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

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The wild and the tame - two paintings by Franz Xaver Gruber

Blumenstück, circa 1838.


Großes Distelstillleben, circa 1850s. One of several variations on this subject.


Franz Xaver Gruber (29 September 1801, Vienna - 12 April 1862, Vienna), Austrian flower and genre painter, given the nickname Distelgruber in response to his best-known still-lifes which featured thistles. He was accepted as a student at the Vienna Academy at the age of fifteen and, in 1822, he received the Gundel Prize for flower painting. In order to further his education, he also attended lectures by the celebrated botanist and chemist Joseph Franz Freiherr von Jacquin. From 1835 he was a professor at the Manufakturschule while founding his own private elementary drawing school. Between 1839 and 1859, on a commission from Prince Metternich, he created a collection in watercolor of camellias. And for Emperor Ferdinand I he painted numerous orchids and palm species in watercolors; the plants of the Schönbrunn palm house serving as models. His "Great Thistle Still Life with Poppies and Butterflies" was a success at the Paris World's Fair in 1855, and he subsequently made several versions of it, thus inspiring his Distelgruber nickname. His two siblings - brother Carl Franz Gruber (1803 - 1845) and sister Katharina, married name Hawelek (1807 - 1859) - were also flower painters.

Not to be confused with the Austrian primary school teacher and church organist of the same name, famous for being the composer of "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" ("Silent Night").

Friday, March 25, 2022

The girl from Queens heads "East" - Ethel Merman in publicity for "Anything Goes", 1936

In the film adaptation of Cole Porter's stage hit, Anything Goes, pretty much everything went! At least much of Porter's score. Of the fifteen or so songs in the stage version, the film only retained four. Of those, the lyrics of "You're the Top" were substantially rewritten, and only the first line of the title song survived, sung by Merman during the opening credits. Then four new songs by various songwriters were added back into the score. This odd song-swapping, in the transition from stage to screen, was actually not uncommon in the 1930s, when the studios owned their own music publishing companies and hoped for additional profits from the new songs. Another reason in this case is that Porter's often racy lyrics couldn't always get past the Production Code's censors. Finally, it's also been said that the film's top-billed star, Bing Crosby, pressured the studio for the new songs, ones that he felt better suited to his trademark "crooner" delivery.

One of the misguided interpolations was a little nothing called "Shanghai-De-Ho" by Frederick Hollander and Leo Robin, the basis for the film's final production number. It's a cringe-making example of cultural insensitivity, typical of the period, but at least it gives us the delightfully bizarre sight of Merman all dolled up in a glamorous "oriental" drag.  

With Charlie Ruggles.
With Bing Crosby. (Five images.)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ladies of the new age - illustrations for the French Republican calendar, 1797-8

Detail of the illustration for the month of Floréal. (Taken from a different printing than the other examples here.)

The calendrier républicain français (French Republican calendar) was created and implemented during the French Revolution to celebrate the founding of the French Republic, and was designed in part to remove all religious and royalist influences from the calendar. It was part of a larger attempt at decimalization in France, with decimalization of the hours of the day, of currency, etc. The new system was used in government records in France and other areas under French rule, including Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Malta, and Italy.

Each day was now divided into ten hours - each hour into one hundred decimal minutes; thus an hour was one hundred and forty-four conventional minutes - but there were still twelve months, though each was now three weeks long, while each week consisted of ten days. The authorities having decided that the establishment of the French Republic in 1792 marked the beginning of a new era, the introduction of the new calendar on 22 September 1793 also heralded the beginning of Year II.

The republican calendar was used by the French government for about twelve years, from late 1793 until 1 January 1806/Year XIV, when it was finally abolished by Napoléon, already more than a year into his reign as empereur des Français. Decades later it was put into play once more, for eighteen days in May 1871/Year LXXIX, by the Paris Commune.


The following images are from an illustrated calendar of 1797-8, engraved by Salvatore Tresca after the originals of Louis Lafitte. 

Vendémiaire (from French vendange, derived from Latin vindemia, "vintage"), starting 22, 23, or 24 September
Brumaire (from French brume, "mist"), starting 22, 23, or 24 October
Frimaire (from French frimas, "frost"), starting 21, 22, or 23 November

Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, "snowy"), starting 21, 22, or 23 December
Pluviôse (from French pluvieux, derived from Latin pluvius, "rainy"), starting 20, 21, or 22 January
Ventôse (from French venteux, derived from Latin ventosus, "windy"), starting 19, 20, or 21 February

Germinal (from French germination), starting 20 or 21 March
Floréal (from French fleur, derived from Latin flos, "flower"), starting 20 or 21 April
Prairial (from French prairie, "meadow"), starting 20 or 21 May

Messidor (from Latin messis, "harvest"), starting 19 or 20 June
Thermidor (from Greek thermon, "summer heat"), starting 19 or 20 July (On many printed calendars of Year II (1793–94), the month of Thermidor was named Fervidor (from Latin fervidus, "burning hot"))
Fructidor (from Latin fructus, "fruit"), starting 18 or 19 August

Friday, March 18, 2022

Die Pariser Werkstatt, by Hans Jakob Oeri, 1807

Oeri's Die Pariser Werkstatt (Paris Workshop), also known as Das Pariser Atelier, shows a sparsely furnished Parisian living and working space. On the left is the older brother of the artist, Georg Oeri, a mechanic; next to him is the artist's twin brother Hans, who completed an apprenticeship as a tinsmith in Paris; on the right, across the table, is the artist himself; finally, on the far right, is the portraitist David Sulzer, with whom Oeri had moved to Paris in the summer of 1803 to study with the great Jacques-Louis David.


Hans Jakob Oeri (16 December 1782, Kyburg - 24 February 1868, Zürich), Swiss portrait and history painter, draftsman, and lithographer. The son of a pastor, he spent his childhood in Kyburg und Regensdorf. In 1803, along with his friend, the portrait painter David Sulzer, he travelled to Paris, where he spent four years studying with Jacques-Louis David; two of his brothers later joined them in Paris. He displayed several portraits at exhibitions in Paris and Zürich in 1804 and 1805, and decided to devote himself primarily to portrait painting. In 1809, he travelled to Russia, working as a portrait painter and art teacher. He was witness to the Fire of Moscow in 1812, during which many of his own works were lost; he responded by painting pictures of the fire and its aftermath. Altogether, he remained in Russia for eight years, then spent a short time in Lübeck before returning to Zürich. In addition to his original paintings, he made lithographs of great works by the likes of Holbein and Raphael, collaborated on public art, and made costume studies. In addition, after his death, numerous historical paintings were found in his estate, works which he had never shown in public.