Two Satyrs by Peter Paul Rubens

I love Peter Paul Rubens, and this is one of my personal favourites. The image of pure hedonism; the right side of the satyr’s face, gorgeous and tempting in the light, but frightful and almost satanic on the darkened shadowed side. Two Satyrs, Circa 1618-19.

“Don’t want a Baudelaire

Just glitter lust

Oh child of Venus

you’re just

Made for love”

– Alison Goldfrapp

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The Divine Eros Defeats the Earthly Eros by Giovanni Baglione, Circa 1602

            

  The Divine Eros Defeats the Earthly Eros by Giovanni Baglione, Circa 1602

Baglione’s Eros for the Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani (1544-1621) was a response to the Eros (Amor Vincit Omnia) that Caravaggio had painted for Marchese Vincenzo Giustaniani (1564-1637), the Cardinal’s brother. Caravaggio had drawn a pretty, provocatively naked boy as a youthful god of earthly love to be a victor over the “Liberal Arts”, power and fame. As well as this gave him the features of a boy who had also been a model for religious figures. This was a challenge to his contemporaries’ moral values.

Baglione has Earthly Love thrown to the ground by a divine Eros in armour. A devil with faun’s ears and a trident is crouching bottom left. Antiquity was well aware of the competition between Eros and Anteros for the soul of man. If the two are reconciled, then perfect love is achieved. (Google Art Project)

What is interesting here is the ongoing feud between Caravaggio and Baglione.

Caravaggio accused Baglione of copying his signature style (which one must admit, is apparent in the painting), Baglione responded to Caravaggio by painting the second version of The Eros in which he portrays Caravaggio as the devil (here is a self portrait of Caravaggio if you want to compare). He called this painting (seen below) – Sacred Love and Profane Love (Circa 1602).

     

The original portrays a devil crouched with his face turned away from the viewer. Baglione’s original also depicts divine Eros’ right hand turned with the palm outward just prior to the final thrust.

Mars Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605-1610

      

Cupid Chastised or Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605/10. Manfredi was a well known Caravaggisti (a follower of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) – one can see that with the stunning Carravaggio and dramatic use of chiaroscuro lighting.  Also, don’t miss the unmistakeable tones of baroque. A favourite.

The painting was earlier believed to be by an unknown Nordic follower of Caravaggio, and was only attributed to Manfredi as recently as 1972.

I’ve read different interpretations of this painting. Cupid, the son of Mars (god of war) and Venus (goddess of love) being punished for having an incestuous relationship with his mother. The other being Venus (married to Vulcan, the god of fire) has an affair with Mars, who then chastises Venus’s son Cupid for creating the attraction with his arrows. I might be biased, but the most interesting is the interpretation of Manfredi’s painting to portray a scene of homo-erotic sadomasochism. Manfredi, (considered to be a gay man) is believed to have depicted Cupid receiving gratification from Mars’ strikes. If you look closely at the painting, you will notice Cupid does not resist the strikes (limp wrist, unclenched hand, relaxed feet), his young titillating body (the centre of attention and light detail) seems arched in pleasure rather than twisted in pain, and his facial expression portrays ecstasy instead of anguish. Venus, with her bared breast, is considered to be a ploy or a distraction to this interpretation.

Lot Fleeing Sodom by Benjamin West, Circa 1810

      

What Lot’s wife would have said (if she wasn’t a pillar of salt)


Do you remember when we met

in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,

and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing

you, when we were young, and blushed with youth

like bruised fruit. Did we care then

what our neighbors did

in the dark?


When our first daughter was born

on the River Jordan, when our second

cracked her pink head from my body

like a promise, did we worry

what our friends might be

doing with their tongues?


What new crevices they found

to lick love into or strange flesh

to push pleasure from, when we

called them Sodomites then,

all we meant by it

was neighbor.


When the angels told us to run

from the city, I went with you,

but even the angels knew

that women always look back.


Let me describe for you, Lot,

what your city looked like burning

since you never turned around to see it.

Sulfur ran its sticky fingers over the skin

of our countrymen. It smelled like burning hair

and rancid eggs. I watched as our friends pulled

chunks of brimstone from their faces. Is any form

of loving this indecent?


Cover your eyes tight,

husband, until you see stars, convince

yourself you are looking at Heaven.


Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors

are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.

I would say these things to you now, Lot,

but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.


So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself

grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.

I will stand here

and I will watch you

run.


– Karen Finneyfrock

Regret nothing..

             

Antilamentation

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read

to the end just to find out who killed the cook.

Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,

in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.

Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,

the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one

who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones

that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.

Not the nights you called god names and cursed

your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,

chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.

You were meant to inhale those smoky nights

over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings

across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed

coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.

You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still

you end up here. Regret none of it, not one

of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,

when the lights from the carnival rides

were the only stars you believed in, loving them

for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,

ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house

after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs

window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied

of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering

any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign

on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

– Dorianne Laux

ART BY GARY BONNER*

Narcissus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

      

Narcissus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, circa 1597-1599

The Story of Narcissus

“The story of Narcissus in Greek mythology begins with the story of Echo. Echo was a beautiful nymph who lived in the woods and often accompanied the goddess Artemis on her chase for deer and other wildlife. Echo’s shortfall was that she loved to talk and one day when goddess Hera was looking for her husband in the woods, Echo tried to stall her by continually speaking with her. When Hera found out that Echo was successful in making sure that Hera didn’t catch her husband amusing himself with the other nymphs in the woods, Hera placed a curse on Echo. This curse did not allow Echo to say anything except to repeat what she had heard.
 

Echo was in the woods one day when she saw Narcissus and immediately felt how much she loved him. Narcissus heard her but could not see her and when he asked, “Who’s here?” all Echo could reply was “here.” Coming out so Narcissus could see her and return her love, she was shocked when Narcissus rejected her. She fled into the mountains, scorned by him. Narcissus was quite famous for rejecting the many nymphs that wanted to show him love. He was a beautiful young man and had been since he was just a child.
 

Narcissus was walking in the woods one day when he came by a pond that had water so clear it could have been crystal. The water was free of debris and no one ever came by to disturb the peaceful waters. Narcissus bent down to take a drink from the beautiful pond and saw his own reflection looking back at him. He instantly became mesmerized by it and sat for some time staring into his own beautiful face. He continually tried to reach down and embrace the image that he saw in the water, and he also tried to bend down and kiss the image. As soon as he touched it however, it fled from him. Narcissus became happy just to be able to stare at the beautiful creature and he forgot of all need for food and drink as he sat beside the pond, staring at his own reflection.
 

Narcissus pined away by the side of the pond and eventually died there. When the elders had prepared a funeral for him and went to gather the body however, it could not be found. But in the exact same place that Narcissus had sat for all that time, grew a beautiful flower that we know today as Narcissus.”
 

Several adaptions of the myth have survived, another classic version states that Narcissus, so enamoured with his reflection, drowns as he tries to get himself a drink of water. Which is the version most matching the depiction by Caravaggio above, if one notices Narcissus’ hand cupping the water before he is distracted by his image. Signature Caravaggio light play, the scene captured right before the action, as is his preferred style. Excellent shadow play to emphasise the conceited world of Narcissus – himself.

Redhead

      

Burst Of Fire

Oh, for that burst of fire, 

within a ring of feeling, the 

fire of love consummate


For the overpowering desire, 

the desire for fire, the living 

feeling like a being alive 


Seizing, overpowering its victim, 

unifying all rivulets of desire in a 

flaming quagmire, burning alive


Inflamed in an all-consuming, over-

powering desire, torturing, tortuous, 

delightful, delicious, destruction of 


All restraint, instinctual seizure, 

instincts alive in burning desire, 

aflame, alight, lighted, lightning


Shocking, deft retreat, hynotised, 

frozen fire, desire alight, aflame – 

in love consummate


Submitting to fire, sparkling, blowing 

apart, insensate, desire satiate, briefly, 

evolving upon the new knowing


Kindling upon new experience, stirring 

memories ancient, increasing instinctual 

release, a never-ending spiral 


Flaming higher, desire awakened anew, 

flaming higher, insatiate, a force uncontained, 

unrestrained, joyous submission, peaking 


Peaking, growing forever ascending, a 

spiraling curve of growing explosions

until melting together forever… 


-Louise Tredoux 

Art: Redhead by Jonathan David Matthews