Tag Archives: Photo challenge

Tortured Babies and Chained Black Slaves

Now that we have explored the ground floor of the Giovanni Fattori museum and haven’t yet seen anything from Giovanni Fattori himself, we need to get one floor up, to finally get to know the painter.

And what a staircase is it to climb! On my scale of gaudy, it stands a notch behind Jeff Koons.


Yes, ceramic banisters of traditional Tuscany design are interspersed by putti.

As you climb the first flight of stairs they face you, the next flight presents you with a spectacular view of their very un-childish bottoms:

IMG_1506 IMG_1504

They are far from being happy, what with the iron rods stabbed in their heads! If you bend down to get to know them better, you get a feeling that something creepy must have been happening in this luxuriant and opulent villa when its owners were alive.

Once you’ve mastered the stairs, catching an unhealthy dose of putti suffering along the way, you get to a spacious hall with a lot of people on the ceiling.


It is an interesting moment in the history of Livorno, and art history, in general.

It is the unveiling of an addition to a monument to Ferdinand I de Medici in 1624. The statue itself was erected in 1601 to celebrate naval victories of Ferdinand over Moorish Corsairs. The statue was made by Bandinelli, an admirer and rival of Michelangelo but without any talent for large forms. I wrote about the guy here, and if you have been to Florence, you must know his major work that stands next to David.

More than 20 years later after Ferdinand the Victorious was erected, it was decided to add captive Moors, who – coming from North Africa – were usually dark-skinned or black. Painted bronze was seen as a fitting material, and Pietro Tacca, a former pupil of Giambologna, was commissioned to make four figures of defeated pirates.

It’s not often that one can see a sculpture which accessory part is better sculpted and more expressive than the main one.


An observer cares more about the Moors than the dude who defeated them.


Everything about them is spectacular: their twisted bodies, their faces, of which some are rebellious, and some quite resigned.

Livorno 006

There is a legend that Tacca used two real slaves as models for his sculptures who were set free when the work was completed. One of them settled in Florence, but would take his family to Livorno whenever possible to boast of the likeness of his face to one of the bronze Moors.

Of course the Moors don’t look as black today as in the ceiling fresco, but someone who doesn’t know the real history behind this sculpture may see the whole composition as an offensive symbol of racial superiority. And, believe me, in the presence of black people selling fake bags nearby with white tourists taking pictures of the monument with their uber-expensive Leicas, Canons, and Nikons, this modern interpretation of a historic sculpture does not seem all that irrelevant.

Enough of the creepy stuff. Our next stop is at Italian art of the 19th century.


CU on most expensive camera

This is not your average pack of John Player Specials. It is a close-up on a photo camera, produced in Kiev, Ukraine (then a republic of the USSR), for the KGB. Despite the KGB had never used this spying tool, it became one of the most sought after collection prizes.

If you happen to find one in the attic, don’t smoke it. It can buy you a new house.


Stay tuned for more bizarre photography stuff! )

Don’t shoot the photographer!

Telescopic lens, auto-focus, continuous shooting at 30 frames per second, and  – bang! – emotions of the striker who scored a goal can be felt in the minuscule detail of the macro take of sweat beads on his forehead. Close-up shots go as smooth and easy as vodka ones, but without the headache. It has not always been like this, folks.

A close-up shot from a long range once required an assistant, preferably under-sized, and hardy both physically and mentally: he had to be prepared for a barrage of abuse if he so much as twitched his shoulder. It’s not ancient history, it is 1948.

IMG_0777 - копия

Imagine reaction of the police if they see it, say, pointed at a government official today. There are photographers who love using historic equipment, but someone with this device is likely to have life-expectancy of a moth, possibly shorter.

This photo comes from the Vevey Photography museum in Switzerland. More to follow.

People travel from other countries to see these doors

A realistically painted landscape is often compared to a window, once it is put on the wall, except that no fresh air is coming through. Expressionists say they’ve solved the problem by pumping their “emotional airs” into your room with bold combinations of pure colours.

Abstractionists say they are not about providing a window at all. They open a door for you through which you can exit into a universe of new ideas. Indeed, the famous Black Square is not a window to the night sky, it is a portal into an art history discussion club. Continue reading

On the way to living happily ever after. Or not.


This marriage chariot is taking couples to a happy marriage. The fairytale kind of partnership, in which they would never have disagreements based on taste. For they have none. Isn’t it a blessing?

Russian luxury is something to behold in awe.

I thought a weekend diversion from thinking about nudes  would be nice, before we get back to them.

Is it your first time here? To sample stuff the blog has on offer, click on ABOUT at the top. You’ll find links to some of my best or typical posts there. There’s an Art & Fun shelf there if you feel like in need of a laugh. And don’t forget you can sign up for my new posts: there’s a “Follow this blog” form on the right.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”

Prince of Orange, or Why Orange is Good for You

Nikolai Tarkhov, a Russian painter who settled in France six years before the Revolution of 1917, and died there, impoverished and forgotten, thirteen years later, was in love with orange. Take Van Gogh, max out reds and blues in his palette, add a good measure of orange colour, and you’d get very close to Tarkhov, though not quite.

I guess I know why he loved orange. Perhaps, this is why we all love this colour. It is a very rare or temporary colour in nature. The sun becomes orange for the last few minutes of its daily existence above the horizon. A pumpkin turns orange when it is ripe and then it gets eaten. A tree gets orange before it metaphorically dies for the season.

Orange gives us an acute feeling of being alive right here and then. Orange is a pinch that wakes us up from whatever gloomy state of mind we may find ourselves occasionally.

If I was a writer, I’d write 50 Shades of Orange as a collection of erotic stories, in which people are preparing for the boring routine of having sex, but, after seeing something cute and orange, decide to order pizzas, change career, and vote out their president (I understand this will bring on a ban on the book in some countries).

Now, see for yourself. I made the photos yesterday, at a Tarkhov exhibition in Moscow, and I can assure you the real Tarkhov is even more intense than in these amateurish shots:

The fundamental difference between Tarkhov and Van Gogh is that Tarkhov wanted to introduce dynamism and movement in his paintings through both varying the length and intensity of his brushstrokes, and using colours that the human mind links up with the time dimension. We know orange is temporary, so our mind involuntarily registers the importance of appreciating and catching the moment that has already been captured for us by the artist, because we know that the orange moment won’t last.

The irony is that Tarkhov’s most famous or prominent paintings don’t have orange in them. Like this gargoyle of the Notre Dame in Paris.


As the observer gets perched up next to the gargoyle, all sorts of thoughts and ideas start pouring out. Get yourself comfortable, and try it for yourself.

PS If you missed the medieval story about friendship, love, betrayal, and nipples, it just may be the recipe for a great Sunday art & crime reading experience. It begins here