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The Divine Comedy: Purgatory 2 The murder of Pia de’ Tolomei
Dante is being led by the ghost of Virgil up the steep crags at the foot of the island mountain of Purgatory. After negotiating their way around sheer cliffs, they come across a group of souls huddling under a large rock: these are the spirits of those who delayed... Read more
King Arthur’s women: 2 Queen Guinevere
If Morgan le Fay is a wicked witch for much of Arthurian legend, and only comes good as Arthur lies dying, Queen Guinevere turns out to be unfaithful, and is almost burned at the stake, a punishment normally reserved for witches. Morgan had a following in Italy, as Fata... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 4 Lust
Having seen the souls caught in Limbo (the First Circle of Hell), Dante and his guide Virgil descend to the Second Circle, where those who were guilty of the sin of lust are to be found. They pass the figure of Minos, who extracts a confession from every sinner... Read more
Introduction to Dante’s Divine Comedy
I’m reaching the end of my coverage of paintings of Goethe’s Faust, so it’s time to open another book which has been a major inspiration to and influence on visual art. This time it’s Dante Alighieri’s narrative poem, The Divine Comedy, which is divided into three parts: Inferno (Hell),... Read more
The Sight of Sibyls 2
In the first of these two articles, I showed paintings of Christian sibyls which were made before 1650, when they fell from favour. Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807), A Sibyl (1775), oil on canvas, 125.1 x 94 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons. In 1775, Angelica Kauffman painted this faithful copy of... Read more
Painting Goethe’s Faust: 5 Gretchen’s fall
In scene nineteen, Faust has seduced the innocent young Gretchen, and now intends consummating his lust that night. He provides her with a potion which he claims will ensure that her mother will sleep soundly, assuring her that it is safe. Scene twenty is set some time later, as... Read more
The Modern Christmas, paintings 1867-1921
For previous Christmases, I have shown collections of nativity scenes. This year, following on from the theme of a Dickensian Christmas, my selection shows Christmas festivities during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most are rather different from what we will be doing today. Dante... Read more
The Annunciation, old and new
The festival of the Annunciation is overshadowed by Lent and Easter. As tomorrow is Christmas Day, here is a look at some more unusual paintings of the annunciation to the Virgin Mary: one of the most popular themes in European art. The great majority of paintings of the annunciation... Read more
The Story in Paintings: Pre-Raphaelite tableaux
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) was formed as a close-knit and often co-habiting artistic group in 1848, in England. Its early doctrines were expressed in four declarations: to have genuine ideas to express, to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them, to sympathise with what is... Read more
Into the Light: Fernand Khnopff, more than a portrait
Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (1858–1921) seems to have become filed in the ‘Symbolist – too difficult’ tray and vanished into art history’s all-too-common voids. As I hope to show here, although not a particularly prolific artist (he was also a sculptor and designer), he painted works of mysterious... Read more