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Excerpts from ” Treasures From The Lant Collection” Vol. 1 “They caw their lamentations in the eerie trees”

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Book Series

Excerpts from ” Treasures From The Lant Collection” Vol. 1

“They caw their lamentations in the eerie trees”. A pair of Russian ormolu and patinated-bronze twin branch candelabra circa 1810.

I asked the Christie’s representative when I saw these items in London, to tell me just what figures appeared on these startlingly bold candelabra.

Now remember, representatives of the auction houses are not history

specialists. Their knowledge is usually skin deep, or not even that. Thus, I was not at all surprised by the feeble answer I received. “Umm, Dr. Lant, it’s some kind of a winged creature.” This, of course, wasn’t any help whatsoever, since I could see that for myself.

I wanted to test my hypothesis that the winged creatures in question were some of my favorite creatures of all, Harpies. Now you may be of the generation that calls your mother-in-law an old Harpy, but even then you probably had no idea what they were, or what you had shouted at your little loved relation, for whom any insult was sufficient.

But in fact, some of the most frightening of classical creatures fall under the rubric of Harpies, and I for one was ecstatic to find their pernicious aspect on a pair of graceful Russian candelabra.

First, a word on Harpies

Harpies appear in Greek and Roman mythology, having cameo spots in Homer and Hesiod, who, however, do not agree in their conclusions. Homer says they were the most repellant of creatures, vicious, cruel, and violent, the personification of the destructive nature of wind. Hesiod carried a torch for them, thinking them “lovely haired”. Chacun a son gout.

Most classical writers insisted there were just two Harpies, sisters. Their names were “Storm Swift” and “the Swift Wing”. Roman writer Virgil added a third Harpy, called “the Dark”. Homer said that there was at least one more, and so the classicists argued and argued, and never agreed; typical of academics.

To begin at the beginning, almost everyone agreed, except Hesiod, that Harpies were female monsters in the form of a predatory bird with a human face. Their daily occupations consisted of killing evil-doers, particularly those who had killed their families, and shredding various victims limb from limb, enjoying the flesh of their bones as a delicacy few besides Harpies have ever tasted.

Of course Hesiod, often contrary, does not agree. He called them “lovely haired” creatures. Thus, to the confusion of today’s puzzled classicists, there is no general agreement on whether Harpies were lovely or not, grim menacing predators or not, but where would classical scholars be without such topics for their Ph.D. dissertations?

I, for one, have no qualms whatsoever in telling you they were stern visaged, frightening of face and feature, altogether a creature you wouldn’t want to invite home for dinner, especially if your guests requested their favorite dish, the flesh of suicides. Oh, my, that must have been an acquired taste.

Perhaps the most famous story about Harpies was that concerning King Phineus of Thrace. He had been given the gift of prophecy by Zeus, though if that is true, one wonders why he didn’t use it on his own behalf when the need arose. In any event, Zeus became angry with him when Phineus blabbed that he had received this special power, and was now one of the beloved of Zeus, a position often filled, but never for very long.

Zeus was angry, a situation in which he often found himself, for his was a most imperial temperament. Irritated, he blinded King Phineus, and put him on an offshore island known to none but illegal gamblers. There, his minions set a table of such magnificence that even a vegan would be tempted.

He plucked a morsel from the heap of delicacies, and just before it hit his lips, the Harpies flew in with such precision flying as the Navy’s Blue Angels, perhaps even better. In short, Phineus was in perpetual despair. Something must be done, or what’s the point of being a King anyway?

In this, as in so many other classical tales, a handsome young man appears with the solution, as he so often does throughout the classics. “Harpies,” he said, “What the hell is going on here?” Then, Phineus pointed to the black sockets where his eyes had once been, and the fact that he never had a single morsel to eat, though the repast was sumptuous, not to mention, bird feathers everywhere.

Now, you will know of course that nothing fazed Jason, a man who went off with his Argonauts to fight a dragon wearing a cute outfit from Brooks Brothers Athens division that left nothing to the imagination. But more than cute legs, he had craft.

Thus, he inflicted upon the Harpies a withering defeat. It reminds me of when a bat flew into my condominium, and I was forced to open the front door and go after it with a butterfly net, wearing nothing but a smile. I looked cute, too, as my neighbors informed me. So did the candelabra in question.

Lot 106

To achieve a noteworthy and eye-catching collection, you must know everything, know everyone, have gone everywhere, and listened, listened, listened, to every kind of expert on every kind of subject. There is no such thing as an expiration date on learning.

In this case, I knew at once that this particular design was rare or quite possibly unique. I had never before seen Harpies pictured on any piece of neo-classical furniture or any objet d’art of the period. Yes, they were very likely unique.

The bare facts are these:

They are designed in the manner of Friedrich Bergenfeldt (1768-1822). Each with two candle-sockets on winged masks issuing from a winged sphinx on a tapering plinth with classical mounts.

Friedrich Bergenfeldt was the celebrated bronzier who worked in St. Petersburg in the late 1790’s. His work was influenced by the designs executed by Andrei Voronikhin. Together, both gentlemen particularly liked designs featuring winged dragons, tritons, and other fanciful features, and perhaps, a Harpy or two. Such work always excites my interest.

Thus, I was front and center for the actual auction, where the low estimate was a shade over $10,000 dollars, but, as I was not surprised to see, sold for nearly $15,000 dollars, the high estimate. As usual, I sent them on after acquisition to Roddy McVittie in Kent, England, to be brought up to date and to have the annoying holes for electricity filled in and returned to their original condition. I will not drill any of my works for electricity, and certainly not these beauties.

Now they reside on dark green marble columns supporting the arch leading to my Red Drawing Room, where I recite Dante’s “Inferno”, X111. For this, I assume an Attic disposition. I point to the Harpies ready for their day’s flight of destructiveness, and recite Dante as if I were Florentine; the way Pietro Pezzati, the painter of my portrait, taught me how to do.

“Here the repellant Harpies make their nests…

They have broad wings with razor sharp talons and

a human neck and face,

Clawed feet, and swollen feathered bellies; they caw

Their lamentations in the eerie trees.”

They are condemned to reside in the seventh ring of Hell, where their punishment is grim and eternal, not at all what they’re used to in the Red Drawing Room.

Musical notes

To accompany this article, I have selected the theme music from the 1963 film “Jason and the Argonauts”. It is, admittedly, a cheesy production, some of it downright embarrassing.

Curiously enough, the section dealing with the Harpies is one of the best aspects of the whole film, for the Harpies are made to measure, squawking, screeching, shredding vulnerable flesh with invulnerable talons. Oh, yes, they make quite a good show as they grab the food right out of King Phineus’ mouth. And there’s nothing quite so disgusting as a Harpy’s sharp talon in your mouth, not that I know

personally, of course.

Nonetheless, the music is chipper and upbeat, the kind of thing heroes would appreciate, particularly when Jason, that comely lad, is near at hand. You can find it in any search engine where it’s ready for your deeds of derring–do.

Make sure you run it in tandem with this article. Here’s the link:

Before signing off, please be sure to join my Monarchy & Royalty Forum. King Phineus did, and he is enjoying himself amongst his royal peers and relations, having at last got a good meal.

Windsor book coverHe also received a free copy of my book, “Happy and Glorious. Encounters with the Windsors”, and so will you. Here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/293520900979423/

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four university degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities and is quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

 

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered eight literary prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co

 

A George Quacker Production

Division of Jeffrey Lant Associates,Inc.

All Rights Reserved

Excerpt from “The Lant Collection” – Vol.1 The Naked Truth. William Etty, R.A. and me.

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Book Series

Excerpt from “The Lant Collection” – Vol.1 The Naked Truth. William Etty, R.A. and me.

The first time I saw a work by William Etty, Royal Academy, (1787-1849) was on
the grand staircase of The Arts Club in London. It is a place where artists, their followers,
their mentors, and their mistresses (female and male) hang out. The conversation
is sleek and witty and fast moving. The aim is to demolish a reputation in a line
before anyone can demolish yours in a word. Whispers are frequent, so chic. Back
slapping and back stabbing on the same back, at the same time. Waiters deliver clever
lies on silver salvers, insisting you are The Next Great Talent.

Dress to impress, which has nothing to do with how many clothes you wear, but
what those clothes reveal, or don’t. My conservator Simon Gillespie brought me,
perhaps because he owed me a lunch, or perhaps just to see how this Yank could
compete amidst the English, who make words seem effortless, and smooth
aphorisms an inevitability. I loved it, even before I reached the top of the staircase
where everyone moves as if everyone else is watching. Sometimes they even are…

The William Etty picture immediately arrested my eye, for it was flesh, more flesh,
oceans of flesh, flesh in every tint and disposition. One could not help but notice it.
It was, after all, the only picture chosen by the Club to grace its foyer, a gauntlet
to the censorious.

“Who dat?,” I asked Simon, and my relationship with William Etty was launched;
a very audacious thing for this prim Midwestern lad, for whom natural acts
were only meant to be mentioned behind closed doors and never in public,
art be damned.

The next time I encountered William Etty was in the sale catalogue of the Forbes
Collection of Victorian Pictures, Christie’s New York, February, 2003. It is always worth
seeing what the Forbes are up to, for they have unlimited funds, and informed taste.

(They also have one outstanding quirk. When they buy a work they hang it as is, warts
and all. Thus in their collections, you will see great works in less than pristine condition,
there potential covered in dust, dirt, frames cracked, degraded varnish, and despair.This
policy conclusively proves they are Scots, for they are neer with a penny indeed.)

Of course I saw something that I wanted. With a Forbes sale, I nearly always do.
And I have Mr. Gillespie to mop up any of the jolting imperfections they kept. It is
better for your self esteem and the welfare of your pictures that you do so, for
remember, we are but stewards, not merely owners.

William Etty, supremely talented, surpassingly ugly.

We all look into our looking glass with trepidation, fearing we will see another
furrow cut deep by time’s winged chariot. But it was worse for William Etty,
for he didn’t have a single day, not a single hour when he could admire
himself or have others admire him. He was ugly. And he knew it. He also
knew he was a master of canvass and brush. He had to forge a life built
upon these twin certainties… this is what genius does, and Mr. Etty was that.

He began, as so many 18th and 19th century artists did, by painting pictures
with Classical themes; pictures like “Cleopatra’s Arrival  in Cilicia” (1821). They
were grand, they were flagrant, they were wanton. They exuberantly celebrated
the flesh at a time when such renditions were condemned and their worldly artists
warned that the sin police were watching for any further transgressions. They
watched Etty closely his entire life, but he followed his Muse in his own way, his
obvious talent forging his way, providing a necessary shield from scurrilous
commentary.

Soon every picture this prodigious master painted had at least one nude,
male or female. And not timid or hesitant either, but bold, audacious, free,
joyous.

Thus, having withdrawn from the world, unmarried, detached, he peopled his
own inner sanction with the unmatched beauty of our species. This has always
unnerved and frightened the Philistines of each generation, but not braver souls
with a penchant for truth, to whom I adhere.

“Manlius Hurled From The Rock.”

The story of Marcus Manlius (died 384 BC) is well known, for it is a tale our
dwindling cadre of Latin teachers tells with enthusiasm. It is not merely a
story of Rome… but of all who stand forward at any time and place, risking
everything to achieve a better world.

Manlius was born into the upper class, called patricians, becoming in due course
Consul of Rome, the highest office, after his successful defence of the Eternal
City against the conquering Gauls. He was a national hero.

While in office he began to question a society, his homeland, that gave so much to so
few and so little to so many, the plebians. Thus he became a dangerous man.
Charges against him were trumped up and pressed home by those who loathed him
for deserting them, a recurring theme in human history, loyalty against truth, and back
again.

Death to the traitor, ever lasting life from the painter.

In accordance with ancient tradition, Manlius was thrown, head first, onto the Tarpeian Rock,
another martyr to the cause of liberty, equality, fraternity,

Etty took these facts and turned them into a masterpiece, a chef d’oeuvre which allowed
him to make a point against injustice whilst showing his skill rendering the male body,
in all its beauty… and its terrible vulnerability.

Profit in five minutes.

I bought the picture, at the high estimate. I wasn’t a retired gentleman then and money
was (occasionally) no object. But a wondrous thing happened. Immediately upon my
purchase, a Christie’s representative called me and, mirabile dictu, offered me twice
the price should I sell it now. They had a client, a well-known decorator, who was charged
with acquiring this picture for his client come what may. “Can you accommodate this
gentleman, Dr. Lant?”.

I sensed I could get three times my purchase price, maybe even more. Never had
a toilet break proved so costly, so valuable to me. And why in my sleeping chamber
Manlius, one time Consul of Rome, is suspended in time, his beautiful head and
lithe body not yet crushed and disfigured by injustice, but a glorious work by Etty,
William Etty, the master of form and flesh. How could I ever have parted with it?

***

Musical note.

I have selected the brilliant musical score by Alex North from the 1960 film “Spartacus”
to accompany this article. It is a film which deals with the ravages of inequality and what
must be done, even unto death, to raise us all to a higher standard. He would have
been a perfect subject for Master Etty, and for The Lant Collection.

Photo from ” A Connoisseur’s Journey” available at: http://writerssecrets.co

 

George Quacker Production

Division of Jeffrey Lant Associates,Inc.

All Rights Reserved