The art of Jacopo Ligozzi, 1547–1627


Cartouche with Macabre Symbols and a Hairy Skull (no date).

Some macabre things for a macabre month. Jacopo Ligozzi was a Mannerist artist, and the date of his birth here is the most commonly cited one, some sources give later years. The excesses of Mannerism—distorted figures, sensational subject matter, grotesquery in general—used to be regarded with suspicion if not downright hostility by the guardians of good taste who write art history books. Peter & Linda Murray’s frequently snotty Dictionary of Art and Artists (1959) describes the style as being “best adapted to neurotic artists”, then goes on to list a few allegedly neurotic types, none of whom are Ligozzi. Judging by these examples, the artist had a thing for memento mori since many of the examples of his work online are grotesque cartouches or scenes of a rampaging Death. The last picture here showing a curious peacock boat is credited to Remigio Cantagallina and was discovered at the rather wonderful Frequent Peacock (now relocated here), another site which saves me the trouble of searching out further peacock pictures.

Thanks to Wunderkammer for the Ligozzi tip!

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Vrubel’s Demon


Demon (sitting) (1890) by Mikhail Vrubel.

Another Symbolist painting ferreted out from the collections at the Google Art Project, this is actually one of a number of demon figures painted by Mikhail Vrubel (1856–1910). The subject marks it as Symbolist but the almost Expressionist style is very 20th century which makes its date of 1890 all the more surprising.


This is one of two Vrubels at the Google page for The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. In the same collection there’s also The Apotheosis of War (1871), Vasily Vereshchagin’s timeless (if heavy-handed) canvas whose yawning skulls can now be explored in detail.


Previously on { feuilleton }
Diaghilev’s World of Art

Bookplates from The Studio


Cyril Goldie.

Selections from Modern Book-plates and their Designers, an overview of British, American and European designs published by The Studio magazine in 1898. These small Studio books are always good to see, not least for the period ads in the opening and closing pages. A couple of the designs are familiar from later reprints, notably Cyril Goldie’s remarkable accumulation of thorns and skulls. Many others are in the swirling and tendrilled style of Art Nouveau which The Studio did much to promote in Britain. Also of interest are a few entries from well-known fine artists who are seldom associated with this kind of design. Among these is Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff who contributes a design of his own and an article about Flemish bookplate design.


Charles Robinson.


PJ Billinghurst.

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Sedlec Ossuary panoramas


A couple of panoramic views from the celebrated Sedlec Ossuary in the Cemetery Church of All Saints at Sedlec, Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The quality of these isn’t as good as some of the panoramas I’ve linked to in the past but they help give an idea of the crypt which is now a World Heritage site. Jan Svankmajer enthusiasts should be familiar with the bone sculptures from his 1970 film, The Ossuary, which can be found on the BFI’s Svankmajer DVD set.

Sedlec Ossuary at Flickr


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The panoramas archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Karel Plicka’s views of Prague

The Ambassadors in detail


Some revelations courtesy of a new venture, the Google Art Project, in which we’re given the opportunity to wander some of the world’s great art galleries and examine a selection of paintings in detail. Holbein’s 1533 masterpiece, The Ambassadors, is the default work for the collection from the National Gallery, London, and it’s a great place to start, being painted in a quite astonishing hyper-realist style. I’ve seen this work in situ and despite its being a large picture it’s difficult to offer it any kind of careful scrutiny. This is partly because the more famous works in that gallery always draw an impatient crowd eager for you to get out of their way, but also because the staff there don’t like people getting too close to the paintings; I was once reprimanded by a staff member for gesticulating too closely to one of the pictures whilst discussing it with a friend.


The Ambassadors is celebrated for its anamorphic vanitas skull (gallery visitors usually take turns viewing this from the side of the picture) and its collection of very carefully painted objects and instruments. Thanks to Google we’re now able to examine these to a degree we wouldn’t have been able to do before unless we worked for the gallery. Holbein astonishes even more when you can see how carefully he rendered so many different materials and textures. And this is only one of the works available from one of the galleries…


Of the paintings I’ve looked at so far not all allow such ultra-magnified views but then not all paintings require this. Artists such as Titian and Turner don’t benefit from scrutiny with a magnifying glass. An initial gripe would be the lack of any thumbnail view of the paintings on offer but it seems unfair to complain, this is a great development for art lovers. I’m hoping now that the project will evolve the way Google Earth has, with the addition of other galleries and paintings. A few more details follow.

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