Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Domenichino, and the lesser orientalist painter, Vernet

Left is Judah and Tamar by Horace Vernet 1789-1863, below is The Persian Sibyl by Domenico Zampieri, 1581-1641

Today I visited the Wallace collection with Claire. Strangely I had never heard of this London gallery before and it took a girl from Wigan Pier to drag me there. It is an extraordinary place - a national Museum in a grand, historic town house, five minutes from the crushing banality of Oxford street and stupifying Selfridges. On first entering the gates we came upon a bucolic scene (without the sheep): London workers sprawled in the sun, all over the brilliantly green lawn eating their lunch-time sandwiches. We ventured on, wandering inside, into the cool, dark interior that smelt faintly of mince pies, then sharp left through the brilliantly lit gift shop and beyond was a medieval room full of armour. I protested I wasn't interested in armour. Then I looked at it and found it a wondrous and absurd thing. Claire, a Fashion Marketing lecturer, coveted a breastplate, whilst rejecting the chain-mail pants. I considered how likely you were to die horribly in battle anyway. Then we found the great orientalist painting collection and I almost fell in a swoon, forgetting my Edward Said lessons and abandoning myself to the rich exoticism. I think I am obsessed with the eroticism actually and felt a powerful draw to this painting, Judah and Tamar by the 19th century French painter, Horace Vernet. I want to be, simultaneously, Judah and Tamar. As we rushed out so Claire could catch her train, we passed before the great Persian Sibyl and I was mesmerised and abject before her lovely face.

1 comment:

Persephone said...

I had similar feelings of rapture and guilt upon seeing John Singer Sargent's "Fumée d'Ambre Gris" - http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/Smoke.htm

How beautiful she is wafting incense under her veil. And that hand - so lovely! She is sensual and enchanting and I will love her without guilt, despite - and in spite of - Edward Said.