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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Christ and the Young Child, by Carl Bloch, 1873

You won't find much of this sort of straightforward Christian art on my blog; with the exception of  the Renaissance or Baroque periods, I find most religious art pretty boring.  But I think this one is interesting, if only as a perfect example of the fraudulent transformation of an impoverished Middle Eastern Jew into an aristocratic Northern European.  I also love the distinctly uncomfortable looking child, with his awkward stance and sad eyes; he looks like he wants to bolt.


Carl Heinrich Bloch (23 May 1834, Copenhagen – 22 February 1890, Copenhagen), Danish painter who was best known for his religious scenes, especially those illustrating the life of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Maria of Austria, by Anthonis Mor

Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress (21 June 1528, Madrid – 26 February 1603, Madrid), Queen Consort of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, spouse of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his wife, Isabella of Portugal. In 1648, Maria married her first cousin Maximilian and bore him sixteen children, ten of whom survived infancy. Extremely pious, she wielded much political influence and twice served as regent of Spain, first for her father and, later, her brother King Philip II. In 1582, after the death of her husband, she returned to Spain and installed herself in the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales, where she lived until her death at the age of seventy-four.

(The Habsburg dynasty, the various royal titles it held, and its succession are exceedingly complicated. I'm not even going to try and explain it further; much of the above is confusing enough.)


Anthonis Mor (circa 1516-20, Utrecht - circa 1576, probably Antwerp), Netherlandish portrait painter, very popular in the European royal courts of his day, especially those ruled by the Habsburg dynasty. Known variously as Antonis, Antoon, or Anthonius Mor, and as Anthonis Mor van Dashorst, Antonio Moro, Anthony More, etc., his signed most of his work as Anthonis Mor. Copies were regularly made of his portraits, and other artists worked to copy his style, including his student Alonso Sánchez Coello, so attribution of his work can sometimes be a challenge.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Joan Crawford, portraits for "Letty Lynton", by Hurrell, 1932

Letty Lynton is one of classic Hollywood's most famously unseen major films; it's been locked away since 1936, when MGM lost a plagiarism case to playwrights who claimed the screenplay followed their playscript much too closely.  Even after years of legal wrangling, other than the rare bootleg copy, the film remains unavailable.

Interesting, too, considering the total disappearance of the film, that Crawford's Hurrell portraits and her costumes by Adrian are among the most famous of her entire career.  The white cotton ruffled organdy "Letty Lynton" dress, alone, started a major fashion trend at the film's debut; Macy's made an inexpensive replica of the dress and claimed to have sold more than half a million copies nation wide.

Most of Hurrell's portraits for Letty Lynton were done on the set of Grand Hotel, a film Crawford had just completed.
The original "Letty Lynton" dress.


George Hurrell (1 June 1904, Covington, Kentucky – 17 May 1992, Los Angeles), one of the most important of the classic Hollywood portrait photographers.  His images of now legendary film stars, especially those taken during the Thirties, are iconic.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three daughters of Grand Duke and Grand Duchess Louis of Hesse, by Reginald Easton, 1868

All three are watercolor on ivory laid on card, between approx. 3-3.5 x 2.5-3 inches.

Princess Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie (5 April 1863, Windsor Castle – 24 September 1950, Kensington Palace), later Princess Victoria (Princess Louis) of Battenberg, Later Marchioness of Milford Haven, was her parents' first born child.

Only fifteen when her mother, the former Princess Alice, died, she took on many of the responsibilities for raising her younger siblings. In 1884 she married Prince Louis of Battenberg, who had adopted British nationality and was an officer in the Royal Navy. They had four children: Alice, who married into the Greek royal family and was the mother of four daughters who married into German princely families and one son, Philip, the present Duke of Edinburgh; Louise, who at age thirty-four married the widower Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and later became the queen of that country; George, who succeeded his father as Marquess of Milford Haven and died at forty-five; and, most famously, Lord Louis Mountbatten, naval hero of World War II and last Viceroy of India. Because of his heritage, her husband was made to resign as First Sea Lord at the beginning of World War I, and the family was later forced to change their name to the less Germanic sounding Mountbatten. Continuing in the role which had been forced on her when so young, Victoria was always a strong, common sense support to her family during their many trials. Quick-witted, talkative, frank - and a famously heavy smoker from the age of sixteen - she was a beloved and respected matriarchal figure in her extended family.

Princess Elisabeth Alexandra Louise Alice (1 November 1864, Darmstadt – 18 July 1918, Alapaevsk), later Grand Duchess Elisaveta Feodorovna (Grand Duchess Serge), known in the family as "Ella", was the second child.

Considered by many historians and contemporaries one of the most beautiful women of her time, in her youth Ella had declined the proposal of her first cousin, the future Wilhelm II of Germany, but in 1884 she married one of her Russian relations, Grand Duke Sergei (Serge) Alexandrovich. The couple had no children of their own, but after the death of the wife of Serge's brother Paul, they became the guardians of his two small children, Marie and Dmitri (one of the future assassins of Rasputin). Elisabeth had remained in the Lutheran faith even after her marriage, but in 1891 she converted to the Orthodox faith, becoming increasingly religious. In 1905, Serge, who had been made Governor-General of Moscow, was assassinated, and Elisabeth retreated further into her religion, eventually trading her widow's weeds for a nun's habit. She sold off or gave away all of her jewels and most of her personal property, and in 1908 founded the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary in Moscow, becoming its abbess. She opened a hospital, a pharmacy, an orphanage, and a chapel on the convent grounds. Elisabeth and her nuns worked ceaselessly among the sick and destitute of Moscow, visiting its worst slums. When the Russian Revolution began, Elisabeth was at first left alone to continue her work. But in 1918 she was arrested along with one of the sisters from her convent. Together with Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich and his secretary, three young sons of the Grand Duke Konstantine Konstantinovich, and the son of Grand Duke Paul, they were sent first to Perm, then Ekaterinburg, and then Alapaevsk, where they were housed in a school on the outskirts of town. On the night of July 18th - one night after the infamous murder of her sister, the Empress Alexandra, and the Imperial family in Ekaterinburg - Elisabeth and the others were driven out of town to an abandoned mine. There they were beaten and thrown, alive, into the mine; hand grenades were then thrown in after them. Only one of them was killed outright, and the others were soon heard faintly singing an Orthodox hymn. More hand grenades were thrown into the mine, but the singing continued. Finally, a large quantity of wood and brush was shoved into the opening and set on fire. Three months later, when White Army soldiers discovered the remains of the victims, it was found that before her death Elisabeth had bandaged the head of one of the dying princes. In 1981 she was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1992. Beginning in 1990 her convent began to be restored, and four years later the sisterhood was re-established.

Princess Irene Luise Maria Anna (11 July 1866, Darmstadt – 11 November 1953, Hemmelmark), later Princess Irene (Princess Heinrich) of Prussia, was the third child.

Considered the least pretty of the sisters, Irene was noted for her even, pleasant disposition. On 24 May 1888, Irene married Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia, third child and second son of Emperor Friedrich Wilhelm III of Germany. Irene and her husband were first cousins, their mothers being the two eldest daughters of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. At the time of their marriage, Heinrich's father was dying of cancer of the throat, and less than a month later, Heinrich's brother ascended the throne as Wilhelm II, the soon to be infamous "Kaiser Bill". Irene and Heinrich were very happily married; they were called "The Very Amiables" within the family because of how well they got on with each other and within the extended family. They had three sons: Princes Waldemar, Sigismund, and Heinrich. The eldest and the youngest were both afflicted with haemophilia - the gene was passed down from Irene's mother, and from her mother Queen Victoria - and their youngest son, Prince Heinrich, died at the age of four. (Later that same year, her youngest surviving sister, Alexandra, gave birth to her own son, heir to the Imperial Russian throne, who would soon prove to be history's most famous sufferer of the disease.) With the coming of World War I, Irene found herself of the opposite side of the conflict from most of her family, a situation that was wrenching to the close family. At the end of the war, after the Emperor's abdication and the fall of the German monarchy, Irene and Heinrich were allowed to retain their property. But Irene was horrified to learn of the murder of her older sister, Elisabeth, and that of her younger sister, Alix, and all of Alix's family in the midst of the Russian Revolution. Heinrich died in 1929, and her eldest son, the haemophiliac Waldemar, died at the end of World War II, because of the inability to get blood for a transfusion. When Irene died at the age of eighty-seven in 1953, she was the last surviving of her siblings.

(These miniatures were painted before the Grand Ducal couple's four remaining children - two of whom would die before the age of five - were born; the first son and heir, Ernest Louis was born the same year that these were painted, and Alix, who would become the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, was born in 1872.)


Reginald Easton (1807-93), English artist.  He began his career as an engraver, but later took up watercolor and miniature painting.  He was especially known in aristocratic circles for his portraits of children.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Self-portraits by George Washington Lambert, 1900-1930

Self-Portrait with Gladioli, 1922.

George Washington Thomas Lambert (13 September 1873, St. Petersburg – 29 May 1930, Cobbity, near Camden), Australian painter and, later, sculptor, best known for his portraits and as a war artist during World War I.  Born in Russia, the son of an American father - who died before he was born - and an English mother, his family emigrated to Australia when he was thirteen.  He began exhibiting in Sydney at the age of twenty-one, while continuing his studies.  In 1900, with his new wife, he returned to Europe, first to Paris and then London, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy.  He became an official Australian war artist in 1917, making sketches in Palestine and on the Gallipoli peninsula, which were later used for major works.  He returned to Australia in 1921.

Circa 1900-1901.
The Official Artist, 1922.
The Artist and the Geelong Memorial Figure, circa 1924.
1930 (unfinished).


His two sons - who both remained in England when their father returned to Australia - were also well-known in their creative endeavors.  Maurice (1901–1964), was a noted sculptor and associate of the Royal Academy, and Constant (1905–1951), a celebrated composer and conductor.  Also, Constant's son, Kit (1935–1981), was a famous record producer and the manager of The Who.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Three interiors with cello by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe

The Music Room
Interior With Cello
Interior With Cello

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe ( 12 March 1863, Aarhus - 7 November 1935, Asserbo ), Danish painter, best known for his interiors.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Manuela González Velázquez tocando el piano, by Zacarías González Velázquez, 1820

Zacarías González Velázquez (5 November 1763, Madrid - 31 January 1834, Madrid), Spanish painter who came from a family of artists; his father, grandfather, brothers, uncles, and brothers-in-law were all painters, sculptors, or architects.

This charming, tender - and slightly awkward - painting was at one time believed to be a portrait of the artist's daughter, but is now thought to represent his niece, the daughter of his brother Isidro.  In 1820 Manuela would have been ten years old.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unknown lady, unknown artist

I have no information on this portrait other than it's said to be Northern German, and by her attire I'd say it looks to have been painted circa 1770, -ish.  It's possible that's she wearing costume; the turban-like headdress and the lace trim on the front of her gown are certainly anachronistic.  Whatever the actual history of the piece, I find her wonderfully crude and charming.  And there must be a story behind that disconcerting gaze.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Mother of Romania, by Bassano, 22 November, 1934

Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark* (2 May 1896, Athens – 28 November 1982, Lausanne), third child and eldest daughter of the future Constantine I, King of the Hellenes, and of his wife, Princess Sophie of Prussia.  Later Queen Mother of Romania.

In these portraits, Helen has borrowed a tiara that belonged to her mother, Sophie, Queen of the Hellenes.

Helen grew up in a close and happy family, but in the midst of World War I, with outside pressure on neutral Greece, and political plotting from within, King Constantine was forced to abdicate and he and his family went into exile in Switzerland. In their father's place, her brother Alexander was made the puppet king of Greece. After his sudden death in 1920, the Greek people recalled King Constantine to the throne and he and his family returned to Greece.  (Constantine would be forced, once again, to abdicate, only two years later.)

In the meantime, in December 1919, Helen had met a second cousin, Crown Prince Carol of Romania. Carol was just completing a world tour after his forced divorce from his first wife, a commoner. Helen and Carol spent more time together during the engagement celebrations, in Romania, of her older brother George to Carol's sister Elisabeth. And in November of 1920, Carol returned to Zurich where the two became engaged, though Helen's mother opposed the match.

The next month, the Greek royal family returned to Greece, and on 10 March 1921 the couple was married in Athens. After their honeymoon, they went to live in Bucharest. Their first and only child, Michael, was born on 25 October 1921. (Born only seven and a half months after the wedding, and at a full nine pounds, there were rumors that Michael was conceived before his parent's marriage.) At first happy, the marriage soon began to deteriorate, and in 1925 Carol began an affair with Elena Lupescu, a relationship that would last the rest of his life. That same year, he renounced his rights to the throne and left Romania. On 20 July 1927 his father, Ferdinand I, died and five-year-old Michael succeeded as king under a regency of which Helen had no part. A few months later, from exile, Carol asked for a divorce. She refused at first, but after much government pressure, the marriage was dissolved in June of 1928.

Two years later, with a coup d'état, Carol returned to Romania and, with the government in disarray, he was proclaimed king. Helen and her son, Michael, continued to live in her own home in Bucharest. The government and public opinion were strongly desirous of an annulment of the couple's divorce. Carol opposed this - Elena Lupescu had secretly returned to Romania, and they were living together - and because Helen refused to oppose the annulment of the divorce, Carol began a campaign of intimidation and persecution against her; guards were placed around her home, and her friends were harassed. Unable to endure this treatment, she left Romania, visiting London and then going to stay with her mother, the once-again-exiled Queen of the Hellenes, in Florence. With an ongoing argument with Carol about how often and where she could see her son, she returned to Bucharest in 1932, but Carol started a press campaign against her, accusing her of, among other things, emotional instability. Eventually the government granted her - official - permission to reside in Romania six months of the year and to take Michael abroad for one month each year, but unofficially she was expected to remain in exile. She returned to Florence, and for the next ten years, was only able so see Michael for about two months a year.

Carol continued his irrational behavior and his mismanagement of his country, but in 1940 was finally outmaneuvered by his pro-German Prime Minister Antonescu who, by this time, had dictatorial powers. Carol once again went into exile, and eighteen year old Michael was made king, though completely under the domination of Antonescu.  His mother returned to Romania and spent the war years helping with the care of the wounded.  Also, for her involvement in the rescue of Romanian Jews from the Nazi's, Israel later awarded her with the status of Righteous Among the Nations.

In 1944 King Michael was able to wrest control of his country from the pro-German faction, an action that helped bring the Axis powers to a swifter defeat.  At the war's conclusion, Michael was lauded as a hero but, with the rapid Soviet takeover of Romania, he was only able to hold on until 1947, when he was forced - at gunpoint - to abdicate.  (In 1997 his citizenship was restored, and he now lives part of every year in Romania.)

Helen returned to Florence, and the rest of her life was spent there and in Lausanne, where she died at the age of eighty-six.

Princess Helen with her son, Michael, circa 1927.


*  The princes and princesses of Greece carry the appellation "of Greece and Denmark", because the first king of the present dynasty was born a prince of Denmark.  The kings and queens have also styled themselves "of the Hellenes", rather than "of Greece"; of the people, rather than of the country.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three paintings of Maurice Deriaz, by Gustave Courtois

"Portrait de l'athlète Maurice Deriaz", 1907.

Maurice Deriaz and his older brother, Emile, were the most famous of seven athletic brothers. They were born in Baulmes, Switzerland - Maurice in 1885 - but lived in France from an early age. Maurice was five foot six and weighed about two hundred pounds. His neck was nineteen inches around, his chest forty-eight, and his waist thirty-five. His thighs measured twenty-six inches, calves sixteen-and-a-half, forearms fourteen, and his biceps seventeen. He was celebrated for his weight-lifting feats, his impressive gymnastic abilities, and as a champion Greco-Roman wrestler. Called Le lion suisse or Roi de la beauté plastique, speaking fluent English, German, and Russian, he performed all over Europe. As his career wound down, he acquired a factory which produced reeds for oboes, clarinets, saxophones.  He would often return to visit his home town and he eventually returned to live in Baulmes, where he died in the summer of 1974.

Hercule au pied d'Omphale, 1912.
Persée délivrant Andromède, 1913.

I don't know if Deriaz commissioned them or how, otherwise, he came into possession of the three paintings by Courtois.  But he donated all three to the municipality of Baulmes, where they are hung along the staircase of the Hôtel de Ville.

Deriaz modeling for Courtois in the latter's studio.


"Bouderie" Gustave Courtois dans son atelier, by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, 1880.  Courtois looks very jolly, but not so the unknown woman;
the title, "Bouderie", translates as sulkiness, so perhaps that's part of the story here.

Gustave-Claude-Étienne Courtois (May 18, 1852, Pusey – November 25, 1923, Paris), French painter, whose work is in the academic style. He showed an early interest in art, and at the age of seventeen, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There, Courtois formed a close friendship with a fellow student, the naturalist painter Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (January 7, 1852, Paris – July 3, 1929, Quincey), that lasted a lifetime; beginning in the 1880s they shared a fashionable studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and Dagnan-Bouveret married Courtois' cousin. Both artists would eventually be awarded the Légion d'honneur, as chevalier and officier, respectively.

(Detail of the above painting.)
Dagnan-Bouveret and Courtois, with a model, in their studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Courtois and Dagnan-Bouveret, 1888.


1 November, 2016: I just came across this wonderful sketch of Deriaz by Courtois, dated 1911. 

"Se faire un chemin par la force" is a French translation of "Fit via vi" ("a way is made by force") a quotation from Virgil's Aeneid .

Friday, April 18, 2014

The four daughters of Nicholas II, circa 1915-1916

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna.
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna.
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna.