Author Archives: xineann

The Krampus and the Yule Goat Cometh

As we enter December, we anticipate any number of holidays. Twenty-nine holidays from various traditions fall between the last week of November and middle of January. Many, but by no means all, of these are ancient holidays which were Christianized. My favorite of these though is Yule.
Yule, also known as the 12 days of Christmas, can begin between December 20 and December 23, depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. In Nordic and Germanic countries, it begins on the day of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, usually December 21st. Yule is celebrated for another 12 days though, through January 1st, at the shortest or until the 12th of January (“twelve days” or “until the 12th day”).

Company’s Coming: Welcome the Yule Goat

Yule Goat, 1917 and 1912 by John Bauer

The holidays bring a train of friends and family as guests. You might wish that the Yule Goat is among them. In one tradition, the Yule Goat takes its origins from Thor, the God of Thunder, who rode in the sky in a wagon pulled by his two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, meaning teeth-barer and teeth-grinder respectively.

However, another goat, Heidrun, is described in the Poetic and Prose Eddas. She eats the foliage of the sacred tree Laeraor and produces mead for fallen warriors brought to Valhalla. As Yule celebrations were originally referred to as “Drinking Yules”, with an emphasis on drinking as an important part of the celebration, a good case can be made for Heidrun as at least influencing the Yule goat.

heidrun_goat

She eats the foliage of the Sacred Tree to Produce Mead for Fallen Warriors

 
The Krampus for the Rest of Us

The Yule goat brings gifts, especially gifts for good children. But what about the rest of us? We are not left out, we have the Krampus! The Krampus, or Christmas Devil,  a Germanic demon, comes to punish bad seeds and naughty children. Krampusnacht is an annual festival celebrated through the Alpine region from Austria and Northern Italy, to Solvenia, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic. Like the Yule goat, the Krampus is horned and may wear cowbells on his backside reminiscent of Santa’s sleigh. Unlike the Yule Goat, the Krampus has a great gaping jaw, the better to eat you with, as befits any proper demon.

The Krampus

The Krampus arrives on December 5th — the naughty always like to move to the head of the line first — well before Christmas. St. Nikolaus also arrives this night, who will fill shoes with gifts if they’ve been good or rods if not. The Krampus is more proactive; he carries a birch bundle to beat naughty children before stuffing them into his basket and carry them off. The Church tried to ban Krampusnacht as far back as the 12th century, but with little success.  By the 19th century, Father Christmas was arriving on a Yule Goat:

yule_goat2

Father Christmas riding a Yule Goat, 19th Century

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How the Devil Married Three Sisters

Italy (1885)

Once upon a time the devil was seized with a desire to marry. He therefore left hell, took the form of a handsome young man, and built a fine large house. When it was completed and furnished in the most fashionable style he introduced himself to a family where there were three pretty daughters, and paid his addresses to the eldest of them. The handsome man pleased the maiden, her parents were glad to see a daughter so well provided for, and it was not long before the wedding was celebrated.

When he had taken his bride home, he presented her with a very tastefully arranged bouquet, led her through all the rooms of the house, and finally to a closed door. “The whole house is at your disposal,” said he, “only I must request one thing of you; that is, that you do not on any account open this door.”

devil_and_womanOf course the young wife promised faithfully; but equally, of course, she could scarcely wait for the moment to come when she might break her promise. When the devil had left the house the next morning, under pretence of going hunting, she ran hastily to the forbidden door, opened it, and saw a terrible abyss full of fire that shot up towards her, and singed the flowers on her bosom. When her husband came home and asked her whether she had kept her promise, she unhesitatingly said “Yes.” But he saw by the flowers that she was telling a lie, and said, “Now I will not put your curiosity to the test any longer. Come with me. I will show you myself what is behind the door.” Thereupon he led her to the door, opened it, gave her such a push that she fell down into hell, and shut the door again.

A few months after he wooed the next sister for his wife, and won her; but with her everything that had happened with the first wife was exactly repeated.

Finally he courted the third sister. She was a prudent maiden, and said to herself, “He has certainly murdered my two sisters; but then it is a splendid match for me, so I will try and see whether I cannot be more fortunate than they.” And accordingly she consented. After the wedding the bridegroom gave her a beautiful bouquet, but forbade her, also, to open the door which he pointed out.

Not a whit less curious than her sisters, she, too, opened the forbidden door when the devil had gone hunting, but she had previously put her flowers in water. Then she saw behind the door the fatal abyss and her sisters therein. “Ah!” she exclaimed, “poor creature that I am; I thought I had married an ordinary man, and instead of that he is the devil! How can I get away from him?” She carefully pulled her two sisters out of hell and hid them. When the devil came home he immediately looked at the bouquet, which she again wore on her bosom, and when he found the flowers so fresh he asked no questions; but reassured as to his secret, he now, for the first time, really loved her.

After a few days she asked him if he would carry three chests for her to her parents’ house, without putting them down or resting on the way. “But,” she added, “you must keep your word, for I shall be watching you.”

The devil promised to do exactly as she wished. So the next morning she put one of her sisters in a chest, and laid it on her husband’s shoulders. The devil, who is very strong, but also very lazy and unaccustomed to work, soon got tired of carrying the heavy chest, and wanted to rest before he was out of the street on which he lived; but his wife called out to him, “Don’t put it down; I see you!”

The devil went reluctantly on with the chest until he had turned the corner, and then said to himself, “She cannot see me here; I will rest a little.”

But scarcely had he begun to put the chest down when the sister inside cried out, “Don’t put it down; I see you still!” Cursing, he dragged the chest on into another street, and was going to lay it down on a doorstep, but he again heard the voice, “Don’t lay it down, you rascal; I see you still!”

“What kind of eyes must my wife have,” he thought, “to see around corners as well as straight ahead, and through walls as if they were made of glass!” and thus thinking he arrived, all in a perspiration and quite tired out, at the house of his mother-in-law, to whom he hastily delivered the chest, and then hurried home to strengthen himself with a good breakfast.

The same thing was repeated the next day with the second chest. On the third day she herself was to be taken home in the chest. She therefore prepared a figure which she dressed in her own clothes, and placed on the balcony, under the pretext of being able to watch him better; slipped quickly into the chest, and had the maid put it on the devil’s back. “The deuce!” said he; “this chest is a great deal heavier than the others; and today, when she is sitting on the balcony, I shall have so much the less chance to rest.” So by dint of the greatest exertions he carried it, without stopping, to his mother-in-law, and then hastened home to breakfast, scolding, and with his back almost broken.

But quite contrary to custom, his wife did not come out to meet him, and there was no breakfast ready. “Margerita, where are you?” he cried, but received no answer. As he was running through the corridors, he at length looked out of a window and saw the figure on the balcony. “Margerita, have you gone to sleep? Come down. I am as tired as a dog, and as hungry as a wolf.” But there was no reply. “If you do not come down instantly I will go up and bring you down,” he cried, angrily; but Margerita did not stir. Enraged, he hastened up to the balcony, and gave her such a box on the ear that her head flew off, and he saw that the head was nothing but a milliner’s form, and the body, a bundle of rags. Raging, he rushed down and rummaged through the whole house, but in vain; he found only his wife’s empty jewel box. “Ha!” he cried; “she has been stolen from me and her jewels, too!” and he immediately ran to inform her parents of the misfortune. But when he came near the house, to his great surprise he saw on the balcony above the door all three sisters, his wives, who were looking down on him with scornful laughter.

Three wives at once terrified the devil so much that he took his flight with all possible speed.

Since that time he has lost his taste for marrying.

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It’s Nielsen November!

It’s Nielsen November!

kay_nielsen_snowshoes

More Kay Nielsen

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Edward Burne-Jones – Days of Creation Angels : Oh the Intrigue!

 

Introduction

Pre-raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was fascinated with two mythic subjects: Sleeping Beauty and the Days of Creation.  He revisited subjects over and over spanning a period of decades and across several media: in oil and gouache, and in designs for stained glass, tile.
http://williammorristile.com/burne_jones_days_of_creation_angels.html

Days of Creation Art Print with restored fourth angel

Days of Creation Art Print with restored fourth angel

The Days of Creation, done in oil and gouache and gold paint is considered one of his greatest works.

Nearly all mythologies have a creation story, one that tells us where humankind comes from and lays the scene for our place in the world.  When this plays out in art, it can be particularly fascinating.

The History

Burne-Jones Days of Creation painting has a colorful history, one with bigger-than-life friends, their children. It is a story with crime and mystery, and a hero’s journey of getting back to wholeness and completeness.

In 1870, Burne-Jones designed six stained glass windows for Morris & Co.; these were installed in the west window of All Saints Church. This was very early  in a period during which Burne-Jones withdrew from exhibition, a period that would last seven years.  Days of Creation designs were thereafter executed in stained glass, in oil, gouache and gold paint.  Additionally,. cartoons were made for tile. Morris and Co. later created tiles based on the original cartoons, but those executions differ considerably from the original designs and appear to have been derived more from the stained glass implementation as an intermediary step.  A later ceramic version made by Morris & Co ceramic workshops in Birkenhead for the Dyfrig Chapel at Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff, was completed after Burne-Jones’s death in 1898 by Harold Rathbone.

In 1871,Burne-Jones began  work on a study for the Days of Creation oil and gouache panels. He worked on the angels off and on through 1876.  The series consists of six panels, one for each day, with an angel at rest seated at the bottom of the sixth panel for the seventh day.

Days of Creation Angels complete

Days of Creation Angels on Tile, including restored fourth angel

Jenny, William Morris’s elder daughter who was 15 at the time the series was completed, was the primary model for the angels, although her younger sister, May, also appears in some panels. The last of the Days of Creation panels was completed in 1876, the same year that Jenny’s life was changed forever when her health began to deteriorate giving way more and more to epileptic seizures.  Jenny and her father were very close; Jenny had just passed her Cambridge Local examinations and would most likely have attended one of the women’s colleges at either Oxford or Cambridge, had her health permitted it.

Each angel panel  is approximately 42 inches.  A custom frame was designed by Burne-Jones specifically to hold all six angels.

1934 photo of framed Days of Creation

1934 photo of framed Days of Creation

It was shown in May 1977, as the central piece at his celebratory comeback show at the Grosvenor Gallery in London.  The painting met with rave reviews.  Oscar Wilde detailed his visit in an article for the Dublin University Magazine:

The next picture is divided into six compartments, each representing a day in the Creation of the World, under the symbol of an angel holding a crystal globe, within which is shown the work of a day. In the first compartment stands the lonely angel of the First Day, and within the crystal ball Light is being separated from Darkness. In the fourth compartment are four angels, and the crystal glows like a heated opal, for within it the creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars is passing; the number of the angels increases, and the colours grow more vivid till we reach the sixth compartment, which shines afar off like a rainbow. Within it are the six angels of the Creation, each holding its crystal ball; and within the crystal of the sixth angel one can see Adam’s strong brown limbs and hero form, and the pale, beautiful body of Eve. At the feet also of these six winged messengers of the Creator is sitting the angel of the Seventh Day, who on a harp of gold is singing the glories of that coming day which we have not yet seen. The faces of the angels are pale and oval-shaped, in their eyes is the light of Wisdom and Love, and their lips seem as if they would speak to us; and strength and beauty are in their wings. They stand with naked feet, some on shell-strewn sands whereon tide has never washed nor storm broken, others it seems on pools of water, others on strange flowers; and their hair is like the bright glory round a saint’s head.

Days of Creation Angels, the third and fourth day

*The Fourth Day was cut from its frame during a dinner party in Dunster House at Harvard University in 1970 where the entire series on loan from the Fogg Art Museum. It has never been recovered. The restored fourth angel is derived from black and white platinotypes done by Frederick Hollyer at the end of the nineteenth century, 1934 photos from the Harvard Art Museums archives, and extrapolated from the description of Oscar Wilde and other critics of the day.

 

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John Bauer, Swedish 1882-1918: Fifty more fairytale images added

John Bauer, Lucia, design for stamp

Design for stamp by John Bauer, Swedish, 1882-1918.

The artpassions blog is back!  New announcements will be made here and on our  Facebook page.

I’ve added more than 50 new John Bauer images to the Bauer Art Passions page, making just over 100 Bauer images scanned and posted –The new images come mostly from Bland Tomtar Och Troll, but also the cover of Till Sagolandet (which needed much repair!), and some later paintings and even a design for a stamp. (via John Bauer Art: Trolls, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales – Swedish (1882 – 1918))

Coming soon:  Gone are the Sun, Moon and Stars : Edward Burne-Jones’ Days of Creation Angels (a history and meditation)

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Russian Fairy Tales: A New Firebird

The Tale of the Firebird – Gennady Spirin

translated by Tatiana Popova

Art Passions, the website, focuses primarily on late 19th century and Golden Age illustrators. However, I sometimes run across a contemporary children’s book that is both well-written and whose illustration I want to share. I’ve run into a few recently and I will try to review them here.

Such a sharable book is The Tale of the Firebird by Gennady Spirin.

In this version of The Firebird Tale, Spirin combines three stories – The Firebird, Baba Yaga, and Koshchei the Immortal. I have some reservations about mixing the stories because they are classics and, although there are variants, I’d rather have seen the three stories kept separate within one book. Whether he should have combined the stories or not, Spirin does it well. There are no questions left hanging.

This is a book to make children love books before ever learning to read. Each page is generously illustrated and the illustrations are exquisite, down to the page numbers.

Page numbers

The illustrations do not tell the story but beautifully make you wonder, “Oooh, what’s happening here?”

Ivan rides Yelena the Beautiful

The characters are gentle without being sentimental. I even find myself liking Baba Yaga:

Baba Yaga and her cat

and Koschei the Immortal seems more of a rogue than an evil adversary:

Koshchei the Immortal

As the spirit moves me, I’ll do a short review of the book here and share some of the pictures. You can list the reviews by selecting the “picture books” tag.

I bought and paid for this book myself. Reading level is Grades 2 through 5, but it’s the sort of book you read to younger children so often that they learn the words by heart. You can find The Firebird at Amazon.

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2010 Art Calendars

2010 Calendars: The Art Passions 2010 Calendar is up: Artpassions Calendar. We also made some an individual 2010 calendar for some of the artists as an experiment. They are listed here. I’m sorry about how long it took. I’ll try to find a different vendor next year.

Meanwhile, Sebastian made Holiday cards. So then I asked for an Arthur Rackham holiday postcard. (They’ll cost less to mail, generate less trash, and can become bookmarks when they’re done.)

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