L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, August 18, 2017

La Alameda de México, by José María Velasco, 1866

The artistic depiction of the most attractive public thoroughfares in Mexico City reached its height in the nineteenth century and combined panoramic views of specific sites with costumbrista portrayals of citizens relaxing. The growth of the "urban landscape" genre was not only encouraged by the teachers of landscape painting at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, but also welcomed by the commercial art sector, which was eagerly producing albums of lithographic reproductions. The paseos most favored by the city's inhabitants were the Bucareli Street, the Canal de Santa Anita (or Canal de La Viga), the Las Cadenas promenade adjacent to the city's main square and, oldest of all, the Alameda. In this painting, Velasco depicts the Alameda park which then stood on the edge of the city. In the background, the prospect opens out into fields and rolling hills, and a view of Chapultepec Castle. (An artistic slight of hand as, in reality, the convent of San Diego and other building stood in the way of that view.) Surrounding the shaded fountain and lining the earthen horse path are a loosely arranged group of figures: indigenous, mestizo, and of European descent, rich and poor. And at the center of the composition - in full sun, dressed in white, ribbons fluttering in the breeze - are the Empress Carlota and a lady-in-waiting. The Empress, who had sponsored the remodeling of the park, is escorted by a gentleman and a group of elegant chinaco horsemen. This is a poignant and highly romanticized vision of Mexico under the brief reign of the tragic Emperor Maximilian.

Though I've seen this painting also referred to as Paseo a Caballo de Carlota en la Alameda, though Chapultepec Castle looms in the background, I'm not entirely convinced that the featured horsewoman here is indeed the Empress. The official title makes no mention of her. This was painted in 1866; in August of that year, Carlota sailed back to Europe to fight for her husband's throne. (There was, of course, the famous break in her mental health soon after, and she never returned to her adopted country.) But it appears this painting was first exhibited in 1869, two years after the fall of the Empire. So if it was the Empress that the artist portrayed, by that remove it would have been a connection no one would have been too happy to publicize. So are we to believe that the "starring role" in this beautiful tableau is the soon-to-be-"mad" Carlota, or is it just another pretty lady on a horse?

A view of Chapultepec Castle - at this date, still on the outskirts of the city - and the residence of the Imperial couple, 1864-67.


José María Tranquilino Francisco de Jesús Velasco Gómez Obregón, generally known as José María Velasco, (6 July 1840, Temascalcingo – 26 August 1912, Mexico City), nineteenth-century Mexican artist and polymath, most famous for making Mexican geography a symbol of national identity through his paintings. He was both one of the most popular artists of the time and internationally renowned. He received many distinctions such as the gold medal of the Mexican National Expositions of Bellas Artes in 1874 and 1876; the gold medal of the Philadelphia International Exposition in 1876, on the centenary of U.S. independence; and the medal of the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889. His painting El valle de México is considered Velasco's masterpiece, of which he created seven different renditions. Of all the nineteenth-century painters, Velasco was the "first to be elevated in the post-Revolutionary period as an exemplar of nationalism.

Velasco was interested in science, and, as a student at the Academia de San Carlos studied zoology and botany at the nearby medical school; he also studied mathematics, geology, and surveying before becoming a student of painting. In 1879, he described a new species of Ambystoma - a type of salamander - found in the Santa Isabel lake, north of Mexico City, and published his observations in the Mexican scientific journal La Naturaleza. He named the new species Siredon Tigrina; it was later renamed Ambystoma velasci in his honor.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Overblown and unpleasant kings - Wilhelm II and Carol II, portraits by de László

Emperor Wilhelm II, 1909-11.
Though recently repaired, the portrait still shows the marks of  five slashes apparently inflicted by Russian soldiers at the end of World War II.

The first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, "Willy" suffered a birth injury that permanently damaged his left arm; many believe his disability, and others' reaction to it, severely affected his psychology. He was further warped by his early indoctrination into the all-pervasive Prussian military milieu, and manipulated by politicians who were opposed to the liberal ideas of his father, and who encouraged his increasingly arrogant and pompous behavior. He was eventually alienated from his parents, directing his anger and spite at his mother, especially. As an adult, he was decidedly a poseur, rarely appearing out of military uniform, and presenting himself in portraits as the personification of the most bombastic and bellicose form of kingship. Callous and vindictive, petty and dictatorial, fairly humorless, meddling. Oh, and World War I.

The painting before restoration. The central arch of the colonnade of the Communs, Neues Palais, Potsdam, can be seen in the background.
A finished sketch for the full-length portrait, 1909.
Two sketches for the portrait, circa 1908-11. Here, in the background, the Communs is shown from the same angle as in the photograph below.
In the studio: the artist, the horse, one of the artist's sons, and the unfinished painting, 1911.
At this stage, the building in the background still looks to be a view of a wing of the Communs rather than the colonnade.
Sketch of the borzoi included in the painting, though reversed. In the smaller sketch to the right of the dog, here, one can make out the
Emperor and the horse in the same configuration as in the final painting, but the dog - as here - is in a reversed position. Circa 1908-10.
Reference photograph with sketch of  the horse's head and the dog in its originally planned position. As in the finished painting,
the Communs of the Neues Palais can be seen in the background, though viewed from a different perspective.
Reference photograph. The Emperor is posed on the terrace of the Neues Palais, Potsdam.


King Carol II of Romania, 1936.

A great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Carol grew up under the control of his great-uncle King Carol I, who spoiled the child and, at the same time, instilled a "profound love of German militarism". He also largely excluded the boy's parents from any role in his upbringing; Carol would eventually become alienated from his parents, especially his mother the vivacious, flamboyant Queen Marie. Lazy and apathetic, from his teenage years he became known for his romantic misadventures. At the age of twenty-four, second in line to the throne, he abandoned his army post in order to marry a commoner. The marriage was annulled seven months later, though the couple continued to live together; they even had a child the following year. Only a year later, he made a properly dynastic marriage to Princess Helen of Greece. (A second cousin and also a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.) Their only son was born soon after, but the marriage quickly soured, due to Carol's playboy lifestyle, his drinking and womanizing. Then he took up with the infamous Elena Lupescu, who would be his mistress (and finally wife) for the rest of his life, and Helen was finally compelled to divorce him in 1928. Before that, in 1925, because of his relationship with Lupescu, Carol had renounced his right to the throne in favor of his son and had gone to live in Paris with his mistress. Two years later, Carol's father died and his five year old son was proclaimed king. But only three years, later Carol returned to Romania in a coup d'état and took the throne from the boy. Inflicting many petty cruelties on his former wife and alienating his son, indulging in a sybaritic lifestyle, Carol managed to weather the vagaries of Romania politics and the encroachment of Hitler for ten years; it helped that he had a complete lack of scruples. But he was deposed in 1940, and Michael once again became king. Carol and Luspescu went into exile, first in Mexico, then settling permanently in Portugal.

Sketch for the official portrait.
The artist and model.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Rose Pavilion "Ozerki" at Peterhof - three watercolors by Luigi Premazzi, 1850

The Rose or "Ozerki" (lakes) Pavilion in the Lugovoi (meadow) Park at Peterhof was designed by Andrei Ivanovich Stakenschneider and constructed in 1845-1848, specifically for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, one of several lakeside follies at Peterhof that the architect created for the pleasure of Tsar Nicholas I and his family. While several of the other pavilions destroyed by the Germans during World War II have been restored/reconstructed, this one has not.


Most if not all of these photographs are dated circa 1890-1910.
A hand colored photograph.


The ruins of the pavilion today.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Unpinned - early paintings of Jean-Gabriel Domergue

Élégante à l'éventail, 1919.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue (4 March 1889, Bordeaux - 16 November 1962, Paris), French painter specializing in - often very erotic - fantasy portraits of Parisian women. Domergue was born in Bordeaux and studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In 1906, at the age of seventeen, he exhibited works at the Salon des Artistes Français. In 1913, he was awarded the second prize in the Prix de Rome and went on to win the gold medal in 1920. Having first been recognized for his landscapes, his career took a decisive turn during the 1920’s. From that time onward he concentrated on portraits, most of his clientele from among the aristocracy and high society. And with the erotic portraits of a generic "parisienne" for which he is most famous, he claimed to be the inventor of "the pin-up". From 1955 until 1962 he was the curator of the Musée Jacquemart-André, organising exhibitions of the works of Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Goya, and others. He was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur and Fellow of the Academy of Fine Arts. He died in Paris at the age of seventy-three.

Portrait of Fernande Cabanel, 1920.
Élégante aux plumes, 1920.
Le Rouge à lèvres, 1918 or 1919.
Trois baigneuses à la boule fleurie, 1931.
À l'ombre d'une jeune fille en fleur, 1922.
Le Peintre et ses modèles, 1931.
The beautiful figure here must certainly have been posed by Joséphine Baker, whose portrait the artist painted on several occasions.
Woman in Black in Venice, 1919.
Femme en noire, 1919.
Elegant Venetian Lady with a Cigarette (Princess Ruspoli), 1918.
Couple dans une gondole au clair de lune, 1913.
Versailles, élégante près du bassin, 1916.
Study for the above painting.
Vénitienne au Châle, 1919.
Design for a fan, 1921.
Portrait of Mlle. Spinelly, used as cover art for an issue of L'Illustration, 1922.
Advertisement, 1928.
Portrait of the comtesse du Bourg de Bozas, used in an advertisement for Cadillac, 1928.
Portrait de Madame O, reproduced in L'Illustration, 1928.
Portrait of Madame O'Deril, 1930.
Le Carosse, ou La Princesse Ruspoli au carrosse, 1920.
 Eve Looking in the Mirror, circa 1920.
Femme aux lévriers (Woman with greyhounds, though, as has been mentioned elsewhere, they are actually borzois), 1930.
And then, how about a very close variation on the same painting?
Poster for the Russian ballet dancers Vronska and Alperoff (Alice Vronska and Konstantin Alperov), 1923.
Poster for dancer Emmy Magliani, 1923.
 La belle Espagnole, 1926.