Stuck’s serpents

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The Sin (1894).

Some pictures in honour of the Chinese year of the Water Snake which begins this Sunday. Paintings of women with snakes are legion, even after you winnow out all the Eve and the Serpent pictures, so you need to narrow the field of view. Artists of the 19th century must have been delighted when Gustave Flaubert published Salammbô in 1862, chapter 10 of which—The Serpent—gave them an excuse to depict an exotic woman involved with a snake completely free of any Biblical trappings.

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Sensuality (1891).

Franz Stuck’s celebrated trio of serpent women can be read as Eve figures but their provocative posing is more in line with the prurient misogyny common to much art of the period, an attitude which condemned women for being so tempting whilst also secretly lusting after their bodies. Sensuality is remarkable for the way its oiled snake is so firmly lodged between the woman’s thighs. Stuck was never very interested in Christian themes—many of his other works are a Teutonic take on Classical subjects—so I wonder whether his use of the word “sin” was merely a fig leaf for delivering imagery he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to exhibit.

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The Sin (1893).

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Sin Dance (1966) by Wes Wilson.

Symbolist art was rediscovered in the 1960s after decades of neglect, and the psychedelic poster artists happily plundered the art books for suitable imagery. Stuck’s Sin returned to the world in these two Avalon Ballroom posters. Wes Wilson’s Sin Dance was a design for an event which was cancelled so this might explain why the same painting appeared a few months later on a Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley poster. The Mouse & Kelley version was printed with metallic inks.

For more of Franz Stuck’s work see WikiPaintings.

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Jefferson Airplane at the Avalon Ballroom (1966) by Mouse & Kelley.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Serpentine pulchritude
Salammbô illustrated
The Feminine Sphinx
Men with snakes

Philippe Druillet album covers

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Docteur Faust (1971) by Igor Wakhévitch.

Philippe Druillet: album cover artist. As with John Martin, I’m surprised there aren’t more examples. Once again, Discogs.com proves incomplete so I’ve added a couple more including the first on this list, Docteur Faust. If you know of any others, please leave a comment.

Igor Wakhévitch’s berserk masterpiece is a cult item in this house, and something I’ve written about already. The cover art is the icing on an unclassifiable cake.

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Grail (1970) by Grail.

The cover is the opening page of The Wild Wind Isles, one of Druillet’s Lone Sloane stories. Produced by Rod Stewart; did you notice? “We are sailing…”

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Electric Ladyland (1975) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

A gatefold sleeve for a series of four Hendrix reissues on the Barclay label. The other covers were provided by Moebius, Jean Solé and an artist unidentified on the link above but it looks to me like the work of Philippe Caza.

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Black Sun (1978) by Black Sun.

Black suns are a regular feature of Druillet’s work (and mine, ahem) so the artist at least suits the title. The debut album of a short-lived French funk/soul group.

East/West (1980) by Richard Pinhas.

The French equivalent of Krautrock doesn’t have a name but Richard Pinhas is one of its leading practitioners. This is still my favourite among his solo works, not least because it’s more successfully musical than other albums which feature great slabs of guitar or synth doodling. In addition to a cover of David Bowie’s Sense Of Doubt there’s also science fiction author Norman Spinrad ranting through a vocoder on the opening and closing tracks. The great cover art is a page from Druillet’s 1980 adaptation of Flaubert’s Salammbô.

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Salammbô illustrated

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Salammbô by Alphonse Mucha (1897).

Alphonse Mucha’s gorgeous rendering of Flaubert’s Carthaginian heroine isn’t included in the many illustrated editions at this Salammbô site but plenty of other adaptations are. Examples range from faithful renderings by George Rochegrosse and Mahlon Blaine to drawings which are less successful or even downright bad. Also included are panels from Philippe Druillet‘s bizarre science fiction adaptation from the 1980s, a version which is often closer to Frank Herbert than Gustave Flaubert although many of the compositions are striking. One of these was used for a sleeve illustration by Richard Pinhas on his excellent East West album in 1980. And by coincidence, Druillet’s site mentions a forthcoming exhibition of his Salammbô nudes at the Galerie Pascal Gabert on May 20th.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Mahlon Blaine, 1894–1969
Druillet meets Hodgson
The music of Igor Wakhévitch

Strange cargo: things found in books

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The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects by Alexandra David-Neel & Lama Yongden, City Lights Books (1972).

One of the additional pleasures of buying old books besides finding something out-of-print (or, it has to be said, something cheap) occurs when those books still possess traces of their previous owners. A recent posting on The Other Andrew’s page concerned book inscriptions, something any book collector will be used to seeing. Less common are the objects which slip from the pages when you’ve returned home. There are several categories of these.

1: Bookmarks

I have a substantial collection of bookmarks proper, from embossed strips of leather to the more mundane pieces of card of the type that bookshops frequently give away. But I also make a habit of using odd inserts to mark a place as did the previous owners of these volumes. The City Lights book (above) came with a very fragile leaf inside it which may well be as old as the book. Another City Lights book I own, the Artaud Anthology from 1965, included a newspaper article about Artaud. Newspaper clipping inserts are discussed below.

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