Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hagar and Ishmael

Hagar and Ishmael (1830) by the English landscape painter Charles Lock Eastlake (1793-1865).

Mother and son lost in the wilderness, near to death. It’s a traditional composition but not a great painting. Without the empty jug nobody would know where the problem is, because Hagar looks more bored than thirsty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Banquet of Esther

The Banquet of Esther (1640s) by the Dutch baroque painter Jan Victors (1620-?), who was probably a student of Rembrandt van Rijn.

Here Esther reveals to the king that she herself is a Jew and that Haman has plotted to kill them all. She will loose her live if she couldn’t convince the king.
All are wearing typical Dutch costumes of the 17th century. Only the turban, which is from the same period, reminds that the scenery happened somewhere in the Orient. There is still nothing "historical" in the painting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pharaoh's daughter as Patron

Everybody knows the story of Moses. That he was set adrift on the Nile River in a basket because his mother wanted to save his live. That he was Pharaoh's daughter, who adopted him as her own son, so that he grew up as a younger brother to the future Rameses II. As a political and religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet Moses is probably the most important figure in the Bible. Nevertheless I’m more interested in Pharaoh's daughter.

In Jewish texts she is called Thermuthis and it is said that she later fled with the Jews during the Exodus and became Jewish by marriage. Despite she is not very important in the Bible - she is not even named there – she was very attractive to painters. In the interpretation of art she was a very important noble woman, something like a queen, who adopted a poor orphan and arranged his future. So she was the ideal symbol for any kind of patronage or sponsorship.

Paintings of Pharaoh's daughter were popular among mighty women, to show their generosity, their love, their maternally gifts. Among artists they were popular to appeal for sponsorship. Pharaoh's daughter has to be seen therefore as a patron of the arts.

Finding of Moses (1638-40)

Moses saved (1651)

These two examples are by the French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), who is considered as the founder of the French Classical tradition at the end of the Baroque era. Interesting is the classical architecture in the background. A pyramid and an obelisk are symbolizing Egypt, but the costumes are like a classical artist would have imagined Greeks or Romans.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Medieval Bathsheba

This still medieval Bathsheba dates from about 1485 and is by the Dutch Renaissance painter Hans Memling (c.1435-1494).

Despite its age there are already all important persons present. The nude seductive Bathsheba, a maidservant and king David peeping on his balcony.
Interesting may be that Memling doesn’t make any effort to give the painting a historical or oriental touch. The clothes and the furniture are pure 15th century Dutch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lot as a Victim

Lot and his daughters by the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553). It’s probably from about 1528, but that’s not sure because Cranach painted at least four like this.

It’s a kind of psychedelic or symbolist painting. I like that bloody rainbow above Sodom.
But what’s really interesting. That it is one of the rare examples where Lot appears as the victim. It seems that Cranach hadn’t any doubt that the poor old man was totally manipulated by his two cool looking daughters.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Triumphant Salome

Salomé by the French Academic painter Pierre Bonnaud (1865-1930).

Salomé is posing here as a triumphant victor. She is totally aware of her sexual power. And maybe feels a kind of pity with her poor victim. The tiger skin on the floor is only another symbol for his dangerous feline predator.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Modern Delilah

Here a relatively modern interpretation of Samson and Delilah. It’s by the German painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935). The painting is not pretending to be realistic. There are no historical costumes or exotic accessories. There is only a modern looking woman who is triumphantly waving with the hair of Samson. It is a kind of scalp, her trophy.

Samson and Delilah (1902)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wherever you go, I will go…

Ruth and Naomi (1886) by the English Painter Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-1898).

Naomi wanted to go back to Bethlehem and Orpah is also on her way. Ruth instead is begging to stay with Naomi. The two women seemed like lovers, when Ruth is saying: "For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge…”