Sometimes the most simple images are the most erotic. This is merely a sketch, but it is quite evocative. Since love and sex are often imbued with many mysteries, a simple sketch as this, which leaves much to the imagination and yet still expresses pure sexual passion, is quite nice. A few simple lines of art can say quite a bit, which is why art is such a powerful force of expression for all the wondrous aspects of life.
Odysseus was a great figure from Greek mythology: he was the king of Ithaca who fought in the Trojan War for ten years; after the war he spent the next ten years attempting to return home while enduring many trials and tribulations, not only among cannibals and cyclopes, sea monsters and sirens, but also among lovely women such as Circe and Calypso. The painting above is of Odysseus and Calypso. I am not sure who the artist is, but it looks like something from the 19th century.
There were different attitudes towards Odysseus in the ancient world: the Greeks both loved and hated him, since he was the prototype of not only a great war hero, but also of an amoral man who would say or do anything to achieve his goals. The Romans simply hated him, as they saw him as a symbol of what they considered the sleazy and duplicitous character of the Greeks in general.
There are many different depictions of Odysseus throughout the history of literature, but my favorite depiction of Odysseus is that of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two great, ancient Greek epic poems at the fountain head of all Western literature. In these poems Odysseus is not only a great man of action but also a man of great intellect: two things which have always been prized, but especially so in the ancient Greek world. The fact that he endured many things, journeyed to many different places, and had to suffer much before he could return home from the Trojan War has always caught the imaginations of generations for over three thousand years.
There is a classic epithet used for Odysseus by Homer, the poet behind the Iliad and Odyssey: “polytropos” which roughly means “a man of many turns”. This is often interpreted as either “a man who is much traveled or wandering” or “a man who is wily and crafty”. The meaning is ambiguous, and deliberately so, since Odysseus was all of these things. Which shade of Odysseus one prefers, is usually left up to the reader of whatever work in which Odysseus is being portrayed.
What I like is that Odysseus had to go through many things in life, and although my life is certainly not as glamorous as his, the story of someone having to endure different trials is one with which most people can identify. This is one of the reasons why Odysseus has been and remains to this day one of the most enduring figures in all of literature. It is one of the reasons I have chosen to use his name as my moniker. It seems appropriate at this point in my journey of blogging.
The Gothic cathedral is one of the great wonders and creations of Western Civilization. Along with the great Pyramids of Gaza, they stand out as testament to an age of deep religious faith, an age when love for things divine drove men to create magnificent structures of such beauty. It has hard to imagine in today’s world entire cities and societies laboring together to create any structure, but in the Medieval period this is exactly what was needed in order to build the cathedrals. Often it took decades, even centuries to complete one. People spent their entire lives working on them.
The Cathedral shown here is the famous Cathedral of Chartres, in France. Begun in 1194, it was most likely finished around 1260, although one of the bell towers was a later addition, as can be seen by the different size and style of the two towers. Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Gothic cathedral can’t really be described in words: the only way to really appreciate one is to simply experience it in person. Photographs do poor justice to how powerful these structures are as an expression of religious faith. In addition, the light that flows from the wonderful stained glass windows can never be appreciated except, again, by being in a cathedral. What can be appreciated even from a distance is the complexity of the structure, the skill and dedication required to build such a monument to faith, and the faith of the age that created it. To the medieval mind God was always present, and the cathedral is the ultimate expression of man’s longing for union with the divine.
Even though we are separated in today’s world by these great buildings by more than seven centuries, and a vastly different culture, these cathedrals are still living spaces, still used for religious services, still part of the heritage that binds us to the people who once spent their entire lives creating such wonders of pure, awe inspiring beauty.
The great Italian Renaissance artist Raphael has always been one of my favorites. Today’s world demands vulgarity and profanity; the art of Raphael depicts love and beauty. I write often about the sexual dimensions of beauty, or eroticism, but for too long now I have neglected the spiritual. Recently I have felt that pull again, after a few years of doubt and wandering. It is strange how the power of God can keep beckoning you even when you seem so far from anything divine.
Art is a great tool for the expression of the more mysterious things of our world. The spiritual is by its very nature mysterious. This particular piece by Raphael is a product of the High Renaissance (circa 1512), a short time when classical harmony and Christian spirituality were perfectly blended. This did not last long, no, the world is too difficult for that, but the great works of this time have withstood the test of time and remain to this day some of the finest expressions of beauty, especially spiritual beauty, ever created.
I particularly love beauty that speaks to something deeper in our world, to something mysterious and eternal, to something which can nourish both the mind and the soul with wondrous joy at the possibilities of what exist beyond our daily existence.
Such were the works of this great artist.
A good artistic nude is always nice to see. When I came across this, I knew had to make a quick post. It is certainly an interesting combination of different elements!
There is seemingly an infinite variety of ways to express beauty…
I have written a post on this great French painter before; but good art can always be appreciated without end.
Lorrain (1600-1682) was a French painter who specialized in landscapes. He has always been one of my favorite painters. I find his landscapes to be the best expression ever created of a poetic vision of the natural world. During the summer months I am often reminded of him, especially during the early mornings hours or later in the day, when the cicadas are humming and the sun is performing her miracles of shade and light in the world around us.
Another landscape painter from a later era, John Constable, described Claude as “the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw”. And he perhaps sums up his work nicely by simply saying: “all is lovely – all amiable – all is amenity and repose; the calm sunshine of the heart”
“The calm sunshine of the heart” is itself a nice, poetic way of describing Claude’s landscapes. I really cannot think of another painter who better captured the calm beauty of a summer’s day, when the light and warmth envelop our world, and the lovely gifts of nature, especially the verdant trees, are seen through a soft patina of a hot and humid atmosphere. Under such conditions all we wish to do is relax, enjoy life, and delight in the present moment. We know summer will pass and winter will eventually come. The winter can bring clear and sharp and forcible days, cold and snow and ice and bitter blue skies; the summer seems to bring the lovely caresses of a calmer, more joyous world of repose and repast. I can find no work where Claude painted a winter scene. I suppose like most of us, he preferred summers.
In short, I love the poetic beauty of his paintings; each summer I am reminded of them, and each summer they only seem to get better and better. Now that we are in the height of this summer’s season, his works once again take on a special meaning for me.
I find few things more pleasant than a well done nude painting or photograph. As in all visual arts, the use of shade and color is always important, and I enjoy how different artists enhance natural beauty by the use of different techniques. The purplish hue of this photo is particularly nice, as is, of course, the woman being photographed. Our natural form, when well presented, is always a source of inspiration, and this photograph is quite lovely.
These are a couple of nice photos for a quiet Saturday. I do not know enough about photography to know what is going on here, as far as the technique or what it is called, but I like the effect of these photos. The incandescent atmosphere seems to enhance her natural beauty in a way that most images suffused with various shades and colors do not. There is a sharp brilliance, not soft and nebulous, as I tend to display in most of the photos here, but something crystalline, like a sharp and beautiful diamond.
Then again, the artistic depiction of beauty is like a diamond or some other precious jewel; we are often absorbed by the pellucid vision that is set before our eyes, marveling that in a world which often contains much darkness and ugliness, God can grant us such pellucid visions of his own loving creation.
And such things can, in turn, give us hope for the future.
Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516) was a Venetian painter, renowned for his contribution to the development of oil painting in Italy, a medium which began primarily in Northern Europe. One of this most famous students was the great Titian. Throughout his career he painted many religious works, and he seems to have possessed a deep spirituality. His later religious works, such as this one, reflect a certain noble calm and serenity of a man who has fully lived life.
This work of Bellini’s, The Madonna of the Meadow (1505), is a nice painting, flushed with a calm poetic atmosphere, deeply spiritual and meditative. I have always been struck by the landscape, the cool winter colors, the clear light, seemingly reflected in the soft, white head scarf of the Madonna and the clouds behind her, also white, pure and drawing us into the great expanse of the blue sky, of heaven and divinity itself. The Christ child seems lifeless, foreshadowing the eventual moment when Mary will embrace the lifeless body of her Son following his crucifixion. The landscape is also barren: clearly it is winter, there are no leaves on the trees, the grass is brown and dead, and life seems empty. And yet as a religious work of Christian art, it must ultimately hint at the hope of the resurrection and eternal life. The joys of everlasting life with God are always the final message of all Christian art, even if that particular artwork reflects the darker moments of life here on earth. Such are mystical contradictions inherent in all good works of religious art. Bellini’s use of color, atmosphere, and calm, serene figures capture all these elements quite well. All in all it is a beautiful piece of art.
As I have often said here, I believe that great art can lead the soul to a deeper union with God. Bellini is a good example of that.
The great Venetian painter Titian (1488-1596) produces this masterpiece in 1538. Although it is named after the ancient goddess of sex and love, within the framework of the painting there is little indication of her divinity. Rather, what we see is a nude woman, covering her most alluring area, staring straight at us. Apparently painted as a wedding present for the Duke of Urbino to celebrate his marriage, it is thought that the open eroticism of the work is meant to convey a not so subtle message to his young bride about the importance of sex and sensuality. What makes the work still alluring for us today is the near perfection of the female form, the contrast between her softness, her curves and sensuality, the warmth of her smooth flesh and the cascading flow of her blonde hair; and yet all the while she is framed by a rather linear, architectural and domestic background. It is sex and sensuality brought into our public world, as we are invited into her private world of love and pleasure.
Yet we can imagine how such a blatantly erotic work would have its detractors. A person of no less stature than Mark Twain said of the painting: “the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses It was painted for a bagnio, and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong” Yet in he went on to add, in typical Twain humor, “in truth, it is a trifle too strong for any place but a public art gallery”.
We can excuse such a great humorist and satirist as Mark Twain for what may be nothing more than a mockingly shocked reaction to this painting. However one may react to this, it is a great work of art, having endured now for nearly five hundred years, and still as powerful today as it was when it was first painted. It shows how beautiful depictions of eroticism and the female form have been and will continue to be a universal and permanent part of our world.