Archive for the Death & the Maiden Category

Ghoulish Greetings II

Posted in Apollo, Death & the Maiden, Halloween, Meso-american art, Xipe Totec with tags on October 30, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This is my second attempt at this post, the first having mysteriously disappeared, spooky.

 In my ongoing effort to better appreciate the elusive qualities of Mesoamerican art, the Better Half aand I spent our friday date night exploring the galleries of Ancient American art at LACMA. It really is a wonderful gallery, very broad in its scope, a true treasure trove. But amongst the calligraphic beauty of gracefully decorated Mayan ceramics and the beguiling jadeite baubles, there are many ghoulish artifacts of a culture long lost.

Mosaic Skull

Western Oaxaco or Puebla

1400-1521

human skull with inlaid turquoise, jadeite and shell

LACMA

 Mexico is of course well known for its ornamental use of skulls ; living in LA, particularly this time of year, it is difficult to avoid their toothy grins. But as I explore Mesoamerican art more thoughtfully I am better understanding the cultural significance of these ghoulish delights. What I had initially dismissed as a taste for the macabre now holds greater significance; renewal of life lies at the heart of this obsession with death.

Given the season, I thought a little sampling of our recent visit was in order.

The following shell pendant is quite a delight, very small and of obvious appeal to modern taste.

Skull Pendant

Mexico, Aztec

1350- 1520

shell

LACMA

This ceramic censor has similar appeal.

Skull Shaped Censor

Mexico

1400-1521

ceramic

LACMA

 I’m afraid the following hasn’t any charm at all, in fact it is quite terrifying.

It is an image fashioned of basalt in which a priest is garbed in the flayed flesh of a sacrificial victim. This costume, part of a spring equinox ritual, in which the priest is dressed as the god Xipe Totec, Our Lord of the Flayed One. The celebrant will wear this horrifying ensemble for 21 days, at which time, the flesh rotting off his body, he will emerge reborn.

Lovely.

But as my professor wisely pointed out, flaying seems to be a universal vice, one need to look no further then Apollo and Marsyas.

With that point made, I quickly fell off my Eurocentric high-horse.

A play upon Death and the Maiden, the beloved posing for scale and for cuteness.

Male Figure in Guise of Xipe Totec

 Mexico, Aztec

1400-1521

basalt

LACMA

A western version of a similar image, equally ghoulish, but from my perspective more poetic.

Bartolomeo Manfredi

Apollo and Marsyas

1616-20

oil on canvas

Saint Louis Art Museum

With that, I will close this post, i must rush off to the gym to fend off Death and renew this aging bag of bones.

Have quite a Happy Halloween!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

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The Cycle Continues, Vanitas, Aging and the Inevitable

Posted in 16th cent, Aubrey Beardsley, Death & the Maiden, Hans Baldung Grien, Me on August 15, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Perhaps it is merely a symptom of my summer holiday nearing to its close.

The Spouse and I spent several halcyon days in San Francisco , our daily anxieties pushed aside. But we have now returned to our regular concerns.

Upon this return,  I have been re-experiencing a bit of depression ; it might be a symptom of my own aging ( I recently turned one year shy of five decades). When I see myself in the mirror, it causes me pause. This reflection causes me to look more deeply at my situation. I attempt to avoid morbidity ( as natural an inclination as that may be for me) but one cannot escape the sand slipping through hourglass. This is a fact that I am becoming increasingly more aware of. The fortunate effect of this awareness  is that  I am now struggling with my own authenticity more aggressively. The notion of Vanitas, not merely personal admiration, but the silly distractions that seems to rear up time and again, is of pressing interest .

I am actively trying to recognize the temptation of such follies when they cross my daily path, with that in mind, my attention turns to Hans Baldung -Grien. I can think of few artists who explored the notion of Vanitas more thoroughly. I have taken impish delight in his menacing skeletal Deaths cavorting with oblivious Maidens for years; but  I am now  looking more closely. I have actually never seen a Baldung in the flesh (so to speak), only from illustrations; but even from such inferior sources I am aware of the richness of his understanding. This former apprentice of the great Dürer seems to have captured the universal struggles of Man: the conflict between  fragile beauty and pleasure and  the inflexible wall of eternity, our own  brief moment, and what we must do with it.

Baldung captured the gravitas and left room for a smile.

 Hans Baldung Grien

 b.1484/85

d1545

Death and the Maiden

1510

oil on limewood

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

I particularly admire the theThree Ages being depicted in one panel, her infant self toying innocently with the veil (of Life?), her lovely Maiden self deeply absorbed in her  own beauty, how can one blame her?, her middle- aged, sobered Crone  rushing froward to fend away Death.

I find myself more and more identifying with the sobered Crone.

Death and the Maiden

1518-20

oil on panel

 Öffentliche Kunstsammluna, Basel

Our fair Maiden seems to have lost the battle.

Three Ages of Man

1539

oil on panel

Museo del Prado

I find the landscape of particular interest, the owl such a curious figure.

One of my own paintings has been accepted in a juried show; in order to avoid further Vanitas it is worth noting that the show is in Glendale California at the Brand Library and Art Gallery.

Glendale is perhaps best remembered as the provincial  backwater that drove dear Veda to distraction (and murder?) in the marvelous Mildred Pierce.

That said I am of course pleased.

The painting is my own modest exploration of Vanitas, it is about two years old; at the time I was a bit intrigued with LA’s Low-Brow movement, that interest has passed, but the painting lingers, a testament to Vanitas on multiple levels. 

by the author

 Nod to Aubrey

2010

acrylic and canvas, gold leaf

 As the title suggests, the painting it is my own play on the great Aubrey Beardsley and his fascinating depictions of fetus. They have captured my imagination for years and I wished to explore the theme myself. It of course was natural/predictable to include a Death figure.

By the great A.B of course , marvelous, creepy fetus and an odd-ball assortment of fiends.

I will close with a few more images of Baldung, he not only depicted the Three Ages with much understanding, he tackled the Fall of Man time and again. What I found so interesting with the following image is that instead of poor beleaguered Eve being depicted as the Eternal Temptress once again, Adam seems to be the culprit to our Downfall. He is at the very least a lascivious accomplice. 

Adam and Eve

1531

oil on panel

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

I will close with one last image, a detail from another Adam and Eve (1524), because he is quite a fetching Adam.

I refuse to resist Vanitas completely!

Adam and Eve , detail of Adam

1524

oil on panel

Szépmûvészeti Museum, Budapest

I appreciate your indulgence i f I tended towards the maudlin.

Until next time, I wish you well,

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

1847

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

1864

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

Suicide

1854

( Satan looking pretty hot)

Guillotined Head

1855

The young sorceress

( saucy little thing)

The precipitated inhumation

(gotta love THAT title)

Quasimodo

Satan

(another saucy little thing)

A Scene in Hell

1864

(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

Brussels

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

1509-1510

Wishing you a cheery week!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

For more images of Wiertz’s work click here.

source

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