This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Thing Not To Do Today: be grotesque.

'He's no oil painting,' people say: but what I want to know is, why an oil painting, particularly?

Is an oil painting:

(that's by Agnolo Bronzino)

more flattering than a water-colour:

File:Watercolor on ivory portrait miniature of a lady by John Smart, 1782, 5.1 x 4.1 cm, Cincinnati Art Museum.jpg
(that's by John Smart)

or a fresco:

(that's by Domenichino)

or gouache?
Portrait of Yelena Oliv - Valentin Serov
(that's Yelena Oliv by Valentin Serov)

I mean, look at that oil-painting's scowl, and that conk.

Despite the scowl and the conk (poor man - I wonder what he looked like when he wasn't paying to have an artist flatter him) Lorenzo the Magnificent wasn't actually grotesque.

This is grotesque:

That's a bit of Chinese funerary art. The photograph is by Peter Griffin.

These are grotesques, too:

that's Grossm√ľnster Church, Zurich, photo by Gleen Johnson.

Yes, a grotesque is a figure that's been distorted to make it look, well, grotesque.

The word grotesque isn't anythng to do with churches or tombs, though.

The Old Italian [pittura] grotesca comes from grotta, which means cave. So something grotesque is really to be found in caves.

Like this:

That's from the caves at Mogao.

And that's really grotesque.

Thing Not To Do Today: be grotesque. This is easy. Don't grow any of your features to triple their usual size, and keep out of caves.

Grotta is from the Late Latin crypta, which means vault.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh I've enjoyed all these pictures! And as for the expression 'no oil painting' I reckon it came from the fact that saying just 'painting' means the sentence lacks a certain rhythm...He's no painting...well, it might work. I'm going for 'He's no gouache' from now on and see if that catches on!