Inferni

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The Barque of Dante (1822) by Eugène Delacroix.

More infernal visions. Depictions of Hell aren’t exactly recent but the 19th century saw an increase in Dantean themes, helped, no doubt, by the Romantic taste for violent drama. There are many more such paintings, especially of the doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca whose plight is almost an artistic sub-genre. I’ve avoided the popular depictions by William Blake and Gustave Doré although the latter is represented below by a painting you don’t often see.

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Dante and Virgil in Hell (1850) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

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Dante and Virgil at the Entrance to Hell (1857) by Edgar Degas.

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The case of the fin de siècle fleuron

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I said yesterday that poppies are a common feature of the fin de siècle magazines for the convenient way they combine long-stemmed flowers—ideal for all those Art Nouveau flourishes—with narcotic connotations that signal Decadence. The spiralling fleuron above is one example that readers of Savoy books may recognise, an occasional company logo which has been in use since the mid-1980s. David Britton chose the design from one of the Dover Pictorial Archive books, Carol Belanger Grafton’s Treasury of Art Nouveau Design and Ornament, and I later made a digital version from this page scan.

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One of the earliest Savoy uses, a label design for Heroes (1986) by PJ Proby.

Having spent a great deal of time in recent years trawling through Art Nouveau magazines I was sure I was going to run into the original printing of the fleuron eventually. Some of the page decorations in Jugend are very similar but it wasn’t there or in Pan, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration or The Studio. I don’t have a copy of the Grafton book, and Dave says his copy is lost, so I’ve no idea whether there’s a credit for the source of the designs; not all Dover books credit their source material in any detail. Earlier this week I decided to look in Art et Décoration, a magazine that was the French equivalent of The Studio, since the header at the top of the scanned page implied that the other designs might be from the same magazine. Aside from a couple of copies at the Internet Archive this means looking through the poor-quality scans at Gallica; by a fluke—because they don’t seem to have a complete run of the early issues—the January 1898 edition contained the page below showing the Savoy fleuron, an endpiece for an article devoted to another French art magazine, L’Image.

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Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #21

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The Eternal Idol by Auguste Rodin.

Continuing the delve into back numbers of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. Volume 21 covers the period from October 1907 to March 1908, and the highlight of this issue is a feature on the black-and-white art of Julius Klinger, an artist whose drawings appeared regularly in Jugend.

If you’ve been following this series it’s worth noting that volume 3 which is missing from the collection at the Internet Archive can be found at the University of Heidelberg. I would have featured it here but it turns out to be surprisingly dull compared to the other early editions. As before, anyone wishing to see these samples in greater detail is advised to download the entire number at the Internet Archive. There’ll be more DK&D next week.

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The voice of Oscar Wilde

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How to combine two recent {feuilleton} obsessions? Ask whether Oscar Wilde had his voice recorded on an Edison machine at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, 1900. It’s a tantalising question. We know from Wilde’s letters that he visited the Exposition several times; he talked with Rodin and admired a self-portrait by his old painter friend Charles Shannon in the British pavilion. Edison staff were prominent at the exposition and did us a favour by filming parts of it. Several of the Wilde biographies mention the rumoured recording, the details of which are recounted at Utterly Wilde:

According to H Montgomery Hyde’s 1975 biography of Oscar Wilde: “…It was during one of these visits to the Exhibition that Wilde was recognized in the American pavilion, where one of the stands was devoted to the inventions of Thomas Edison. One of these inventions was the ‘phonograph or speaking machine,’ and Wilde was asked to say something into the horn of the recording mechanism. He responded by reciting part VI of The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, which consists of the last three stanzas of the poem, and identifying it with his name at the end.” (More.)

The purported wax cylinder is lost but an acetate copy surfaced in the 1960s. Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland, identified his father’s voice then changed his mind later on. An analysis by the British Sound Archive threw further doubt on the recording so we’re left to make up our own minds which you can do for yourself here. It doesn’t sound to me like the voice one would expect from a man of Wilde’s physical size, but then I also never expected Aleister Crowley’s voice to be so highly-pitched. If anyone knows of more recent research or detail about the Wilde recording, please leave a comment.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

Emil Cadoo

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Untitled (1963).

One of a small number of pictures from a recent exhibition of work by American photographer Emil Cadoo (1926–2002) whose nude studies and often homoerotic themes were controversial in America of the Fifties and Sixties but welcomed in France, as was often the case at that time.

In April 1964, all 21,000 copies of the April/May issue no.32 of the American magazine Evergreen Review – containing (among others) texts by Norman Mailer, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Michael McClure, Karl Shapiro (a who’s who of the day’s practitioners of perceived outrage), and an erotic photo-essay by Cadoo – was seized by the police whilst it was still being bound. The edition had been deemed ‘obscene’ by the county’s district Attorney, whose particular disapproval was leveled at Cadoo. It took the special intermission of Edward Steichen, who compared the images to the work of Auguste Rodin “the greatest living sculptor of our time”, to obtain the condemnation of three judges of this action as ‘unconstitutional’, and to return the magazine to the public domain. (More.)

Cadoo favoured the double-exposure to achieve painterly or (for want of a better word) “poetic” effects, and some of these photos were used on book jackets by Grove Press (also the publishers of Evergreen Review), among them this Genet title which I posted a couple of years ago. More of Cadoo’s work can be found on various gallery sites but there’s no dedicated site unfortunately.

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Photo by Emil Cadoo; design by Roy Kuhlman (1963).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet