Thursday, 5 March 2009

Victorian Kinkery pilgrimage

So, a week or so back I met up with the very wonderful Madelynne Ellis and Charlotte Stein for chat and chocolate, and I dragged them to Manchester Art Gallery because I wanted to see their Pre-Raphaelite collection. And oh boy did they have a great example of Victorian kink on show!

This is The Sirens and Ulysses by William Etty (1837). Dear oh dear... At the time the critics called it obscene, and even today it's in gloriously poor taste. There's the sirens, see, waving their boobies and singing to Ulysses across the water while his men (who've got their ears stopped with wax) are holding him back from leaping overboard. All around the sirens are the decaying bodies of those sailors who succumbed in the past to their lure, some reduced to bones and some just yucky. Sex 'n' death, eh? Bear in mind that this picture is enormous (and actually really brightly coloured in real life). It's currently being restored in public (it has its own exhibit) and I think it's just wonderfully, embarrassingly grim and pervy.

Here's another - rather more famous - picture they have on display: Sappho by Charles-August Mengin (1877). I actually have a print of this behind me as I type, because it's been one of my favourites for years: for some reason I'd imagined the original as being quite small. In fact it's well above life-size and truly dominating.


On the other hand this picture: Silver Favourites by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1903), which I'd always imagined to be huge, is only about A2 size.

And this one (Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)? In the flesh, quite powerfully ugly.


Art, it's a funny old thing...

6 comments:

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I love the Manchester Art Gallery! And the pervy Pre-Raphaelites! I have so many Pre-Raph prints hanging in my house...or waiting to be framed and hung...

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

You didn't drag me anywhere! It was a pleasure to be in your illustrious company, and would have been so even if you'd dragged me into the sewers while raving that the zombies were attacking.

Plus the art gallery was lovely. Naked men. Powerful women. What else does a girl need to see?

Justine Elyot said...

You have to love the Pre-Raphaelites; they would make a fine cast for an erotic novel in themselves, before you even get to looking at the pictures.

Madeline Moore said...

A marvelous post, and I do envy you Brits, getting together for coffee and strolls through the galleries...

I dragged my Dad to an exhibition of 'Group of Seven' painting, a few years back.

We were standing in front of a HUGE painting when he started making his 'Ah ah ah' noises, the ones that precede a gigantic, wet sneeze.

I hissed 'Dad, don't you dare sneeze on the Group of Seven' and he turned his head just in time.

...so you can see why I envy you the company you keep, Janine...

Janine Ashbless said...

The Pre-Raphs are generally considered naff by sophisticated arty types - too pretty and accessable - but we don't care, do we? And yeah, you just know they'd have been up for some erotica action!

even if you'd dragged me into the sewers while raving that the zombies were attacking ... Oh, you've heard about what I've been up to in the past then, have you Charlotte? Ha ha, people are such gossips...
:-D

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

There have been whispers. You. A zombie apocalypse. Chainsaw in hand like the poster of Army of Darkness.

I've said too much.