From those titivated descendants of the sanguinary mob that had relentlessly witnessed the guillotine at work with victorious sneers and shouts of “death to the  ancien regime!” what is to expect? After such macabre an episode as the one unleashed in the years after the 1789 revolution could we not suspect a massive change of mentality which would eventually give sense to why people enjoyed promenades to the Paris morgue?

Well… partly.

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I couldn’t say for sure, giving the other explanations more entitled historians have for this grim pastime, but I bet there’s a bit of the Terror exerting its effect in the melange. Why else would professedly educated men and women, spruced, dandy (even snobbish) and often haughty, top-hatted and faultlessly dressed, feel the urge, or least the curiosity, to stare at the corpses exhibited for identification? Apparently, they’re doing it so persistently the very word “morgue” reveals it: in old French, “morguer” translates “to gaze”. Yet why?

A mid 19th century edition of the “Fraser’s Magazine” provides a fairly pertinent answer, glazed with poetic metaphors too:

“The Morgue possesses a constantly recurring and constantly varying story, involving equally new scenery, new actors and new passions; the dead play the leading parts in every drama of fear or guilt or suffering and the living are made subordinate accessories in the shifting panorama of horror with which every spectacle is wound up. The Morgue is the Omega of humanity, the grave without the coffin, the sleep without the shroud. Its interest is not the interest of this world, its scenes are not those out of which human ingenuity can weave” royal palaces, conventional art, et cetera.

Thus, the morgue is a resource of both cruel realism and the romantic mystery fashionable in the epoch, attiring, maintaining a vivid fascination Dickens himself (a foreigner, not an eccentric Parisian) experienced:

”Whenever I am at Paris, I am dragged by invisible force into the Morgue. I never want to go there, but am always pulled there. One Christmas Day, when I would rather have been anywhere else, I was attracted in, to see an old grey man lying all alone on his cold bed, with a tap of water turned on over his grey hair, and running, drip, drip, drip, down his wretched face until it got to the corner of his mouth, where it took a turn, and made him look sly. One New Year’s Morning (by the same token, the sun was shining outside, and there was a mountebank balancing a feather on his nose, within a yard of the gate), I was pulled in again to look at a flaxen-haired boy of eighteen, with a heart hanging on his breast–‘from his mother,’ was engraven on it–who had come into the net across the river, with a bullet wound in his fair forehead and his hands cut with a knife, but whence or how was a blank mystery. This time, I was forced into the same dread place, to see a large dark man whose disfigurement by water was in a frightful manner comic, and whose expression was that of a prize-fighter who had closed his eyelids under a heavy blow, but was going immediately to open them, shake his head, and ‘come up smiling.’ Oh what this large dark man cost me in that bright city!”

paris

The account he gives in the “Uncommercial traveller” I feel is a veracious completion of the previous record, pretty much elucidating the psychological enigma behind the outstanding number of people who payed a visit to the anonymous dead per year:more than 1 million by 1892. Fancy that! Someone could’ve gotten exceedingly rich if the idea of introducing a fee ever occurred to them… Unfortunately for the empty wallets, nobody exploited the opportunity.

But what’s your opinion on the subject? and Would you try a delightful promenade to similar destinations?

I believe it’d be a gripping experience to register…

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Reason is essentially beautiful and thus can never take (strictly my opinion) another human form than a woman’s.

Reason is individually defined and never in danger to be universally expelled from life, hence the title (‘La Décapitation de la Dame-Raison’) merely adverts to personal loss of logic metaphorically depicted as a Renaissance style beheading.

The majestic charm reason exerts beyond its use rests in the graceful sinuation of the road one must cross in its pursuit. This path is the teacher without whose assistance rarely can one achieve a genuine understanding of one’s mind, the sole way to conquer sound judgement itself. Higher than reason lays its experience.

The above sort of philosophical musings,condensed between Christmas frenzy and New Year’s Eve preparations, justify the nascence of my latest drawing I hope will be leniently received by whatever audience it may attract. The theme is obvious and finds explanation in the previous thoughts while the graphic gathers all my dilettante skill to an outcome you evaluate.

Any criticism?

Of course I’m referring to Sissi the Empress, whose 175th birthday (she would’ve been terrified by the prospect of ugliness this age implies)  we celebrate today, on Christmas Eve (Happy Holidays to you all!). Not for nothing she was called Eugénie, after the obscure patron Sainte Eugénie, commemorated on 24 December.

Between cleaning the last corner of my already ultra-sterilized flat and venturing to decorate the Christmas tree alongside a totally amateurish brother, I decided to take a moment of respite and celebrate my favorite 19th century Empress. Also, since the ‘Quote Monday” has been off for a while, why not revive it with a thematic excerpt from Sissi’s diary to compensate the shortness of the post?

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She was aware they believed her insane and actually pronounced it out loud, publicly, though I’m momentarily unable to recall the exact circumstances which lead to her uttering such audacious a line. Certainly no previous Austrian monarch ever attempted a similar bravery in facing the court. A true eccentric, this woman, and a brave one at that.

She was so interestingly dynamic I believe it’s nearly impossible not to least feel the most malnourished affinity for her and to support my conviction, here are some things I bet you didn’t know about our Sissi (and neither suspected):

  • She admired gorgeous women perhaps as much as men did, with the exception that she only, exclusively, solely accepted the company of this particular category, and even had a picture album to count her preferences (over 100 samples, which numbered beauties from Lola Montes and Maria Sophia of Bavaria to unconventional Amelie Gautreau).  To complete it, the Empress wrote the Austrian ambassadors across Europe to send her photographs of charming ladies in their vicinity, causing amusing scandals regarding the purpose of the collection.
  • She had an anchor tattoo on her shoulder to express a love for sailing never to diminish for as long as she lived. Husband Franz was reportedly displeased by the daring.
  • When catching a sea storm, she often had her attendants tie her to a fixed chair on the main deck, claiming she imitates Ulysses due to the magnetic attraction waves exerted on her… Imagine what terrible coercion subdued the ones who abode her whim but responded before the Emperor if any unfortunate incident took place.
  • To avoid fulfilling her marital duties in the detriment of much desirable traveling, Sissi encouraged Franz’s sexual affairs, especially the long-term relationship with actress Katharina Schratt, whose reputation she always protected. Rumors of their friendship enabled Kat to continue the liaison for over 30 years, as a faithful mistress and friend to the miserable Emperor.

Wasn’t hers a titillating life?

Recently, that is a few days ago, I’ve finally laid back and conscientiously started to tick titles from my list of movies I once, long ago, at the beginning of this horribly torrid summer, planned to see. And seen them.

Summarizing, that’s how I ended up engaging in a 6 hours marathon of French films from which “My little Princess” was by far the best and most dramatic, especially considering  (a thing I would come to find ensuing the actual watching) the script based on the real traumatic experiences of director Eva Ionesco, who, between brackets, has Romanian roots just like myself (and I’m not the patriotic type).

Naturally, a distorted vision of he life proving insufficient to my appetite, I had to do a little searching only to find a story I’m undecided whether to  classify as outrageously interesting or disturbingly sick giving its interpretable components. After omniscient Wikipedia, Eva Ionesco, now an accomplished full grown woman, was lured by her own mother in the world of pornographic pictures at a very tender age, posing in baroque-style postures most inappropriate that can easily have one’s mind fly to Lolita’s icon. Barely 11, she made the cover of Playboy October 1976 Italian issue with a nude pictorial featuring her in provocative positions on an empty terrace close to the sea, a true scandal. The Spanish edition of Penthouse also contained a selection of her photographs, all signed by Eva’s bizarre mother, Irina Ionesco. Which normally lead to a huge controversy never truly ended.

Well, it’s a bit shocking and definitely against the norms, even a devastating adventure for the influenced child yet confronting with these pictures’ aesthetic value, isn’t it still art, flagrant, indeed, but art nonetheless?

It’s one of those rare occasions when I can’t surely express an opinion.

Despite the prejudices, I utterly like a great deal of Irina’s work, including the part with Eva as leading model since it’s beautiful, arresting, a delight for the impartial eye.

Although it’s impossible to ignore the damage they produced to Eva’s immature mind, a torment she alone describes throughout the movie, culminating in the still unquenchable hate towards Irina.

No wonder she vehemently refused to meet the cause of her humiliation again after suing her for harassment. In many of the interviews preceding or following the movie she exposes only the legitimate attitude of a woman abused both morally and psychically, eager to escape an image she has never approved to show and depict her side of the drama (“the dimension of a Greek tragedy”, if we quote Eva) as revenge.

Everybody should be on Eva’s side, of course, but what’s your opinion? What is history bereft of such events?

Having been completely absorbed in a vortex of personal business and family duties and artistic urges to materialize with calculated dexterity a series of projects in charcoal on paper and long writing labors to transform a novella finished some months ago in a good novel, I admit I might’ve ignored the blog. A little. More.

So today, while browsing through albums of black-and-white photographs which recently became the number one source of inspiration for most of my drawings praying to discover a gripping portrait, a dramatic closeup, a wildly seducing cheesecake, an intriguing candid, whatever may turn in one graceful, expressive theme, I rediscovered the Cecil Beaton magic. The named Cecil Beaton being after Wikipedia’s description an English fashion&portrait photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer and an Academy Award-winning stage&costume designer for films/ theater, quite a complex, keen bisexual gentlemen if you’ll ask my rather personal opinion.Who had a high taste of fashion and an indisputably amazing eye for beauty, evidently (it’s not like one could get on the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame without the mentioned qualities – and he’d be the man to tell you that).

Since my first incursion in the monochrome world of silver-screen stars and interbellum personalities I was simply fascinated by the flawless, misty, charismatic figures depicted in the works of photographers such as E.O. Hoppé, Paul Tanqueray, Yousuf Karsh and, of course, Beaton, my special favorite.

His varied subjects,his way of capturing the perfect angle to enhance the elegance of the lucky poser, his minute decorum and the atmosphere built around it, all delicacy and smartness, have the most wonderful visual power over the viewer any age, as you can see for yourself through my compilation of Beaton’s best images.

The haughty Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chanel inside her Parisian home.

And Coco once again, wearing her signature multiple-row pearl necklace.

Now Audrey Hepburn for “My Fair Lady” in a Belle Epoque costume designed by Beaton.

A marvelous Marlene Dietrich displaying her equally splendid profile and the hands whose shape and fluidity never failed to exert a great deal of fascination to me, regardless how odd it may sound.

A Katherine Hepburn I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t recognized from the start, the set capturing my attention firstly. What I like most about this particular photograph and the artist intended to also, is this fine allusion at Kate’s qualities in the placing of Athena’s statue beside her, a goddess of great intelligence but a beauty nonetheless.

Then we have Gary Cooper, the charming Hollywood dandy…

…and a deliciously young Marlon Brando reminding me of his looks as the fiery Stanley  in “A Streetcar named Desire”.

By the way, his costar, Vivien Leigh, was captured by dearest Beaton too.

For Vogue, a few times. A coupe of times.

Middle-aged Joan Crawford in the 50’s.

One of Grace Kelly’s iconic pictures, 1954.

Following, Liz Taylor’s vixen profile a whole generation of men loved…

… and Marilyn, the fake-blonde of the century, in her avowedly favorite photo of herself, 1956, at the New York Ambassador Hotel. The assignment Beaton had taken in her that year contributed to Monro’s campaign to redefine her public image of stupid beauty or pin-up girl by exposing a rather more sophisticated part, a mature seduction the audience hadn’t suspect she was capable of, as reflected in Cecil’s work.

“Miss Marilyn Monroe calls to mind the bouquet of a fireworks display, eliciting from her awed spectators an open-mouthed chorus of ohs and ahs …” was Beaton’s description of his model.

But apart from movie stars ( recall the variety I prized at the beginning), he also made an amazing job  immortalizing the celebrated faces of high-society…

…where outrageously wealthy and equivalently unhappy heiress Barbara Hutton played a major role…

…or those of musical elite represented by Onassis’ lover, soprano Maria Callas…

…remaining not to forget the literary figures (here T.S. Eliot)…

…the prodigious painters (behold Andy Warhol)…

…the wacko Dali with enchanting Gala …

…and the political titans.

Royalty, in its turn, passed before Beaton’s objective throughout his impressive career and he had thus the opportunity to meet personally noble personages from history books, including the Queen Mother of Romania, Sita Devi of Kapurthala, Princess Margaret and the outrageous exiled couple the world never ceased to gossip about:  Edward, with his beloved Wallis.

Not to mention the Queen herself, Elisabeth II, in diverse poses of certain periods.

Guess to whom belongs Lilibet’s magnificent coronation portrait?

Decidedly, his life was a gripping adventure, traveling across Europe and beyond its margins, accessing an assortment of entourages and classes, contributing to the building of uncountable legends in publishing their photos or dressing their bodies… Between banging Fred Astaire’s elder sister, Adele, writing extensive diaries and playing some minor parts on English stages, Beaton certainly succeeded to catch a glimpse of immortality…

What do you think? Wouldn’t you just adore to interact with worldwide celebrities, style icons, geniuses?  I know I definitely would.

Piety with Sinful Eyes

June 13, 2012

My geography teacher has this very innovative way of slackening the atmosphere with a chiefly related to culture game whose target is to answer the two given questions for “a 10 [highest mark in the register] and a bar of chocolate”. Most amusing, I assure you.

SO, the reason why I informed you about his habit even if today was a stay-home-and-doze day as my high-school was closed, is because…

While I was just hanging around, laying on the sofa and thinking random subjects, one of my teacher’s premium inquiries simply popped up out of the blue and mysteriously contributed to arousing my appetite for drawing the thing implied: a modern, beauteous Pieta. (the question regarded the number of Pietas done by my favorite sculptor Michelangelo during his life, ta-dah!)

Pieta’s fine features and the simple, slightly austere head-piece which graciously covered her hair, trickling over her thin neck and further, had always drawn me to the otherwise too religious for my tastes statue. There was something in the supple waves of her veil that captured my imagination and let it drift on the velvety waters of river Arno or Tiber, by which I assumed the artist himself was inspired.

Implicitly, the dramatically dead Jesus Virgin Mary holds in her lap was definitely (in the detriment of my piety) eclipsed. But that’s a whole other story, more proper for a separate post.

The main point is that talented little me (I do tend to call myself “little”,despite my age, with a satirical tone) urged her pens and markers to set free the form of a young, alluring Snow White (haloed with tons of lace visible in the picture beneath) from the silent blank paper sheet.

Behold the result of a prolific day off:

Impressions anybody?

Art Project

June 4, 2012

As I have acquainted you with my sort of art in the former post which, thank you, has recorded quite a nice number in audience, proud little me resolved to inform you all of the most recent project undertaken , in a premiere partnership with my declared muse, Diana T., a 1-meters-tall-some-50-centimeters-wide drawn replica of Laurie Lipton‘s “Santa Muerte” (which, since I’m reticent at a possible comparison, won’t appear here, facing our petty variants).

With no further introduction, in a lugubrious atmosphere, I present you the obviously unfinished sketch depicting Mr. Death at the beginning of his highly detailed majesty:

The sympathetic skull with damaged teeth and an oddly rich hair exhibiting a volume vying the girls’ who advertise shampoos was delineated by Diana, while I chose, having a great attraction to jewels of any kind, to humbly resume at the bony crown…

…bony indeed…

The Earth is also her merit…

…and let us not forget the complicated head-piece made of terribly minute lace which shall be Diana’s dramatizing subjects for the next month (“Damned points! They’ll have my fingers bleed over them, not to mention my eyes blinding in the process of staring!”). In exchange for letting her do it, I’ll be forced to torment my poor right hand with some thousand small skeletons printed on Death’s now-not-quite-visible robe, just so you’re informed of my future martyrdom.

Thoughts?

Well, just pardon my unpolished artistic skills and the arrogance which ultimately lead to my posting these here, but due to the whole “Snow White and the Huntsman” propaganda preceding the actual movie I have unleashed my modest charcoal +black marker on some random pieces of paper with the seen outcome of two pretty flawed drawings I just had to share…  Pride is too big a sin not to be advertised outside one’s private space. 🙂 Least in this particularity of nature I can compare with the gorgeous Evil Queen who clearly is the inspiration behind all this.  She’s, in the end, the quite sympathetic character played by beauteous Charlize Theron:  a dark seductress whom I’ve preferred to the dull heroine before “it was cool”, that is since the Disney film when I remember actually weeping after her lost pulchritude in the most quaint context, mum trying to explain how bad people are bound to perish,etc, while I only cared of her attractive shallowness. What can I say? fierce, dangerous women are my declared weakness.

So the first eccentric arrangement of marker strokes, having traits and a mimic borrowed from the muse I think I’ve previously mentioned on the sidebar, my friend Diana T., and the latter  attempt to interpret the majestic fairytale sovereign, this time almost shamelessly copying the SWATH poster, are my newest addition to the pile of unpretentious artistic creations. I’ll humbly refrain from commenting furthermore.

Opinions?

Once upon a time, approximately a century plus relatively 20 years ago, when Lady D and Grace Kelly had yet to become international royal icons, fascinating generation after generation with their undeniable and utterly awing charisma, Europe celebrated as divine exponents of , well, a sex-appeal cumulated with fantastic physical charm, two renowned sovereigns contemporaries of elder and less prettier Queen Victoria. Empress Eugenie de Montijo (shortly named Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, 16th Countess of Teba and 15th Marquise of Ardales) and Bavarian wacko, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (or Sissi), were, judging by the public opinion which papers never ceased to express, the crowned dignified beauties of late 19th century (otherwise somehow inferior to the peculiar pulchritude of a Lola Montez or a notorious Countess di Castiglione). Noble dames followed their fashion, copied their hairstyles, queued to steal their secret tricks and ultimately spread conspicuous rumors regarding the eccentricities so much talked about in journals across the old continent. A week couldn’t pass without both nasty and flattering news being published all over the Austrian, French, English or German Empire, constancy which eventually lead to their defining as legends, to the shared dismay of their husbands. To gossip on topics concerning the beauteous Empresses was an irresistible occupation of aristocrat high-put ladies while at quite tedious court balls, and, through this jealous rivals, the two made the elevated scandal of the day.

No wonder that, despite the tensed political circumstances and the wrong presumption of natural rivalry between elegant style icons, they developed a friendly relationship originated in an official meeting with the occasion of the Salzburg  reception offered to Napoleon III by Franz Joseph after his younger brother’s, Emperor Max of Mexico’s death on foreign lands. Agreeably not the most proper setting yet nonetheless an opportunity for the enchanting women to get in contact.

The city of Salzburg competed in comparing the two so to realize who was most loved by Aphrodite and the state affairs passed to the second position on the common scale of interest as Elisabeth and Eugenie were placed in the center of everybody’s attention. One witty, emanating confidence, the other sensitive, even timid; one blessed with symmetric features, one decidedly the owner of magnetizing allure: to chose a winner troubled the referees of this indirect contest. Implicitly, they were believed to be unquestionable enemies, still weren’t.

A funny anecdote recorded by the rich Count Wilczek unveils the intimacy shared by them in that short  period. He reports how Sissi, habitually traveling incognito, visited the French royalty in the evening to “speak of certain things” while he was supposed to guard the room entrance to prevent the prospect of someone interrupting them which proved justifiable when Napoleon III himself insisted on seeing his spouse. The Count was then obliged to “cross two empty chambers of the apartment, even the bedroom, to reach the boudoir whose entry had been carelessly left ajar. Before it was placed a cheval glass and the couple of Empresses were treating the door beneath which I remained with their backs, busy to measure, with some ribbons, the probably most beautiful legs in Europe.” He was never able to forget that unimaginable scene until the end of his days… Lucky man!

Today I was browsing through some charming old magazines which have mysteriously piled up near my desk the past few years when I found this incredibly ingenious and obviously purely French pictorial of Yves Saint Laurent Rives Gauche (meaning “for men” branch of the exquisite fashion house) from 1998, proposing an artsy way to broadcast the then newest (and implicitly hottest) winter collection, something exclusively the Parisian designers could come up with (if we remember the Chanel parfume commercial with sensuous Vanessa Paradis posing as one of Ingres’ girls).

I liked the ideas so much I just had to put it here, comparing the original painting with the distorted and modernized vision which seems to exploit the very essence of our society through the light of the previous, sharp, smart, fine, luxurious but nonetheless glazed with a foam of sexuality meant to attract, to spellbound the potential viewer. Well, this and the generous resolution to serve you the names of the YSL team’s original inspiration.

Le Dejuner Sur L’Herbre (1863) by one of the most brilliant innovative figures in the quite innovative itself 19th century, Monsieur Eduard Manet, whose present equivalent suggested in the YSL representation I have elected to become my own inspiration for a thematic drawing I suppose I’ll show in a future post with the condition of coming up well. It’s too much a harem assembly for me to resist sketching it my style.

Olympia (1863), also by Manet, the outrageous icon of the expression succes de scandale.

Les Trois Graces (1792), relatively dull painting in comparison with Boticelli’s three beauteous girls (but, hey, the French are highly chauvinistic about art, as Deborah Davis once said) by Jean Baptiste Regnault

Rockby Venus (1651) by an admirer of curvacious women, Spanish prodigy Velasquez.

Jeune Homme au Bord de la Mer (1836), little romantic work done by Hyppolite Flandrin.

Gabrielle d’Estrees et la Duchesse de Villars (151594), an extremely tasty Louvre masterpiece whose symbolism vies conventional translation, leaving the intrigued spectator  weave his own, profoundly personal, story relating to the weird hand-gesture the dark haired noble does… I know I have my imagination titillated by it…

Le Sommeil (1866), the pronouncedly erotic Goustave Courbet painting somehow brought to a less morally-offensive state in the eyes of heterosexuals, if you know what I mean.

Finally, an Ingres baigneuse happily thinner and with the additional long-haired sexy guy tossed in a ritzy bed. Really nice!

There was also a Latour inspired photo of the following “Fortuneteller” yet its size was terrible and  the resolution so poor that I couldn’t decide on putting it here, amongst the others.

So I assume I’ve made my opinion pretty clear by testifying that I’m presently going to draw the first Manet sample but what do you think? Which has the honor of having captured your attention best?

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