The écorché saint

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An addendum to the previous post after Daniel in the comments reminded me of Saint Bartholomew who is often depicted in paintings and sculptures carrying his flayed skin. Having suffered considerable torture, Bartholomew spends eternity as the patron saint of tanners and leatherworkers. This sounds like a cruel joke on the part of medieval martyrologists but the history of the Christian church contains many such ironies, along with some equally surprising imagery. The luckier saints, like Lucy and Agatha of Sicily, are shown in paintings with their gouged eyes and lopped breasts restored in Heaven, the original (miraculously unbloody) articles being proffered to the viewer on plates; Peter of Verona, meanwhile, offers benedictions to the faithful with the hatchet that killed him still protruding from his head. The sculpture of Bartholomew by Marco d’Agrate in Milan Cathedral dates from 1562, and is more écorché than saint, a marvellous exercise in anatomical fidelity that just happens to double as a religious icon.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Écorché
Cephalophores

Écorché

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Engraving by Philip Galle.

Écorché, from the French verb to flay, was the traditional term applied to depictions of the skinless man found in anatomical studies, and the musculature models made for the use of artists and sculptors. This is almost always a male figure. Women tend to feature in the anatomical works of previous centuries in order to illustrate the conditions of pregnancy, the male body being considered the default for the usual sexist reasons.

I’ve been revisiting the history of these figures while working on a new book design so what follows are a few choice examples, some of which carry a pleasantly Surrealist charge. In the years that followed the pioneering studies by Vesalius and co. there was a period of playfulness in anatomical illustration during which time the figures are shown peeling away their flesh to reveal the muscles or even the organs beneath, a striptease where the substance of the body itself is removed. As William Burroughs was fond of quoting: “‘T ain’t no sin to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.”

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Valverde de Hamusco (1556).

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Engraving by G. Bonasone (15–).

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Engraving by Philip Galle.

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Man Ray and the Marquis

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Monument to D.A.F. de Sade (1933).

A slight return to the literary outlaw. Man Ray was more preoccupied by the Marquis de Sade than many of his fellow Surrealists, although he never took his interest as far as the obsessive Jean Benoît. His imaginary portraits were created after Sade scholar Maurice Heine complained that the only surviving picture of the Marquis was a drawing that could be of any other young aristocrat of the time.

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1936).

Man Ray’s portraits ran through several variations, first as drawings, then as two paintings, finally as a bronze. These always seemed to me to be more representations of Sade’s character as it comes through his writing than portraits of the writer himself. The two paintings could easily depict the villainous Duke de Blangis from The 120 Days of Sodom, with the castle of the Bastille standing for the castle where Blangis and his colleagues conduct their murderous games. An earlier photo work, Monument to D.A.F. de Sade (1933), was used by Mary Reynolds in a metal binding she created in 1935 for the first print edition of the 120 Days. Penguin used the same photo on the cover of their new translation of the book in 2016. And it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the gay variation designed by Peter Christopherson for the CD release of Scatology by Coil.

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1936).

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Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F. de Sade (1938).

Continue reading “Man Ray and the Marquis”

Weekend links 533

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Cover art by Domenico Gnoli, 1959.

• After decades of ignoring the output of Tangerine Dream it feels strange to be interested in the group once again; musicians you’re compelled to dismiss seldom manage to recapture your attention later on. Stranger still when the group itself is now completely detached from its origins following the death of founder Edgar Froese in 2015. But it was Froese’s departure, and with it the disappearance of many years of poor aesthetic choices, that helped renew my interest. At FACT the group take up the against-the-clock challenge in which musicians are given 10 minutes to create a new piece of music.

• “We were both working at Sounds at the time and we thought that instead of listening to these terrible ’80s records like Haircut 100 we’d go off and look for Montague Summers books, so off we went!” Savage Pencil (Edwin Pouncey) on his enthusiasm for Summers, Austin Spare and Louis Wain.

• At the Paris Review: Valerie Stivers bakes pies for Italo Calvino. I’d like to see someone create a series of dishes based on every location from Invisible Cities. Elsewhere there’s William N. Copley on Joseph Cornell: “No art historian ever prophesied the coming of the box.”

• On the experimental realism of an eccentric Russian Anglophile: “For Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, strangeness was a matter of perspective,” says Caryl Emerson.

Nova Reperta: John Boardley on a series of 16th-century prints showing new inventions.

• RIP David Graeber. From 2014: “What’s the point if we can’t have fun?

• “Damn your blood”: John Spurr on swearing in early modern English.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine maps the esoteric in Britain, 1920.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Seijun Suzuki Day.

Big Fun/Holly-wuud (Take 3) (1972) by Miles Davis | Funtime (1977) by Iggy Pop | Funny Time Of Year (2002) by Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man

Weekend links 530

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Kami #58 -bloom- (2019) by Momo Yoshino.

• “Set amid the countryside and the beaches of coastal Sussex, They depicts a world in which plundering bands of philistines prowl England destroying art, books, sculpture, musical instruments and scores, punishing those artistically and intellectually inclined outliers who refuse to abide by this new mob rule.” Lucy Scholes on They: A Sequence of Unease (1977) by Kay Dick, which she calls “a lost dystopian masterpiece”. This is revelatory in a minor way since for years I’ve remembered seeing a slim volume with the title They in a bookshop, and which I later thought might have been a Rudyard Kipling book (there’s a Kipling story with the same title). The timing is right, the sighting would have been in 1977 or 78. The combination of that short, one-word title with a stark cover image and a sinister description on the rear was hard to forget but I didn’t take note of the author’s name. (I also didn’t buy the book, opting instead for some inferior work.) A shame that it seems to be resolutely out of print.

• “The threat to civil liberties goes way beyond ‘cancel culture’,” says Leigh Phillips. It makes a change seeing this coming from Jacobin when so much of the left today can find nothing wrong with censorship so long as it’s in a good cause. (Every censor that ever lived believed they were acting in a good cause, were on “the right side of history”, etc, etc.) The piece includes a dismissal of the increasingly common riposte that “only the state can censor”: this would be news to my colleagues at Savoy Books who endured years of police harassment including the seizure and destruction of printed material; the same with the long history of police action against UK rap artists. Related: “Work that’s cancelled for being ‘of its time’ was probably objected to, at the time.” Dorian Lynskey on chronocentrism and “the narcissism of the present”.

• “Cruising baths, bars, and subway toilets, snorting poppers and ‘fist fucking with 40 guys for 14 hours’ (as he recalled in You Got to Burn to Shine, his 1993 collection of prose and poems), he found meaning in a religion of radical eros whose sacrament was anonymous sex.” Mark Dery reviewing Great Demon Kings: A Memoir of Poetry, Sex, Art, Death, and Enlightenment by John Giorno.

Aubrey Powell says his best photograph is the burning man from the cover of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

• Mixes of the week: Fact mix 770 by Lyra Pramuk, and mr.K’s Kooky Kuts Vol.4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• The Alchemical Brothers: Brian Eno & Roger Eno interviewed by Wyndham Wallace.

• Origami-inspired optical illusion oil paintings by Momo Yoshino.

Alexander Larman on the demise of the second-hand bookshop.

• New music: Follow The Road by Yumah, and Röschen by Pole.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Lighting.

• RIP Linda Manz.

My Boyfriend’s Back (1963) by The Angels | Carnival of the Animals, R. 125: VII. The Aquarium (Camille Saint-Saëns) (1975) by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, Heilbronn with Marylene Dosse & Anne Petit, conducted by Jörg Faerber | Kill All Hippies (2000) by Primal Scream