Archive for the 19th Century Category

Into the Mouth of Hell

Posted in 19th Century, Atget, Chicanna, Hell Mouth, l'Enfer, Mantegna, Montmartre, Parco dei Mostri, Xieng Khuan on April 12, 2012 by babylonbaroque

The notion of Hell Mouth has been on my mind, Holy Week has just passed, Christ’s descent into Limbo, often referred to as the Harrowing of Hell being first and foremost. I also happen to be working on a series of painting in which the Gates of Hell feature more or less rather prominently. To see examples of the progress check out my studio journal Boondocks Babylon, link in sidebar.

My most direct inspiration for Hell Mouth being Andrea Mantegna’s depiction of Christ’s descent into darkness.

Andrea Mantegna

Christ’s Descent into Limbo


1468

Frick

Another inspiration, one I have turned to time and again is the monstrous gates at the Parco die Mostri.

Incredible beyond belief.

In my research, collecting various reference materials I soon came to realize Western Christians weren’t the only ones depicting the entrance to the Underworld with such ghoulish excess. Examples could be found in Asia, most specifically outside of Laos at Xieng Khuan, often referred to as Buddha Park. although not ancient, I believe built mid-century, they draw upon an outlandish tradition, clearly delighting in the creation of such demonic follies.

One may also turn to Mesoamerica at the Maya site of Chicanna. At the site “monster mouths”  had provided a dramatic backdrop for ceremonial processions, now marvelous photo opportunities.

For those not familiar with Mayan architecture the details can be puzzling given the geometric stylization, I suggest enlarging the image (all of the images for that matter). The eyes and teeth will become visible as you examine the complex design ;the visual puzzle it part of the pleasure I find in Mesoamerican art.

But I must confess the Hell Mouth that touches my heart the most is the architectural pastiche found in Montmartre at the sublimely bizarre cabaret l’Enfer. The entrance captured below by Atget.

facade of l’Enfer

photograph by Atget

The excessive sense of fun is such a pleasure , Philippe Jullian in his indispensable Montmartre tells us that the facade is essentially cardboard and plaster- but what wondrous paste.

The above image is terribly small, but if you are interested more  images can be found at this link.

I’m particularly delighted by this interior image, I snagged it from the wonderful blog Haunted Lamp (see sidebar) quite some time ago and I have treasured it  ever since.

In case you haven’t had your fill of fin de siècle smoke and mirrors check out this video clip bursting with vintage posters and publicity shots. I’m tickled by it .

As is so often the case this blog acts as  a great organizing tool for my ideas and interests;  I am so pleased that so many readers have shared these interests.

Until next time,

take care,

Babylon Baroque


Salome cast in Greenery-Yallery

Posted in 19th Century, 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, Salome, Uncategorized on February 15, 2012 by babylonbaroque

We recently had the good fortune of catching the final performance of the San Diego Opera’s production of Salome. As I really am only familiar with our dear minx by way of Oscar and Aubrey I wasn’t sure what to expect.

source

I was delighted, most particularly with the lead soprano Lise Lindstrom, she gave a marvelous performance. As is so often the case I was drawn to the sets and costumes, in particular her gown in the final scene. It was, I declared with great bombast the perfect yallerish, Oscar would have adored the color. Unfortunately yallerish is incorrect, a quick Google search for the word provided only my own blog as the source, I have made MANY references to the word, all of them incorrect. I feel a bit of a fool.

The correct word to describe this Aesthetic Movement staple is Greenery-Yallery. First termed it appears by the witty duo Gilbert and Sullivan for their production of Patience in which they mercilessly lampoon lily- wristed blue-and-white china lovin’ aesthetes with utter abandon. 

“A pallid and thin young man

A haggard and lank young man

A Greenery-yallery Grosvener Gallery

Foot-in-the -grave young man!”

This 1882 greeting card illustrates the sort of fellow perfectly.

Source V&A

Wilde did of course make ample use of the color yellow, there is his poem Symphony in Yellow.

The drawing room at Tite Street was described as having dazzled in “greenery-yallery” effect 1909 source 

And of course there was that notorious yellow book found on Wilde’s person at the time of his arrest; alas it was not THE Yellow Book so loved by the “foot-in-the-grave” set.

Yellow Book, volume 3, October 1894

My only real disappointment in the San Diego production was the executioner of Blessed Jachanaan. In my fantasy he would appear as that bit of stellar beef ( Duncan Meadows) from the Royal Opera House production .

Unfortunately he was a rather chunky fellow with bad posture, quite a let-down.

Duncan Meadows, Royal Opera House production of "Salome"

 source : Feuillton

For a snippet of the final scene with the minor deity( and his mighty sword) check out this clip

The Duncan Meadows “lead” so to speak was from my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.Clive not only is a most impressive artist,but a blogging wiz, he kindly walked me through the compexities of WordPress.

Although I have been blogging for quite some time, I must have become rusty ( or WordPress has become more persnickety).

I thank you friend, a fresh day and a constant  visit to “save draft” seems to be the trick.

Knowing that once again I may post freely is a tremendous relief. I am now posting far less frequently than I have in the past. I hope my readers understand that my life is now often spent in my Hermitage ( my pretentious little studio); posting is becoming less and less a priority, but when the spirit and time allows I will indeed be back.

I am touched at the swelling number of followers, perhaps I ought to give it all up for good if the number of “hits” is any indication of activity when I am so very fallow.

Wishing all a “utterly charming” day!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

Happy 182nd Birthday to our 21st President

Posted in 19th Century, Aesthetic Movement, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on October 4, 2011 by babylonbaroque

The 5th of October is President Arthur’s birthday, he is probably my favorite president for all the wrong reasons.He wasn’t in office for terribly long, frankly if Garfield hadn’t been shot we probably wouldn’t remember Arthur. But Garfield was shot, and Arthur became our dandiest president ever. I am so terribly fond of him not because of policy or programs but because he took such a keen interest in redecorating the White House. I’ve explored this theme before, so i will not bore you with details, for a refresher check out this earlier post.

So happy happy Mr. President, thank you for making the White House , at least for a short moment such an aesthetic wonderland.

Chester A. Arthur

21st President of the United States of America

b. October 5th 1829

d. November 18th 1886

Recquiscat in Pace

A bit of the Chester-Tiffany magic, see post for more details.

Reconstruction of the Blue Room under President Arthur, pure magic.

Until next time,

good night,

Babylon Baroque

Revisiting an Old Favorite-Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Posted in 19th Century, Léon Bonnat on September 12, 2011 by babylonbaroque

It’s Monday morning, what can I say?

A reader requested information concerning this work, I felt it worth revisiting.

For more information concerning Bonnat check out this previous post.

For Professor Z,

Léon Bonnat (1833-1922)

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

 1876

pencil and black chalk on paper 

Dahesh Museum of Art 

Have a great Monday,

Babylon Baroque

Liebestod, and the doomed Tristan and Isolde-in gratitude

Posted in 19th Century, August Spiess, burges, Jessye Norman, Jon William Waterhouse, Opera, Recquiscat in Pace, Tristan and Isolde, Wagner, William Burges on September 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This past Saturday evening we had dinner with our dear talented  friends, the  designer Jonathan Fong and his partner the playwright Greg Phillips.

As is so often the case with these fine gentleman they came bearing gifts, in this case a novel  The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway. The novel is centered upon Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde; my thoughtful friends knowing of our love for opera, Wagner in particular, thought it would make a fine gift.

It is indeed, thank you fellows.

Always in search for a topic to explore, I found myself revisiting this opera, the Liebestod of course in particular.

John William Waterhouse

Tristan and Isolde with the Potion

1916

private collection

Having in my youth read the Loomis edition of Medieval Romances I was as hooked as dear Ludwig II on the legend of our doomed lovers. It was not until my young adulthood that I finally heard the Liebestod. Like those before me I too fell under its spell.

The dog-eared volume that started my romance.

Edmund Blair Leighton

Tristan and Isolde

1902

Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde

1901

A very curious window, by an unknown artist, the doomed lovers portrayed by Lillie Langtry and the future Edward VII, 1890.

Of course one cannot think of the Tristan-Isolde myth without thinking of Ludwig II and his dream castle Neuschwanstein. Often disparaged as a pastiche chock-a-block with second rate decorative paintings and overblown mock Medieval decor;  from my perspective, it is amazing.

Just as my heart sings at the rich allegory so dear to William Burges, Ludwig’s medievalism speaks to my soul. The decorative panels by the overworked and under-rated artist August Spiess of particular interest. 

August Spiess

Tristan and Isolde

1881

Neuschwanstein

source

Typical of the thorough attention to detail is this incredible Tristan and Isolde stove found in Ludwig’s bedroom.

Ceramic Stove with Carvings

Bedroom -Neuschwanstein

 source

I frankly cannot resist popping in this image of the well known Burges “fire-castle” found at Cardiff Castle.

William Burges

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Wales

renovated 1868

It was with great difficulty that Wagner’s poem finally found its way to the stage.

Ludwig II through his devotion, purse and mad infatuation for  his “Holy One” was finally able to swoon in solitary royal splendor to the Liebestod on July 10th 1865.

Although I  of course do not have a recording from that premier, in which Malvina Schnorr was Isolde; I offer the divine Deborah Voigt.

The following performance is quite moving and poetic-stunning.

Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 7th December 1825

d. 8th February 1904

Following opening night a limp Ludwig gushed to his beloved Richard:

“Unique One! Holy One!

How glorious!- Perfect. So full of rapture!… To drown…to sink down- unconscious- supreme joy.

Divine work!”

(I could not have expressed my sentiments more eloquently, though perhaps I would have added a few more exclamation points.)

The tenor,who personified Tristan to Wagner and to Ludwig, tragically died after only four performance of the roles he and his wife Malvina created.

Ludwig Scnorr von Carolsfeld was only 29 when he died. 

His final words:

” Farewell, Siegried! Console my Richard!”

Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 2nd July 1836

d. 21st July 1865

Recquiscat in Pace

I of course adore Voigt,

I adore Jane Eaglen,

but my heart will always remain true to Jessye, she is my Isolde.

Thank you Ludwig

M. Jacob

Ludwig II

1865

And of course thank you oh Unique One, oh Holy One

Richard Wagner ca. 1868

Until next time,

 take care,

Babylon Baroque

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

1876

Sunset in California, Yosemite

A View from Sacramento

1874

Giant Redwood Trees of California

1874

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

1863

Ferns and Rocks on an Embankment

1869

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

1878

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

Study of an Ewe

1855

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

of

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