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Europe Sketches 1975: The Bridge of Sighs

FIGURE 2.01. The Nude and the Bridge of Sighs SOURCE: Europe Sketches


K
eith Hansen also attended  art classes in Venice and the nude sketch which is skilfully rendered in salmon-pinkish crayon and charcoal is a cherished memento of a beautiful example of the human female form. The Bridge of Sighs - Venice is also constructed with just enough detail to perk one's interest in regard to both pages of Europe Sketches: please refer to figure 2.01 above. Lord Byron was fundamental in renaming this architectural marvel of white limestone, the 'bridge of sighs,' in his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: A Romaunt which appears to have too many stanzas and as such just one will be selected: please refer to figure 2.02 below. There is also the mythology about how eternal love can be assured for couples who kiss underneath this particular bridge wishing to engage for a lifetime of wedded bliss or hell depending on your viewpoint. Keith inferred that walking over the said bridge was indeed a creepy experience. The reason being the claustrophobic nature of the passageway and the fact of trying to see through the stone lattice windows is somewhat problematic because of the smallness of the design. The macabre history concerning the prisoners who were on the whole female witches may be of interest to the readership with the most famous inmate of all namely Giacomo Girolamo Casanova: please refer to figure 2.03., below. Casanova was imprisoned in one of the cells within the Doges Palace for his "public outrages against the holy religion," as inferred in the online article Who was Casanova. This famous Venetian ladies man also invented the use of just one lemon halve as a preventative against falling pregnant which resulted in the design of the Dutch cap contraceptive. 


 FIGURE 2.02 Canto the fourth I SOURCE: Lord Byron
FIGURE 2.03 Portrait of Casanova SOURCE: Adriano
FIGURE 2.04 the devil and witches SOURCE: Guazzo, F. C. 1929.

This woodblock print scanned from the page fourteen of the Compendium  Maleficarum (Book of Witches) showing the devil bearing witness to the unholy actions of two witches of both genders. The cross deemed to be a sacred symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth in Medieval times. This image of this particular daemon dating back to the 1600s bears an uncanny likeness to some stone gargoyles within the present-day of the twenty-first century. Keith Hansen has also painted two examples of what would be regarded to be the art of the grotesque carved by the old-school stonemason, namely the griffin and the gargoyle. These two examples are showcased within his favourite subject of inspiration, the San Giorgio Maggiore Church, Venice. The first painting which depicts quite a spooky example of the gargoyle suggestive of a somewhat pensive daemon, (meaning the guardian angel from the ancient Greek)apparently unable to fly because of the smallish wings: please refer to figure 2.05., below. The execution of the oils on the canvas have indeed produced an unearthly tones of sinister intent in the stone-like grey of this creature designed to be just  a medieval decorative expression of the talisman of protection against the forces of evil. The church and the buildings in the background are bathed in soft pastel-shades of sepia reflecting back into the mirror-like surface of the water of the Grand Canal. The gondolas are just black shapes moored securely until the new morning heralds a new day bleeding into the water. Too many storm clouds obscure the midnight blue of the dying night.      

FIGURE 2.05 San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Gargoyle SOURCE: Keith Hansen

The second painting is quite a quaint rendition of this stone griffin meaning (the guardian of anything too precious to lose from the ancient Persian)a composite of the lion and the eagle: please refer to figure 2.06., below. The religious landmark of Venice in the background of the painting is dabbed with the creamy brushstrokes of an overcast day within the strange aspect of the unoccupied gondolas', decidedly creepy. So Gothic, also in the way the black painted gondolas' cast a sinister vibe of the uncanny theme of the macabre. Occasionally, you will see a collection of arranged man-made stone spheres that my late mother always referred to as devils' eggs; regrettably there was never any clarification about this taboo subject of the occult. There is a present-day example of these stone spheres on the campus of the University of Sydney, Australia - quite unnerving. The only concrete fact of these yet to be defined objects is that these spheres are always made of stone and usually placed at the entrance of the building.  And yes there are also stone gargoyles aplenty on the Gothic-like building which was the original Fisher library which has been renamed the MacLaurin Hall. In the rare books section of the Fisher library there is a publication entitled Australia's first: a pictorial history of the University of Sydney 1850 - 1990. Strangely enough on page eighteen there is a photograph of a gargoyle and a griffin, circa 1907. This hand-carved examples of the stonemasons' craft inspired by mythology.
    
FIGURE 2.06. San Giorgio Maggiore Church - Griffin SOURCE: Keith Hansen
FIGURE 2.07. Stone Spheres (devils' eggs) SOURCE: Marjorie Savill Linthwaite

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