Saturday, 13 December 2014

All the Little Children

Christmas is creeping ever closer.  As is Hanukkah.  And possibly Kwanzaa.  Heck, the grocery store is stocking Valentine’s Day goods.  The point is, whatever tradition floats your boat, odds are this time of year is for celebration! 

But you know who enjoys the season the most?  Children.  Primarily because they get lots of loot.  This week we look at the children of the Buderus family.
 Die Kinder der Familie Buderus (Source)

This was apparently on the cover of a book of German Christmas stories.  Such happy youth, frolicking with their new toys! 

Well, I’m not sure if that’s joyous frolicking so much as trying to kill her sister with her eyes.  There is NO WAY Helga is getting her dirty hands all over Gudrun’s new doll.

To be fair, Helga seems quite able to hold her own in a staring contest.  Her eyes are like a soul vacuum.  No one has looked directly into her gaze and remained sane.

Case in point: young Gunther. 

Once he was the brightest star in kindergarten.  Then he crossed his sister over the last sweetie.  Now he thinks he is a dachshund.

Side note: is that some kind of whip or crop lying around on the ground?  That might provide further explanation of the personality disorders which I am making up as I go along here.

Possible bondage equipment aside, these are the actual toys under the tree.

A faceless arm points from above, directing a giant clownish man with a face straight out of nightmares to go Godzilla on a peaceful toy village.  Wooden soldiers march to their doom before the puppet menace, bodies littering the ground.  While this is the kind of scene I would definitely set up under my own tree, I would not entirely expect it from two young girls and the host of an alien brain parasite.  But maybe this is a traditional scene from a typical happy German family.  Looking at Helga again, it's actually not very surprising at all.  Frohe Weihnachten!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Kinder, Gentler Winter Scene

Dear readers, with December upon us I thought I would turn to a nice, soothing winter scene.  Maybe some partridges, maybe some pear trees, perhaps some people frolicking in the snow.  I fired up Wikimedia and boldly typed in “paintings of winter.”

The first three subcategories it listed were “Paintings of allegories of winter,” “Winter landscape paintings,” and “Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.”

Guess which one I had to bring up?
Massacre of the Innocents – Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565-1567 (Source)
At a glance, this is way tamer than some of the other stuff he painted.  As by far the most interesting result in the winter paintings category search, however, it deserves a look here. 

This cartoonish figure is ready to bust down some doors, which I assume he found by kicking every three feet down the line of the brick wall given that his hat is completely covering his eyes.  Fashion provided by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean costume department, specifically the designer who had a love affair with sliced watermelons.

All of the horses look like they have been put in Time Out, with their heads sullenly against the trees.  I guess the only way to tie up a horse was to staple its ears to a tree trunk?

Here are some guys violently murdering turkeys with pikes.  So it’s like Thanksgiving, only much more pleasant for the turkeys.  The guy killing a pig (?) with his backside toward the viewer has the most awesome leggings ever.  Meanwhile women desperately struggle over jars and weep over nicely wrapped parcels.

This lady seems to be praying over the contents of her larder.

And this poor kid is having a bad day, being dragged from the house in the snow with a dislocated shoulder and no pants.

This is actually the most telling bit about the scene.  It turns out that this isn’t just a raid of a town for dry goods and livestock by men who have an impressive rap sheet with the fashion police.  The massacre of the innocents refers to the Bible story where Herod hears about baby Jesus’ birth, so he orders that all children should be murdered.

Flemish Pieter here decided to tell this story in a context his viewers could understand, so he depicted all of the murderers as Spaniards and Germans.  Because even in the 16th century, when you asked someone “Who would commit the worst atrocity you can imagine?” the first answer that sprang to mind was “Flamboyant Tights-Wearing Hitler.”

What this amounts to is that all of the turkeys and livestock and kitchen goods in the painting were originally dead babies.  At some point its owner decided that perhaps this was not the most appetizing scene to have hanging in the dining room, or bedroom, or anywhere, so he had all the tiny corpses painted over into a more palatable scene of pillaging.

So really, I take back what I said before about this being one of the artist’s tamer paintings.  People could handle his images of lobster monsters, or bird-lizards ripping their own stomachs open to spawn, but a modernized Gospel scene was considered too gruesome.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thanksgiving Post: The Bean Feast, a.k.a. Drunken Old-Timey Frat Party

Dear readers, Thanksgiving has come once again.  That glorious day of the year when the whole family comes together to scarf down in half an hour a feast that took 15 hours to prepare, and then fall into a food coma in front of the TV.  Thankful!

Previously for Thanksgiving I wrote about the Bean Feast by 17th century Dutch painter Jan Steen.  This year, I will write about a Bean Feast by 17th century Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens, because apparently 17th century Bean Feasts were pretty wild affairs.  Although Jacob Jordaens didn’t approve of drunkenness, and his version is like 200% creepier.
The Feast of the Bean King – Jacob Jordaens, 1640-1645 (Source)

So the first thing that catches the eye is this classy guy.

He cares enough about his own garments to keep his cap from falling into his own pool of bodily fluids, but no one seems to notice or really care that he is vomiting on that little girl’s dress.  The woman next him is looking over in a sort of “Ha ha, oh Jan, you need to learn to hold your liquor” sort of way, but that’s about the only reaction. 

Casting the eye up the way, we spot this amorous couple.

My first thought was “Oh my God, he is going to crush her jaw with his bare hand!”  But she seems to be enjoying herself, so maybe Creepy Men With Face Mutilation Fetishes are her thing.

Behind them is this gentleman who seems unfamiliar with how to smoke a pipe.

To be fair, I have never smoked a pipe either, so perhaps I am unfamiliar with the mechanics.  However, I feel like people I have seen with pipes usually do not have their heads thrown back, necks bulging, and chins puckered when they partake.  Sherlock Holmes would be a much less picturesque character to illustrate with his cheeks puffed like a starving squirrel and eyes rolled back into the next postal code.

Other fun partygoers include Doghat McAngryface….

…And this man, who from a distance, I thought might be foaming at the mouth.  

It turns out he’s just about to happily spit out all of his teeth.  There are a lot of sloppily raised arms there, so it would not surprise me if he just got landed with a powerful uppercut with a pint glass.

Speaking of raised things, I’m sure this is meant to be a cut of meat, but it sure looks like he’s about to deep throat a spent balloon or other soggy elongated rubber tubular object.  But whatever it is, he is going to swallow it with gusto.

Drawing attention back to the other side of the painting again, this mirror on the wall caught my eye.  It’s got the back of the head of the woman looking over at the vomiting man in amusement, and the bonnet of the little old lady behind her.  But also featured is….

THAT TERRIFYING FACE BEING STRANGLED.  It looks like an even creepier version of that woman having her jaw crushed above, except that person is facing the same direction as the two women who have the backs of their heads reflected here.  I guess the artist just really liked painting strangulation/face crushing, so physics be darned, he was painting it again.  However, maybe it’s just me, but there is something about a ghostly disembodied head with a grotesque soulless smile over a murderous hand in the mirror without an obvious source that makes it extra terrifying.

In conclusion, 17th century folks seemed to know how to have a rollicking feast.  I think the figure I identify with most in this painting, though, is this guy.
“Sod off and leave me alone, you drunken hogs.” – Flemish Grumpy Cat
Happy Thanksgiving!