Archive for the Painting Category

Luis Falero’s Witch, 1880

Posted in 19thC, Falero, Painting, PSFW on 14 February 2009 by redwitch1

Luis Ricardo Falero (1851–96) was born in Spain, studied in Paris, but lived most of his short life in London. As this site explains he concentrated on painting highly-finished nudes, with a mythological or fairy-tale setting. One of his passions was reading about the supernatural. He seems to have had a particular fondness for the witches who feature in the Faust story, painting bacchanalian Sabbat-scenes on a number of occasions.

Of the seven paintings by Falero that I would like to eventually include on this site, at least three, and possibly all seven, concern Faust. Specifically, they concern Faust’s experience of the Witches’ Sabbat and have titles such as “The Vision of Faust” (or “Vision de Faust”), “Faust’s Vision” (“La Rêve”), “Faust and Mephistopheles (“Faust und Mephisto”) and “Departure of the Witches” (“‘Sorcieres qui vont au Sabbat”). Only one of the seven actually contain Faust, but they all contain witches.

In fact, as far as I can tell, most of these paintings do not have proper titles at all; certainly the paintings are not found in contemporary frames with title-panels; nor, apparently, were they exhibited with fixed titles, nor are they consistently referred to today by fixed titles. The titles that are used in different sources come from a variety of European languages and so it is never really clear whether “The Vision of Faust” and “Vision de Faust,” for example, is the same painting or two paintings and, if the same painting, which title is the real title (the English title or the French one).

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Falero clearly painted a lot more than seven paintings on the subject of witches or Faust (one has a pencil inscription on the back that reads “Etude de Sorciere N.22″ [Study of a witch, no. 22]); also many, if not most, of these paintings are still in private hands. And I guess if you want to call your study of a witch “The Vision de Faust” after spending US$150,000 on it, who is going to stop you?

Finally, Falero was a genre painter and it seems no decent collection of his works has been made, no complete study of his paintings has been published (a catalogue raisonne), and so there are no reference book to consult to discover the real/first/accepted/latest title.

Although I have used a Falero painting on this blog before (the 1907 postcard here), I wanted to start the Falero series with this small but magnificent painting, because it is one of the few witchy paintings that deal with a single subject.

When this painting was sold in 2003 by Sothebys, on behalf of John Morrin, New York, it was titled “The Witches Sabbath” (“La Socière Allant au Sabbat”); this is the same title that was used when it sold by Sothebys in 1998 for US$21,850. This painting is dated 1880 and seems to be the same painting that was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1880 (No. 1380) under the title “Vision de Faust. More commonly it is titled “Muse of the Night” (“Musa de la Noche”). But if you want to call it “Hot Redhead on a Broom” I won’t stop you.

I do not know how much John Morrin got for his 74 x 41cm painting in 2003. The estimate was US$18–25,000: the price of a car. Since Morrin only held the painting for five years the chances are reasonable that it will come up for sale again soon. If it did, I’d sell my car and walk to work every day for the rest of my life just so that I could come home to this. Which of us wouldn’t?

BTW: If you’d like to look at some more Falero while you are waiting for my next post Artcyclopedia offers links to a few Falero galleries online, suggesting these two as the best: The Athenaeum and Art Renewal Center. I’d add ArtMagick.

* * * * *

When Google decided to freeze me off the internet I realised I had a number of options. I have tried, discarded, re-tried and basically wavered between the various options so that now I find myself [1] all-but ready to move to my own domain: I have paid GoDaddy to host the site, have done most of the layout for a blog and am ready to copy all my posts over there, but GoDaddy have a technical problem that makes it impossible for me to use the domain that I own and want to use. I am not doing any more work on the blog until I can do it on my chosen domain. I have also [2] set up a WordPress blog, having done the layout and copied all my posts over last night. I have also [3] set up two more Blogger blogs and set them up so that I can split this one blog into a SFW and NSFW version. I also [4] set up a web site, but it looks like crap and I’m taking it down this afternoon.

At this stage, since my preferred option is [1], I am still unable to announce where I am moving. If GoDaddy keep mucking me about, or if, after getting my domain, I am unhappy with the appearance of it, or have trouble transferring the posts across, I will opt for [2] next week (the final option is [3], but I set that up before [2] and I am quite happy with the look of wordpress so Blogger can go … “away” would be the nice way to say it, but you know what I mean!).

Finally, I spent two days catching up on my scanning and OMG have I got some great stuff for this blog, wherever it happens to be. I can’t wait to concentrate on the material in my post, rather than on the location and the layout!

The Lady is a Witch, 1950

Posted in 50s, Painting, SFW on 23 November 2008 by redwitch1

Norman A. Daniels’s “The Lady Is a Witch” is a complete novel that was published in Startling Stories (March 1950), 11–87. I will say something about the story in a minute, but first the artwork that accompanies it: according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Earle Bergey (1901–52) provided the above colour illustration for the cover, and Virgil Finlay (1914–71) provided three pen and ink illustrations for the interior of the magazine, below.

Bergey has really let his imagination run wild, and his witch is stunning. She is riding side-saddle on a broom, seemingly fleeing from some terrible pursuer, who she is watching with a fearful expression on her face, and at which she hurls lightning bolts. A twister roils below her (at left) and the howling wind throws back her hair and cape. Our witch is wearing a strapless fishnet body stocking and a lace glove.

The detail, and her figure, is amazing, Startling even. Unfortunately, Bergley’s artwork bears no relation whatsoever to Daniels’s story.

Daniels’s story concerns an unsuccessful doctor by the name of William Wilson; Bill comes from a long line of successful Boston doctors. He lives in the ancestral mansion, alone. Bill discovers that the first of his line—Ezra—had “been a male witch—a wizard” (13); soon afterwards he is approached by a mysterious man, Thaddeus Link, who wishes to examine Ezra’s coffin because he wishes to establish whether Ezra had been interred alive, shackled in irons, in a hermetically sealed coffin as contemporary account claim and, if so, whether any of Ezra’s “radiations” are still detectable. All of which is “highly irregular” (24), as Bill notes. Nevertheless, Bill agrees, they open the coffin, there is a whirlwind, Bill is knocked unconscious, Thaddeus takes his measurements of Ezra’s radiations and that is that.

The real story begins in Chapter 4, which is where the reader is introduced to Priscilla, a seventeenth-century witch who was interred with Ezra. She is invisible, but speaks in Bill’s mind. Her voice “was completely feminine, alluringly low and warm and vibrant, with the unmistakable timbre of youth” (28): the “loveliest voice [Bill has] ever heard” (30). Priscilla wants to “join” Willy (as she calls him) and offers to help him to fame and fortune by using her powers to help him work great cures. Meanwhile she is wants to become stronger to fight Ezra “who worked for Beelzebub himself” (30).

Priscilla describes herself as “the fairest maid between Portsmouth and Nieu Amsterdam” (30), and a good witch, before she was entombed in April 1692. The “girl” has the “voice of the sirens” and Bill’s “only wish” is to “see what goes with it” (33); he “longed to embrace the fair young body that was not there” (34); he says to her I “wish I could see you and —”, breaking off “embarrassed by his own trend of thought” (37). Priscilla cures a crippled boy, an old woman with cancer and a deaf, dumb and blind invalid and brings Bill a fortune by curing a degenerate rich man. Meanwhile Ezra curses, blights, causes train wrecks, sets fires etc.

I won’t detail Priscilla’s jealousy of Bill’s love-interest, Natalie, the suspicions held by Bill’s rival (for Natalie) about Bill’s new-found success, and how everyone eventually teams up to prove that Ezra was not a wizard, that only Priscilla had been entombed, that Priscilla has been doing Beelzebub’s work under Ezra’s name and, most important of all, she is hideously ugly. The group confront Bill, he comes to his senses, banishes her from his mind, gets the girl (Natalie) and discovers that he has witchy powers of his own.

So, the stereotypes are upheld. Bill is tricked by hideous, old, evil hag into believing she is a pretty, young, good witch. At no point do we see Priscilla, except in a 1692 description and an engraving:

[Pricilla] possessed rare ugliness of form and feature and indeed, by the latter, might have been nigh onto a century old … Her eyes were small and black and suffered from a cast and her nose was so thin and hooked that it was difficult for those who attested against her to look upon her (81) If I look at it [an engraving of Pricilla] more than half a minute my stomach turns. Did you ever see such a dreadful old hag? (81)

Moreover, modern witchcraft is elided with the historical witchcraft:

Witchcraft, as you must know, is a mockery of every virtue known to Christianity. And Walpurgis Night is the unholiest celebration. Every witch, modern and ancient, living and dead, who is not under the seal of Solomon or any other leaden barrier, gathers in conclave to ridicule faith and virtue. They perform the Black Mass, they plot evil for the year to come, they indulge in what scholars like to call orgiastic rites—some of us have less academic words for that sort of thing. And your Pricilla is there with the rest of them, indulging in their horrid pastimes (78)

So, to return to Earle Bergey’s cover-art, it is clear that he did not read the story at all, and had practically no idea of what went on in it. He has produced a sexy witch painting that is far more progressive than the story it is supposed to illustrate. Our blond beauty in a body-stocking is not Pricilla, not even Pricilla as “Willy” imagines her, on the basis of a sexy voice.

Virgil Finlay on the other hand, clearly had read the story. His image of Bill and Pricilla show the latter as a hag.

Finlay’s two-page spread of the Walpugis Night celebrations has an Evil Ezra (at far left, with demon in tow), a few male witches flying in (above Ezra), a young witch and Pan figure at front.

On the second page there are three more demons and and a hag at left. The hag is probably Pricilla.

However, the main action in this image—the figures that everyone are watching—are the young witch and Pan who are about to demonstrate the “orgiastic rites” for which Walpugis Night is famous.

The opening image is classic Finlay: it shows a naked Pricilla is a burning laboratory—Thaddeus Link’s—being licked and partly clothed by flames. Finlay shows Pricilla as Bill imagines her to be, young and stunningly beautiful.

Clearly, it was impossible to resist the urge to depict the “fair young body” that features in the text; and in a story that depends on Bill’s mistaken belief in Pricilla’s beauty, it is probably necessary to show Bill’s fantasy, though Finlay does not make it clear that it is a fantasy.

Whatever the logical or narrative inconsistencies indulged in by Bergey and Finlay, we can only be grateful that they were commissioned to illustrate this story, and that they produced such memorable images despite the stereotypes are upheld in Daniels’s story.

Blonde on a Broomstick, 1966

Posted in 60s, Book, Painting, Photograph on 29 August 2008 by redwitch1

Who could walk past Blonde on a Broomstick and not stop to have a look at this cover? Or to read the shout on the front: “Rick Holman is taken for a ride by a covey of curvaceous witches … and flies straight into MURDER!” Did you say “curvaceous witches”? Give me that book!

It’s a heady brew.
It’s spiked with plenty of Black (and blonde and brunette) Magic. And whose in the soup?

RICK HOLMAN, of course.
Stirring things up are four wild witches:
Sultry songstress Julie—she’s said No to the biggest natural yes-deal of her life …
Sex-kitten Sally—self-appointed private eye whose lovely eyes are a little too private …
Dark, dazzling Stella—mistress of the Shades (from Hell to bedroom), queen bee of a hair-raising hive …
Wacky Barbara—demon-possessed and starving—for seduction.
The problem is: Which witch is witch? Rick had better find the answer fast. He’s up to his ears in it. Its a murky case of sink or swim in a witch’s cauldron.

So which witch are you? I’m rooting for “mistress of the Shades” myself. (See! Read a dozen lines of this sort of copy and that is what happens: you start writing lame puns. I knew it was bad for me.)

Anyway, this will be my last Carter Brown post for a little while: I have so many other pulps to do posts on! (As Toni has reminded me with her brilliant post on Cark Dekker (the little-known half-brother of Carl Dekker). (Check out the cover here.)

But to details. The above cover and detail are from Blonde on a Broomstick (Sydney: Horwitz, 1966). The two covers (and details) below are from: (New York: New American Library, [January] 1966) and (Sydney: Horwitz, 1972).

PS: I have to mention that this story starts with a quote, a motto if you will:

So choosing solitary to abide,
Far from all neighbours, that her devilish deeds,
And hellish arts from people she might hide,
And hurt far off, unknown, whomsoever she envied.
(Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queene)

The quote is from Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene (1590), Book 3, Canto 7, stanza 6 (etext [of the 1596 edition] here):

There in a gloomy hollow glen she found
A little cottage, built of stickes and reedes
In homely wize, and wald with sods around,
In which a witch did dwell, in loathly weedes,
And wilfull want, all carelesse of her needes;
So choosing solitarie to abide,
Far from all neighbours, that her deuilish deedes
And hellish arts from people she might hide,
And hurt far off vnknowne, whom euer she envide.

I’d be surprised if Allan Geoffrey Yates (aka Carter Brown) found the quote while reading Spencer: more likely he found it in a guide to witchcraft, or possibly in another book, like Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), where it appears at the start of Chapter 31. Even still, it is a surprising thing to see in a book that starts: “We sat—Paul Renek and I—on the open deck of the beach house and watched the blonde in a see-through bikini cavorting on the sand.”

Walk Softly, Witch, 1959

Posted in 50s, 60s, Book, Painting on 8 August 2008 by redwitch1

It has been almost two years since I did my first post on Carter Brown paperback and pulps with their wonderful witchy covers. You could be forgiven for thinking that I had given these books no more attention since then, but you’d be wrong. It is just that, being a bit of a completest I have been holding off doing any more posts on the Brown novels until I had copies of all of them. I still don’t, but I thought it was high-time for another post. And this one should make it clear why I have still not collected them all.

Here we have Walk Softly, Witch (Sydney: Horwitz, 1959)

Once I had this in my hands I thought, “Brilliant. Now the hardest part is over. I have the first edition!” As it happens, I was wrong. Or, at least, not wrong, but not completely right either. You see, Walk Softly, Witch is actually a reworking of an earlier novel called Eve—It’s Extortion! (Sydney: Horwitz, 1957), so perhaps Eve is the first edition?

And so now I have a problem, do I buy a copy of Eve and include it in my post? Since almost none of the Carter Brown covers feature recognisable witches (you know, hats and brooms), then it is an open question as to whether the cover-art on Eve—or on Walk Softly, Witch—is really a witch after all. I would have to read both novels and try to establish if the buxum blonde on the cover of the latter is really a witch or not.

So, what of later editions? I am glad you asked. Walk Softly, Witch was reissued by Horwitz, in April of 1960 under the title Terror Comes Creeping. Why the change in title? Nobody knows, it could have been an accident, except they did it again in December of the same year. Do I have copies of these yet. Err, no. Because I would have had to know that Terror Comes Creeping is, actually, Walk Softly, Witch, which I didn’t until recently.

So, were there any other editions? I am glad you asked. In the US and in Canada this book was published under the title The Victim in 1959. Why? No idea. Do I have any copies yet, No.

So, were there any later editions actually called Walk Softly, Witch? I am glad you asked. Yes, there are two, as you can see below. Horwitz published a book under this title in 1964 and it was reprinted in London by Four Square/New English Library in 1965. Here they are

The problem is, these are not the same books as Walk Softly, Witch (the change from blonde to brunette gives the game away). The real one starts “This is, you should forgive the expression, Lieutenant Wheeler” and this one starts “She crossed her legs …” This 1965 text is actually So Deadly, Sinner which was first published in 1959.

Confused? Let me recap: Walk Softly, Witch (1959), based on Eve—It’s Extortion! (1957), is reissued as The Victim (1959) and Terror Comes Creeping (1960). An altogether different work, So Deadly, Sinner! (1959) was reissued as Walk Softly, Witch (1964).

Have I finished yet. Err, no. There are translations to consider, lots of them. Walk Softly, Witch (which one? Don’t get cheeky! I have no idea) was translated into Danish (Mordet pa Hamlet 1965, 1974), Dutch (Rendez-vous Met Hamlet 1962), Estonian (Sammu kergelt, kaunis noid 1998), Finnish (Paukkurauta soi 1961), French (Piece a tiroirs 1959, 1972), German (Hexe auf leisen Sohlen 1962, 1965, 1979), Hebrew (Hazmana lerezah 1967), Japanese (Shinayakani Aruku Majo 1962), Norwegian (Indigo Betyr Fare 1961, 1964, 1979), Russian (Beglec iz psihuski 1993, Guljaj, ved’ma 1991) and Spanish (Despacio Bruja 1961).

The Victim (1959), which you will recall is simply a reissue of Walk Softly, Witch, was translated into Danish (Offeret 1961), Dutch (Weduwe Zonder Tranen 1962), Finnish (Miljoonat Pelissa 1963), French (Envoyez la soudure 1959; 1970; 1981), German (Das Kostbare Opfer 1961; 1961; 1975), Japanese (1965), Norwegian (Doden gar uten korsett 1960), Swedish (Fara For Livet 1961) and Spanish (La Victima) 1961; 1973).

No doubt there are more. How many of these do I have. Um, none. You see, there are quite a few Carter Browns titles to collect without worrying about reissues, changed titles, earlier titles and translations, it’d be over a hundred volumes. These titles are: Widow Bewitched (1958), The Sinners (1963), Blonde on a Broomstick (1966), House of Sorcery (1967), The Witches (1968) and The Coven (1971). So now you know why it has been two years: collecting all of these Carter Brown books would be a life’s work. But I’ll keep at it and I’ll do another post soon(ish).

For Ways That Are Dark, 1912

Posted in 10s, Halloween, Painting, Postcard, SFW on 9 May 2008 by redwitch1

The above is one of a pair of embossed Halloween postcards. They are unsigned and I have been unable to find out anything about them except the obvious: they are gorgeous, the series number “552” appears on both, and they clearly date from 1912 because the second of them is postmarked 28 October 1912, from Woodstock, Oregon (the message: “Dear Friend, I hope you have a jolly hallowe’en. Your Friend, J. E. B.”). The first is my favourite: who could resist a face (and a dress!) like that.

Even the cat is impressed!

The caption to this first postcard is interesting: “Hallowe’en Time: For ways that are dark, / And for tricks that are vain, Look Out!” This is a quote is from Bret Harte, “Plain Language from Truthful James” (aka “The Heathen Chinee”), which was published in 1870 as a satire on anti-Chinese sentiment in northern California (as Wikipedia explains). The poem is about a card game, and a cheating “Heathen Chinee” named “Ah Sin” (“In his sleeves, which were long, / He had twenty-four packs / Which was coming it strong”). The lines are from the opening stanza:

Which I wish to remark—
And my language is plain—
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar:
Which the same I would rise to explain.

(see here for the full poem).

What this has to do with Halloween is not clear, but as Gary Scharnhorst explains it was “one of the most popular poems ever published,” being reprinted, parodied, set to music, illustrated etc so many times that even news stories about murder and tax evasion were sometimes headlined “Ways That Are Dark” and “Tricks That Are Vain” (“Ways That Are Dark: Appropriations of Bret Harte’s Plain Language from Truthful James,” Nineteenth-Century Literature 51.3 (December 1996), 377, 382–83). Clearly the two lines work well out of context!

By comparison the copy on the second postcard is pretty feeble: “Halloween. It’s Best Beware of the Witching Hour, In which the Witches Show Their Power.” It is just as well the picture is pretty!

Well, reasonably pretty.


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