No, these aren't the caricature mentioned, but they're also by Titian (and/or his assistants), and they're on the back of the Ancona Pala Gozzi.
In the latest issue
of the scholarly journal Artibus et Historiae
, I have an article on a caricature found on the back of a Titian canvas, seemingly depicting Michelangelo. It’s fairly speculative, I suppose, but that’s the nature of such things, and in any case it engages a number of issues — caricature, cartooning, the grotesque — that have been chronically under-examined in the history of art and the humanities in general. Oh, there’s also an extensive excursus on Pope Julius II’s beard, and Raphael and Leonardo are implicated…
Here’s the abstract:
The article examines drawings found on the back of the canvas of the recently surfaced Portrait of a Man (Girolamo Cornaro?) painted by Titian around 1511–1512. Drawn with the point of the brush, they depict a large head in proﬁ le and two smaller ﬁgures. Loose and broad in execution, at least the former belongs to the domain of caricature. By comparison with similar drawings, on paper as well as the versos of other paintings, the drawings are here attributed to Titian. Further, the possibility that the head might be a portrayal of Michelangelo is explored, as is its value as evidence of the reception of Michelangelo’s outsize public stature and self-fashioning as an imperfect, Socratic artist whose work carried palpable overtones of the grotesque. The two ﬁgure studies, in themselves acutely Michelangelesque, are related to inventions by other contemporaries. Next, the fact that the caricature wears a beard, but no moustache, occasions an excursus on contemporary facial hair generally and speciﬁcally that of Michelangelo’s patron, Julius II. Ecclesiastical beards were a controversial issue at the time, and shaving one’s upper lip carried liturgical signiﬁcance. Julius was the ﬁ rst Renaissance pope to grow a beard, as is famously charted by Raphael in his portraits of him in the Vatican frescoes and elsewhere. By focusing on the depiction of his beard, the article sheds new light on the iconography of these pictures and potentially their confused chronology. Lastly, Titian’s drawings are examined in the context of contemporary grotesques with reference to Leonardo’s explorations of exaggerated physiognomies. On this basis, it proposes a reevaluation of Renaissance caricature.
The issue is second of two dedicated to Professor Peter Humfrey in his retirement. I am very happy to thus take part in the celebration!
Artibus et Historiae vol. 68 is available now in a specialist library near you!
The week in review
OK, I’ll try again. As should be evident, I’m not finding much time to blog these days, but I refuse to let go entirely, and who knows if times might not turn more propitious, Bunker-wise in the not-too-far future? Also, the National Gallery internet presence, which I’ve previously hinted at, is still in the works. So, not much to say right now, but I have some links to share!
In-depth interview with Jean-Luc Martinez, the recently appointed director of the Louvre. Excellent, critical interview in which the director at Tribune de l’art takes his time to answer Didier Rykner’s not always easy questions. In three parts: one, two, three.
Pharoahe Monche interviewed. Another in-depth interview, this one with one of the greatest rap lyricists. Candid and insightful.
T.J. Clark on Veronese’s Allegories of Love at the National Galleries. Clark takes a close look at four wonderful pictures that just happen to be on display in one of the great exhibitions of the decade right where I work. Clark does tend to go on a little long, but it is still highly worthwhile to follow his eye.
How Not to Make a Graphic Novel. Fine piece by Sean Michael Robinson on the creative process as it pertains to long-form comics.
Raphael’s Influence on Titian 1508-1520. Kiril Penušliski examines the evidence and adds a few good observations. Now, somebody should examine more closely Titian’s influence on Raphael…
Passing the mantle: Thomas Thorhauge and Stine Spedsbjerg at the Danish Comics Council general assembly in March
It happened a few weeks ago, but I figured I should still note it here: we have a new chairman, or rather chairwoman
, of the Danish Comics Council. Elected at the general assembly on 18 March
, Stine Spedsbjerg succeeds my pal Thomas Thorhauge who had decided to step down. Stine is a successful online cartoon diarist
and earns her keep in advertising. She’s enormously enterprising and resourceful — I can’t think of a better person to take over.
The Danish Comics Council was founded in 2009. I was part of the founding group along with a diverse group of comics professionals, and have sat on the board since. Considering that we have had no funding apart from the annual fee paid by members, it’s been a productive five years: we’ve had a hand in the establishment of a state-approved cartoonist’s programme (BA, ‘graphic storytelling’) at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark — the first of its kind in Denmark; we’ve managed to place the semi-private Comics Museum archive with a state-recognized institution, the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen, which secures it for the future in terms of preservation, collection, expansion, research and facilitation; we’ve created an comics award, the Ping, given annually to cartoonists in a number of categories; we’ve undertaken annual registration of all comics published in Denmark, published annually in a small compendium; we’ve arranged two conferences at the University of Copenhagen, one of which helped stimulate the establishment of the Nordic Network for Comics Research (NNCORE): we’ve partnered with the ambitious Danish comics biennial Copenhagen Comics; we’ve brought comics to wide audiences through live cartooning and other activities; and quite a lot more.
While Thomas takes a well-deserved breather (though remaining at the Council’s board), there is plenty for Stine to get up to. The Comics Council is still essentially an unfunded organisation and other affiliated groups such as Copenhagen Comics will also depend on more steady sources of funding to survive — the hope is eventually to secure larger, ongoing partnerships with possible patrons, as well as with the Danish State to help secure an institutional infrastructure for Danish comics in the future. And I know Stine also has ambitions for preaching the comics gospel to a much wider audience than is currently the case.
Here’s to the next half-decade!
Photo: Henrik Conradsen
Paolo Veronese, The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, about 1548, oil on canvas, 117.5 x 163.5 cm. London, The National Gallery.
In a couple of weeks’ time, we’re opening the first major show
of the works of Venetian Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese in decades at the National Gallery. Although it falls within my area of responsibility and will therefore occupy much of my time for the next few months, it’s an exhibition I have had nothing to do with, having started at the gallery only a few months ago. But needless to say one I’m looking forward to immensely: it’s a privilege thus to be dropped into the midst of a great project on an artist of immense generosity.
It’s not just that his pictures pull out all the stops, that his art is a rarely paralleled display of elegance, magnificence, and virtuosity, it’s that there is something profoundly touching about those qualities in his work. He is one of the few artists who really understood the lessons of Raphael. His immaculate sense of composition, his grasp of form, two- as well as three-dimensional, his sensitive use of gesture, and the subtlety of his portrayal of human interaction are all elements in what seems to me a distinctly civilising art, to paraphrase Kenneth Clark’s characterisation of Raphael. Contemplating Veronese is not only a joy, it makes you feel better about life and who we are.
That’s the high register. Keep an eye on the NG website for further thoughts and more concrete analysis during the course of the exhibition. I’ll keep you posted here and on twitter.
“There Are Good Guys and Bad Guys.” Bhob Stewart’s classic essay on/obituary of Wally Wood reprinted at the Comics Journal to mark the passing of its author. RIP. Read it, it is one of the most evocative, personal texts of its kind in comics. Really brings the great, flawed cartoonist to life.
Nikoline Werdelin interviewed. Arguably the greatest living Danish cartoonist, Werdelin has rarely if ever been interviewed about her comics (she has often talked to journalists about other things — life, style, death, and everything in between), so this in-depth, work-oriented interview by Thomas Thorhauge is a major scoop. Unfortunately it is only available in Danish, as is indeed the case with most of her work. English readers can sample her in From Wonderland with Love.
Finally, this uncredited photo, from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, is arresting, sobering, terrible. A reminder that something has to be done there. A no-fly zone blocking the government’s use of their air force remains a good place to start.
Illustration by Trondheim of the Angoulême mascot (designed by him) and Bill Watterson's Calvin
The Comics Journal, I’ve just posted a small article on the recent changes to the Grand Prix awarded at the Angoulême comics festival, this year to Bill Watterson. It is arguably the greatest formal honor bestowed in the comics world, and any change brings with it controversy, of course. I asked the great cartoonist, and member of the Grand Prix awarding body, Lewis Trondheim to help me out a bit. Check it out.
Once again, Paul Gravett has taken a trip around the globe for his annual survey of the best in world comics. And as usual, I’ve contributed a small list of what I consider the best/most notable Danish comics of last year. Read the full list here and here, but just in case, here’s my contribution: Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2013′
From Jim Woodring's Fran, a comic Joe McCulloch made me appreciate more, even if the cartoonist's recent work has left me a bit cold
Once again, Ng Suat Tong has posted an overview
of some of the best comics criticism published online in the year gone by over at the Hooded Utilitarian. In previous years, he has gathered differing juries consisting of a fairly wide range of critics, but this year he has dispensed with that in favor of just selecting a bunch of pieces on his own.
And once again, I’m flattered to be included on his list, especially considering just how little I’ve written in the past year. I’ve kept wanting to, but other things just kept getting in the way, and much as I want to say things are going to be different, that probably won’t change much in the coming year. Anyway, it was nice to see my piece on Abel Lanzac (aka. Antonin Baudry) and Christophe Blain’s Quai d’Orsay and Willem’s Degeulasse, written for The Comics Journal last August, mentioned. Especially since so many really excellent pieces (as well as some fairly mediocre one, it has to be said) were included.
Suat’s taking stock, which has now been running for five years, remains a valuable service to the corner of the comics internet interested in serious writing about the art form, and I for one am grateful that he still makes the effort. Also, he continues to write outstanding comics criticism himself: from the last year, I particularly liked his critique of Michael Deforge(‘s critics), his appreciation of The Trigan Empire, his essay on Daniel Clowes’ because of Shia Laboef now rather famous “Justin M. Damiano”, his examination of Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, and his head-scratching dissection of a particularly lauded xkcd story.
Now, don’t waste more time here — go check out the list.
I Informations bogtillæg fra i fredags stod min anmeldelse af Marcel Ruijters De hellige, udgivet på dansk af forlaget Forlæns, at læse. Du kan se den her.
The week in review
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and it will probably be a while yet before I do another one. Much happening in terms of relocating more permanently to London, so… but I just felt the itch to post something here wishing you all (those of you still reading this rather stagnant page) a happy new year. Over the holiday I rekindled my interest in the civil rights movement and black liberation in the US by reading Manning Marable’s fantastic, and controversial, biography of Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention. Presenting by far the most nuanced view of this complex figure so far, it does more to make him human, real, in the reader’s eye than just about anything else I’ve read. My one quibble is that by being so scrupulous about presenting the details of his life, warts and all, it tends to lose sight of what made him, this leader who achieved very little in terms of concrete political results, such a crucial figure in modern American history. It lacks sufficient exegesis on his words and thoughts, despite an excellent closing chapter that aims to provide perspective. But don’t let that deter if you have any interest in American history or the civil rights movement. It’s a great book.
With that, I figured I’d post the above video of Malcolm X speaking in Oxford (close to home for me now, that’s why, I guess!) in 1964, five or six months after having broken with the Nation of Islam. It’s a remarkable encapsulation of the fluctuating state of his thought at that moment, starting with a forceful statement of principle — the nature of American racism, the use of violence — entirely consistent with his earlier, more confrontational rhetoric, passes through a Barry Goldwater quote as well — poignantly — as one from Hamlet, to an approchement to the civil rights movement and embrace of the vote as a potential game changer for black Americans. And he ends on a universalist, revolutionary call for action. There are greater moments to be found in his many speeches and interviews (the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University is a good place to start learning more), but I love the eclecticism and coherence of this clip.
For those that missed it, Barton Gellman of the Washington Post interviewed Edward Snowden at some length last week. The paper also provided a disturbing perspective on the development of quantum computers and what it may mean for universal surveillance.
For Danish readers, this piece on how Green Growth has become a global buzzword over the last ten years , loosening the purse strings of corporations as well as government worldwide, is worth checking out. The same goes for Rune Lykkeberg’s piece on how the centre-left seems to have taken back the microphone in the Danish discourse on moral values.
It’s been a month already, and it’s been the blast. This is my new workplace — I’m doing my best to be steward to a mind-blowing collection of Italian paintings, with some really big shoes to fill. (Wish me luck). It’s still a little unreal, not the least because I’m still segueing between Copenhagen and London, moving only in January. In between at the National.
One of the great painters of his generation, in Denmark and internationally, Kurt Trampedach died a few days ago at age 70. When he was good, he painted the human condition as lonely and traumatic, but ever inquisitive and seeking. He was a close friend of my father’s, so his images came to mark my childhood, as did his voice and occasional alert presence. My best memories of him are from a childhood summer vacation spent in his mountainside home in the Basque Country, and seeing him ecstatic, wielding a huge wine glass filled with Schweppes Bitter Lemon, at the reception for the retrospective exhibition my father organized of his work at Sophienholm, Lyngby in 2001. He was talking his head off, hugging friends and strangers, high on life and art.
Rest in peace.
For those with Danish: My dad on his friend, Peter Michael Hornung’s fine obituary,and Peter Laugensen’s, Steen Baadsgaards excellent 1995 documentary on Trampedach’s life at that immensely fertile point in his career. Oh, and you could own the above picture.