Grotsquerie @ the Hermitage
When Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1483-1520, (aka Raphael) designed the wildly inventive ornament for the Vatican in the new Grotto style, could he have predicted how popular they would be? Not only were they well received by his contemporaries, they have provided influence to this day. I constantly draw upon the designs as a resource for my own work.
When my friend Eleanor Schapa, the beloved maven (UCLA/Santa Monica College) of all that is European and decorative recently visited the Hermitage she stumbled upon fantastic copies of Raphaels designs.. Apparently the art was not engaging enough, as dear Eleanor found herself snapping away at the wall decoration. Evidently a rather imposing lady guard made her stop, but what we have following is a result of Eleanor and her determined furtive snapping.
This amazing young man, dead at 37, produced such ravishing ornament. We all know his “true art”, but this ornament expresses such wit and cleverness.
I particularly love the bits of nature he adds to the composition. There is the usual prettiness, little birds and butterflies, but I am tickled beyond measure by the addition of rats, RATS, rodents in the Vatican!
This particular fellow is just so chubby and delightful.
I love the delicacy of the painting, the flashes of crimson against the blue-ish green of the acanthus rosette, so striking.
This is just such a great combination, the elegant pheasant, graceful arcs of grass and sumac, red headed woodpeckers, and all balanced on the prickly back of a porcupine. a wonderful porcupine.
I was first introduced to Raphael’s designs, as so many American artists are, through the great 19th cent. pattern books of Owen Jones The Grammar of Ornament,and Auguste Racinet’s Racinet’s Historic Ornament, series 1. The plates that I encountered in those volumes, whetted an appetite for writhing, convoluted, mad decoration. The 19th century produced even more insane versions, adding Baroque elements. But the almost straight forward designs Rapheal produced most often, rely upon a balanced design.
Swagging, winged putti, masques, …… can’t go wrong.
I’ve always wanted to paint such a truly grotesque monster-girl as this, I have usually met resistance from clients, but someday.
There is something strikingly moderne’ about the tigers, they remind me of Art Deco mural decorations, the kind you would find in coffee shops and ocean liners. Populist Deco
There was, perhaps is, a wonderful coffee shop in my hometown of Trenton. The walls were decorated with wonderful tigers and gazelles in rich reds and olives. The coffee was horrifying, but I spent every moment I could there, just absorbing the wall decoration.
I must thank dear Catherine the Great, and Eleanor the Grand, for we would not have these wonderful images.