Friday, March 25, 2011

We have always been at war with Soviet Realism

My Ear-Trumpet Has Been Struck By Lightning never fails to fascinate, and if I blogged about every post that caught my eye this would cease to be a crypto Waits commentary blog and become a crypto Ear-Trumpet commentary blog. That said, I couldn't let his recent posting of an Abel Grimmer painting slip by unnoticed:
"Carrying the Cross" - Abel Grimmer, 16th century
Abel Grimmer was 16th/17th century painter of the Flemish baroque school. Don't worry, I'm not suddenly expanding the roster of countries with which I'm obsessed to include Belgium-- this painting struck me because its use of perspective reminded me vaguely of some early Muscovian manuscripts (yes, yes, EDISPD).
The Kremlin, 16th century
Crowds implore Mikhail Romanov's mother to let him to go Moscow and become Tsar (really), 17th century
Construction of the Kremlin, 16th century
Boy, the perspective looks screwy! Contrary to popular belief, this is not because the early Russians were subhuman gold-worshipping bear-eating creatures incapable of discerning shadow from light or near from far. As it was told to me, at least, early Russian manuscripts portrayed people and places in proportion to their importance to the scene. Surprisingly ten minutes of Google image searching didn't yield up ideal examples of 16th century depictions of Uspenskiy Sobor, but if you're ever lucky enough to come across such things, you'll note that the religious buildings are always larger than the secular ones surrounding it, and that the important people (Patriarchs, Tsars, Saints) are larger than the random boyars and whatnot surrounding them. Conscious rejection of realism! How neat.


  1. Pretty much the same approach as Egyptians, then.

  2. Uspensky Sobor -- looks like Wadsworth's designers got it pretty close to right, albeit with gilt overlay.

    Cathedral of the Annunciation = "Теперь поклонимся почиющим властителям Русии." -- 2nd part of Coronation

  3. Although it's complete Russokitsch, I've always had a soft spot for the 1970s Salzburg production Coronation Scene, used as the cover art for Karajan's recording, as seen here: