The Apotheosis of Napoleon (1830) by Bertel Thorvaldsen. The marble piece sits in the final room of the Ben Weider Collection in Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Thorvaldsen was also responsible for the monument to Eugène de Beauharnais in Munich, erected in the same year, 1830. (Why not return to my post here, a mere 35 clicks away.)
The Egyptian Campaign is one of the most mythologized periods in Napoleon’s career: The Alexandrian ambitions, the visit to the plague-ridden soldiers in Jaffa, the siege of Acre, Monge and the accompanying scientific expedition. But most of all it is the Battle of Pyramids with its famous tagline, “From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us” (as quoted by Eugène de Beauharnais). In Jean-Léon Gérôme‘s painting Bonaparte Before the Sphinx (1868) we see Napoleon as myth-maker, juxtaposed with the Sphinx itself. Napoleon is, as Peer Gynt after him, wondering where he has seen this face before.
Above is a photo of the Sphinx taken not long after Gérôme’s painting was finished. Presumably the soldiers are English.
I recently finished reading an astonishing biography about Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen by Michael Meyer is a monumental effort, and apparently still the most in depth work on the playwright. Among its many highlights is an anecdote about Ibsen’s apartment in Oslo. When Ibsen finally returned to Norway he was already a famous writer, reviled all over Europe yet inevitable in all its theaters. And Ibsen, not afraid of embracing controversy, had brought it into his home. He purchased and installed an oil painting by Christian Krohg, portraying the Swedish playwright August Strindberg. The younger Swede had been an early admirer of Ibsen, now turned ardent critic. Ibsen at some point called Strindberg his nemesis, and in his erratic stare the older and more famous Ibsen found both inspiration and an unwelcome reminder.
Maybe the portrait is still there in the apartment. It’s now part of the Ibsen museum in Oslo. I’ll find out in August when I’ll finally be in Oslo again.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are releasing a new album early next year (cover art above). It’s been some time since the post punk days of the band, but a listen to the early music reveals the heritage. Back then the line up had Blixa Bargeld, Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist, and Mick Harvey. (Harvey, who also co-founded The Birthday Party with Cave, has made some great solo albums).
But in the catalogue of things I didn’t know is the following: Barry Adamson, former Bad Seeds bassist, also played bass for legendary Devoto band Magazine. He can be heard for example on the exuberant Shot by Both Sides (1977). After Magazine split up, Adamson joined the Bad Seeds on From Her to Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead, Kicking Against the Pricks and Your Funeral, My Trial. And there’s more. In between solo work, Adamson has contributed to the soundtrack of Lynch’s Lost Highway. He wrote what was always my favourite tune from the movie (Bowie’s contribution notwithstanding), Something wicked this way comes.
Video from Bergman’s Summer with Monica (1952)
Above you see Collage with three photographs by Julien Levy by Dorothea Tanning. At his New York exhibition “The Images of Chess” (Jan 1945), Levy organized a chess simul between the exiled surrealists and American-Belgian IM George Koltanowksi (0.5:6.5). To the right you see an aloof Max Ernst playing on a board of his own design, flanked by Dorothea Tanning. Standing with his back towards us is Marcel Duchamp executing the moves for Koltanowski. The IM himself is sitting, facing the wall. [source]