Oil Planet

Cristiano Siqueira. "Oil Planet". Allrights reserved.

Cristiano Siqueira is a brilliant artist from Brasil. His creative fields are illustration, graphic design and advertising. Today I’m going to analyze his work called Oil Planet. The title clearly evidences its ecologic intention, as we will see. The technique for this image is digital illustration.

The main elements of the image are two: a strong man down on his knees supporting a sphere on his shoulders that represents planet Earth -we can distinguish the continents drown on it-. The disposition of these elements quickly drives us to an archetype: the Greek God Atlas who carries the World upon his shoulders. Atlas was the chief of the Titans, who fought with the Olympic Gods. They lose and Zeus condemned Atlas to carry the weight of the skies. Though Atlas was very powerful the weight was so big that moans suffering carrying it.

All the composition is colored in black, in direct reference to the oil, mentioned in the title. The Earth is black because is fully contaminated by oil. This is a reference of our current world where oil controls everything though it provoques a high level of contamination all over the World. In the top of the sphere, where are placed North America and Europe, a black fume is emanating: the Occidental World is the guilty.

This ecologist aspect is emphasized by the figure of Atlas: he wears a gas mask, necessary to survive the contamination. This element can be connected with cyberpunk and industrial subculture, where the use of gas mask is an aesthetic and protest element.

The image by Siqueira is a brilliant allegory: to use a classical iconography -Atlas- to show a contemporary criticism -the global contamination-. An excellent combination.

If you want to see more Art from Siqueira click here.

Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent

Henry Fuseli. "Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent". (1790). All rights reserved.

Henry Fuseli (1741 Zúrich, 1825 London) , close to William Blake, was the precedent of the Romantic movement in Great Britain. One of the paintings who tried to look back to England past is the representation of Thor, God from the Germanic mythology, that could be related with the norse link of this country. The theme of this painting is unique in the production of Fuseli, there are no more iconography related with Norse mythology in his work.

The painting represents the fight between Thor and the sacred serpent Midgard. The story is taken from Icelandic Snorri Sturlson’s Prose Edda (13th century), chapter XLVIII. Thor, son of Odin, member to the As lineage, is one of the most powerful gods. He has to fight with Midgard serpent so, he sails a little boat with the giant Hymir. He cut the head of an ox and used I as bait in the hook to attract the magic and powerful serpent. Midgard fell into the trap and in that moment Thor and the serpent look each other eyes. In that moment Hymir cut the hook and the serpent was free and came back to the lake, but Thor threw his hammer Mjolnir and banged in the head of Midgard killing it.

If we watch carefully the painting we can identify the elements of the tale: down, drawing a spiral we see the imponent serpent Midgard, it is trapped by the hook. Over the boat there are Thor and Hymir. Thor stands catching the trap with one hand and brandishing his powerful hammer in the other to kill the serpent. The giant is frightened, but in that moment he´ll liberate the serpent but it´s later, Thor will kill Midgard with Mjolnir.

The composition is spectacular, with the almighty Thor, nude, in contraposto, just like the ancient Greek statues. Here Fuseli goes ahead to the male nudes paintings of the 19th century. The serpent is also impressive, so big and strong, but writhening in pain under the power of Thor.

The scene is located in a dark landscape: at night, in the shadows, a reminiscence of the Gothic Literature, that was born at the end of 18th century, just at the same time that Fuseli succeed as painter. There are more links between Fussli painting and Gothic Literature, one example is his most famous painting The Nightmare (1783).

I hope this post is interesting for you.

Mithras Tauroktonos of Cabra (Córdoba)

"Mithras Tauroktonos of Cabra". (2nd - 3rd century A.D.). All rights reserved.

This is the second time I talk about the Persian cult of Mithas that was expanded all over the Roman Empire by the Legions. The piece I´m going to coment is one of the proofs that reveals that this cult arrived to the occidental part of the Empire. This is not the only rest found in Iberic Peninsula, there are more evidences in Mérida, Braga, Tarragona, San Juan de la Isla or Caldas de Reyes. In all these places have appeared rests of reliefs or paintings, also parts of Mithraeums (the buildings where was practiced this cult). However, the Mithras of Cabras is the only exent sculpture piece of Mithras in the wellknown pose called Tauroktony in Spain.

The Tauroktony represents the main point of the Mithraic cult: Mithras killing the bull with some other elements that are constant in the tauroctonies found all over Europe. Mithras wears a phrigian hat that relates him to Persia. With one hand takes the head of the bull and with the other sticks a Knife in the neck. The bull is sat over a rock and around it appears some animals: an scorpion sticks its pincers on the bull’s genital organs, a serpent bites its back, and a dog –the Mithras companion- licks the blood that flows from the neck of the bull.

The sculpture from Cabra is made in white marble and its dimensions are 0,93 meters high. According with the Professor Antonio García y Bellido, we could date the piece at the end of second century or at the beginning of third century A.D. The sculpture is an average figure, not a masterpiece, due to the disproportion of the elements: the bull is shorter, the scorpion is bigger and the dog is also shorter comparing with the male figure. The artist who sculpted this piece wasn´t an expert artist but knew perfectly the scene that had to represent, maybe he knew drawings or reliefs of the Tauroktony because the elements are located in similar position as the tauroctonies all over Europe (Vatican Museum, British Museum, Aquincum, etc.).

This Mithras sculpture let us think that in Cabra should be placed an important Mithraic center, and this sculpture should be located in an important mithraeum.

I visited last year the Archeology Museum of Córdoba, where is located nowadays this sculpture, and I kept fascinated contemplating it. It is not a masterpiece but let me thought in that important mystery cult born in Persia that was spread all over the Roman Imperium. This cult was very important at that age, just at the same time of the growing of Christianism. These were two rival religions and nowadays we don´t know exactly why Christianism was the winner.

If you want to learn more about the Mithras of Cabra:

http://descargas.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/13572730989824832754491/021908.pdf?incr=1

The sacrifice of Odin

Lorenz Frølich. "The sacrifice of Odin". (1895). All rights reserved.
One of my points of interest in Art History is the iconography of Norse Mythology. There are many masterpieces based in the norse texts, mainly from 19th century due to nordic renaissance because of the Romantic ideals of recovering ancient past of each nation all over Europe. One of this artists is the Danish Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908), the author of this image.

Frølich was formed in Arts in Denmark but lived in Paris, Germany and London. So, his sources came from the French plen-air, the British Pre-Raphaelism and, of course the Golden Age of the Nordic and German renaissance, a very strange mix. Though he paint some important canvases, his favourite media was the print, because of it many of his well-known works are prints.
There are two main books of Norse Mythology: the Prose and the Poetic Edda. The source for the engraving I present in this post is one poem of the Poetic Edda. This poem relates how Odin sacrifices himself in the windswept  tree. This sacrifice was motivated by Odin to obtain the absolute wisdom. He spent hung nine days and nine nights in this tree and received the supreme knowledge of the runes.

The runes are the magic alphabet in Norse Mythology and we can find samples of them in runestones all over the Nordic countries, England and Germany. It´s not clear from what age they come, probably the most ancient of them are dated in 2nd century BC. Today, runes are being used in magic, using them to cast, in a way to find yourself and to view the future. Respecting these practices I prefer to consider runic inscriptions and runestones from an artistic point of view.

The print of  Frølich draws the allmighty god Odin suffering hung in the tree, while the supreme wisdom is being revealed. Odin is drawn as an old and powerful man, with a long and white-haired beard. He is almost nude except by a woollen cloth. If we look at the tree, it´s composed by curved branches, surrounding the body of Odin, very close to the Art Nouveau style, widespread all over Europe in the fin de siècle. Obviously Frølich knew this style, probably from his time in France. This fact is emphasized by some animals as deers and birds that links again the image to Modernism.

The image of Odin has been represented in many occasions with several iconographic characteristics. This is the first post about Odin, but I´ll post more interesting images of this almighty God from Norse Mythology.

The mirrored Jesus of Michael Hussar

Michael Hussar. "Sweet Jesus". (2004). All rights reserved.

The 18th century was the age of descending of the religious art. From then on the profane art occupied the first position instead the sacral. But in fin de siecle age happened a big change concerning the Religious Art, there appeared the blasphemous Art. One of the protagonist of this current was the Belgian Fèlicien Rops. So, the 20th was a wide land for blasphemies in Art.

Today’s post is not about an strictly blasphemous image, even more, the image I present could reflect one of the mysteries of Christianity: the Holy Trinity.

I´m not sure if Michael Hussar knows the tradition of representing the Trinity by a three-headed figure. This iconography, according to Julius von Schlosser, was founded in 13th century in France by transforming a three-headed Celtic god. No doubt, this way is a convincing way to show this complex dogma of the Christianity. This iconography succeed all over Europe in the following centuries but was finally forbidden in Trent Council. The reason was that this was a monstrous image, far from the original dogma. For instance, the Protestants called it the christian Cerverus. But this fact couldn´t be effective in Latin America where this kind of representations stood alive till 19th century.

I wan to see in this artwork of Michael Hussar a modern view of three-headed Trinity. But in fact the intention of Hussar seems to manipulate the face of Christ mirroring half of it. The face has three eyes, two noses and a distorted mouth showing some teeth. The whole head is crowned by thorns, an down appears two hands that hold an organic cross.

The mirror is not perfect: Hussar modifies elements of the face to create an identity, not a simple double face. The hair of Jesus is brushed in the shape of two ringlets. There are strange elements, something like tears close to the mouth that could come from the central eye.

The whole image produces restlessness, it´s pathetic. The deformation of the face is the way to transmit the pain, the horror of Christ in the moment of torture and crucifixion. I want to compare this image with the bloody bodies of Spanish baroque Christs. Either we think this image represent the Trinity or a simple distortion of the face of Christ, It’s no doubt a contemporary way of transmitting suffering and pain.

We are living in a materialist world and it´s not usual to find Art to makes us to reflect about transcendental ideas. It´s not necessary to be Christian to look at this image and think about the human condition, the transcendental or the life after death. A painting to reflect.

An sculpture of Bernhard Hoetger in Darmstadt

Bernhard Hoetger "Dyonisus riding a leopard" (1911-14). All rights reserved.

One of the places more impressive for me is the Matildenhöhe colony in Darmstadt (Germany). From 1899 to 1914 it was a place of cultural and artistic avantgarde, leading the Jugendstil movement (aka Art Nouveau). The colony was a place to combine living and Art, a place where beauty and design is continuously surrounding you. There, the german Jugendstil artists led by Joseph Maria Olbrich (who was brought from Vienna, member of the Wiener Secession) built this fantastic colony. They design everything: from the town planing to interiors, all the houses, gardens, towers, museums, galleries… Everything yo find in Darmstadt is a piece of Art.

I visited the Matildenhöhe several years ago and I still remember the so impressive artistic landscape. There are many many things to talk about the colony, so I have chosen for this post an sculpture from Bernhard Hoetger that stands in the entrance of the main garden.

Bernhard Hoetger (1874-1949) was a german sculptor from Hörde (Westfalia). He sympathised with stone masonry and from then on entered in a workshop for church furnishings and attended to sculpture classes in Düsseldorf. So he could start working as sculptor in Paris, Darmstadt, Berlin and Beatenburg. He stood in Darmstadt from 1911-1914, the last years of splendor of the colony. There he sculpted many statues, mainly in the colony main garden.

The present sculpture was made in bronze over an stone basement. The figures are a leopard and a child over it. Though many of the elements of the colony have christian roots (for example the russian-style church located in the garden) I think our sculpture belongs to the pagan tradition. The image of a child riding a leopard drives us to the greek god Dyonissus, associated with the ecstasy. This time Dyonissus appears as a child, resting over the leopard back. The composition isn´t classic at all, both are foreshortened figures, doing an strange composition, proper to the Jugendstil. The use of the god Dyonissus could drive us to Aby Warburg Art theory, where across the ages there are two forces: one is linked with Apollo (equilibrium, self control) and the other with Dyonisus (ecstasy, passion). Maybe Hoetger wanted to remark the Dyonisiac character of the Jugendstil in Darmstadt.

Also the basement is an interesting element to analyze, characteristic of Jugendstil: the typography. This element is proper of all Art Nouveau types. Everywhere the Art Nouveau grew, the artists created new typographies. Surely you remember the Paris Metro type and Alphonse Mucha letters, just to remark the most wellknown examples. This time Hoetger has designed a type characterised by the rectangular shape of all the letters, inside which he draws lines to differentiate between each one.

This is only one of the artistic treasures you can find in the Matildenhöhe in Darmstadt. I do recommend to visit this magic place. An experience of ecstasy for the senses.

Bibliography:

“Künstlerkolonie Matildenhöhe Darmstadt (1899-1914). The Museum Book”. Institut Matildenhöhe Darmstadt 1999.

The Sun God in the Mithraeum of St. Prisca

All rights reserved

Mithraism is a Religion of Indo-Iranian origins that was adopted by the roman soldiers in the Persian campaigns and was spread by them all over the Roman Empire. I was one of the most important religions in the late Empire, this cult was a feature of it for 400 years, being even the oficial religion in times of Aurelian in 274 a.C. when the Sol Invictus cult was declared official. This situation was no longer exist after Constantine declares official the Christianism in 313 a.C. There were a fight inbetween this two religions and finally Christianism became established.

Mithraism has been studied since the end of 19th century by Franz Cumont, the first one to studied and compile a vast material in a series of books and writings and today there are many works about this misteric cult. However, Mithraism has been studied in different points of view: Reeligion, History and Archeology, but I don´t know too many publications that raise the matter from the perspective of Art. Modestly, I’ll post some images concerning the artistic point of view about Mithaism.

So, the first one is related to the main divinity of the Mithraism that is not usually represented: the Sun God or Sol Invictus. The image I present comes from the Mithraeum of St. Prisca in Rome. There was a building dated in 95 a.C. that lately was rebuilt as Mithraeum before 202 a.C. later buried by the christian church of St. Prisca in which basement has survived the mithraeum. This let us affirm that this representation was done in the beginnings of third century.

I would like to comment one fact about the festivity of Sol Invictus. It was located in the calendar on December 25th, and the importance of it let us know why the Christianised Roman Empire deceided to put on top the birth of Jesus Christ over the Sol Invictus day. The religion of Christ must put over the rival Religion.

The image represents the head of the Sun God in a wall painting. It´s a personified divinity. It’s a round head, almost a circunference, attribute of the solar sphere. The face colour, orangey yellow, reminds also the brilliant Sun. He is placed over an intense blue background that surely represents the deep sky. The disheveled hair seems to represent the solar rays. In the face appears some blue parts as lips, pupils and an eyebrow, surely this is not the original colour and it´s due to the damage of the painting.

I also want to note about the expression: the head is partially turned to the right, we can see it by the position of the head respect the neck and the perspective of the head, cause we can see the left side more than the right one. Also the look is important: the God looks above, He is not looking to the viewer, he is above the humans, he belongs to the Sky and don´t pay attention to the humans. The God doesn´t communicate directly with the mankind, but there exist a hero that connects this two worlds, sacred and human, and he is Mithras. In further posts I´ll discuss about this important figure in Mithraism.

Coming back to the painting, the draw and the colours, the expression of the face, the look, talk about an experienced painter. This let us affirm that this is an important painting within the Mithraic art.

As I mentioned above, the Mithraic representations haven´t been considered in an artistical point of view, but I affirm that there are important reasons to research in this way.

Bibliography:

Kyle Meredith Phillips, Jr. Reviewed work: The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Prisca on the Aventine by M. J. Vermaseren; C. C. Van Essen. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Mar., 1966), pp. 115-116+118.

Alex Brattell. Mithraic Mysteries. On Magazine, Tursa Press, London, 1996, pp. 23-26