Amos Chapple.

Absolutely stunning photography, many photos with their own stories, too. Just a few here, although I’d happily post each and every one of them!

An illegal tusk hunter at a site where men extract mammoth tusks from the permafrost. Click here for my story on the Mammoth Pirates of Siberia.

For 61 years he’s sat here, legs dwindling to sticks as he thumps cooking pots into shape. His sons work beside him, three hammer blows occasionally falling together in synch, then scattering again into the random beat of the workshop.

I ask whether the girls admired his arms when he was young but he scolds me for rudeness. He’s more comfortable talking about the men with firebombs who drove his family out of their homeland. His father had made the decision to stay when Pakistan was formed around them, a Sikh clan in a new Muslim nation, but eventually the mob violence visited their neighbourhood and they fled.

Like so many who’ve lived through big history he’s nostalgic for the past. “Under the British we felt enormous pressure but we were innocent then. Now the people have freedom but we no longer love each other.”

But his old-testament face lights up when his grandchildren appear, they’re educated and will live a different life. He props a favourite onto his knee, “these little ones can choose their own lives and of course I’m happy for that”.

Finally, after the curious crowd have drifted away from us he leans in close, “you asked about my arms? My wife told me she always felt safe in these arms”. He rocks back and sweeps a hand over his children, his workshop, his little empire, “and she was, she always was”

These and so very much more can be seen at Amos Chapple Photography. Have a wander! And you won’t want to miss his feature on The Shepherds of the Tusheti Mountains, a gorgeous pictorial of a dangerous job:

Every autumn, a spectacular animal migration takes place in Georgia’s Tusheti region in the northern Caucasus Mountains. Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple recently joined a group of shepherds and their dogs on what he refers to as a “deadly, boozy journey” from the steep mountains to the plains, as they brought their 1,200 sheep down to their winter pastures.

All images © Amos Chapple.

People: Touching, Sleeping, Matching.

Stefan Drashan photographs people in museums. People Touching Artworks:

Visitor at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks (all photos courtesy Stefan Drashan).

Visitor at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks (all photos courtesy Stefan Drashan).

People Matching Artworks:

Visitor at the Musee Picasso in Paris, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks.

From Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks.

People Sleeping In Museums:

From Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Sleeping in Museums.

Via Hyperallergic.

The Legend of the White Snake.

Image from the Summer Palace, Beijing, China, depicting the legend – Wikimedia Commons.

Medievalists has a fascinating look at the Chinese legend of The White Snake, and its evolution from a cautionary tale where the monk was the good guy, to a sympathetic love story where the monk is a shit stirrer.

…This may well be the fate of Xu Xuan, Madam White’s human husband, if he is not rescued by a powerful Buddhist monk. The first written version of the White Snake legend is found in a collection of novella composed in the first quarter of the 17th century. Including forty different stories, the collection is titled ‘Stories to Caution the World’ and the White Snake tale ‘Madam White Imprisoned under the Thunder Peak Tower’ (some editions also translate the novella as ‘Eternal Prisoner under the Thunder Peak Tower’ or simply ‘The White Snake’).

[…]

…The emphasis, however, is shifted to her devotion to Xu, as well as her sympathy towards humankind. The once righteous Fahai, now entering the scene as a troublemaker who simply cannot just mind his own business, tricks her into revealing her true form to Xu.

The full story is at Medievalists.

Guess Me.

Guess Me, a curious collection of enigmas, charades, acting charades, double acrostics, conundrums, verbal puzzles, hieroglyphics, anagrams, etc. Compiled and arranged by Frederick D’Arros Planché; 1879; Pott, Young and co. in New York.

Illustrated by George Cruikshank among others, this example of good old-fashioned and wholesome entertainment offers a collection of enigmas, conundrums, acrostics, “decapitations”, and a series of incredibly tricky rebuses. The preface explains that an enigma can have many solutions whereas a conundrum only has one, and that “The essence of a good conundrum is to be found in its answer, which should be itself something of a pun, a puzzle, or an epigram, an inversion of the regular and ordinary meaning of the word.”

There are 631 conundrums:

A sample, click for full size:

Oh, these are awful, and quite wonderful, well, some of them. There’s quite a bit of casual racism and misogyny to be found, too. Via The Public Domain, or you can just click right over to the book.

Revisiting Club 57.

Kenny Scharf, Untitled #6 (Speed), 1979. Mixed media on board. Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles.

Lady Wrestling at Club 57. Pictured: Tom Scully, Tish and Snooky Bellomo. 1980. Photograph by and courtesy Harvey Wang.

MOMA is revisiting Club 57, in all its various glories. Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983 is on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, through April 1, 2018.

You can read about this at Garage.*

*This seems to be where the never updated Creators Project went. The writing has become extremely pretentious.

Renaissance Superheroes.

These amazing photos rocked my world, and there are so many of them! These are not paintings, they are photographs. From Vintage News:

The project named  Super Flemish by Goldberger has created a series of photographs that portray ultimate pop culture characters of the caliber of Spiderman, Yoda or even villains such as Darth Vader, in a Flemish treatment. The photos largely resemble 16-th century paintings, and it has taken Sacha two years to complete the ambitious project. A team of twelve people has put efforts in making the flawless makeup, hair and special effects that can be noticed on the photographs.

“A lot of the job was done before and during the shoot. Pierrick and Sebastian, my digital retouchers, helped me to get the precision and the perfection I was looking for in this series,” says Sacha. “All of it was incredible; it was like a dream come true.”

“When you see the Hulk in front of you and you, ask him to look romantic, it’s crazy. The Joker was also very impressive. He endured three hours of make-up and started to act like Heath Ledger in the movie, The Dark Knight,”  adds the French photographer.

And from Sacha Goldberger’s site:

What if Superman was born in the sixteenth century?
And what if the Hulk was a Duke?
How might Van Eyck have portrayed Snow White?

Sacha’s discovery of these characters, which goes back to childhood, gave birth to a desire
to re-appropriate them, to take them back to a time forming the cornerstone of modern western art. Sacha wants to confront these icons of American culture with contemporary painters of the Flemish school. The collection demonstrates the use of 17 century techniques counterpointing light and shadow to illustrate nobility and fragility of the super powerful of all times. It also invites you to celebrate the heroes of your childhood. These characters have become icons to reveal their humanity: tired of having to save the world without respite, promised to a destiny of endless immortality, forever trapped in their character.
The superheroes often live their lives cloaked in anonymity. These portraits give them a chance to « fix » their narcissism denied. By the temporal disturbance they produce, these images allow us to discover, under the patina of time, an unexpected melancholy of those who are to be invincible.

As science fiction meets history of art, time meets an inexhaustible desire for mythology which is within each of us.

Oh, go have a wander and look at all of them! Super Flemish and Sacha Goldberger’s main page, and Flemish in the Stars (Renaissance Star Wars).  Look at everything! And thanks to PZ for yet another timesink, I really needed another one. (Just a pinch of sarcasm there…)

Medieval Werewolves.

Medieval werewolves were a popular subject, but they were quite different from the slavering, unreasoning beasts of later depictions. Werewolves weren’t necessarily bad, and retained the ability to reason. Even the transformation was different.

One way of man-to-wolf transformation is to wear a wolfskin – this is most common in Old Norse-Icelandic literature, where the wolf-man is frequently referred to in skin-related terms, echoing the tradition of berserkr and úlfheðnar, battle-frenzied warriors wearing nothing but bear/wolf skin. Gerald of Wales (1146 – 1223) also reports a priest encountering a werewolf couple while travelling across the region of Ossory in Ireland. When the priest refused to perform last rites for the dying she-wolf, fearing that she might be some Devil ’s trick, the man-wolf ‘unzips ’ the wolfskin to reveal an old woman underneath, as if it were just a coat. The difference in transformative mode results in a difference in emphasis: when the wolf comes out of the man, it is as if the wolf – the wolf is the essence. In the medieval portrayal, on the other hand, even though in some cases the wolfskin/form does bring out the beast within, the man is only wrapped,hidden, but never destroyed, and the werewolf is more like a riddle, waiting to be solved.

In Jim C. Hines’s Princess series, I loved that the character of Red Hood was this form of werewolf – the inside of her red cape was a wolfskin. If she flipped it so the wolfskin was on the outside, she transformed.

Medieval werewolves got along just fine in knightly and courtly sense.

‘Be a wolf, have the understanding of … a man!’

The quote above is from Arthur and Gorlagon, [English starts on page 24] one of the four Arthurian Romances written in Latin. In the story, King Gorlagon is turned into a wolf by his treacherous wife. She could have gotten away with the crime, had she not made the mistake of enhancing ‘the understanding of a man ’ instead of  ‘the understanding of a wolf ’. A most unlikely mistake, and most unfortunate on the wife’s part, but it brings another major difference between modern and medieval werewolves: the medieval ones are rarely savage monsters; instead, they can be surprisingly intelligent, rational, and well-behaved. Melion, Bisclavret, and Gorlagon find no difficulty in mingling with the king ’s knights and courtiers – Gorlagon even sits on the horse and waits on the king’s table ‘with his forepaws erect ’. Granted, courtesy does not make werewolves mild and friendly creatures, but even when they perform some deeds of violence, that violence is well justified. Take Bisclavret for example: the wolf inflicts great harm upon his wife and her lover, but the action is read as revenge, thus confirming, rather than forfeiting the wolf ’s humanity.

Werewolf (1512).Lucas Cranach the Elder .Gotha,Herzogliches Museum (Landesmuseum).

Other differences were transformation triggers; Medieval werewolves were not ruled by the full moon. Bisclavret transformed at will, with no regard to the moon. There were two tales which did take a lunar trigger into account:

The only example of a full moon transformation is found in Otia Imperialia or ‘Recreation for an Emperor’, a speculum written by Gervase of Tilbury (1150 – 1220) for Otto IV (1175 –1218).  Gervase reports men turning into wolves ‘according to the cycles of the moon’. He gives two examples:The first, is a certain Pons de Chapteuil, a knight-turned-vagabond that becomes mad while ‘wandering alone like a wild beast … deranged by extreme fear’. Despite Gervase’s earlier mention of the moon, Pons de Chapteuil’s transformation is primarily a physical manifestation of his social identity and emotion. The other werewolf is Chaucevaire, who does transform under lunar influence, but does so only when there is a new moon, the opposite to a traditional full moon transformation. The connection between the werewolf and the moon the etymology of the Latin word moon, luna, which is associated with lunatics. Their loss of human reason dehumanizes them, rendering them figurative beasts, which, as the previous point shows, apparently is not the case with most werewolves.

In the Discworld Watch books, Terry Pratchett compromised with his primary werewolf character, Delphine Angua von Uberwald, who could transform at will, but was subject to an irresistible trigger at the full moon. Medieval werewolves also didn’t have an appearance which was distinct from natural wolves. They might have been a bit larger, but that was all, so there was no easy way to distinguish a werewolf.

I can’t help thinking that Aargh, the English Wolf would have considered them all with disdain.

From Medievalists, an article by Minji Su, Current DPhil student at Oxford university, researching on werewolves in medieval Icelandic literature.

Spirits of Malice and Other Undeadness.

New book!

The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters, by Scott G. Bruce.

Just got this downloaded, really looking forward to it. Came across this at Medievalists, in a short article about how Medieval people dealt with those pesky dead people who refused to stay dead and buried. The cover art, which I think is fabulous, is by Anton Semenov, check out more of their work here.

This will make lovely nighttime reading.

Schembart Carnival Fashion (1590).

Illustrations from a 16th-century manuscript detailing the phenomenon of Nuremberg’s Schembart Carnival, (literally “bearded-mask” carnival). Beginning in 1449, the event was popular throughout the 15th century but was ended in 1539 due to the complaints of an influential preacher named Osiander who objected to his effigy being paraded on a float, depicting him playing backgammon surrounded by fools and devils. According to legend, the carnival had its roots in a dance (a “Zämertanz”) which the butchers of Nuremberg were given permission to hold by the Emperor as a reward for their loyalty amid a trade guild rebellion. Over the years the event took on a more subversive tone, evolving to let others take part with elaborate costumes displayed and large ships on runners, known as “Hells”, which were paraded through the streets. After its end, many richly illustrated manuscripts (known as “Schembartbücher”) were made detailing the carnival’s 90-year existence.

We are unsure what the flaming “artichokes” are all about, if any one has a clue do let us know in the comments!
*UPDATE* solved – according to Christies: “They brandished lances and bunches of leaves – known as Lebensrute — that concealed fireworks.”

Christians, they just have to ruin everything. Oh, the costumes are utterly fabulous, and there are many more to see here, and the full manuscript can be seen here. There are certainly many fine costume ideas to be had, they are all grand.

Bird Gods.

A fascinating little book published in 1898, by Charles DeKay, it travels all over the world in pursuit of Bird Gods and myths about birds. There are many stories from Finland, I’d love to know if they are at all still known. (Hint, hint to Ice Swimmer & Lumipuna).

Speaking fluent German, French, and Italian, as well as studying Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit, DeKay’s linguistic background is apparent in the book as he traces the various cultures and mythologies that the different birds appear in. He presents the idea that, rather than the more distant celestial objects, it is the animals that have surrounded us which have been the root of religious ideas. Each chapter in the book presents a different bird, from the owl and peacock to the woodpecker and the dove, as well as the gods these birds represented. In his preface, DeKay writes of how humans have shared their belief in nature and that this still exists in us no matter of religion, language, or ethnicity, urging his readers to respect nature and not destroy it without reason. He writes:

[…] recollection of what our ancestors thought of birds and beasts, of how at one time they prized and idealized them, may induce in us, their descendants, some shame at the extermination to which we are consigning these lovable but helpless creatures, for temporary gains or sheer brutal love of slaughter. The sordid men who swept from North America the buffalo, the gentlemen who brag of moose and elephants slain, the ladies who demand birds for their hats and will not be denied, the boys who torture poor feathered singers and destroy their nests, are more ruthless than the primeval barbarians. […] The marvellous tale of the share birds have had in the making of myth, religion, poetry and legend may do somewhat to soften these flinty hearts and induce men to establish and carry out laws to protect especially the birds.

The illustrations by George Wharton Edwards are gorgeous. You can read or download Bird Gods here. Via The Public Domain Review.

Turtles All The Way Down.

Paul Kidby’s illustration of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld: a large disc resting on the backs of four elephants, which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle called Great A’Tuin, as it swims through space. Illustration: Paul Kidby/Orion Books.

Me, I don’t live in ‘merica, this is Turtle Island. World turtles figure prominently in many cosmologies, and Atlas Obscura has a look at them.