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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Chinnamasta

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The saintly cephalophores may be reconciled to their martyrdoms but none of them decapitated themselves, unlike Chinnamasta, the self-decapitating Tantric goddess. The most common representations show her sitting or standing on a copulating couple while blood from her neck spouts into the mouth of her severed head and the mouths of her attendants, Dakini and Varnini. In other depictions she should probably be classed among the cephalophores when she goes for a walk or a ride on a lion. The fourth picture here is of Chinnamunda, a related, wrathful form of Vajrayogini from Tibetan Buddhism.

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Cephalophores
Decapitations

 


Cephalophores

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Martyrdom of Saint Denis, Saint Eleutherius and Saint Rusticus by Pierre II Mignard.

Consider this an addendum to an earlier post about decapitations in art history. What I didn’t know then was that decapitated saints have their own “cephalophore” category if they’ve been recorded as going for a post-decapitation stroll; a case of “take up thy head and walk”. Saint Denis of Paris receives more attention than most on account of his being a patron saint of France. This also explains why his martyrdom is depicted in gory detail on the wall of the Pantheon in Paris.

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St. Denis bearing his head and halo (1896).

Nine-year-old Saint Justus of Beauvais differs from the strolling cephalophores—who manage to walk some distance before finally expiring—in having picked up his head severed head and carried on speaking. Rubens is one of the few artists to depict this event, although his habitual all-shall-have-muscles technique makes the boy look a lot older. Wikimedia Commons has a few more examples of Saint Denis, with and without head.

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The Miracle of Saint Justus (c. 1635) by Peter Paul Rubens.

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Decapitations

 


The Nose, a film by Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker

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The last time I wrote about the animated films of Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker the only copies available were low-grade things on YouTube which have long-since vanished (one of many reasons I don’t embed YT players in these posts). Happily a new copy of The Nose (1963) has appeared that’s not only better quality but isn’t split into two as was the case earlier.

The Nose is based on the Gogol story of the same name, a tale of a St Petersburg official who wakes to find his nose has left his face and is masquerading as a civil servant. I’ve not read Gogol’s story but I do have Nabokov’s book about Gogol which dwells not only on the prominent nose of the author, but also his traumatic death which was hastened in part by a quack physician who treated Gogol by applying leeches to his nose. Neither story or film contain anything as horrific. The film version is a wordless animation made using the pinscreen technique which Alexeieff & Parker developed in order to create greyscale animated films without recourse to smudgy materials like pencil, pastel, charcoal, etc. As I’ve mentioned before, the most notable application of this technique is the prologue the pair created for Orson Welles’ film of The Trial (1962). What’s striking about the Alexeieff & Parker use of the pinscreen is how skilfully they use it to manipulate light and shade. Where other animators like Jacques Drouin used the technique more impressionistically, Alexeieff & Parker’s films at times give the impression of watching an animated engraving. The Nose is one of their finest pieces. (Thanks to Gabe for the tip!)

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Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker

 


William Morris and His Work

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The world isn’t exactly starved of books about William Morris but William Morris and His Work (1899) is the first I’ve seen that gives an opportunity to study the creation of some of the Morris company’s florid textile designs. Those that follow obvious repeating patterns (like the bird designs below) don’t appear technically challenging but I’ve wondered a few times about the difficulties of creating some of the very elaborate interlacings of foliage that became the Morris hallmark. Lewis Foreman Day wrote a number of books on the history of ornament and design so he’s an ideal guide. Browse his book here or download it here.

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The Voyage of the Pequod

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American illustrator Everett Henry (1893–1961) created several maps based on classic American novels but The Virginian and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lack the epic, globe-trotting qualities of Moby-Dick, one of the few novels where almost every scene takes place in a different part of the world. The linear nature of the voyage also aids Henry’s design with its graded colours and suitably bloody culmination. The use of vignettes in literary maps reminds me most of the charts drawn by Pauline Baynes for Tolkien’s books but there are plenty of other examples, some of which may be seen at VTS.

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The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Jan Saenredam’s whale
The Whale again
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick
Pauline Baynes, 1922–2008

 


 


 

Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

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Strange Attractor Journal Four

 

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The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale

 

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David Lynch Collection

 

Children of the Stones--The Complete Series

 

BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas (Box Set)

 

The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome

 

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The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire