Friday, 24 April 2015

Venus and Her maid

The Loves of the Gods is a monumental ceiling fresco cycle completed by the Bolognese artist. Annibale Carracci (1560 - 1609) and his studio, in the Farnese Gallery which is located in the west wing of the Palazzo Farnese, now the French Embassy, in Rome, Italy.

Commissioned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese to celebrate the wedding of his brother, the ceiling deals with humanistic and neoclassical themes. The scenes depicted strongly illustrate the power of love, and are often profane and erotic in nature.

One of the panels, Venus and Anchises, portrays the Goddess of love and the mortal Anchises, the royal shepherd and progenitor of Rome.

Whenever you see someone's leg thrown over another's in classical art, as seen here, there is an implication of sexuality. The American art critic, Leo Steinberg refers to this as the “slung leg theory.”

A dreamy Venus tenderly rests her other foot against a stool inscribed in a Latin phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid implying the origin of the Romans, while our muscular hero delicately removes the Goddess’s sandal.

Not for the first time in the art of classical mythology, love reduces a great hero to a submissive maid attending on a powerful female seductress.

The masterpiece of Carracci’s great cycle of decorative paintings was tremendously influential, for two centuries ranking with Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's frescos in the Vatican as the supreme examples of Western painting.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Woman of the Apocalypse

Giovanni Gasparro (b. 1983 in Bari) is considered one of the greatest living exponents of sacred Italian art.

With a natural talent for painting and engraving, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, but considers himself self-taught - "the academy will not learn you anything." Using a style which is both classical and original, Gasparro's works are centred in a liturgical vision and aesthetic.

He is the creator of the impressive series of paintings of the monumental church of St. Joseph the Worker, in L'Aquila, the largest religious cycle made in Italy in recent years. It was commissioned by the archdiocese in 2009 after the earthquake that destroyed the city and seriously damaged the church and its paintings.

My favourite piece from this series is the striking and compelling, The Vision of St. John at Patmos: the Woman Clothed with the Sun. We see the fear and terror of the two cowering naked males unable to behold the vision before them of a woman "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars" in labour with a male child. She represents one of the Seven Spiritual Visions of the Book of Revelation.

While his works are exhibited throughout Europe and the United States, Gasparro still paints in the attic of his house in Adelfia in Bari.

You can see more of his art here.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Coquettish Cruelty

A leading member of the 18th century English Romantic art movement, the Swiss-born symbolist painter, draughtsman and writer on art, John Henry Fuseli (1741 - 1825) created pictures that explored the supernatural and the darker side of the human psyche.

Focusing on history painting as well as allegorical works, he drew much of his inspiration from literary sources, notably Shakespeare, Milton and Dante.

Fuseli had a special line in pictures of female cruelty and male subjugation. He painted many depictions of male surrender to coquettish dominant women dressed in the extravagant finery of London’s fashion of the time.

Siegfried and Chriemhild, 1807

The Germanic hero Siegfried is shown on his knees before Kriemheld, at the moment of their first meeting. The dominatrix-like heroine cups his head in her hands, gently perhaps, but also suggesting violence. The subject is taken from the medieval German epic, The Nibelungenlied, where the themes of sexual domination, erotic submission and cruelty are intertwined. Fuseli was one of the few people in Britain to know about this literary source.

Brunhilde Observes Gunther, 1807

In a subject again drawn from The Nibelungenlied, the Burgundian king, Gunther, has just celebrated his marriage to the icily sexy Brunhild. While he expected a night of passion, the new queen instead wrestles him into submission, binds his hands and feet and leaves him hanging from the ceiling so she can sleep undisturbed.

The Debutante, 1807

In this illustration, a young woman, victim of male social conventions, is tethered by a lead round her neck which is tied to the wall, and made to sew and guarded by Governesses. The picture reflects Mary Wollstonecraft's views in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792. Fuseli’s dominant women were often portrayed in elaborate costumes and head-dresses. 

Falstaff in the Laundry Basket, 1792

Depicting a scene from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford punish Falstaff for his lustful advances by putting him in a laundry basket and covering him with filthy linen.

Group of Five Women Mocking an Effaced Figure

This Fuseli work may be based on the theme of Falstaff in the Laundry Basket

The Ladies of Hastings, 1798 - 1800

In this dreamlike picture, a naked male gazes upwards in awe at the towering women of Hastings. Fuseli was later in 1813 to visit the coastal bathing resort of Hastings, the Montpelier of England, following a personal episode of “fever on the nerves, attended with great depression of spirits.”

Titania Caresses the Ass-Headed Bottom, 1793 - 94

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream held a special appeal for Fuseli, in that it explores the realms of the supernatural. In this picture, Fuseli illustrates a moment from Act IV scene 1, in which the bewitched Queen Titania falls in love with Bottom, the clumsy weaver, whose head has been transformed into that of an ass. 

Titania and Bottom,  c.1790

Again based on a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream, the central figure, Queen Titania, calls on her fairies to wait on the seated Bottom. Among the many characters portrayed is a woman standing to the right side behind a girl, looking wantonly from the picture at the viewer, who is leading a dwarfish old man on a leash. She represents the triumph of youth over age and of the senses over reason.

The Shepherd’s Dream from Paradise Lost, 1793 

The picture illustrates a moment in John Milton’s epic poem where he compares the fallen angels in the Hall of Pandemonium in Hell to the fairies who bewitch a passing peasant with the sound of their music and dancing.

Female Cruelty  [No information]

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Curiosity of CFNM

Ben Hill is an English art photographer. A devotee of observational photography of the human condition, he considers himself as an artist, not a photographer: “I just choose the camera for my work rather than a brush or chisel.”

This divine image is from his project, "One Side Life, the Other Side Death", that was exhibited in Harbor Lights gallery in Southampton in November 2013.

It featured a collection of pictures designed to illustrate our collective paths from conception to our final rest.

This blessed couple appear to be at the cusp of their curiouser and curiouser CFNM life journey together!

You can visit his website here.