, p.187, that "It is impossible to enumerate all Courbet's paintings of waves".

In commenting on this now extremely famous painting, shown above, Toussaint points out that although "almost all [Courbet's] compositions are based on two overlapping squares ..... The Studio divides naturally into ten equilateral triangles. The triangle, as is well-known, is considered a perfect figure by Freemasons ....." To be frank, however, it does not appear to me that the ten triangles are precisely equilateral. By adding the four right-angled triangles at the edges, two more isosceles triangles are formed, making twelve in all.

How does a painter manipulate and adapt the images he resorts to for insertion into his composition?

Here is Hélène Toussaint's graphic illustration of the use that Courbet made of a photograph.

Not altogether different from Monamy's use of prints and drawings by earlier marine painters; eg van de Velde etc.


see here for more geometry

maritime masonry
analysis of beauty
18th century aesthetics
image transmogrification
hope and glory 1       hope and glory 2       hope and glory 3       what, when, why
Hogarth, Monamy, and The Connoisseurs
monamy website index


Hogarth's Sleeping Congregation: oil & print
Somewhere I read the preacher was meant to be Desaguliers, but this doesn't seem to be widely accepted.

"Desaguliers took deacon's orders in Fulham in 1710 and priest's orders in Ely in 1717. In 1716 he was appointed chaplain to James Brydges (later the duke of Chandos) who became his most valuable patron and made him rector of Stanmore Parva, Middlesex, in 1719; between 1717 and 1738 Desaguliers acquired two further livings (running consecutively in Bridgeham, Norfolk, and Little Warley, Essex) from George I and George II, and two more chaplaincies (to Frederick, prince of Wales, and to a military regiment). These appointments testify less to Desaguliers's religious commitment than to his skill at acquiring sources of income." ODNB

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2004, 2008
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