Letter to an Erômenos

Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) was unmarried, left no diary, lived alone and always traveled alone, and has often been suspected of being secretly homosexual. However, later in life it is believed he may have loved his favorite female model, Dorothy Dene. Recently there was discovered some letters from the Italian painter Giovanni Costa, a friend of Leighton, to another English artist, in which Costa says that Leighton was “without his wife” at an exhibition, and later, “his wife keeps the reception rooms barred to us”. But Dene never lived with Leighton, and these references are confusing and may come from some sort of misunderstanding, or even playfulness. They do not suggest that Leighton himself referred to Dene as his “wife”.

However Leighton’s sexuality may have developed over his lifetime, earlier in life, Leighton’s first patron and intimate friend was Henry Greville, a wealthy aristocrat whom he met in Florence in 1856. Leighton’s letters to Greville are lost. Greville’s letters to Leighton are obviously love letters: he nicknamed Frederic “Fay” and called himself “Babbo” or “Bimbo” or “Babbino”; they often begin “My dear Boy” and end “Addio, carissimo.” He frequently addresses Leighton (who was 26 at the time) as “mon petit dernier” (“my little boy”). Greville’s letters reveal him to be an old sweetie or a silly old queen, depending on how you look at such things. He died in 1872. There is also a series of letters from Leighton to “Johnny,” John Hanson Walker, one of many young male artists whom he helped and befriended, of whom he made many studies. Greville often gave commissions to these young men through Leighton, and teases Leighton by calling them his “moddles”. The following letters were written by Greville to Leighton on his return from a trip to Paris soon after they met.

My dearest Fay, –
. . . [in response to criticism of his painting of Pan] It makes me so sick, all that cant about impropriety, but there is so much of it as to make the sale of “nude figures” very improbable, and therefore I hope you will turn your thoughts entirely to well-covered limbs, and paint no more Venuses for some time to come. . . . You dear boy, I am so glad you enjoy your Venice – which is all very pretty no doubt, but I hate stinks and fleas – and they abound there. I hate wobbling in a boat and walking in dirty alleys, so I don’t envy you at all. . . .
Love.
– Your old loving father,
H.

London
September 29 [1856]

 

Pan, Frederic Leighton, 1855-6

 

*Note:

Since the publication of Kenneth Dover‘s work Greek Homosexuality, the terms erastês and erômenos have been standard for the two pederastic roles. Both words derive from the Greek verb erô, erân, “to love”; see also eros. In Dover’s strict dichotomy, the erastês (ἐραστής, plural erastai) is the older lover, seen as the active or dominant partner, with the suffix -tês (-τής) denoting agency. Erastês should be distinguished from Greek paiderastês, which meant “lover of boys” usually with a negative connotation. The erastês himself might only be in his early twenties, and thus the age difference between the two lovers might be negligible.

The word erômenos, or “beloved” (ἐρώμενος, plural eromenoi), is the masculine form of the present passive participle from erô, viewed by Dover as the passive or subordinate partner.

To Bring into Confusion

The Great War on Façades, René Magritte, 1964

 
 

The English word war derives from the late Old English (c.1050) words wyrre and werre; the Old French werre; the Frankish werra; and the Proto-Germanic werso. The denotation of war derives from the Old Saxon werran, Old High German werran, and the German verwirren: “to confuse”, “to perplex”, and “to bring into confusion”. Another posited derivation is from the Ancient Greek barbaros, the Old Persian varhara, and the Sanskrit varvar and barbara. In German, the equivalent is Krieg; the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian term for “war” is guerra, derived from the Germanic werra (“fight”, “tumult”). Etymologic legend has it that the Romanic peoples adopted a foreign, Germanic word for “war”, to avoid using the Latin bellum, because, when sounded, it tended to merge with the sound of the word bello (“beautiful”).

People who need war for psychological or/and material profit (to feel themselves greater and to make themselves richer) always embellish and glorify war to recruit the young people for possible victimization. To make the young kill and be ready to die in the process the war decision-makers offer satisfaction to youth’s unconscious narcissistic need to be admired for their self-sacrificial heroism. Young people, after the endless wars of human history and their passionate aggrandizement by social leaders throughout the centuries, developed the masochistic taste for exchanging their self-sacrifice for people’s grateful admiration.

René Magritte has represented War as an unattainable woman, seducing us with her very inaccessibility. Her face, so we believe, should be as beautiful as her garment. We dream to enjoy seeing it but this pleasure is never available – even the most obvious, the most justifiable wars are ambiguous! Wars are always too costly in terms of lost lives and bodily mayhem. A war is never won, it is just a Pyrrhic victory.

A Pyrrhic victory inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way; however, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit (another term for this would be “hollow victory”). The phrase Pyrrhic victory is named after Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War.

 
 

Guinevere van Seenus photographed by Tim Walker, Vogue Italia, December 2006

Hanging off The Spiral Staircase

“‘Hanging off that staircase in the Stella McCartney dress’, says Lily, ‘I thought I might melt down its beautiful folds as we positioned it, painfully, just right. No open windows or wind machines in case it stirred.’ British Vogue’s Creative Director, Robin Derrick: ‘Tim sees pictures in front of him which are not yet there… the challenge and frustration he then faces is how to print out, compute what he sees in his head. The pictures of Lily Cole on the spiral staircase he shot for our July 2005 issue is a case in point. While travelling on holiday in India he came across a crumbling old palace. Within it he found the powdery blue hallway with the enormous rusting iron spiral staircase. He took a snapshot and on return to London took the picture of the location with a marker pen sketch over it of a girl standing in a long dress to our fashion director Kate Phelan. It’s a degree of realising his pre-visualization and all the details which have to be achieved to create that image which floats in his head that is interesting. The dress had to be made in the right colour blue to work within the location, to the right length, to the right weight so it felt airy and light.’”

Excerpt from Tim Walker: Pictures

 
 

Lily Cole and Spiral Staircase. Photo by Tim Walker. Whadwan, Gujarat, India, 2005

Tilda Swinton’s Surreal Fashion Fantasy

Tim Walker and actress Tilda Swinton created a series of phantasmagorias inspired by artists Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and other muses and collaborators of English eccentric, poet, and surrealist collector Edward James.

 
 

Cover of W magazine. Modern Beauty issue. May 2013

 
 

Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Vera Wang Collection dress; Vicki Beamon lips and fingertips; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Acne Studios gown

 
 

Maison Martin Margiela dress and gloves

 
 

 Rick Owens jacket and dress

 
 

 Ann Demeulemeester dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Balmain jacket; Max Mara jacket; Swinton’s own Olivier Saillard gloves

 
 

Rochas dress; National Theatre Costume Hire underskirt; Cornelia James gloves; Céline pumps

 
 

Angels the Costumiers cape; Gucci gown; Vicki Beamon mask; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Azzedine Alaïa top, skirt, and shoes; Emilio Cavallini bodysuit; Alexander McQueen headpiece

 
 

 Louis Vuitton dress and shoes; Cornelia James gloves; Emilio Cavallini tights

 
 

 Haider Ackermann shirt and trousers

 
 

Mary Katrantzou dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Giorgio Armani blouse, skirt, and pants; Haider Ackermann dress; Ann Demeulemeester top; Cornelia James gloves; Prada gaiters and socks

 
 

Francesco Scognamiglio dress

Orgiastic Inspiration

Salvador Dali’s costumes for the ballet Bacchanale, of which Dali designed the set, costumes and wrote the libretto based on Ricard Wagner‘s Tannhäuser and the myth of Leda and the Swan. A “bacchanale” is an orgiastic musical composition often depicting a drunken revel or bacchanal. Photo by Horst P. Horst, 1939

 

 

 

Alice Gibb and Olga Sherer, Photo by Tim Walker. Editorial A Magical World for Vogue Italia. January, 2008

Tales of Unexpected

Photos by Tim Walker for Vogue UK, December 2008

 
 

Tim Walker creates this candy coated acid trip of a universe featuring models Karen Elson, Georgia May Jagger, and Sophie Drake, as well as various actors, designers, and British eccentrics, including Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. The story uses quotes from Roald Dahl stories and the editorial includes an article by Dahl’s granddaughter, model Sophie Dahl.

A Matter of Life and Death

“I find the vast majority of fashion is perpetuating something that has already been – particularly with how human beings are portrayed within it. I find it repetitive; I think I’ve always been drawn to something that’s a little more individual.”

Tim Walker

 
 

Malgosia Bela by Tim Walker, Harper’s Bazaar October 2009

 
 

A private worldVogue Italia November 2008. Models: Alice Gibb, Sunniva Stordahl

 
 

Nathaniel Lyless and his bone bed, 2010

 
 

Agyness Deyn with Skull pipe, 2011

 
 

Tim Walker’s fascination with the make-believe world of fashion photography started early. As a 19-year-old intern at Vogue he established its Cecil Beaton Archive before studying art and photography at Exeter Art College. On graduation he worked briefly as a freelance photographic assistant in London before moving to New York as full-time assistant to Richard Avedon. At 25 he shot his first Vogue fashion story. He was the recipient of the second ‘Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator’ at the British Fashion Awards (2008) and the following year he received an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, New York, for his fashion photography. In 2011 his short film The Lost Explorer premiered at Lorcano Film festival and went on to win the Jury Award at the Chicago United Film Festival. He is also well known for his advertising campaigns for Mulberry, Hèrmes, Valentino and many others.A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946) is one of the films that have inspired and influenced some of his images.

Alexander McQueen with Skull and Cigarettes

Alexander McQueen with skull and cigarettes, Tim Walker, 2009

 
 

I would never enforce something on a sitter in a portrait. The portrait of Alexander McQueen was one of the first that really taught me that: I had a very specific idea about him. Andy Hillman (the London-based set designer) had made a bow tie out of bones and a skull that was meant to fit on his head so that he became sandwiched between a skull and crossbones. But McQueen arrived and said, ‘I’m not wearing that skull on my head. No way. ‘I’m not doing that, but I love the skull and I love smoking. This is how it should be.’ Fags came out, fag went into skull, then he composed himself and said, ‘This is the picture.’

In a way that’s a gift because that photograph would be meaningless if he had just done what I’d told him to do – you wouldn’t learn anything about him. He lit up a cigarette, put a cigarette in the skull and put his finger in his mouth and gave that to the camera.

That picture then actually became more valuable because he died two weeks later. It becomes, in a way, a memento mori of a great talent. But even if he were still alive, you really feel his attitude.

Some content on this page was disabled on November 28, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Tim Walker. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/
Some content on this page was disabled on November 28, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Tim Walker. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/
Some content on this page was disabled on November 28, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Tim Walker. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

Swan’s Way

Blazon

For the Countess of Peralta

 
 

The snow-white Olympic swan,
with beak of rose-red agate,
preens his Eucharistic wing,
which he opens to the sun like a fan.

 

His shining neck is curved
like the arm of a lyre,
like the handle of a Greek amphora,
like the prow of a ship.

 

He is the swan of divine origin
whose kiss mounted through fields
of silk to the rosy peaks
of Leda’s sweet hills.

 

White king of of Castalia’s fount,
his triumph illumines the Danube;
Da Vinci was his baron in Italy;
Lohengrin is his blond prince.

 

His whiteness is akin to linen,
to the buds of the white roses,
to the diamantine white
of the fleece of an Easter lamb.

 

He is the poet of perfect verses,
and his lyric cloak is of ermine;
he is the magic, the regal bird
who, dying, rhymes the soul in his song.

 

This winged aristocrat displays
white lilies on a blue field;
and Pompadour, gracious and lovely,
has stroked his feathers.

 

He rows and rows on the lake
Where a golden gondola waits
For the sweetheart of Louis of Bavaria.

 

Countess, give the swans your love,
for they are gods of an alluring land
and are made of perfume and ermine,
of white light, of silk, and of dreams.

Ruben Darío

 
 

Photo: Bruce Weber

 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice by Norman Parkinson, 1980

 
 

Swaroski logo

 
 

Bathyllus in the swan dance, Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Henri Matisse making a study of a swan in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1930

 
 

Advertisement illustrated by René Gruau

 
 

Illustration to Garcia Márquez’s short story Bon Voyage Mr. President, by Josie Portillo

 
 

Still from The Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

 
 

Anna Pavlova

 
 

Still from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter

 
 

Laetita Casta. Photo: Mario Testino

 
 

Uma Thurman and Mikahil Baryshnikov as The Swan Prince. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

Truman Capote styled his beautiful and wealthy female friends “swans”

 
 

Accompained by Lee Radziwill and Jane Haward

 
 

With socialité Babe Paley in Paris

 
 

Escorting CZ Guest

 
 

Capote and Gloria Vanderbilt Lumet arrive at New York’s 54th Street Theatre for the opening performance of Caligula., 16 Feb 1960

 
 

Gloria Vanderbilt ad campaigns

 
 

Ludwig II (Luchino Visconti, 1972). He was sometimes called the Swan King

 
 

Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)

 
 

Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Leonardo di Caprio. Photo: Annie Leibovitz

 
 

Madonna. Photo: David LaChapelle

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Ad campaign featured in Vogue, January 1997

 
 

Tory Burch swan-print wedge sandalias

 
 

Swan Evening dress by Charles James, 1951

 
 

Kate Moss wearing a Givenchy gown by Ricardo Tisci, Spring-Summer collection 2011

 
 

Giles Deacon Spring-Summer 2012 collection

 
 

Erin O’Connor wearing a gown by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Tim Walker

 
 

Eglingham Children and Swan on Beach, Tim Walker, 2002

Strange Heart Beating Where It Lies

Photo: Tim Walker

 
 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Leda and the Swan

William Butler Yeats

 
 

W.B. Yeats seems to be ridden by the desire to smooth away every difference between the swan and Leda. The metamorphosis of the loving couple into a couple of birds is an old dream of W.B. Yeats’. Does he not sing in ‘The white birds’:

‘For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!’

With W.B. Yeats, the smoothing away of the difference between man and animal seems to encompass the smoothing away of the difference between man and woman. An obvious solution is their metamorphosis into a swan. It is rather impossible to tell a male swan from a female: both share a virginal front. And that sheds a new light on the fact that it is Zeus that presses Leda’s breast against his: ‘he holds her helpless breast upon his breast’. On the Hellenistic relief Zeus does not press Leda’s breast against his breast but Leda’s face.