Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mauritshuis, Den Haag (No 1 in a series)

This will be the first in a series of blogs specific to art, as I go to galleries, I will pick but one work from within it and write about it, it will be based on what interests me and I will explain why. I’m conscious this is all rather pretentious, so feel free to ignore :)

Part 1 : Mauritshuis, The Hague.

We visited some old friends in Holland last week, was lovely to see Chris, Charlina, their twins Nils and Sophia and their one year old Elano. On the Saturday we visited the Mauritshuis in the Hague, a compact little gallery full of Dutch/Flemish masters.

It is here the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer is housed. It is a beautiful painting and it was hard to get a good look as people were congregated round it. But this is not the subject of my blog.

The work of art I’ve chosen is “Christ descending into limbo” by Jan Brueghel the Elder with Hans Rottenhammer (1597). It’s only a small piece of work but it contains a lot of power. Seeing as I seem to be be in morbid blog mode at the moment, this painting fascinates me.

In the bottom left of this painting a group of people are desperate to be saved by a seemingly untouchable radiant Jesus, all around him however is chaos, men and women tortured by various monstrous beasts, people fall from great heights, a little horned imp burns a brazier as leering creatures abduct and drag off screaming women, furnaces rage and buildings burn as tiny figures run into the water to drown, soldiers with stunted animal bodies in arms and armour terrorise the naked people, it’s hideous. Religious art, especially scenes of hell (or in this case limbo), even for one with a secular viewpoint is hard hitting. I always imagine how terrifying this would be for someone in the 16th century. Would it have made them turn their back against “sin”? Probably not, but it would have sure scared the crap out of them. I like to think that the artists had fun painting this, trying to make their beasts and monsters as scary as possible, testing it out on their students and friends for its shock value.

From personal experience, drawing beasts is fun, cathartic and mirth inducing. For example, here is my drawing of Booglog (I claim credit for many beasts, but not this one I’m afraid, Paul created this one). His catchphrase is “Throw them in Fire!” so he would have been perfectly placed in this painting. Utterly in keeping with the standard of art too.

Hmm… an idea, in the spirit of the Chapman Brothers (see this blog) I’ve added Booglog into the painting. I think it works.

Well, this blog started off vaguely serious, but it couldn’t last.

Anyway, I don’t know much about the artist (as usual) but a glance at available online resources shows the whole family (father and brother, children) were all accomplished artists. It seems this Brueghel wasn’t known for his hellish paintings but was more famous for flowers and more genteel religious scenes. His father and brother worked more in that space however.

On Rottenhammer (great name) I know even less (surprise!), other than when they worked together, he did the figures and Brueghel did the landscapes. Anyway, it’s an interesting collaboration. That’s it!

1 comment:

Rosanna said...

I absolutely LOVE this Mel! Made me crack up. I really thought it was going to be a serious post about the painting, pahaha! Booglog definitely fits into that painting and makes it far more exciting. I would put your version on my wall for sure. very funny and creative!