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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton - two portraits by Daniël Mijtens

The first portrait by Mijtens, taken in 1623, when the then Earl of Arran was seventeen.

James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton (19 June 1606, Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire, Scotland – 9 March 1649, Old Palace Yard, Palace of Westminster, London), Scottish nobleman, controversial political leader, and unsuccessful military commander.

Born the son of James, Marquess of Hamilton and the Lady Ann Cunningham, following the death of his great-uncle James, Earl of Arran in 1609, the three-year-old was henceforth styled Earl of Arran. At the age of eleven he went with his family to live at court in London. At fifteen he was married off to a nine-year-old relative of the King's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham. (The union was only brought about to satisfy Buckingham's political aims, and it appears the young Hamilton was unhappy with the marriage. The couple nevertheless produced six children - of which only two survived childhood, both girls.)

His father died in 1625, and three weeks later so did King James VI. The new marquess was only nineteen, but inherited all his father's titles and privileges; at the coronation of the new king, Charles I, Hamilton bore the Sword of State at Westminster Abbey. He soon was made a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Knight of the Garter, a Privy Councillor in both England and Scotland, and Master of the Horse, a post he retained until 1644.

The second portrait by Mijtens, painted in 1629, when the now-Marquess-later-Duke of Hamilton was twenty-three.

In 1631, despite a lack of military training, he led an army of English and Scots to Germany to fight with the Swedish in the Thirty Years' War. Though Hamilton had to be propped up by more experienced officers, it appears he was no coward and was committed to his task. But his troops were never fully organized or well deployed and after disagreements with the Swedish king, he and many of his officers were discharged and returned to England.

On his return, Charles I appointed Hamilton his chief adviser in Scottish affairs. Six years later, with revolt breaking out in Scotland, Charles made him commissioner in an effort at appeasement, Hamilton being Scottish. There followed several years of political wrangling and intrigue, with Hamilton being attacked from both sides and his own sympathies fluctuating. Egotistical and probably not overly bright, he was also no stranger to intrigue, himself; toward the end of this period he was even accused of treason against the King by another Scottish nobleman.

He still held Charles' favor and confidence, though, and was further ennobled in 1643. The Marquessate of Hamilton was raised to that of a dukedom, and he was awarded the Marquessate of Clydesdale, the Earldom of Cambridge, the Baronies of Aven and Innerdale. In addition, he was also re-granted the Earldom of Arran. Though by this time the English Civil War had already broken out, Hamilton was still trying to control the Scottish political situation, foolishly antagonizing other powerful nobleman and even appearing to work against the interests of the king. Charles had finally had enough by the the end of 1643 and Hamilton was arrested. He spent three years in various places of confinement, but was liberated by Parliamentary troops in April of 1646.

Now returned to Charles' favor, the king conferred on Hamilton the heritable office of Keeper of Holyroodhouse. Then, after the King was delivered up to Parliamentary commissioners, Hamilton was able to temporarily gain authority in Scotland and, in July of 1648, he led a large army into England in defense of the King. He showed a complete inability as a military commander and, even with vastly superior numbers, was quickly defeated by Cromwell and his forces. He, himself, was taken prisoner at the end of August. His trial for treason began in February of the following year - seven days after the execution of the King. He was condemned on March 6 and beheaded three days later at the Old Palace Yard, Westminster. (A setting that had witnessed the executions of Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes, among others.) He was forty-two. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Belvédère - Petit Trianon, Versailles

Between 1788 and 1781, to the designs of her personal architect, Richard Mique, a music salon was built for Marie Antoinette on a small artificial hill at Trianon, part of the new "English" garden on the estate. Called the Belvédère du Petit Trianon, or the Pavillon du rocher - after the adjacent artificial rock formation, waterfall, and grotto - it is a small octagonal stone "folly" in the neoclassical style. The four overdoors - incorporating attributes of gardening and hunting - and the carvings above the four windows - representing the Seasons - as well as the eight sphinxes flanking the pavilion are the work of the sculptor Joseph Deschamps, assisted by the young Pierre Cartellier. The interior is richly decorated with arabesques painted in oil on stucco by Sébastien François Leriche, while the ceiling painting was created by Jean-Jacques Lagrenée le Jeune, and the floor is a beautiful mosaic of white, red, green, and bleu turquin marble. In fine weather, the pavilion was furnished with eight armchairs - fauteuils en bergère - and eight chairs - chaises à dossier - the work of François II Foliot, and based on the models of architect Jacques Gondouin. (Delivered in 1781, the costly chairs were sold off during the Revolution; just one has been returned to Versailles.) After a year of meticulous restoration, the renewed and preserved Belvédère was inaugurated in June of 2012.

An anonymous watercolor made soon after the construction of the Belvédère.
One of the original chairs. The original upholstery was of painted blue and white silk, luxuriously trimmed.
Apparently, the embroidered fabric on this chair - not the one at Versailles - was modeled after the design of the original.


Most of the images in this post were adapted from those on the Andrewhopkinsart blogspot, whose own post on the subject tells the story of the Belvédère expertly!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Les Dames en jaune

The Yellow Dress, by Gustave Jacquet, circa 1896.

Yellow is my least favorite color. Yes, it almost certainly is. And what a silly thing that is to say! An artist, of all people, saying that one color or another is his favorite or least favorite. Very silly. Yet I have no qualms about saying that yellow is the most important color. Because I don't doubt that at all. Though there's almost never anything in my paintings that you would describe as yellow, I use that color in my work far more than any other. And if I understood anything about color theory, I could probably tell you why that is. I'm guessing it's got something to do with light. Uh... the way light reflects? Or... OK, I have no idea as to why I use so much yellow. I just know that I do. And here are some paintings of ladies by artists who've also used a lot of yellow in their work and who are not afraid to let you know it.

Lady in Yellow, by Susan Watkins, 1902.
Lady in Yellow, by Giovanni Boldini, 1912.
William II, Prince of Orange, and his wife Mary Stuart, by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1647.
Pauline in the Yellow Dress [the artist's wife], by Sir James Gunn, 1944.
À la toilette, by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, circa 1880.
Emily Warren Roebling, by Carolus-Duran, 1896.
Countess Elizaveta Alexandrovna Demidova, née Stroganova, by Robert Lefèvre, circa 1800-1805.
Lady in Yellow, by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 1888.
Lady at a Piano, by Vincent Dinty 1793.
Simone Gentile in a Yellow Gown, Serge Ivanoff, 1954.
In the Country, by Alfred Stevens, 1867.
Grand Duchess Vladimir (Maria Pavlovna), by François Flameng, 1898.
Princesse de Broglie, by James Tissot, circa 1895.
Lady in a Yellow Dress, Max Kurzweil, 1899.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Jean Marais in "Nez de Cuir", 1952

Nez de Cuir is a 1952 French/Italian production directed by Yves Allégret and based on a 1938 novel, Nez de cuir - gentilhomme d'amour, by Jean de La Varende. The novel was based on the exploits of the author's own great-uncle during the Napoleonic Wars. Like the actual Achille Perrier de La Genevraye, the film's main character is severely injured in the Battle of Reims. His resulting disfigurement is then covered by a leather mask that includes a fully formed nose, and he goes on - rather paradoxically, if you ask me - to become a notorious Don Juan. The English-language title of the film bears the perfectly correct, plainly accurate translation "Leathernose".

Marais appears to have worn an array of masks in the film; this stripped down version shows more of the character's facial injury.

I haven't actually seen the film, so I can't say if, as a viewer, I could entirely get beyond the "gentleman of love"'s fake leather nose. But I do find it rather perverse that what's hidden behind the mask is the overripe beauty of Jean Marais, lovely nose and all. Maybe our knowledge of the actor's actual pretty face outweighs the distraction of the be-nosed mask, and makes the character's apparently overpowering allure credible.

A contemporary edition of the original novel. We'd call this a "movie tie-in".
A portrait taken for the film by Raymond Voinquel. This is a much more refined mask than the others, perhaps reserved for evening dress...?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tang Wei Min - selected paintings

"April". (I've only found what I believe are the titles of some of these paintings and don't have dates for any of them.)

Another artist that is new to me. The Chinese painter Tang Wei Min - 唐伟民. I have so many questions about the artist and his work. Are all of the costumes historicist? Or are any current to any particular region? China, Mongolia, Tibet? All of those individually or in combination? I'm embarrassed that I don't know enough about the costume of this part of Asia to be certain about any of that. I assume that the artist used the same gorgeous, ethereal model in most of these paintings - I believe she may be his wife...? - but all I've been able to find out about Tang, himself, is this:

Tang Wei Min was born in 1971 in Yong Zhou, Hunan Province of China. In 1991, Wei Min graduated from the Art Department of Hunan Standard College, where he majored in oil painting. In 2001, Wei Min was accepted into a graduate study program in the Painting Department in Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

These paintings are a lovely jumble of the bleak mythological landscape of Odd Nerdrum and the colorful doll-inhabited Russian peasant fantasies of Konstantin Makovsky, all assembled on a ground of Rembrandt. Is this kitsch? Probably. But some of them seem to go a little "deeper", are a bit more grounded in pictorial and psychological realism; they seem to recognize and enjoy their dress-up make-believe, rather than entirely buying into it.

"Woman of the Hill Tribes".
"Lucky Dawn".
"High Holiday I".
"Silk Road XVII".
"Moon Night".
"Woman with Elegant Fan".
"Quiet Time".
"First Child".
"Red Thread".
"Lama". One of the rather infrequent male figures.
"Slight Wind".
"Distant Thoughts".
"Tibetan Mistress".
"Man in Moonlight".
"Silent Time" or "Peaceful Silence".
"Lost in Thought".
"Glancing Back".