Posts Tagged ‘Zuccelli’

Blackpaint 202

October 6, 2010

Michelangelo’s God (Sistine Ceiling)

I find it amazing that the brain – my brain, anyway –  seems not to register things that should be obvious and impossible to miss.  God animates Adam with the famous touching finger, reaching out from his seat in the brain – shaped thing (see Blackpaint 165) .  Don’t look – is he alone in there?  I thought so, but I was wrong – the deity is surrounded by a group of attractive young persons of indeterminate sex, presumably members of a high order of angels, seraphim maybe.  The touch, of course, is also Michelangelo’s invention – Genesis speaks only of god breathing life into Adam.

All this stuff – about the Flood, Adam and Eve and the serpent, etc. –  is trivial, I suppose, but it does illustrate how freely M. took liberties with the text and got away with it.  I think it was only the nakedness that led to problems.  When you think that printers had their ears cropped for little errors – “thou shalt commit adultery”, for example – although that’s a bad example, because it’s quite a serious mistake…..


I’ve been reading the story “the Unknown Masterpiece”, in which the painter Frenhofer believes he has created a masterpiece in his portrait of Catherine Lescault, “the beautiful courtesan”.  He invites two fellow painters in to see; what they see is an unintelligible mass of paint, with only a human foot recognisable in a lower corner of canvas.  Meanwhile, Frenhofer raves about the light falling on the hair, the flesh of the bosom quivering until he hears one of his friends remark that there is nothing on the canvas.  At this, he collapses in tears and self-pity, which rapidly turns to defiance and the assertion of his own mastery, which others are too small to recognise.  Typical artist.

Open House

The point of the above is that it reminds me of the reactions of some visitors when they come over your doorstep and see abstract paintings.  No doubt their hearts sink (cliche, sorry) and they try to think of something to say.  A frequent response is, “Well, there’s certainly a lot of paintings; you’ve been very busy.”  After an interval of, say, five minutes they leave, thanking you politely and heading for the next house on the list .  Fair enough, of course; there’s nowhere to go with abstract art, people are either pleased and/or excited with what you have done with the paint, repelled and appalled –  or it’s nothing.  A bad figurative painting is still a bad painting of Something. 

Still, sold five – a big one, a middle one and three small ones; not too bad and another weekend to go.


Last blog, I was looking at Gilles Neret’s little coffee table Taschen on angels; today, the companion on devils – which he interprets very loosely to include satyrs, fauns, pans, demons.  The sexual content is frank and startling and demonstrates clearly that these illustrations must have acted, perhaps unconsciously, as a safety-valve in medieval times and pornography in the 19th century.

My favourites are:

1.  Fra Angelico’s “Last Judgement”, in which the damned appear to be in a series of S and M parties in a block of flats, opened up to the viewer;

2.  Georgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, “Punishment of lechery”, in which burning torches are being thrust by demons into vaginas and anuses (ouch!); and

3.  Hieronymous Bosch, “Last Judgement”, in which the various fantastical monsters have that luminous and translucent appearance that one associates with recent photographs of deep-sea creatures.

Gone but not forgotten.