Into the Mouth of Hell

The notion of Hell Mouth has been on my mind, Holy Week has just passed, Christ’s descent into Limbo, often referred to as the Harrowing of Hell being first and foremost. I also happen to be working on a series of painting in which the Gates of Hell feature more or less rather prominently. To see examples of the progress check out my studio journal Boondocks Babylon, link in sidebar.

My most direct inspiration for Hell Mouth being Andrea Mantegna’s depiction of Christ’s descent into darkness.

Andrea Mantegna

Christ’s Descent into Limbo


1468

Frick

Another inspiration, one I have turned to time and again is the monstrous gates at the Parco die Mostri.

Incredible beyond belief.

In my research, collecting various reference materials I soon came to realize Western Christians weren’t the only ones depicting the entrance to the Underworld with such ghoulish excess. Examples could be found in Asia, most specifically outside of Laos at Xieng Khuan, often referred to as Buddha Park. although not ancient, I believe built mid-century, they draw upon an outlandish tradition, clearly delighting in the creation of such demonic follies.

One may also turn to Mesoamerica at the Maya site of Chicanna. At the site “monster mouths”  had provided a dramatic backdrop for ceremonial processions, now marvelous photo opportunities.

For those not familiar with Mayan architecture the details can be puzzling given the geometric stylization, I suggest enlarging the image (all of the images for that matter). The eyes and teeth will become visible as you examine the complex design ;the visual puzzle it part of the pleasure I find in Mesoamerican art.

But I must confess the Hell Mouth that touches my heart the most is the architectural pastiche found in Montmartre at the sublimely bizarre cabaret l’Enfer. The entrance captured below by Atget.

facade of l’Enfer

photograph by Atget

The excessive sense of fun is such a pleasure , Philippe Jullian in his indispensable Montmartre tells us that the facade is essentially cardboard and plaster- but what wondrous paste.

The above image is terribly small, but if you are interested more  images can be found at this link.

I’m particularly delighted by this interior image, I snagged it from the wonderful blog Haunted Lamp (see sidebar) quite some time ago and I have treasured it  ever since.

In case you haven’t had your fill of fin de siècle smoke and mirrors check out this video clip bursting with vintage posters and publicity shots. I’m tickled by it .

As is so often the case this blog acts as  a great organizing tool for my ideas and interests;  I am so pleased that so many readers have shared these interests.

Until next time,

take care,

Babylon Baroque


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5 Responses to “Into the Mouth of Hell”

  1. Fredrick Rainear Says:

    WOW. Leonard this is pretty kewl. – Fredrick Rainear
    Martinsburg, PA.

  2. If I could go back in time (and speak French), L’Enfer would definitely be a destination!

  3. oh, what *haven’t* they thought of in montmarte?? i have to go there… that video is fabulous :D

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