On 14 May 2012, James Gurney asked readers of his blog, Gurney Journey, if anyone could tell him what became of Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ’s Les Porteurs de Mauvaises Nouvelles (“The Bearers of Bad News” — or better, “The Bad News Bearers!”), which was exhibited at the Salon of 1872. Upon seeing the image of the painting that Gurney posted, artist Craig Elliott contacted him to point out that Frazetta very clearly swiped one of the fallen figures in his painting Conan the Destroyer, and a side-by-side comparison was duly incorporated into the post. And then Rafael Kayanan noted that “a similar figure based on the second fallen male on the Lecomte can be found at the bottom left of Frazetta’s kneeling Kublai [sic] Khan plate.” It was all news to me, so…
I’ve posted both comparisons below, but please note that I haven’t borrowed any images from James Gurney’s site. If you want to view Gurney’s version of the comparison suggested by Craig Elliott, click here.
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Turns out, Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ’s Les Porteurs de Mauvaises Nouvelles, “long thought to have disappeared (and noted as such in Roger Diederen’s study on Lecomte de Nouÿ – see article in French) is in fact still held at the Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs” (See Didier Rykner, “France’s Hidden Museum,” The Art Tribune, http://www.thearttribune.com/France-s-hidden-museum.html)
Seeing Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ’s Les Porteurs de Mauvaises Nouvelles reminded me of two other terrific paintings on the theme of indifference in the face of death and destruction: Eugène Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) and Gustave Doré’s The Enigma (1872):
Scheduled for release in February 2012 (according to Amazon), Michael Wm. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series Volume 1 is described by the publisher, IDW, as “the first in a series that will provide a glimpse into the inner workings of this great artist, from the very earliest creative spark to more finished concepts and nearly completed works. Each image has been scanned from Kaluta’s personal sketchbooks and archives, and is accompanied by commentary from the artist.”
To whet your appetite for Kaluta’s new book, here’s the fifth (?) instalment in writer Len Wein and artist Mike Kaluta’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1934 novel, Pirates of Venus. Wein and Kaluta’s adaptation was part of an ongoing series of “Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Carson of Venus” stories that had a short but memorable run as back-up feature in the series, Korak, Son of Tarzan. If you’re familiar with Frazetta’s cover paintings for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Carson of Venus” novels, you will notice on the third page of the story that Kaluta gives an artistic tip of the hat to Frazetta’s painting for the 1963 Ace edition of Lost on Venus; for those who aren’t familiar with Frazetta’s painting, I’ve included an image of it below for the sake of comparison:
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It was obvious right from the start that Kaluta and Burroughs were a match made in heaven! And if work like that doesn’t make you want to see Kaluta’s sketchbook, and read what he has to say about his process, then nothing will…
In Michelangelo’s sculpture, known variously as The Deposition, The Florence Pietà, the Pietà del Duomo, and The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, the left leg of the central figure of Jesus Christ is not obscured by his other, foreground leg or tucked behind the figure of his mother, Mary, at the viewer’s right. Rather, the left leg, which was originally draped over Mary’s knee, was removed/smashed by the artist, who then decided, for some reason, to give the sculpture to a servant.
Art historian Leo Steinberg has argued that Michelangelo smashed the sculpture because he had second thoughts about the sexual symbolism of the intertwined legs, but others claim that Michelangelo was simply angry because he discovered a flaw in the marble that made it impossible to continue the carving. As I recall, Steinberg’s historical evidence for the existence of such a symbol is fairly strong, but whether or not Michelangelo was aware that his composition might arouse controversy and smashed the leg (and more) as a result remains an open question.