Archive for October, 2010

Häxan, bewitching, bewildering, perverse

Posted in 20th century, Benjamin Christensen, Black Arts, Häxan, Luis Ricardo Falero, Silent Film on October 28, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Departure of the Witches

1878

Luis Ricardo Falero

b. 1851-d.1896

 

As the season of magic comes to an end, one last indulgence; the fantastic film of 1922, Häxan.

original poster

Loosely translated as The Witches, this film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen is spooky as hell, beautifully produced, referencing medieval illumination, conjuring Satan, lust, desire, transgression, ignorance, &  torture. What more could you wish for?

still from Häxan

still from film

Benjamin Christensen is best known for his role in Michael a groundbreaking gay themed film of 1924 in which he plays the long suffering sugar daddy Claude Zoret.

A post for another day.

Benjamin Christensen

b. 28th September 1879

d. 2nd April 1959

The Witches Sabbath

Luis Ricardo Falero

Häxan effectively conjures images of the tortures of Hell, so familiar to Medieval Christians. Christensen’s mechanized Hades, a wonder. Please make sure you look for it.

Satan is particularly compelling, seductive in the most horrifying way. When he convinces  the hot little vixen/amateur witch to forsake the bliss of her marital bed, he is most deliciously wicked.

Apparently playing for both teams, Satan offers temptation to a Brother of the Cloth.

Please have this image in mind when viewing the nun sequence, it is perfection. I love the nun sticking out her tongue to convention, patriarchy, the Holy Church, to God Himself.

I love how Satan lurks within the shadows in this clip, so terrifying.

It is a fascinating film, one I have not had the pleasure of seeing in its entirety. I plan to remedy that shortly.

Although Häxan is meant to be an interpretation of the Malleus Maleficarum, that charming 15th cent. How-to-Guide to get potential witches to spill the beans, confess their ( hopefully sexy) sins, and  bravely face the purifying flames of God. What I think its really about is the fear of…

With that, have a very spirited Halloween!

Babylon Baroque

Sarah Bernhardt, Dark Spirit

Posted in 19th cent., Memento Mori, Recquiscat in Pace, Sarah Bernhardt, Sculpture, Silent Film on October 27, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As October closes and I have less and less excuses to indulge my darker tastes, I thought it wise to end with Sarah.

Sarah had the great charm of not only being a lively sprite, indulging fully in what life presented to her; she also seemed to take great pleasure in darker delights.

Many may be familiar with her magnificent inkstand, fashioned in her likeness; a sphinx eager to devour the hearts of men, bearing upon her shoulder emblems of her craft, Tragedy & Comedy.

Inkwell

Self portrait as Sphinx

ca. 1880

artist: Sarah Bernhardt

1844-1923

bronze

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Not only gifted on stage but  the studio as well, gotta love the gal.

That ostrich plume will just drive you mad.

As a boy I encountered this image of Sarah in her coffin. any devotee of the Divine One knows the image, but I never tire of it. Evidently neither did her public, it was wildly popular.

by Milandru

Sarah Bernhardt posing in her coffin

ca. 1880

albumen print cabinet card

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

I love the inclusion of her portrait bust , she is the artist of course.

Portrait Bust

ca. 1878 Sarah Bernhardt

Museé d’ Orsay

Paris

As an actress she of course excelled at Tragedy, here she is as the great Elizabeth encountering Essex, having had ordered his execution. You don’t get more dramatic then this, her hand wailing- I can totally relate …

ca. 1899

Sadly all the play acting came to an end, we only have bits of brittle film to remember her by.

At least she is eternal neighbors with Oscar.

And with that,

Babylon Baroque

A Trip to the Moon

Posted in 20th century, Apollo 11, Georges Melies, Silent Film on October 22, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In anticipation of the upcoming full moon, 10 hours or so from now GMT, I thought a continuation of Méliès was in order. His masterwork La Voyage dans la Lune a perfect theme.

source

It is an intensely charming film. I have heard that Thomas Edison bootlegged the film, denying Méliès proper compensation.

My sources are conflicted as I  had also heard Edison  bootlegged another  Méliès  film La Manoir du diable (source).


Whichever,shame on Mr. Edison.

A Trip To The Moon

1902

Thank you Georges!

Georges Méliès

b. Dec. 8th 1861

d. Jan, 21st 1938

I thought it would be fun to contrast Méliès’ fanciful version of a trip to the moon to the actual drab reality.

Moon Landing July 20th 1969



Apollo 11 landing

Buzz Aldrin

source

 

For fascinating stills such as the following of La Voyage dans la Lune I suggest you follow this link.

I love this scene, the rocket ship soon to crash the aquatic calm. Like a giant aquarium.

Enjoy the full moon!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Hobgoblins, Imps and Wizards, the magical world of Georges Melies

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Georges Melies, Silent Film on October 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I adore this season, I am given full indulgence in expressing my passion for hairy little devils, green imps, and dancing skeletons.

Clearly my beloved Georges Méliès shared this passion as his films are chock-a-block with frantic little monsters.

(unrelated but charming little fellow)

The following clip , the magical moment of la danse de feu, a little over a minute, is intensely charming.

La Danse de Feu

the Pillar of Fire

1899

I know you are busy, but PLEASE take a moment and savor Méliè’s genius.

The Master

Georges Méliès

b. Dec. 8th 1861

d. Jan. 21st 1936

You have to love a fellow willing to photograph his beloved wife a la guillotine.

Jeanne d’Alcy

1865-1956

source

More devilish magic

La Diable Noir

The Black Imp

1905

a little cinematic wizardry…

La Lune A Un Metre

The Astronomer’s Dream

1898

 

Just wondrous!

The spooky munching moon is just too much.

I love the Diana character.

I’ll leave you with my own little hobgoblin.

Miss Daisy

Good Evening

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

 

Death and the Maiden, Antoine Wiertz and morbidity

Posted in 19th cent., A. Wiertz, art pompier, Death & the Maiden, Hans Grien, Memento Mori on October 18, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have within my collection a small little souvenir catalog (19th cent.) from the Musée Wiertz in Brussels. It is brittle and yellowed with age; within glorious sepia images, shocking in content. Rich, narrative paintings, exploring darkness. I thought Wiertz and his work suitable for this season of hobgoblins.

The two young girls or the pretty Rosine

1847

oil on canvas

Musée Wiertz, Brussels

I would love to share images from the catalog, but it is so fragile, I rarely open it. I will just share the cover.

author’s collection

A talented  artist, prone to bombastic paintings,often dismissed by his contemporaries; his work will most likely find few  admirers in our current culture of restraint.

I of course love him, but I tend to favor the derided art pompier school of painting.

Antoine Joseph Wiertz

b. Feb. 22nd 1806

d. Jun. 18th 1865

Why Wiertz focused so frequently on the dark and disturbing I do not know, but it couldn’t have helped his popularity.

Please be prepared, many of the images are gory.


Hunger, Madness, Crime

1864

Just your typical little painting of a starving mad-woman devouring her young, charming touch, the babe’s foot in the cauldron.

Suicide

1854

( Satan looking pretty hot)

Guillotined Head

1855

The young sorceress

( saucy little thing)

The precipitated inhumation

(gotta love THAT title)

Quasimodo

Satan

(another saucy little thing)

A Scene in Hell

1864

(love the Napoleon reference, perhaps in response to his poor Parisian reception)

Although clearly prolific, Wiertz did not enjoy widespread acclaim. As hinted at above, Paris was less then enthused. He did manage to persuade the Belgian State to construct a museum devoted to his life work.

Musée Wiertz

Brussels

To get a sense of the scale of his monumental paintings, check out the size of this gallery.

Interior Musée Wiertz

end wall,” Revolt of the Hell against the Heaven”.

In the end, Wiertz died in his studio, evidently his remains buried a la pharoah,according to some sacred Egyptian burial rite.

A grand fitting end .

I will close with a gallery devoted to Death & the Maiden

Three ages of woman and death

Hans Balgung Grien

1509-1510

Wishing you a cheery week!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

For more images of Wiertz’s work click here.

source

source

Marie Antoinette la Reine Martyre

Posted in 18th century, Basilica of Saint-Denis, Bourbon monarchy, French-American, Jacques Louis David, Kucharski, Marie Antoinette, R.I.P., Vigee Le Brun on October 15, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Before we begin the frivolities of the weekend, I thought it important to remember that tomorrow, October 16th , at 12:15 p.m. marks the 217th anniversary of this great woman’s murder.

Recquiscat in Pace

Queen Marie Antoinette of France

b. 2nd November 1755

d. 16th October 1793, 12:15 pm

Daughter of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and  Holy Roman Emperor Franz I. Stephan of Austria

ca. 1786

Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

Art Institute, Detroit

(of all places)

There are two anniversaries on the annual calendar that  upon my ritual reading of the events causes my heart to ache. The first being the reading of the Passion , the second being the cruelties inflicted upon Marie Antoinette that October morning 1793. Faith and politics aside, both illustrate man’s ability to disregard humanity , particularly shocking when faced with another who has been reduced to abject wretchedness. My great hope is that I would rise above such base behavior, but even Peter found strength elusive.

I love this image of the Queen by Alexandre Kucharski (ca. 1791).

It expresses a great humanity, unlike so many of the “glamour” shoots which we are most familiar with.

The softness of her coloring, the luminous quality of her skin prompting Vigée Le Brun to comment that the Queen’s skin “so transparent that it allowed no shadow,”.

Source: Antonia Fraser

As much as I may admire the subtle humanity captured by Kucharsky, we have all fallen for her  royal public image.

Be it a formal court painting, inspiring reverence and awe,

or a fashion spread, few have been able to ignore her charms ; save for humorless republicans and godless anarchists.

To our very day, folks who share a love of glamour, romance, and style find inspiration in the Martyr Marie.

My dear friend Patrick Ediger of the design house French American has wittily designed a new fabric due out this winter.

It has been dubbed Queen of Pop, I am particularly attracted to the “chandelier” head dress.

Queen of Pop

French American

Winter 2010

click for detail.

As an aspiring artist I am particularly touched by Vigée Le Brun’s remembrance of an awkward moment before the Queen. After having cancelled a sitting with the Queen due to illness, Le Brun went to apologize the next day ;the Queen graciously cancelled her  own scheduled plans for an impromptu sitting. The Queen’s kindness caused Le Brun to fumble .

” I remember that, in my confusion and my eagerness to make a fitting response to her kind words,I opened my paint-box so excited that I spilled my brushes on the floor. I stooped down to pick them up. “Never mind, never mind,” said the Queen, and for aught I could say, she insisted on picking them all up herself…”. source

Le Brun, a favored and ridiculously prolific court painter, remained true to the memory of Her Majesty. Her allegiance complicated matters when the upstart Napoleon sat upon the republican throne.

Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

b. 16th March 1755

d. 30th March 1842

If interested her fascinating memoir is easily downloaded.

In the early hours of October 16th 1793, Marie Antoinette demonstrated her courage and faith in a final letter to her sister-in law, Madame Elizabeth:

“October 16. 4:40 in the morning

I have just been condemned to death, not to a shameful death, that can only be for criminals, but in order to rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to demonstrate the same firmness as he did at the end. I am calm, as people are whose conscience is clear. My deepest regret is at having to abandon our poor children; you know that I only lived on for them and for you, my good and tender sister.”

source: Marie Antoinette, the Journey, Antonia Frazer, pg. 436

Denying the Queen the dignity of Widows Weeds, “Antoinette Capet”was forced to wear a common white dress. The trip to the guillotine was designed to be a trail of humiliation.

The Queen would defy their base intentions.

The hateful David took pleasure in depicting the Queen in her final humiliating moments. Her critics saw imperial Hapsburg haughtiness, justification for their cruel perversions; I see a woman of great breeding, brutally shorn of hair, a sad cap with a few black ribbons of morning, a body and spirit broken, forced to sit in a donkey cart. Willful hatefulness only elicited dignity from this great Queen.

Final sketch by the odious David.

Her breeding and innate kindness apparent even as she approached the blade. Having stepped upon her executioner’s foot, she instinctively apologized, ” I did not do it on purpose”.

For all of her perceived  “sins” that is perhaps a fitting response.

True to the Catholic faith , she chided the false priest Abbé Girard when he suggested she gather her courage.

This great Queen , daughter of the great Empress Maria Theresia did not require this traitor’s words of encouragement.

“Courage! The moment when my ills are going to end is not the moment when courage is going to fail me.”

Well put dear Queen.

Much of her reputation has been restored, aside from the tiresome”cake” references, many folks hold a tender place in their hearts for this unfortunate woman.

Her final resting spot, the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

source

So tomorrow, no matter what your time zone, a t 12:15 pm give a “shout-out ” to dear Marie Antoinette.

Viva la Reine!

Viva la Reine!

Viva la Reine!


Have a great weekend.

Respectfully submitted,

BabylonBaroque

image sources

Dame Joan Sutherland, a belated tribute

Posted in 20th century, Joan Sutherland, Opera, Recquiscat in Pace on October 13, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I read yesterday’s paper with a degree of sadness as the esteemed Mr. Tommasini chronicled the passing of the great coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland and  details of her memorable career.

It is a worthy article if you haven’t read it, the link is above.

Recquiscat in Pace

Dame Joan Sutherland

b. 7th November 1926

d. 10th October 2010

“La Stupenda” was my generation’s answer to the great Callas, Joan Sutherland’s death is a loss .

Perhaps best remembered for her thrilling role as the mad Lucia,

I will always love her best as the noble Norma, her “Casta diva ” was thrilling me all of yesterday as I battled Los Angeles traffic.

Thank you dear Joan, we will miss you.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Babylom Baroque