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"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” (Song of Solomon 7:1)

CAT 56 van der Heyden Song of Solomon 7.1 Suderman 1622 BA 71.jpg

CAT 55. Jacob van der Heyden. “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” (Song of Solomon 7:1) in Daniel Sudermann, Hohe geistreiche Lehren und Erklärungen: uber . . .  desz Hohen Lieds Salomonis. Frankfurt: Eberhardt Kieser,1622, p. 52. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Here the Christian allegory of the entire sequence of engravings becomes explicit as the angled timber that was visible in the foreground of CAT 54 becomes the huge cross being carried by the crowned female figure up to the mountain of crucifixion with the glorification of the holy sprit (“I.N.R.E.”) above it. As she walks, grasping the cross with one hand, the illuminated queen lifts her spotted robe high enough to reveal one of her slippered feet. In this image her flowing tresses are again unbound, filling the acute angle between the length of the cross and the back of her robe. The dark broken texture of the steeply rising hill and of the woodgrain of the cross heightens the full white light on her face, crown, chest, inner garment, and sandal. The city in the middle ground would seem to be the civic site from which this Christian pilgrimage has taken place; the building on the right anticipates the temple to be seen in CAT 57.

This image converts into purely Christian terms the praise for the female beloved in Song of Solomon 7:6, “How fair and pleasant you are, / O Love, for delights!” The commentary visible on the verso of Melville’s copy of this image begins by citing the same phrase in German (“Wie hüpsch und wie lieblich bistu / du Allerliebste zu Wollusten”). Its argument in rhymed couplets converts this seemingly amorous praise into the realms of God, the soul, the inner life, and heaven. Not visible on the back of Melville’s image, because it was beyond the border of the engraving that was cut from the other side of the page, is Sudermann’s marginal annotation crediting “S. Bernhard” of Clairvaux (and of Clarel) as the source for the opening lines of this commentary.

This is another image in the series that appears only once. Van der Heyden’s engraving and Sudermann’s subscription responding to it also give a specific Christian meaning to the passage from verse 7:1 selected by Sudermann as the inscription: “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” The foot that could have been interpreted in a secular, domestic context in CAT 50 and 51 enters the spiritual dimension in the shoe of the Christian pilgrim here.  Sudermann features the “feet with shoes” from verse 7:1 in the title caption for the engraving; he does not include the rest of that verse, in which “the joints of thy thighs are like jewels.”