Friday, 22 May 2015

Sylvia Is Excelling


This painting called Who Is Sylvia? depicts a scene from Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, where the Host sings to Sylvia:

"Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our *swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admired be.

Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness,
And, being help'd, inhabits there.

Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring."

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 4, Scene 2.

*Middle English: meaning young man, servant; from Old Norse sveinn

The work was created in 1900 by Edwin Austin Abbey (1852 - 1911), an American muralist, illustrator, and painter. He flourished at the beginning of what is now referred to as the "golden age" of illustration, and is best known for his drawings and paintings of Shakespearean and Victorian subjects.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Under the Stone


Merlin and Nimue, Lady of the Lake

How by her subtle working she made Merlin to go under the stone to let her wit of the marvels there : and she wrought so there for him that he came never out for all the craft he could do for her.

Illustrated by the English book illustrator, Arthur Rackham (1867 - 1939) for Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of The Round Table, 1917, by Thomas Malory.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Wife Who Whips

This amusing engraving is by Nicolas de Larmessin (1632 - 94), a French engraver and print dealer.

It is titled, La femme qui fouette son mary (1670), or The woman who whips her husband.

The narrative in Old French describes how the woman had previously trained her husband at the table and invested monies so that he might all-the-better perform his assigned domestic duties.

However, finding him having neglected his duties due to his drunken state, she applies a birch to his exposed derrière, promising him that no quarter will be given in spite of his futile entreaties for mercy.

Among the interesting objects featured in the scene are three depictions on the walls of female domestic discipline, the husband’s broom, a chamber pot, and a pair of woman’s shoes.

The work is sourced from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Female Avenger


This grandiose allegorical sculpture of Female triumphalism, called The Lyrical Drama, decorates the south façade of the Palais Garnier, the beautiful old Paris opera theatre built between 1861 and 1875.

A winged Female avenger, holding a unlit torch and drawing a sword, stands on the chest of her agonising male victim. She is flanked by a sword carrying male and a female figure.

The work was sculpted by Jean-Joseph Perraud (1819 - 76), a French academic sculptor. He was apprenticed to a wood carver, studied in Lyons and Paris, and won the grand prize in 1847, which entitled him to several years' residence in Rome where worked for the Medici family for a while. It was on his return to Paris that he participated in the architectural decorations of the Second Empire, contributing The Lyrical Drama (in Echaillon stone, 1865/9) as one of the facade groups for the Palais Garnier.

In 1865, he became a member of the Institute de France, which ensured that he had commissions until the end of his life. While he enjoyed a widespread reputation as an artist, his style fell out of fashion soon after his death.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Clean Slate


A prized slave is one who is prepared to abandon preconceived ideas and predetermined goals, so as to be in readiness for his formation by the wisdom and instruction of his Mistress.

In this painting, Philosophy, History, and Prudence Awakening the Mind to a Desire for Knowledge, the winged Philosophy stands to the left holding her traditional attributes of a sceptre and crown, while to the right stands Prudence, with her usual mirror, who also represents History, as per the inscription on her book.

In the centre is man, the proverbial blank slate (the TABULA RASA of the tablet in his right hand) being filled with wisdom, as two tongues of the fire of knowledge rise up from his mind.

The work is by Alessandro Turchi (1578 - 1649) who was an Italian painter of the early Baroque, born and active mainly in Verona, and moving late in life to Rome. He also went by the name Alessandro Veronese, or the nickname L'Orbetto.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Vintage Poster Delight

Sven Brasch (1886 - 1970) was a highly revered Danish graphic artist of rare talent and genius, whose works were widely praised throughout his career but who, sadly, today is virtually unknown. 

Having studied art in Munich and Paris, he started his career as a cartoonist for both foreign and Danish newspapers. His earliest posters date from his return to Copenhagen just before the outbreak of World War One. From that time on, he was in constant demand as a poster artist.

Brasch is especially known for his lean and slender females and his designs were an important influence on Early Art deco in European graphical art. He was himself strongly influenced by early French poster designs from World War One.

That he has been forgotten by historians, collectors, and institutions is an unfortunate circumstance not uncommon in the annals of art.



His poster, titled Dinamarca, Cartel, 1916, is a personal favourite. While the D/s-like poses are, of course, suitably fitting for a blog such as this, any assistance from Danish speakers as to the meaning of the poster text would be gratefully received.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Vanity and Chimeras

Giulio Aristide Sartorio (1860 - 1932) was an Italian Symbolist painter and, later in his career, film director. He came from a family of Roman sculptors.

In Paris, Sartorio studied under the Academic painter and sculptor, Jean-Léon Gérôme, but the works of Symbolist Gustave Moreau were to profoundly influence him. He later came into contact with Nietzsche and the German Symbolists. Wounded during World War I, he travelled extensively in the Middle East, Japan and Latin America during the 1920s and became a member of the Italian Royal Academy.

Two of his most famous works were: Diana of Ephes and the slaves and Gorgon and the Heroes, both of which are housed at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art. In these two curiously erotic pieces, the artist wanted to mythically express two aspects of the deep vanity of human existence.

Diana of Ephes and the slave

On the one hand, Diana of the Temple at Ephesus, whose hundred breasts symbolise nourishment and fecundity, is represented as the nurse of men and their chimeras. She stands triumphant as the Mother Goddess over piled-up dead and living nudes in various attitudes. Men are made of the same substance of their dreams and they are portrayed, as in the central male figure here, as dormant and subjugated, holding in their hands the symbols of their failed ambitions. 

Gorgon and the Heroes

On the other hand, Sartorio’s Gorgon is a beautiful, naked, red-haired Woman at whose feet two male figures lay dead. The victorious Femme Fatale towers over her victims, laying her winged feet upon the head of the right-hand figure. She is both the bewitching form of Beauty and the omnipotent embodiment of Life and Death with the power to raise and lower the heroes.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Bondage Vixens

Restraint, control and freedom are equally important to both fetish and fashion.


Models Nina Reijnders and Victoria Lipatova take on the role of bondage vixens as lensed by the Turkish photographer, Koray Parlak in his editorial ‘slaves of fashion’ for Marie Claire Turkey, December 2011.




Outfitted by stylist Hakan Öztürk, the duo sport a wardrobe of blue and white ensembles for the sensuous portraits.


Fetish symbolism, with a strong undertone of sensual mystery from Les Femmes, prevails in these beautiful leather-meets-lace images.