Perseus and Andromedus

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

1570-1572

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

2011

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

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

 1597

fresco

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

1593-1594

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

1735-1740

oil on canvas

Hermitage

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

Anton Raphael Mengs

Perseus and Andromeda

1774-1779

oil on canvas

Hermitage

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)

Andromeda

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.

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9 Responses to “Perseus and Andromedus”

  1. Happy Birthday!
    Good for you for posting some art. I love it!
    I struggle with artistic issues as well . (I have a BFA in Sculpture/ Art History and it seems to complicate my process as much as help.) I tend to think too much and get too “precious” about my work. A painting instructor once told me things are richer if you destroy them and find them again. It works for me….but I am probably a little crazy…..
    Can I say, though, that I admire Vallejo’s techniques?

  2. babylonbaroque Says:

    I hope I didn’t appear priggish, i probably do sound that way. I actually like Vallejo’s work, i am old enough to remember his charged images as part of day to day gay culture, nightclubs, bath-houses, parties etc.I just want to avoid his excesses I suppose.
    I certainly do tend towards precious, something I try to be aware of; but the truth is i so often genuinely admire work that is dismissed as precious.
    I will have to speak with you again concerning destroying one’s work, it seems to me that once you actually begin a painting, so many initial intentions become altered (or destroyed).
    Thank you for responding, it is always a pleasure to hear from you.
    Leonard

  3. Birthday? You still HAVE those???? Well, hope it was grand!

    You raise some interesting points with this post. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  4. Dominique Millar Says:

    I’m a gay guy from Sydney..but don’t let that typecast me.. One of the central forms of classical beauty is the contraposta pose..that is the rib cage in opposition to the pelvis (and the head in contrast [perhaps] corresponding to the pelvis) your central figure lacks this grace that dates back to the Kritios boy of post archaic greece. Also it is best to NOT alter a story. If one wants to deal with a “gay” subject then Alexander the Great and Hepahaiston would be a great choice. Aristotle defines the expression of art in terms of “decorum” meaning the clear articulation of spoken or literary ideas visually. To Aristotle every gesture and action of the protagonists should reflect the story portrayed. There should be no embellishments, as divergent or ‘decorative’ ends in themselves. Certainly Annibale Carracci and Domenichino his pupil, whom you show, subscribed to this view. This is related to the belief that arts chief end is not pleasure, that’s secondary, but rather cultural instruction i.e. reflecting back to ones culture in a succinct way of what is most important and valuable. Not such an anachronistic concept as the majority of modernist art historians of the twentieth century assumed. So if you can find a serious example of gay attraction from classical subjects (there are plenty) that instructs a twentieth century audience on the moral issue of sexual equality, and express it in a clear and succinct action of the poses in the story, then you will have embraced Aristotle’s fittingly classical conception of “decorum” the central point of classical artistic expression. Secondly if the protagonists are contraposta and graceful, or what Renaissance Italian’s called sprezzatura… if one fully AND I MEAN FULLY understands what was understood by decorum and sprezzatuura..then one will truly paint the MOST sublime paintings.. surpassing the greats..

    p.s.I had consumed a bottle of wine when writing this.. I would still maintain that when sober what I have stated is true. Good luck. I found your sight when looking up my hero Annibale Carracci the much to underrated genius of the above mentioned!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I’m not sure why your being gay would influence my opinion, most particularly given the topic of the painting.
      I am aware of the grace and beauty of the contraposta pose, it influenced my work as a boy and it will continue to influence and please me . That said, I regret that you feel my boy lacks “grace” but my intention is to illustrate Ovid’s description of Andromeda:
      “…he would have thought that she’d been carved from stone were it not for the breeze that stirred her hair and for the warm tears flowing from her eyes; the woman’s beauty quite astounded him…” (MetamorphosesNorton ed. stanza 921-923).
      I gave up on the wind blowing through his hair, but captured the stony fright, I’m pleased by that.
      As per my boy possessing sprezzatura, that easy grace is difficult to maintain when chained to a rocky cliff awaiting a sea monster eager to devour you.
      I believe I am working towards “FULLY” understanding such concepts, but I appreciate the incentive to learn more. With my work, my intention is to present a reflection of what I feel to be most valuable and poignant. Again, I regret that you think otherwise.
      The painting has progressed quite nicely and I will repost in the future.
      Concerning “appropriate” gay topics, the Alexander/Hephaaestion seems frankly trite; I’m assuming frankness is ok given your penchant for candor.
      As per Aristotle and decorum, I believe I am following his dictates. My image follows Ovid’s description, save for one detail. As a humanist I believe his tale of the ill-fated and ultimately redeemed Andromeda can find expression in same sex desire.
      As per decorative embellishments, are mutually adored Annibale Carracci could be accused of that vice.
      As a great admirer of the Renaissance, with its deep understanding AND discussion of art, beauty and culture, my one qualm is some of the dictates seem pedantic. I want to avoid that.
      One of the perils of opening yourself up via a blog is harsh criticism, fortunately your criticism has merit.
      Hoping you enjoyed your time with Dionysus.
      Respectfully,
      Leonard @ BabylonBaroque

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      what an asshole response, just saying…

  5. Hey Leonard,
    Just wanted to wish you well again. Sorry you took my silly ‘tongue in cheek’ so to heart.
    All the best x

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      Happy to hear from you, hoping you are happy. I have essentially closed this blog down but have started a studio journal @ http://www.boondocksbabylon.wordpress.com
      It may be dull as dishwater but it reflects my experiences in rediscovery. I plan to start proper schooling in 2014 but I continue to paint uninstructed. The painting of Perseus and co.has been finished for some time and is on this site.
      Wishing you well, Leonard

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