Thursday, October 30, 2014

Study for a Lady in Black, 1859

Study for a Lady in Black

Emile Carolus-Duran - 1859

Painting - oil on canvas

Height: 27 cm (10.63 in.), Width: 21 cm (8.27 in.)

Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille (France)

Image via the Athenaeum

Widow, n.d.

Widow, n.d.

Alfred Stevens

Style: Romanticism

Genre: genre painting

Technique: oil

Material: canvas

Dimensions: 61 x 50.2 cm

Gallery: Private Collection

Image via WikiArt

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

La Gloria - A Spanish Wake 1864

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 145.40 x 219.20 cm (framed: 182.50 x 257.00 x 10.50 cm)

Credit: Purchased with a contribution from John Ritchie Findlay 1897

National Galleries of Scotland

Phillip considered 'La Gloria' to be his masterpiece. Its large scale, moving subject, dramatic lighting and composition, and vibrant colour, all contribute its impact. The body of the dead child, illuminated by candlelight, is seen through the door-way at the left, where the grieving mother sits in deep shadow. Friends try to console her, while the passing of the child's soul directly to heaven is celebrated in the brilliant sunshine. At the time of its purchase in 1897, this was the most expensive painting the Scottish National Gallery had ever bought.

Varney the Vampire, or Feast of Blood (A Romance of Exciting Interest)

Image via Wikimedia

Varney the Vampire (yes, I keep reading it as a certain purple dinosaur at first glance too, and the image is sort of amusing) started off (un)life as a serialized publication in 1845, as one of the classic "penny dreadful" stories.  For those not in the know, penny dreadfuls were the pulp fiction of the 19th century.  The more lurid and over the top the story, the better.  Little matters like plot and characterization took a far back seat.  But having said that, they were wildly, madly popular, just like bad fiction still is today.  

At any rate, Varney's story ran for the better part of two years before being compiled into an actual book form, the front plate of which is shown above.  For all its cheesiness, Varney gave us a lot of the themes and tropes that inspired others to write into their own vampire fiction later on, up to and including Dracula. 

So after reading this, just keep in mind that Varney inspired Charlaine Harris to eventually create Eric Northman.  It all balances out.  

Image via the Museum of London

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pair of Vulcanite bangles: c.1850

Pair of Vulcanite bangles: c.1850

Pair of bangles, vulcanite imitating jet, a springy expanding stiff band with Greek key decoration, buckle clasps, English, mid-19th century.

Artist/Photographer/Maker:  Unknown

Date: 1850

Museum of London

Consolation, 1867


Artist: Auguste Toulmouche

Completion Date: 1867

Style: Academicism

Genre: genre painting

Technique: oil

Material: canvas

Dimensions: 65.4 x 55.2 cm

Gallery: Private Collection

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two Funeral Mutes, ca. 1831

A common sight in Great Britain were funeral mutes, also sometimes called the Undertaker's Mutes or a Funeral Bearer.  Pictured here are two such mutes - actually the faces look identical in these two images, but we digress.  A funeral mute was an actual profession at the time, along with female professional mourners.  A mute was a symbolic representation of the deceased, and/or a protector of the same. They were dressed in full mourning attire along with possibly added added items, such as the standards shown here, the long, wide sashes, and the trailing, enfolding hat treatments.  A mute dressed in white denoted the deceased was a child.  Sometimes they were set to mingle among the guests at the funeral, sometimes they were parked beside the deceased, other times they could be seen posted near the doorways as a sort of sentry.  Commonly, they were also supposed to escort the deceased to their burial in the funeral procession.

Professional mourners were an old set of occupations seen in many cultures, including much of Europe.  Sometimes the person was seen with a sort of stigma attached to them, because of their dealing with the dead, and thus possible bad luck. They were also seen as a mark of status, since their services tended to come at a comparatively steep price. Funerals of the very wealthy sometimes had multiple mutes. The direct opposite of a mute would be a "weeping woman", also known by a variety of other names, whose job it was to shriek, cry and tear at her garments and possibly also her hair and face, to be a conspicuous show of the family's bereavement.  

These types of jobs declined rapidly in the early part of the 20th century, when elaborate mourning rituals began to wane in popularity and funeral practices themselves began to change dramatically. 

A Funeral Bearer. 'Mutes' were hired to lead funeral processions. They wore white or black sashes and carried staffs draped in cloth. The use of white stood for the funeral of a child. Mutes were a common sight in the capital, especially while church cemeteries and vaults in the centre of London were still used for burials.

Artist/Photographer/Maker:  Robert William Buss

Date:  1831

Images via the Museum of London.