Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Seignac and his beautiful smiles!

Here some beautiful Seignac's.
Click to enlarge and enjoy!
Gachucha (a "cigale type" painting), Reflections (feel the marble, Luke!), Fragrance, Libellule (note the very similar poses in Libellule & Fragrance) and the most famous and splendid Awakening of Psyche (do click on it to enlarge).

Seignac was highly influenced by the Italian Renaissance masters, as evidenced by the harmoniously balanced composition and equilibrium between color and line in his own paintings.
"Seignac brought the Sistine sibyl into the modern world, framing her figure in nature and immortalizing her beauty".
A student of Bouguereau, Anthony Robert-Fleury and Gabriel Ferrier, Guillaume Seignac was a frequent exhibitor at the Paris Salon and received a number of medals for his works: including an honorable mention in 1900 and a Third Class medal in 1903.

Among his exhibited works were:
Bacchante – Paris Salon 1897
Les Dernieres Roses – Paris Salon 1897
Flore – Paris Salon 1898
Téte grecque – Paris Salon 1898
Reverie – Paris Salon 1899
Diane – Paris Salon 1899
Baigneuse – Paris Salon 1900
L'attents – Paris Salon 1901
A la Fontaine – Paris Salon 1901
Nymphe – Paris Salon 1902
Pensive – Paris Salon 1902
Secret d'Amour – Paris Salon 1903
Irene – Paris Salon 1903
Le réveil de Psyché – Paris Salon 1904
Hésitation – Paris Salon 1904

In order to complete the "smiles" series, I have decided to add the beautiful "Paresseuse" as well :-)

It might also be useful to point out that we already had Seignac's beautiful wave (with her smile!) below.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

"Hharems: a rare "Awaiting punishment" & two Lewis' paintings:
"The Introduction of an Abyssinian Slave"
"An intercepted correspondence"

I won't tell you who painted the beautiful "awaiting punishment", here on the side. Learn how to search the web and find it :-)

The first painting to be exhibited at the O.W.C.S. since Lewis settled in the East was The Hhareem, 1850. This was his first painting of an "Oriental" subject matter to be exhibited and the response was powerful; the painting and its copyright sold for 1,000 pounds each. In its review of the 1850 O.W.C.S. exhibition, the Art Journal described the content and the workmanship of the painting:

"This painging by Lewis: "The Harem of a Mameluke Bey, Cairo: The Introduction of an Abyssinian Slave" may be pronounced the most extraordinary production that has ever been executed in water-colour. It represents the interior of a harem at Cairo, wherein is seated in luxurious ease a young Turk, attired in the excess of Moslem fashion. Near him, and reclining upon cushions, are two Circassian women, also dressed in the extremity of Oriental taste, and on the right of these is another figure, evidently a study from an Englishwoman, an introduction which injures the uniformity of the composition. On the right is seen a tall Nubian eunuch, who removes from the shoulders of an Egyptian slave the shawl by which she had been covered, in order to show her to the master of the harem; this figure with her high shoulders and the characteristics of her features, is a most successful national impersonation. The Circassian women look languidly to the Egyptian with an expression of supreme contempt, which is responded to by a sneer on the face of the Nubian eunuch. At the first sight of this work it appears to want force, but it is clearly the intention of the artist to describe an excess of light, for every unimportant item is affected by numerous many-hued reflections, and the description of this is not an attempt, but a successful fulfillment. It is scarcely possible, without the aid of a glass, even to distinguish all the inimitable elaboration of this picture; it prevails in the most insignificant material - the trellis, the carving, the marble, the silk - every surface is described with a fastidiousness of imitation never before seen. There are very many passages of the work which we would describe at length had we space enough; it must, however, be observed that the subject is not worthy of the care with which it has been wrought out; yet it must be said that this work is unique in the history of water-colour Art; such a maintenance of finish has never been preserved in any similar production.

These comments are interesting for several reasons. Firstly, they show a marked interest in ethnicity; for example, the reviewer confidently identifies Turk, Circassian, English, Egyptian, and Nubian. As contact between the West and the Near East increased throughout the nineteenth century, curiosity about these unfamiliar places also increased and "accurate surveys and careful depictions of peoples and places in strange lands" were demanded to confirm that Westerners were superior. Lewis was praised for accomplishing "a most successful national impersonation" in his depiction of the central woman. Her high shoulders are taken as an ethnic characteristic when it seems obvious that her shoulder is raised in an attempt at modesty.

The reviewer suggests that the "Circassian women" of the harem, looking with disgust at the young "Egyptian" woman who is being disrobed by a sneering "Nubian eunuch," do so because of a feeling of ethnic superiority. This implies a hierarchy of Eastern cultures, all of which were considered inferior to the Europeans. Because the new woman is represented as neither white nor black, Lewis ensures that his painting could not be interpreted as a statement for or against the slave trade, as the abolition of slave trading was a topic of debate in England at that time. The gazelles in the painting are symbols of the harem women themselves. Lewis, however, did not create this comparison; Eastern poetry often referred to the similarities between the shy, graceful animals and the beautiful women of the harem.

By far the most intriguing statement in the critique is that "the subject is not worthy of the care with which it has been wrought out." While proclaiming Lewis' unrivalled mastery of the water-colour technique, the reviewer passes judgement on the choice of subject matter. Why is this scene not fit for representation in a painting, and why is it not worthy of masterful treatment? No answer to these questions is explicitly given, yet from a close reading of the language used in the review, words such as 'luxurious ease,' 'excess,' 'extremity,' and 'languidly,' there comes a sense that the critic has been offended by the sensuality that images of the East brought to mind. This would perhaps explain the attempt to point out the faults, such as the multitude of "unimportant item[s]" and the prevalence of "the most insignificant material," in a painting which was introduced as "the most extraordinary production that has ever been executed in water-colour."

"the black eunuch harem servant, who is disrobing the new slave, and such black slaves, both male and female, were obtained from modern day Sudan - presumably in raids from Arab tribes, similar to those who are carrying off southern Sudanese into slavery in the 21st century.

It's striking how similar the new slave's clothing is to Lane's description of lower class Egyptian women and his engravings in "Modern Egyptians": her loose, white linen "tob" is already slipped off her shoulders, and her chequered or striped milayeh is held by the eunuch. Even the red borders that Lane mentions are included.

Lane's illustrations depict most of the poorer Egyptian free women appearing barefoot when outdoors, even when fully veiled. The new slave stands barefoot on the marble "durka'ah" of the room where shoes are permitted, and we can assume she has arrived in that condition, as befits her lack of status up to that point. Her new master's leather shoes, on which he even steps on the lowest level of the divan, further emphasises her state of vulnerability.

Looking past her, we see the only veiled woman in the picture, and her eyes are intently watching the bey out of the corner of her eye. No doubt she is veiled because she is not a member of his harem, and is there representing the slave dealer. Lane informs us that purchasers were allowed three days trial of a new slave, and so this initial examination is not simply a post-sale formality. As such, the "Hhareem" is another representation of the prospective owner's choice over whether to take possession of a slave, and the powerlessness that Gerome's "Slave Market" had shown.

The facial expressions of the painting are as varied as the origins of its inhabitants. The new slave's eyes are demurely cast to the floor, as she clutches the tob over her breasts. Both the standing eunuch, and the standing Abyssinian slave girl with the peacock feather fan, have broad smiles - perhaps prompted by the others' reactions? The bey is leaning forward to see his new acquisition, but his three European women are not convinced. From bottom right up in status to top left, they are questioning, pouting, and in the case of the favourite who reclines on the divan level with the bey, positively frowning. Reading Lane's account of the domestic arrangements of a harem, it's clear that many customs were instituted to manage these petty jealousies which can so easily, and accidentally, arise.

When Lewis returned to Britain, some of the praise for his painting was for depicting this scene without an excess of "grossness and sensuality" (that is, eroticism in our terms.) Nevertheless, it remained his most explicit painting, and in 1869 he revisited the scene to paint his "An Intercepted Correspondence", toned-down with the romantic flowers narrative and all those smiling faces.

In creating "An Intercepted Correspondence" from "The Introduction of an Abyssinian Slave", Lewis retained the three unimpressed European women draped over the divan, added another reclining on the marble floor, and introduced two new central characters to replace the new slave: the recipient of the flower message, and another harem woman who bows to her master as she holds out the flowers in one hand, and the offender in the other. The master of the harem has also aged the same twenty years that Lewis had, and he is surrounded by double the number of those expensive European slaves, so perhaps he is a pasha rather than a mere bey.

The body language of the women remains little changed, but now their facial expressions all betray varying degrees of amusement and derision at the expense of their offending sister. And now the pasha leans forward with a stern look, rather than with the anticipation of the new slave's potential from the earlier painting."

"After baths", high shoes, black and white,
Bouchard the splendid, a ton of Gerome's & a Debat-Ponson!

Bouchard's "after the bath" is one of those rare paintings where you cannot see the face of the model. (In Lefebvre's Odalisque, presented below, we can at least still see part of the profile. We'll call such postures from now on "low profile").
Bouchard was really fascinated by Turkish baths, and you can still find in many a Paris "marché aux puces antiquaires", for few thousands euro, some of his fantastic paintings.

Note also the high shoes/sandals visible in Bouchard's painting. Such "shoes" are supposed to be extremely erotic, and indeed they are: exactly as the high heels 'pumps' still used by starlets, female manager and porn-dancers nowadays, high heels and such high sandals are extremely erotic because they are as uncomfortable as a shoe can be, and hence underline the 'weakness' of female steps and walking. On the web you can find the metropolitan legend that odalisques in the harem of the Turkish sultan were made to wear such high, precarious sandals "to prevent them from fleeing". This is of course bullshit: it would have been pretty easy to drop them in order to flee. Again: it is the uncomfortableness of this kind of platform shoes that makes women trampling along on them so erotically "weak" (besides button and breasts are auto-magically pushed out when female's tight muscles have to work so much, that's another added advantage).

Bouchard's splendid painting requires as complement a whole bunch of 'White Odalisques with dark-colored maid-slaves' that must have titillated the fantasies of many late XIX century art collectors.
We could add here Gerome's "harem", "greater harem", "bain maure" and "bath" (click on them, note how in "bath" we also have a very "low profile" white model, note also how both 'harems' have those same funny shoes again), maybe Gyula Tornai's "Jaroslava" could be added as well.

Like in the Taijitu, the Yin and Yang symbol, white and black, in this case: white delicate odalisque and black usually muscular maidservant do complement each other -and the potential buyer's wishes- quite well.

Of course we simply HAVE to close this series with Debat-Ponson's masterpiece: the massage!
(another example of one of those rare paintings where you cannot see the face of the model).

Again: "the very passivity of the lovely white figures as opposed to the vigorous activity of the worn, unfeminine ugly black ones, suggests that the passive nude beauty is explicitly being prepared for service in the sultan's bed. This sense of erotic availability is spiced with still more forbidden overtones, for the conjunction of black and white, or dark and light female bodies, whether naked or in the guise of mistress and maidservant, has traditionally signified lesbianism..."

Saturday, 19 May 2007

More slaves!

Yep, slaves, and of course mostly female slaves: a typical and slightly erotical -as usual- leitmotif of our beloved "pompiers".
Here, for your viewing and collecting pleasure: Buchser's naked slave, Boulanger's slave market, Cercone's examining slaves. I'll add Rosati's 'examining the new arrivals'.
Ok, I'll give you José Jimenez Aranda's "young slave" as well. But that's enough for today.

Artists had more or less unlimited access to the bodies of the women who worked for them as models. In other words, their private fantasy exists not in a vacuum but in a particular social context, granting permission as well as establishing boundaries for certain kinds of behavior.
They attempted to defuse and distance their overt expression of man's total domination of women in a variety of ways, at the same time emphasizing the sexually provocative aspects of such themes. Note how in Boulanger's slave market the slave owner is eating cacahouettes with fantastic nonchalance in a lull pause.

It is obvious that by depicting such subjects with such obvious sensual relish, such erotic panache and such openness, the pompiers had come too close to an overt statement of the most explosive, hence the most carefully repressed, fantasy of the patriarchal discourse of desire.

The fantasy of absolute possession of women's naked bodies, a fantasy which for the nineteenth-century artist was at least in part a reality in terms of specific practice—the constant availability of studio models for sexual as well as professional needs—lies at the heart of inspired pictorial representations of Near Eastern Classical themes, like Gerome's Oriental Slave Market. In that case, of course, an iconographical representation of power relations coincides with, although it is not identical to, assumptions about male authority. Although ostensibly realistic representations of the customs of picturesque Orientals, such paintings are also suitably veiled affirmations of the fact that women are actually for sale to men for the latter's sexual satisfaction - in Paris just as in the Near East. Sexual practice is more successfully ideologized in this case than in previous paintings, and works like these appeared frequently in the Salons of the period, and were much admired.
Why was this the case? First of all they were acceptable because the style justifies the subjects, by guaranteeing through sober "objectivity" the unassailable otherness of the characters enacting such narratives. The artist is saying in effect: "Don't think that I, or any other right-thinking Frenchman, would ever be involved in this sort of thing. I am merely taking careful note of the fact that less enlightened races indulge in the trade in naked women—but isn't it arousing!".
And these images are infact quite arousing.
Such artists, like many other artists of his time, manage to body forth a double message here: one about men's power over women and the other about white man's superiority to, hence justifiable control over, darker and 'more savages' races — precisely those who indulge in this sort of lascivious trade. Maybe something more complex is involved in this approach vis-a-vis the 'homme moyen sensuel': the latter was invited sexually to identify with, yet at the same time morally to distance himself from, his Oriental counterparts within the objectively inviting yet racially distancing space of the painting.
The savage inside the viewer is artfully titillated.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Some useful books about painting/drawing

A present for anyone that wishes to try his own hand at it, the first one by Speed is a real treasure and those Loomis books, while banal, are not bad either :-)

Associé de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, &c.
With 93 Illustrations & Diagrams

Creative Illustration
by Andrew Loomis
First Printing 1947

Drawing the Heads and Hands
by Andrew Loomis
First Printing 1956

Successful Drawing
by Andrew Loomis
First Printing 1951

Figure Drawing for All It's Worth
by Andrew Loomis
First Printing 1943

and a Leighton, and what for a Leighton: click on it: "Light of the Harem"!

onda su onda

Here some emblematic 'vague' paintings: Bougereau's "La Vague", Godward's "Nu sur la plage", Baudry's The Wave and the Pearl and Seignac's fantastic "Vague".

These paintings, and especially Bouguereau's 'La Vague' look like those old 'artifact' studio photographs that were 'en vogue' until the second world war.

Anyway, look at these paintings... and you were told that the great artists of the second half of the XIX century were Manet, Corot, Courbet, and Renoir? That's what the 'Mafia degli scarabocchi' managed to have people believe.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Alma Tadema! Again! Thanks God(zilla)!

Ha ha! This is published -once more- on request!
Four BIG Alma Tadema's for your viewing pleasure (clik to enlarge) and -as always- against the Mafia degli scarabocchi :-)
And a long list of all (?) his paintings...

Here you are, gentlemen and gentles-ladies with four BIG (click on them) insuperable paintings:
A Favourite custom
A Silent Greeting
Silver favourites (a very famous one)
God Speed


Note that Alma Tadema was a 'ridller': "time and again the seeming innocence of the scenes he depicts is subverted by a mischievously placed inscription or statue, suggesting to the initiated a darker and usually risque meaning".

A list of Alma's paintings (found here)...

A Bath (An Antique Custom), 1876
A Birth Chamber, Seventeenth Century, 1868
A Coign Of Vantage, 1895 (one of Alma-Tadema's most famous works)
A Collection of Pictures At The Time Of Augustus, 1867
A Declaration, 1883
A Dedication To Bacchus, 1889
A Difference Of Opinion, 1896
A Family Group, 1896
A Favourite Custom, 1909
A Female Figure Resting (date required, Op. 243 - also known as Dolce Far Niente)
A Greek Woman, 1869
A Harvest Festival, 1880 (also known as A Dancing Bacchante At Harvest Time)
A Hearty Welcome, 1878
A Kiss, 1891
A Listener, 1899
A Picture Gallery, 1866
A Prize For The Artists' Corp (Wine), (date required)
A Pyrrhic Dance, 1869
A Reading From Homer, 1885
A Roman Art Lover, 1870
A Roman Emperor, AD 41, 1871
A Roman Scribe Writing Dispatches, (date required)
A Sculptor's Model, 1877 (also known as Venus Esquilina)
A Sculpture Gallery, 1867
A Silent Greeting, 1889
A Street Altar, 1883
A Votive Offering, 1873
A World Of Their Own, 1905
After The Audience, 1879
Agrippina With The Ashes Of Germanicus, (date required, Op. 307)
Always Welcome, 1887
An Audience, (date required)
An Earthly Paradise, 1891
An Exedra, 1869
An Oleander, 1882
Antony And Cleopatra, 1883
Architecture In Ancient Rome, 1877
Ask Me No More, 1896
Autumn, Vintage Festival, 1877
Ave, Caesar! Io, Saturnalia!, 1880
Bacchanale, 1871
Between Hope And Fear, 1876
Between Venus And Bacchus, 1882
Boating, 1868
Carcalla, 1902
Caracalla And Geta, 1909
Catullus At Lesbia's, 1865
Cherries, 1873
Comparisons, 1892
Confidences, 1869
Courtship, (date required)
Courtship - The Proposal, 1892
Death Of The Pharoah's Firstborn Son, 1872
Drawing Room, Holland Park, 1887
Dolce Far Niente, 1882 (Oil on panel version)
Egyptian Chess Players, 1865
Egyptian Juggler, 1870
Entrance To A Roman Theatre, 1866
Exhausted Maenides After The Dance, c.1873-1874
Expectations, 1885
Faust And Marguerite, 1857
Flag Of Truce, 1900 (op. 358, signed Artist's War Fund 1900)
Flora, 1877 (also known as Spring In The Gardens Of The Villa Borghese)
From An Absent One, 1871
Gallo-Roman Women, 1865
God Speed!, 1893
Golden Hour, 1897
Hadrian Visiting A Romano-British Pottery, 1884
Hero, 1898
Hopeful, 1909
In My Studio, 1893
In The Peristyle, 1866
In The Tepidarium, 1881
In The Temple, 1871
In The Time Of Constantine, 1878
Interior Of Caius Martius's House, 1901
Interior Of The Church Of San Clemente, Rome, 1863
Interrupted, 1880
Joseph, Overseer Of The Pharoah's Granaries, 1874
Leaving Church In The Fifteenth Century, 1864
Lesbia Weeping Over A Sparrow, 1866
Love's Jewelled Fetter, 1895
Love's Votaries, 1891
Maria Magdalena, 1854
Master John Parsons Millet, 1889
Maurice Sens, 1896
Midday Slumbers, (date required)
Miss Alice Lewis, 1884
Mrs Frank D. Millet, 1886
Mrs George Lewis And Her Daughter Elizabeth, 1899
My Studio, 1867
Ninety-Four In The Shade, 1876
Not At Home, 1879
On The Road To The Temple Of Ceres, 1879
Pandora, 1881
Pastimes In Ancient Egypt, 3,000 Years Ago, 1863
Phidias Showing The Frieze Of The Parthenon To His Friends, 1868
Pleading, 1876
Poetry, 1879
Portrait Of A Woman, 1902
Portrait Of Aime-Jules Dalou, His Wife And Daughter, 1876
Portrait Of Anna Alma-Tadema, 1883
Portrait Of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, 1891
Portrait Of Miss Laura Theresa Epps (Lady Alma-Tadema) (date required)
Portrait Of Mrs Charles Wyllie, (date required)
Portrait Of The Singer George Henschel, 1879
Pottery Painting, 1871
Preparation In The Coliseum, 1912 (Op. 408)
Preparations For The Festivities, 1866
Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, 1867
Promises Of Spring, 1890
Prose, 1879
Resting, 1882
Sappho And Alcaeus, 1881
Sculptors In Ancient Rome, 1877
Self Portrait, 1852
Self Portrait, 1896
Shy (date required, Op. 249)
Silver Favourites, 1903
Spring, 1894
Spring Flowers, (date required)
Strigils And Sponges, 1879
Summer Offering, 1911 (also known as Young Girl With Roses)
Sunshine, (date required)
Tarquinius Superbus, 1867
The Baths Of Caracalla, 1899
The Colosseum, 1986
The Conversion Of Paula By Saint Jerome, 1898
The Crossing Of The River Berizina -1812, c.1859-1869
The Death Of Hippolytus, 1860
The Drawing Room At Townshend House, 1885
The Discourse, (date required)
The Education Of The Children Of Clovis, 1861
The Epps Family Screen, 1870-1871
The Favourite Poet, 1888
The Finding Of Moses, 1904
The Flower Market, 1868
The Frigidarium, 1890
The Honeymoon, 1868
The Massacre Of The Monks Of Tamond, 1855
The Parting Kiss, 1882
The Picture Gallery, 1874
The Roman Potter, 1884
The Roman Wine Tasters, 1861
The Roses Of Heliogabalus, 1888 (Op. 283)
The Sculpture Gallery, 1874
The Siesta, 1868
The Soldier Of Marathon (Oil on panel version) (date required, Op. 300)
The Soldier Of Marathon (Oil on canvas version, date required)
The Triumph Of Titus, 1885
The Vintage Festival, 1870
The Voice Of Spring, 1910
The Way To The Temple, 1882
The Women Of Amphissa, 1887
The Year's At The Spring, All's Right With The World, 1902
This Is Our Corner, 1873 (also known as Laurense And Anna Alma-Tadema)
Thou Rose Of All The Roses, 1883
Tibullus At Delia's, 1866
Unconscious Rivals, 1893
Under The Roof Of Blue Ionian Weather, 1903
Unwelcome Confidences, 1902
Vain Courtship, 1900
Venantius Fortunatus Reading His Poems To Radegonda VI, 1862
Water Pets, (date required)
Welcome Footsteps, 1883
When Flowers Return, 1911
Whispering Noon, 1896
Who Is It?, 1884
Xanthe And Phaon, 1883