Monthly Archives: November 2013

Finger of the Holy Spirit, snout of the seraphim, nail of a cherubim, phial of Saint Michael’s sweat and Jesus’s sweat in Veronica’s handkerchief

Veil of Veronica by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598 – 1664), Bilbao Fine Arts Museum version

I love the bodiness and sheer ‘physicality’ of relics (lit. remains, often of body parts).

The French protestant satire Apologie pour Herodote (1566) was one of the first texts to poke fun at the Christian obsession with relics:

“A monk of St. Anthony having been at Jerusalem, saw there several relics, among which were a bit of the finger of the Holy Ghost, as sound and entire as it had ever been; the snout of the seraphim that appeared to St. Francis; one of the nails of a cherubim; one of the ribs of the verbum caro factum (the word made flesh); some rays of the star which appeared to the three kings in the east; a phial of St. Michael’s sweat when he was fighting against the devil; a hem of Joseph’s garment, which he wore when he cleaved wood.”–(tr. via Curiosities of Literature).

Apologie pour Herodote (1566, English: The Apology of Herodotus) is a protestant satire of catholicism by French printer and classical scholar Henri Estienne.

World music classic #829

Milestones” by Miles Davis is the 829th entry in my top 1000 songs. There is no hierarchy in this top 1000 list. It’s like a giant mixtape you can put on shuffle.

829 songs (six years in the making; i.e. compiling) account for about fifty hours of music. When finished, the list will feature more than 58 hours of music. The average song length in my calculations is three minutes and a half.

On Youtube, of all places

I can’t remember exactly how but I managed to stumble on a complete version of the German short film Besonders wertvoll.

On Youtube, of all places:

Besonders wertvoll (1968, English: Of Special Merit) is a short subject directed by Hellmuth Costard and produced by Petra Nettelbeck.

The film, now almost fifty years old, criticized the new German Film Funding Act of 1967 by way of a talking phallus representing German politician Hans Toussaint, co-sponsor of the new film funding law. The title Besonders wertvoll translates as ‘of particular merit’ (as in cultural significance vs. ‘utterly without redeeming social importance‘) and is an allusion to the highest film rating given by Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung.

Love misquotations? Here’s a good one. This film is famous for originating “Only the perverse fantasy can still save us,” (misattributed to Goethe), which is shown at the end of the film credits.

For those of you interested in weird films, here[2] is a Youtube playlist of films featured in Amos Vogel’s Film as a Subversive Art (1974)

The film is a milestone in the history of the sexual revolution in Germany.

Pope in bed, almost dead

Caricature of Innocent XI (1676) by Bernini

I’ve been furthering my research on the history of caricature, aided by two books: History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art (1864) by Thomas Wright and Caricature and Other Comic Art (1877) by James Parton, the two earliest Anglophone studies on the subject.

Both mention amusing examples of Roman caricature: the Pygmy caricatures in Pompeii.

Neither mentions the Caricature of Innocent XI (1676) by Bernini (above).

The coarsest drawings in the history of caricature

It is with great pleasure that I present an almost complete set of Abbildung des Papsttums (1545, Representation of the Papacy), a series of nine antipapal caricatures by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Click here for the PDF.

These woodcuts were published in conjunction with the “Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil” a anticlerical and anti-Catholic pamphlet by Martin Luther.

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that they are “the coarsest drawings that the history of caricature of all times has ever produced.”

The majority of this type of prints during the war between protestants and catholics were produced by protestants, however, there is the fine example of a catholic counter-attack by the depicting ‘Luther as the Devil’s Bagpipes‘.

Needless to say, I find this “coarseness” envigorating and I remember how amused I was when I first read “You should not write a book before you have heard an old sow fart,” another infamous dictum by Luther.

You can find more at Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic and antipapal pamphlets and protestant satire of catholicism.

In case you would like to purchase the set, it will cost €35,000.

Birds, bees and psychoanalysis

The Shell (1912) by Odilon Redon

The Shell by Odilon Redon represents yonic symbolism.

Already in 1916 the  Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi in Sex in Psychoanalysis[1] wrote:

“The derisive remark was once made against psychoanalysis that the unconscious sees a penis in every convex object and a vagina or anus in every concave one. I find that this sentence well characterizes the facts.”  (tr. Ernest Jones)

I found the above dictum while researching sexual symbolism. Ferenczi’s dictum was most famously referenced in Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown.

Bosch’s disembodied senses

The Trees have Ears and the Field has Eyes by Hieronymus Bosch

The Trees have Ears and the Field has Eyes is the informal title of a two-sided drawing by Hieronymus Bosch.

The disembodied eyes are on the ground, the disembodied ears float in the woods.

I previously published an example of disembodied eyes here.

See disembodied and independent body parts.

When a nose is not a nose

Caricature of human nose Illustration: Napoleon III nose caricatures from Schneegans's History of Grotesque Satire

Napoleon III nose caricatures from Schneegans’s History of Grotesque Satire

Following my previous post on [1] the concept of the grotesque body in Bakhtin’s book Rabelais and His World (which mentions the term grotesque 91 times), I did some research on previous books Bakhtin mentions in Rabelais and His World with reference to the grotesque.

One of the authors whose name pops up most (13 times) is that of Heinrich Schneegans, author of Geschichte der grotesken Satire (1894).

Bakhtin criticizes Schneegans for failing to notice the connection between caricatures of the human nose (above) and the phallic symbolism of the human nose. Sometimes a nose it not a nose.