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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Guest post: 5 Ridiculously Morbid Works of Art

This charmingly macabre guest post is brought to you by Talia of Gothica Gothique and the Emporium Gothica, who has also penned several books that might be of interest to the Gothically inclined, which you can check out on Amazon here.

Have you ever been to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland? The room full of paintings which, as you stand watching, stretch to reveal increasingly morbid details? Have you ever thought this would be an awesome way to decorate your home? Well, here behold five completely real, legitimate, classic works of art that are perfect for adding a touch of sophistication to your home while simultaneously weirding out all your visitors.

1) Watson and the Shark.


Inline image 1

Yes, this is a painting of a floating, naked man who has just had his leg bitten off by a shark and is gushing blood into the water. There are two versions of this painting, both by John Singleton Copley. This is the later version, featuring a somewhat improved shark.

Brook Watson was the peg-legged Lord Mayor of London. When some people commission portraits, they request boring pictures of themselves standing there, looking pretty, richly dressed, and showing off their prosperity and successes. Not Mr. Watson. He actually commissioned someone to make this painting of him, showing the horrible incident that produced his peg-leggedness. This would be like Charla Nash requesting a custom painting be made of her getting her face eaten off by that monkey, only adding some nudity for good measure. Watson sounds like he must have been a pretty cool guy.

2) Andromeda

Gustave Doré's art reputedly was the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft's monsters. Doré also seems to have been oddly fond of portraying nude women in chains. This apparently was found quite appealing according to Victorian sensibilities, and he was one of the most successful illustrators of his time. His edition of Dante's Inferno became a runaway bestseller despite its prohibitively high price, and his illustrated Bible was an international bestseller.

This painting depicts the part of the Greek legend of Perseus, in which Andromeda was to be sacrificed to a whale. Doré doesn't paint whales much better than Copley paints sharks, but at least here there is some tradition in Cetus being more of a serpent than a beluga.

3) Cannibals Preparing Their Victims

This piece is subtly done; it may take a moment to decipher what's going on. In short, it's depicting a well known historical event, in which some old school Jesuit missionaries got themselves eaten by their local cannibal clan. This is actually part one of a pair: the second painting features the feast.

Francisco Goya is no stranger to depictions of morbid subjects. He even made some of the spookiest thank-you notes possible, like this one to his favorite doctor. Unlike Watson's portrait, this one was done all on Goya's own volition; probably because Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant didn't succeed in surviving their being eaten. Curiously, Goya seems to have actually toned down the violence for this one, maybe because the victims both were eventually canonized. According to the history, "they were fastened to stakes and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red hot hatchets and mutilation. According to Catholic tradition, Brébeuf did not make a single outcry while he was being tortured and he astounded the Iroquois, who later cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage."

4) Diomedes Devoured by his Horses


Here we have a lovely painting of a man being torn apart by a quartet of hungry horses, who despite their carnivorous instincts seem to have also left several other nearly-whole dead bodies littering their pen. The fellow hanging out on the wall, calmly watching this, is probably Hercules.

Gustave Moreau created over 8,000 paintings, and more than one of them were of this scene.

5) Saturn

Inline image 2

Goya treated this subject more famously, but really, no one else has just gone all out like Peter Paul Rubens. I mean, it's an old man with a scythe eating a screaming baby, and looks like it. The subject is from a famous story in Greek mythology. If it makes you feel better, Saturn managed to eventually puke up all the kids still-living.

Decorate your home with these, and even the Addams Family couldn't do better.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

lovely pieces of art!

Trinidy Patterson said...

I was going to question this post if Goya wasn't mentioned.
:D
Goya is one of my favorites.
What about Francis Bacon though? Or Joel peter-witkins? Or Kathe Kollwitz?
Or were we just discussing morbid art you can find reproductions of easily?

Nightwind said...

I have to agree. I would call that art quite morbid--but interesting.

Min Self said...

Trindy: Glad you approve! Admittedly, my mind always runs in terms of 'what images can I use without being sued' but, I had specified "classic" art for the list in any case. What is called the "Modern Art" movement began somewhere around 1870, so it's all stuff from before that. I think the Andromeda is the latest piece at circa 1869.

Trinidy Patterson said...

ah! I hadn't realized the focus was classic art.

Daniel_8964 said...

I like the paintings and it reminds me of the paintings out of the Assassin's Creed game.

Alexandriaweb said...

I love Goya, he was so twisted!

Lewis said...

Nice post! There are plenty of amazing pieces on this website http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Fantasy,-Mythology,-Sci-Fi/Devils-%26-Demons.html

The twisted Lady said...

Awesome! Inever noticed there were so many pieces like this one. About Goya, you coul have posted the whitches: http://static.skynetblogs.be/media/9541/dyn003_original_820_1258_pjpeg_2544134_1369274d09a690bc737ff989437e6a70.jpg

and may I aso suggest you google Posada, Bellmer and the photographer Joel Peter Witkin?

Jayne said...

I love that painting of Andromeda- I have a book of Greek mythology hanging around somewhere that I used to rifle through on a pretty frequent basis, and that picture (and the one of Kronos/Saturn) is one I remember very well.

I've been reading your blog for years, but (and this is quite shameful) this is my first time posting! I'm in a bit of a fix at the moment.

I have a somewhat love hate relationship with my hair. It's an auburn-brown which I don't mind, but I really wish I had darker hair. I want to dye it, but I have scalp psoriasis and so I'm a little reluctant to put anything chemical-y and harmful on my head in case awful things happen to my poor scalp :/. Everyone tells me I have gorgeous hair anyway. But I'd love to have dark hair...

So, I'm trying to decide whether the risk of dyeing my hair and losing this 'gorgeous' colour, with my psoriasis, is worth it just for the sake of wanting dark hair :/ Any suggestions? I'm sorry this post is so long!

Dark Fantomzy said...

Very nice post, these pieces are so interesting! I'm always looking for inspiration from other artists.

Jessie Aaker said...

I love them!

Phoenix said...

AWESOME post. Really well supplemented with links, too! I love morbid art <3

Anonymous said...

hello, I think you should check out the works of Zdzisław Beksiński, I'm pretty sure you'll like it :)
greetings from Poland :)

Midnigthpaw1313 said...

http://www.hieronymus-bosch.org/

Check out his stuff, it's very good. Creatures from hell, machines and demons.

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