Saturday, 24 January 2015

Submissive Embrace

The French artist, Théodore Rivière (1857 - 1912) was one of the leading Orientalist sculptors. He not only drew on literary texts but travelled extensively in North Africa, the Far East and South America for his artistic inspiration.

The subject of this polychrome sculpture, made of gold, ivory, bronze and turquoise, was taken from Gustave Flaubert's novel, Salammbô, published in 1862. The story takes place between 241–238 BC, during the war between Carthage and its mercenaries who were in revolt for non-payment of their wages following the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage.

The Libyan Mâthô, the chief of the barbarian soldiers, fell in love with Salammbô, the daughter of his Carthaginian enemy, Hamilcar Barca. Rivière has chosen the moment when, mortally wounded by the people, Mâthô dies at the feet of the enchanting Salammbô crying: "I love you! I love you!"

In contemplating the work of Theodore Riviere, we feel the power of the embrace, the submission of the Libyan and the intoxication of the East.

Rivière's statuette created a sensation at the Paris Salon of 1895. The figure of Salammbô, the Femme Fatale, inspired many other Symbolist artists.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

At Last, The Last

As the year-end approaches, it seems an appropriate time, for a number of reasons, to draw the final curtain on this personal homage to the FemDom Arts. 

i do so with a painting called At Last My Lovely from the genre of romantic realism made popular by the contemporary Scottish artist and publisher, Jack Vettriano. In an intriguing study of couple power play, the kneeling male appears to be surrendering himself to the seated Woman whose background shadow dominates the picture.

While often regarded in a negative light by the art establishment, and in particular by a subset unhappy at his portrayal of Women’s sexuality, Vettriano’s hugely popular artwork is an unashamed celebratory narrative of Female Power. It has been said of the archetype noir Woman featured in his paintings that “she looks like a Woman to whom a pledge of eternal love might provoke her to stab you with a stiletto.”

i wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the many people who generously gave me support with this blog offering over the last three years and more, and in particular to Goddess Eva Luna for whom the blog was dedicated and to Nanshakh, FemDom artist supreme, for his endless encouragement.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Charybdis's Maw

This haunting picture, Shipwreck That Befell Odysseus, is by Henry Fuseli (German: Johann Heinrich Füssli) (1741 - 1825) who was a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer on art who worked and spent most of his life in England.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Charybdis was a Female sea deity, later rationalised as a whirlpool and considered a shipping hazard in the Strait of Messina. Charybdis lives under a small rock on one side of a narrow channel. Three times a day, she swallows a huge amount of water, before belching it back out again, creating large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship underwater.

On his epic journey, Odysseus finds himself stranded and swept through the strait to face Charybdis. His raft is sucked into her maw, but he survives by clinging to a fig tree growing on a rock over her lair. On the next outflow of water, his raft was expelled. Odysseus recovers it and paddles away to safety.

Scylla is also a Female sea deity associated with Charybdis and the Strait of Messina, who lives inside a much larger rock. 'Between Scylla and Charybdis' came to mean having to choose between two dangers, either of which brings harm.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Past Remembrance

Remembrance is a beautifully evocative painting by Teresa Oaxaca (b. 1987), an amazingly talented and rising American contemporary artist based in Washington DC.

After initially exploring sculpture, she underwent classical training at the age of 17 in the academic ateliers of Florence. Over a five year period there from 2005-10, including briefly apprenticing under Odd Nerdrum in Norway, her love for the paintings of the Old Masters grew and her traditional craftsmanship developed.

She quotes as the sources of her inspiration, “the Baroque and Rococo, Gustav Klimt, the Old Masters, and ornamental design from many different periods of history.” In 2012, she deepened her knowledge of the Old Masters with a study tour of Europe.

Her artwork has been described as a channeling back to the splendour of Victorian concepts of beauty, while also capturing the curiosities and decadence of the era.....a reminder that things are not always what they seem beyond the surface. “My work is about pleasing the eye. I paint light and the way it falls. Simple observation reveals beauty; often it is found in the unconventional.”

The skeletal head depicted in this and other of her works was purchased while living in Italy - and which she affectionately refers to as “Walter”.

You can view Teresa's portfolio and blog here.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Reflections of Power and Beauty

Woman With a Mirror (A Woman At Her Toilet), 1515, is an intriguing painting by Titian (Tiziano Vecelli or Vecellio), the master Italian painter and leader of the 16th century Venetian school of the High Renaissance.

Created when the artist was a young man, the work’s motif is that of a Woman at her toilet whom Titian treats here as an idealized representation of Venetian beauties of the time. Leaning with her head slightly to one side, she is standing, face-on, and wearing a dark-coloured dress with shoulder straps and a loose pleated white blouse which is open, revealing her left shoulder. The essence of classical harmonious beauty, she is shown coiffing her long, slightly curly hair in one hand, while holding a bottle of perfume in the other.

The Woman is assisted, in the semidarkness of the background, by a male servant in a red doublet, who humbly looks down while holding two mirrors for her, one in front and the other behind. Apparently indifferent to him, she looks at herself in the small rectangular mirror on the left while at the same time checking her hair in the large convex mirror behind her. She is portrayed not primarily as a sexual agent but as a Woman in charge. The lowly posture of the servant is in contrast with the virtues of Female power and beauty that the picture radiates.

Titian uses the painting as a play of gazes to explore, with exquisite finesse, an elaborate interplay between image and reflection, appearance and reality, and visibility and concealment. The clever mirror device, associated with the Venetian school, serves to circumvent the two-dimensional nature of painting and to present the sensuous beauty of the young Woman from all sides, as with a sculpture.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Our Lady of Victory

....and another painting in a similar vein, the Allegory of Eighteen Brumaire, or France is Saved (1800) is the depiction of the coup of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) led by Napoleon Bonaparte, which established the Consulate, a period of French Government from 1799 to 1804.

It depicts victorious France (after the Battle of Marengo) who is crowned with laurels and bearing an olive branch. She stands on a shield supported by the armies of the Republic. An Egyptian figure symbolizing Bonaparte's army is next to "France", while at the bottom right is seen Hercules wearing the skin of the vicious Nemean lion representing the government having crushed the enemies of Order and Peace.

The work is by Antoine-François Callet (1741 - 1823), generally known as Antoine Callet, a French painter of portraits and allegorical works, who acted as official portraitist to Louis XVI.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Wrongdoer Vanquished

Born into a family of artists, Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 - 1766) was a French painter who originally aspired to be a history painter. The financial collapse of 1720 all but ruined Nattier who found himself forced to devote his whole energy to portraiture, which was a more lucrative artistic pursuit.

He became renowned for his allegorical portraits of the Ladies of King Louis XV's court depicted as Greco-Roman Goddesses, or as other mythological figures. His graceful and charming portraits of court Ladies in allegorical fancy dress - or undress - were very fashionable, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness. The pastel-like delicacy of his idealized images of Women as Goddesses led to the accusation that he ‘painted with make-up’.

This painting, Allegory of Justice Combatting Injustice (1737), portraying a righteous classical Lady vanquishing a male guilty of wrongdoing with her raised claw-like wooden implement, is one of Nattier's most important royal commissions, and an impressive rare surviving example of his work in a vein other than portraiture. It was commissioned by Jean-Philippe d'Orléans, Grand Master or Grand Prieur of the Knights of the Order of Malta in France for the decoration of his Parisian residence, the Palais du Temple.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fetish Cartoon

Eugene "Gene" Bilbrew (1923 - 1974) was an American cartoonist and one of the most productive erotic illustrators of the 20th century. In addition to signing his work with his own name, he drew under a range of pseudonyms including Van Rod, Bondy and ENEG ("Gene" spelled backwards).

An African-American, Bilbrew met the bondage and fetish illustrator, Eric Stanton, while both were students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. For much of his early career, he took freelance assignments within the African American community. 

Around 1950, Bilbrew became an assistant to the hugely influential comics artist, Will Eisner on The Spirit. Bilbrew's later notability as a fetish artist came when Stanton introduced him to the fetish photographer, Irving Klaw and his Movie Star News/Nutrix company. He also had many illustrations published in Leonard Burtman’s Exotique magazine between 1956 and 1959, and in most of his magazines of the 1960s. 

Bilbrew had a most unusual and a recognisable individual style which emerged from a more traditional genre of cartooning. Famous for dozens of paperback novel covers, he was an expert at depicting bondage, fetish, and FemDom themes in illustrations that accompanied stories and in his comics. His pictures show impressive skill in rendering lyrical feminine curves and depicting, in particular, the penumbras of gender transition.

While there are literally thousands of entries on Bilbrew and his work on the web, yet the "real" art world seems to know virtually nothing about him. This may be due to his "outside the norm" life and body of work, but it could just as easily be due to his race, or to the fact that virtually none of his original work survives. 

Sadly, he died in 1974 of an overdose in a back living room of minor mobster Eddie Mishkin's bookstore on 42nd Street in Manhattan, his quirky talent depleted and devastated by heroin.