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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Art:

The Asylum Artwork of Adelaide V Hall
Whilst working at Washington DC’s National Museum of Health and Medicine, art historian and author John M Macgregor came across this curious lacework depicting images from the fantasies of Adelaide V Hall, an inmate at St Elizabeth’s insane asylum in 1917. 
Hall had been a dressmaker before two incarcerations at St Elizabeths in 1901 and 1911. According to the reports of her psychiatrist, Dr Arrah B Evarts, Hall was “depressed and retarded, timid, apprehensive, and anxious … excited, profane in language, [and] untidy.” She was also prone to bouts of rage.
Her fragile psychological state rendered Hall unfit to do the work some inmates were put to and she was left to continue her sewing, and it was under these circumstances that she created the above piece. She told Evarts that she did not remember where it was she learned to sew, that it was ‘as if she aways knew how.’ 
The artwork measured just ‘9-and-one-half-by-11-and-one-half-inch’ and shows several figures amidst snakes, insects, and birds, as well as various other symbolic images. Hall explained to Evarts how the work told the story of a woman who longed to be simultaneously a virgin and yet a mother, told with a cast of characters each symbolising some type of sexual relationship: some have anatomically incorrect male genitalia, there is a skeleton, the Virgin Mary, and various couples. Then there is the protagonist, the One Woman, who apparently symbolised Hall herself.
As Hall’s therapy progressed the true meaning of the lacework became increasingly apparent to Evarts: it was associated with the complex relationship Hall had with her father who had molested her as a child. As Macgregor suggests, “In the end [Hall’s] the one caught in the webbing of that lace.” Hall died at St Elizabeths shortly after WW2.
[Sources: Lunatic Fringe (see also for a more in-depth analysis) | See Also: Agnes Richter’s Straight Jacket Embroidery] 

The Asylum Artwork of Adelaide V Hall

Whilst working at Washington DC’s National Museum of Health and Medicine, art historian and author John M Macgregor came across this curious lacework depicting images from the fantasies of Adelaide V Hall, an inmate at St Elizabeth’s insane asylum in 1917. 

Hall had been a dressmaker before two incarcerations at St Elizabeths in 1901 and 1911. According to the reports of her psychiatrist, Dr Arrah B Evarts, Hall was “depressed and retarded, timid, apprehensive, and anxious … excited, profane in language, [and] untidy.” She was also prone to bouts of rage.

Her fragile psychological state rendered Hall unfit to do the work some inmates were put to and she was left to continue her sewing, and it was under these circumstances that she created the above piece. She told Evarts that she did not remember where it was she learned to sew, that it was ‘as if she aways knew how.’ 

The artwork measured just ‘9-and-one-half-by-11-and-one-half-inch’ and shows several figures amidst snakes, insects, and birds, as well as various other symbolic images. Hall explained to Evarts how the work told the story of a woman who longed to be simultaneously a virgin and yet a mother, told with a cast of characters each symbolising some type of sexual relationship: some have anatomically incorrect male genitalia, there is a skeleton, the Virgin Mary, and various couples. Then there is the protagonist, the One Woman, who apparently symbolised Hall herself.

As Hall’s therapy progressed the true meaning of the lacework became increasingly apparent to Evarts: it was associated with the complex relationship Hall had with her father who had molested her as a child. As Macgregor suggests, “In the end [Hall’s] the one caught in the webbing of that lace.” Hall died at St Elizabeths shortly after WW2.

[Sources: Lunatic Fringe (see also for a more in-depth analysis) | See Also: Agnes Richter’s Straight Jacket Embroidery

Postman’s Park’s Humble Heroes

George Frederic Watts’s Memorial to Self Sacrifice, situated in Postman’s Park, London, contains plaques outlining the details of the heroic deaths of those who died during an attempt to save the life of another. In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s jubilee, Watts wrote a letter to The Times in which he argues that “the history of Her Majesty’s reign would gain a lustre were the nation to erect a monument, say, here in London, to record the names of these likely to be forgotten heroes”. Watts, an artist and sculptor, was a believer that art could be used as a force for social change and that these heroic individuals provided models of exemplary behaviour and character. There are currently 54 tiles included in the memorial, the last of which was added in 2007. More information is available via The Everyday Heroes of Postman’s Park app. [More | Alice Ayres]

The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke
The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke is an example of a Fairy Painting, that is, a fantastical painting depicting fairies and other fairy tale creatures in extreme detail, painted by Richard Dadd between 1854 and 1866. At the time Dadd was a suspected schizophrenic and resident of Bethlem psychiatric hospital.
In response to rapid industrialisation and more widespread scientific thinking, which was disconcerting for some, Fairy Paintings were popular forms of escapism in Victorian England. The head steward at Bethlem was impressed by Dadd’s artistic talents and commissioned the above piece.
Over the nine years it took to complete the painting Dadd payed microscopic attention to detail and used a special layering technique to create a 3D effect. In an attempt to show that the characters within the painting were not random, Dadd also composed a poem called Elimination of a Picture & its Subject—called The Fellers’ Master Stroke, throughout which each figure is given a name and purpose.
[Sources: Fairy Paintings | The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke]

The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke

The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke is an example of a Fairy Painting, that is, a fantastical painting depicting fairies and other fairy tale creatures in extreme detail, painted by Richard Dadd between 1854 and 1866. At the time Dadd was a suspected schizophrenic and resident of Bethlem psychiatric hospital.

In response to rapid industrialisation and more widespread scientific thinking, which was disconcerting for some, Fairy Paintings were popular forms of escapism in Victorian England. The head steward at Bethlem was impressed by Dadd’s artistic talents and commissioned the above piece.

Over the nine years it took to complete the painting Dadd payed microscopic attention to detail and used a special layering technique to create a 3D effect. In an attempt to show that the characters within the painting were not random, Dadd also composed a poem called Elimination of a Picture & its Subject—called The Fellers’ Master Stroke, throughout which each figure is given a name and purpose.

[Sources: Fairy Paintings | The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke]

Le Livre Sans Titre

Le Livre Sans Titre, which translates as The Book Without a Title, is an 1830 French illustrated book warning against the harmful effects of masturbation. The book charts the steady degradation of its protagonist from a gentleman, ‘young, handsome; his mother’s fond hope’, to when, at the age of seventeen, he ‘expires, and in horrible torment,’ all thanks to ‘self-harm’ or masturbation.

The text in images two through to ten tells the story as so:

He was young, handsome; his mother’s fond hope… He corrupted himself! [and] soon he bore the grief of his error, old before his time… his back hunches… See his eyes once so pure, so brilliant; they are extinguished! A fiery band envelops them. Hideous dreams disturb his slumber…he cannot sleep… His hair, once so lovely, falls as if from old age;his scalp grows bald before his age… His chest collapses… he vomits blood… Pustules cover his entire body… He is terrible to behold! His entire body stiffens!… his limbs stop moving… At the age of 17, he expires, and in horrible torment.

Some pages from the book are missing from the post due to Tumblr’s image limit but the book can be seen in its entirety at the source link below.

[Source: Izismile]

Guinea Pig’s First Portrait
Art historians believe this is the first portrait ever painted of a guinea pig. Although today guinea pigs make for popular pets, in the 16th century they were considered exotic (they are native to South America) and were much sought after by Elizabethan aristocrats. [Source]

Guinea Pig’s First Portrait

Art historians believe this is the first portrait ever painted of a guinea pig. Although today guinea pigs make for popular pets, in the 16th century they were considered exotic (they are native to South America) and were much sought after by Elizabethan aristocrats. [Source]

'The Circus'
A circus scene made from cloth by an eight-year-old Queen Elizabeth II (1934)

'The Circus'

A circus scene made from cloth by an eight-year-old Queen Elizabeth II (1934)

(Source: Daily Mail)

Object, 1936
This Surrealist object was inspired by a conversation between Oppenheim and artists Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar at a Paris cafe. Admiring Oppenheim’s fur-covered bracelet, Picasso remarked that one could cover anything with fur, to which she replied, “Even this cup and saucer.” Soon after, when asked by André Breton, Surrealism’s leader, to participate in the first Surrealist exhibition dedicated to objects, Oppenheim bought a teacup, saucer, and spoon at a department store and covered them with the fur of a Chinese gazelle. In so doing, she transformed genteel items traditionally associated with feminine decorum into sensuous, sexually punning tableware.

Object, 1936

This Surrealist object was inspired by a conversation between Oppenheim and artists Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar at a Paris cafe. Admiring Oppenheim’s fur-covered bracelet, Picasso remarked that one could cover anything with fur, to which she replied, “Even this cup and saucer.” Soon after, when asked by André Breton, Surrealism’s leader, to participate in the first Surrealist exhibition dedicated to objects, Oppenheim bought a teacup, saucer, and spoon at a department store and covered them with the fur of a Chinese gazelle. In so doing, she transformed genteel items traditionally associated with feminine decorum into sensuous, sexually punning tableware.

(Source: moma.org)

Netherlandish Proverbs

Netherlandish Proverbs is a 1559 oil-on-oak-panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder which depicts a land populated with literal renditions of Dutch/Flemish proverbs of the day. The picture is overflowing with references and most of the representations can still be identified; while many of the proverbs have either been forgotten or never made the transition to the English language, some are still in use.

Proverbs were popular during Bruegel’s time and his paintings have themes of the absurdity, wickedness and foolishness of mankind, and this painting is no exception. The picture was originally entitled The Blue Cloak or The Folly of the World which indicates he was not intending to produce a mere collection of proverbs but rather a study of human stupidity. Many of the people depicted show the characteristic blank features which Bruegel used to portray fools. 

Even weirder is the number of these proverbs which centered around the theme of arses and defecation. I shit you not:

  • Image Two: “To crap on the World” meaning “To despise everything”
  • Image Three: “He who eats fire, craps sparks” meaning “Do not be surprised at the outcome if you attempt a dangerous venture”
  • Image Four: “To wipe one’s backside on the door” meaning “To treat something lightly”
  • Image Five: “They both crap through the same hole” meaning “They are in agreement”

For the other proverbs depicted in the painting, see here. For similar treats, see here.

Butter Sculptures

Butter sculptures often depict animals, people, buildings and other objects. They are best known as attractions at state fairs in the United States as lifesize cows and people, but can also be found on banquet tables and even small decorative butter pats. 

The history of carving food into sculptured objects is ancient. Archaeologists have found bread and pudding moulds of animal and human shapes at sites from Babylon to Roman Britain. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods moulding food was commonly done for wealthy banquets. It was during this period that the earliest known reference to a butter sculpture is found. In 1536 Bartolomeo Scappi, cook to Pope Pius V, organised a feast composed of nine scenes elaborately carved out of food, each carried in episodically as centerpieces for a banquet. 

The earliest butter sculpture as public art and not a banquet centerpiece can be traced to the 1876 when Caroline Shawk Brooks [Image Four], a farm woman from Arkansas, displayed her Dreaming Iolanthe, a bust of a woman modeled in butter [Image One]. The heyday of butter sculpting was from about 1890 to 1930. During this period refrigeration became widely available, and the American dairy industry began promoting butter sculpture as a way to compete against synthetic butter substitutes like margarine. Image Two depicts a 1925 butter sculpture of Edward VIII when Prince of Wales, about which you can read more here.

[Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Tipu’s Tiger

'Tipu's Tiger' is an awesome, life-size beast of carved and painted wood, seen in the act of devouring a prostrate European in the costume of the 1790s. It has cast a spell over generations of admirers since 1808, when it was first displayed in the East India Company's museum. Concealed in the bodywork is a mechanical pipe-organ with several parts, all operated simultaneously by a crank-handle emerging from the tiger’s shoulder. Turning the handle pumps … bellows and controls the air-flow to simulate the growls of the tiger and cries of the victim.

Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India for whom the automaton was built, identified himself with tigers; his personal epithet was ‘The Tiger of Mysore,’ his soldiers were dressed in ‘tyger’ jackets, his personal symbol invoked a tiger’s face through clever use of calligraphy and the tiger motif is visible on his throne, and other objects in his personal possession [Source]. The death of a young Englishman named Munro carried off by a man-eating tiger in 1792 was the inspiration … Munro was the son of Sir Hector Munro, one of the East India Company’s generals. His death was seen by [Tipu] … as divine retribution against the British invaders [Source - see also documentary].

(Source: vam.ac.uk)

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