Double, double, toil and trouble…

halloweendouble[1]Theater scene: two women making a call on a witch (the three of them wear theater masks). Roman mosaic from the Villa del Cicerone in Pompeii, now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples). Work of Dioscorides of Samos.

787px-Pompeii_-_Villa_del_Cicerone_-_Mosaic_-_MANWitches have a long and elaborate history. Their forerunners appear in the Bible, in the story of King Saul consulting the so-called Witch of Endor. They also crop up in the classical era in the form of winged harpies and screech-owl-like “strixes” – frightening flying creatures that fed on the flesh of babies. (– Alastair Sooke.)

Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen (circa 1472/1477-1533) Saul and the witch of Endor. Date 1526

Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen (circa 1472/1477-1533) Saul and the witch of Endor.
Date 1526

Abandoned by God, desperate to get a reply from Him, Saul summons witches to foretell his future. Scrolls in the skies cite passages from the Bible. In the center, inside a magic circle, a witch is crafting her witchery.

Hans Baldung Grien, The Weather Witches (1523), oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Français : Deux sorcières Date 1523

Hans Baldung Grien, The Weather Witches (1523), oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Français : Deux sorcières Date 1523

Dosso Dossi (1490–1542) Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules) Date c. 1535

Dosso Dossi (1490–1542) Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules)
Date c. 1535

After Pieter Bruegel the Elder The Witch of Malleghem. The witch and her assistants prepare to cut stones of foolishness out of the heads of three victims in the foreground; around them gathers a crowd to witness the surgery. 1559 Engraving

The Witch of Malleghem. After Pieter Bruegel the Elder
The witch and her assistants prepare to cut stones of foolishness out of the heads of three victims in the foreground; around them gathers a crowd to witness the surgery. 1559
Engraving

The tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries were ‘golden age’ of witchcraft imagery. Witch trials convulsed Europe, witch-hunts lasting from 1550 to 1630.

“Across Europe, there was the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, fantastic poverty and social change,” says Petherbridge. “Even King James in his text Daemonologie [1597] was asking: why was there such a proliferation of witches? Everybody assumed it was because the world had got so foul that it was coming to an end.” As a result there was an outpouring of brutally misogynistic witchcraft imagery, with artists taking advantage of the invention of the printing press to disseminate material rapidly and widely.(– Deanna Petherbridge, artist and writer.)

Frans Francken the Younger: Witches’ Kitchen, c. 1610:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

A fine recipe from the three Shakespearean witches — an easy meal for the whole family to enjoy.

Theodore Chasseriau, Macbeth and Banquo Encounter the Three WitchesThree Witches, 1855 Postcards, Witchy

Theodore Chasseriau, Macbeth and Banquo Encounter the Three WitchesThree Witches, 1855 Postcards, Witchy

In the 19th Century, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolists were both drawn to the figure of the witch, whom they recast as a femme fatale. But their sinister seductresses arguably belong more to the realm of sexual fantasy than high art.

The Love Potion by  Evelyn De Morgan.

The Love Potion by Evelyn De Morgan. The Love Potion is a 1903 painting by Evelyn De Morgan depicting a witch with a black cat familiar at her feet. According to Elise Lawton Smith, the painting “exhibits a Pre-Raphaelite fascination with medieval subjects and decorative detailing.” The Love Potion pushed the boundaries of society’s expectations of women by “exploring the nature of female authority through the practice of sorcery.”

The Sorceress  by John William Waterhouse
The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse

The Sorceress is a painting by John William Waterhouse completed between 1911 and 1915.

 The Magic Circle (Waterhouse painting) The Magic Circle is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style, created in 1886 by John William Waterhouse. The painting depicts a witch or sorceress drawing a fiery magic circle on the earth to create a ritual space.
The Magic Circle is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style, created in 1886 by John William Waterhouse. The painting depicts a witch or sorceress drawing a fiery magic circle on the earth to create a ritual space.

And a rather non-threatening witches of Jean-Baptiste Monge:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many art critics agree that throughout the history of the art having the witchcraft imagery as its subject the one constant is — surprise, surprise! — misogyny (save the sexy Pre-Raphaelites’ sorceresses, obviously, which more comfortably fall into the category of sexual objectification.)Quotation-Charlie-Huston-attention-women-Meetville-Quotes-34875“I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and candles have been introduced.”
Henry David Thoreau

Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist

Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist.

“Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist,” thus spoke evil scientist in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny short titled “Water, Water Every Hare.

There are numerous “anthologies” about “mad doctors” on the Internet, just google them. The four below are my “favorites.” More than a century apart, the first two look like amateur showmen, experimenting on cadavers in front of fascinated spectators, while the other two are true evil. And Josef Mengele, Angel of Death, isn’t even on the list…

Giovanni Aldini

Giovanni Aldini

Giovanni Aldini professor of physics at Bologna in 1798, was the nephew of Luigi Galvani, Italian physician, physicist, biologist and philosopher, recognized as the main pioneer of the bioelectromagnetics, the man who pioneered galvanism. Aldini spent most of his life testing the medical applications of his uncle’s discovery. He traveled Europe staging shows of his experiments.

In 1802, Aldini electrically stimulated the heads and trunks of cows, horses, sheep and dogs with high powered batteries. The animals’ jaws and eyes moved as though animal cadavers came to life.  Aldini2

His most famous experiment was publicly demonstrated in January 1803. Aldini sent electric charge through the face of a hanged criminal, George Forster, who had been executed for the murder of his wife and child. The face moved and contorted, eyes opened. By all accounts, the hanged murderer came alive. To freak out the horrified but fascinated audience some more, Aldini inserted an electric rod straight up the corpse’s anus. The cadaver, then, truly made a show, kicking and hitting Aldini’s assistants with his violently twitching legs. People were duly impressed. Some spectators even demanded to hang George Forster again.
aldini

Andrew Ure (1778-1857), a Scottish doctor, scholar, chemist and early business theorist.

Andrew_UreIn December 1818 Ure created a public sensation when he announced that he had been carrying out experiments on a murderer called Clydsdale after his execution. Ure claimed that by stimulating the phrenic nerve, life could be restored in cases of suffocation, drowning or hanging. It has been claimed that Mary Shelley used Ure as a model for her main character in the book, Frankenstein (1818).

Appropriate dissections exposed the various sites on the body selected for electrical stimulation.
No bleeding occurred proving that Clydesdale was indeed dead. Application of the connecting rods to the heel and the spinal cord at the level of the atlas caused such violent extensions of the bent knee ‘as to nearly overturn one of the assistants’.

In an attempt to restore breathing, the rods were connected to the left phrenic nerve and the diaphragm.
The success of it was truly wonderfull. Full, nay, laborious breathing instantly commenced. The chest heaved and fell; The belly was protruded and again collapsed, with the retiring and collapsing diaphragm’.

The real drama occurred when the electric current was applied to Clydesdale’s supraorbital nerve and heel.
By varying the voltage, ‘Rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smiles united their hideous expression in the murderer’s face’.

Ure

More on Ure’s experiments: Glasgow: The Matthew Clydesdale Story.

shiroSurgeon General Shirō Ishii was a Japanese army medical officer, microbiologist and the director of Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army.

A doctor’s “god-given mission,” Ishii said, was to block and treat disease, but the work “upon which we are now about to embark is the complete opposite of these principles.”

In the name of defeating Japan’s enemies, Ishii and his staff spent the next five years mixing witch’s brews of pathogens that cause some of the world’s most horrific diseases: anthrax, plague, gas gangrene, smallpox, and botulism, among others.

Unit 731 used Chinese prisoners (dismissively termed maruta, or “logs”) as guinea pigs, forcing them to breathe, eat, and receive injections of deadly pathogens. Allied POWs were also allegedly targeted.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Victims were often killed before the diseases had run their course, so autopsies could show their progress through the body. Ishii’s men also supplied the Japanese Army with typhoid, cholera, plague, and dysentery bacteria for battlefield use. In addition, they contaminated water sources, released disease-carrying fleas, and dropped contaminated wheat from airplanes.

Although dissolution of Unit 731 in 1945 led to the destruction of many of its records, there is no doubt that Ishii and his men had caused the death of many thousands of Chinese, and possibly hundreds of Russian and Allied prisoners of war.

sidneygottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb, aka Dr. Feelgood  was an American chemist and spymaster best known for his involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency’s 1950s and ’60s assassination attempts and mind control program, known as Project MKUltra.

There are stories that have come to light, over the years, that make the Central Intelligence Agency look like a collection of Looney Tunes shorts. The violence, the slapstick, and the over-the-top ridiculousness of the experiments that have been conducted over the years boggle the mind. They came from the (slightly-boggled) mind of one man: Sidney Gottlieb.

Sidney Gottlieb proved to the world that there are few things more dangerous than a chemist with a metaphysical streak – especially if he collects a few thwarted ambitions. Born in 1918, he was deemed physically unfit for duty in the Second World War. Instead of going to war, he went to the University of Wisconsin, and graduated with a degree in chemistry. His degree didn’t help him [get] into the army, but it did [get the CIA extremely interested.]

The Central Intelligence Agency, barreling into the Cold War, was trying to devise new ways to get an advantage over the enemy. Old warfare strategies wouldn’t work. They had to brainstorm new ones. It’s said that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming. The CIA, at the time, seemed set out to prove that there were no bad ideas at all. And Gottlieb was just the guy to try to help them.

gottlieb

Image via National Geographic

MKUltra was a nebulous plan to dose pretty much anyone the project could get its hands on with LSD. In San Francisco, prostitutes paid by the CIA secretly gave their clients LSD and dropped them in a room with a two-way mirror to let agents observe what happened to them. In Kentucky, mental patients were dosed with LSD, supposedly as part of their treatment. Around the country, prisoners were given LSD and subjected to mind-control experiments. The CIA even tried to discredit Fidel Castro by dousing a TV station in which he was about to give an interview in LSD.

The project was an unqualified failure. One person died (not Castro), many had lasting mental damage, and quite a few went on to sue the nation when the records eventually went public. LSD, Gottlieb found, did make some people more suggestible, but it did not give anyone the ability to ‘control’ someone’s mind – at least not to get any kind of predictable action as a result.наркота

When Gottlieb wasn’t trying to break someone’s brain, he was trying to poison people. He was the one to come up with the infamous ‘poison cigar’ and ‘exploding seashell’ gags which failed to take out Fidel Castro. When he didn’t aim to kill, he simply aimed to annoy. He wanted to spray thallium on Castro’s shoes. Supposedly this was to make his beard fall out, but more likely it was yet another murder plot. Thallium is an element that is so toxic it has earned the nickname of “The Poisoner’s Poison,” or “Inheritance Powder.” Although it can be treated with dialysis or chemicals that absorb the element, thallium isn’t just a depilatory.

One idea Gottlieb oversaw, meant to poison Castro, was instead used on an Iraqi general. It involved a poisoned handkerchief tucked into a suit pocket. It did not work. Another failed assassination scheme involved a tube of poisoned toothpaste meant for Patrice Lumumba, the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. This toothpaste was meant to be doused with a biological agent, rather than a chemical one. This was a bit outside Gottlieb’s experience, so he experimented with many different possible agents, including smallpox, tuberculosis and equine encephalis. Lumumba eventually died in 1961, the victim of an uprising against him.

The Things We Won’t Know

Before Gottlieb left the CIA in 1972 to (no kidding) work with lepers in India, he became the head of the Technical Services Staff. There, with access to records, he destroyed about eighty percent of extremely damaging files, many of them about his own projects. This is frustrating for those who want to know the facts. (From the article in io9 Every crazy CIA plot you’ve heard of originated with one man.)

There is this place…

Larung -image-m-9_1429267845462

Buddhist monastery of Larung Gar, the focal feature of the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the world’s largest Buddhist settlement.

Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Buddhist Institute, is by far the largest Buddhist settlement in the world. Larung Gar sits in the Larung Valley at an elevation of 4,000 meters, about 15 km from the town Sêrtar, in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture in the Tibetan region of Kham.

Inside the village, some 40,000 monks and nuns are segregated and televisions are banned… but iPhones are allowed.larung4

The campus of Larung Gar is enormous. Houses for monks and nuns sprawl all over the valley and up the surrounding mountains. A huge wall through the middle of Larung Gar separates the monk side from the nun side. Monks and nuns are not allowed out of their designated areas except in front of the main monastery assembly hall which is common to both nuns and monks. The houses are all built in a wood style that is traditionally found in this region, and built so close together that they appear almost on top of each other. (From the article in Amusing Planet.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The incredible academy was established in 1980 in the uninhabited valley by Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma tradition.

Larung Gar is not a place overrun by tourists. For once, its location is quite remote. The nearest large city is Chengdu, some 650 kilometers away. Allow between 13 and 15 hours to reach the settlement by vehicle. Sertar is not particularly eager to host tourists and is often closed to foreign travelers.larung5

More than half of those who come to study are women.  Unlike any other Buddhist monasteries and institutions in other areas of Tibet, Serthar opened its doors to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision.
larung-gar-19 larung-gar-9[1] larung-gar-12[1]The huts of monks and nuns are segregated by a winding road through the middle.Larung

Ethnic Chinese, Taiwanese, students from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, attend separate classes taught in Mandarin, while larger classes are taught in Tibetan.
Larung Monks_pray_inside_the_biggest_temple_of_the_town_during_hours_In-a-29_1429438485050

larung-gar-8

Larung Prayer_stones_decorate_the_colourful_Buddhist_academy_which_is_o-a-35_1429438756019

Prayer stones of Larung Gar

larung-gar-10[1]The settlement is also home to a number of Tibetan people who share the land with the monks and nuns.

Larung Gar isn’t on my list of places I’d like to visit before death do me part with this world. However, it’s certainly a unique place, fascinating to know exists. See more pictures here.

Lisa Was Really Sick

 Leonardo Painting the Mona Lisa Aimee Brune Pages 1845 Engraved by Charles Lemoine from the oil original. 1845. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.

Leonardo Painting the Mona Lisa Aimee Brune Pages 1845 Engraved by Charles Lemoine from the oil original. 1845. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.

 LEONARDO DA VINCI (Vinci, 1452 - Amboise, 1519) - Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the Mona Lisa (the Joconde in French), c. 1503–06)

LEONARDO DA VINCI (Vinci, 1452 – Amboise, 1519) – Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the Mona Lisa (the Joconde in French), c. 1503–06) Detail.

“Thin, gradually widening nose with nervous, quivering wings and pale pink nostrils… Great details for an understanding of Mona Lisa: it might as well she is hard of hearing, otherwise her ears would not have been covered by flowing hair — she would have cherished her auditory impressions more.

Her gaze is uncertain, but she has a subtle sense of smell, which is often coupled with a rather weak perception of a other sensory impressions. She is sensually attuned to smells but hardly sensitive to the suffering of living beings. To be compassionate, we must have good eyesight and hearing.”

“Something painfully degenerate emanates from this person, and I feel that this woman has a hidden ills. Her famous smile is a fixed grin, nasty, annoying, giving Mona Lisa’s entire face that is lacking of beauty, a hint of peculiar ugliness, unprecedented in art, either before or after Leonardo… 

The gloomy genius hovers over this portrait. Despite the bright colors of spring landscape, Mona Lisa looks as though she just emerged from a dark dungeon.” (Russian art critic Akim Volynsky  (1861 –1926))

Well, how’s that opinion fares against the most common one: Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is sheer perfection and her most famous feature, her lingering smile, is nothing less than a beautiful enigma!?

smileIt isn’t easy to be a heroine of, perhaps, the most famous works of art of all time.

These days Mona Lisa is being regularly given medical diagnoses.
In 2005, the paint­ing was ana­lyzed at the Uni­ver­sity of Ams­ter­dam using “emo­tion recog­ni­tion soft­ware”. Based on com­par­ing her fea­tures (pri­mar­ily her eyes and lips) to a ‘neu­tral’ expres­sion, it was concluded that the subject of the Mona Lisa is 83% happy, 9% dis­gusted, 6% fear­ful, and 2% angry.

Lately, numerous medical doctors — physicians, dentists, surgeons, ophthalmologists — Mrs. del Giocondo was a very sick lady. The list of her ailments includes (!) strabismus, hemiatrophy, discrepancy, congenital idiocy, diseases of the spine, excess of cholesterol in the blood, alopecia, toothlessness.Mona_Lisa Fingers

Take a closer look at Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo’s fingers. In the opinion of Danish physician Finn Becker Christensen, “discrepancy” in Mona Lisa’s fingers is one of the signs of congenital idiocy. Another evidence of this condition is her high convex forehead. Mona Lisa’s famous smile is asymetrical, “left-sided” — yet another sign of disturbed emotional state.Eyes

English ophthalmologist Clive Novis suggests that Mona Lisa’s unfocused gaze is a clear symptom of strabismussquint,  a disorder of vision due to a deviation from normal orientation of one or both eyes so that both cannot be directed at the same object at the same time. Other words, Lisa was cross-eyed.

These and other curious medical discoveries were collected for the article Беззубое совершенство (Toothless Perfection) in Вокруг Света (Around The Word) magazine. Half-way through retelling the article in English I stumbled across a blog post where someone  have already done it. To learn more about poor Lisa’s earthly suffering, see  Mona Lisa medical diagnosis.
Clearly, to the  doctors there are no healthy patients, only underdiagnosed. Soon it will be possible to test their hypothesis. Perhaps, soon enough it’ll be possible to prove or disprove some or all of the diagnoses: Mona Lisa search: Test results on ‘muse’ Lisa Gherardini bones to be announced.

Painter works on copying Leonardo's masterpiece, surrounded by finished copies.

Painter works on copying Leonardo’s masterpiece, surrounded by finished copies.

For a close-up view of the Mona Lisa, visit the Musée du Lou­vre web­site where you can zoom in for more detail than you could even see in per­son, and also com­pare the results of sci­en­tific tests done with infrared, x-radiography, and UVF scans.

Aristotle As A Pony

Aristotle (385 -322 BC)

Aristotle (385 -322 BC)

As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle of Stagirus (384 BCE – 322BCE) radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. He was a tutor of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon). In a word — an outstanding man no matter which way you look at him, his life or his philosophy.

Aristotle mentors Alexander

Aristotle mentors Alexander

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies,” Aristotle taught young Alexander, initiating the future warrior-king in philosophy of carnal love.

Campaspe, also known as Pancaste, Phyllis and Phillida, initiated the young Alexander in love beyond philosophy, the first women with whom Alexander was intimate. She was thought to be a prominent citizen of Larisa in Thessaly.

One of the most popular legends and artistic motifs of the Northern Renaissance was the tale of Phyllis, Alexander’s mistress (in some accounts, his wife) who once rode the Greek philosopher Aristotle like a pony.

Once upon a time, Aristotle taught Alexander that he should restrain himself from frequently approaching his wife, who was very beautiful, lest he should impede his spirit from seeking the general good. Alexander acquiesced to him. The queen, when she perceived this and was upset, began to draw Aristotle to love her. Many times she crossed paths with him alone, with bare feet and disheveled hair, so that she might entice him. 

 At last, being enticed, he began to solicit her carnally. She says, 

“This I will certainly not do, unless I see a sign of love, lest you be testing me. Therefore, come to my chamber crawling on hand and foot, in order to carry me like a horse. Then I’ll know that you aren’t deluding me.” 

When he had consented to that condition, she secretly told the matter to Alexander, who lying in wait apprehended him carrying the queen. When Alexander wished to kill Aristotle, in order to excuse himself, Aristotle says, 

If thus it happened to me, an old man most wise, that I was deceived by a woman, you can see that I taught you well, that it could happen to you, a young man.” 

Hearing that, the king spared him, and made progress in Aristotle’s teachings. 

And they lived happily ever after. 

Phyllis riding Aristotle

Lucas Cranach — Phyllis und Aristotle (1530) Aristotle and his lover Phyllis. Phyllis is riding on the great philosopher, which is used to symbolize the power of the women. Story often pictured by Renaissance artists.

As Aristotle admitted, “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.” 

Whether a true story or a mythical one, it was duly, gleefully and plentifully reflected in numerous artworks through the ages. Images of  Aristotle on all fours with Phyllis on his back has become more popular a subject than that of Aristotle in less compromising positions.

The writing tablet with a depression for wax on the underside, but the lid that protected the wax is missing. Legends about wily women making fools of intelligent men from classical times were very popular in the late Middle Ages. The relief on this writing tablet contains two such episodes. In the upper register, the Roman writer Virgil, who thought that he was being drawn up in a basket for a secret rendezvous with a beautiful woman, was left suspended in mid-air for all to laugh at. Below, on the left, Alexander asks his lover Campaspe (also known as Phyllis) to ensnare the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Her success is depicted on the right.

The writing tablet with a depression for wax on the underside, but the lid that protected the wax is missing. Legends about wily women making fools of intelligent men from classical times were very popular in the late Middle Ages. The relief on this writing tablet contains two such episodes. In the upper register, the Roman writer Virgil, who thought that he was being drawn up in a basket for a secret rendezvous with a beautiful woman, was left suspended in mid-air for all to laugh at. Below, on the left, Alexander asks his lover Campaspe (also known as Phyllis) to ensnare the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Her success is depicted on the right.

Hans Baldung - Aristotle and Phyllis.

Hans Baldung – Aristotle and Phyllis.

Lucas van Leyden: Arisztotelész és Phyllis

Lucas van Leyden: Arisztotelész és Phyllis

Maltererteppich, Augustinermuseum Freiburg

Maltererteppich, Augustinermuseum Freiburg

Master Of The Housebook - Aristotle and Phyllis

Master Of The Housebook – Aristotle and Phyllis

phyllis2

French Casket with Scenes of Romances.The  casket is carved with scenes from romances and allegorical literature representing the courtly ideals of love and heroism. In the center of the lid, knights joust as ladies watch from the balcony; to the left, knights lay siege to the Castle of Love, the subject of an allegorical battle. The remaining scenes on the casket are drawn from well-known stories about Aristotle and Phyllis, Tristan and Iseult, and tales of the gallant, heroic deeds of Gawain, Galahad, and Lancelot. The box may originally have been a courtship gift.

French Casket with Scenes of Romances. The casket is carved with scenes from romances and allegorical literature representing the courtly ideals of love and heroism. In the center of the lid, knights joust as ladies watch from the balcony; to the left, knights lay siege to the Castle of Love, the subject of an allegorical battle. The remaining scenes on the casket are drawn from well-known stories about Aristotle and Phyllis, Tristan and Iseult, and tales of the gallant, heroic deeds of Gawain, Galahad, and Lancelot. The box may originally have been a courtship gift.

French Box. Front with Scenes of Alexander and Pyramus  Walters  (1)The first two scenes, from the left, show Aristotle teaching Alexander and Aristotle ridden by Phyllis, observed by Alexander. The next two scenes show Thisbe and the lion and the death of Pyramus and Thisbe. There is a roughened area for the lock in the upper center. The upper border is recessed for the lid and has been cut down on each side. A piece of raised border is missing at each end. There is a longitudinal break, and pieces of ivory are mssing along the break and at the right end. Although the first two scenes depict two of the same subjects fround on the Paris box (Walters 71.264), the work here is somewhat coarser and must either have come from another shop or been done by a lesser hand. The change of the second two scenes from the Fountain of Youth to Pyramus and Thisbe suggests that there was a variety of subjects available to the carvers.

French Box. Front with Scenes of Alexander and Pyramus Walters (1)The first two scenes, from the left, show Aristotle teaching Alexander and Aristotle ridden by Phyllis, observed by Alexander. The next two scenes show Thisbe and the lion and the death of Pyramus and Thisbe. There is a roughened area for the lock in the upper center. The upper border is recessed for the lid and has been cut down on each side. A piece of raised border is missing at each end. There is a longitudinal break, and pieces of ivory are mssing along the break and at the right end. Although the first two scenes depict two of the same subjects fround on the Paris box (Walters 71.264), the work here is somewhat coarser and must either have come from another shop or been done by a lesser hand. The change of the second two scenes from the Fountain of Youth to Pyramus and Thisbe suggests that there was a variety of subjects available to the carvers.

аристотелъ и филлида

And a contemporary rendition:аристотелъ

Indeed, For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. (–Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics)

There is an interesting article on the subject Phyllis Rides Aristotle by Justin Erik Halldór Smith.

Mueck At Work

Ron Mueck98

London-based sculptor Ron Mueck, formerly a model maker and puppeteer for children’s television and films, has been creating fine art sculptures since 1996. Using resin, fiberglass, silicone, and many other materials, Mueck constructs hyperrealistic likenesses of human beings, while playing with scale. The detailed sculptures are captivating when viewed up close, as they may be many times larger or smaller than expected. (Atlantic.)

I’m fascinated by Ron Mueck’s  artwork — see my Hyperventilating Over Hyperrealism post from 2 years ago.

Ever the best photographs of Ron Mueck at work in his liar of creativity were created by Gautier Deblonde.  French by birth and upbringing, Gautier Deblonde works in London as a photographer since 1991.

He photographed the active process for Ron Mueck’s sculpture Boy for the Millennium Dome in London. Published by the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, this series of photographs won a World Press Award in 2001.Boy

Here is more of Ron Mueck by Gautier Deblonde.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All Happy Nations…

толпаWhen reading a news article, sometimes (more often then not, actually) one might think that everything is bad.  Some other time, reading some other article/column or news release, one might get an impression that everything is fine. Does this mean that reading a huge stream of various articles  “everything is bad” negates “everything is fine” and the result is simply neutral?

Psychologists, however, know that life is more complicated than that. Aren’t we all know this, too? Dozens of experiments show that people, in general, tend to describe events in a positive rather than negative way, even if in fact the events are rather neutral, bland or, at times, even pretty shitty. Pollyanna principle is in full effect here.

толпа4

Thousands of subjects in these experiments strove to present different situations so that they look prettier, using “good” words and avoiding “bad” ones.

Thus scientists have realized that if, in accordance with Pollyanna principle  people choose “good” words more often than not in their speech then it must somehow be reflected in human language.

That is, if you collect all the words and give them a “positivity test”, the average should be not neutral, as suggested above, but positive (albeit based on, well, nothing much.) In short, after reading lotsa-lotsa-lotsa texts in any language there must remain a vague feeling that, in general, everything isn’t all that bad, no matter what detractors say.

толпа1

When back when — before Internet, that is — to test this hypothesis experimentally was easier said than done. In practice, this meant collecting tens of thousands of words in different languages, presenting them to at least a hundred native speakers, recording whether the word, in the opinion of each subject, is “good” or “bad”. Then researchers should have determined the “average happiness score” of each word and applied it to the real body of texts in corresponding language…

It would have been an extremely tedious task if not altogether impossible task before the internet. Nowadays things have changed.

Mathematicians and linguists from Vermont took up the case, put together a research group, set to work, got results and published them in PNAS — the article  Human language reveals a universal positivity bias.

It turned out that the hypothesis was true: in all studied languages the distribution of words in their emotional “coloring” markedly shifted toward the positive. Here are the distribution of words in the emotional variance:

'[...] we show distributions of the average happiness scores for all 24 corpora, leading to our most general observation of a clear positivity bias in natural language. We indicate the above-neutral part of each distribution with yellow and the below-neutral part with blue, and we order the distributions moving upward by increasing median (vertical red line). For all corpora, the median clearly exceeds the neutral score of 5. The background gray lines connect deciles for each distribution.

‘[…] we show distributions of the average happiness scores for all 24 corpora, leading to our most general observation of a clear positivity bias in natural language. We indicate the above-neutral part of each distribution with yellow and the below-neutral part with blue, and we order the distributions moving upward by increasing median (vertical red line). For all corpora, the median clearly exceeds the neutral score of 5. The background gray lines connect deciles for each distribution.

“In terms of emotional variance, all four English corpora are among the highest, whereas Chinese and Russian Google Books seem especially constrained.”

Thus mathematicians and linguists have found that people аre prone to wishful thinking in every which language, but Spanish is best for it. More images, tables and pictures here.

Any application for these results? Linguists selected books in three languages ​​(English, French and Russian) and, using the developed methods, measured the “level of hapiness” as it fluctuated from the first to the last chapter of each book.

The most cheerful of the selected English-language books was Moby Dick, while The Count of Monte Cristo came out average, and — no surprise here — Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky embodied the darkest abyss imaginable.

Immortal Regiment

Immortal Regiment

Immortal Regiment

In Moscow, after the Victory Parade to commemorate 70 years since the WWII, there was a massive march “Immortal Regiment.” People marched in silence, carrying portraits of their loved ones who went to the war and perished. Estimated 500 thousand Muscovites fell fighting in 1941-1945.70

Their thoughts are awkward, their life is backward…

адеев996

Strange people filled the whole city,
Their thoughts are awkward, their life is backward…

Sergey Avdeev. The Rain.

Sergey Avdeev. The Rain.

The Russian artist Sergei Adeev is a member of the creative association of artists “Capital” and the Association of Moscow Artists “Faith, Hope.” He works in the naïve genre for nearly two decades.

 Sergey Avdeev. The Swing.

Sergey Avdeev. The Swing.

Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal training in a technique of painting or drawing, this is often not true for many and tenfold so for Sergei Ageev.

Sergey Avdeev. Make a Wish.

Sergey Avdeev. Make a Wish.

To some, Adeev’s painting look not just naïve, but rudimentary — a pathetic nostalgia for a dream that might have never been. Still, in the souls of many people on this side of the canvas, the images of the distant and wonderful childhood are alive and well.

Sergey Avdeev. Make a Wish 2.

Sergey Avdeev. Make a Wish, The Star is Falling.

Sergey Avdeev. Еternity.

Sergey Avdeev. Еternity.

Sergey Avdeev. The Nightly Flight.

Sergey Avdeev. The Nightly Flight.

avdeev Vremena_goda

Sergey Avdeev. Seasons.

A giant pike, a magic mushrooms and bizarre circus, vividly colored vistas evoke associations with fairy tales of childhood, the years long past and sadly nearly forgotten.

Lyrical, colorful paintings of Sergei Avdeev is a world where fairy tale coexists with the reality of his naïve and often comical characters.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

адеев9

адеев3

адеев

Sergey Avdeev. Oddballs.

Sergey Avdeev. Oddballs.