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.

The Regal Twelve

Today I´m going to talk about Alexia Sinclair, a Digital Photographer, born in Newcastle in 1976 and formed as artist in Sidney where became Master in Fine Arts. She won Australian Fine Art Photographer award, ans since then she has exhibited in many numerous exhibitions including at the Australian Centre for Photography and the Art Gallery of NSW. She works with digital photography treating the images with digital software including many layers for each image.

In 2007 she presented her most acclaimed series of images called The Regal Twelve, where she took twelve important women of our History. Taking models for each photography she dressed each one to represent the historic women and later added several layers to contextualize the character in her location and time. There is a common element in each image, the beauty of the models, a way to sublimate the real characters she pretends to representate.

So, today I´m going to comment several images of this series. The first one, Isabel la Católica, Queen of Spain at the end of 15th century.

Alexia Sinclair. "Isabella of Spain (The Catholic)". (2007). All rights reserved.

The character is a young woman with brown hair and ponytails, her face is make up with dark shadws surrounding the eyes, and she wears a beautiful stamped dress. No doubt, these elements are inventions, cause the Queen was really a very austere person. On the contrary, Alexia Sinclair has located the queen in a more realistic place: a medieval cloister, where we can see a retablo with a Madonna and saints, which is related with the religious feeling of the queen. Other elements talks about the characteristics of Isabel: she holds a caravel that represents the conquer of America. In the other hand she holds a rosary, another sigh of her christian devotion. There are also some books close to her, that symbolizes her fond of reading. We know Isabel la Católica had a very important collection of books as the important “Libro de Horas de Isabel la Católica”.

Alexia Sinclair. "Elizabeth Bathory (The Countess of Blood)". (2007). All rights reserved.

Another woman in the series is the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the blood countess. She was born in Hungary in 1560 and died in 1614. I don´t know what is the reason to choose this woman, her only attribute is to be one of the first female serial killers of the History. She used to capture young maidens, to kill them with a knife and to take all their blood to take blood baths to stand always young. In the image we can see a sexy young countess who runs followed by a wolf, in a sexy pose, showing her leg. Her hair is mid brown mid red, her dress is composed by a red bodice, a blue skirt and a stole, and brings a rosary in her hand (this last element is opposite to the criminal spirit of this woman). The countess and the wolf runs through the fields, probably looking for a victim. Beside them we can see the Castle of Csetje, where she lived, but it doesn´t looks like the real castle of Elizabeth Bathory. There is also a very big moon in the sky, that means the countess is somekind of werewolf.

Alexia Sinclair. "Cleopatra (The Seductress)". (2007). All rights reserved.

The last image I´m going to comment is Cleopatra. Cleopatra is surely one of the most sexy queens of the History and because of that the model chosen for the photography is the most congruent of the whole series. Alexia Sinclair is representing probably the death of the Queen, when she is bitten by the serpent. Her imagination let’s Cleopatra appears half naked dressing somekind of mesh that partially covers her body. More realistic is the crown Cleopatra wears on her head, I think with the feather, symbol of Maat, the Justice. Cleopatra is sat in a golden throne inside an aisle painted with Egyptian hieroglyphics.

All the images try to contrast historical elements with contemporary ones. The models, as I mentioned before, are on the contrary of the real persons represented in the series, which approximates the images more to a model photo session than a historical investigation. Anyway Alexia Sinclair uses perfectly the techniques of digital photography because she is able to integrate perfectly the different layers. She is able to present us some realistic non-realistic historical women.

You can see the whole series and other works of Alexia Sinclair here.

Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. "Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends". (1868). All rights reserved.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is one of my favourite Victorian painters. He was mainly a history painter, with so celebrated paintings of the Roman Empire. For me, he is the best painter of marble, he has an special touch when he represents this material. However, this post is dedicated to a previous age painting: the Athens of sculptor Phydias. This painting is dated in 1868, was made oil on wood and today is located in Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

The image drives us to Ancient Greece, concretely to Athens in 447 and 432 BC when the sculptor Phydias decorated the Parthenon and made the crysoelephantine statue of Athenea which haven’t survived today. We have a wrong idea about the Greek buildings and temples: today we can only see the white of the marble they were built but we have lost the original colors they were decorated. Alma-Tadema wanted to show this mistake to the Victorian society through this painting. Really, this painting in 19th century caused a long discussion in the intellectuals of that period. The current researchs affirm that Greek buildings and their reliefs and sculptures were painted.

In the image we can see Phydias in the center of the composition, in a scaffolding around the frieze of the Parthenon where his friends watch thoroughly the reliefs. Phydias doesn´t look to the frieze, he is looking back, reflecting, knowing his relief is a masterpiece. He is a mature man with a long grey beard and he has the plans of Parthenon in his hands. As we can see, the frieze is painted in colors, very different of the image we have of the Elgin marbles conserved today in British Museum.

The part of the frieze we can see doesn´t show the main part of it, where the Gods are represented, it´s focused to the part of the Panatheneas (holidays in honour to Athenea) where the knights drives their horses in the procession.

There is also another interesting point, the dresses of Phydias and his friends correspond exactly with the Greek dresses of that age. No doubt, Alma-Tadema did an accurate research about these wears. We can image perfectly how men and women participated of the social life of Ancient Greece. I like so much this painting because it tells accurately about a past age, the glorious period of Ancient Greece.