Saint Sebastian

June 18, 2018

Mantegna-049-St.Sebastian-1480-1485The unfortunate Saint Sebastian – I guess the saints are all unfortunate, since they all meet grisly deaths, but then, that’s their good fortune from the Christian point of view… -is a familiar figure to lovers of art history.  Also familiar to male lovers of men, since his image is popular as a gay icon in wildly different forms, many in the realm of kitsch, or camp, as it were.  I get that he’s a young, strapping fellow (patron saint of athletes for some reason), and the voyeuristic, masochistic, erotic aura that hangs, or can be projected about him.  (Did Oscar Wilde really say that in this image he looked a bit like a “mournful pin cushion,” or is that just something my girlfriend told me in high school?)  Once he was released from his martyrdom in Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde did adopt the pseudonym, Sebastian Melmoth, the first part for the saint? and the second a reference to the long-suffering protaganist of Maturin’s early 19th century gothic tale Melmoth the Wonderer.

This image by Mantegna is just one of the most famous showing the saint’s martyrdom by archery at the order of Diocletian, or is it?  Yes, those two fellows in the right foreground have done their duty, and tied and shot up Sebastian, a former member of the emperor’s Praetorian Guard who kept his Christianity secret so that he could give help to the persecuted Christians.  He was found out, and Diocletian ordered him killed…but is he dead?  He appears alive to me!

I know that saints are the subjects and producers of miracles all the time, but if their sainthood is based on being murdered for their faith, shouldn’t they…er…be dead?  This set me off on a little art historical research regarding the saint, and I quickly found that he did not die from the fusillade of arrows, although you can hardly accuse the archers of negligence in carrying out orders.  He did survive, miraculously, and was fetched and tended by Saint Irene.  During the middle ages, because he had survived his execution by arrows, he was invoked for help against diseases, especially the bubonic plague.

Since he was undeterred by fear of death, and since his cover was quite obviously blown, his next move after recovering from his wounds was to go to the emperor’s palace, hide in an alcove or stairwell, and furiously upbraid Diocletian for his sins when he finally happened by.  Naturally, the emperor was furious:  not only was the man not dead as he had ordered, but he returns and insults him directly!  Diocletian ordered his men to club Sebastian to death – perhaps considered a more certain technique – and then to throw his body into the sewer, sometimes noted as the cloaca maxima.  Eventually, his body was retrieved, but the scenes of his actual death, and subsequent disposal and retrieval are vastly less common in art history than the picturesque and unsuccessful first try.

Here we have the saint being pitched into the sewer, as painted by Lodovico Carraci.  His suspension in the air just as he is beginning to fall in seems awkward to me.

1200px-Lodovico_Carracci_(Italian_-_St._Sebastian_Thrown_into_the_Cloaca_Maxima_-_Google_Art_Project

The work below, by Altdorfer, shows the saint’s body being retrieved from the sewer, or at least from out of the muck, but friends who will bury him in the catacombs near the resting places of the apostles.  His body seems little the worse for his immersion in the sewer.

recover-the-body-of-st-sebastian-1516 (1)

Scenes of Sebastian’s actual execution by clubbing are a bit more plentiful:  here is one by Veronese.

1200px-Martyrdom_of_St_Sebastian,_glaven_korab

Josse Lieferinxe did a set of paintings of the saint for altarpiece dedicated to him, and this image shows him being beaten to death:  in the background the executioners dump his body into the sewer.

1493+-Josse Lieferinxe (Fr)-St Sebastian clubbed-- copy

Another beating, but I have not identified the painter.

057_SebastianBeaten

The three images below are from a tiny chapel dedicated to St. Sebastian in Venanson in southern France.  The chapel is not well documented on the internet, but the painter of these frescoes is identified as Giovanni Baleison.

If you need a reason to take a trip to Provence, this site, and the even less documented one in Roubion should be reason enough.  The only photos of individual panels of the frescoes I could find online are licensed, and have a copyright logo watermark.  The two below show the saint being dumped into and retrieved from the sewer.

HYH0E3

CBGMMH

This image of the chapel frescoes shows the panel of the saint’s dumping in situ.

Roubion_-_Chapelle_Saint-Sébastien_-_Peintures_murales_-1

Finally, to bring us back nearer to the present, we have an image of a studio session with Muhammad Ali posing as Saint Sebastian, part of series of famous men standing in for the saint.

Ali_No._20

Sebastian’s head, or “skull cap” is preserved here, supposedly.

Relic_of_St._Sebastian_01

Advertisements

Fibonacci in Action…

June 12, 2018

_Dandy1a

…or so I’ve heard.


Back to the Pin Hole

June 8, 2018

NM 2ab.jpg

That’s a coelacanth, and some fruit.  The barcodes got blown out, despite the shady day.

42AFAFE2-3C67-4BD7-92AB-E0B48D22B3FD


Upper Manhattan Jaunt

January 7, 2018

I revisited one of my favorite buildings in Manhattan; the multi-storey sub-basement of an old apartment building in Washington Heights, amidst the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Complex.

Upper Lower Dungeon

It really does seem like a dungeon to me.

Let me out

It’s barely visible from this perspective amidst the hospital behemoths that recall to my mind the fantasies of Saint Elia.

StElia

futurism-architectural-drawings.jpg

Manhattan Schist, so it’s called, is prominent up here, and from such soil, great structures grow.

Growth

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, we had barely two seasons:  I love the winter!love winter II

After all this gawking at icy splendor, I retreated to The Cloisters.

IMG_4158

Son of Clovis?

IMG_4148

Saint Lawrence Being Roasted:  The story goes that after grilling for a while, he declared, “I’m well-done, turn me over!”  Thus, he is the patron saint of cooks.

IMG_4146


Larvatus prodeo

December 7, 2017

Masked IIa.jpg

Full image here.


In the Wild

November 10, 2017

maze 1Ba

I ventured into the local Teaneck Creek Conservancy for some landscape shots.  They have a labyrinth for contemplation, where I attempted that.  Shot with a coffee can pinhole.

The two images below were taken at other locations in The Creek.  Working in the field with pinhole on paper is difficult:  have to carry around all those loaded boxy cameras; some developed light leaks; reloading must be done in a darkroom bag; and I have not yet gotten the hang of dealing with high-contrast settings.  I also tend to forget that if I want a selfie, I must be close to the camera!

Landscape 1B

 

Pond 1B


Pinhole and Not

November 1, 2017

old books POS

It was a dull, cloudy day out, so even with some lights turned on, this interior shot was exposed for about 9,000 seconds; that’s two and one-half hours.  🙂  The aperture is 0.2mm and the focal length is 0.9″ for an f-stop of about 114.  My collection of first editions of illustrated copies of Voltaire’s Candide and E. A. Poe’s The Adventure of Arthur Gordon Pym are hardly legible.  😦

Cloisters_iPad

This is the image I should have taken with my pinhole camera yesterday at The Cloisters!  But it was made with my iPad.