Sunday, 27 December 2009


“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” - Jack London

A quiet day today spent at home. Did quite a lot of gardening, which was relaxing enough, especially as I had my i-pod with me and listened to a great deal of music (notably, all of Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” and his “Vespers”) while pottering about in the garden. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I was quite tired, but satisfied as much was done that needed doing.

For Art Sunday today, Eustache Le Sueur, a French painter (1616-1655). He is known for his religious pictures in the style of the French classical Baroque. Le Sueur was one of the founders and first professors of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Le Sueur studied under the painter Simon Vouet and was admitted at an early age into the guild of master painters. Some paintings reproduced in tapestry brought him notice, and his reputation was further enhanced by a series of decorations for the Hôtel Lambert that he left uncompleted. He painted many pictures for churches and convents, among the most important being St. Paul Preaching at Ephesus (Louvre), and his famous series of 22 paintings of the Life of St. Bruno (Louvre), executed in the cloister of the Chartreux. Stylistically dominated by the art of Nicolas Poussin, Raphael, and Vouet, Le Sueur had a graceful facility in drawing and was always restrained in composition by a fastidious taste.

Le Sueur also painted many mythological subjects. The paintings above depict seven of the nine muses of Greek mythology. They decorate the Cabinet of the Muses of the Hotel Lambert in Paris. These charming, delicately painted pictures foreshadow the coming of Poussin. The muses are the goddesses of creative inspiration in poetry, song and other arts, they are the companions of Apollo. They were the daughters of Jupiter and the Titaness Mnemosyne (memory) who had lain together for nine consecutive nights. The muses were originally nymphs who presided over springs that had the power to give inspiration, especially Aganippe and Hippocrene on Mount Helicon and the Castalian spring on Mount Parnassus. The nine muses and their usual attributions are the following.

Clio, the muse of history (book, scroll or tablet and stylus).
Euterpe, the muse of music, lyric poetry (flute, trumpet or other instrument).
Thalia, the muse of comedy, pastoral poetry (scroll, small viol, masks).
Melpomene, the muse of tragedy (horn, tragic masks, sword or dagger, crown held in hand, sceptres lying at feet).
Terpsichore, the muse of dancing and song (viol, lyre, or other stringed instrument, harp, crowned with flowers).
Erato, the muse of lyric and love poetry (tambourine, lyre, swan, a putto at her feet).
Urania, the muse of astronomy (globe and compasses, crowned with a circle of stars).
Calliope, the muse of epic poetry (trumpet, tablet and stylus, books, holds laurel crown).
Polyhymnia (or Polymnia), the muse of heroic hymns (portative organ, lute or other instrument).

Seven of the nine muses are illustrated above: Melpomene, Erato and Polyhymnia; Terpsichore; Clio, Euterpe and Thalia.

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