July 31, 2019

Portrait of the Artist with Muses

        I had just declared myself finished with all the prints for my bestiary, when I decided that the image I was using for the author just wouldn’t cut it.  The thing is, it was originally intended as a portrait of another author, and a romance author at that, and I decided I wanted something more appropriate to this work.  I wanted something that reflected the artist/author observing and recording the marvelous creatures of the Realms of Imagination.  So, hmmm… A person surrounded by all manner of wild and wacky mythical creatures… What does that remind me of?  Why, the Temptation of St Anthony, of course!  Obviously I wouldn’t show demonic creatures attacking my human, but rather human and creatures regarding each other equally with curiosity and delight.
        If you go back to the previous post and look again at Schongauer’s famous “Temptation” you will see at once that I stole one of his monsters wholesale.  The fishy thing on the left is lifted with only minor modifications and placed in the same position in my block.  I did replace its arms with wings, and I gave it scales under the influence of Michelangelo’s copy of Schongauer’s work, but I just love its trumpet schnozz, its lugubrious eye and jowls, and its wild spikes.  Another of Schongauer’s monsters also contributed: the beast on the far right provided its head and wings, and the inspiration of its tail.  Again, I switched out its arms and instead gave it legs and a pot belly.  I also made its expression much more cheerful.
        Schongauer’s is not the only “Temptation” that tempted me, however.  The malacomorph on the tree branch has its snail shell as part of my running joke of sprinkling malacomorphs throughout the entire bestiary, but I was inspired by Cranach’s frill-faced beast in embellishing its head.  (The frill in my first sketches looked more like Cranach’s, but eventually got modified with a little touch of the weird frills on Schongauer’s bottom right
beast.)  And finally, my bottom right monster is copied from one at the lower left of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch.  I thought it was, frankly, adorable.
        As for the “artist,” that’s a portrait of me, of course, wearing something that I hope is vaguely suggestive of a nineteenth century explorer’s khaki.
        I like to think that all these beasties are really not demons, but just misunderstood!

[Pictures: Portrait of the Artist, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019;
The Temptation of St Anthony (detail), painting by Hieronymus Bosch or a follower, c 1500-1516 (Image from Wikimedia Commons).]


Pax said...

What fun! That's a very beguiling portrait of the intrepid biologist in the field taking notes. In addition to the five obvious creatures, I like the twigs that become birds and the -- something -- in the fork of the tree.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

The tree birds are barnacle geese, and the something is a... something.