Thursday, May 28, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Knight at the Crossroads

Viktor Vasnetsov, Knight at the Crossroads

I would not have guessed this was Russian, which just goes to show what I know.

According to Olga's Gallery, "In many Russian folk-tales there is such an episode when a traveling vityaz (knight) at the crossroads meets a rock with a not-very-much-inspiring choice:
If you go to the right – you'll loose your horse;
If you go to the left – you'll loose your life;
If you go forwards – you'll loose both…
Or a variation of these three."

Thanks, Olga!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Poor Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich

Peter I interrogates Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich at Peterhof, by Nikolai Ge, 1871, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Poor Alexai, tortured to death by his own father jut because he didn't want to be Tsar.

Jasper understands.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tu Marcellus Eris

Non illi se quisquam impune tulisset
obuius armato, seu cum pedes iret in hostem
seu spumantis equi foderet calcaribus armos.
Heu, miserande puer, si qua fata aspera rumpas,
tu Marcellus eris. manibus date lilia plenis,
purpureos spargam flores animamque nepotis
his saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani
munere."

No foe, unpunish'd, in the fighting field
Shall dare thee, foot to foot, with sword and shield;
Much less in arms oppose thy matchless force,
When thy sharp spurs shall urge thy foaming horse.
Ah! couldst thou break thro' fate's severe decree,
A new Marcellus shall arise in thee!
Full canisters of fragrant lilies bring,
Mix'd with the purple roses of the spring;
Let me with fun'ral flow'rs his body strow;
This gift which parents to their children owe,
This unavailing gift, at least, I may bestow!"

Aeneid VI, translated by John Dryden

Suetonius write that when Virgil read the Aeneid to Emperor Augustus and his sister, Octavia, mother of Marcellus, she was overcome and fainted.

Painting by Ingres, 1812.

Friday, May 15, 2015

French cuirassiers at the Battle of Austerlitz

I am always amazed at the skill of artists whose drawings or paintings look like photographs.

Jules Jacquet, 1805.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Devils in the Details

Jasper does not approve.

Willem Jacobsz Delff (Dutch, 1580–1638). Allegory on the State of the Netherlands under Spanish Tyranny (detail), 1622.

From "A Devil in the Details," an article on the difficulties and accomplishments of art preservation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Angels and Demons

I can't remember where I found this print, but I suspect it came from the Legion of Honor Museum, SF.

At Madame Obadiah Oglethorpe's Shop--cut scene

"Hold still, mademoiselle." Madame Obadiah Oglethorpe, finest reasonably-priced dressmaker in the eastern half of the city, knelt and began pinning up Lyta's hem. She did her best not to move, hardly daring to breathe, but the obstinate fabric insisted on quivering. "Relax," said Madame Oglethorpe. "You are too stiff. It is not good for the fit."
Lyta breathed. She tried to smooth the fabric of her gown. It had to be perfect. She would have only one chance, after all. One chance to escape this marriage.
"Too much breathing." Madame Oglethorpe stilled Lyta's hands. "Don't fret. The young ladies, they always fret." She tapped her work. "You see, I have given you a fine crenelated hem -- the Piedmontese a le coeur -- inspired by the finest ladies of the French court, gathered at the waist to make a fetching silhouette." She returned to pinning up the forest green fabric. "There is a young man, yes?"
Lyta thought she would tumble off the pedestal.
The discussion between Father and Father Craddock had gone on for hours. Lyta, banished to her room, could distinguish few of the words, but Father's angry tones were unmistakable. After Father Craddock left came the shouting. Father was outraged at Lyta for rejecting Martin, for rejecting his choices, for involving an outsider like Father Craddock, for dragging the family name through the mud, the list of outrages never seemed to end.
After a week of silent glares and shouting matches whenever she left the room, Lyta could stand it no longer. She marched into the kitchen and threw the shop's account books onto the table.
"Clara and Annabelle have been to the masquerade six times, looking for husbands, and you haven't let me go even once." She banged open the most recent book, showing her work. "I have saved us a thousand dollars this year, so why don't I get to go?"
Father looked aghast. "You would sacrifice a good husband just to attend that base, degenerate gathering?"
"No!" Lyta clutched the book, her fingers nearly tearing out the page. "I just want the same chance they had to find someone I love!"
He had finally decided that they would not breathe a word of this to Martin, but Lyta might attend the masquerade for the sole purpose of finding a husband -- and if she did not, then she would marry him promptly.
The back door opened and in breezed Great-aunt Beatrice, loaded down with bolts of silk. She pointed at Lyta's neckline as she passed. "Too low. Get some lace on there and bring it up."
"But it is the fashion, Auntie. Half the ladies in the street have lower necklines."
"Your father will not have you parading around half-naked like a common strumpet."
Lyta sighed. The dressmaker gave her a sympathetic glance and began dutifully adding lace to the top of the bodice.
Beatrice winked at Lyta and unrolled a bolt of silk on the dressmaker's table. "Now, don't you think this will make a lovely dress for the mother of the brides? Don't tell Nancy, I want to surprise her."
"Mother is waiting for us in the front of the shop," she said, and Great-aunt Beatrice laughed in her horsey way and gathered up the cloth with mock stealth.
She patted Lyta's hand. "Keep your chin up. You won't find a husband while slouching."
Lyta turned and frowned at her dress in the mirror. Would he like it? No mud and sleet this year. She wanted him to catch sight of her and feel a pang in his heart such as she had felt every day since his lips had brushed her cheek. The thought that he might not even attend was simply unbearable. He had to be there. He'd promised.
After the dressmaker's, they visited the shops for bonnets and masks. Sadly, none of them seemed to have any magic charms. Great-aunt Beatrice and her mother kept up a continuous chatter about what to expect at the masquerade, how to comport herself, talk to men, not talk to men, how to eat, what to eat, etc.
"But if a respectable young fellow offers you a drink, you must accept it," admonished Beatrice, "or he will feel snubbed."
If she were going to Hell for falling in love with a demon, she didn't think her neckline or manners mattered all that much.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp, by François Pascal Simon Gérard, 1801.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Around the World with Art: Bolivia

By the Master of Calamarca, late 16 or early 1700s, Bolivia.

Apparently, Angels holding arquebuses is enough of a thing in art to warrant its own Wikipedia page. Here's another:


Copy of Ángel Letiel Dei, from a private collection in Toledo, Spain.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cut bits--from ch. 4, The Brindled Bane of Heave

Lusmore bustled into the room, then halted. "Your majesty." He bowed quickly.
Jasper stood and extended a hand, eager for any excuse to set aside his troubles. "I'm not a majesty." Face to face, Lusmore appeared only thirteen or fourteen years old, with a splash of freckles and a shock of sandy blonde hair. "You're human, aren't you?"
"Yes, your -- sire." Lusmore shook Jasper's hand as though afraid it would bite him. His insecurity smelled like fresh salmon. Humans, in Japer's experience, could barely perceive each other's hearts, and so made no effort to conceal their own.
"My mother was a human. Join us."
The hunchback stared. "Your mother, sire?"
He nodded. "We could be brothers, for all I know."
Lusmore smiled. "Then let me play you a tune, my brother." He tapped out the first few notes and began to fiddle. It was a simple version of a human piece, but he played it after his own fashion, and the rhythm danced in Jasper's heart and made him feel well again. Lusmore finished with a flourish, to which the listeners gave enthusiastic applause. He grinned. "Do you play, sire?"
"Not well." Jasper pulled a slim volume from the pocket of his coat and flipped it open. "I have tried to write some songs. I've translated a bit of dwarven poetry, if you care for it -- Alberich the Cunning."
This caught the attention of the baron's servants. "What does a fae want with the Great Smith?" asked a stout dwarf with the air of an ale-steward. Several grey-bearded dwarves grunted in agreement, glaring warily at Jasper.
"It is a gift for my nurse, to give to her children and grandchildren," said Jasper. "Many of the city dwarves no longer speak the mining tongue."
"Give us a read, then," said the steward. "Let's test the metal of your work."
He flipped through the pages, looking for a passage that was both well-translated and entertaining, gave up, and went back to the beginning.
"When the brindled bane of Heaven, monster of the river Van
Burst forth and overran the Earth, stretched his jaws to snatch the Sun
And devour the Moon and Stars...."
The steward grunted as Jasper finished. "Dwarvish is an uncommon interest for a fae." He rose and made to leave, his duties no doubt summoning him elsewhere. "The translation could be worse, though. I wouldn't mind a copy of it myself."
Jasper tucked the little volume back into his pocket. Of course, even if he did finish the translation, few dwarves could ever afford it. The cost of hand-copying manuscripts was enormous, and those funny presses used in the human world were still banned under some ancient edict.
He had once pressed his father on the matter, but the king had simply looked aghast. "And put a thousand of copyists out of business?" He would do no such thing.
Lusmore shuffled his feet. By his expression he seemed not to have particularly understood the poetry, but was too polite to say so. "Are you marrying Wilgis?"
"Wilgis?" Jasper almost smiled at the familiarity in the name.
"It is what her mother calls her," the hunchback hastened to add. He tugged his cuffs. "She is a gentle soul."
Jasper downed his ale and frowned at the dregs in the bottom of his cup. "She's simple."
"Aye, sire, but I'm as ugly as they come, and she has always been kind to me."
"An act of kindness is the greatest beauty in the world." Jasper sighed, remembering how Lyta had tried to heal the gash in his side.
Lusmore spread his hands. "When she walks in the garden, the hummingbirds land on her. She gives crumbs to the mice, and even the shadows gather to hear her sing."
Jasper bit his lip. Who was he to judge? Perhaps he did not deserve so good a wife.
And yet, no matter how fine a person she might be, she was still a child. He could not possibly marry her, but how to go against his father's wishes? If the whole affair were his stepmother's doing, perhaps he would not be too enraged if Jasper quietly refused the lass?
He shook his head. It would never work --
A thunderclap burst through the castle. The floor buckled. Lusmore grabbed the table as Jasper fell. Candles clattered to the ground and shadows ripped through the walls.
They were under attack. The nightmares had returned.
Jasper ran, terrified. Another thunderclap, and the shadows tore past him. Spines slashed his cheek. He stumbled into the banquet hall as flames rippled up the wooden walls and into the roof. Shadow teeth sank into his arms. He yanked off the oozing mass of darkness and flung it into the flames. Thatch crashed down around him, heart pounding. He was trapped.
Jade emerged from the smoke and grabbed his hand. She dragged him through the roaring darkness to a break in the wall. Starlight winked beyond. He gasped and filled his lungs with cool wind. Dust and ash stung his eyes as they crossed a ditch and made their way up a small hill. Jasper spotted his other sisters, flanked by goblin footmen. Rob ran toward them, shouting. They were safe.
Wilgefortis. Jasper whirled. Where was she? He'd left her behind.
The chief steward knocked him over as he tried to climb back through the crack. "Move!"
Jasper ducked back in and weaved through the smoke. "Lusmore!"
The human lad staggered toward him, helping Wilgefortis over the flaming debris. She looked hurt. Jasper grabbed a timber that barred their way and heaved it aside. Lusmore leapt through the gap in the wall, and they pulled Wilgefortis into the night.
The ground began trembling again. Jasper pelted toward Jade as an enormous black wolf rose from the wreckage. It rushed at them, mouth agape, eyes burning.
The brindled bane of Heaven.
Jasper wrapped his arms around Jade, shielding her as burning cinders rained down. The king cried out the spell of light, summoning an enormous, flickering ball. Baron Willis charged forward, sword in hand, splitting the creature's flaming breath and driving the glowing blade deep into the monster's chest.
It screamed and was no more.
It was a moment before Jasper heard his own breathing, the pulse throbbing in his ears, the soft hiss of mist falling on embers. The wind had died, and he was bleeding from gashes in his arms and legs, smarting from burns on his hands and face.
The king's magic light rose above them like a second moon, casting its silvery rays over the little group gathered on the hill. Jasper picked an ember from Jade's hair and cast it aside. Everything was soon coated with a fine mud. Baron Willis knelt in the grass, panting, the blade of his sword still glowing red, the grass before it burnt away for a hundred yards. This was why he had been made a baron.
Sapphire, Jasper's youngest sister, began to wail. Jade knelt to comfort her. Wilgefortis and Lusmore stood nearby, arm in arm. She was standing on one foot, but looked otherwise all right. Jasper felt pricking shame at having nearly forgotten her.
To Hell with this marriage. The girl he could not love had someone more worthy than himself, and he would not betray her for the memory of a kiss that never was.
Amber, future queen of the Golden Isles, stood apart from the others and watched the fire burn.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ossian Singing

Ossian Singing, by Nicolai Abildgaard, 1787.

He reminds me rather strongly of a dwarf or gnome.