zenpundit.com » art history

Archive for the ‘art history’ Category

Perhaps because I’m looking for the tauromachia

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Syria echoes Guernica ]
.

This, from JM Berger today, offers a glimpse of Syria that is neither war, nor peace, if I might put it this way, but war longing for peace:

Irresistibly, it reminds me of this:

Isn’t that a bull’s head in cloth, hanging right above the shoulder of the leaping boy in the Syrian image — and isn’t that alnmost exactly Picasso’s swooping white head, again in cloth, just to the right of it? The illusion of their similarity is enhanced by the aspect ratio of the Twitter image from Syria, which cuts off a stretch of green in the original photo, just below the image as you see it here..

**

But it may be I’m seeing this because the bullfight and tauromachia have been on my mind recently — mythic combats of man pitted agains one of his worthiest opponents. There’s an archaic resonance there that’s inmportant in some way, but the actual killing of the bull, blood in the sand, horrifies me, the animal descending from grandeur to humiliation, its bowed head propped on one horn as it awaits finality — terrible.

And I was accordingly happy to recall the less violent version of the sport, still pitting man’s skill against adversary — in the bull-leaping of Knossos:

and its latter-day practice, shown here at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona:

**

Taurus:

taup
This image comes from the fabulous Constellations of Words site.

Random DoubleQuotes for later reference

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a resource, mostly for myself ]
.

I’ll use this post to drop in random DoubleQuotes I run across, for storage — so I won’t need to trouble you with every example I find, but they’ll all still here for your consideration should you choose — and for any future writing I may do on the topic.

**

From the Rio Olympics, the celebrated women’s basketball match with hijab vs bukini:

egypt sports

**

Two options for a child in Syria, enshrined in two “iconic” photos, and presented as a lose-lose choice by Khalid Albaih.

khalidalbaih dq syrian children stay or go

Albaih has a terrific eye for symmetries, as you can see from these two other examples:

  • Khalid Albaih, Tree of Life
  • Khalid Albaih, Egypt sentences more than 680 people to death
  • **

    Quite different — but also Syria — is this tweet with its paired images of Aleppo —

    If I had my druthers I’d move from photo-reality into illuminated-manuscript-world, and from now into back then. Or would I? And are we really in photo-reality anyway, or is that an optical illusion?

    **

    There will be more — I’ll just drop them quietly in, here or in the comments section.

    Sunday surprise: peering digitally around corners 1: Holbein

    Sunday, July 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a saunter through London’s National Gallery with Holbein’s Ambassadors, a skull and a psalter ]
    .

    Let’s begin with Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors:

    Holbein Ambassadors

    **

    First up for consideration is this anamorphic skull detail:

    Holbein detail anamorphic skull

    The very oddly misshapen object in the foreground is in fact a skull, visible as such from the right position vis-a-vis the painting. It has puzzled countless people for ages, and no doubt considerably increased the painting’s fame in the process. The simplest explanation I’ve found is this one:

    It has also been hypothesized that the painting is meant to hang in a stairwell, so that a person walking up the stairs from the painting’s right would be startled by the appearance of the skull. From such an angle, the skull appears in its correct aspect ratio.

    Here’s the skull, resolved — to show it as it appears from the correct viewing angle — an angle from which the rest of the painting makes no sense, mark you:

    Holbein_Skull

    **

    That’s the most striking detail in the painting, but also of interest is this Psalter detail:

    Holbein psalter detail

    The psalter is depicted in the painting in the same perspective as the two figures, globe, carpet and so forth, but it’s at an angle to the viewer — and an enterprising fellow therefore decided to work computationnal magic and show us the psalter rectified, as we might see it if we were in the room, went over, and looked down at it:

    Ambassadors_Lutherian_Psalms

    **

    All of this reminds me of another brilliant work of art, featuring an analogous shifting of viewpoint: Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, which I’ll explore in Part II of this two-part post.

    Sunday surprise the third & last — BlakeQuake

    Monday, July 4th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Blake, Britain, and Blake again — among the angels ]
    .

    The irrepressible William Blake can’t keep himself from coloring outside the words:

    Milton a Poem Huntington Library

    **

    Okay, here’s the poem as poem — a very curious poem celebrating “arrows of desire” to have made its way into the hymnary of England, its royalty, and the Proms:

    And did those feet in ancient time.
    Walk upon Englands mountains green:
    And was the holy Lamb of God,
    On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

    And did the Countenance Divine,
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills?

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
    Bring me my Arrows of desire:
    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In Englands green & pleasant Land

    **

    I posted the patriotic hymn-version of Blake’s Jerusalem earlier today in It’s not one pole of polarization that’s the problem, as part of a comment on Brexit, very very British.

    Happily the United States — whose birthday is tomorrow — didn’t exactly lose ye olde English tradition, as is readily apparent in this rendition — this one by the West Point Cadet Glee Club:

    **

    Oops, but England, my England — see what has become of it!

    Like every generation since Ahab begat Behab right in the beginning, I fear for our young, even those now middle-aged, I fear for their young.. I fear for the future so fast spiraling out of our past.

    **

    Blake himself had a high esteem of his work and purpose. He wrote:

    I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & those works are the delight & Study of Archangels.

    And he could paint the archangels’ likenesses by memory, too, with angelic felicity:

    **

    A tip-of-the-hat here to David Auerbach.

    And a shout-out to Michael Horovitz, who published my first poems in book form in his richly Blake-influenced 1969 Penguin anthology, Children of Albion.

    Apocalpyse, not!

    Friday, June 24th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in using the word apocalyptic to describe mundane (or zombied) disturbances such as Brexit, we lose sight of the beauty and mystery it conceals & reveals ]
    .

    In fact, not so much as a whiff of fresh napalm in the morning.

    Tim Furnish has been on a mini-crusade recently against the misuse of the word apocalypse, tweeting examples along with this meme-image:

    Furnish Apocalypse N0

    **

    Here are two examples of the genre. which Tim featured last night because each comments on Brexit in apocalyptic terms:

    Apocalypse No

    Sources:

  • Financial Post, Trump, Clinton and Brexit — the three horses of democracy’s Apocalypse
  • Japan Times, Brexit: The Apocalypse … or not
  • **

    Tim is right.

    The word apocalypse properly refers the vision John, the seer of Patmos, had, tearing away of the veil which so often hides the divine glory from mortal eyes: the Greek word apokalypsis is appropriately translated revelation, and the first verse of the book called The Apocalypse by Catholics and The Revelation of John in the King James Version runs as follows:

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.

    **

    Consider the beauty — and the otherworldiness — of this image from Albrecht Durer. illustrating the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” of Revelation 12.1

    :Virgin-Sitting-In-Crescent-Moon

    **

    The imagery of this final book of the Bible does not show us the usual world of our senses, but a realm of great symbolic beauty, far beyond the reach of unaided eye or camera — as the great literary critic Northrop Frye notes, when he calls the book “a fairy tale about a damsel in distress, a hero killing dragons, a wicked witch, and a wonderful city glittering with jewels” in his Anatomy of Criticism, p 108.

    Like the works of the English visionary William Blake, Revelation is more poetic than literal, visionary in the best sense — and it is hardly surprising that Blake is among its foremost illustrators:

    The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)
    Blake, Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, The Tate Gallery

    Brexit simply cannot match the darkness of Revelation’s Babylon in its final throes, nor the “new heaven and new earth” that succeed it — “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”.


    Switch to our mobile site