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


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.


Self portrait as Sphinx

ca. 1880

artist: Sarah Bernhardt



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


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.


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


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



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


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



More devilish magic

La Diable Noir

The Black Imp


a little cinematic wizardry…

La Lune A Un Metre

The Astronomer’s Dream



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


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


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



( Satan looking pretty hot)

Guillotined Head


The young sorceress

( saucy little thing)

The precipitated inhumation

(gotta love THAT title)



(another saucy little thing)

A Scene in Hell


(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


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


Wishing you a cheery week!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

For more images of Wiertz’s work click here.



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.


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,


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

Das Lila Lied, the proud Lavender Song

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Das Lila Lied/Lavender Song, Ernst Kirchner, Gay, Ladies of Llangollen, Magnus Hirschfield, Marlene Dietrich, Radclyffe Hall & Una Trowbridge, Ute Lemper with tags on October 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Yesterday’s New York Times had a front page story describing in gory detail the entrapment and drawn out sadistic torture of a gay man. This horrific situation combined with the mind boggling rash of suicides resulting  from anti-gay taunts and bullying; brought to mind another repressive era, pre-WWII Berlin. The similarities being a sense of optimism and joy, and  a brash demand for acceptance; butting up against a wall of ignorance, fear, and power. Certain ‘rogue’ groups with a penchant for pre-Revolutionary garb come to mind as our current Wall of Intolerance.

Berlin Street

ca. 1913

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


In that state of mind, cocooned in my own  tangle of Gilded Lilies, my first instinct was the need to listen to Das Lila Lied, The Lavender Song.

Having been first introduced to what is considered  the first gay anthem, by the beautiful , talented, & homo-loving Ute Lemper, I found it comforting.

The Lavender Song is the work of the talented and ridiculously prolific Mischa Spoliansky, under the pseudonym Arno Billing . Evidently his cry for visibilty wasn’t something he himself was willing to endeavor.

Mischa with Marlene, El morocco, ca. 1949


Das Lila Lied was dedicated to the famed sexologist Magnus Hirschfield, shown here with a gaggle of odd ball admirers.

good old Magnus, second from right

This  1921 recording of Das Lila Lied is decidedly less strident then dear Ute.

It would be difficult to not include the divine chanteuse.

In addition to The Lavender Song, Mischa is responsible for many familiar cabaret ditties, including the witty Special Girlfriend .

In celebration of Special Girlfriends, the following brave examples come to mind.

Radclyffe (aka John) Hall & Una Trowbridge

Daschund lovin’ dykes

Smashing at home

Una Trowbridge and beloved “John”

Further back in history we have the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. Bravely flaunting convention, perhaps taking advantage of societal ignorance, and general apathy towards female sexuality. For whatever reason, brava!

The Right Honorable Lady eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby

Love the cat, setting a precedent for Lesbian cliche.

ca. 1831

If interested in more information concerning Mischa Spoliansky, I suggest you visit this site .

Enjoy the upcoming week

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

H-21 aka Mata Hari

Posted in 20th century, Greta Garbo, Mata Hari, WWI on October 7, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Vixen or Martyr to the Cult of Celebrity and Glamour?

On October 15th 1917 Mata Hari/agent H-21 faced execution by firing squad. A wretched way to go, made more poignant as she was not only a great beauty, but most likely not guilty.

Mata Hari

ca. 1910

b. 7th Aug. 1876

d. 15th Oct. 1917

execution by firing squad.


Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in the Netherlands, wisely going by the far sexier stage name Mata Hari; the former Margaretha cultivated an image of mystery, glamour, and forbidden danger.

That and she was blessed with a very hot body.


During WW I , as a Dutch subject she was free to cross borders, from different sources she seemed to have kept lovers in enemy cities . If this were not the case, she certainly seems to have enjoyed cultivating the allure of her very own  Dance of the Seven Veils.


This terpsichorean enchantment seems to have clouded her judgement, for when faced by French intelligence officers accusing her of being the German spy H-21, she ultimately confessed. Had the poor thing been broken down, or had her own perception of her seductive powers , a modern day Salome -narcissism, pushed her forward before the firing squad.

I don’t know, I will leave that to the scholars. For now more lovely remembrances of this iconic femme fatale.

source for this image, and the following

No discussion pertaining to femme fatales is complete without mention of that  grandest of  vixens , Greta Garbo ,who somehow avoided the firing squad, yet seduced us all.


I include only a clip of her marvelous performance of the doomed Mata Hari, I think I am due a  second viewing.

I suggest if you wish to see more images of this enchantress you follow this link, H-21 warrants further investigation : Mata Hari link .

Have a great weekend.


Master Lalique

Posted in 19th cent., Art Nouveau, Calouste Gulbenkian, Sarah Bernhardt on October 6, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Continuing on  with  fin de Siècle excess and beauty, it would be impossible not to mention the Master of the Jeweled Arts, René Lalique.Female Face Pendant

ca. 1898-1900

glass, silver, enamel, gold, and baroque pearl

René Lalique

Museo Gulbenkian, source

What I admire about Lalique, aside from his great talent and taste, was his choice of material. A stone being merely “precious” did not necessarily catch this aesthetes eye; the above featured pendant shows Lalique’s able vision to wrought glass into something far more ethereal then it’s base element.

René Jules Lalique

b. 6th April 1860

d. 5th May 1945


As I mentioned in my previous Sarah Bernhardt post , Calouste Gulbenkian (dragonfly pendant fame) was an important patron of Lalique’s art.

From the work collected at his Museo Gulbenkian his affection for Lalique is quite apparent.

Peacock Pectoral

ca. 1898-1900

cold, enamel, opals, diamond

Museo Gulbenkian, source

Plaque for Eagles and Pine choker

ca. 1899-1901

gold, opals, enamel

Museo Gulbenkian

I love the sinister quality of this piece, the raptors hidden behind the boughs, ready to rip ones throat , perfect theme for a choker.

Speaking of the lovely and the macabre, Medusa is always a perfect muse.



The serpentine tangle , always enchanting.

Serpents pectoral

ca. 1898-1899

gold and enamel

Museo Gulbenkian

To get a sense of the scale and beauty of the Gulbenkian pieces, check out this short clip, the Centaur shown is stunning.

As there is nothing I enjoy more then drawing, I find it of great interest to ponder the work of a Master .

These sketches allow us a glimpse of Lalique’s magical vision.

design for hair comb


Terribly charming the little bumble bees, unfortunately I haven’t any info.

sketch of an anemone


Enchanting as this sketch may be, seeing it in it’s glittery glory is most rewarding.


Orchid diadem

ca. 1903-1904

ivory, horn, gold, topaz

Museo Gulbenkian

I leave you with these lovely images , I hope your day is as enchanting.