Archive for the Painting Category

Ron Turner Witches, 1959, and Pedigree Books

Posted in 50s, Book, Painting, SFW on 17 April 2010 by redwitch1

The “wonderfully lurid cover” of this book masks the serious nature of the text, as the Lilly Library notes (here). So does the advertising copy: “Weird Rites of the Middle Ages and the Black Mass.” The artists is—apparently—Ron Turner (1922–98), but no sources are cited for this on Wikipedia.

As for the date, almost everyone gives the original copyright date, 1957, which is actually the publication date for the first edition of the book (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957). (Which has a very boring cover by Paul Hogarth.) But this book clearly came out after the Pedigree edition of Jules Michelet, Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition—which was issued in May 1959—because Michelet’s Satanism and Witchcraft is advertised on the back of this edition of Hole’s Mirror of Witchcraft (below).

The Pedigree reprint of Gerald Gardner Witchcraft Today was first published in 1960 and it is not mentioned on Hole’s Mirror of Witchcraft, so perhaps the latter dates from late 1959 (between Michelet’s Satanism and Witchcraft of May 1959 and Gardner’s Witchcraft Today of 1960).

It certainly must be at least a few years later than 1957. As it states on the rear cover: “This is an original PEDIGREE BOOKS reprint, Complete and Unabridged, of a book hitherto available only in full cloth-bound form and priced at 21s. net.” As you can see, this Pedigree Books paperback is only 3s 6d. I can’t see the publishers licensing a reprint until their ugly hardcover had sold out.

Looking around, I could not find any copies of this edition in any library on Copac or Worldcat (each of which is a kind-of Google for books held in major libraries around the world) and only three copies for sale via AddAll and eBay: none provide any useful details about the artwork, the date of publication etc.

I must say I was really surprised that there wasn’t a list of Pedigree Books publications online somewhere. They all have such outrageous covers that someone must be collecting them! I only have the three I mentioned—the cover to Mirror of Witchcraft is the only one with sexy witches—but I have seen three others. The lists is:

[1] Gerald B. Gardner, Witchcraft Today (London: Rider, 1954; repr. Pedigree Books, 1960). ¶ Cover art by S. R. Boldero. For more on S. R. Boldero, see here.

[2] Christine Hole, Mirror of Witchcraft (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957; repr. London: Pedigree Books, n.d. [1959?]). ¶ Cover art by Ron Turner.

[3] Donald McCormick, The Hellfire Club (London: Jarrold, 1958; repr. Pedigree, no date). ¶ Details here.

[4] Jules Michelet, Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition, trans. A. R. Allinson (Paris: Carrington, 1904; repr. London: Pedigree Books, May 1959). ¶ Reprinted July 1960. Cover art by S. R. Boldero.

[5] H. T. F. Rhodes, The Satanic Mass (London: Rider, 1954; repr. Pedigree Books, 1957). ¶ Cover art by Ron Turner.

[6] Gerald Verner, ed., Prince of Darkness (London: Rider, 1946; repr. Pedigree Books, 1960). ¶ Cover art by S. R. Boldero

Hex Appeal, 2004

Posted in 2000+, Book, Painting, SFW on 10 April 2010 by redwitch1

Last weekend I picked up this very pretty book at a remainder warehouse: Lucy Summers, Hex Appeal: Seductive Spells for the Sassy Sorceress, illustrated by Lucy Truman (Sydney: ABC Books, 2004).

The same book was issued at the same time with different imprints in the UK, US and Canada, but all copies were printed in Singapore. It is a lovely printing job, sharp, vibrant colours, with sparkles, holograms and a mix of gloss and matt finishes. But it is the fabulous Brady-Bunch artwork by Lucy Truman that sent me reaching for my money.

The text is pretty much what you’d expect, the sort of breathless enthusiasm about mating that only a hormone-addled teenager would find appealing. The book is totally devoid of politics, or rather, it demonstrates no political awareness whatsoever. Witchy-wise it is no better, but I’ll get to that.

An example: what do you do if you want to talk to a boy? Not ring him, apparently. You wait for him to ring you, and if he doesn’t do that you cast a spell to get him to make him do it. You might wonder, like I did, why shouldn’t a girl make the phone call herself? In what sexist backwater is it wrong for a girl to indicate she has any will, opinions or options of her own?

Then there are instructions on how to be a Goddess in the Bedroom, which will enable a woman to fulfill a man’s every desire (Which goddess isn’t clear—presumably not Kali [काली].) So, what do you do if he is not satisfying your desires? Not tell him, apparently. You cast a spell to get him to do the right thing. What!? Looks like we have really slipped into Lucy Truman’s 50s-inspired bizarro-world again.

And if your man has bad habits, bites his nails, complains all the time etc, and it has got so bad you are ready to leave him, what do you think you should do? Not tell him, apparently (though it is implied that dropping hints is okay). You cast a spell to get him to do the right thing. Why exactly would a sassy—meaning impudent, outspoken, provocative, self-assured, spirited, bold, vigorous—Sorceress not tell her partner that his nail-biting was giving her the shits?

At this point you will understand why I have only dipped into this book long enough to admire the artwork. Read it and you’d find yourself saying something like “Grow a spine you pathetic maggot” while throwing the book through a window.

Then there is the whole witchy thing. The book is full of spells, but none of the pictures show anything like serious spell work. It is all pretty candles, washes and lotions. Oh, and shopping. And though the instructions include an alter there are no gods and goddesses. (“the names of gods and goddesses associated with love have purposely been avoided where possible”). In fact, there is a reassuring note explaining that “None of the spells in this book could summon harmful forces.” Damn strait they couldn’t.

Still, the book encourages you to cast a spell for the most frivolous reasons, and to cast a spell to do things which you should probably get off your arse and do for yourself. It is like the Weasley twins apparating across a room to grab a cookie.

One of the things that frustrates Ged in The Wizard of Earthsea when he is in the Academy on Roke, learning how to use his magical skills, is that the most powerful Master wizards never do magic. Eventually, and at great personal cost, he finds out why.

In Cate Tiernan’s Night’s Child—the final book in the Wicca (or Sweep) series, Moira is similarly frustrated that she never sees her famously powerful mother, the most powerful witch in generations, do any “real” magic. In the end she wishes she did not know, and had never witnessed, the power her mother wields.

In both cases, the powerful demonstrate their power and their wisdom by knowing when the use of magic is required and when it isn’t, when it is necessary and when it isn’t. It is the whole, “with great power comes great responsibility” thing.

In this book “with great power” comes the ability to place your self-worth in the hands of someone else, to value yourself according to how much attention you generate in a room of strangers, and how well you protect and stroke the ego of “your” man. In other words, the ability of a young woman to mutilate her own soul. This sure as hell isn’t my idea of being a sexy witch, because week and needy narcissism is never sexy.

Belated Burns Night Post, 1868

Posted in 19thC, Painting, Photograph, Tam O'Shanter on 30 January 2010 by redwitch1
[Detail of Nannie, Plate 6]

Once again I forgot to prepare a Burns Night Post. Unbelievable! I really need to prepare a perpetual sexy-witchy calendar, which includes Burns Night, Easter Witches, Halloween, La Befana the Christmas Witch etc.

What is Burn’s Night? As Wikipedia explains

A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.

I like that last bit: “in principle” I can declare this to be my Burn’s Night. So, what have I got for you on my Burn’s Night? A very strange and interesting book which I am going to cover at length (for reasons I explain below): Tam O’ Shanter. By Robert Burns. With illustrations by E. H. Miller. Photographed by Gardner. [motto] (New York: W. J. Widdleton, Publisher, 1868).

[Plate 1: Portrait of Robert Burns]

The book contains twenty leaves, including eight leaves of plates: basically, a title-leaf, a List of Illustrations, an eight-page Introduction and a leaf of text facing each of the eight plates. The original (publisher’s) cloth binding is an ornate gilt confection of gold on green, designed by John Feely (1819–78) according to D. T. Pendleton Fine & Antiquarian Books (who have a nice copy for sale for only USD175 here).

[Plate 2: Whare sits our sulky sullen dame]

As the title-page to this book explains, the illustrations are original mounted albumen photos by Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner glued down onto otherwise blank pages. Given the age of the photos (1868), and the fame of the photographer (Wikipedia entry here), the book is important enough to appear in the American History of Photography microfilm series (Reel 25, no. 265) held by the Smithsonian in the American Art Portrait Gallery.

[Plate 4: Nae man can tether time or tide]

According to D. Mark Katz, Witness To An Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner (1999), 261:

Tam o’ Shanter

The year 1868 marked the 110th anniversary of the publication of ‘Tam o’ Shanter,’ by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, presenting Gardner with another publishing project. He conceived the idea of republishing the landmark poem with illustrations by Washington artist E. Hutchinson Miller. Gardner photographically reproduces seven of Miller’s illustrations for a leather-bound limited edition that was published in New York by W. J. Widdleton. No more than ten copies of the book are known to exist today.

[Plate 5: Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire]

Well, as I said above, it was issued in cloth too, and I suspect that there are a few more than ten copies. Still, reading this I almost wish I had kept mine … (dramatic pause). Yes, I kept my copy only long enough to scan it at 1200dpi. The reason I gave it to a friendly book-binder was because the copy I bought was missing one plate (Plate 3: “The landlady and Tam grew gracious”) and had obviously lived for much of its life inside a petrol tin, or on a pile of kerosene-soaked rags, or some such. It stank so bad that I gaged when I opened the envelope it arrived in. I only removed it from that envelope long enough to scan it and then I wiped down the scanner and gave the envelope to a binder in the hope that he could wash and resize the paper (sizing as in paper treatment, not A4 vs Foolscap etc; see here) and then re-bind the book. I am not sure whether he has done this yet, but I hope so.

[Plate 6: But Maggie stood right sair astonish'd]

As for the artist, E. Hutchinson Miller (1831-1921), he was born in Shepherdstown, WV. According to the Jefferson County Historical Landmarks Commission (here), Miller’s watercolor, entitled “Moonrise and Twilight,” is apparently in the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC. There is an article on Miller (Jessie Trotter, “E. Hutchinson Miller, The Artist.” Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society 5 (1939): 38-40), and a few brief biographical sketches in Millard Kessler Bushong, The History of Jefferson County, West Virginia 1719-1940 (2008) and A. D. Kenamond Prominent Men of Shepherdstown During its First 200 Years (1963). Not having any of these at hand, I cannot tell you any more than this.

[Plate 7: As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd and curious]

Looking at Miller’s paintings, our heroine is not the sexiest Nannie we have seen, in fact she looks a little ferocious in this dancing scene (and even more so in the chase), but she is in the right state of déshabillé, is facing the viewer for a change, and Old Nick is brilliant! (See below.)

[Plate 8: Ae spring brought off her master hale]

Nannie also has a lot more company in this version than in the last two I compared a few weeks back (here), so the jigs and reels do look more authentic.

Unfortunately, the 1868 photographs of Miller’s paintings are a lot less pleasing to the eye than either S. Smith’s engraving of J. M. Wright’s artwork (1842) or Lumb Stocks’ engraving of John Faed’s artwork (1855). (About a century later colour photographs started replacing the artwork on pulps and paperbacks, with the same disappointing results.) Still, since the book is rare, important and practically nothing about it appears online, I thought it worth covering in detail. I hope you agree.

[Detail of Plate 7: Old Nick]
[Detail of Plate 7: Nannie's company]
[Detail of Plate 7: Nannie]

Owen Smith’s Witching Hour, 2000

Posted in 2000+, Magazine, Painting, SFW on 19 December 2009 by redwitch1

This is the cover of The New Yorker from 6 November 2000. The artwork is by Owen Smith and is titled “Witching Hour.”

On 8 September Annie left feedback here asking me whether I knew of a picture from a magazine that she had “held onto for years but can’t track it down again. It’s a pin up witch flying across the moon, but it’s sort of a double image and from a distance it looks like a skull. I loved it, just wondering if you know it.”

As you can see, I do know it, and I love it too. The strapless dress, the cat, the choker: it is all good.

And as you can also see, I do sometimes respond to requests, despite what I said during the week. What can I say, except Annie did ask nicely, and she did say that my site is “absolutely fabulous”! So I guess you really can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Hans Baldung Grien’s Weather Witches, 1523

Posted in Painting, Pre-1800, PSFW on 5 December 2009 by redwitch1

As Wikipedia will tell you Hans Baldung Grien (ca. 1480–1545) was a gifted student of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Dürer has featured on this blog for his “Four Witches” because, as J Michael said (in feedback on that post), Dürer was “one of the first to break with the hag witch iconography of his age.” Be that as it may, it is only Dürer’s “Four Witches” that warrant a post here, but there are nine images by Hans Baldung Grien that warrant inclusion. I will try to cover these in three posts.

Many of the people who visit this site will be familiar with at least a few of Grien’s paintings, engravings or sketches (below). His artwork has appeared in many coffee-table books and books on witchcraft since the seventies and are now all over the internet. So a few people have left feedback on this site asking why I haven’t done a post on Grien already.

The answer is that most images online are very poor, and most of the images in books have been very poor (until recently). Also, there are very few books on Grien in English, and these few are expensive. The cheaper art books do not feature the witch images at all, and even the expensive ones only have a few of the nine. As I said, coffee table books on Witchcraft usually include a few images, and so I have been scanning these as I find them, looking for better quality images, and putting off doing a post until I had decent scans of all nine.

I still don’t have all nine, though I have scanned some images six or seven times over (i.e., from six or seven different books), but it is now clear why I won’t be getting the ninth any time soon (as I’ll explain next time).

The images I have now are probably as good as I can hope for. This is largely a result of the publication in November 2007 (in German and English) of Hexenlust und Sundenfall: Die Seltsamen Phantasien des Hans Baldung Grien [Witches' Lust and the Fall of Man: The Strange Fantasies of Hans Baldung Grien] (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2007).

Witches’ Lust and the Fall of Man is a bilingual catalogue by Bodo Brinkmann of works exhibited at the Städel Museum. It is beautifully illustrated and Brinkmann’s essays on the various engravings of witches are extremely informative, even if I question his interpretation in places. If you can afford it: buy it!

As you can see, I decided to start with the one painting of witches by Grien; the same artwork—held by the Städel Museum—that prompted both the Städel Museum exhibition and catalogue. (Page references below are to Witches’ Lust and the Fall of Man.) The painting titled in German “Zwei Hexen” or “Two Witches” and is dated 1523; but it also known as “Weather Witches” for fairly obvious reasons.

The painting depicts two witches, a goat and a child or putto.

One witch is standing with her back to, but is looking over her right shoulder to face, the viewer; the other witch is seated on a goat facing us.

The seated witch holds in her left hand a glass flask that contains a spirit in the form of a dragon. (Brinkmann points out the similarity of this visual element with the depiction of quicksilver or mercury vapour in contemporary illuminated alchemical manuscripts (136–37).)

In the background, roiling clouds suggest a storm. But this appears not to be the sort of rain- or hail-storm that witches were frequently accused of creating; rather it appears to be a fire-storm (29). Take a look at some of the pictures of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria (like this one, and this one) and you’ll see what I mean.

Brinkmann’s interpretation of this scene strikes me as rather bizarre. He claims its symbolism—its visual narrative—is a warning to viewers of the evil of lust in general and venereal disease in particular. No, I am not making this up. Mercury was the most common and effective treatment of various venereal diseases at the time, diseases which had only recently arrived in Europe. (Various venereal diseases were not differentiated for centuries. But as Wikipedia explains, the first well-recorded European outbreak of what is now known as syphilis occurred in 1494; and mercury was the earliest known suggested treatment for syphilis.) To Brinkmann, this is why the glass flask contains quicksilver, the witch is holding aloft the equivalent of a medicine bottle.

Personally, I think Brinkmann is over-reaching himself here. Witch-hunters were obsessed with the sexual activity of witches. As the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) claims “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable”; and we might add, “all witch-hunting comes from carnal lust, which is in men insatiable” (i.e., all witch-hunters were misogynistic bastards whose natural sexual desires had been twisted by their religious beliefs ).

The witches in this painting are identified as witches by practicing malefica (harmful magic), using their familiar (in the form of a demon in a bottle) to raise an un-natural storm (identified by the fact that it does not look like a normal rain or hail storm). James I of England (James VI of Scotland) may be the most famous victim cum persecutor of weather-witches (see his writing here), but the belief that witches could conjure storms was very, very well established when Grien started this painting.

As for the goat, well as anyone who has been following this blog will tell you goats appear in almost every European depiction of witches traveling to, or at, a sabbat. Witches and goats go together like, well like Christians and misogyny. (See here and here for two recent examples that I have posted.)

This leaves the child or putti. Putti have no unique, fixed or immediately identifiable attributes, so putti may have many different meanings and roles in art. Identifying the child in this painting as a putti does not help interpret the figure. Personally, I am inclined to identify the child as a child since young children appear in depictions of the sabbat and the hexenritt (the witches’ ride to the sabbat) just as often as goats. They are part of the traditional iconography.

And the reason for their presence is the fear held by christians and witch-hunters that women were the prime corruptors of society. That women were corrupting their own children, bringing them up as fellow servants of the devil. (Or eating them, both claims had their purposes as propaganda.) You have to wonder whether the regular reliance of witch-hunters on the testimony of children (remember Salem) contributed to the belief that women were regularly accompanied by their children to the sabbat. If they were not it would undermine the very useful testimony they provided.

However one interprets the painting the witches were intended to be alluring. Our ideals of beauty may have changed, but this much is clear. Both witches have a hold on a slip of material that does not even come close to concealing any of their pink-bits. In fact, the drapery simply heightens our awareness of their nudity. The figure on the left displays both her naked backside and a profile of her breasts.

The one on the right displays both her naked breasts and her crotch.

I do not believe that this is accidental, it is not that in order to depict witches one must depict naked women performing malefica, but in order to depict naked women one must depict witches performing malefica. This is why the moralising in Grien’s depictions of witches, such as it is, is always so feeble.

If you look through the oeuvre of Grien there are naked women everywhere. He was forever finding a reason for his female figures to get their kit off. It was the sixteenth and seventeenth-century artistic loophole, their get-out-of-gaol-free card. If Grien had been born in 1980 instead of 1480 he’d probably be photographing underwear models, or running a blog like this one. Personally, I am glad he was born in 1480 and that he had Dürer as a master.

Déshabille Witch, 1952

Posted in 50s, Magazine, NSFW, Painting, Pin-up on 12 July 2009 by redwitch1

“Legendary French pin-up magazine Paris-Hollywood” featured a centrefold under the title “Le Sabbat de la pin-up Déshabillable” in issue no. 127 in 1952. Below is the magazine opened to the centrefold.

What may not be obvious in my photos is that the centrefold artwork is made up of a colour image on paper, and a tissue-paper overlay that has our sexy witch’s clothes—a body-stocking–printed onto it. Turn back the tissue and voilà: half-naked witch!

Turn back the other side of the tissue and voilà: the bottom half of the witch is naked!

Pull the staples out of your copy of Paris-Hollywood and you get one buck-naked witch.

And one piece of tissue-paper with a body-stocking on it.

Cool, eh? And again, in close up. Stocking on …

Stocking off!

It is the sort of thing that could amuse you for hours. Well, some of us anyway.

If this doesn’t work for you, buy yourself a copy of Taschen’s Paris-Hollywood (2001), it is in their “Icons Series,” and has 192 pages-worth of beautiful pin-up images such as this one.

Another Faléro Study, 1877

Posted in 19thC, Falero, Painting, PSFW on 9 May 2009 by redwitch1

I really must be very slow. You would think that my recent revelation that “Witches Gathering” aka “Sorcieres qui vont au Sabbat” was actually a study for “Departure of the Witches” would have made look a little closer at this little painting, titled “Study of a Witch”:

If I had, I might have realised that it is quite likely to be a another study for “Departure of the Witches.” In this case, only a single detail, the figure on the left. The composition is not identical, so it is not certain, but both Faléro studies were sold by Bonhams in New York on 26 January 2007 (New York Sale 14650, European Paintings: Including Old Masters and 19th Century Drawings, Lot no. 124), and both studies are inscribed by the artist’s son on the reverse. Anyway, here—again—is the detail and the full painting:

The study (at top, above) is 185 x 234mm, the full painting (below) 1455 x 1182 mm.

The inscription on the study reads “Etude de Sorciere N.22 / par Louis Falero / de la collection d’ebauches / et oeuvres inedites / signe par son fils / R Falero” [Study of a Witch No. 22 / by Louis Falero / from the collection of sketches and / unpublished works / Signed by his son / R. Falero]. The number should give us pause: study number twenty-two! I wonder how many of these studies are still circulating out there, and how many books—my only assets—I will to have to sell to buy one…

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