Jesús González: 1/2 Project


Jesús González Rodríguez, Medio Proyecto (1/2 Project), 2011. For his series "1/2", the Venezuelan artist creates unsettling portraits by collaging multiple photographs of individuals while "cutting" out along their edges. Each image is composed of a full face and profile view of the subject against a blank white wall, creating a nearly optical-illusion in which the portraits can appear momentarily normal until one's eyes fall upon an outlying characteristic. Ref. "freaks; multidirectional face illusions" (S).

Diego Ramírez




Fischli und Weiss

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Questions and Flowers, 2007

Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have been collaborating since 1979. Their photographs, sculptures, installations and moving images explore extraordinary transformations of the commonplace through a comic childlike spirit and love of play. The world of everyday objects is in a precarious balance and sometimes comprising an absurd chain of reactions between different objects colliding and setting off explosions. Chance encounters of objects and precariuos balance characterize their series of photographs Equilibres of 1984–87; chain reaction prevails in their film The Way Things Go of 1987. In the case of Fischli & Weiss, gravity may seemingly work in reverse, creating unexpected states of suspension.

Équilibres, photograph, 1984-87

The Maid, from Équilibres series, photograph, 1984-87

Équilibres, photograph, 1984-87

The First Blush of Morning | A New Day Begins, 1985
from the Équilibres series, 1984-87

The Way Things Go, 2009. Fischli and Weiss remove ordinary things from their original context and restructure their relationships in new ways. The artists aim neither to glorify nor to alienate the objects, but merely to create new references in order to be reconsidered. The Way Things Go is a chain reaction, self-destructing performance that includes physical effects and chemical reactions, to suggest a precisely crafted chaos.

Simple Science, from Équilibres series, photograph, 1984-87

The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), 1987


A faster variation, with a tempo matching the tunes of the overture "William Tell" by Gioachino Rossini. The film by Fischli and Weiss documents a long causal chain assembled of everyday objects. It is in a warehouse, about 100 feet long, and incorporates materials such as tires, trash bags, ladders, soap, oil drums, and gasoline. Fire and pyrotechnics are used as chemical triggers. The original film is nearly 30 minutes long; this one is just 7 minutes long and shows the integrity of the Swiss duo's installation.


De monstruos, prodigios y maravillas

John Ruskin advances his theory of the grotesque in Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice, which is an immense three volume work wherein he talks about the history of Venetian art and architecture; sometimes generally, sometimes literally stone by stone.
In the second volume of Stones, Ruskin argues that "grotesqueness" is one of the fundamental ingredients of Gothic architecture, along with savageness, changefulness, naturalism, rigidity and redundance. On this grotesque quality he comments that: "every reader familiar with Gothic architecture must understand what I mean, and will, I believe, have no hesitation in admitting that the tendency to delight in fantastic and ludicrous, as well as in sublime, images, is a universal instinct of the Gothic imagination" (LXXII).
In the third volume of Stones, Ruskin discusses the grotesque "corruption" of the Renaissance style, which is understood by Ruskin to reflect a wider corruption of Christian values and the loosening of religion's hold upon the minds and souls of the citizens of Venice (Groteskology: Ruskin I).

Ruskin argues that the "corruption" of Venice's beautiful Gothic architecture, during what he calls the "grotesque renaissance," accords with a more general collapse of social values that is reflected in the worst kind of grotesque [his example].[+] Having already commented on the grotesque as an essential quality of Gothic, he now comes to exploring the difference between the new, heinous grotesquerie and the earlier, more positive kind: "It must be our immediate task, and it will be a most interesting one, to distinguish between this base grotesqueness, and that magnificent condition of fantastic imagination, which was above noticed as one of the chief elements of the Northern Gothic mind" (III, XVI).
Ruskin detects two components in the grotesque: "It seems to me that the grotesque is, in almost all cases, composed of two elements, one ludicrous, the other fearful; that, as one or other of these elements prevails, the grotesque falls into two branches, sportive grotesque and terrible grotesque; but that we cannot legitimately consider it under these two aspects, because there are hardly any examples which do not in some degree combine both elements; there are few grotesques so utterly playful as to be overcast with no shade of fearfulness, and few so fearful as absolutely to exclude all ideas of jest. But although we cannot separate the grotesque itself into two branches, we may easily examine separately the two conditions of mind which it seems to combine; and consider successively what are the kinds of jest, and what the kinds of fearfulness, which may be legitimately expressed in the various walks of art, and how their expressions actually occur in the Gothic and Renaissance schools" (III, XXIII).
Numerous contemporary discussions maintain the validity of this structure in which the grotesque finds expression as a combination of the comic and the fearful. According to Ruskin, "the mind, under certain phases of excitement, plays with terror" (XLV). The grotesque is thus understood as that which enables terrible things to be set out in the open, to be played with in a form of personal and cultural exorcism.
Ruskin discussed this earlier, in the fourth volume of Modern Painters, where he commented that: "A fine grotesque is the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connection, of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself; the gaps, left or over-leaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character" (97-98). Groteskology: Ruskin II; [+] Maschera in pietra sulla porta del campanile in Campo Santa Maria Formosa. John Ruskin la definisce, ne "Le pietre di Venezia", "una testa --colossale, bestiale, mostruosa-- ammiccante in una degradante volgarità, troppo brutta per essere descritta o per essere guardata più che per un attimo."

Collection database: The British Museum, London

A Cruel Caricature? This particular vase is a type of pottery called Knidian Relief Ware, which was manufactured in large quantities in and around Cnidus in south-east Turkey. In Knidian Relief Ware grotesque heads were a very popular motif, along with animals such as rams, lions and dogs. Cruelly caricatured representations of people were a very popular motif in pottery vases, as indeed they were in other areas of art, for example sculpture and terracottas. Bibl. J.W. Hayes, Handbook of Mediterranean Roma, London: British Museum, 1997; S. Walker, Roman Art, London, 1991; P. Roberts, "Mass-production of Roman Fine Wares" in Pottery in the Making: World-5, London: British Museum, 1997, pp. 188-93 (British Museum).

Dragón en el románico aragonés

Este reptil fabuloso, cuyo nombre significa precisamente “reyezuelo” (βασιλίσκος basilískos: «pequeño rey») es sin lugar a dudas el rey del Fisiólogo, un animal que pertenece por entero a la esfera de la imaginación o al acervo simbólico y al que jamás se le ha encontrado su análogo en la fauna animal.
Su aparición en la mayoría de los bestiarios es una referencia obligada; casi todos los textos aluden a esta criatura describiéndola como un animal de pequeño porte, pero “tan ponzoñoso, que mata a los hombres con su sola mirada. Son reyes -basileus- de las serpientes; y no hay en el mundo bestia, grande o pequeña, que se les quiera enfrentar. Y allá por donde pasan, debido al gran veneno que tienen, secan los árboles y las hierbas. Y todos los años mudan la piel, como hace la serpiente, y después las renuevan.
La imagen del basilisco evoluciona a lo largo del tiempo, aunque permanecen algunos elementos en su descripción general, como el parentesco con las serpientes y lo mortífero de su mirada: ” En el siglo VIII, el basilisco era considerado una serpiente con unos cuernos en la cabeza y una mancha blanca en la frente en forma de corona. (…) Más tarde, en el medievo, pasa a ser un gallo con cuatro patas, plumas amarillas, grandes alas espinosas y cola de serpiente, que podía terminar en garfio, cabeza de serpiente o en otra cabeza de gallo. Hay versiones de esta criatura mitológica con ocho patas y escamas en vez de plumas. Plinio el Viejo lo describe como una culebrilla de escaso tamaño y pésimo genio ya que "su potente veneno hace marchitarse las plantas y su mirada es tan virulenta que mata a los hombres."
En otras fuentes las descripciones lo hacen semejante al gallo, con el que comparte su cresta, tamaño y porte: “Se figura como un gallo con cola de dragón o una serpiente con alas de gallo.” Todo su simbolismo deriva de esta asociación con el gallo y la serpiente: “El basilisco representaría el poder real que fulmina a quienes le faltan al respeto; a la mujer casquivana que corrompe a quienes de antemano no la reconocen y no pueden en consecuencia evitarla; los peligros mortales de la existencia, que uno no advierte a tiempo, y frente a los cuales son los ángeles divinos la única salvaguarda”. Esta asociación simbólica del basilisco con la mujer, de clara ascendencia judeocristiana, procede de la misma fuente que vincula a Eva con la Serpiente, y es más frecuente en el Renacimiento; así “durante el siglo de Oro, la literatura española aparece salpicada de referencias a la bestia, normalmente para compararla a la mirada de la amada. Lope de Vega, Quevedo o Cervantes usan a la criatura en sus textos.)
A propósito de esta extraña criatura dice el Bestiario de Brunetto que “cuando avanza, la mitad anterior de su cuerpo se yegue verticalmente, la otra mitad queda como en las demás serpientes, enroscada. Y por muy feroz que sea el basilisco, lo matan las comadrejas (…) Y sabed que Alejandro (Magno) los vio; mandó hacer entonces unas grandes ampollas de vidrio, en las que entraban hombres que podían ver a los basiliscos, mientras que éstos no los veían, y los mataban con sus flechas; y mediante tal añagaza, libro de ellos a sí mismo y a su ejército.”
E Isidoro en sus Etimologías: «Basilisco es nombre griego; en latín se interpreta regulo, porque es la reina de las serpientes, de tal manera que todas le huyen, porque las mata con su aliento y al hombre con su vista; más aún, ningún ave que vuele en su presencia pasa ilesa, sino que, aunque esté muy lejos, cae muerta y es devorada por él. Sin embargo le vence la comadreja, que los hombres lanzan a las cavernas en las que se esconde el basilisco. Cuando éste la ve huye y es perseguido hasta que es muerto por ella. Nada dejó el Padre de todas las cosas sin remedio. Su tamaño es de medio pie y tiene líneas formadas por puntas blancas. Los régulos, como los escorpiones, andan por lugares áridos, pero cuando llegan a las aguas se hacen acuáticos. Sibilus es el mismo basilisco, y se le da este nombre porque con sus silbidos mata antes que muerde.»
Más curiosas son las explicaciones que sobre el origen de este enigmático monstruo nos brindan los diferentes bestiarios conocidos, pues casi todos coinciden en afirmar que el basilisco “nace de un huevo de gallo viejo, de siete o catorce años, huevo redondo depositado en el estiércol y empollado por un sapo, una rana o una sierpe venenosa. “
Algunos autores ya en la antigüedad manifestaron sus dudas sobre estas peregrinas historias sobre el origen de la mítica bestia: “que nazca de un huevo puesto por n gallo viejo, es difícilmente creíble; no obstante, algunos afirman con gran confianza que, cuando el gallo se vuelve viejo y cesa de montar a sus gallinas, nace en su interior, de su simiente corrompida, un huevecillo cubierto con una delgada película en vez de cáscara; incubado por un sapo alguna criatura semejante, el huevo produce el gusano venenoso, aunque no este basilisco, este rey de las serpientes. ”
Advierten las leyendas que es extremadamente difícil capturar vivo un basilisco. El único medio, como en el caso de otras criaturas que matan con sólo mirar, es un espejo: “en él la mirada terrible de letal potencia, reflejada y vuelta sobre el basilisco mismo, lo mata; o bien los vapores ponzoñosos que lanza le procuran la muerte que él quiso dar.” En este episodio es evidente la relación con la Gorgona, cuya visión causaba la muerte petrificando al individuo; del mismo modo que la representación de la cabeza de la Medusa en el escudo de Atenea era capaz de destruir a los enemigos de la diosa: “Lucano refiere que de la sangre de Medusa nacieron todas las serpientes de Libia: el Áspid, la Anfisbena, el Amódite, el propio Basilisco; el pasaje está en el libro noveno de la Farsalia”.
El salmista equipara al basilisco con el áspid, poniéndolos en relación con el dragón y otros símbolos del Adversario: “Los ángeles te llevarán en palmas, para que tu pie no tropiece en la piedra, pisarás el áspid y el basilico; hollarás el léon y el dragón (Sal. XC, 12-13) “
En el ámbito alquímico también prolifera la imagen del basilisco, simbolizando el poder devastador y regenerador del fuego, en un simbolismo cercano al de la salamandra. La aparición del basilisco preludia en cierto sentido el inicio de la transmutación de los metales. En algunos tratados antiguos de medicina tradicional el basilisco se usa –como se usaba antaño el polvo de cuerno de rinoceronte– como remedio medicinal, mezclado con otros ingredientes que resultarán en ungüento o pócima de milagrosos efectos.
La representación del basilisco nos sugiere, al margen de la carga moralizante que le prestaron los autores de los bestiarios, asociaciones con el dios Abraxas de los gnósticos, a menudo representado con cabeza de gallo y cuerpo de serpiente, y nos trae a la memoria el recuerdo de algunas criaturas fantásticas de la ciencia ficción moderna, verbigracia aquel octavo pasajero vermiforme y ponzoñoso que, como el basilisco, gozaba de idéntico mal genio.


John Mandeville, Libro de las maravillas del mundo, 1540
Como grandes apasionados de los viajes y las mirabilia naturae, no podíamos faltar a esta cita ineludible con el aventurero y expedicionario de leyenda Juan de Mandávila, y su obra, conocida como Libro de las Maravillas:
“Nos encontramos ante uno de los libros de viajes más emblemáticos y populares del género en su modalidad de “viaje imaginario” (…) Junto con el Libro de las maravillas de Marco Polo (…) es sin duda, el de mayor difusión en la Europa medieval, desde su aparición en la segunda mitad del siglo XIV hasta el periodo renacentista . (…) Sin embargo, cabe preguntarse por qué la materia de viajes - en sus distintas manifestaciones- adquiere una presencia autónoma y constante a lo largo de la Edad Media y la sigue manteniendo durante muchas décadas después, independientemente de las nuevas variantes del género (largas navegaciones, naufragios, diarios de a bordo, etc.) que responden a las nuevas exigencias de “aventura” y entretenimiento en los siglos XVI y XVII”
“El viaje de Mandeville (…) combina la forma de peregrinación, con la adición de dos tipos de materia fabulosa: las varias leyendas devotas asociadas con iertos lugares de la Tierra Santa y buena cantidad de monstruos“ en la tradición de la Naturalis Historia de Plinio el Viejo– “ todo eso enmarcado en la presentación del viaje como aventura caballeresca relatada a posteriori, es decir, desde el recuerdo de los peligros y las hazañas del pasado que el Mandeville anciano revive desde el presente.”
“El hombre medieval, en su condición de homo viator, va a intentar aprehender estos otros mundos -tradicionalmente susceptibles de todo tipo de especulaciones y mitologías- como parte insólita de la realidad conocida(…)Viajero y también erudito parece ser Mandeville - o, como mínimo parece pretenderlo- al combinar en su relato la elaboración más genuinamente novelesca tan característica de los libros de viajes con el tratamiento más descriptivo y teórico de la noticia geográfica”
Textos tomados de Juan de Mandávila, Libro de las maravillas del mundo, Valencia, 1540; edición realizada por Estela Pérez Bosch


Conjoined twins

Ambroise Paré (1510-90), Oeuvres, 1585
NLM http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/paregallery.htm

Conrad Gessner, Historiae Animalium, 1551

Olaus Magnus, Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, 1555

Conrad Lycosthenes (Conradus Lycosthenes, Corrado Licostene), Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon, 1557; engravings by Theodor de Bry (1528-1598). Obra renacentista. El término “crónica” corresponde con exactitud con el espíritu y el contenido de las obras, y sus descripciones maravillosas y fantásticas de los fenómenos y prodigios procedentes de la cultura medieval. Compuesta por magníficas xilografías de Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) en las que se representan aves con malformaciones teratológicas, que eran vistas a menudo como presagios de infortunio o desgracias, o anunciadores de calamidades y catástrofes cercanas.

Fortunio Liceti, De Monstrorum natura, caussis et differentiis (On the nature, causes and differences of monsters), 1616. Fortunio Liceti, absoluto seguidor de Aristóteles, en su De Perfecta Constitutione hominis in utero, fundamentará sus argumentos en la irreflenable fuerza y capacidad generativa de la Naturaleza que no teme a obstáculos o límites en su infinita variedad de expresión, viendo aquí la razón primera de la presencia de monstruos en la Creación. En 1616 Licetti publicaría su De Monstrorum Natura, obra seminal que marcaría el inicio de los estudios de las malformaciones teratológicas del embrión. En ella describe numerosos monstruos, reales e imaginarios, y busca las razones para explicar su extraña apariencia. Su aproximación al tema difiere de la perspectiva al uso entre los expertos europeos de la época, puesto que veía a los monstruos no como un castigo divino sino como el producto de una anomalía o rareza natural. Asímismo sostendría la idea de la transmisión de caracteres similares de padres a hijos, presagiando los estudios de genética.
La obra de Liceti parte de una definición del “monstruo” que retoma el significado etimológico original: con el término monstrum se indica todo aquello que suscita admiración, sorpresa y maravilla -res mirabilis- sea en modo positivo o negativo –véase el horror sagrado–. El monstruo, asociado a la capacidad de asombro y maravilla, fuente y principio de toda búsqueda en pos de la sabiduría, vuelve a retomar su antigua función de custodio y guardián del tesoro, que en este caso simboliza la gnosis, el verdadero conocimiento.

Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605), Monstrorum Historia, 1642. A los “monstruos marginales del arte y la literatura, a los prodigios y maravillas, a su mundo y a sus paisajes” (1) está consagrada esta entrada sobre la Monstrorum historia de Ulisse Aldrovandi (1662), una obra antigua que no deja de maravillarnos por su temática, que aborda todo tipo de aberraciones y deformaciones naturales, anatomía mórbida, monstruos y criaturas extraordinarias, naturales o mitológicas. Escrita originalemente en latín, el texto se ilustraba profusamente con innúmeras imágenes sumamente descriptivas, que aún hoy poseen una gran fuerza visual.

Cabinet of Curiosities

C.J. Grant, "Singular Effects of the Universal Vegetable Pills on a Green Grocer," lithograph, London 1831. A man in bed with vegetables sprouting from all parts of his body; as a result of taking J. Morison's vegetable pills. Wellcome Images, London
Ref. alternative medicine

José Guadalupe Posada

Human Marvels
Pueden llamarles monstruos, fenómenos, prodigios, aberraciones, engendros del infierno -como ustedes quieran- pero yo los llamaré increibles y maravillosos seres humanos, en esta crónica de sus inspiradoras historias del triunfo del espíritu y la voluntad sobre la naturaleza, el destino y el juicio del hombre.
Así se presenta al mundo el artífice de The Human Marvels, donde nos presentan a esta “gente peculiar”. Disfruten del espectáculo trágico de la vida humana. De esta fabulosa y altamente recomendable página hemos sacado algunas de las fotografías que les ofrecemos, con ánimo esclarecedor, for your enlightenment.

Freaks, dir. Tod Browning, USA, 1932. La palabra “Freak” equivalía, en los primeros años del siglo XX, a la expresión “monstruo de feria”, pues hacía referencia concretamente a engendros, prodigios o fenómenos de la naturaleza, “a personas -que no monstruos- diferentes, que por azares y caprichos de la biología, nacieron o crecieron con taras, deformidades o configuraciones especiales. Gente que ” también formaba parte de la sociedad y que llegaron a mover millones de dólares como atracción de feria en la época de la Gran Depresión Americana y fue a partir de ahí cuando los diccionarios en inglés empezaron a recogerla.”
“La película de 1932 de Tod Browning Freaks (La Parada de los Monstruos) refleja esa realidad, en la que un grupo de actores circenses va de ciudad en ciudad mostrando a un público deseoso por ver algo diferente con un éxito arrollador y delicioso; sin embargo, casi un siglo después, La Parada de los Otros Monstruos, claramente la nuestra, en la que los abominables seres anormales somos nosotros, aún no está preparada e incluso discrimina lo diferente, lo que está fuera del mainstream; exactamente igual que Browning lo recogió en película hace ya casi un siglo.”
No podemos hacernos una ligera idea del profundo impacto que la película Freaks, de 1932, tuvo en la audiencia de su época. Incluso hoy día un espectador medio puede sufrir un ligero shock ante la potencia primigenia de este film y los terroríficos pero tiernos monstruos de feria, los actores reales de circo que actúan en él. Han tenido que transcurrir varios lustros hasta que esta cinta lograra su actual estatus de película de culto, porque hasta no hace mucho estuvo prohibida por la crudeza de la historia y sobre todo por sus imágenes. Lo más curioso es precisamente que todos los actores que interpretaron un papel en Freaks eran personas con deformidades reales y casi no se usaron efectos especiales ni de maquillaje. El director, Browning, escogió cuidadosamente en el casting a los “freaks”(fenomenos) protagonistas de su cinta, antes que usar disfraces o artificios de ningún tipo, para dar más verismo y credibilidad a la narración.
“Vista hoy en día, la película resulta [...] rodada con sencillez [...], Browning plantea un cuento de terror moral en una atmósfera extraña pero en todo momento realista. Tal y como sucedió en el mismo rodaje, los freaks del film parecen tener un comportamiento mucho más noble que el de la sociedad que les rodea y les aparta por el simple hecho de haber sufrido alguna deformidad.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, (Les damnés de la terre ), 1961: "There is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism, since the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters" (source).

François Houtin, Jardins, c. 1983-2000. Sorprendente maestro del grutesco y el arabesco, adepto del asunto simbólico del Árbol de la vida y sus múltiples ramificaciones iconográficas, desde el laberinto vegetal al hortus conclusus, pasando por el capriccio ornamental ampliamente inspirado en ramas, vástagos, raíces y formas arborescentes y orgánicas. Su dibujo abigarrado y barroco, en un sobrio blanco y negro y dominado por el rigor de la línea grabada o burilada, es capaz sin embargo de evocar los más singulares y remotos lugares de la imaginación. El jardín soñado es el tema central de la obra de este grabador francés, François Houtin (1950- ), a cuya descripción detallada [h]a dedicado buena parte de su trayectoria artística, con singular fortuna. Su infancia en el entorno de Craon, cerca de Mayenne, en la región rural de Anjou, propiciaría su acercamiento al tema del paisaje y el jardín imaginario. El propio Houtin trabajaría un tiempo como jardinero y florista, mientras completaba su formación de arquitecto y paisajista, dos disciplinas cuya influencia se intuye en su monumental e inspirador trabajo, entre las visiones de Piranesi y la atmósfera apasionada y misteriosa del paisaje romántico (Flegetanis; Galleria del Leone; Marinni).

Thomas Mangold
„Aus einer Mücke eine Elefanten machen”
To make an elephant out of a mosquito, 2010
photograph and computer graphic design
Artist's remark: "If you rearrange reality and/or approach it in a new and unfamiliar angle there are endless possibilities to create stunning stuff."

Ian McCormick, Encyclopedia of the Marvelous, the Monstrous, and the Grotesque, including illustrations list, London, 2000

Jahsonic 2006-9
Natural History
Awe of nature, taste for the bizarre, thirst for knowledge
Monsters are not signs of God’s punishment
Tumors and other major deformities in medical illustration
Surrealism avant la lettre

Ancient hybrids
Graeco-Roman figurines
Franco-Spanish grotesques
Andrea Riccio
Castillo Pedro Fajardo
Arent van Bolten
Nicasius Roussel
Baroque heads
Ruskin pt1
Ruskin pt2
Patricia Piccinini
Lucy McRae


William Hogarth: The Analysis of Beauty

Early Comics: TS Sullivant

George Quaintance 1950s Covers


Jean-Jacques Lequeu

Lequeu, Grotesques, 1786. Composition: Mariano Akerman

Jean-Jacques Lequeu, né le 14 septembre 1757 à Rouen et mort le 28 mars 1826 à Paris, est un architecte et dessinateur français. Il est plutôt un visionnaire qu’un architecte. À part deux « folies » aux environs de sa ville natale, il n’a rien construit. Tout le reste de son œuvre architecturale consiste dans des dessins de bâtiments souvent inconstructibles. Le reste de son œuvre picturale, tels ses autoportraits en travesti, appartient au fantasme et a constitué une inspiration pour le surréalisme qui a vu en lui un précurseur. On ne sait pas grand-chose de sa vie. On sait qu’il a travaillé dans sa ville natale avec l’architecte Le Brument.
Lequeu a été architecte de l’Académie royale des Sciences, Belles-Lettres, et Beaux-Arts. Il a reçu deux prix de l’Académie de Rouen en 1776 et 1778. En 1779, il travaille comme dessinateur ou inspecteur au bureau des bâtiments de l’église Sainte-Geneviève (c’est-à-dire l’agence de Jacques-Germain Soufflot). En 1793, il est employé au bureau du Cadastre. En 1802, il travaille au bureau des bâtiments civils du ministère de l’Intérieur. En juillet 1825, il donne l’ensemble de ses dessins et manuscrits à la Bibliothèque Royale.
Il est souvent considéré comme un architecte « révolutionnaire », au même titre que Étienne-Louis Boullée et Claude Nicolas Ledoux. Cette épithète ne vient pas de ce qu’ils ont révolutionné l’architecture ou qu’il aient été particulièrement engagés à cette période, mais qu’ils sont contemporains de la Révolution française.

Dessin d'un ornement grotesque pour l'hôtel de Montholon, 1786

Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826) was a French draughtsman and architect. Born in Rouen, he won a scholarship to go to Paris, but following the French revolution his architectural career never took off. He spent time preparing the Architecture Civile, a book intended for publication, but which was never published. Most of his ornamental drawings can be found at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826)
Dessins d'ornements grotesques pour l'hôtel de Montholon, 1786
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
Gallica : Ornements et Frises de Grotesques
Addenda: 1, 2, 3

Lequeu, Grotesques, 1786. Composition: Mariano Akerman
Pour des buts éducatifs seulement | For educational use only.

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Lequeu Grotesques by Mariano Akerman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at picasaweb.google.com.


Louis-Léopold Boilly

Boilly (1761-1845), Les Grimaces, 3, lithographie, 1824

Grimacer est un art. Disparate, feinte ou spontanée, fine ou grossière, acrimonieuse ou affable, la grimace subjugue de sa présence expressive toutes les époques et captive toutes les disciplines artistiques. Couchée sur papier, colorée de pigment, taillée dans le marbre, sculptée dans l’albâtre ou encore fixée sur cliché, elle est envisagée dans tous ses états. Elle peut questionner les rapports entre le moral et le physique, là où les « visages insolents, excessifs ou hors de contrôle son aperçues comme une offense à l’encontre des règles de la beauté idéale » (Martial Guédron, L’art de la grimace, Paris : Hazan, 2011).
Spontanée, la grimace fut aussi perçue comme expression des caractères et des passions, comme l’indice d’une nature humaine à l’image d’un langage « primitif » prompt à trahir une animalité. Simulée ou envisagée du point de vue de l’artiste, de Jean-Jacques Lequeu aux productions photographiques contemporaines en passant par Franz Xavier Messerschmidt, elle rompt avec les canons fixant les représentations du corps. Aussi les caricaturistes de presse en feront- ils un vaste champ d’exploration. Travaillée enfin, la grimace put être perçue comme apparentée à l’hypocrisie sinon à la conspiration (Véronique Fau-Vincenti, « Caricatures », Le monde diplomatique, juillet 2011, p. 25).

Boilly, Une loge, un jour de spectacle gratuit, 1830. 32,5 x 41,7 cm. Musée Lambinet, Versailles

Boilly, Les cinq sens, lithographie, 1823
The five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Sight (at top centre) is portrayed as a man using an eyeglass to look at himself in a hand-held mirror. Hearing (at centre left) is shown as a man listening to a watch. Smell (at centre right) is shown as a young woman sniffing at a bottle of perfume. Taste (at lower centre) is portrayed as a fat man greedily eating food from a plate. Touch (at bottom left) is shown as a physician taking Smell's wrist pulse.

EMPIRICISM. Roughly characterised, the backbone of empiricism is a simple claim: opinions are reasonable if, and only if, they are supported by evidence that is ultimately grounded in experience.
Experience, here, can mean everyday observation using one or more of the five senses, but it is also meant to include rigorous scientific experimentation. Respect for this principle is what supposedly sets the scientific age apart from the pre-scientific age. In that earlier age, unsupported speculation was purportedly rampant; since the scientific revolution, experience served to constrain such speculation.
Empiricists claimed that experience was the source of all genuine knowledge; claims that didn‘t ultimately spring from the senses were to be dismissed as fanciful. Boilly's caricatured personification of the senses reveals how not everyone was so convinced of the effectiveness of scientific methods at yielding all the truth and only the truth.
Expressed more negatively, empiricists are claiming that we should refuse to accept as true anything that has not been observed to be true. By this criterion, many religious doctrines are no more than unsupported speculation. Empiricists often denounced them as such in the period under discussion.
Empiricism as expressed in the simplified statement above has some embarrassing consequences. Moral and mathematical platitudes (e.g. that torturing people for fun is morally objectionable, or that 55 plus 55 necessarily equals 110) do not seem to require observational support, yet few would be prepared to denounce these judgements as unreasonable. The evidence for these and other reasonable opinions must come from some other source than the senses (openlearn).

Boilly, Réunion de 35 têtes d'expression. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tourcoing

Boilly, Les Grimaces, 7

Boilly, Le pouvoir de l'Eloquence, 1824

Boilly, Ah! le chic-en-lit, lit, lit, lithographie, 1824
Two boys tease a carnival reveller wearing a grotesque mask, while a third boy blows a horn.

Commons | Marinni
Facial expression | Expression faciale | Expresión facial
Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne | Images
Paper Mate | World Historical Comics

Ref. caricature, series of ridiculous facial expressions, types.


Domus Aurea, Rome

The Domus Aurea (Latin, "Golden House") was a large landscaped portico villa built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome, after the great fire in 64 C.E. had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Palatine Hill. The pleasure villa had hundreds of rooms, gardens and artificial lakes. His architectural complex was built on some 300 acres (1.2 km2).

Built of brick and concrete in the few years between the fire and Nero's suicide in 68, the extensive gold leaf that gave the villa its name was not the only extravagant element of its decor: stuccoed ceilings were faced with semi-precious stones and ivory veneers, while the walls were frescoed, coordinating the decoration into different themes in each major group of rooms.

The Golden House was designed as a place of entertainment, as shown by the presence of 300 rooms without any sleeping quarter. Nero's own palace remained on the Quirinal Hill. Strangely, no kitchens or latrines have been discovered yet either.

Frescoes covered every surface that was not more richly finished. The main artist was Fabullus. Fresco technique, working on damp plaster, demands a speedy and sure touch: Fabullus and assistants from his studio covered a spectacular amount of wall area with frescoes. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (77 CE.), recounts how Fabullus went for only a few hours each day to the Golden House, to work while the light was right. The swiftness of Fabullus's execution gives a wonderful unity and astonishing delicacy to his compositions.

Roman wall painting. Fabullus, Decorations in fantasy style, 1st century CE. Fresco detail. Domus Aurea, Rome

View of the cryptoporticus with illusionistic candelabra and figures from the Domus Aurea (Golden House of Nero), Rome (German Archaeological Institute, Rome).

Fabullus, Decorations in the 4th Pompeyan Style, 1st century CE. Domus Aura, Rome

Fresco details from the Domus Aurea of Nero, Rome

The Domus Aurea (Golden House), located between the Esquiline and Palatine Hills, was one of Nero's most extravagant projects. As everybody knows, two-thirds of the city of Rome were destroyed by a great fire in 64 AD. Nero used most of this land as a site for his new complex, which was not so much a palace as a series of buildings scattered over a landscaped "countryside", including an artificial lake. The main building was extravagantly crafted, and boasted rooms and hallways decorated almost entirely in gold. In the case of the Domus, we know the names of the architects in charge of the project, Severus and Celer, and that of Fabullus, the painter who decorated many rooms.

One of the most visible features of the Domus Aurea was the Colossus Neronis: a 36 meter (120 ft) high bronze statue of Nero placed just outside the entrance. This monstrosity was built in imitation of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The area of the property was 985 feet long by 295 feet in width or depth. Among the other things there was an amphitheatre, a market, and bath-gymnasium complex, served by an aqueduct 75 Km (50 miles) long. Baths were served by a flow of both salted water and sulphurous one from the Albulae springs near Tivoli. Upon the Caelian Hill there were beautiful gardens, zoos, woods and parks where all kinds of animals roamed. There were hundreds of statues, grottoes, fountains, nymphaeums, porticoes painted with romantic landscapes; multiple waterfalls flowed all over. The lake - where the Colosseum was later built - was surrounded by woods and fake sea villages, and it was so big that ships could manoeuvre in it. The rooms of the palace were decorated with rare stones and mother of pearl; in the banquet rooms the guests were inundated by flowers and perfumes from the ivory ceilings. One of the most famous of these rooms featured a circular roof painted with the stars and the planets, that revolved mechanically imitating the movement of the stars.

After the death of Nero, Vespasian reopened the property to the public, and the palaces of Nero were destroyed or recycled. The building we call Domus Aurea was covered by earth and on top of it were built around 80 AD great public baths called the Baths of Titus. Later on, from 104 to 109, Emperor Trajan built another massive complex of baths, dwarfing Titus' complex, the ruins of which can still be seen in the park of Colle Oppio. Enormous foundations were placed in the palace of Nero to support the new buildings, and this also helped to preserve what remained of the Domus. The ruins of the Domus were rediscovered by the artists in the XV century, and its paintings became a source of inspiration for many of them (e.g. Raphael in his decoration of the Logge Vaticane). Many of them left their graffiti on the walls. The Domus Aurea was then called "le grotte", and this seems to be the origin of the term "grottesco" (grotesque) for that particular style of painting (The Colosseum).

Virtual reality reconstruction

Influence in terms of iconography

Roman mosaic. Border with half-figure and grotesque head from the Baths of Trajan, Acholla, early 2nd century CE. Bardo Museum, Tunis (Photo by P. Perkins). Discussion

Roman mosaic from Carthage, Tunisia. Bardo Museum, Tunis

It can be seen most obviously in Raphael's decoration for the loggias in the Vatican, and the white walls, delicate swags, and bands of frieze, framed reserves containing figures and landscapes, which have returned at intervals ever since, notably in late 18th century Neoclassicism, making Fabullus one of the most influential painters in the history of art.

After Nero's suicide, the complex was stripped of valuables, filled in with earth, and buried for over 1500 years, until it was accidentally discovered by a boy who fell into a hole in the earth.

as the remains of the Domus Aurea were discovered under the Esquiline hill in Rome, artists including Raphael lowered themselves down on ropes into its subterranean painted galleries. The Renaissance frescoes this opulent palace inspired – all fantastical foliage, masks and satyrs – was called “grotesque” from grotto (cave) because the underground corridors were like caverns.

The strange ornamental designs that were found there featured elaborate fantasies with symmetrical anatomical impossibilities, small beasts, stylised human heads, and delicately-traced, indeterminate foliage all merged into one unified decorative whole.

Sixteen rooms of the Domus Aurea were discovered during the first systematic excavations carried out by Pope Clement XIII. Parts of the Domus —known then as Nero's grotte— were known prior to Clement's initiative.

The effect of the Domus Aurea frescoes on Renaissance artists was instant and profound. Its imagery was copied incessantly by Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, and Raphael.

In the late seventeenth century, Pietro Sante Bartoli uncovered other rooms of the Neronian complex and published a series of drawings based on these decorative motifs. The full luxury of Nero's Domus was unveiled between 1758 and 1769. An album of sixty etchings was published by the antiquarian Mirri in 1774, together with drawings and watercolor engravings by other artists.

Italian Renaissance Grotteschi, sometimes also referred to as La grottesca. Grotteschi (Grotesques, digital montage of images) by Mariano Akerman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at 3.bp.blogspot.com. For educational use only.
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Online Resources. On Nero's building complex known as the Domus Aurea (Golden House), see Alargos, Tendências do imaginário and Antika. See also the Domus Aurea Image Gallery. On the importance of the Domus Aurea imagery during the Renaissance, see Alberti's Window. Francisco de Holanda made watercolors of a Domus Aurea room known as the Sala dalla Volta Dorata in 1538. His work is consonant with the remaining fragments of the original chamber, which were photographed in 2012, as L.A. Miller y M. Durand have aptly demonstrated. Both researchers have also put in evidence the presence of various irregularities and imprecisions in the engravings showing the same chamber and which were made by Vincenzo Brenna, Franciszek Smuglewicz and Marco Gregorio Carloni much later (Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e loro interne pitture, Roma, 1776; Orientalist, Domus Aurea 1776 and The Mystery of Plate 42). Additional images of Vestigia can be found in the Giornale Nuovo.

Fantasy style in ancient Roman painting
Sogni dei pittori
Raphael: The Vatican Loggia


Sacred Hybrid

Lamasu. Human-headed winged bull facing. Bas-relief from King Sargon II's palace at Dur Sharrukin in Assyria (now Khorsabad in Iraq), c. 713–716 BCE. | Taureau androcéphale ailé tourné de face. Bas-relief du palais bâti par Sargon II à Dur Sharrukin, en Assyrie (actuelle Khorsabad, Iraq), v. 713–716 av. J.-C. Musée du Louvre, Paris

Motif of an Afro-Roman mosaic from Carthage, Tunisia. Bardo Museum, Tunis (David Simmer)

Ibid., context


Jean Dubuffet

Born July 31, 1901, in Le Havre, France, Jean Dubuffet attended art classes in his youth and in 1918 moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, which he left after six months. During this time, Dubuffet met artists such as Raoul Dufy, Max Jacob, Fernand Léger, and Suzanne Valadon, and became fascinated with Hans Prinzhorn’s book on psychopathic art. He traveled to Italy in 1923 and South America in 1924. Then, Dubuffet gave up painting for about ten years, working as an industrial draftsman and later in the family wine business. He committed himself to becoming an artist in 1942. Dubuffet’s first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie René Drouin, Paris, in 1944. During the 1940s, the artist associated with André Breton, Georges Limbour, Jean Paulhan, and Charles Ratton. His style and subject matter in this period owed a debt to Paul Klee. From 1945, he collected Art Brut, spontaneous, direct works by untutored individuals, such as mental patients. The Pierre Matisse Gallery gave him his first solo show in New York in 1947.

The term Art Brut was first used by the painter Jean Dubuffet to refer to a range of art forms outside the conventional dictates of the art world. He amassed a large collection of graffiti art and art made by the mentally ill, prisoners, children, and other naive (untrained) artists, whose raw or innocent vision and directness of technique he admired. In turn, he sought to emulate these qualities in his own work, and in 1948 he established a society to encourage the study of Art Brut. This kind of art has also been referred to as “outsider art;” that designation has been applied to Dubuffet’s own work (Guggenheim Online).

1. Musical experiences (Experiences musicales), 1960

2. Ancien Combattant, 1945. Oil on canvas

3. Cow with a Beautiful Tail, 1954. Oil on canvas, 97 x 130 cm. The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

4. Jean Dubuffet, Woman trying a Hat, 1943

5. Corps de Dame: Olympia, 1950

6. Brunette with a Fleshy Face (Chataine aux hautes chairs; Brunetta dal volto carnoso), 1951

7. Miss Cholera, 1946

8. Spotted Cow (Vache Tachetée), 1954. Oil on canvas

9. Cow, 1954

10. The Cow with a Subtile Nose, 1954. Oil and enamel on canvas, 88.9 x 111.8 cm. MoMA, New York

11. Corps de Dame, 1950

12. Corps de Dame

13. Triumph and Glory (Triomphe et gloire), 1950. Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 96.5 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

14. The Hairdresser (La coiffeuse), 1950. Oil on canvas, 116 x 89cm

Two women: one in academic style by Bouguereau (Baigneuse, 1890); the other conceived as "art brut" by Dubuffet.

15. Tree of Fluids, oil on canvas, 1950

16. Corps de dame: jardin fleuri, 1950. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania

17. Woman's Body (L'hirsute), 1950. National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

18. Corps de Dame—Château d’Étoupe, 1950. Oil on canvas, 114.4 x 87.5 cm. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

19. Corps de Dame: Bloody Landscape, 1950

20. Corps de Dame: Le Metafisyx, 1950

21. Corps de Dame, 1950

22. Corps de Dame, 1950. Ink on paper, 27 x 21.2 cm. MoMA, New York

23. Seize corps de dames, lithograph, 1950

24. Corps de Dame, 1950. Ink on paper, 32.3 x 24.9 cm. MoMA, New York

Online resources
Post-WWII Figural Art
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