Thursday, 27 September 2012

Not Quite the Dog's Bollocks (But Close)

Quick post today!  This is a statue of Artemis of Ephesus found at the Vatican.  The Vatican has more pagan artwork than you can shake a stick at--and I am a proficient stick-shaker--but I particularly like the detail on this one...
The round things adorning her middle have been the subject of some speculation.  Scholars used to think they were breasts.  I mean, if the triple-breasted woman in Total Recall was so popular, this lady must be a total guy fantasy.  You could get lost in those breasts.

However, now academic opinion is that they are actually bull testicles.  Ok, technically they're still supposed to be a symbol of fertility.  But how did she get so many bull testicles?  Were they sacrificed to her and she just liked them so much she decided she wanted a shirt out of them?  Did she harvest them herself like Heaven's Serial Castration Machine and strap them around her torso?  Change that "fantasy" thing into "nightmare," then.

Although writing this I learned that castration might help men live longer.  Nature's an ironic bugger.

In any case, I think we can all agree that Artemis of Ephesis here has some serious balls.

Monday, 24 September 2012

It's Tough to Be the Queen - Part 3

We turn now to the next installment of Rubens’ Medici cycle.  Last time young Marie got educated by a bunch of scantily clad gods in a cave.  Having established she had a childhood, blah blah blah, this week she gets to her important womanly duty of wooing a man.  And she doesn’t even have to be present to do it!
When some angels descend to show her portrait to Henry IV of France, he is immediately besotted and desirous to engage her in holy matrimony.  I, personally, would be a little weirded out by someone I had never met writing to propose out of the blue because “some cherubim showed me your totally hawt pics,” but whatever.
Everyone and everything in the universe is supportive of this marriage.  Divine support is shown by Jupiter and Juno hanging out on a cloud, looking down with vaguely smug expressions at the lovestruck Henry.  They are supposed to present a model “marital harmony,” which is a little ironic given Jupiter’s difficulty keeping his thunderbolt in his toga.  But then, given that ol’ Henry had a few mistresses, including one that had borne him three kids before his first divorce and another he’d promised to marry but then changed his mind for Marie, maybe it isn’t such a bad parallel.
Here are a couple of naked baby angels playing with armor.  Aww, he’s so sweet cuddling that helmet!  I guess this represents, I dunno, that matrimony is war? 
This figure creepily breathing down Henry’s neck is France.  France is depicted here as “being both woman and man at the same time.”  Because nothing says national support for royal brides like breathless spooning from a bare-boobed hermaphrodite.

Edit: I had written about her young age previously, but it turns out I had a terrible mathematical brain slip, and Marie was actually kind of an old maid for the period.  My apologies.


I found this while looking up stuff on Henry IV, and it was too awesome not to share.  Painted by the circle of Toussaint Dubreuil about 1600—the year Henry married Marie—he is shown as Hercules slaying the Hydra. 
Why yes, this is my real body.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How to Lose a Man in Three Dates - Shakespeare Edition

Today we look at a double feature, revolving around Falstaff the Broke Fatso Casanova.  The scenes depicted derive from the Shakespeare play the Merry Wives of Windsor, or the Italian opera Falstaff, your pick.  I confess I have not read or seen either of these, but based on my intense Wikipedia-based research, the gist seems to be as follows:

The rotund gentleman in question decides to make some quick cash by seducing not one, but two married women who are apparently friends, by sending them identical love letters.  Clearly there are no flaws with this plan.  After the two ladies meet up and compare letters, they decide to have some fun with the would-be loverboy, by leading him on into awkward situations where they playfully dump him in a river, dress him in drag to be beaten, and have children set him on fire.  Oh, those merry wives!

These two paintings by John Henry Fuseli (or Johann Heinrich Füssli) in the late 18th century reflect a couple of these scenes.  In the first one, the ladies trick him into hiding in a basket of disgusting laundry, before dumping the laundry and him in the river.
I assume they had a couple of Olympic weightlifters on hand to transport the basket, because there’s no way the creepy guy leering in the doorway would manage it. 
 The ladies are wearing mutant children’s craft projects on their heads.
 This is perhaps to highlight their whimsical nature, as they prepare to attempt to drown this paragon of erotic desire.
 Just look at those full, supple lips.  That alluring pose.  That piercing gaze.  It’s no wonder he thought seducing two women at once was necessary; just going after one would have been a waste of his powers. 

In fact, I feel like he may have been the model for another cultural icon…
 Moving on to example two, the ladies convince Falstaff to dress as “Herne the Hunter,” a ghost with horns, and meet them in the forest.  They then convince the local children to dress up like fairies and “pinch and burn Falstaff to punish him.”  Here they are wandering the woods before the invasion of the midget fairies.
It seems the ladies chose this costume to highlight his horniness—literally. 
 “Oh, the things I do to maintain a couple of sugar mommas.  They keep suggesting the weirdest dates.  Good thing I’m so sexy.”

Friday, 14 September 2012

St. Anthony and the Funnel of Doom

Well, it’s been at least a couple weeks since we last explored artists’ efforts to tempt St. Anthony in the most bizarre ways possible.  This week’s offering was sent to me by the lovely person behind the pocket scroll, who gives it an insightful analysis in terms of spiritual temptation.  In contrast, I will give it an insightful analysis in terms of frog ships and funnel butts (TM – thanks Jen!).

First off: the National Gallery of Canada says that this work is attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, whose fantastic brain-spawn are a semi-regular feature around here.  However, I tried to find a higher-quality image or more information for it, and no matter the search string, this image didn’t come up in any internet searches for Bosch and the Temptation of St. Anthony.  Pro Tip: after several failed attempts, don’t try the keywords “funnel butt temptation” unless you like to feel your last shreds of innocence dissolving.

So anyway, here is the picture:
Mmm, nothing like a good dark, dystopian landscape for temptation.  Even the naked lady in the water looks a bit like a cross between Venus and a bearded man.  St Anthony in the center doesn’t look like he’s paying much attention, though.  This may be due to mind control rays being emitted by this satellite dish held by a stone gnome.
Meanwhile, in the background, a house is being demolished.  This is being accomplished by an army of lizards storming the walls.  
The one in the middle kind of looks like a land-going Manta Ray.  A Manta Ray conducting heavy artillery.  I would not mess.

South of the invading army there is a frog being used as a sailboat.  I guess it would be more like windsurfing than sailing.  Windfrogging?  I wonder what kind of distance you might get off of a frog leap backed with wind power?  
A single bound, and St Anthony’s unsuspecting attention is going to be torn from the Prince of Peace to the Frog Prince.

Other characters include this thing.  It appears to be the lower half of a fat lizard with a dude’s face poking out of its stomach.  
I mean, I’ve heard of navel gazing, but this is taking it a bit far.  He is also wearing a hat that features an emaciated armless imp doing a headstand.

Then there is the winged jewelry box with legs.  I think it may also be smirking.
This little guy is finally coming out of his shell.  No, literally.  Not equipped with a purpose-built beak, he has chipped his way out with his innate archery skills.   
But what poor creature is he aiming at now?
Oh.  A naked man with his head in a sack, a jar on his foot, and a funnel in his butt releasing butt-crows on an unsuspecting world. 

On second thought, you go get ‘im, hatchling archery demon!

Monday, 10 September 2012

It's Fun to Stay at the SoP! (School of Plato)

Dear readers, it's been a busy week, so I am afraid that for the moment I leave you with a picture and very few words.  Since the Graces were so popular last week, this time we have a little something for the ladies.

Due to copyright-type things, here is a crappy photo I took of this painting.
Now go check out the real deal with all the details.  We've seen Jean Delville's work before.  This one is called "The School of Plato," presumably because calling it "Jesus and his Fabulous Gay Disciples" would have been cause for a lynching in the 19th century.  So we'll go with Plato, hanging out with his twelve followers.  Apparently the best way to learn Platonic philosophy was to get naked and drape yourself across your fellow pupils, and weave daisy chains into each other's luscious locks. 

A friend reminds me that Plato was into "fully integrated education," including all aspects of physical and mental training.  All of them.  And they do seem to be enjoying their education.

Monday, 3 September 2012

It's Tough to Be the Queen - Part 2

Well, we’re back with another installment of the life and times of Marie de’ Medici.  Last time we saw her divine conception and birth surrounded by vaguely threatening angelic-types.  This week, we see her getting an education from Apollo, Athena, and Hermes. 
Apparently she was educated in a cave.  Either that, or her royal rooms had rocky plant-filled outcroppings, and Hermes was trying to listen in through the floor upstairs and found a weak floorboard.
While Hermes attempts to poke Marie with his snake-rod, Apollo is rocking out on a cello. 
Well, I say rocking out.  He doesn’t actually seem to be paying any attention to his music or his pupil.  Instead, he stares rather intently at…
The three Graces.  The middle one tries to distract the student from the one person actually teaching her anything by offering her pretty flowers, showing her from a young age to value the temporary cosmetic beauty that withers away after a brief season over personal intellectual enrichment from a frumpy old hag who believes in covering her bosom. 

Like the Fates earlier, the Graces are apparently not allowed to wear clothes, but unlike the Fates they are not kept busy in heaven, instead hanging around the classrooms of young queens and distracting male teachers by grabbing themselves and hanging all over each other.  Nothing says “grace” in the upbringing of a proper young girl like naked ladies. 

Finally, looking at the stuff strewn around the floor of the cave, most of it is pretty banal educational stuff: musical instruments, painting and sculpting equipment, the bust of a scary dead guy…but what about this? 
It looks like a portrait of some sort.  Is the figure watching his family get abducted or something?  Is he miserable at not having a lower half?  Tormented by an infinite future of staring up at those coquettish Graces, unable to compete with the charm of the bronzed and slack-jawed Apollo?  The world may never know.