The Autonomous Woman

I’m still looking at her. I lied in the previous post about ambivalence. I know very well that she is informed, not defined, by other people’s abuse.  This post is too long for comfort, but if you want to see Artemisia Gentileschi meet Jane Austen, read on.

marymagdaleneArtemesiaG The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

“Till this moment I never knew myself”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

Of all women, why should the Magdalene repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a triumphant victim of patriarchy who earned her own living, became a player in global religion, and a legendary heroine of romance, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not patronize her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account. We are looking at her at the moment she knows herself.

Gentileschi also cast Mary Magdalene, the sinning woman, as the personification of  Melancholy, an ambivalent attribute.

ArtemisiaGentileschiMaryMagdaleneMelancholy

Artemisia Gentileschi, Maria Maddalena come la Malinconia 1621 -25.
Oil on canvas. Museo del Soumaya, Mexico City. Image: Wikipedia.

The Renaissance began the modern cultivation of melancholy, or predisposition to depression, as a desirable creative condition, on the dubious premise that the more you suffer, the better your art. This has been proved true only in cases where there is pre-existing talent and a strong technique. Intensity of feeling alone never wrote a good book or painted a great picture. greatest struggle is to transmute personal experience into art

Gentileschi’s interpretation of a passive Temperament is characteristically unromantic: the sensual, dishevelled Magdalene is slumped in her chair, looking like a lethargic and sulky teenager, the opposite of her usually dynamic heroines.

Gentileschi (the daughter, not the father, the overshadowed Orazio, a dutiful father and fine painter in his own right) is a colussus straddling art and gender history. Continue reading

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Enlightened Britain died tonight

Brexit Parliament denies animal sentience

morning walk
Gainsborough The Morning Walk 1785 National Gallery

Our elected representatives in Parliament appear to be the unreasonable animals who do not feel pain or emotions as they devour the best of Britain’s past and future. The EU Withdrawal Bill is a withdrawal from civilization.

“….Brexit is corroding the national consensus on what sort of country we are, tearing the fabric of our society, and pointing us in a third-world direction.” A.C. Grayling, The New European

War on Nonsense

Lord Rochester with monkey by Huysmans c. 1675. Image: WGA

Extracted from Twitter thread of Sean Jones QC:

“Brexit fanatics’ responses to my arguments take two broad forms:

1. Shut up, traitor. You lost, just get over it!
2. Why not stop sulking, come together with us and work for a jobs-first, bountiful Brexit?

…..what do I say to the invitation to collaborate in an imaginary pain-free Brexit?

It’s not an invitation I propose to accept, for three reasons:

1. I believe Brexit is an act of national self-harm in all its conceivable forms, and with there still being a reasonable chance it won’t happen, that’s what I want to advocate, and work towards.

2. It would not be like joining a collective Amish barn-raising. After demolishing the existing, perfectly good barn, there is still no unity of Brexiter vision, or purpose, about what to do next. The loudest of them are against having a new barn on principle.

3. Even if those anarchist Amish could be stopped from questioning what the negotiations are intended to achieve, what am I expected actually to do? The answer to that question is clear. What they actually mean is… Shut up. Just stop pointing out the dangers. Stop identifying the harm. We’d rather not be reminded of reality. We’ll go on putting up our vaguely barn-shaped shack made of balsa wood and papier-mache.

Put aside how sinister that it is. It’s also stupid. With a project this hazardous, risk-blindness will all but guarantee failure. We are seeing it in the negotiations right now. A refusal to do the basics: to realistically assess our bargaining position and be clear about our aims courts disaster.

If Remainers ever fell silent, all that would be left would be the sound of the wind rushing in our ears as we fell over the cliff.

I will take action. I will do all I can to help those confused by the Brexiters’ crass stupidity. And ultimately, I’m determined this nonsense will not happen.”
Sean Jones QC

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil with Studio Wall and Vanitas Still Life 1668.
Image: SMK.

With acknowledgements to C.O. for posting Sean Jones’ Twitter thread on Facebook

Ambivalence

Artemisia Gentileschi Susanna and the Elders 1610 Oil on canvas Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden.
Image: WGA
The first known work of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – c. 1653) is a classic study of sexual harassment. Other painters often portrayed Susanna looking coy, sometimes willing, a starlet enjoying the attention of producers at the pool.
This Susanna is unambivalently saying NO

Some male painters visualized Susanna leading her old, fat, powerful voyeurs on to commit a completely consensual act of physical contact.

  Alessandro Allori Susanna and The Elders 1561 Oil on canvas, Musée Magnin, Dijon. Image: WGA.
No ambiguity here, jusr a compliant girl and a cute dog in a male abuser’s fantasy.

“I have been bullied by men and women, but the first to bully me were women.” Noelle Mackay

hecate or the three fates blakeHecate or the Three Fates by William Blake, c. 1795. Tate Gallery London.
Image source: WGA

Hecate, sometimes on her own, sometimes three-headed, a triple deity, incarnates the ambivalence of all female power, from witchcraft to motherhood.

Artemisia Gentileschi The Penitent Mary Magdalen 1620-25
Oil on canvas, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. Image: WGA

Of all women, why should the Magdalen repent? As a composite of erotic and spiritual love, a victim of patriarchy who earned her own living and became a player in global religion, we should be honest enough to celebrate, not punish her.

Whatever the true source of her anguish, the distraught Magdalen is looking into the darkest shadows of her psyche. She is examining her own actions, thoughts and feelings, holding herself to account.

In 1611, when she was about 21, Artemisia Gentileschi was raped by her art teacher (Tassi). She and her father were not afraid of disclosure. During the trial, as part of checks on her virginity, Artemisia was tortured.

The abused women in her mature paintings are strong, introspective, assertive, independent.

Nothing frivolous intrudes on the monumental composition of her paintings, where a constant battle for light and dark is played out with unforgiving realism.

She painted women in moments of terrifying self-knowledge, finding reserves of violent, sometimes murderous, passion they had never guessed before. Her subjects are not victims or martyrs, projecting self-pity or self-promotion. They take responsibility for their actions and emotions. They are heroines, avengers and fighters for justice; they are autonomous women.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”
Jane Austen Mansfield Park 1814

 

 

The gift of kings

Matthew Paris Book of Additions c. 1250 Manuscript British Library, London
This African elephant was given to Henry III of England by Louis IX of France in 1254. Soon after its arrival during a cold English winter, the elephant was imprisoned in the royal menagerie, established in 1235, in The Tower of London. The elephant died three years later, in the “house of forty feet long and twenty feet deep” that had been specially built for it, after being given too much red wine to drink.

“[I WILL] PUT [MY] DECISION ON HOLD UNTIL SUCH TIME AS I REVIEW ALL …. FACTS” Donald Trump, 2017

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an Angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals….
Shakespeare, Hamlet, c. 1600

captured elephantPietro Longhi The Elephant 1774, Oil on canvas. This shackled Indian elephant was exhibited during the cold winter of Carnevale in Venice.

After claiming credit for the invention of Fake News, Trump now seems to believe he has invented rational leadership. He has postponed his decision to allow imports of elephant hunting trophies

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” Machiavelli, The Prince

“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.” Machiavelli, The Prince

elephantmerrygoround

Antoine Caron The Elephant Carousel, one of the famous, ground-breaking entertainments devised as part of Catherine de Medici’s political programme to augment the Valois dynasty during the second half of 16th century France. Our modern concept of performance arts derives from her vision; a political agenda is understandable, the abuse of a living animal is always inexcusable. Image: WGA

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” Machiavelli, The Prince, written 1513, published 1532.

NATURE’S GREAT MASTERPIECE, AN ELEPHANT (THE ONLY HARMLESS GREAT THING) John Donne

Antoine-Louis Barye Elephant from Senegal Bronze. Private collection. Image: WGA
Not shackled any more, but still running, always in danger from human cruelty, made up of stupidity, pride, envy and greed.

Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant
(The only harmless great thing), the giant
Of beasts, who thought none had to make him wise,
But to be just and thankful, loth to offend
(Yet nature hath given him no knees to bend)
Himself he up-props, on himself relies,
And, foe to none, suspects no enemies,
Still sleeping stood; vex’d not his fantasy
Black dreams; like an unbent bow carelessly
His sinewy proboscis did remissly lie.
(John Donne, stanza XXXIX from The First Song Of The Progress of the Soul, 1612)

Blame Projection

“They don’t have enough guilt or shame about what they’re doing to change course. …..when they blame others for their wrongful acts, it’s simply an attempt to justify their stance by casting themselves as being in a position where they simply had no choice but to respond the way they did. In this way, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate and manage the impressions of others.” Dr George Simon Playing the Blame Game

David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, warned other European nations that “putting politics above prosperity is never a smart choice.”

hypocrites
Detail of The Hypocrites by Gustave Doré, 1860.
Illustration of Canto XXIII of The Divine Comedy: The Inferno in which Virgil and Dante reach the valley of the hooded hypocrites.

Putting politics above prosperity is the definition of the Conservative Government’s decision to hold the EU Referendum and to pursue a hard Brexit. The right wingers’ vision of Brexit is of prosperity for themselves, not the country at large which is threatened with extreme impoverishment.

Davis’s snide one upmanship, delivered with the demeanour of a car salesman fresh from his negotiating seminar, is the substitute for British diplomacy in Europe.

Brexit is a betrayal of the British people. The Government does not feel guilt or shame to change course, our parliamentary representatives are failing us, and if we do not act to stop the rot ourselves we will all be complicit in national decline and the ruin of many lives.

Rotting from the inside

Balthasar van der Ast, Basket of Fruits, 1625 Oil on wood, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Image: WGA

“[Grimsby] voted by 70 per cent to 30 per cent for Leave. Two weeks ago, the anxious representatives of one of the town’s biggest remaining industries, seafood processing, went to Westminster to petition MPs to grant Grimsby the exceptional status of a free trade port if we leave the Single Market….

[Cornwall’s] farmers reported that fruit and veg are rotting in its fields because so many EU migrant labourers have left since the referendum…The farming industry will collapse. The hospitality industry will collapse.”

Article by Jenni Russell in The Times, 16 November, 2017

Full article

Brexit heartlands want someone else to pay

Well here’s an irony. As Brexit in whatever form gets closer, and its damaging implications for trade and jobs start to become clearer, some of the regions, industries and groups that most enthusiastically supported Leave are starting to raise the alarm about its impact or demand special exemption from its consequences.

Take Grimsby. It’s one of the most deprived areas of Britain; it hasn’t flourished in the decades since we joined the EU and it voted by 70 per cent to 30 per cent for Leave. Two weeks ago, the anxious representatives of one of the town’s biggest remaining industries, seafood processing, went to Westminster to petition MPs to grant Grimsby the exceptional status of a free trade port if we leave the Single Market.

Grimsby is desperate to avoid the imposition of post-Brexit tariff barriers, delays and customs checks on its fish business, because it imports 90 per cent of its fish fresh from Europe. It is also worried about losing the 20 per cent of its workforce that comes from abroad. If Brexit goes ahead without any special concessions to Grimsby, then an industry that includes Young’s and The Saucy Fish Co, and that employs 5,000 people, fears it will lose its competitive edge to rival centres in Germany and France.

Cornwall wants special treatment too, after rejecting the EU by 57 per cent to 43 per cent…. Continue reading