I came across this comic by Bruce Tinsley that makes humor of the current state of hyperconsciousness which is alienated from cultural traditions. Much of the ugliness in current culture is due to this impoverished state of mind. In the 19th century no one would think twice about an image of Cupid. The comic is rather in insightful in showing how the media can manipulate perception and how that perception can effect individuals’ lives. Cupid should not be forced to find a new line of work and neither should artists.
Luigi Bienaimé (1795-1878) was an Italian Neoclassical sculptor. Bienaimé’s family was originally from Belgium, but he was born in Carrara on March 4, 1795. Bienaimé started his studies at the Carrara Academy. Thanks to a grant from the same institution, to complete his education, he moved to Rome (1818), where he studied in the studio of Bertel Thorvaldsen. Bienaimé remained in Rome permanently until his death.
Bienaimé was commissioned a number of works by the Russian court in St Peterberg, including a Marriage for the Czar, a Bacchante dancing, a Diana surprised, and a Psyche abandoned by Love. Several of Bienaimé’s sculptures are in the collection of the Hermitage.
I believe Bienaimé’s Cupid Feeding Doves is the most imaginative of his works. The subject is not refered to in James Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art and I am not aware of any other artist who had depicted the charming narrative. The cup Cupid holds may signify divine love. Celestial Venus holds a similar cup in Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love.
Unfortunately, none of my web searches for the work gave the date of its creation.
When I was searching for images of Cupid Feeding Doves, I discovered that the Villa Carlotta in Northern Italy has a copy. Today the Villa Carlotta hosts civil weddings.
Pierre Auguste Cot (1837 – 1883) was a talented French academic who is best known for his sensitive paintings of young couples. He studied under Leon Cogniet, Alexandre Cabanel and William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Cot enjoyed the patronage of the academic sculptor Francisque Duret, whose daughter he married, and of Bouguereau, with whom he had also worked. Bouguereau painted a portrait of Cot’s daughter, Gabrielle. Cot was renowned for several works, including Le Printemps, featuring two young lovers sitting upon a swing, and The Storm. Both these paintings are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Nearly twenty years ago, I came to know Cot’s work from an Art Seminars advertisement I found in an old Post magazine. Cot’s painting The Storm was compared with a painting by Oskar Kokoschka with the agenda of “cultivating” a person to tell if art is good or bad. Obviously, the intention of the authors was to condition a person to have the modern sensibilities which are indifferent to the expression of Cot’s work. Although there has been a renewed interest in Romantic art in recent times, the appreciation is usually superficial. The work tends to be viewed at a historical distance, not as a work which expresses essential values which have been impoverished in our time. The simple fact is, our Babelized civilization is doing away with what Francis Schaeffer called the “mannishness” of man.
Although most bloggers I encounter blame Christians for being hostile to sexuality in art, I find that history tells an other story. The 19th Century was last period in which culture was still rooted in a theocracy view, beautiful sensual art still had ground to be nurtured. With the industrial revolution, a technopoly conscious began to emerge which a one-sided emphasis on technology. As Erich Fromm said,”Having lost the religious faith and the humanistic values bound with it, he concentrated on technical and material values and lost the capacity for deep emotional experiences, for the joy and sadness that accompany them.” The Modernism which emerged in the early 20th century was an absurd form of materialist asceticism which denies the fullness of being human.
When Celestial Venus was created, I never thought it would be involved in Jedi apologetics. Although The Last Jedi may be the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy in terms of entertainment, the values embedded in the film and the images promoting the film are in conflict with George Lucas’ original universe. While the original Star Wars was a great manifestation of the counter-culture, The Last Jedi reflects the ideology of technocracy.
Besides the obvious opposition to the Vietnam War, in its essence the counter-culture of the 1960’s was a reaction to the unrestricted advance of technocracy. The rationality of technocracy marginalized the humanist values of the individual in favor of values of the state. Progress becomes fascist when it is pursued for its own sake. Lucas’ early films are definitely counter-cultural documents about the individual trying to break free from a consumerist, conformist order. His first film, THX1138 (1971) reflects a profound insight into the forms of alienation in a future society. THX1138 is a chilling depiction of a post-gender society living in a sterilized minimalist world. Life has become standardized to the point that everyone wears white suits and has a shaved head. Since sexual intimacy in no way reflects the needs of the state, sex has become illegal by the arbitrary law of the state.
A relevant issue which needs be understood, which Star Wars beautifully illustrates, the expression “tear it all down” was aimed at the Death Star, not tradition. The original counter-culture was not counter tradition but was acting to restore the Old Republic. In Star Wars, the Death Star symbolizes the threat of destruction possible by the unrestricted progress of technocracy. What is interesting, a vivid argument against the value of technocracy is actually made by Darth Vader in a confrontation with an Imperial Admiral. Even though Vader is “more machine than man, twisted and evil,” he still knows the Force is greater than anything man can create.
Admiral Motti: Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it.
Darth Vader: Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Admiral Motti: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, [Vader walks toward Motti, then slowly raises his hand] or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebels’ hidden fort— [Motti grasps his throat as he is being choked]
Darth Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
When Luke meets Yoda in the Empire Strikes he tells him he is “looking for a great warrior”, Yoda rebukes his claim with, “Wars not make one great.” Thought out his teaching Yoda makes it clear that, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” The promotional images for Empire Strikes Back always show him standing calmly with his rustic cane. When the second trilogy was promoted with images of CGI Yoda with an angry brow and his lightsaber drawn, I could not help but notice how the images conflicted with Yoda’s Jedi teaching. The creators of the new films really missed the point.
Lucas was influenced by Eastern religions to develop the idea of the Force, “A energy field created by all living things that binds the galaxy together.” Of the eastern teachings, the Force is apparently inspired by the Tao Te Ching.(the central Taoist text, ascribed to Lao-tzu). Taoism uses the concept polarity of the yin yang in the same way the Force is light and dark. The yin and yang are male and female which cannot exist without one another. The yin and yang balance each other and maintain harmony in the universe. The black part of the symbol represents the calmer and cooler female Yin. The idea that women are passive is not just a white male concept! The principal of the relationship of the yin yang is:
YANG protects YIN
YIN nurtures YANG
A recurring plotline which runs through The Last Jedi has Finn and Poe Dameron who act with the best intentions for the Resistance, only to find failure and scorn from women acting as technocratic authorities. For example, at the beginning of the film, the Resistance is evacuating their base while Poe Dameron in a single X-Wing holds off the First Order’s assault. He ignores General Leia’s orders to return to the Resistance fleet, instead he leads an attack of bombers to bring down an entire dreadnought ship. Poe is demoted by Leia because the bombers suffered heavy loses. Yet the bomber sequence seems unconvincing, I agree with the comment of Nick Gazin,”The Rebels have been at war for many decades and they haven’t learned to fly far enough apart so they wouldn’t blow each other up?”
Besides the bomber scene there are several other scenes in which Finn and Poe Dameron act by remaining true to themselves yet fail. This is actually the very opposite of a theme that’s common in Sci-fiction action films. Often maverick individuals in lower positions disobey orders by misdirected authorities for the best intentions of their comrades. They usually save the day. But in the The Last Jedi, the theme is reversed, it seems that whenever Poe sets out to solve unaddressed problems, his endeavors fail only for him to be disciplined by the female Vice Admiral Holdo. Since the advancement of women in positions of authority is considered a great achievement of our society any criticism will be regarded as retrograde. But is there something more to this?
The psychologist Alice Miller discovered the personality for fascism to prosper was found in a society which had been conditioned to the notion that authority is always correct. Miller wrestled the with question of how Germans could have carried out Hitler’s “final solution” of murdering millions of Jews,”the men and women who carried out “the final solution” did not let their feelings stand in their way for the simple reason that they had been raised from infancy not to have any feelings of their own but to experience their parents’ wishes as their own. These were people who, as children, had been proud of being tough and not crying, of carrying out all their duties “gladly,” that is, at bottom, of not having an inner life at all.”
I read a few reviews of The Last Jedi which claim the plotlines for Finn and Poe are redundant or poorly written. Honestly, how difficult would it have been to write them into some heroic action? Many authors and scholars have warned that the media can be used as a tool of manipulation, I’m certain that the plotlines of Poe and Finn were constructed to condition boys to believe authority is always correct and they should not trust their feelings, in other words, to have the orientation for fascism to prosper.
Star Wars was a franchise which has been obviously marketed to a young male audience. So it goes against common sense as far as marketing goes to have Rey in the lead role of the new films. It was bad enough for the second trilogy to be promoted with images of a ticked off CGI Yoda, now we have angry Rey with a lightsaber drawn. I’m certain that the violence which plagues our culture is a result of the technocratic conscience which rejects the yin, the value of the feminine. The yin and yang are forbidden by the postmodern culture to balance each other and the result has been complete chaos. Which goes without saying, I’m not impressed by the join the Death Star feminism reflected in The Last Jedi. Women are being conditioned to be as Miller said to be “proud of being tough and not crying, of carrying out all their duties “gladly,” that is, at bottom, of not having an inner life at all.” I’m sure that Yoda would find it absurd for women submit to technocratic progress. Since as he said, “wars not make one great.”
For the Christmas season I’ll focus on paintings of the Virgin and Child by the French academic painter Antoine Auguste Ernest Hébert (1817 – 1908). Although Hébert moved to Pairs to study law in 1835, he was a child prodigy in painting. He had painted accomplished portraits a year earlier at the age of seventeen. He was pupil first of David Augers and then Paul Delaroche but he was mostly a self-taught artist. He won the coveted Grand Prix de Rome at the age of twenty-two.
Of Hébert’s paintings of the Virgin, the most unusual is his painting The Virgin in Paradise. The Virgin’s turban and ornate clothes give her the appearance of an Arabian princess. Mary is usually depicted sitting on a throne above the clouds when she is in the company of cherubs. Herbert’s depiction of her in paradise is very original.
Herbert employed many conventions to represent the halos of Mary and Christ. In some paintings, the halo is rendered as a gold disk which was a tradition of Byzantine icons. While in others works the halo is painted as a thin gold ring which was common during the Renaissance. A less common convention, (I found few examples in Sally Fisher’s The Square Halo) was to render the halo as beams of light coming from behind the head. This is a detail of Herbert’s striking painting Vierge au Rouge Gorge. The somber expression of Mary’s face contrasted with the radiant beams of light complicate the mood of the painting.
Despite the fact that those with a postmodern sensibility consider images of the Virgin and Child to be aesthetically or politically retrograde, I believe the absence of the Virgin and Child symbol is at the root of the violence and confusion in our culture. The iconoclasm of the Reformation removed the Virgin from the iconography of the church which ultimately had the effect of marginalizing the values of motherhood. This had a disastrous effect on culture. The psychologist Alice Miller discovered the roots of violence in child-rearing, she wrote,”Until the general public becomes aware that countless children are subjected to soul murder everyday and society as a whole must suffer as a result, we are groping in a dark labyrinth.”
Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852 – 1929), was one of the leading French artists of the naturalist school. He was one of the first artists to use photography to bring greater realism to his paintings. Like Paul Gauguin, he was draw to Brittany to paint the piety of the of the region’s peasants. Dagnan-Bouveret’s conventions and techniques appealed both to traditional and modern critics. The narratives of pious figures appealed to more conservative critics, while liberal critics could interpret the naturalism of his works as aspects of a post-Courbet anti-Academic art. The interest in his realist Breton paintings has left his mystical-religious paintings neglected but I am just as impressed by his archetypal religious compositions.
Bruno Piglhein (1848-1894) was German sculptor and painter I came to know by Bram Dijkstra’s book Idols of Perversity. I referred to Dijkstra’s book in a previous post on the Pre-Raphaelites. While Idols of Perversity is a great source of information, Dijkstra’s interpretation of art is most often absurd due to political agendas. Instead of attempting to understand the art works in terms of the period in which they created, Dijkstra imposes notions of oppression into the art works. For example, Piglhein’s Christmas Morning is accompanied by the text, “Thus a genre was born in which crass child pornography disguised itself as a tribute to the ideal of innocence, and even children fell victim to man’s fearful retreat from woman who knew too much about the sins of the flesh.” Frist of all, Piglhein’s sleeping child is as innocent as the Christ child and cherubs which appear in hundred of Renaissance paintings, therefore it’s certainly not crass child pornography. Second, Dijkstra imposes post modern feminist ideology of gender in order to tarnish the experience of the work.
Why would Dijkstra do this? The agendas of many within the art-historical establishment can be compared to the Red Guards of China. In 1966, Mao Zedong mobilized a student movement during China’s Cultural Revolution. The ruling elite saw traditional culture as a threat to its power, if cultural artifacts were considered to represent one of the Four Olds, they were to be destroyed. Historic sites were assaulted and religious texts and figures were confiscated and burned. In the West, the attack on tradition is not carried out physically on culture but rather psychologically. Actual artifacts are not physically destroyed, instead the Babel Guard attempts to destroy the experience of culture. It may seem progressive to reject “Euro-centrism” in the name tolerance and sympathy for other cultures but the inability to enjoy warm sentiments expressed in romantic art reflects a hardness of heart which undercuts the very possibility of progress and humane values. Beautiful painting which manifest values to resist the state are interpreted as a form of oppression so that one is estranged from the foundation an authentic self which can resist the political agendas of the elite.
Paul Édouard Rosset-Granger (1853 –1934) was a talented French academic artist who is not well-known today. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Alexander Cabanel, Edouard Louis Dubufe and Allexis-Joseph Mazerolle. Rosset-Granger’s works benefited from his familiarity with Bouguereau but are different in how he incorporated figures in landscapes. His compositions are comparable to Maxfield Parrish. He lived well in the 20th century working as an illustrator for the press and publishing houses. A wordpress site (in French) dedicated to him can be found here.
Hebe was the Greek goddess of youth. She was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe served as cupbearer for the gods of Mount Olympus, until she was married to Hercules. Hebe was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth, and in art is typically seen with her father in the guise of an eagle, often offering a cup. She was supposed to have the power to give eternal youth. As a subject in art, Hebe was given little attention in art in ancient times. But she became a remarkably popular subject in art in the period from about 1750 to 1900. The interest in her I believe symbolized a need to revive the vitality in culture which was fading with the growth of industrialization. Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture and Carolus Duran’s painting are among the best examples.
I recently read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the first time. The book has much more depth than the campy Hollywood adoptions; the ape-like Mr Hyde seen in the films is really not accurate to the novel. It is usually overlooked that Mr Hyde is a ‘damnable young man’; the dark side of the civil middle-aged Dr Jekyll is manifested in a smaller youthful Hyde. At the end of the edition I read, there was a commentary which recognized the criminological Darwinism reflected in Stevenson’s story. In the late 19th century, scientism influenced eminent authorities to believe children were born criminals. To quote the commentary, “This meant the human child was considered to be closer to less evolved life forms ‘primitives’ and animals, but also criminals and lunatics. This logic was interchangeable; if the criminal or lunatic was a product of arrested mental development, so he or she was also ‘arrested’ at an early stage of individual (as much as species) growth.” I find this view to be bizarre since traditionally, childhood is regarded as a state of innocence. Although criminological Darwinism is not refered to today, it seems to exist as a subliminal subtext of contemporary culture. You may ask what Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has to do with Hebe? I am certain if Dr Jekyll drank from the cup of Hebe he would have not turned into Mr Hyde.
The rationalism of the modern period brought a disenchantment from the spiritual aspects of life. Romantic art was a reaction against the one-sided rationalization which marginalized the subjective side of humanity which perceives love and beauty. Very often artists depicted youth to symbolize wholeness of mind and body as well as heart. If only Hyde could have met Hebe for her to correct Dr Jekyll for his denial of the existence of the heart.
Paul Émile Chabas ( 1869 -1937) was a French painter and illustrator who trained under William Adolphe Bouguereau. He was a member of the Academie des Beaux. Chabas is best known for his painting September Morn which brought fame as well as controversy in the early 20th century. Theatrical pieces were inspired by the painting and reference were common in the media. I knew of the painting since I was a teenage but I knew nothing of its fame or the scandal. When a reproduction of September Morn was displayed in a window of a photography shop in Chicago, the store owner was charged with indecency. The claim of indecency really surprise me since the pose of the girl is innocent. The pose of the figure in September Morn is similar to the standing girl in Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak, which was the most popular art print of the early 20th century. Parrish’s painting may have been partly inspired by Chabas’ figure.
The largest images of the painting on the web are almost in a monotone of gold, but descriptions of the painting refer to cool silver tones. So I brought the image into photoshop to adjust the colors to be closer to what they may be in the actual painting.
I was impressed by the unusual asymmetrical composition of this painting. I find the work to be spiritual, the figures are standing in holy water.