Tuesday, 26 February 2013

It's Tough to Be the Queen - Part 8

Last time on As the World Turns (Around Marie de’ Medici), her hubby Henry presented her with a disappointing representation of imperial domination in the form of a small orb.  This time things get real, with her actual coronation to become Queen of France.

Besides my pop-cultural training that immediately makes me expect the cardinals in red to leap forward and shout, “NOBODY expects the Spanish inquisition!”, a few things are noteworthy in this painting.

First, apparently royal coronations were pet-friendly affairs.  These dogs are practically on the dais, in position to jump and wee with joy on the new queen’s impressive blue train at a moment’s notice.  I think they are hoping that someone will throw the Orb of Royal Power so they can fetch it.

Next, while most of the crowd is raptly watching the coronation proceedings, in the back there are a couple of guys who look about ready to start a brawl. 

Maybe this was the early equivalent of sport hooliganism, and the supporters of opposing would-be regents are going to go at it?

Perhaps most striking, however, is the pair of angels that have entered the proceedings riding on weather patterns that are unusual for the typical indoor event.  Furthermore, they are dumping gold over the crowd.


Now, if this were meant to be a symbolic representation of divine sanction of the new queen, raining divine bounty upon her invisible to the masses, that would be one thing.  But there are some people looking up and desperately scrabbling for the golden showers.

This would seem to imply that it is a thing that is actually happening in the room, and 90% of the people just don’t think indoor cloud formations with winged beings throwing around cash money is worth noticing.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Poke the Wound of Christ

I was watching Bill Bailey last week, and came across this bit where he basically steals my job here and talks about paintings of Doubting Thomas.  This is a popular vignette taken from the Gospel of John, where Jesus returns from the grave and all the disciples seem him but Thomas.  So they tell him, “Hey Tom, Jesus totally came back from the dead,” and he’s all like, “Yeah whatever guys, I’ll believe it when I literally stick my hand in his still-gaping wounds,” and then Jesus appears again and goes “You asked for it,” and wound-poking commences.

This week I’ll do a quick review of a Thomas Poking Jesus painting, and let you watch the video for a broader overview of the genre (with Greek subtitles, for all my Greek readers...although in this case Koine might have been more appropriate).  This particular one is by 17th century Dutch painter Hendrick ter Brugghen.

First, here is Jesus forcing Thomas’ finger into the wound in his side.  Early diagnostic imaging at its best!

This is fairly unpleasant business.  Understandably, some of the audience is looking away, presumably at some passing birds, or maybe some happy butterflies.

However, one person is looking on with interest. 

This creepy old man is going, “Hmm, penetration of gaping flesh wounds…how fascinating.  Now, just a little to the left…”

For me, perhaps the creepiest part of this image is Jesus himself, pushing someone else’s finger into his ribcage, slightly lumpy face balanced between patience and irritation. 

I saw this and thought, “Oh no!  Mentally unbalanced Smeagol is about to strangle that man!”

You touched the Precious...body of Christ...
 That would be one way to ensure Thomas doubted no more.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Jilted Hulk SMASH (NSFW)

Dear readers, this week I thought we would take a look at ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.  I knew that there were lots of them featuring portraits of actors or geisha of the period, scenes from books or plays, and famous landscapes and seasonal images.  What I forgot when I fired up the WikiPaintings search was that hardcore sex and vengeance were also pretty popular.  Here at SARFT, we feel that if it’s pre-20th century, it must be worthwhile art.  However, because this is a classy blog, I decided to go with one that does not depict explicit carnal embrace. 

Utagawa Kunisada, Tokaido 53 Stations, #C

Instead, we have the saddest, most awkward version of the Hulk ever, preparing to throw a shelf full of baskets and fans at a couple that I must assume is asleep.  How they are remaining asleep with a rage-shrieking nude man with mutant hip joints (among other things) stomping around, and another lady screaming at the intrusion of their cozy ménage à trois, I am not sure.  They must have gotten really tired.  Which, given some of the activities depicted in this artist’s other prints, would not surprise me actually.  Also the way the wall is depicted in the background, it kind of looks like there are bees swarming around the shelf, which would really make the scene that much more exciting.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Meet James Ensor (Belgium's Famous Painter)

I must confess that everything I knew about James Ensor before doing this post I learned from this song by They Might Be Giants.  Thus I knew that he lived with his mother and the torments of Christ (who make great roommates!).  I don't know much more now that I have looked him up, but I did discover that he was a vindictive, sarcastic bastard who was obsessed with “artistic revenge”, and really that makes me like him all the more.

Thus we have this painting, "Les cuisiniers dangereux" (The Dangerous Cooks). 


This evidently satirizes his struggles with “Les Vingts,” a group of Belgian painters.  Two men he has some issues with, Octave Mause and Edmond Picard, are shown as ruthless cooks serving up Ensor’s head on a platter à la John the Baptist.

First off, let me just observe that whichever one has his head on a plate has a fantastic mustache.  It goes so well with his aloof demeanor.  I do wonder at the tools he carries with him, however…

It looks like some kind of freaky multi-knife holster, which makes some sense for a chef.  But what is that dangling off of it?  It looks like a mobile phone charm of a donkey or something, which would be only slightly less out of place if this were not painted in the 19th century.

In the back, we see some diners who I can only assume are art critics.

I am not sure how Teddy Roosevelt got an invite to a Belgian art critic dinner, but whatever.  Some of the diners are obviously not impressed, as they vomit spectacularly over the table.

On the staircase behind the diners, an Asian man slinks up the stairs carrying a flaming…stick?  Match?  Cigarette?  In any case, someone is dumping a kettle of coffee on his head from behind a door, because Social Commentary.

In other news, there is a bird-lady laying an egg while she hangs by the neck.  It doesn’t look like you’d get much meat off her, being so much foot and feather, so I’m not sure why she’s strung up when she’s clearly still economically viable as an egg-producer.

Finally there is this adorable monacled dwarf pig-man, and his lobster sidekick with a fantastic schnoz.