Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ukrainian Venus: Olga Kurylenko

No apologies for reprinting these pictures of Ukrainian super babe Olga Kurylenko, the new Bond girl from Quantum of Solace. A direct descendent, no doubt, of the Trypilian people she would make a fine shamaness in a thatched long house.

Suddenly leaping into the top three of Band girls (some say even number one) we really feel that words are totally redundant in her case.

Ukranian Venuses: the Trypilians

Agent Triple P has just attended a facinating exhibition in the Royal Ontario Museum about the mysterious Trypilian people of around 7000 years ago. They lived in what is now Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. They built uniquely large settlements for the time; numbering hundreds of houses and produced the most sophisticated neolithic pottery known.

There were several female "Venus" figures. We liked the ones who seemed to be pushing their breasts up and the slim enigmatic later one (Circa 3,500 BC).

An artist had been commisioned to produce some fine paintings of what Trypilian villages must have looked like but we think that he was letting his imagination run wild with this painting of a Trypilian priestess!

Russian Venus: Kseniya Sukhinova Miss World 2008

Congratulations to boffo boffin Kseniya Sukhinova for being voted in as Miss World yesterday. It's all (theoretically) democratic now, with everything being done by telephone vote from 180 countries rather than having a panel of TV stars, footballers and the terrifying Morleys deciding the fate of the quivering Misses from around the World as in the old days.

Agent Triple P used to enjoy Miss World on television but then there was all the nonsense about it being sexist (er, yes) and there were protests in the UK, largely organised by the father of one of our classmates (he became the most unpopular boy in the school, briefly!). It slid off mainstream TV and has ended up on satellite, usually held in South Africa for some reason. Actually, this year's contest was supposed to be in the Ukraine but obviously they didn't want to have to give the girls Kevlar swimsuits so moved to the sun of South Africa again.

Kseniya shows her form in last year's qualifying Miss Russia contest.

21-year-old Kseniya wants to be a supermodel but not until she has finished her engineering degree at the Tyumen Oil and Gas University in northwestern Siberia. (we would venture she really appreciated the sun at this time of year!). She could work on Triple P's rig or adjust our valves any day.
Kseniya's model card. We'd hire her!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hungarian Venus: Corner of the Studio by István Csók

Corner of the studio

The remarkably long-lived Csók (1865-1961) went through many styles in his lifetime.

He studied in Budapest and Munich in the early 1880s before spending time in Paris between 1887 and 1910. He exhibited in Rome, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and London.


Later he taught at the Budapest Academy of Fine Arts, and was the president of various artistic associations and there is a museum dedicated to his work in Cece.

The dubiously titled "Honi soit qui mal y pense"

He produced a number of nudes but this dark, gypsy-looking specimen squirming in the corner of his studio is our favourite

One of his most famous pictures is his study of Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1614), the Hungarian Countess accused of killing hundreds (possibly as many as 600) of young women. Eventually she was walled up in a set of rooms in her own castle, where she died four years later before a tril could be organised.

Her behaviour sparked legends that she bathed in virgin's blood to keep her looks. Something that Hammer films happily depicted in Countess Dracula (1971) starring the magnificent Ingrid Pitt as the countess. In the opening of the film the credits are shown over the Báthory painting by Csók, showing the countess watching the torture of young girls in the snow. The original picture was lost during World War 2 although a colour sketch survives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hungarian Venus:Fürdő nő by Károly Lotz.

This is Fürdő nő (bathing woman) by Károly Lotz. Agent Triple P bought a nice reproduction of this, printed on canvas, at the National Gallery in Budapest where the original is on display.

Lotz (1833-1904), studied at the school of Karl Heinrich Rahl in Vienna after private studies with Marastoni and the workshop of Henrik Weber. As a talented pupil he was quickly given the opportunity to take part in the execution of Rahl's monumental fresco commissions and fresco painting became his speciality. Many of these can still be seen today in places like the Academy of Sciences, the Opera, the Casino, the Supreme Court and the Parliament building in Budapest.

Most of his nudes, like this one, After the Bath (1880), were done earlier in his career but Fürdő nő was painted in 1901. A late but very welcome addition!

He produced this trio of ripely abandoned bacchantes.

There was a fine tradition of nudes in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Hungarian painting and we will return to look at some other painters shortly. Agent Triple P would venture that this was no doubt down to the very fine potential material you can still find wafting around the streets of Budapest on a fine summers evening.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long Haired Venus: Susie Scott

Perhaps a better modern interpretation of Mitchell's painting of Hypatia would be the delightful Susie Scott who was Playmate of the Month for May 1983. A computer programmer from Alabama living in Salt Lake City when she was discovered by photographer Stephen Wayda she is now president of the Worldwide Foundation for Mercy and Sharing and organises the building of hospitals in places like Mongolia and Haiti.


Part Cherokee Venus: Hyapatia Lee

Only one vowel separates Hypatia from our subject here, Hyapatia Lee, a part (one quarter)Cherokee model and, actress. Indeed, for some of the time she was known as Hypatia anyway so easily fulfills the tenuous link to the previous entry.

You'd think the photographer would have moved the manky plastic bottles!

Miss Lee (real name the rather less exotic sounding Victoria Lynch) was born in Indiana (appropriately!) in 1960. She made 70 "artistic" films and also sang in a number of bands. Here she is in her prime displaying her neat little 5'4" body. Whilst her hair is not as long as Mitchell's Hypatia it is still quite impressive.

She appeared in Penthouse magazine in September 1984 which is the issue that is now impossible to find as the Pet of the Month was Traci Lords. Ms Lords was later discovered to have been under sixteen when she posed and so, as a consequence, it is illegal to buy this edition in most countries.

Very plastic looking "pearls"! Her bust looks delightfully natural, however!

We very much like Miss Victoria Lynch, who looks suitably dark and obvious for our tastes!

Classical Venus: Hypatia by Charles William Mitchell

Two years before Hacker’s 'Pelagia and Philammon' was exhibited at the Walker gallery Charles William Mitchell's painting, 'Hypatia' had caused a sensation at the Grosvenor Gallery. Hacker has been accused of cashing in on Mitchell’s earlier work in delivering another sensuous nude in the guise of a story with a religious motif.

Hypatia as depicted by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1867. The model is Mary Spartali

Hypatia, the heroine of Kingsley’s novel, was a real person. She is not a well known figure these days (except, perhaps, with feminists and atheist philosophers ). Hypatia was a mathematician, astronomer, and Platonic philosopher born in Alexandria around either 355 or 370 AD, depending on whose arguments you believe. Her most notable work related to conics and she edited the work On the Conics of Appollonius in a form which explained and popularised the work, with its important ideas on hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses, ensuring its survival through the centuries. Unfortunately, she was independent (she dressed as a male teacher not in women’s clothes and drove her own chariot), a thinker, female and a pagan in an increasingly Christian environment. Added to this she was friends with the prefect of Alexandria, Orestes, who was engaged in a bitter conflict with Cyril, the Christian Bishop of Alexandria. In the spring of 415 AD a group of Coptic monks pulled her from her chariot, beat her, stripped her, dragged her to a church and mutilated her (flayed with ostrakois -literally, "oyster shells", though generally accepted to refer to roof tiles or broken pottery) body before burning her (while still alive in some accounts). Early Christians, such a liberal, understanding bunch.

Mitchell’s painting shows her facing the mob before the altar of the Caesarium Church in Alexandria . It illustrates, precisely, a passage from Kingsley’s novel:

"On, up the nave, fresh shreds of her dress strewing the holy pavement--up the chancel steps themselves--up to the altar--right underneath the great still Christ: and there even those hell-hounds paused.

She shook herself free from her tormentors, and springing back, rose for one moment to her full height, naked, snow-white against the dusky mass around--shame and indignation in those wide clear eyes, but not a stain of fear. With one hand she clasped her golden locks around her; the other long white arm was stretched upward toward the great still Christ appealing--and who dare say in vain?--from man to God."

Of course it is probable that Hypatia was around sixty (or at least forty-five) when she was murdered and so Mitchell’s painting is another example of a Victorian artist producing a gratuitous nude with classical justification. And why not?

Mitchell (1854-1903) was a bit of a one-hit wonder and never again produced such a popular painting. The picture is in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mythical Venus: Syrinx by Arthur Hacker

Triple P has decided to move some of the appropriate entries from the Adventures of Triple P to this site. This also gives us the chance to expand on the originals somewhat. Firstly, we look at Arthur Hacker's Syrinx painted in 1892.

Hacker (September 25, 1858–November 12, 1919) was French trained and, like Herbert Draper, was very influenced by Waterhouse. Later in his life he eschewed the biblical and mythological pictures which had made his name in favour of much more impressionistic work, such as his diploma work for his election as a Royal Academician in 1910, A Wet Night in Piccadilly Circus (which was not well received at the time). Towards the end of his life he rturned to the themes for which he was better known.

Syrinx was a water nymph pursued by the God Pan who had dubious intentions towards her. She called for help from the other water nymphs who, rather unhelpfully, transformed her into reeds which gave forth a haunting sound when Pan breathed across them. So he cut some of these reeds and made the original Pan pipes from them. Symbolically odd, in all sorts of ways, but then that's the ancient Greeks for you. I would have thought that however much she valued her chastity being ravished by Pan would have been a lot better than being turned into a bunch of reeds and then cut up to form pipes so a Romanian could produce an annoying soundtrack to an arty Australian film of the seventies.

Anyway, all this classical inspiration obviously did the stuff for Arthur, or maybe it was the model, who is rather fine and was used by Hacker in several other paintings, notably The Annunciation (also 1892) and The Temptation of Sir Percival (1894). We saw the original painting of Syrinx in the Manchester Art Gallery several years ago.

Hacker painted some other fine nudes but none as good as Syrinx one, we feel.

One notable example, however, is Circe (1893). Sadly we could only find a black and white reproduction of this, but even in this she looks suitably tempting. Certainly Odysseus' crew look quite agonised.

This one has no mytholgical pretensions or justifications; it is simply called Nude woman at her toilet and was painted in 1918, the year before his death.

This painting, Daphne (1895), can be seen as a companion to Syrinx in composition as well as Classical subject matter.

The Sea Maiden (1897), was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898.

Finally, we have the rather bizarre earlier painting Pelagia and Philammon (1887). This is based on a scene from Charles Kingsley's (The Water Babies) novel Hypatia about the Alexandrian scholar who was murdered by Coptic monks in the early fifth century AD. In the book Pelagia and Philammon are sister and brother, who are separted at childhood. Philammon becomes a monk, Pelagia a dancer and courtesan. They are reunited in Alexandria but get separated in the chaos following Hypatia's murder. Twenty years later Philammon discovers his sister has become a Christian hermit in the desert but when he finds her she is at the point of death. He gives her the sacrament only to be found later dead next to his sister's grave having kept the vultures at bay whilst he dug her grave. Hacker had just returned from a visit to North Africa, hence the interest in painting a desert setting. The vultures he drew from ones in London Zoo, however.

We will return to Hypatia herself shortly.