Eye Candy for Today: James Jebusa Shannon’s Jungle Tales

Jungle Tales, James Jebusa Shannon, oil on canvas
Jungle Tales, James Jebusa Shannon

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the Download or Enlarge links under the image.

American artist James Jebusa Shannon, who spent most of his career in England, here presents an intimate scene of his wife reading to their daughter and one of her friends. “Jungle Tales” likely referred to Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, which had been published in 1894, a year before this was painted.

The wonderfully sensitive rendering of the young girls’ faces is still painterly and soft-edged; the indication of the patterns on the translucent fabrics is composed of single brushstrokes or dots of paint; and hair is presented with just enough suggestion of textural strokes that our eye fills in abundant detail.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Botticelli’s Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli
Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli

Link is to a high resolution downloadble file on Wikipedia, the original is in the National Gallery, London, which has a zoomable version of the image.

Two of Botticelli’s paintings, La Primavera and The Birth of Venus, are among the most iconic and recognized in the history of art. Other works of his are less well known — and undeservedly so — in particular, Venus and Mars.

The painting is reasonably large at roughly 27 x 68 inches (69 x 174 cm), but not as monumental as the previously mentioned works. It is, nonetheless, striking and beautiful, panted in a combination of egg tempera and oil.

It’s generally assumed Venus and Mars was commissioned to mark the occasion of a wedding, though no specific event or couple can be associated with it; but a general date is presumed to be in the mid 1480’s — later than La Primavera and perhaps around the same time as The Birth of Venus.

Here we are presented with a clothed Venus and a sleeping Mars, so fast asleep that one of the fauns who are apparently making off with his armor and lance, cannot wake him even with a blast on a ram’s horn.

The assumption is that the two have made love and Mars has fallen asleep afterwards, as men are often wont to do. It may be something of a sly poke at the new husband, or it could be part of the interpretation often made of the scene that love conquers war.

The National Gallery site has some background on the painting and interpretations of its meaning, and there is additional information on Wikipedia.

The face of Mars is rendered in a difficult upward foreshortening, lit from below. In the face of Venus, Botticelli has given us another of his entrancingly beautiful women’s faces — perhaps the same face as that seen from another angle in The Birth of Venus.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt lion drawing

Lion Resting, Turned to the Left; Rembrandt van Rijn; ink and wash drawing
Lion Resting, Turned to the Left; Rembrandt van Rijn

Pen and brown ink, brown wash; roughly 5 1/2 x 8 inches (14 x 20cm).

Link is to WikiArt, which has a downloadable file (choose “Original, 1600×1067”); there is also a cropped version on Wikipedia. The original is supposed to be in the Louvre, Paris, but the Louvre website is so terrible, I can’t find it, only a reference to a show in which it was included.

Rembrandt’s drawings are among my favorites in all of art history, and this seemingly simple drawing of a lion is among my favorites of his drawings.

Rembrandt did a number of lion drawings, presumably of the same animal. This one stands out, however.

It has the calligraphic elegance of Chinese ink painting, but over the classical draftsmanship of the premiere Dutch master.

The rough, gestural application of wash succinctly defines the lion’s head and mane, giving them an impression of texture, as well.

I love the implied geometric strength with which he’s noted the lion’s rear leg, suggesting the structural anatomy of the skeleton, the fluid sweep of the tail and the fierce but composed expression of the captive animal.

I’m sure to Rembrandt, this was just a sketch, a visual notation of something he found interesting, but it’s completely satisfying as a finished work of art.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin, Fausto Zonaro

Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin, Fausto Zonaro
Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin, Fausto Zonaro

Link is to zoomable file on Google Art Project; there is also a downloadable version of that file on Wikimedia Commons.

The original is in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. The museum also has a zoomable version of the file, but it looks over-saturated to me. The real appearance of the painting could be somewhere between the two, but given the choice between them, I feel the Google file is likely to be more accurate.

Fausto Zonaro was an Italian painter who spent a good part of his career in Istanbul. In this simple subject, he has contrasted the orange of the pumpkin against the background greens and muted color of the girl’s dress, but kept the contrast in check by adding the green area of the pumpkin and having the girl’s hand and forearm cover a good bit of the surface.

I love Zonaro’s painterly approach to suggesting the texture of the ground and the strewn bits of other plants.

 
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Eye Candy For Today: Leon Bonvin’s Basket of Apples

Still Life: Basket of Apples, Pear, Walnuts and Knife; Leon Bonvin
Still Life: Basket of Apples, Pear, Walnuts and Knife; Léon Bonvin

Original is in the Waters Art Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable file. There is also a zoomable image on Google Art Project and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons, though the one on the Walters’ site is larger.

Another beautiful and sensitively realized watercolor still life by 19th century French artist Léon Bonvin, who had to paint in whatever spare time he could find while managing a family restaurant.

 
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Eye Candy For Today: Paul Sandby gouache of Queen Elizabeth Gate

Queen Elizabeth Gate, Paul Sandby, gouache on paper
Queen Elizabeth Gate, Paul Sandby

Link is to zoomable image on Google Art Project; downloadable high-res file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Yale Center for British Art.

Gouache and watercolor on paper, roughly 14 x 18 inches (36 x 47 cm).

A wonderful effect of being precise without being stiff. Sandby appears to use wavering edges on many of his straights here, similar to those I’ve noticed in drawings by Canaletto (also here).

 
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