Tag Archives: 1863

Rubén Darío: The Princess is sad… (Sonatina)

10 Nov

Today I wanted to share this wonderful poem by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío called “Sonatina” published in 1896 in his poetry collection “Prosas Profanas”. I love all the vibrant visual imagery, all the details that the poet so vividly describes instantly transport me to a summer garden where the pale and sad princess resides, surrounded by fragrant dahlias and lilies, and peacocks and swans. How can anyone be sad in such a heavenly place!? I love the way her features are described; she has “mouth of roses”, and “strawberry lips”. And I especially love the stanza where the princess imagines how beautiful it would be to fly like a butterfly or a swallow.

James Abbott Mcneill Whistler, Le Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine, 1863-65

Sonatina

The princess is sad . . . from the princess slips
such sighs in her words from the strawberry lips.
Gone from them laughter and the warm light of day.
Pallid she is sat in her golden chair;
unsounded the keys of the harpsichord there,
and a flower, from a vase, has swooned away.

The peacocks in the garden parade their tails.
The duenna’s chatter is incessant and stales.
The pirouetting jester is tricked out in red,
yet nothing she cares for and she does not smile
but follows a dragonfly that flits the while
as vague in the east as is her dream-lost head.

Does a prince from China or Golconda approach,
does she think of one stepping from his silver coach,
bedazzled by her beauty in the sky’s soft blues,
to court her with islands of fragrant roses,
shower bright diamonds as a sovereign disposes,
or proud owners of pearls do, out of Ormuz?

Ah, the poor princess, with that mouth of roses,
thinks of butterfly and swallow, but supposes
how easily with wings she would soar up under
the bright ladders brought down from the sunlit day.
With lillies she would meet the fresh songs of May,
and be one with the wind in the ocean’s thunder.

Listless in the palace spins the spinning wheel;
in the magical falcon and jester no appeal.
The swans are as one in the lake’s azure swoon.
From west come the dahlias for the first in court,
from east the sad jasmines, south roses of thought,
from north the waterlillies, weeping from noon.

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, They toil not, neither do they spin, 1903

Her blue eyes see nothing but sad misrule:
into gold she is set and beset by tulle.
Days are poured out as from a heavy flagon,
haughtily they watch now over palace floors;
silent with the halberds are a hundred Moors,
sleepless the greyhound, and a colossal dragon.

Oh, to find freshness of the butterfly’s veil:
(The princess is sad. The princess is pale.)
Be silent as ivory, rose-coloured and gold!
Where will he fly to, the prince she had!
The princess is pale. The princess is sad,
more brilliant than the dawn is, a hundred fold.

Be patient, my princess: the horse has wings,
for you he is coming, the fairy godmother sings.
With a sword in the belt he has a hawk above,
and a kiss to ignite you, to vanquish death:
never has he seen you, but joyous the breath
from the prince who awakes you: you will be his love.

Miroslav Kraljević – Olympia (Homage to Manet)

15 Sep

A few months ago I wrote a post about the Croatian painter Miroslav Kraljević’s Parisian phase (1911-12) and today let us take a look at one particular painting from that phase called “Olympia” (1912). It is a direct homage to Edouard Manet’s controversial female nude “Olympia” (1863). Decades later, a painter from a provincial Austro-Hungary (now modern Croatia) had been so inspired by Manet’s painting that he had to paint his rendition of it. This just goes to show the immense influence of Manet on modern art.

Miroslav Kraljević, (Great Female Nude) Olympia, 1912

In 1911, after having spent awhile studying abroad in Munich where he had encountered the newest trends in art, the Croatian painter Miroslav Kraljević was back home in a town called Požega. In the peaceful and idylic small-town environment, Kraljević painted many self-portraits and landscapes, but still he was restless, perhaps slightly claustrophobic as well, and there was something his heart desired, a shiny red apple of sin he wanted to grab from the branch and sink his teeth into; Paris, with its vivacity, art, and the bright lights. He turned his fantasies into a reality in September 1911 when he travelled to Paris; the it place for an artist. He had been looking forward to seeing the works of the finest French painters, especially those of Edouard Manet. Apart from museums and galleries, Kraljević visited parks, cafes, bistroes and infamous places such as Moulin Rouge. As appropriate for the city he found himself in, his favourite motif in his Parisian phase was – the woman, more often than not nude or wearing very little clothes. And of course, as a hommage to his idol, Kraljević painted his own “Olympia” in 1912.

Female nude has been a popular motif in art for a long time, but when Edouard Manet painted his nude Olympia, it was seen as brash and shocking to the audience and critics. Why? Well, firstly because Manet didn’t bother to dress his painting up in mythology and allegory, and secondly because of the manner in which he painted her; realistic rather than idealised and highly eroticised. Inspired by Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (1532-34), Manet’s Olympia is visibly less sensuous and inviting. She looks like a dull, flat, paper doll. In fact, she looks uninterested, as if she’s saying “oh, it’s you again, ah well…” Olympia isn’t a Roman goddess that every man would desire, she is a realistic looking courtesan that was well-known to Parisian men of the upper classes. Manet stirred the waters of Parisian society by directly pointing out the hypocrisy and serving some hot realism on a platter.

Kraljević’s Olympia is equally pale and uninterested, looking directly in the viewer, without a trace of shame or shyness. She doesn’t have a waterfall of long, golden hair to sensually cover her nudity like a Baroque martyr would. Nope, she is flaunting her body, but, just like Manet’s Olympia, she is wearing dainty slippers; God forbid some madman with a foot fetish gets a thrill from looking at her feet, oh no. Kraljević painted her pale flesh in the same way he had approached his earlier portraits, with more visible brushstrokes and a sense of volume than Manet had done it. Around her are a few vibrant coloured cushions and we can see a bouquet of purple flowers on the right, echoing the flowers that the servant is presenting to Olympia, most likely a gift from a client. Colours in Kraljević’s painting are more warm and muted, which makes it seem more like a budoir scene whereas Manet’s painting shows Olympia as a doll in the shop-window. I wonder what Manet would have thought of this homage?…

Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

The Luncheon on the Grass

2 May

Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe or The Luncheon on the Grass is a very well known painting by Edouard Manet created in 1863. Without this painting there wouldn’t be Impressionism and without Impressionism there wouldn’t modern art. Every painting has a story, and I’m going to tell you this one.

1863.  Luncheon on the Grass by Manet small

Edouard Manet was born in 1832. in Paris. His family was affluent and well-connected. Auguste Manet, his father, being a judge, wanted the same career for his first born but Manet showed interest in art from an early age. He was especially encouraged by his uncle, Edmond Fournier, who took the little boy to Louvre. However, it is rather strange that his conservative father had not opposed his choice of career and in fact financially supported him.

Auguste Manet may have had a secret he did not want the young Manet to discover. Suzanne Leenhoff, a young piano teacher, was employed by Auguste to teach his sons, including Edouard, piano. She may have been Auguste’s mistress, we’ll never know for sure, but in 1852. she gave birth out of wedlock, to a son named Leon whose father may have been either of the Manets. After the death of his father, Manet married Suzanne in 1863.

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This painting shows much more than a naked woman having breakfast with two dressed men on a lawn. Described as idiotic, childish, shocking and incoherent by the newspapers, this painting was despised by the audience; they disliked the composition, the nude, the colour scheme,  the theme… But the thing that upset them the most was this provocative way that men were dressed and the woman was not. Shocking thing was that this naked lady wasn’t embarrassed about it; quite the contrary, she stares at her audience daring them to disapprove. Almost as if she was accusing them!

Scene depicted on the painting would have been illegal in those days; men having a luncheon with a naked woman who must have been a prostitute, no other women would do that. Imagine her reputation. However, nudity was acceptable when presented in roman style where women were dressed, or undressed as goddesses. That was acceptable, Manet’s painting was shocking.

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Perhaps motivated by the hypocrisy of his father, Manet had deliberately painted Luncheon on the grass to mock the old masters, tease the law and false morals and reveal insincerity of the society. To bad that Auguste died a year before this was painted. Perhaps Manet was disappointed in his father whose aura of respectability had no foundation. Who was August to preach about values and morals when in fact he wore a false mask of virtue. This painting expresses Manet’s disappointment with his father and the hypocrisy of the society in general.

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Two men on the portrait are Manet’s brother (on the right) and his brother in law, Suzanne’s brother, who are playing roles of an art students when in fact they were a real life artistic types. In those times students loved wearing silly hats and the man on the right is wearing one. Model for a nude lady who is having lunch with two dressed students was Victorine Meurent, a young Parisian girl, model to painters since the age of sixteen and a muse to Edouard Manet. When Manet found her, his art found direction. Victorine appears in many of his paintings such as Olympia, Woman with parrot, Street Singer and The Railway which proved to be her last sitting for Manet.

In the painting’s pyramidal composition we see another lady, in the background, who looks as if she was grabbing a water. Manet is mocking the old masters again for the lady would have been a muse in a mythological scene and here she is shamelessly having a pee. Parisians who lived in those times knew exactly what she was doing, so Manet is realistic in a way, portraying things as they were, not hiding immorality and closing his eyes; he also expressed this is his later painting such as Olympia and Woman with a parrot.

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Manet got the idea from the painting by Titian or Giorgione called The pastoral concert where the two man, musicians are dressed and they’re having a lovely  afternoon with two nude muses. The mood of the painting is luxurious and sensuous, slightly decadent, whereas Manet depicted typical Parisians from the time, having an orgy and behaving improperly, but sincerely; something that society had lost.

However, the actual composition is based on an engraving Judgement of Paris by Raimondi made on Raphael’s design. That’s called fighting the system from within. Manet used their weapon and shocked the audience with the finished painting. His nude is realistic, a new type of Venus, he portrayed the truth.

1510. The Pastoral Concert by Giorgione or Titian1510. The pastoral concert by Titian or Giorgione.

NO_USAGES =1515. Judgement of Paris by Raimondi made on Raphael’s design.

Maybe he intended to shock the audience, we’ll never now. However, this painting represents Manet’s loss of faith in society and morals, he felt betrayed by his father who set himself as an example of virtuosity when he was the opposite. With this painting Manet shows that he sees the society as it is; hypocritical and insincere.