The Supposed Sexual Meaning of a Flower

Zantedeschia albomaculata, from L’Illustration Horticole v.7 (1860), by Charles Antoine Lemaire (1801-1871), and Ambroise Verschaffelt (1825-1886)

 

Zantedeschia is a genus of eight species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The genus has been introduced on all continents except Antarctica. Common names include arum lily for Z. aethiopica, calla, and calla lily for Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmannii although it is neither a true lily (Liliaceae), nor an Arum or a Calla (related genera in Araceae). The colourful flowers and leaves are highly valued, and both species and cultivars are widely used as ornamental plants.

The name of the calla lily is not only just a common name that never is used professionally, it is also totally misinformative since the calla lily is neither a calla nor a lily. Once it was considered to be a calla and the discoverer, famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, actually categorized all similar plants under the calla genus. When further testing proved that not all callas were not closely related enough to be considered as one genus it was split up by the German botanist Karl Koch and the calla lily genus became known as the zantedeschia genus. The name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773–1846) by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833).

Zantedeschia is monoecious in which separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers (imperfect or unisexual flowers) are carried on the spadix. The flowers are small and non-blooming with an absent perianth. The male flowers contain two to three stamens fused to form a synandrium, and the female flowers have a single compound pistil with three fused carpels and three locules. Zantedeschia shares the general properties of the Araceae family in causing contact irritation. Zantedeschia species are also poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the form of raphides.

It is not really clear when this genus showed up in Europe, but based on an illustration from the Royal Garden in Paris in 1664, it is safe to say that it was grown in Europe at that time. Zantedeschia became a very popular flower after that, showing up at funerals, weddings and practically any festivity in Europe. It was especially popular since it could be made to bloom all year around in the southern to centre parts of Europe using simple greenhouses. It was a flower that could be grown even when the sky seemed dark.

Zantedeschia or Calla lily is a very beautiful flower. During the flower language boom in the Victorian period of the 19th century, there were strict social codes and if one had to express ones feelings, flowers were the best medium. Flowers delivered the feelings subtly and every part of gifting a flower, carried secret flower meanings. The person who made the offer to the way the flowers were arranged, all had a specific meaning. Thus passionate messages were delivered to the recipient, without the use of words through flowers. During this time, calla lily was used to express many such hidden symbols. Calla lily due to its physical resemblance to female genitalia was called an overtly sexual one. This sexual calla lily meaning was brought forward to admirers by Sigmund Freud and  it was the favorite subject of artists like Diego Rivera and Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

Callas, Imogen Cunningham, 1925

 

Two Callas, Imogen Cunningham, c. 1926

 

Black and White Lilies, Imogen Cunningham, 1928

 

Calla Lily with Roses,Georgia O’Keeffe, 1926

 

White Calla Lilly, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1927

 

Two Calla Lilies on Pink, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1928

 

Caricature of Georgia O’Keeffe as “The Lady of the Lily”, Miguel Covarrubias, 1929

 

The Great Masturbator, Salvador Dalí, (1929)

 

Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies), Diego Rivera, 1941

 

Portrait of Natasha Gelman, Diego Rivera, 1943

 

Nude with Calla Lillies, Diego Rivera, 1944

 

The Flower Carrier, Diego Rivera, 1953

 

Prehistory of Desire, Marc Quinn, 2010

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The Blood of A Poet

Stills from The Blood of A Poet (Jean Cocteau, 1930), starring by Chilean actor Enrique Riveros as the poet

 

Le Sang d’un Poète is the first avant-garde film directed by Jean Cocteau. Photographer Lee Miller made her only film appearance in this movie, which features an appearance by the famed aerialist Barbette. It is the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, which is continued in Orphée (1950) and concludes with Testament of Orpheus (1960).

The Blood of a Poet is divided into four sections. In section one, an artist sketches a face and is startled when its mouth starts moving. He rubs out the mouth, only to discover that it has transferred to the palm of his hand. After experimenting with the hand for a while and falling asleep, the artist awakens and places the mouth over the mouth of a female statue.

In section two, the statue speaks to the artist, cajoling him into passing through a mirror. The mirror links to a hotel and the artist peers through several keyholes, witnessing such people as an opium smoker and a hermaphrodite. The artist is handed a gun and a disembodied voice instructs him how to shoot himself in the head. He shoots himself but does not die. The artist cries out that he has seen enough and returns through the mirror. He smashes the statue with a mallet.

In the third section, some students are having a snowball fight. An older boy throws a snowball at a younger boy, but the snowball turns out to be a chunk of marble. The young boy dies from the impact.

In the final section, a card shark plays a game with a woman on a table set up over the body of the dead boy. A theatre party looks on. The card shark extracts an Ace of Hearts from the dead boy’s breast pocket. The boy’s guardian angel appears and absorbs the dead boy. He also removes the Ace of Hearts from the card shark’s hand and retreats up a flight of stairs and through a door. Realizing he has lost, the card shark commits suicide as the theatre party applauds. The woman player transforms into the formerly smashed statue and walks off through the snow, leaving no footprints. In the film’s final moments the statue is shown with a lyre.

Intercut through the film, oneiric images appear, including spinning wire models of a human head and rotating double-sided masks.

The Blood of a Poet was funded by Charles de Noailles, who gave Cocteau 1,000,000 francs to make it. Cocteau invited the Vicomte and his wife Marie-Laure de Noailles, along with several of their friends, to appear in a scene as a theatre party. In the scene, they talked amongst themselves and, on cue, began applauding. Upon seeing the completed film, they were horrified to learn that they were applauding a game of cards that ended with a suicide, which had been filmed separately. They refused to let Cocteau release the film with their scene included, so Cocteau re-shot it with the famed female impersonator Barbette and some extras.

Shortly after its completion, rumors began to circulate that the film contained an anti-Christian message. This, combined with the riotous reception of another controversial Noailles-produced film, L’Âge d’Or (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, 1930), led to Charles de Noailles’ expulsion from the famous Jockey-Club de Paris, and he was even threatened with excommunication by the Catholic Church. The furor caused the release of The Blood of a Poet to be delayed for over a year.

 

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Surrealist Dinner Party

Château de Ferrières, the suburban Parisian mansion of Baron Guy de Rothschild and Marie-Hélène

 

 

On December 12, 1972, Baron Guy de Rothschild and his wife Marie-Hélène hosted a costumed ball stranger than fiction. Château de Ferrières was on fire, sleeping cats the size of men littered the staircase, and all-enveloping cobwebs lined the hallways.The acid-laced zeitgeist of the 70s had trickled up and finally reached the ranks of the Parisian elite in the form of the Rothschilds’ theatrical Dîner des Têtes Surréalistes.

 

The MenuMenu

 

Detail of a table with a fur dish, Mae West red lips and blue bread

 

the dîner des têtes surréalistes invitation with reversed writing inspired by a magritte sky

 

The invitations for the ball—scrawled backwards so that it had to be read in a mirror—stated simply: black tie, long dresses, and Surrealist heads. When such requests are made of those with limitless time and money, the results are impressive. What manifested at the chateau that evening was a trippy tableau vivant comprised of the most notable personalities in the worlds of art and literature and their perception-bending headdresses.

 

 

The actress Jacqueline Delubac came as René Magritte’s Son of Man painting, a large green apple hiding her face. Audrey Hepburn’s head was ensnared in a bird cage. There was a two-headed woman, a horse, a grotesque Mona Lisa, and more than one bouquet of flowers. Not to be outdone, the hostess wore a giant stag’s head that wept diamond tears. And, of course, the master of Surrealism himself was there—Salvador Dalí came dressed as himself.

 

Audrey Hepburn

 

The Baroness Thyssen-Bornemizza & Guy Baguenault de Puchesse

 

Salvador Dalí and the Italian princess Maria Gabriella de Savoia

 

Charles de Croisset, Marisa Berenson snd Paul-Louis Weiller

 

Claude Lebon and Charlotte Aillaud

 

Hélène Rochas & François-Marie Banier

 

For desert: a sugar made woman laying in a bed of roses

 

Table of the swaying dolls

Artist’s Guts

“Art – my slats! Guts! Guts! Life! Life! I can paint with a shoe-string dipped in pitch and lard.”
George Luks

 
 

Campaign for the MASP Art School in São Paulo, Brazil. It shows the organs of Salvador Dalí, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso and dissected them to show their inside illustrated in the same style as their famous artworks.

Christmas Trees

Salvador Dalí photographed by Enrique Meneses

 
 

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Robert Frost

Display of Brilliant Friends

Self-portraits

 
 

George Platt Lynes was an American fashion and commercial photographer. Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide (Sparkman) and Joseph Russell Lynes he spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts. He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there. Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and those that he met through them opened an entirely new world to the young artist.

He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year.

By 1946, he grew disillusioned with New York and left for Hollywood, where he became chief photographer for the Vogue studios. He photographed Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles, from the film industry, as well as others in the arts among them Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky, and Thomas Mann. While a success artistically, it was a financial failure.

By May of 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died in December 1955. He was just 48.

 
 

Dorothy Parker

 
 

Jean Cocteau

 
 

Gloria Swanson

 
 

Christopher Isherwood

 
 

Yul Brynner

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Paul Cadmus

 
 

Henri Cartier-Bresson

 
 

Alfred Kinsey

 
 

Salvador Dalí

A Song Dedicated to Dalí

Cover design by Studio Gatti. Photograph by Alejandro Cabrera

 
 

Eungenio Salvador Dalí is taken from Mecano’s album Descanso dominical, (1988), which was also recorded in French and Italian and was published in Germany and Japan. Mecano were a Spanish techno-pop band formed in the early ’80s by brothers Nacho and José Maria Cano, who were joined by singer Ana Torroja.One line in the El Blues del Esclavo (The blues of the slave), inspired this album’s title. El blues del esclavo is a satire of the abolition of slavery in the United States and the struggle of Martin Luther King.

The lyrics of Eungenio Salvador Dalí are quite hard to translate. Please note that some of the words used on these lyrics do not exist, and were created for this song, only for musical sounding. Sometimes, it is possible to replace them for other words, and sometimes it is not. In the latter, the Spanish “words” were kept originally. For instance, the title of the song “Eungenio” means the mix of two words One/Un and Genius/Genio, and were mixed to sound as a Spanish personal name: Eugénio, just to create the impression that the full name of Dali was Eugénio Salvador Dalí.

 
 

Dalí draws himself
Shivers his bubble, taking away his heartbeats
Dalí fades himself
Because this washer does not distinguishes weaves

He notices that and scared, he laments
Geniuses should not die
They’re more than eighty the ones that curve your bones
“Eugenius” Salvador Dalí

Rococo moustache
Where the genius ends and where the nut starts
Dazzled eyes
Where the genius ends end where the fairy starts

All the beauty is compressed in your head
Just like a pressure cooker
And it’s the steam that is leaving by the weight
Magic light in Cadaqués

If you reincarnate in something
Please do it as a pencil or a brush
And your silky skin
Let her reincarnate as clothes or paper
If you reincarnate in a body
Please reincarnate in you
Because we don’t have enough geniuses
“Eugenius” Salvador Dalí

Realistic and surrealistic
With impressionistic light and impressive outline
Colourist delirium
Colour and oculist with delirious eyes

In your trowel you mix mythic ascetics
With bayonets and with teats
And in your brain you mix Finery, God and pesetas
Good Catalan anchoret

If you reincarnate in something
Please do it as a pencil or a brush
And your silky skin
Let her reincarnate as clothes or paper
If you reincarnate in a body
Please reincarnate in you
We want geniuses alive
We want you to be here

 
 

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A Misterious Sense of Levitation

Leda Atómica (Atomic Leda), Salvador Dalí, 1949

 
 

Leda Atomica is a painting by Salvador Dalí, made in 1949. The picture depicts Leda, the mythological queen of Sparta, with the swan. Leda is a frontal portrait of Dalí’s wife, Gala, who is seated on a pedestal with a swan suspended behind and to her left. Different objects such as a book, a set square, two stepping stools and an egg float around the main figure. In the background on both sides, the rocks of Cap Norfeu (on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, between Roses and Cadaqués) define the location of the image.

After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Dalí took his work in a new direction based on the principle that the modern age had to be assimilated into art if art was to be truly contemporary. Dalí acknowledged the discontinuity of matter, incorporating a mysterious sense of levitation into his Leda Atomica. Just as one finds that at the atomic level particles do not physically touch, so here Dalí suspends even the water above the shore—an element that would figure into many other later works. Every object in the painting is carefully painted to be motionless in space, even though nothing in the painting is connected. Leda looks as if she is trying to touch the back of the swan’s head, but doesn’t do it. Dalí shows us the hierarchized libidinous emotion, suspended and as though hanging in midair, in accordance with the modern ‘nothing touches’ theory of intra-atomic physics. Leda does not touch the swan; Leda does not touch the pedestal; the pedestal does not touch the base; the base does not touch the sea; the sea does not touch the shore. . . .”

 
 

Studies of Leda Atómica, 1947

 
 

Leda Atomica is organized according to a rigid mathematical framework, following the “divine proportion”. Leda and the swan are set in a pentagon inside which has been inserted a five-point star of which Dalí made several sketches. The five points of the star symbolize the seeds of perfection: love, order, light (truth) willpower and word (action).

The harmony of the framework was calculated by the artist following the recommendations of Romanian mathematician Matila Ghyka.

In reference to the classical myth Dalí identified himself with the immortal Pollux while his deceased older brother (also called Salvador) would represent Castor, the mortal of the twins. Another equivalence could be made regarding the other twins of the myth, Dalí’s sister Ana María being the mortal Clytemnestra, while Gala would represent divine Helen. Salvador Dalí himself wrote: «I started to paint Leda Atómica which exalts Gala, the metaphysical goddess and succeeded to create the “suspended space”».

Dalí’s Catholicism enables also other interpretations of the painting. The painting can be conceived as Dalí’s way of interpreting the Annunciation. The swan seems to whisper her future in her ear, possibly a reference to the legend that the conception of Jesus was achieved by the introduction of the breath of the Holy Ghost into the Virgin Mary’s ear. Leda looks straight into the bird’s eyes with an understanding expression of what is happening to her and what will happen in the future to her and to her unsure reality. Dalí’s transformation of Mary is the result of love as if he created his love to Gala, like God to Mary

Dalí Atomicus

Dalí Atomicus, Salvador Dalí and Philippe Halsman collaboration, 1948

 
 

The Atomicus photo took 28 shots — “after each exposure, while the assistants mopped the floor and reclaimed cats, Halsman developed the film to see the progress in the composition. Accidents would happen. The water, intended for the cats, would cover Dali’s face instead.”

 
 

Outtakes from Atomicus

Insatiable Photojournalist

Salvador Dalí

 
 

Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Paul Newman

 
 

Marlon Brando

 
 

Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín and Pablo Picasso

 
 

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter Seeger

 
 

Charles Aznavour

 
 

João Gilberto

 
 

Dalida

 
 

Ruwenzori Mountains

 
 

<Muhammad Ali

 
 

Martin Luther King

 
 

kennedyJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy

 
 

Washington March

 
 

Enrique Meneses (1929 – 2013) was born journalist because of his father. He grew up and studied in France, Portugal and Spain because of the Spanish Civil world. He devour life, looking for being wherever something that could be tell happened, becoming along 30 years the most international Spanish reporter. He worked for agencies such as Fotopress or Delta Press, and media like Paris Match, Time, Life or ABC.

He is the author of iconic photographs of the XXth century that illustrate a time, with portraits of historic characters such as Ché Guevara, Fidel Castro and company when they where trying to defeat that dictator Batista, Salvador Dalí, Marlon Brando, Mel Ferrer, Paul Newman, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Melina Mercouri, Charles Aznavour, João Gilberto o Henry Fonda. As many other historic moments like the fight for civil rights in the USA, the Washington March with Martin Luther King, the tension with the Soviet Union or the Ku Klux Klan.

Polyhedric Image

«I met Richard Avedon when I was doing photojournalism about Salvador Dalí. Avedon was making a portrait of Dali in his studio and told me: “Enrique, I am working for Vogue and they are paying to me, don’t do the same photo.” I told him that my reportage was about twenty four hours in the life of Dali and I stood behind to make the photo of Avedon photographing Dalí while he and the model were posing.»

Enrique Meneses

 

Dali and model by Richard Avedon, 1964

 
 

Salvador Dali’s Fountain of Heraclitus necklace composed of peridots; diamonds, emerald-eyed lions’ heads and 18-carat gold; executed by Alemany and Company of New York, and owned by Mrs. Owen Cheatham. Dali makes imperceptible changes in the photograph by Avedon.

 
 

Dali, model and Richard Avedon by Enrique Meneses