– Felicien Rops – Debussy – Saint Cecelia – Huysman – Eliphas Levy – Moreau – Gaugin – Watteau – Poussin – Fragonard
The Foilio Society has launched a new Illustration competition. see competitions.houseofillustration.org.uk/folio-2011/
If I enter this competition i need to do an illustration for three short stories by Angela Carter (7 May 1940 – 16 February 1992). The Bloody Chamber, Puss-in-Boots and The Company of Wolves.
The Bloody Chamber (first published 1979 by Gollancz)
All of the short stories in this collection are new stories extracting the latent content of traditional western fairy tales. The Bloody Chamber takes inspiration from the story of Bluebeard.
“Bluebeard” (French: La Barbe bleue) is a French literary folktale written by Charles Perrault and is one of eight tales by the author first published by Barbin in Paris in January 1697 in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. The tale tells the story of a violent nobleman in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors. Gilles de Rais, a 15th-century aristocrat and prolific serial killer, has been suggested as the source for the character of Bluebeard as has Conomor the Accursed, an early Breton king. “The White Dove,” “Mister Fox” and “Fitcher’s Bird” are tales similar to “Bluebeard”. —- wikipedia.
Conomor the Accursed was apparently considered a Werewolf by early Breton locals.
Bluebeard story has been told by many writers including Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens and Paul Dukas. It has been made into several films.
The story is beautifully written and the language both evocative and sensual. This story is constantly building up to a climax, of which there are three; the virgins denouement, her entrance to the chamber and her death/rescue. These intrigues keep the atmosphere loaded with premeditation and anticipation. From the readers point of view, who may already know the story there are tendentious pleasures aplenty in the realisation of sexual and violent deeds but especially in the build up to these events.
Some of the passages that really caught my imagination
When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stood out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away. pg 6
The ruby necklace and the mirrors are symbols that Carter uses brilliantly throughout the storie with great significance. The necklace worn by an aristocratic ancestor of her husband to be, who flaunted her escape from Madame Guillotine, is a very violent symbol of beheading and also hints at what may come. The red circle (necklace) and the bloody chamber are also metaphors for the climaxes in this story; the deflowering, the discovering and the beheading.
And we drove towards the widening dawn, that now streaked half the sky with a wintry bouquet of pink roses, orange of tiger-lillies, as if my husband had ordered me a sky from a florist. the day broke around me like a cool dream. pg 8
In fact the flowers her husband bring to their wedding bed are Lillies whose white and clammy flesh remind us of old skin and deathly bodies.
A dozen husbands impaled a dozen brides while mewing gulls swung on invisible trapezes in the empty air outside. pg 14
Mirrors feature prominently and provide an uneasy feeling of being watched and perhaps de-humanised, viewed fro every angle and stripped of any value other than that of a piece of flesh. The mirrors also become chambers themselves so when blood is spent in the wedding chamber a myriad of bloody chambers are made by the reflections.
Carter mentions many artists in this tale – Felicien Rops – Debussy – Huysman – Eliphas Levi – Moreau – Gaugin – Watteau – Poussin – Fragonard
One of her wedding gifts is a painting of Saint Cecilia
The artists are chosen carefully, Rops images often concern sex, death or the satanic. Gaugin painted Polynesian girls and was alledged to have sexual trysts with very young natives. . Huysmans book Las Bas is found on a lectern in the library.
Là-Bas (English: Down There or The Damned) is a novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, first published in 1891. It is Huysmans’ most famous work after À rebours. Là-Bas deals with the subject ofSatanism in contemporary France, and the novel stirred a certain amount of controversy on its first appearance.
What unites the painters to whom Carter refers — Rops, Moreau, Ensor, Gaugin, Fragonard, and Watteau — is the representation of women in mystical and religious settings concerned with the dichotomy between good and evil, spirituality and physicality, light and darkness. Redon and Rops also adopted Baudelaire’s ideas about woman as the incarnation of evil, the corrupter of man, who transformes love-making into an evil act.www.cabinetdesfees.com/2009/the-reproof-of-curiosity-carters-revision-of-bluebeard/