Dissolving

Nikolai Rerikh: She who holds the world, 1933
(according to the artist, representation of his wife Helena)

Ekkehard, Margrave of Meissen and his wife Uta. Statues of founders in the western choir of the Naumburg Cathedral. One of the most important works of German Gothic sculpture, mid-13th c.


13 comentarios:

MOCKBA dijo...

Better known as Nicholas Roerich in English, and Helena was a major thought leader of the theosophists too, perhaps more important than him

Studiolum dijo...

In fact I hesitated which version of his name to use in English, but I considered it important to indicate his Russianness to the readers not familiar with his art. The picture, painted during the Roerichs’ Himalayan reclusion, is now in their memorial house-museum in Moscow.

walter dijo...

The Naumburger Meister exhibition has just finished, unfortunately.

Studiolum dijo...

What a pity: and they don’t seem to have a catalog either. I would have been especially curious of the reception history of Uta, which has an important thread in mid-19th to mid-20th century German art history.

walter dijo...

A description here. Apologies for posting twice, couldn't recall the link!

Studiolum dijo...

A good article, and it also refers to that story.

“For generations of cultural patriots this would have been the equivalent of announcing that Albrecht Dürer was a Dutchman…”

Actually, he was a Hungarian born in Augsburg from a Hungarian father who emigrated from the Hungarian town of Ajtós (whose name translated into German is Türer, whence the family name of Dürer).

Studiolum dijo...

…born in Nuremberg, I mean…

MOCKBA dijo...

The German-spelled name Roerich may be much more appropriate since Nicholas did try to appear Pan-Indoeuropean, and specifically chose to depict his wife as Uta, in 1933, due to the pan-Aryan overtones of the Naumburg sculpture. Uta has just sprung to fame in the mid-1920s when a local photographer Walter Hege published a beautiful series of pictures of the cathedral. Soon, her image and her story were successfully coopted by the Nazis as symbols of "un-degraded art" and "pure Aryan womanhood" (there was also a persistent rumor of the secret runes which once adorned the statue). (The name Uta had a special ring to the theosophists also because it is mentioned as a sacred name in Mme Blavatsky's works). The followers of Helena believe that she, as Uta before, possessed the Sacred Stone of St Sulpice which they both held in a locked box in their respective left hands in these images (according to Helena's writings, her box has been of slightly more recent origin, having been made by Moses de Leon, of Kabbalah wisdom).

BTW Roerich has other Uta-themed paintings, and sometimes both Helena and himself appear as the Naumburg couple ("Fiat Rex" and others). Anyway the Russian connection here is IMVHO too insignificant to not use Roerich's German name.

Also BTW, in those same years Queen Uta got a second life in America too, morphing into evil Queen Grimhilde of Disney's 1937 Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.

Studiolum dijo...

Certainly, I know the story: the Uta saga was one of the Leitmotivs that unified (and even partly created) German art history since the 1870s, so it belongs to the founding myths of my own job. I also know about Rerikh’s professed Ancient Germanic identity, manifest since his first painting, the Arrival of the Varangians (I have also referred to this professed identity in my comment to the Hungarian version of this post). The legend of the leather bag of Moses de León or rather Moshe ben Shem-Tov was translated by me from Sefardí to Hungarian for an anthology in the 1990s. However, I did not know about Uta’s relationship to Queen Grimhilde, which in 1937 may mark one of the beginnings of the anti-German trend in American visual culture. And it also raises the question: did Mikhail Nogin know about this historical thread when shaping his Krimhield for the statue group in Tulln?

MOCKBA dijo...

The depth of your knowledge doesn't really surprise me but it doesn't fail to impress me again. I'm familiar with the topic from a very different side, I guess ... through my childhood infatuation with Roerich's imagery of the peaks, through my love of Altai, and through Agni Yoga texts. You aren't an adept of Agni Yoga, are you? I am not an Online Mr. Nice Guy kind, and my antics get me banned from online groups with amazing regularity (last time barely a week ago), but I would draw the line at saying unpleasant things about a peer's faith (so please reassure me if you can)!

Anyway you indicated that your readers might be unaware of Roerich's Russianness; if so, why would we expect them to be aware of their New Age teachings, and of the role of Uta in them - or even simply be aware that it isn't a case of artistic plagiarism, but rather, an ideologically supercharged reference to a cultural icon of the day?

Studiolum dijo...

No, I’m a Catholic, and about Agni Yoga I only know as much as I have read out of interest in Roerich. Since my art history course back in the university I have been fascinated with Russian Art Nouveau, and the Silver Age, and this is how I arrived at the spiritual activity of the Roerichs. You see, I would not call this knowledge deep, rather widespread and on many points necessarily superficial… but this is perfectly served by the genre of the blog, where you can afford to go only as deep as to the actual level of your knowledge, and leave it to your favorite nitpickers to complement and polish whatever is missing or wrong ;) This “Dissolving” series is especially fit for this purpose. In these extremely short posts I only want to highlight some unexpected similarity between two pictures, which is either casual or – like in this last post – explainable by motif-borrowing. “Unexpected” presumes that the two members of the comparison must be relatively far from each other, and that’s why I wanted to emphasize Roerich’s Russianness even (or rather: mainly) to those who do not know about him: a painter with a German-sounding name copying Uta in 1933 would be much less surprising, thought-provoking and inviting to an idividual research than a Russian, and in an absolutely non-Russian landscape at that.

MOCKBA dijo...

Ahh, I see your point. The visual matches which may not totally surprise everyone - like this one didn't really surprise me - but which are still quite surprising overall.

I had an urge to write a few nasty words about Roerechianism yesterday, but as you see, I found a reason not to ... and today, the urge is gone, phew. It's just, I had a dear friend who'd become a follower of Helena's, before turning to another cult
... and the experience filled me with too much knowledge of A.Y., and too much bitterness too.

Studiolum dijo...

Certainly: in the case of those in the know you’d better substitute ʻsurprising’ with ʻthought-provokingʻ, as it has indeed played this function now as well.

I absolutely understand your bitterness, Hungary being in a spiritual situation similar to Russia, where the authorities of yesterday, having discredited the authorities of the day before yesterday, have been discredited too, and left an absolute confusion behind them, an ideal fishing-ground for various sects and cults. I also have lost people around me because of their blind adherence to various new age teachings. A.Y. is practically unknown at us, just as its masters are, but plenty of other teachings of the kind are harvesting their victims, through more or less the same scenario and with the same result.