The Head of John The Baptist on a Charger

We here at The Hely Times are shameless about catering to our readers.  We’ve discovered that pictures depicting beheadings are among our most popular subjects.  So, today, a review of one of the great themes in Western Art, John the Baptist’s head on a charger.  NOTE: some other day we’ll do actual action-shot beheadings of John the Baptist. Today, we’re just dealing with the paintings that include the charger as well.

Caravaggio did it twice.  There’s the National Gallery, London:

And the Palacio Real, Madrid:

Met has a good one by Aelbert Bouts:

MFA has one by Bernardo Luini:

Lucas Cranach the Elder, now hanging in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest:

That’s enough.


Last stop on the Hemingway/Lillian Ross tour of the Met

We came to El Greco’s green “View of Toledo” and stood looking at it a long time.  “This is the best picture in the Museum for me, and Christ knows there are some lovely ones,” Hemingway said.

After we reached the Cezannes and Degases and the other Impressionists, Hemingway became more and more excited, and discoursed on what each artist could do and how and what he had learned from each.  Patrick listened respectfully and didn’t seem to want to talk about painting techniques any more.  Hemingway spent several minutes looking at Cezanne’s “Rocks – Forest of Fontainebleu.”  “This is what we try to do in writing, this and this, and the woods, and the rocks we have to climb over,” he said.  “Cezanne is my painter, after the early painters.  Wonder, wonder painter…

As we walked along, Hemingway said to me, “I can make a landscape like Mr. Paul Cezanne.  I learned how to make a landscape from Mr. Paul Cezanne by walking through the Luxembourg Museum a thousand times with an empty gut, and I am pretty sure that if Mr. Paul was around, he would like the way I make them and be happy that I learned it from him.”

Wiki, close out Cezanne for us:

One day, Cézanne was caught in a storm while working in the field. Only after working for two hours under a downpour did he decide to go home; but on the way he collapsed. He was taken home by a passing driver. His old housekeeper rubbed his arms and legs to restore the circulation; as a result, he regained consciousness. On the following day, he intended to continue working, but later on he fainted; the model with whom he was working called for help; he was put to bed, and he never left it again. He died a few days later, on 22nd October 1906. He died of pneumonia and was buried at the old cemetery in his beloved hometown of Aix-en-Provence.


Captain George K. H. Coussmaker (Joshua Reynolds, 1782)

“What the hell!” Hemingway said suddenly. “I don’t want to be an art critic.  I just want to look at pictures and be happy with them and learn from them.  Now, this for me is a damn good picture.”  He stood back and peered at a Reynolds entitled “Colonel George Coussmaker,” which shows the Colonel leaning against a tree and holding his horse’s bridle.  “Now, this Colonel is a son of a bitch who was willing to pay money to the best portrait painter of his day just to have himself painted,” Hemingway said, and gave a short laugh.  “Look at the man’s arrogance and the strength in the neck of the horse and the way the man’s legs hang.  He’s so arrogant he can afford to lean against a tree.”

remembers Miss Ross.

Coussmaker sat for Reynolds 21 times and his horse 8 times between February 9 and April 16, 1782 – an exceptional number of times.


Van Dyck, Portrait Of The Artist (possibly 1620-21)

Weighed in already but let’s get Hemingway’s take:

Mrs. Hemingway called to us.  She was looking at “Portrait of the Artist” by Van Dyck.  Hemingway looked at it, nodded approval, and said, “In Spain, we had a fighter pilot named Whitey Dahl, so Whitey came to me one time and said, ‘Mr. Hemingway, is Van Dyck a good painter?’ I said ‘Yes, he is.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m glad, because I have one in my room and I like it very much, and I’m glad he’s a good painter because I like him.’  The next day, Whitey was shot down.”

– from Miss Ross again.


Still more on Francesco Francia’s Portrait of Federigo Gonzaga

Raphael’s Santa Cecilia is supposed to have produced such a feeling of inferiority in Francia that it caused him to die of depression. However, as his friendship with Raphael is now well-known, this story has been discredited.

Here it is, anyway:

Go see that next time you’re in Bologna.  What’s that?  In no hurry to get to Bologna?  Perhaps Mr. James Salter can persuade you:

“Bologna is famous for three things,” she said.  “It’s famous for its learning – it has the oldest university in Italy, founded in the twelfth century.  It’s famous for its food.  The cuisine is the finest in the country.  You can eat in Bologna as nowhere else, that’s well known.  And lastly, it’s famous for fellatio.”  She used another word.

“It’s a specialty,” she said.  “All the various forms are called by the names of pasta.  Rigate, for instance,” she explained, “which is a pasta with thin, fluted marks.  For that the girls gently use their teeth.  When there used to be brothels there was always a Signorina Bolongese – that was her specialty.”


More on Francisco Francia’s Portrait of Federigo Gonzaga

In July 1510 the ten-year-old Federigo Gonzaga was sent from Mantua to Rome as a hostage. On his way to Rome he stopped in Bologna, where Francia astounded everyone by painting and delivering his portrait in twelve days. The picture was subsequently taken to Rome for the admiration of the papal court and was only reluctantly returned to Isabella d’Este, Federigo’s mother. The fine execution of this famous portrait is typical of Francia’s best work.

– says the Met, where this painting is NOT ON DISPLAY.  Later in life, Titian would take a crack at Federigo:


Portrait of Federigo Gonzaga (Francesco Francia, 1510)

“Here’s what I like, Papa,” Patrick said, and Hemingway joined his son in front of “Portrait of Federigo Gonzaga (1500-1540) by Francesco Francia.  It shows, against a landscape, a small boy with long hair and a cloak.

“This is what we try to do when we write, Mousie,” Hemingway said, pointing to the trees in the background.  “We always have this in when we write.”

– “How Do You Like It Now, Gentleman,” by Lillian Ross, The New Yorker, May 13, 1950