Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Tuesday 12th December: Virgin of the Angels

Well, look at us! We're halfway there already which means I should probably crack on and write my ghost story for Christmas Eve.  In the meantime, here's our next Mary...

 Virgin of the Angels (1881) William-Adolphe Bouguereau
I've gone all traditional today, with William-Adolphe Bouguereau (or 'William-Electric Boogaloo' as my brain insists on calling him) and his silky-smooth academic style.  He painted over 800 pictures you know.  Blimey. What I love about Bouguereau is that he was determined to be an artist and worked phenomenally hard to get there, which all paid off in the end.  For example, whilst studying art, he also attended human dissections, and studied archaeology and historical costume, all of which informed his art...

Equality Before Death (1848)

There's a man on a slab if ever I saw one, but look at that magnificently muscly angel.  It's incredible to think he was only 23 when he painted it, it's so accomplished and powerful.  You can see his time at the morgue paid off in every grim yet beautiful detail of the naked chap.  That angel has an impressive pair of wings...

The Virgin of the Angels (1900)
Leaving naked chaps for a moment, Bourguereau seemed to like painting the Virgin, as is right and proper for a good French Catholic.  Not only do we get a few blue-robed Marys holding her holy baby aloft while pretty primary school angels look on adoringly (no scratching, fidgeting or nose picking there), but also he branched out to other Mary scenes...

Virgin Mary of the Lilies (1899)
Here we have Mary, holding up happy little Jesus, this time with her obligatory lilies and a rather 1970s wallpaper behind.  I think that pattern was in my Grandma's back bedroom...

Madonna of the Roses (1903)
Don't fancy lilies?  We can get you a nice Madonna with roses instead.  I think I can see how he ended up producing over 800 paintings...

Song of the Angels (1881)
It's not fair of me to suggest that he just produced the same painting over and over with small changes as some of his Virgins are sublime in their beauty, such as the Song of the Angels which has the Holy Mother and Child being lulled to sleep by the soft playing of a heavenly trio.  As the mother of a child who did not sleep for the first nine months of her life, I now know where I went wrong.  I obviously needed the angels' help...

Virgin and the Child (1888)
I am always one to wonder if personal circumstances had anything to do with art, and with Bouguereau there are sad reasons to wonder if he had a special place in his heart for images of perfect babies.  He outlived four of his five children, most of whom died in childhood, along with his first wife, Nelly Monchablon, who was one of his early models.  Tuberculosis took his wife's life and possibly three of his children (if not four), and Nelly and their last child Maurice died within a couple of months of each other, the child barely a year old in 1877.  There is a peace in eternal portraits of a beautiful woman and healthy child protected by angels, forever enthroned, but even within the image above there is a hint of death in the outspread arms of the child.  Mary seems to stand for parents of lost children, the mother of a child taken too soon, which must have struck an all-too-common chord with his audience at the time.

I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas that will bring comfort to those who find themselves without a loved one this year.  The first Christmas is always the worst and my thoughts are with you.

See you tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. The detail and technical skill is amazing...

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx