Overcoming Temptations

The Temptation of Saint-Anthony, by Max Ernst

 
 

In 1946 the David L. LoewAlbert Lewin film production company held a contest for a painting on the theme of Saint Anthony’s Temptation, with the winner to be used in the film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Albert Lewin, 1947). The movie is in black and white except for the one shot of Max Ernst’s Temptation in color. Various artists produced paintings on this subject, and contest was won by Max Ernst, whose work was duly shown on-screen. However, the most well-known of these paintings is a failed contestant, Salvador Dalí‘s version. This was the only art contest in which Dalí participated during his lifetime.

 
 

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Salvador Dalí, 1946

 
 

Besides Dalí and Ernst, Ivan Albright, Eugene Berman, Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux, Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini, Louis Guglielmi, Horace Pippin, Abraham Rattner and Stanley Spencer, were also invited to create a work on the theme. Fini did not produce a painting, but the others were paid $500 for their submissions, with an additional $2,500 prize for the winner.

 
 

The Torment of Saint Anthony, attributed to Michelangelo, c. 1487–1488. Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists noted that Michelangelo had painted St. Anthony after a print by Martin Schongauer

 
 

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch (triptych, c. 1501)

 
 

Throughout history, artists and authors (including Paul Cézanne and Hieronymus Bosch) have used the temptation of St. Anthony as subject matter for creative works. Dalí’s depiction is classical, erotic, and surrealist.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (French La Tentation de Saint Antoine) is a book which the French author Gustave Flaubert spent practically his whole life fitfully working on, in three versions he completed in 1849, 1856 (extracts published at the same time) and 1872 before publishing the final version in 1874. It takes as its subject the famous temptation faced by Saint Anthony the Great in the Egyptian desert, a theme often repeated in medieval and modern art.

The temptations of Saint Anthony were:

Frailty
The Seven Deadly Sins
The Heresiarchs
The Martyrs
The Magicians
The Gods
Science
Food
Lust and Death
The Monsters
Metamorphosis

In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of a novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.

Flaubert exercised an extraordinary influence over Guy de Maupassant, Edmond de Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet,  Émile Zola and Franz Kafka. Even after the decline of the Realist school, Flaubert did not lose prestige in the literary community; he continues to appeal to other writers because of his deep commitment to aesthetic principles, his devotion to style, and his indefatigable pursuit of the perfect expression.

He has been admired or written about by almost every major literary personality of the 20th century, including philosophers and sociologists such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Paul Sartre whose partially psychoanalytic portrait of Flaubert in The Family Idiot was published in 1971. The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is another great admirer of Flaubert.

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Hells Angels and Prolific Demons

“When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets”

Hells Angels’ motto

 
 

The Hells Angels’ official website attributes the official “death’s head” insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco Chapter. The colors and shape of the early-style jacket emblem (prior to 1953) were copied from the insignias of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron

 
 

An image of the “HAMC Death Head design” mark registered for various goods, including jewelry, by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club

 
 

The alleged infringing “Hell’s Four Finger” Ring

 
 

“Hell’s Knuckle Duster” Clutch

 
 

Jacquard box dress

 
 

Shoes from Angels and Demons, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2010-2011 collection

 
 

In October 2010, the Hells Angels filed a lawsuit against  Alexander McQueen for “misusing its trademark winged death heads symbol”, after the fashion house featured motifs similar to its famous winged death head. Lawyers for the motorcycle gang cited four products from the late designer’s final collection, created shortly before his suicide in February 2011.

They named the  ‘Hells Angels’ jacquard box dress, and a knuckle-duster ring in the complaint, as well as a scarf and a handbag.

The complaint argued that the symbol has been used by the Hells Angels since at least 1948, and that it is protected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The lawyer representing Hells Angels claimed “This isn’t just about money, it’s about membership. If you’ve got one of these rings on, a member might get really upset that you’re an impostor.”

Twice in the weeks leading up to his death, Mr. McQueen messaged on Twitter, “Hells angels [sic] and prolific demons.” What seemed a non sequitur then appeared to be a reference to the collection he was working on, imprinted with the angels of Sandro Botticelli and the demons of Hieronymus Bosch.

In March 2007, the Hells Angels filed suit against the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group alleging that the film entitled Wild Hogs (Walt Becker, 2007) used both the name and distinctive logo of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation without permission.The suit was eventually voluntarily dismissed, after it received assurances from Disney that its references would not appear in the film.

The Spilling Seed on Dali’s Kingdom

In that privileged place, reality and the sublime dimension almost come together. My mystical paradise begins in the plains of the Empordà, is surrounded by the Alberes hills, and reaches plenitude in the bay of Cadaqués. This land is my permanent inspiration. The only place in the world, too, where I feel loved. When I painted that rock that I entitled The Great Masturbator, I did nothing more than render homage to one of the promontories of my kingdom, and my painting was a hymn to one of the jewels of my crown.”

Salvador Dalí

 
 

The Great Masturbator, Salvador Dalí, (1929). He painted it just before meeting Gala. His needs in Paris by that time became his grief. It’s a self-portrait where their sexual desires and fears are reflected. By then Dalí was still a virgin.

 
 

The center of the painting has a distorted human face in profile looking downwards, based on the shape of a natural rock formation at Cap de Creus along the sea-shore of Catalonia. A similar profile is seen in Dalí’s more famous painting of two years later, The Persistence of Memory and other works from that period.

 
 

Portrait of Paul Eluard (1929)

 
 

The Lugubrious Game (1929)

 
 

The Enigma of Desire (1929)

 
 

The Persistence of Memory (1931)

 
 

Section of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights

 
 

Comparisons have been made to Hieronymus Bosch‘s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Great Masturbator is similar to an image on the right side of the left panel of the The Garden of Earthly Delights composed of rocks, bushes and little animals resembling a face with a prominent nose and long eyelashes.

 
 

Section of The Great Masturbator

 
 

A nude female figure (resembling Dalí’s then new muse, Gala) rises from the back of the head; this may be the masturbatory fantasy suggested by the title. The woman’s mouth is near a thinly clad male crotch, a suggestion that fellatio may take place. The male figure seen only from the waist down has bleeding fresh cuts on his knees. Below the central profile head, on its mouth, is a locust, an insect of which Dalí had an irrational fear. (The insect has sometimes been misidentified as a grasshopper due to poor translations of Dalí’s early writings.) A swarm of ants (a popular motif in Dalí’s work) gather on the locust’s abdomen, as well as on the prone face. In the landscape below, three other figures are arranged, along with an egg (commonly used as a symbol of fertility) and sparse other features. Two of the characters in the landscape are arranged in such a way as to cast a long single shadow, while the other character is seen hurriedly walking into the distance on the peripheries of the canvas.

The painting represents Dalí’s severely conflicted attitudes towards sexual intercourse. In Dalí’s youth, his father had left out a book with explicit photos of people suffering from advanced untreated venereal diseases to “educate” the boy. The photos of grotesquely damaged diseased genitalia fascinated and horrified young Dalí, and he continued to associate sex with putrefaction and decay into his adulthood.