Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Deadly Love

The passionate and deadly love of Salome is the subject of the French painter French Lucien Lévy (1865-1953) a typical fin de siècle artist.

Salome (1896)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ruth a Lesson in Loyalty

During a famine an Israelite family emigrated from Bethlehem to the land of the Moabites where the two sons married the Moabite women Ruth and her sister Orpah. But when all the male members of the family died there are only Naomi the mother and her two daughters-in-law left. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem but only Ruth was willing to go with her and said the famous words: "For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried."
Ruth accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem and worked there hard as a gleaner on the fields of Boaz a relative of Naomi. Later Ruth married Boaz and they have a son called Obed who is the the grandfather of David.

Ruth is usually regarded as an example of loyalty.

Ruth in the Fields (1876)

The painting is by the French artist Hugues Merle (1823-1881) a student of Léon Cogniet and a friend of William Bouguereau.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aubrey Beardsley's Salome

The most famous images with a modern aspect are from the English Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872–1898). He got the idea from Oscar Wilde's play and made the illustrations for it, which were published with the edition from 1907.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hagar and Ishmael

Because Sarah the beloved wife of Abraham thougt she couln't become pregnant she gave her husband her Egyptian slave Hagar as a second wife. Hagar hat with Abraham a son whom she named Ishmael. With the years there aroused more and more problems between the two women. Sarah was the first, but Hagar was the mother of Abramhams son. These problems culminated after fourteen years when Sarah herself gave birth to Isaac. After new quarrels she demanded now the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. In the region where Abraham where living with his family this was like a death sentence. So Abraham was at first reluctant to send them into the mortal desert. But when God supported the demands of his wife and
promised to take care of Ishmael, Abraham resited no longer.

Alone in the wilderness Hagar and Ishmael ran out of water. When they where near to death an angel appeared and showed Hagar a well. Later Ishmael became the forefather of the Arab people.

In this story there are some different aspects which interested western artists. At first there is the terrible expulsion of the helpless mother and her child. The second is how the both where near to neath in the wilderness and then saved by an angel. Some artists depicts how Sarah presents Hagar to her husband, Ishmael as an archer or other scenes. But above all remain the two: the expulsion and the saving by the angel.

Paul Gustave Doré (1832–1883) was a French artist and engraver. 1866 he made the illustrations for an English Bible, from which these pictures are taken.
Dore ist not the most important artist. But as a very popular engraver his pictures are comprehensive to art history. He is using the most symbols and arangements which are typical for the paintings of better artists. There is the the exaggerated pose of Abraham, the little child - it must have been at least 16 years at this time. In the wilderness its dark, Hagar is praying like on a stage and in front there is the empty jar.
All is arranged like a scene from a silent movie.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Judah and Tamar

Tamar was the widow of the two eldest sons of the patriarch Judah. Both had "spilt their seed" practising coitus interruptus and had been killed by God because of that. Tamar stayed childless what meaned without any impotance in that kind of society. So she demanded from Judah the marriage to the brother of her dead husband, which was her good right. But Judah who believed she was cursed wouldn't give her another one of his sons. To become pregnant she disguised herself as a prostitute and waited at the road for Judah. She accepted his tribal leader's staff, his personal seal and cord as a pledge for the later payment of a goat.

Some months later when it became obvious that she was pregnant, Judah condemned her to be burnt to death as a whore. But then Tamar sent him his staff, seal and cord, proving that he himself was the father of her child. So Judah accepted the children (she got twins) and took Tamar in his house.

This painting from 1840 is by the French artist Emile Jean Horace Vernet (1789-1863) . Vernet was a battle and history painter and shows how Tamar uses the only weapons she had to outsmart the old hypocrite patriarch, who would condemn to death a poor prostitute but in spite of that would buy her services.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Salome - the femme fatale

To show the vast spectrum of interpretations here a Salome from the beginning of the 20th century by the German Symbolist and Art Nouveau painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928).

In fin-de-siecle decadence Salome is synonymous with the femme fatale, popularized by Oscar Wilde. She is performing the Dance of the Seven Veils - a pure invention of Wilde.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Salome - late Gothic

This Salome is by an unknow flemish painter. Its late Gothic and in many parts still medieval.
But the painting already has all the important signs: the executioner with his sword, the head of St. John and the plate, which was very important in art to distinguish Salome from Judith.

Interesting are the two peacocks in the back as symbols of resurrection and immortality.