Archive for the Orientalist Category

Feast Day of the Epiphany

Posted in Feast of the Epiphany, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Hieronymus Bosch, Nicholas Poussin, Orientalist, Sandro Botticelli on January 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

January 6th is the feast day of the Epiphany, a time for many of us to tear down the tree, stash the glitter for our more somber decor, and with  a certain melancholy, be happy the hub-bub is over.

It is of course also when , to believers, the infant was revealed as the Son of God.

Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot

about 1390-1410



Getty Museum

The very word epiphany is a joy to say, it sounds magical, sacred, not of this mundane world.

Within this very special world ,where beautiful infants reveal their identity as gods, three visitors with names equally exhilarating, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar; artists have found intense inspiration. What artist can resist this scene, the mother and child, the barnyard beasts, the shepherds, and the Kings, with rare gifts, who would want to resist?

Adoration of the Magi

Georges Lallemant

before 1624

Adoration of the Magi

Francesco Bassano


The Hermitage

It is unfortunately quite doubtful that the Magi were so majestically dressed, little baby Jesus would have enjoyed the spectacle.

What we do know comes from Matthew 2:1 ,

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”.

“From the east” is what we had to run with, and artistic  imagination certainly ran. Balthasar a striking Moor, Casper and Melchior representing Orientalist fantasies of Persia and India, all so grand.

Those far wiser then this author have suggested the Magi hailed from Persia, with connections to Zoroaster, some have suggested Babylon ( which of course I would prefer). Early images of the Magi, will often have them wearing Phrygian caps.

Roman catacomb painting



Basillica de Santa Maria Maggiore



Coming from the east, they made a pit stop at Herod’s palace,

Then Herod, when he had prively called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared”

Matthew 2:7.

Three Magi before Herod

early 15th century

Musée National du Moyen Ãge

I love how nasty Herod looks.

Adoration of the Magi

Duccio di Buoninisegna 1308-11

Museo dell ‘Opera de Duomo


” And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts;gold, and frankincense, and myrrh”

Matthew 2:11.


ca, 1200


Musée National du Moyen Ãge

Adoration of the Magi

Jean Bourdichon

Musée du Louvre


An exciting resource for images of the Magi tale is right here in LA, the Getty Museum, this link provides a handy list.

Adoration of the Magi

Gaspare Diziani


Museum of Fine Arts


Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli


Uffizi Gallery

One of my favorites,

Adoration of the Magi

Nicolas Poussin


So enchanted was Gian-Carlo Mennoti by this Bosch interpretation, he was compelled to create Amahl and the Night Visitor.

Adoration of the Magi

Hieronymous Bosch

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gian-Carlo Menotti

around 1944

b.7th July 1911

d.1st February 2007

I am familiar with this operas, I am ambivalent about the music.

My hesitations concerning this work  may be due in great part to sorrowful memories of Episcopalian amateurs caterwauling Menotti’s work; I happened to once create sets for it as my church was putting on a production.

Whatever my feelings are, I am impressed that Amahl was commissioned by NBC for its NBC Opera Theatre. I have a clip from 24th of December 1951, in which it aired on the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Happy  Feast Day of the Epiphany !

Respectfully submitted,


Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Chinoiserie, Chung Ling Foo, Koekkoek, Madame Pamita, Orientalist, Silent Film on November 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At the turn of the 20th century an exotic Chung Ling Soo was enchanting Western audiences with the  mysteries of the East.

Chung Ling Soo, with the lovely “slant eyed maiden” Suee Seen were a smash captivating crowds with smoke and mirrors.

But behind the veil of fame and mystery a different truth could be discovered.

For behind the Orientalist facade lurked William Ellsworth Robinson ( 1861-1918), the Asian beauty by his side?, his wife Dottie.

In May of 1900, William E. Robinson took up the persona of Chung Ling Soo, so sincere was he in maintaining this charade that apparently he never spoke in English again. At least not until his last words, but we’ll get to that…

Quite a ‘stache he had to sacrifice for chinoiserie splendor!

The decision to adopt the stage name Chung Ling Soo was quite deliberate.

At the time there was an actual Chinaman, a renown magician, Ching Ling Foo (1854-1922)


So great was the fame of Ching Ling Foo, the REAL Chinaman ( I know it is terribly confusing), that Thomas Edison felt the need to expose his trickery.

Perhaps part of Robinson/Chung Ling’s plan was to “coat-tail” on Ching’s genuine fame. I don’t know, but a rivalry was set across Europe.

Both seemed to benefit from the competition, Chung Ling Soo engaging in flashier and flashier acts.

One such act was a macabre twist on the Boxer Rebellion.



Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek



The final performance of this bizarre trick would be at London’s Wood Green Empire, March 23rd 1918.

Something went terribly awry, instead of the trick giving the allusion of a gun shot, an actual bullet escape.

This ended Chung Ling Soo’s vow to not betray his true identity; his last words in his mother tongue:

“Oh my God. Something happened. Lower the curtain.”

A true showman to the end!

Much of the myth around Chung Ling Soo is difficult to verify, I was unable to gather info concerning Dottie the “slant eyed maiden” ( I can’t believe they got away with saying that!) for example. But I did stumble upon this silly clip narrated by the wonderful Boris Karloff, it’s great fun.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, my dear friend Madame Pamita, Sideshow Entertainer Extraordinaire suggested i might find Chung Ling Soo of interest.

She was correct.

Thank you Madame Pamita.


Pirate Jenny… I mean Madame Pamita.

Thank you, enjoy the week.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


Decadent Movement comes to L.A.

Posted in Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Decadent Movement, Green Carnation, Gustave Moreau, Huysmans, Nazimova, Orientalist, Oscar Wilde, Silent Film on November 3, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I’m not speaking of some tawdry film set in the San Fernando Valley or a Palm Springs pool party ; I’m thinking of that infinitely more satisfying period in the 1890’s when  the line between beauty and perversity was fully explored, the Decadent Movement.



Thracian Girl Carrying the Head of Orpheus on His Lyre


Gustave Moreau


Musée d’Orsay


I was reminded of this delightful time by my friend Kim Cooper of LAVA Sunday Salon fame. Kim had thoughtfully sent along an email announcement that UCLA was putting together a lecture series devoted to the Decadent Movement and Aestheticism, of course I made reservations pronto.

Once I knew I had secured a seat, I felt free to share the info. I tend to be greedy.

It is a two day lecture, November 19th and 20th at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, if you happen to be in L.A. please join me.

Of A Neophyte And How The Black Art Was Revealed Unto Him By The Fiend Asamuel


Aubrey Beardsley


We can’t really think of the Decadent movement without regarding Huysmans and his wonderfully perverse novels À rebours (Against the Grain, 1884) and my personal favorite Là-Bas (The Damned, 1891). À rebours chronicles the exploits of the wicked aesthete Jean Des Esseintes. It is a marvelous novel, beloved by Wilde and his set, I must revisit this novel.

Jean Des Essientes is said to be based on that dandy of dandies Robert de Montesquieu, a delightful portrait by Giovanni Boldini follows.

Joris-Karl Huysman was himself a bit of a dandy, I really admire this photo-portrait of Huysmans. I find it intriguing how a sacred object such as a crucifix can  appear sinister when in the company of this man. I want my next portrait to be in this pose.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

b. Feb. 5th 1848

d. May 12th 1907

Certain dark themes recur time and again within the Decadent Movement, Oedipus and the ghastly Sphynx, dark angels and swooning lamentations, Moreau’s Orpheus a good example. But no figure held the imagination so firmly as Salome . Wilde, Beardsley, Moreau, and Ricketts, along with many others, all tried to capture her dark allure.



Gustav Moreau



Charles Ricketts


The Toilet of Salome I, from Salome




Although not of the period it is difficult to not toss in the silent screen starlet Alla Nazimova and her iconic 1923 depiction of the wanton Salome.

As I intend to experience the lecture fully, I will re-read that silly little novel that caused such a sensation in ’94, Robert Hitchens, Green Carnation.

I hope to be a s precious as Esmé Amarinth, hope to see you there.

Have a pleasant evening,

Babylon Baroque

Mucha Madness

Posted in 19th cent., Alphonse Mucha, Blessed Virgin Mary, Me, Mucha, Orientalist, Sarah Bernhardt on October 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

It is difficult to not explore Mucha when discussing divine Sarah. The man was essential to her image of HighGlamour.

He has greatly influenced my taste from very early on.

As a boy of eight my wildly eccentric Nana presented me with a wonderful  Whitman’s tin, it bore the image of the familiar “Zodiac” panel (inside Nana had stuffed it with lead soldiers from WWI, marvelous toys). The tin was a wonder to me,   I probably loved it more then the soldiers ( as I said before, I was a sissy boy). This exotic box with it’s  scratched and rusted Orientalist decoration opened a world of beauty known as Mucha to me.

Thank you Nana, recquiscat in pace.

As I mentioned Mucha controlled, with meddling, Sarah’s image.

This famous poster of Miss Bernhardt from the production of Gismonda is well known.


1895 printed by Lemercier

It is one of my favorites.

The glamour shot that follows, it’s inspiration.

It is tempting to go on about Mucha’s work, but others have done a much finer job then I am capable of.

He is justly popular.

I will focus on the trivial, as that is where my talents happily  lie.

Let’s discuss Mucha’s pretty Studio, it’s a grand affair.

I’m thinking this is his second studio, rue Val de Grace, 1895. He had another,charmingly described as” above Madame Charlotte’s cremerie”. I  don’t profess to be a Mucha scholar, I just like pretty pictures.

Location may be uncertain, but it’s influence on my taste is abundantly clear. It is a magical place.

Mucha’s studio.

Anyone who knows my taste is aware of my affection for graven images, the Madonna front and center drives me mad.

I wish my own work warranted such brazen display.

Loving the stuffed pheasant, always room for taxidermy.

In my own modest way, I have attempted to recreate Mucha-stile in my own home studio.

Mucha-stile on a budget.

Authors home studio, my pugdog Daisy in foreground, dachshund  Buddy further on.

As I said Mucha still inspires, I still have the Whitman’s tin, more scratched and rusty as ever, but still treasured.

Nana’s gift to her sissy grandson.

The inspiration for the tin, the Zodiac panel.

Zodiac panel.

In addition to a shared love of writhing foliate bejeweled ornament and overdecorated studios, Alphonse Mucha and I share a birthdate. I am quite pleased with that coincidence.

Alphonse Maria Mucha

self portrait

b. July 24th 1860

d. July 14th 1939

(as I was born in “62 perhaps I will live to 2039 or so, hope so)

Mucha died in Czechoslovakia, a victim of Nazi harassment. Shortly after German occupation, they interrogated poor Alphonse. clearly a man capable of making such loveliness couldn’t handle the thuggery. He died shortly after the assault.

Although the Nazis had banned attendance to his funeral, 100,000 bravely defied the order and gave Mucha the respect due to a great genius.

Recquiscat in Pace

for further interesting tidbits, please check out  the Mucha Foundation site

Have a great weekend.

Good Shabbos!

Nutt’s Folly on True Blood

Posted in 19th cent., American South, Bulbiform, Civil War, Nutt's Folly, Orientalist, Samuel Sloan, True Blood on July 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At last I am able to combine my fondness for True Blood with my truest passion, 19th century architecture.

The Beloved and I were spending our usual Sunday evening mesmerized by our only real vice, True Blood. In between shots of porn worthy bodies, there is a plot. This plot contains a King. A Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, played foppishly by Denis O’Hare. This Undead Monarch is of course very rich, and has (of course )a very handsome, younger ( for a Vampire) boyfriend. the two share an amazing home ( of course),” beautifully”/pretentiously  appointed by the above mentioned “younger” boyfriend.

Generally we are allowed only interior shots, they are undead after all, not many opportunities for day shooting.

So far, I have seen two glimpses of the King’s Mansion, generally involving very hot naked werewolves. I recognized the house immediately,  it was Longwood!, ( I know, unfortunate name) but better known as Nutt’s Folly.


Natchez Mississippi

known as Nutt’s Folly

designed by Samuel Sloan,1859

As you can see by the date the world was about to end. The Civil War ( April 1861-last shot, June 1865) was looming upon society, extravagant  wonders like Longwood were doomed.

Samual Sloan (1815-1884), Philadelphia based, designed  Longwood in 1859 for Haller Nutt, a cotton planter of apparent wealth and prestige.

In the land of impressive plantations, Longwood must have stopped traffic. Longwood is the largest octagonal house in the U.S.. It’s finial alone is 24 feet. It Moorish architecture a strange and lovely marvel.

Sloan wrote of his creation “Fancy dictated that the dome should be bulbiform-a remembrancer of Eastern magnificence which few will judge misplaced as it looms up against the mellowed azure of a Southern sky’.

I love the word bulbiform, not used often enough.

A romantic passage for a romantic house.

Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a happy story. The terrible war broke, the Northern workmen fled, leaving much of the house unfinished. Poor Mr. Nutt died of pneumonia in ’64. The happiness anticipated destroyed by a bloody war.

The unfinished house became known as Nutt’s Folly.



Note the missing finial.

One of the minor casualties of the war was the furniture Sloan intended for Longwood. Rail shipments of course ceased between the North and the South, the furniture, illustrated in Sloan’s “Homestead Architecture”,ended up at a Yankee estate in Pennsylvania.

from “Homestead Architecture”

My buddy , the talented designer Patrick Ediger, was interested in the floor plan.

Next, you will find the layout of the principal floor.

from”Homestead Architecture”

As I mentioned the spire alone is 24 feet tall , replaced by a fiberglass replica , the original resides in the marvelously dusty attic of Longwood.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly has had a long and  challenging history, but aside from the indignities of being the star of a television show, it has gained the respect it deserves. It is now on the Historic Register, safe from developers, vulgarians, and Civil War.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly

140 Lower Woodville Road

Natchez, Mississippi

Good Night

Post Script

In case you are interested I have come across more images from “Sloan’s Homestead Architecture containing forty designs for villas, cottages, and farmhouses, with essays on style, construction, landscape, gardening, furniture, etc.etc.” 355pgs.

Published by J.B.Lippincott, Philadelphia ,PA, 1861

You have to love the verbosity, in our world  of text-brevity, I find the long winded titles touching.

Title Page

Oriental Villa/ Longwood

Terra Cotta

Drawing Room Furniture

Parlor Furniture

Library Furniture

Library Furniture

Plantation Residence

Love the palm trees.

Anglo-French (?) Villa, #2

Good Night

Indiscriminate Object of Beauty

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Dresser, Orientalist on March 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Given my ambivalence concerning Quimper pottery,I wanted to find something I love without question. Dresser to the rescue.

“alas poor Yorick!”


Designed by Christopher Dresser

English 1880

painted wood


What isn’t there to love, I’m crazy at how 60’s “retro” the owls are. Victorian Dresser aping the mod.

Good Shabbos, second week

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Daniel Pabst, Orientalist, Philadelphia on March 5, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As the week draws to an end, I am happy to share this rather obscure beauty.


Daniel Pabst, designer and maker

American, born Germany,1826-1910

Ebonized cherry, fabric not original

size approx 37x22x19

Brooklyn Museum

I would describe this chair as belonging to the Aesthetic Movement. I see hints of the hard, almost machine like qualities that Dresser explored in his more daring design work.

It also vaguely hints at the East, a certain Orientalist mystery to it. I can see it as the pride and joy of some 19th century Turkish Corner. Very fitting for Shabbos.

Daniel Pabst worked pretty exclusively in my favorite city, Philadelphia. Frank Furness made use of his talents. There is  wonderful desk, along with several other pieces in the Philadelphia Art Museum, permanent collection.

Unfortunately this great beauty is not on display, the Brooklyn Museum has it listred as not on view. A pity.

I look forward to exploring Pabst in more detail but for now this glimpse of this talents.