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Shrinking Michelangelo

In response to:

Shrinking Michelangelo from the June 28, 1984 issue

To the Editors:

It is unfortunate that Leo Steinberg’s brilliant demolition of Liebert’s psychoanalytical analysis of Michelangelo should be marred by gross mistranslations of the description of the Medea sarcophagus. Verecundia detecta can hardly mean “her shyness laid aside”; it would be better rendered by “her modesty revealed” or “exposed to view.” “Sparing blandishments she lightens his concerns” is not only arrant nonsense in the context, it is also hopelessly astray. Parca blanditiis might possibly mean “sparing blandishments” but why should a comforter be “sparing” in “blandishments”? And why should Proserpina comfort someone? She is the one whose grief (not “concern”) needs relief. And who on earth is the male person referred to by the word “his”? What the Latin seems to mean is “One of the Fates relieves her sorrows by charming discourse”; this must refer to the figure of the old women on the left of Proserpina. Further-more, “children of Elissia” cannot be extracted from the Latin Elisii pueri. The phrase might possibly mean “boys belonging to Elisius” (whoever he was) but in fact what the sentence must mean is “boys bring her flowers and fruits of Elysium.”

Bernard Knox

The Center for Hellenic Studies

Washington, DC

The Editors replies:

Professor Steinberg neither translated the text Mr. Knox refers to nor intended that this translation be published.

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