July 15, 2018
This painting is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the “Painted in Mexico” exhibition that originated in Los Angeles. Jesus displays his “carnal” heart – a very popular object of veneration at this time – while a personification of the Church uses the Eucharist to send a beam of light to illuminate a bible. I like how the beam is not reflected from the pages, but is instead transformed into jagged lightning bolts that strike dead the enemies of the church (and the Jesuits, who supported the cult of the sacred heart against its opposition.)
The image of Jesus is a direct adaptation of this earlier, less complex picture.
The sacred heart, representations of which originated in the middle ages, was at first shown iconographically, i.e. as a stylized heart shape, but eventually become anatomically correct. Not quite clear on whether this is a bleeding heart…
Up on the roof, there is a different, more ironic sort of veneration going on.
February 4, 2014
The “lost wax” (cire perdue) process has been used for millenia to produce cast metal sculptures, usually bronze, that are hollow. Making them hollow is essential, because otherwise, the piece would be enormously heavy, even if small, and too expensive to produce. The clever technique for producing a thin-shell casting can also, with a few additional steps, produce a master that can be reproduced at will.
Considering how important this process is in the history of art, I am amazed at how difficult it is to find a decent explanation of it. Without clear diagrams, the lengthy narratives of the process are impossible to follow, and among the many illustrations I found, all seem to leave out one crucial step or the other!
Just to keep my own thinking on the subject straight, I created my own diagrams. Click to enlarge them.
Direct Lost Wax Process: no multiples
Indirect Lost Wax Process: multiples
December 25, 2012
Trebuchet – lower left
A common secular theme in medieval artifacts, often in beautifully wrought ivory cases for whatnots and mirrors. Knights attack the castle of love, defended by maidens who have only buckets of roses with which to repel the attackers. Sometimes Cupid lends a hand…to whom? The knights use the usual run of siege tactics, and sometimes a trebuchet is present.
Another view of the one above
Lower left – another trebuchet
Trebuchet on the right
For a change of pace, the two left-hand panels on the case below show the story of that lovable old coot, Aristotle, tutor of Alexander the Great, being humiliated by Phyllis. The ones on the right tell the tale of Pyramus an Thisbe, from Ovid, and known to most through its later incarnations, such as Romeo and Juliet and The Fantasticks.
More siege craft and love below.
December 19, 2012
Watching the movie Capote (2005) yesterday, and it was pretty good, I got to thinking of Warhol. Turns out he was fascinated by Capote and his portrait on the back of his first book. Seems a lot of people were taken by the photo, and it became as much, or more of a cause célèbre than the book itself. Warhol wrote fan letters to Capote and called his first gallery show Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote.
Yes, I think the visual influences are clear.
There’s a scene in the movie when Capote is talking to the New Yorker editor, William Shawn, after his successful preview reading from In Cold Blood: he asks breathlessly, “Should we do more readings?” Shawn replies that they should not; they will let people talk about the book, build interest. “Let them do the work.”
Well, nobody could accuse Capote of not doing his work. As one character in the film remarks, “You’re nothing if not hard-working.” But then there’s Warhol…
I think Warhol realized that popular culture in the early 1960s was ready to step lightly over the homosexual bar, and Capote’s unabashedly affected and effeminate manner were probably an inspiration to him. His great insight was that if he just played himself straight, people would not know how to accept – process – his personality, and would assume he was ironical, sophisticated, in other words, an artist. Then he could do the things he most wanted to do: get rich; hobnob with the rich and famous; be famous; and play with pictures other people made, while others did his publicity and produced critical laurels and justifications for him. He was dead on, and his blockbuster success was the proof. The only irony was that he assumed others would assume he was an ironist, and he was happy to let them.
There’s really not much to Warhol’s work, unless you enjoy his colors and designs, at least, not much that isn’t created and put there by others. But that never mattered to him.
September 23, 2012
But God who oft descends to visit men
Unseen, and through thir habitations walks
To mark thir doings, them beholding soon,
Comes down to see thir Citie, ere the Tower
Obstruct Heav’n Towrs, and in derision sets
Upon thir Tongues a various Spirit to rase
Quite out thir Native Language, and instead
To sow a jangling noise of words unknown:
Forthwith a hideous gabble rises loud
Among the Builders; each to other calls
Not understood, till hoarse, and all in rage,
As mockt they storm; great laughter was in Heav’n
And looking down, to see the hubbub strange
And hear the din; thus was the building left
Ridiculous, and the work Confusion nam’d.
from Paradise Lost Book XII
And from an earlier passage in the poem, where Satan meets Sin and Death (I think he is kin to both of them…) guarding the gates of hell, James Gillray drew inspiration for one of his most popular caricatures. (In Sin, Death and the Devil (1792). Pitt is Death and Thurlow Satan, with Queen Charlotte as Sin in the middle.) Then Jacques Louis David somehow took it into his head to use the Gillray’s pose for his Rape of the Sabine Women. More here.
March 15, 2012
I was struck by this image of the Prime Minister of China that appeared in today’s NYTimes. I don’t know enough of Chinese art to be able to place the style of the image in the background, or to know if it is a reproduction or a valuable original, but it is interesting to me that he is happy to be shown in front of an image that depicts peacocks. Can you imagine Obama in such a pose? Or Sarkozy?
China is, after all, the oldest continuous civilization in existence, and the imagery of state power does change slowly. The Emperor simply changes his clothes.
September 1, 2011
When I was in high school, I loved Salvador Dalí. I knew all his paintings, read his biography, his novel, and his autobiography (The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.) I vividly recall the first time I saw one of his pictures: it was in fourth grade, and I opened a book that had his premonition of the civil war. I thought it was the weirdest, most grotesque thing I had ever seen.
He did a lot of junk, but at his best, he was very good. I always wished I could have attended the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme and seen Rainy Taxi, with the bedraggled mannequin in the back seat, water cascading through the roof, and snails crawling over her limbs. Seeing the car in the lobby of the Figueras Theatro Salvador Dalí was a thrill. I still get a kick out of much of his work. There’s no surrealist like him. The ancient church across the street from the theater is a beautiful complement to his craziness, and one he surely appreciated.