Love this great painting currently in the Guildhall, London. It is called After the Murder, and was painted by John Collier. It is a representation of Klytemnestra just after she kills her husband, Agamemnon. Beneath that, is the legendary Polish contralto Ewa Podles singing Klytemnestra's soliloquy from Richard Strauss' Elektra. Enjoy!
Just trawling the internet and inadvertently came across this painting. It is a self portrait by the French painter Léon Cogniet.
Coginet was born in Paris in 1794, and died there in 1880. He decorated several ceilings in the Louvre and the Halle de Godiaque in the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, and a chapel in the church of Madeleine.
Below is a painting of Léon Cogniet's studio, painted by his sister Marie-Amelie Cogniet, who's work can also be seen at Versailles.
This cartoon was the precursor to the mural at Whitehall Palace, depicting the beginnings of the Tudor dynasty. That mural included Elizabeth of York (wife of Henry VII) and Jane Seymour (third wife of Henry VIII and mother of his son, Edward VI). Practically every subsequent image of Henry VIII was taken from the Holbein mural. The major difference between the mural and the cartoon is that the cartoon has Henry at three quarter face, as per the European convention for monarchs, while the mural has Henry face-on to the viewer, a look which was deemed a little vulgar by the courts of Europe.
What I find fascinating about this image is that it is a magnificent piece of propaganda for a man who was past his glory days physically, who had become a tyrant, a spendthrift, and quite frankly a liability. In fact, it was about as untrue as the famously "sexed-up" portrait of Anne of Cleaves!
So, let's start with the codpiece! This is supposed to represent Henry VIII's virility, his masculinity and the security of the Tudor succession. The reality: he had two daughters, but who had been declared illegitimate, and no son. He was also 45 years old, and no longer the "the most handsome prince in Christendom."
His amazing, bull-like stance and his perfect calves were both intimidating and sexually potent. Yet, Henry was by this time a fat and fast on the way to becoming a semi-invalid. His legs were not in the rather beautiful condition depicted in the cartoon, but rather swollen from thrombosis and oozing pus.
The jewels on his costume are both large and manifold: a fantastic representation of the wealth of England and its King. But the fact was that Henry was a spendthrift who plundered the fortune his father, Henry VII had spend his reign amassing.
And now we come to the crux of the matter. This painting goes a long way to convince us that Henry VIII was a more potent, successful, powerful and virile man than his father, the miserly and unpopular Henry VII.
But it was Henry VII who had become the richest prince in Christendom, who has ended civil war rather than started it (as Henry did with the Reformation), who has systematically lifted England up from its broken state and made it powerful. And it was Henry VII who had made stunning dynastic marriages for his children (Arthur/Henry to Catherine of Aragon, Margaret to James IV of Scotland, Mary to Louis XII of France).
For all the sparkle, the glamour and the force of Henry VIII's image in this cartoon, he will forever be a pale shadow of a King in comparison to the achievements of the understated man behind him: his father, Henry VII.
Today’s Friday Favourite is the Salvator Mundi painting recently attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. I saw the painting at the 2011-12 exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan at the National Gallery in London.
The painting has had an interesting history: known to have been in the collection of King Charles I of England, it was auctioned of by the son of the Duke of Buckingham in 1763. It then went off radar until 1900, when Birtish Collector Sir Frederick Cook purchased it. Cook found that it has been damaged from earlier restoration work.
It was sold by Cook’s descendants for £45 at an auction, where it again went off radar. It was rediscovered by art restorer Dianne Modestini and dealer and art historian Robert Simon in New York. A consortium of US art dealers purchased the painting in 2005, and it was subsequently authenticated as a da Vinci work.
How amazing that a piece that last sold for £45 is now worth around £125 million!
The painting has all the hallmarks of the Master’s work: the enigmatic subject, the intricate detail, the otherworldly countenance, and the beautiful rendering of the fabric. But for me, the most amazing feature of this painting is the way in which da Vinci has executed the painting of the crystal orb. It is truly breath-taking,: clearly the work of a master painter.
The second piece of music in the Musical Mondays feature is my favourite piece of choral music: "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" from the Cantata of the same name by J.S. Bach. What I love about it is the intricacy of counterpoint in the four voices, and the independence of the accompaniment from the voices.
It is great to see the vocal line carry the basses above the tenors, the tenors frequently above the altos (sometimes up to a major sixth above) and the altos above the sopranos. Indeed, it is wonderful to see the lower voices getting the interesting parts for a change, with the sopranos left to sing the chorale.
Each line of the soprano chorale is surrounded by very complex counterpoint in the lower voices and the accompaniment. In fact, it is only on the words Lieblich and freundlich (lovely and friendly) that Bach writes "harmonic" choral music as opposed to contrapuntal, in order to give them particular emphasis.
Some of the most beautiful music is to be found in Bach's use of the suspension, where a note is held in one part, and a dissonant note introduced against it in another, resulting in the first part changing note to resolve the dissonance. This is heard most beautifully in the alto and tenor lines.
The powerful moving bass line in the final two sections is a relentless march towards some powerful sense of divinity, of hope and of salvation. Bach has the basses rising, falling back and rising again, keeping up the momentum and the tension until the end of the phrase. My favourite part of the piece comes when the basses are on there upward journey, and the three higher voices all make a three-fold cry of the phrase "reich von Gaben" (rich in gifts).
This piece of music is one of the most uplifting I have ever heard. I hope you feel the same when you hear it. So sit back, and let Bach lead you by the hand out of the humdrum of the every day world.
During a holiday to Seville, I discovered the work of a man who was to become one of my favourite artists: M. C. Escher. I've always loved art inspired by mathematics, and Escher seem to fuse the two perfectly. Below are a few of my favourite pieces.
The first Friday Favourite is the painting Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali.It is most probably the most iconic image of the Crucifixion created in the 20th Century. For me, the perspective and the juxtaposition of the darkness surrounding the figure of the Christ and the blue sky by the fishing boat really catch my attention.
Apparently, to get an idea of what the human body would look like at this angle, Dali suspended Hollywood stuntman Russell Saunders from an overhead crane!
The first piece is by the Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov. It is a cantata for male choir and solo Oktavist called Ne Otverzhi Mene or Do Not Reject Me In My Old Age. In it, the Oktavist (Contrabass) soloist must sing a Bb1 (a whole tone below the lowest note on a cello) and has the option to sing down to G1 at the end of the piece.
For me, the section after the Bb1's is the most beautiful. Starting at 3:48, the Oktavist soloist moves in a wave-like motion from Eb2 to Bb3, starting gently then growing to a fortissimo. The rich sound of the Oktavist's chest register is unlike any other kind of singing, and I find it deeply moving.
For all you basses out there - why not sing along and see if you can hit the G1! Good Luck!
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