Archive for July, 2011

Embarking Upon Arcadia

Posted in 19th Century, Albert Bierstadt on July 29, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I am in the throes of packing for a mini vacation with the Spouse to San Francisco ; my thoughts are turning to Bierstadt, glowing sunsets, imperial forests, delicate depictions of flora and fauna. This trip to northern California will be my maiden voyage, I have long griped of this arid City of Angels, I have heard time and again that San Francisco will reveal a gentler, more poetic California. I hope so.

Albert Bierstadt certainly saw it that way.

That said, I thought it fitting to send my readers a few pre-holiday postcards depicting his vision of Western Arcadia.

The Great Trees, Mariposa Grove, California


Sunset in California, Yosemite

A View from Sacramento


Giant Redwood Trees of California


The Berkshire Museum

As I mentioned, I miss the gentle landscape of my youth, LA may have its charms; but tender fern, downy moss and squiggly salamanders are not to be found in this unforgiving place.

The Mountain Brook


Ferns and Rocks on an Embankment


Bierstadt, although most famous for his luminous depictions of our West, ultimately moved to Nassau to accommodate the ill health of his wife Rosalie. His depictions of tropical beauty are as seductive as his redwoods.

A Street in Nassau


I particularly like his detailed studies, this ewe is a great example, the rich tangled coat a visual delight.

Study of an Ewe


Brooklyn Museum

Northern California may have changed a bit since Bierstadt first captured its golden beauty, but his depictions have been seared into my imagination. It may be a case of the idealized beauty being more significant then the actual; but from my research, San Francisco seems well deserving  of  its reputation.

Albert Bierstadt

b. January 7 1830

d.February 18 1902

Mr. Bierstadt, thank you for your luminous vision.

Until my return, wishing you well,

Babylon Baroque


Perseus and Andromedus

Posted in Annibale Carracci, Babylon Beefcake, Gay, Perseus & Andromeda/us, Vasari on July 24, 2011 by babylonbaroque

As today is my birthday (49th), I thought I might be allowed a bit of self indulgence. This blog of course explores my interest, but I rarely feel it is suitable  or appropriate to publish images of my own work, today will be an exception. I will , as usual include images created by far greater masters then this humble author;  to provide examples of inspiration, and sadly reveal the weakness of my own compositions. With this in mind , please view my attempts as the scribbles of an enthusiastic amateur.

Since boyhood Greek mythology has captured my imagination, the tale of valiant Perseus rescuing fair Andromeda a particular favorite. Psychologically I haven’t a clue as to why this myth resonated so viscerally;  am I Andromeda? am I Perseus?

I imagine I am a hybrid of both.

I recently stumbled upon an example of the myth by Giorio  Vasari, this painting rekindled my delight in the tale and inspired me to attempt my own version. I desired to portray the story as closely as Vasari had, but to switch the lovely  maidenAndromeda with an equally lovely boy, Andromedus -if I mangled the Latin, pardon me, my last Latin class was in 1980.

Giorgio Vasari

Perseus and Andromeda


Oil on slate

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

What I find of particular interest is that in this painting , part of a decorative scheme depicting the elements, this being water, Vasari is not only imaging the voluptuous moment of valiant rescue, but also depicting the moment in which coral is first created. Popular legend imagined coral to be the result of the spilt blood of the gorgon Medusa.

I love that, I have a bit of coral around my neck, I am tickled that it is a relic of  the fearsome Medusa.

My composition sketch is more modest, and I fear perhaps more “gay”, I probably should examine why that is bothersome to me. Vasari very clearly relished depicting the seductive Nereids in their aquatic Sapphic play. Why should I hesitate to depict vulnerable male pulchritude?

by the author

Perseus and Andromedus 

preparatory drawing for oil painting, 30 by 40 inches


graphite on paper

Ovid describes Andromeda , bound and helpless, as frozen like a “marble statue”; I wanted to capture that  sense with  my youth, resigned to his fate. This is the moment prior to his salvation  Perseus approaching from behind, Vasari depicts the scene post rescue, the monster quite slain.


detail of the Vasari.

I  admire how Vasari managed to balance his sensual delight in the figures and still create a  poetic composition. what I fear is my composition will take on the lascivious qualities of illustrators such as Boris Vallejo.

work by Boris Vallejo

I hope that with a thoughtful palette, I will be able to avoid the excesses so often depicted in what is categorized  as gay art. I hope this isn’t some bit of repressed internal homophobia, but in actuality an attempt to fuse sensuality with beauty. The Humanist painters were so successful at that.

As usual I will conclude with some really marvelous examples of this fusion of beauty, physical and soulful. They of course provide inspiration and intimidate the hell out of me. I must carry on nonetheless.

Annibale Carracci

Perseus and Andromeda



Farnese Gallery, Rome

click to enlarge

Annibale’s brother, Domenichino ,might have been responsible for the depiction of Andromeda’s wailing parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia.

I particularly love the sea monster. I chose to depict my own Leviathan dragon- like, but I may change that as the painting progresses.

Another marvelous example is painted on lapis lazuli, such opulence!

Cavalier d’Arpina, also known as Giuseppe Casani

Perseus Rescuing Andromeda


oil on lapis lazuli

 St. Louis Art Museum

The next image, from Pompeii, is perhaps a bit closer to the source of the tale.

Wall painting,

Pompeii, Casa Dei Dioscuri

The following example, though more chaste, is perhaps a more charming depiction of the rescue. 

anonymous 15th century illumination

The following 18th century example really capture the fleshiness of the tale, a visual delight.

Charles André van Loo

Perseus and Andromeda


oil on canvas


Again, enchanted by the Sea Monster, I really will have to re-work my version.

Anton Raphael Mengs

Perseus and Andromeda


oil on canvas


This smoking hot Perseus is soon to be replaced in the 19th century by images almost as chaste as the 15th century illumination.

Our loss.

Alas the artist’s skill level is probably more in line with my own.

Illustration of the tale by Gustav Benjamin Schwab ( 1792-1850).

Schwab’s depiction of Perseus is lifted  almost directly from Carracci’s imagining of Mercury in the Farnese panel Paris and Mercury, although as mentioned without the nasty bits.

Annibale Carracci

Paris and Mercury

A more poetic image from a Frenchman is perhaps to be expected.

 Charles Edouard de Beaumont (1812-1888)


19th century illustration

I will begin the painting shortly,  it is a daunting task,  but one that I look forward to. I will periodically keep my readers abreast on its progress.

Until then,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Slow going on the painting, but here is the progress thus far.

August 5th 2011

detail of August 5th’s progress

Blocking in, August 7th

August 11th

August 14th, I have continued to work on Perseus for much of the day.

Pulling Strings in Babylon, the International Puppetry Museum

Posted in Clive Hicks-Jenkins, International Puppetry Museum, Punch & judy, puppets on July 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

The marvelous artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (if you are unfamiliar with this artist, you MUST check out his site) has declared this week to be Puppet Week at his Artlog.

The post brings a smile as puppets are wont to do.

I have myself  intended to post on what seems the very Mecca of Puppetry , found  right here in Los Angeles, the Pasadena based International Puppetry Museum.

Following Mr. Hicks-Jenkin’s lead , this is the result.

Having visited this museum on the advice of my chum Gina ( she being  a member of a puppet making-performing-loving clan), I was instantly dazzled,and of course charmed beyond belief.

For in this somewhat forlorn parish hall of a somewhat faded Episcopal church was a treasure trove hidden in plain sight.

Although there was a display of puppets behind glass, thoughtfully presented; the bulk of the collection, hung over head in a jumble of strings, piled here in there in a chaotic jumble and  perhaps more heartbreaking, painstakingly categorized and stored  in pedestrian Rubbermaid containers; suitable  perhaps for out of season suburban holiday decor, but not magic of this quality.

But the very sad, very real fact is this treasure trove of a museum cannot afford to properly display, archive, care for these gems without funding. Simple storage is the most immediate solution, the fear being of course a need to sell this amazing collection piece-meal. That would be a terrible tragedy.

Los Angeles had been, may still be , a hub of puppetry , the Industry had made great use of puppets magic. but in this grim de-humanized Digital Age, Anime reigns supreme; the subtle charms of string, felt and whitled wood do not seem to captivate our jaded youth.

That is until they witness an actual puppet show, then the  enchantmnt begins anew.

Detail of a puppet set, enough wizardry to satisfy any Potter fan.

detail of detail

My visit to IPM caught me off guard, I was not prepared to document what I found, equiped with my I-phone I simply clicked away. There is no attempt at identification, just memories of my own bewlderment. If you desire more information, please visit, and if you can PLEASE donate, we mustn’t lose this international treasure.

a mad delightful jumble

a more dignified presentation

Beloved Punch has at last lost his head. For more images of dear Punch, check out this former post.

I believe this and the following to be Sicilian, they are quite large, 36 inches or so, perhaps a bit more. Marvelous.

In closing I sincerely encourage a visit to the International Puppetry Museum, even just a quick peek at their site. You will be enchanted, and please if you can ,send along some cash, our Stringed friends need you.

Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Artemisia and Agostino, a sordid tale of lust, rape and envy

Posted in 17th century, Artemisia Gentileschi on July 13, 2011 by babylonbaroque

We who love the paintings of the 17th century, will most often be acquainted with Artemisia Gentileschi; for not only was she a quite a fine painter, but as a woman practicing her craft in  patriarchal Rome, her images of Judith and Bathsheba easily qualify as feminist icons.

Artemisia struggles with patriarchal arrogance seem to leap from her paintings depicting avenging heroines defying malignant males.

Artemisia is also of course known to have suffered from a rape. This rape is what her rapist, Agostino Tassi is best remembered  for, if he is remembered at all .

Artemisia Gentileschi

Susanna and the Elders


(Please note Artemisia was 16 when she painted this image.)

As this blog is primarily devoted to images, I would like to examine Artemisia and Agostino through their work.

Artemisisa Gentileschi, (1593-ca. 1653) was Roman born, a fact from her letters that seems to have given her enormous pride.

In a letter, dated November 13, 1649, in explaining herself to a patron concludes with ” I am Roman, and therefore I shall act always in the Roman manner” (source; Gentileschi’s Letters in The Voices of Women Artists, edited Wendy Slatkin).

Artemisia, the daughter of Caravaggio’s chum Orazio Gentileschi ( another fine painter, well worth exploring) must have with her enormous talent found herself butting heads with less gifted male students.

I know from my own limited experience, the competitive nature of artistic training, a life- drawing session brings up all sorts of emotion:envy, insecurity, bravado.What was it like to have such a young girl as a studio mate , blessed with such gifts?

It must have been humbling at best, infuriating to some.

I believe Agostino Tassi (1578-1644) charged with her education must have seen the disparity between their talents.I believe his envy prompted his base act. By debasing this young talent he could assuage the sting of his wounded ego.

Of course I am only speculating.

Self portrait as a Female Martyr


oil on canvas

This self-portrait   was painted 3 years after the grueling trial  of 1612 (which lasted 7 months), during which time she , the victim,  endured physical torture, public humiliation and the indignity of seeing her attacker ultimately acquitted.  For more details concerning the trial I suggest this  link.

This self portrait  bears little witness to the enormous fury she must have felt (aside of course for the heroic title). She does go on to become a well regarded and  successful painter, but it is quite difficult not to read between the lines when confronted with her powerful Amazons.

Judith and Her Maidservant


oil on canvas

Pitti Palace

Yael and Sisara


Budapest Museum of Fine Art

When Gentileschi created a work designed to titillate the male viewer, I find myself taken aback. I enjoy this image, difficult not to, but what did she need to suppress in order to create such vulnerable beauty?

Sleeping Venus


Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond Virginia

She does gripe, in the same letter from which I cited previously that:

” I assure Your Most Illustrious Lordship that these  are paintings with nude figures requiring very expensive female models, which is a big headache . When I find good ones they fleece me, and at other times, one must suffer [their] pettiness with the patience of Job”.

She really tickles me with her confidence and her frankness; this is a woman who will not negotiate her price, not matter how grand his Most Illustrious Lordship may be.

I was unable to locate a portrait of our villain Tassi, but Geltileschi’s portrait of a condottieri seemed a fitting illustration of brash male ruthlessness, a quality a man such as Tassi would need to possess.

Portrait of a Condottieri


Aside from raping Artemisia , Tassi is known as a master of perspective work; no mean feat, particular notable in his excellence at quadratura, the illusionistic brushwork that so many Baroque ceilings quite literally depend upon. The beautiful Aurora ceiling  by Guercino would appear aimlessly floating without Tassi’s masterful framework.

Guercino and Agostino Tassi



Ceiling fresco

Villa Ludovisi,Rome


You would be wise to check out this link, marvelous details of the painting and  the Villa.

Tassi’s masterful understanding of perspective is well illustrated in this competent , yet quite chilly painting.

Competition on the Capitoline Hill


oil on canvas

Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome

Artemisia was not the only pupil of Tassi’s with enormous gifts that might have taxed his ego; Claude Lorrain spent time as an apprentice to Tassi,  young Claude was reduced to grinding pigment and  tasks better suited to a  char woman. Lorrain would of course go on to surpass his master, but this paintings certainly could have provided inspiration to Lorrain’s budding genius.

Imaginary Landscape with Temple of Sybil at Tivoli



Palazzo Lancelotti, Rome

I will close with an image by the student , Lorrain’s sketch of a lusty satyr seems  an appropriate  way to conclude this topic.

Claude Lorrain

Drawing of a Satyr, a Girl and Goats


black chalk heightened with white

British Museum, London

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Cy Twombly,Recquiscat in Pace

Posted in Cy Twombly, Nicholas Poussin, Raphael on July 7, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Cy Twombly, as my readers may know, my interests generally do not include much of the 20th century (excluding the first decade perhaps); Twombly was the exception.

Cy Twombly, 1966, Voque

My appreciation of Twombly’s work began  with the 10-painting cycle Fifty Days at Illiam at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I  had been ignorant of Cy Twombly, but the work instantly struck a nerve. Cool, chaste, decidedly classical, the desperate doodlings seemed to suggest long forgotten frantic pleas from the ancient past. I was only to learn later that Twombly was referencing Alexander Pope and his translation of The Illiad.

 I was hooked.

Only a few days ago the New York Times had ran an article concerning an exhibition in which Twombly’s classical paintings would be paired with the equally restrained paintings of Nicholas Poussin.

Cy Twombly was a great admirer of Poussin, having stated that “I would have liked to have been Poussin, if I’d had a choice , in another time”.

As a fellow Poussiniste, I was delighted.

Cy Twombly

Apollo and the Artist


oil paint, wax crayon, pencil and collage on paper


Nicolas Poussin

Et in Arcadia Ego 



It is  difficult not to fall for the lush beauty of the School of Athens.

Why resist?

source, NYT

It may be heretical, but I may  prefer Twombly’s to Rapheal, difficult to admit …


The School of Athens



Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican Palace

well, perhaps not more.

Thank you Mr. Twombly for such lyrical work.

Cy Twombly

b. 25th April 1925

d. 5th July 2011


Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque