The enigma of Desiderio


Explosion in a Church.

“Enigma” or “mystery” are the words usually associated with “Desiderio” (or even “Monsù Desiderio”), due to years of misattribution that made two obscure painters of the same period with similar styles appear to be a single artist.

Until some fifty years ago, the identity of François de Nomé (ca. 1593–after 1634) was hidden by confusion with another contemporary painter from the Lorraine, Didier Barra (called “Monsù Desiderio”), whose work was at times disturbingly similar. In the 1930s, when the Surrealists were searching for forerunners, there was a revival of interest in Nomé, a painter most noted for fantastic architectures, eerily lit night scenes of the ruins of cities, and of catastrophic visions. He has continued to fascinate the modern mind for fifty years.

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Chris Corsano

Chris Corsano

I’ve seen a lot of drummers performing with various bands over the years but Chris Corsano has to be the most extraordinary and most talented, putting the often third class art of percussion centre stage and giving it status as an artform in its own right.

Corsano is a young American currently resident in Manchester. I’ve had the opportunity to see him play live twice so far, first time in a thoroughly mundane upstairs room in a backstreet pub in a duet performance with a soprano sax player (whose name eludes me just now…sorry). This evening he was playing with Mick Flower from the Vibracathedral Orchestra (both have played as extra members of Sunburned Hand of the Man).

Corsano’s playing takes improvised drum work beyond the usual jazz-stylings of similar improv performers with displays of incredible virtuosity that can still keep a recognisable beat when required. But there’s more than just great stick work at play, he comes armed with a host of different drumsticks, brushes, kitchen knives and other implements, and also uses pot lids, Tibetan bowls and other metallic miscellanea to extend the range of sounds an ordinary drumkit can produce. A Corsano performance is exactly that, a performance, where seeing the way he creates the sounds (pushing elbow into a tom, throwing things onto the snare, juggling pot lids and sticks) is as compelling as hearing the sounds themselves. Mick Flower’s drones this evening, created on some unidentifiable tabletop instrument running through a variety of effects, were a great complement to the drum pyrotechnics. A marvellous act on an essential bill (with Jack Rose and Denis Jones) in a packed venue. More please.

Evolution of an icon


Jean Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) was a Neo-Classical painter whose work tends to lack the sensuality of his master, Ingres, yet who managed to produce one picture at least which has been an inspiration to subsequent artists and photographers.

Jeune Homme Assis au Bord de la Mer (Young Man Sitting by the Seashore) was painted in 1836. The simplicity and directness of the rendering is probably intended to be reminiscent of Classical sculpture and the figures seen on Greek pottery and bas-reliefs. There’s nothing in Flandrin’s history to suggest a homoerotic intent but the picture has that effect nonetheless, and it’s to gay artists (and viewers) that the work has mostly appealed since, as can be seen below.


The first (?) copy, usually dated as being from 1900 although it may be earlier, and a very careful imitation of the original pose. Photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden specialised in Classical-themed gay erotica and gave his figure a Biblical allusion by titling the picture Cain. Gloeden’s follower, Gaetano d’Agata, produced his own version.


Ebony and Ivory (1897) by Fred Holland Day.


L’Apocalypse by Pierre Yves Trémois (1961).


Ajitto by Robert Mapplethorpe (1981).


A rare sculpture version, L’Homme de l’Apocalypse by Pierre Yves Trémois (1998).


Finally, here’s my own Fallen Angel picture from 2004 which added wings to the figure.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The recurrent pose archive
The gay artists archive