Archive for the 17th century Category

In Gratitude for Pronk

Posted in 17th century, Jan de Heem, Pronk on November 21, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Given we are entering the season of thanks, I was suddenly struck by a sense of gratitude for the bounty I enjoy and frequently take for granted. I was raised in poverty, food was not always available, with such a background my weekly trek to the local Whole Foods can  at times feel overwhelming. I was made aware of this fact last Saturday, the usually busy market was even more alive with teeming shoppers eager to make this Thanksgiving more memorable than any other. The grocers responded with even more alluring displays of produce, most particularly lovely fragrant bouquets of celery, such a modest vegetable possessing such verdant beauty. These supremely suburban displays of abundance reminded me of another time and place in which ostentatious displays of luxury were enjoyed with unreserved relish- the  17th century pronk still life paintings of Northern Europe, in particular the lavish work of Jan de Heem.

With that in mind, the following images are my Thanksgiving greetings, please remember to click upon the image, the attention to detail is beguiling..

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

Dutch, 1606-1883/84

Still Life with Parrots 

late 1640’s

Ringling Museum of Art

Jan de Heem

Still life with ham, lobster and fruit

c. 1653

Museum Bolijman Van Beuninjen

Even this vegetarian finds this traif image alluring.

Of course Jan de Heem wasn’t the only practitioner of the pronk genre; other gifted artists were able to capture the lavish displays of seductive imported goods for our voyeuristic delight.

Jan Pauwell Gillemans the Elder

Still life with Fruit, a Parrot and Polecat Ferrets

mid 17th cent.

 Victoria and Albert Museum

Of course the French were adept at depicting luxury, and although the following image isn’t necessarily pronk, it is delightfully overwrought.

Alexandre François Desportes

French, 1661-1743

Still life with Silver

 Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the French fashion, this marvelous image of Anthony and Cleopatra enjoying a luxurious spread, is a visual delight. I am particularly tickled by the absence of food, the love of ostentatious display does not allow for anything as banal as mere grub, gold suffices.

Claude Vignon

French 1593-1670

The Banquet of Anthony and Cleopatra

 Ringling Museum of Art

I will close with a frankly sentimental and boldly Christian image, that of Jan de Heem’s meditation upon the blessed Eucharist. It really is quite stunning.

Eucharist in Fruit Wreath

c. 1648

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

With that, I wish a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving day.

Until next time,

Babylon Baroque

The Consequence of Beauty

Posted in 16th cent, 17th century, Baroque, Nautilus Shells on October 25, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I consider myself relatively sensitive to God’s lesser creatures, I am essentially vegetarian (aside from the fish that I guiltily consume), I try to avoid leather, I am unaware of friends possessing garments made of fur, and of course dogs are a burning issue.

That said todays paper pointed out the atrocious exploitation of the nautilus. According to the article, millions have been slaughtered to satisfy our desire for the pretty shell. I stand amongst that crowd of greedy collectors, my own curiosity cabinet contains a few. I won’t purchase anymore, but I am appalled at my own insensitivity. I hadn’t really thought of the pretty shell as  having once belonged to this spectacular and ancient creature. I rather just accepted the shell as being something to collect and admire, my ignorance is disturbing. 

Source: Today’s New York Times

To celebrate this poor creature, I will, rather perversely highlight a few particularly lovely examples of how the creature’s sacrifice was made seemingly worthwhile, at least from an aesthetic perspective.

Nautilus Snail

1630

nautilus shell, silver gilt 

Wadsworth Athaneum

Cup

 1585

silver gilt, polished shell

Not a nautilus shell but quite beautiful AND someone’s home

Victoria & Albert Museum

Nautilus Cup

mid 17th cent.

nautilus shell, silver gilt

Wadsworth Athaneum

I don’t believe these courtly objects were the cause of the near demise of the nautilus; it is of course the gross exploitation that pumps out hideous baubles. As the biologist Peter D. Ward, as quoted in today’s New York times states, “A horrendous slaughter is going on out here.” We need to be mindful of that. I for one will be less glib, and less tempted to purchase shells, no matter how beautiful they may be.

Until take time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

Poussin and the Exquisite Corpse

Posted in 17th century, Exquisite Corpse, Nicholas Poussin on August 28, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In my seemingly unending love affair with Nicholas Poussin, I have been visiting my local museums paying homage to his paintings. Last weekend my search led me to the Getty Center, this week , that jewel box nestled in Pasadena, the Norton Simon. Desperate perhaps to soak up some of Poussin’s mastery, I study  his paintings very closely. There is of course his signature subtle brushwork, the quiet palette and that calm that Poussin is so well known; but I have been noticing another tendency, the Ashen Mask. By studying reproductions I first became aware of this , but when I visited the Norton Simon, I was struck by the ashen faced villain depicted in Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii.

I assume Poussin is merely depicting the Schoolmaster’s loathsome temperament by casting his face with a deathly pallor. But Poussin seems to have delighted in depicting fallen figures, often heroically , often of exquisite beauty.

Nicolas Poussin

Tancred and Erminia

c. 1634

oil on canvas

 The Barber institute of Fine Arts 

click image to enlarge, same for all subsequent images.

Capturing the vitality of the flesh seems of less importance to Poussin, he left that to Caravaggio; Poussin’s inspiration was classical Rome, his desire, to capture the grace of her antiquities. He of course succeeded, the chill is what draws me in, this reserve has me banging at his studio door wanting more, like a desperate suitor.

The door is closed, and I can only grapple with the opinions of scholars far more knowledgeable then this admirer with his schoolboy crush.

I will continue to admire, study and observe, humbled by his greatness, I hesitate to use  genius as it is so often evoked (particularly in Los Angeles),  that  the word appears trite, which would not be my intention.

I settle upon greatness.

Venus Weeping over Adonis

1626

Musée des Beaux-Arts

 What I love is how in the same year, Poussin, used the mirrored image in his Lamentation.

Virginal  grief and erotic loss splitting our heroines with tremendous pain. The character I believe to be the Magdalene, is particularly heart wrenching.

Lamentation

1626

Alte Pinakothek

The fallen son is exquisite.

Death as personified by Plague was a popular theme, not just for Poussin; it is difficult to visit any museum with a collection of   16th-17th century works and NOT encounter Rome littered with ashen infants and wailing mothers. Poussin’s depiction of Plague herself is incredible in the following painting.

The Apparition of St. Francesco Romana

1646

 Louvre 

This may be my favorite painting by Poussin, the Louvre link offers very interesting notes concerning the painting’s history.

An example of the aforementioned Plague genre by the master.

The Plague of Ashdod

1631

Musée du Louvre

I will close with a few snapshots of the Norton Simon Poussin, details of the Ashen Mask.

detail

Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii

1635-40 

Norton Simon

The following details offer examples of manliness untarnished by the Schoolmasters sins, their flesh robust and sound.

Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii

School begins tomorrow, I have an insane schedule, my posts may be more infrequent yet. I will try to squeeze in a few , but until that time I leave you with a link to a contemporary version of the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse. The link is epic as described, interactive and online, for those with Luddite tendencies, myself included, here is a link to the game played with traditional paper and pencil, Directions to an Exquisite Corpse.

 Until next time,

take care,

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

1610

(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

1615

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

1614-1620

oil on canvas

Pitti Palace

Yael and Sisara

1620

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

1625-30

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

1622

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

Aurora

1621-1623

Ceiling fresco

Villa Ludovisi,Rome

source

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

1630’s

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

1625

fresco

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

1650

black chalk heightened with white

British Museum, London

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Monday’s Favorite Painting

Posted in 17th century, Babylon Beefcake, Guido Reni on June 27, 2011 by babylonbaroque

A local treasure, held by  LACMA.

Guido Reni  (1575-1642)

Bacchus and Ariadne

1619-1620

oil in canvas

With such loveliness in mind I can endure the bus ride  back to the mechanic.

Have a great week,

Babylon Baroque

Saint Jokanaan, the Gospel According to Salome

Posted in 15th century, 16th cent, 17th century, 19th Century, 20th century, Baroque, Caravaggio, Decadent Movement, El Greco, Moreau, St. John the Baptist, Titian on June 23, 2011 by babylonbaroque

June 24th is the feast day of the blessed Baptist John.

My previous post concerning Caravaggio and Catamites featured many lovely depictions of the martyr, I would like to continue , for like Salome many artists have found the fellow captivating.

Of course I am unable to think of Jokanaan without thinking of Oscar, without thinking of  his Salome, so why try?

“Jokanaan, I am amorous of thy body!”

Baciccio

1676

City of Manchester art Gallery, Manchester

“How wasted he is!”

El Greco

1600

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

“He is like a thin ivory statue. He is like an image of silver. I am sure he is chaste as the moon is. He is like a moonbeam, like a shaft of silver. his flesh must be cool like ivory. I would look closer at him.”

Bernardo strozzi

1615-20

Accademia Lingustica de Belle Arti, Genoa

Jokanaan: “Daughter of sodom, come not near me! But cover thy face with a veil, and scatter ashes upon thine head, and get thee to the desert and seek out the Son of Man.”

Salomé: “Who is he, the Son of Man?Is he as beautiful as thou art, Jokanaan?”

Titian

1542

“Thy body is white like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed.”

Andrea del Sarto

1528

Palazzo Pitti, Florence

‘There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. let me touch thy body.”

Valentin de Boulogne

1625-30

Santa Maria in Via, Camerino

“It is thy mouth that I desire, Jokanaan”

Nicholas Régnier

1610

The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

“I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan, I will kiss thy mouth.”

The Apparition

Gustave Moreau

1876

Louvre

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Caravaggio

1608

Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist

Andrea Solari (1460-1524)

“I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan.”

Although we know of Salome’s lust, Saint Jerome (via Omer Englebert The Lives of the Saints) informs us “…that that for a long while Herodias savagely attacked the head of the prophet , repeatedly stabbing his tongue with a dagger.”

Salome’s desire seems decent when compared to mater.

I will close with an image familiar to many of my readers.

I was saddened to discover recently that it is not our dear Oscar in drag playing his most supreme vixen , but is instead an actress, Alice Guszalewice. I will need to look into Alice’s story, but she does look a lot like dear Oscar, so for one Last Dance I will believe it is indeed our hero.

apparently Alice Guszalewice as Salome

I can’t resist this clip from Salome\’s Last Dance, so why try.

In no way was I attempting to be disrespectful or overly ironic concerning the Baptist. I feel that  much of what Wilde expressed was deeply reverent, complicated by human frailty, but still quite reverent.

Wishing a happy feast day of Saint Jean-Baptiste, particularly to the Québécois.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


Cardinal del Monte, Caravaggio and the Catamites

Posted in 16th cent, 17th century, Baroque, Caravaggio, Cardinal del Monte on June 17, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Francesco Maria Bourbon Del Monte Santa Maria was a worldly man of sophisticated taste, created Cardinal in 1588, he was a respected diplomat with aspirations to the Throne of St. Peter. Given the Bourbon connection and his pro French sympathies, the Spanish vote would quash such aspirations. That is perhaps just as well,for there are so many popes, they all seem to run together, even for this manic (Renaissance/humanist) papal sympathizer.   The good Cardinal is best known for his promotion of Caravaggio, in particular  securing the commission to decorate the Contarelli Chapel. The tenebristic masterwork ,The Calling of St. Matthew (in addition to The Inspiration of St.Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew )  mandates we offer gratitude to Cardinal del Monte for making such fine use of his power and influence.

Thank you Cardinal.

Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte

b. 5th of July 1547

d. 27th of August 1627

portrait by Ottavio Leoni, 1616

Caravaggio

The Calling of St. Matthew

1599-1600

oil in canvas

Contarelli Chapel

When I look closely at this marvelous painting , I am frankly drawn to the strange cast of characters this unscrupulous tax collector has surrounded himself with. Soon enough good Matthew will reject worldliness for Our Lord, but Caravaggio captures this moment of revelation with Matthew surrounded by penny pinching money grubbers and  young men/ boys in rakish peacock-ery.

This taste for plumed boys with slashed sleeves seems to reflect the taste of Caravaggio and his patron, rather then the dear Saint.

We will see these boys time and again, with or without their flamboyant finery, in Caravaggio’s work in general and in particular within Cardinal del Monte’s collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art , which holds The Musicians informs us that Cardinal del Monte’s collection held a number of paintings that suggest a taste less then chaste. Although the Met makes quite a point that these suggestive paintings do not indicate untoward sexual taste; to this dilettantish observer they incriminate just a wee bit.

The most famous, and beautiful painting within del Monte’s collection was the aforementioned Musicians.

The Musicians

1595 

Metropolitan Museum of Art

In addition to the band of musical boys we have,

The Lute Player

1596

Hermitage Museum

The Cardsharps

1595

Kimbell Art Museum

The Fortune Teller

1595

Pinacoteca Capitolina,Rome

The cast of characters within this collection is consistent, I have read the boys who served as models may have been part of the Cardinal’s domestic household. Whether street urchin or livery boy they proved fetching to dear Caravaggio and the Cardinal.

Caravaggio would of course go on to paint a slew of moody marvels, but he returned to the Ephebes from time to time; often as the sainted Baptist, with or without that itchy fur loincloth.

John in the Wilderness

1598

St. John the Baptist

1605

The following has always creeped me out a bit, a bit too nude, too young, too frankly sexual. The ram just a bit too lusty.

St John the Baptist ( Youth with Ram)

1600

Pinacoteca Capitoline

Somehow Caravaggio manages to sex up blessed Francis,

St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

1595

Valiant David receives the Caravaggio treatment as well,

David with the Head of Goliath

1607

It is often noted how fond Caravaggio was of inserting his own gnarly visage into his work, perhaps this is our Michelangelo vanquished by his appetites.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

b. 29 September 1571

d. 18 July 1610 (38!)

portrait by Ottavio Leoni 1621

Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque