Times of change

Dear readers,

I have to announce that I have changed my blog to the site: http://www.herejiaybelleza.com

But there is not only a change of place but a change of language and a little bit of concepts. I don’t speak English very well and sometimes it’s hard for me to translate my ideas, my feelings, my appreciations. It’s just because of this the reason why I change my blog.

I’m sorry for the non Spanish readers that cannot understand my language but, I must say that I’ll keep on posting interesting and not wellknown images that probably be interesting for you. I hope you understand my reasons, you’ll be welcome there as well.

So, 2011 is a time for changes to me. Enjoy the new age.


Pedro Ortega

Lost Gothic: buildings destroyed in the 2nd World War

United Kingdom. St. Michael’s Catedral. Example of the British Gothic style. It was built between 1373 and 1394. It was completely destroyed except the tower. All rights reserved.

The 2nd World War was, probable, the bigest catastrophe of the mankind suffered by itself. This devastation affected directly to artistic treasures of an uncountable value, some of them great Gothic cathedrals and buildings. Photography, invented in mid 19th Century, is an instrument that helps us to remember this lost.

Renaissance expanded from Italy all over Europe, spreading the Renovatio Vetustatis, a look back to the Classic Splendour of Rome and Greece, with their shapes and methods, not only in Art but in Literature and Philosophy. In those days the European medieval style, Gothic style, was subordinated to a second term, being considered “ugly”, an aesthetics that must be forgotten. This fact expanded from XVI century on.

We have to wait till 19th Century, the apparition of the Romantic movement all over Europe, whose main idea was to recover the past of the different countries, most of all looking to the Middle Ages to find their roots. So, the Gothic cathedrals took importance again and even new buildings copied Gothic elements and structures, becaming the Neo-Gothic style. Viollet Le Duc in France or Schinkel in Germany were the most important architects of this new current.

Just in 19th Century, Romanticism looked back to Middle Ages to recover its Art. There was a rise of the nationalist movement and each country looked for an artistic style from the past to identify with, and most of all found their roots in Middle Ages. Gothic cathedrals took importance again and even new buildings adopted this style from the past, the Neo-Gothic current.

Caspar David Friedrich had already painted a ruin Gothic abbey near dead trees. He seems to be a Visionary, previewing the devastation of the gothic buildings a century later. This is the point of this post: the Gothic buildings that were destoyed in the 2nd World War.

Photography, one of the most important inventions of 19th Century, was the witness of this part of our culture that was devasted by the war and that nowadays we only are able to remember as images.

Henry La Farge, just a few years after the end of the war, collected and compiled all the photos of ancient buildings destroyed by the war in archives all over Europe. This work was published in Spain in 1951 under Seix Barral named Los tesoros perdidos de Europa (Lost treasures of Europe), reference book for this post.

I want to show some Gothic buildings today disappeared, most of all churches and cathedrals, because, in the contrary of Friedrich, I want to memory a splendorous past, though the images I present are only phantoms. I have chosen the most beautiful ones from my point of view.

The buildings I show come mainly from France and Germany. There are two different gothic styles, which reveals the different points of view, ways of thinking, cultures, of two European countries with a big personality. Therefore, the terrible destruction affected to some other countries: Poland, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Italy, Russia… They lose also big treasures of Art. We only keep images of a splendorous past that is lost now.

If nowadays I´m an Art Historian it´s because once when I was a child I visited Burgos Cathedral in a journey with my school and this visit impacted me so much. This fact sowed in me the seed of Art love deep inside. When I look at these photos in this ancient book I question myself what I would have felt If I had been there contemplating their slenderness, their stained glass windows, their gargoyles, walking through their naves and ambulatories and being captivated by the spirituality under these magnificent buildings.

I can only lament and contemplate the photos that give me a very partial perspective about what those places were once long time ago.

I do recommend you to look for this book and to buy it if it´s possible, because it keeps a collection of unique images of great monuments sadly dissapeared.

France. Saint Lô. Our Lady’s Catedral. One of the most beautiful churches of Normandy, it was built in 14th and 15th centurias. It’s totally ruined. All rights reserved.
France. Caen. St. Peter’s Church. 1308. It suffered severe damages: the toser is destroyed, but it maintains intact the apse, a shape of Flaming Gothic style. All rights reserved.
France. Rouen. St. Vincent’s Church. Elegant building, representative of the Flaming Gothic style, it was built between 1511 and 1556. It´s stained glass windows were made by Engrand and Jean Le Prince, from Beauvais (c. 1530). The church is completely destroyed, but fortunately the stained glass windows were kept before the war and we conserve them. All rights reserved.
France. Toul. St. Stephen’s Catedral. The facade was a masterpiece of Flaming Gothic style, built by the architects Tristán of Hattonchatel and Jacquemin of Commercy between 1447 and 1496. The transept and the chorus come from 12th Century and the nave from 14th and 15th centuries. They have suffered big damage. All rights reserved.
Germany. Xanten. St. Virus collegiate church. It was built from 1363 to 1512. The towers are Romanic style, the nave and the facade are Gothic style. Partially destroyed. All rights reserved.
Germany. Osnabrück. St. Peter and St. Paul’s Catedral. The architecture of this buildings covers several styles from 12th to 13th centuries. Partially destroyed. All rights reserved.
Germany. Koblenz. St. Castor’s Church. It was founded in 836 by Ludovicus Pius, son and sucessor of Charlemagne. It has Romanic structure dated from 10th Century and was modified in 12th Century. It has suffered severe damages: the vault of the nave is completely destroyed. All rights reserved.

Bibliography: La Farge, Henry. Los tesoros perdidos de Europa. Ed. Seix Barral. Barcelona, 1951.

Matthias Gerung ant the Antichrist

Matthias Gerung (1500-1570) was one of Hans Schäufelein´s pupils in Nördlingen. He lived in Lauingen since 1525, where he worked under the Count Ottheinrich, and also he was employed as local inspector from 1531 to 1567. He illuminated a New Testament and Apocalyse that came from a 15th Century Bible for the Count, between 1530 and 1531; he also produced a cycle of paintings about the destruction of Troy and the History of Paris for the Count’s castle room in Neuburg (1540) and also designed a series of tapestry devoted to the Count’s life from 1533 till 1543. So, the Count became Protestant in 1541, and, because of that, Gerung was employed to illustrate the rules of the new Church, and to design etchings to attack the Pope and the abuses of the Roman Church. These works compose the main Gerung’s artistic work. There is a contradiction, Gerung kept on working on these etchings while he apparently supported the Catholic Emperor Carlos I in 1546. We can see this support in the painting for the city council in 1551 about Carlos I and his army receiving homage from the people of Lauingen, in which Gerung represented himself as one of the characters. Just because this changed, Gerung was called by the Prince Archbishop of Ausburg to design five etchings to the Secundum ritum Augustensis ecclesie (1555). In his late work we must emphasize the painting Melancholie (1558) inspired by tha famous Durer’s print.

I want to focus this post in the times he designed prints for the Reformation, and I show some of those that citicised the Pope and talk about the Antichrist.

Matthias Gerung. “Catholic clergy in the cauldron”. (1546). Etching. All rights reserved.

This print represents the destruction of the Antichrist who is identified to the Pope. The Pope and the clergy are boling in a big cauldron over a fire poked by two devils and a man with a tiara around his neck, who is being watched by a bishop and some cardinals: it´s an ironic satyr in which the Roman Church is destined to be destroyed by itself. This is a part of the Protestant interpretation of the Apocalypse: the Roman Church as heretic itself.

These two images belong to an unknown series of pamphlets about the popular tale of the Antichrist (we must mention that 1500 was a supposed date to the end of the World), the false Messiah, whose activities were linked with the Pope and his followers by the Protestant propaganda.

Matthias Gerung. “The born of the Antichrist”. Etching. All rights reserved.

The first etching represents the born of the Antichrist, with Latin and German inscriptions in the ornamental frame. These texts explain that the born was very slow and painful, while the Devil took a bath in Acheronte, the river of the Hell regions.

Matthias Gerung. “The Baptism of the Antichrist”. Etching. All rights reserved.

About the second etching, we have a more edifying inscription, it says that the true baptism will free the mankind from the menace of the Final Judgement, and also that the sign of the cross is false.

From a stylistic way, we must connect this etchings with other apocalyptic and satyric prints from Matthias Gerung.

A vision of decadence

Detritus. “Donde ya no se posan besos van a aparecer llagas”. All rights reserved.

I just want to show a work from the Spanish vocational painter Detritus. He is a contemporary artist who could be located inside the Gothic scene, but his personal work is far from conventional neo-gothic artistic style. He paints nightmares with real people as protagonists, he doesn´t want to emphasize beauty but pain and violence. Another characteristic of his paintings is the use of writings as part of the work. They are mostly a way of understanding the complexity of the image.

The current work is entitled “Donde ya no se posan besos van a aparecer llagas” (Where no kisses already lay there will appear sores), as the biggest sentence says in the lower right side of the canvas.

Let´s analyze the painting. There are four old men in several positions and a woman who escapes from the picture in the upper right side walking along. We see also two cryptic circular symbols in the upper left side.  There are also several sentences covering different parts of the picture. Each part is defined buy its color: black, orange, violet and brown. There are no gradations but  flat colors and each one could design an attitude, it is quite a symbolistic use of the color.

If we look at the four old men we realize that there is only one in different gestures. One is the man sit on the bed thinking, in a position like Rodin’s Thinker. In front of him there is an specular image: it´s the man in the mirror. At the same time the man appears lying down on the bed: the tired man. And, at last, in the first layer, a suffering man down on one knee with the hand in the face moaning. This man appears with a halo, but a black halo. Is he a sinner, the opposite of a saint? Maybe.

The answer to the attitudes of the old man is the woman that walks far from him. She wears a night dress and walks in the way to the moon, who stays over her as a halo. Detritus is linking the woman with the Moon.

At the left side the two symbols drawn in an ancient way: one is a man inside a pentacle with the text “Microcosmos – Sapiens Volens” and the other is the Sun inside a square and a circle with the text “Megacosmos – Ignis – Natura”. We have a clue of the painting: the woman linked to the Moon and the man linked to the Sun.

Now, I translate the main texts that may reveal the whole meaning of the work. The first says: “The decadent man only stops to live under the laws of the atrocious Cosmos if a woman gives shelter to him. The woman preserves the omnipotence given to her by the Cosmos to perpetuate, though she renounces to her reproductive function”.

The second: “When an immense female will  sanction in favor of a man, the unarmed male takes refuge in the hug she offers, while the woman assumes the clash with the Cosmos and repulses its harmful radiations”.

With all these elements we can give a closer interpretation: the man has lost his woman, he has no defense against the attack of the Cosmos, he, no longer, has the help of the woman, he is alone and he’s going to die. I think the painted man doesn´t represent an old man himself, but the state of a lonely man, without protection. It´s decadence, it´s desolation, it´s isolation. I think the main meaning of the painting is the weakness of man that has not the support of a woman. It´s an allegory of the lost love. Maybe he has lost her by his sins, maybe infidelity, and because of that the black halo of the sinner appears all around his head.

There are a lot of elements in the painting, so, they transform it in a sort of enigma. I have just given my personal interpretation. This is the right thing: a lot of elements like pieces of a puzzle. Compose your own interpretation.

Allegory of Work

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Central figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

Located in a square of Düsseldorf we find an interesting sculpted monument. Only a little information about it, the legend “Fred Coubillier – 1911”. I haven´t found enough data of this sculptor, only that he was born in 1869 and was very active in Düsseldorf till 1939. A late sculpture of the author is a statue of Beethoven in 1950. It seems that he usually worked with bronze. Style of hisworks is quite near to German Jugendstil but with classic Greek bronzes influence.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

So, I was surprised when I found this monument devoted to work. It consists in a three male sculptures located symmetrically: the sides are lower but with the characters standing and the central figure, higher but seated. The base of the central figure is circular. Over it there is an old man, with a beard, seated over an anvil and a propeller with a hammer in the hand that rests on the leg. The man is nude but covered with a woolen cloth.

The right figure is a young man.  He is holding big iron pliers and his position is a contraposto, with the height of the body lean on one leg, just like ancient Greek sculptors used to pose their statues. He is an athletic man, with emphasis in the muscles. Quite similar is the left figure, also young, muscled and standing on one leg, again in contraposto. He carries a pick over his shoulder.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Left figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

So, we have the old man in the center, with symbols like hammer, anvil and propeller, he is the wise man. He is strong but is seated, maybe thinking, designing. The young men of the sides are the pure force, the energy, the strength, they use their hands to work. All those elements clearly talk about an allegory of work. In my opinion there are also reminiscences of Jugendstil, mostly in the expression of the faces.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Detail. Photo Pedro Ortega

In 1911 Düsseldorf was part of Prusia. So, this image of strong men that enhances the idea of hard work reflects the spirit of that country. A nice monument to visit if you are in Düsseldorf.

Ophelia (Madness)

Mara Hernández. "Ophelia (Madness)". (2010). All rights reserved.

When the first photographs appeared in the mid 19th Century Photography was not yet considered an Art. But soon the photographers started to try to imitate paintings, then, the style named Pictorialism was born. Julia Margaret Cameron and Oscar Gustav Rejlander were the pioneers. The idea of these masters was to conceive photos as paintings, and they positioned close to the Pre-Raphaelist aesthetics.

Nowadays, more than 150 years later, we can find some examples of Pre-Raphaelitsm in modern photography. At this moment, right in the Digital Era, photos are taken with digital cameras and processed by computer with tools as Photoshop, a process quite cheap and to modify colors, textures and shapes. So, there are millions of new digital photographers who take uncountable photographs and proudly show them.

In this context we find many interesting artists. In this case I want to present the Spanish photographer Mara Hernández. She captures at the same time the two ideas I have talked about: the use of new media as digital camera with software utilities, with the idea of creating photos as paintings, just like the Pictorialists did, referring to the Pre-Raphaelite Art. This is not casual: Mara aesthetic taste is close to the Gothic scene and their pictures own this 19th century smell. This Pre-Raphaelite descent is even more emphasized in the photo I show today: “Ophelia (madness)“.

Ophelia is portrayed in the moment she has become mad after her parent’s death. She is a pure young woman, redheaded, who loves nature. She is crowned with flowers and takes a bunch in her hands, close to her breast. Her look is lost in the infinite: no more rational ideas will fill her mind, she cannot understand and the situation is too much for her. She drives herself to death too…

Ophelia’s picture colors have been saturated to emphasize this moment of madness: orange, yellow and green are quite intense, it´s just like she was in a lysergic trip. The two blue eyes are like pearls that bright in the focus of the pic centering our look in her beautiful face. Just an incredible tragic image.

This is only one take of a complete series about Ophelia which will appear in the book “Tragic Beauty”, where are more beautiful famous tragic death females such as Julieta, Cleopatra, Isadora Duncan or Ana Bolena. This book will be published by Asociación Cultural Mentenebre next winter. I must say that I´m proud to contribute to this book with poems devoted to each beautiful woman. Please, don´t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in this book.

The treasures of Satan

Jean Delville. "The treasures of Satan". (1895). All rights reseved.

Jean Delville (Lovaina,1867 – Forest, 1953) is one of intriguish painters of fin de siécle. He never wanted to talk about his paintings and also critics didn´t talk about them too. So, there is a place to speculate about their meaning. Delville is considered one of the Belgian Symbolists. If you have visited previously my blog you know they are my favourites…

Delville trained in the Beaux Arts Academy in Brussels and moved later to Glasgow, so I´m sure he was seduced by these two magical places. He belonged to occultist circles, concretely Sâr Peladan’s Rose Croix, in which Art exhibitions Jean participated. This sympathy for the occult as Teosophy influenced directly in his paintings: a lot of criptic symbols appear in them.

Today I want to talk about The treasures of Satan (1895), a theme which I like so much. The representation of the Devil in 19th century suffered a transformation in comparison with traditional ways. The being with horns and tail, looking like a reptile, a monster starts to change its aspect to a more humanized shape. One of the clues of this change was the recovering of Milton’s Paradise Lost in 19th century. There Satan is the rebel angel, as beautiful as God, at the same level and he´s condemned for his rebellion. One of the most intriguing devils of the end of the 19th century could be Rodin’s Thinker (this is my interpretation, because he belonged originally to the composition The gates of Hell) and Von Stuck’s Lucifer, which is very close to it (the same position and attitude and human shape).

Now it´s time to talk about Delville conception of Satan and his followers. This painting is unique: in iconography, in composition and in colors. There is no other Devil like Delville’s one.

In iconography, Satan has human shape, but surrounding him there are a kind of reptile tails or arms, he is a foreshortened figure, it seems he is fighting or dragging with the people condemned in Hell. All those people are lied down, nude and in positions that suggest a sexual attitude. It´s like an orgy. The composition suggest a kind of river of bodies that comes from the impulse of Satan, the bodies current flows over a strange landscape, the landscape of Hell. And just the colors are golden and orange, suggesting the fire.

This painting, perhaps, is not pretty but outrageous and surely was not indifferent to Delville’s contemporary observers. It´s 2010 and I keep on being intrigued by it… Take a look and think about what Delville thought about Hell and his Master Satan.

Xavier Mellery

Xavier Mellery. "Immortalité". (1890). All rights reserved.

After a hard period, I continue developing my Art dedicated blog.

Today I wan to point my eyes to a Belgian Symbolist painter: Xavier Mellery. He is not very wellknown, there are not too much texts about him, but I think he has an interesting personality and a he has a particular way of painting.

As a brief profile, we must say that Mellery was born in Laken in 1845 and died in Brussels in 1921. He was the son of the Royal Palace gardener and this circunstance could help him to develope his career. First, he initially worked with the painter-decorator Charles Albert and later could enter into the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts from 1860 to 1867. Though he had achademic training we must empasize his style as Symbolist. We can consider him as companion of Fernand Khnopff or Jean Delville, two of the most important Belgian Symbolists.

In this post, I want to compare two works of Mellery that are very related each other. They have a similar composition and colours (golden and blue), with two main characters that are opposites but are fundamentally related. Both were composed near 1890 and their titles are Immortalité (Immortality) and La Délicatesse est fille de la Force (the Gentleness is the doughter of the Force).

As I mentioned, the composition is similar: both canvases are vertical and the composition is located inside a golden space with a semicircle at the top. This golden color could be a reference to Byzantine Art, an element used also by his neighbor and famous painter Alphonse Mucha. It´s an element that emphasizes the divine character of the represented characters.

Two opposited figures appear in Immortalité: Death and Immortality. Death is represented in a traditional way: an skeleton with an scythe loking front and sit on a kind of wood wall and Immortality, a young man who looks back to Death, wearing a blue roman dress. Close to Immortality there is a third charater, secondary one, a child. This third character could suggest that Mellery wanted to represent the three ages of men, like the classic paintings of this matter.

Xavier Mellery. "La délicatesse est fille de la force". (1890). All rights reserved.

La Délicatesse est fille de la Force presents two figures but this time both looks to the observer. Gentleness is a female character and Force is male: they are two allegories represented in different sexes because the words to design them are male or female in French language. This question has appeared in other posts: the allegories use to be represented male or female on depending the genre of the word that designs it in each language. Force is a mature man, completely nude except his covered sex by a woollen and he holds a wooden stick. Gentleness wears a transparent dress and holds on the Force hand as support. She also has a bunch that emphasizes the female side of the Gentleness allegory.

Both are very fantastic paintings. You can admire them and many more works from Mellery on the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. A nice plan for this summer if you are near there.


Meteora. Photo: Pedro Ortega

When I was a child I remember the James Bond film For your eyes only, where happened adventures in a landscape I haven´t seen ever: a place located over a sandstone rock pillar. I was surprised when some years later I discover this place was located in Greece and was called Meteora.

Meteora. Photo: Pedro Ortega

Meteora means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”. I understand perfectly this definition for this incredible natural place, that seems not to belong to the Earth.

Meteora. Photo: Pedro Ortega

But even more incredible than the miraculous nature are the monasteries built on the tops since fourteen century. I cannot imagine how the monks managed to built there so complex buildings. There are six monasteries one in each peak, that were created to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. So inside the monasteries we found also beautiful frescoes of Byzantine style, following the ones from Athos Mountain Monastery. From there came Athanasios who was the promoter of the first buildings in Meteora to escape from Turks and Albans.

Byzantine frescoe: Jesus, Mary and St. John. Photo: Pedro Ortega

Unfortunately, Second World War destroy some of these monasteries, a lost as many as sadly disappeared at that terrible war.

I illustrate this post with several pictures I took in my visit to Meteora in 2007. A place you must visit if you want to enjoy the wonders of Nature and Byzantine Art.

Meteora. Photo: Pedro Ortega

One caress

Pirifool. "One Caress". All rights reserved.

Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands. I heard from them for th first time in the 80’s, that great song People are people, and since then I have followed their career. I have found many artworks related with Depeche Mode, most of all portraits of the band members, but also images inspired in songs. It´s just the matter of this post, an image from a song. The artist, Pirifool.

One caress is a quite romantic song that Martin Gore plays alone, he has composed both music and lyrics and sings it with extreme tenderness.

I want to substitute my words today by the lyrics and the videoclip of the song. They can say much more than my words. Enjoy!

Well I’m down on my knees again
And I pray to the only one
Who has the strength
To bear the pain
To forgive all the things that I’ve done

Oh Girl
Lead me into your darkness
When this world is trying it’s hardest
To leave me unimpressed
Just one caress
From you and I’m blessed

When you think you’ve tried every road
Every avenue
Take one more look
At what you found old
And in it you’ll find something new

I’m shying from the light
I always loved the night
And now you offer me eternal darkness

I have to believe that sin
Can make a better man
It’s the mood that I am in
That left us back where we began