Orlando Furioso

Gustave Doré, illustration for  Orlando Furioso (The Madness of Orlando), 1877

I wanted to turn my attention to something that will take my mind off the art swindle I’ve lately been writing about and I thought Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso along with Gustave Doré’s always marvelous engravings for the book would provide a nice respite from the grimness of the present circumstances. Although Ariosto’s story uses the war between the Christian emperor Charlemagne and the Saracen king of Africa, Agramante, as a backdrop the opposing armies fortunately aren’t equipped with chemical weapons, predator drones, IEDs and depleted uranium from armor-piercing munitions causing massive birth defects in local civilian populations.

Ariosto’s magnificent poem influenced later literature, such as Spenser’s The Faerie Queene,  Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cervantes’ Quixote. His impact is still felt today through his influence on 20th-century writers as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Osip Mandelstam and Salman Rushdie.

Gustave Doré, illustration from Orlando Furioso

Above is what I consider a breathtaking piece by Doré, the quality of whose prolific output  over a lifetime inspires me with awe. Here we see the knight Astolfo flying up to the moon in Elijah’s flaming chariot in order to recover Orlando’s lost wits, which he then returns to him in a bottle. Orlando sniffs from the bottle and restores his sanity, by falling out of love with the fair Angelica, who has led him astray from his soldierly duties.

Here is Orlando, on a break from being Furioso presumably, as he glides through a wonderful wooded glen on the back of a hippogryph.

The gigantic sea monster known as the Orc. Why Tolkein felt inclined to purloin the name from Ariosto is no clearer to me than why Rowling did the same to his Hippogriff.

Gustave Doré, Ruggiero Rescuing Angelica

Viewing the fair Angelica gives us the information necessary to see how Orlando had gotten himself so worked up.

(Paul R, if you’re reading, at this point I’m tempted to locate an image by an artist I don’t recognize and see if you can come up with his name. As bizarre cyber-sychronicity would have it,   the place  I found the first image to borrow had a comment by you on top recounting picking up a copy of Joko’s Anniversary. Another thing to be jealous about.)

I’ll put the blog location here (http://jahsonic.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/grandville-as-the-sorcerer-priest-of-commodity-fetishism/) as I was also just reading Walter Benjamin’s chapter on Grandville and Jahsonic has this post I want to follow up on.

Trying to maintain brevity I’ll close this one off with Vivaldi’s Orlando Furioso  with Dore’s illustrations sprinkled through.


About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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4 Responses to Orlando Furioso

  1. Paul Rumsey says:

    Yes, I was reading…
    When I read Jahsonic’s post on the plot of Topor’s ‘Joko’s Anniversary’ I remembered overhearing someone relate this plot over twenty years ago in a bookshop in London, – I had asked who the author was, but then lost the name, and as I then knew neither the title or author I had no hope of finding the book.
    So two weeks ago I bought the book…. and then started looking for Topor pictures on the web… which is how I stumbled on your post on Topor, and discovered your blog- so it was circular cyber synchronicity.
    I then read your post on Austin Spare…. I had just finished reading the book on him by Phil Baker. (By coincidence Spare died the day after I was born.)
    Jahsonic’s wordpress blog was removed from the web today… I don’t know why…I hope it comes back.
    Jahsonic’s Tumblr micro blog has very interesting archives, you can spend hours looking through them…..

  2. Paul Rumsey says:

    You might be interested in the Jan Svankmajer film Lunacy, which has Sade as a character.
    I will watch the Topor films….

    I wrote to Jan at Jahsonic, he said his blog will return, if he can’t reinstate it at WordPress he will host it elsewhere. He also has his ‘art and popular culture’ wiki.

    I was very amused by your posts on the art swindle, – there was a documentary from 2009 by Ben Lewis called ‘The Great Contemporary Art Bubble’, (you can read an interview with him at ARTPULSE MAGAZINE.)
    In the UK we have a magazine called Jackdaw by David Lee which attacks the stupidities and swindles of the art world. It is depressing reading though…..
    In the end I find it better to just look at what I enjoy and try and ignore the rest.
    I have bought a lot of art books in the last 40 years, and piles of old auction catalogues, and I have a good visual memory for compositions, poses and artists styles, but I have a very bad memory for words, spelling, languages, pronunciation, etc.
    At the moment I am reading the autobiography by art critic Brian Sewell, volume one of ‘ Outsider, always almost: never quite’, I think you would find it interesting, it is very amusing and well written.
    All the best,

  3. trueoutsider says:

    Thanks, Paul. I’ll check out the Svankmajer. I’d seen the Ben Lewis youtubes a while ago and enjoyed them–and will check out the interview. The one time I’ve run across Brian Sewell was his interview of the Hockney exhibition at the RA, whichI found refreshingly accurate in its condemnation of the hype surrounding Hockney’s late watercolors. I saw a show of them at the Getty in a room of their own placed adjacent to a show of European watercolors that included Turner, Bonington, Girtin, Cotman and company. Somebody at the Getty must have had a wicked sense of humor. Or perhaps these people can’t actually see the difference? At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.

    Sewell remarks “As for Hockney’s rivalry with his master, Claude, this is sickening impertinence, contemptible.” Well, yes, I will be quite interested to read Sewell’s autobio–particularly with Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess showing up!


    As far as following the financial collapse, that has to do with my perception that the definition of art was changed radically by America’s assumption of control of that definition after WWII, while at the same time holding one-half of the GDP of the entire world. Art prior to that is a “mirror of the world” as Max Ernst put it, whereas American painting in the 1950s becomes entirely detached from the world and increasingly so in subsequenct decades, existing in a narcissistic bubble that entirely avoids known reality. Art for Art’s sake, as it’s called, and largely defined by Clement Greenberg, given Americans’ near-absolute conformity in trying to mimic whatever they see as being “successful”.

    Boring, entropic, repetitive. I am aware that it’s an enormous crowd pleaser and brings entertainment value that in its high aspiration often rivals the Jerry Springer show.

    I took a glance at the online Jackdaw and only had to read the glowing estimation of Robert Hughes Shock of the New to realize I’d have little in common with Lee’s point of view. But I nevertheless find his writing interesting.

    The thing that I find depressing (and I’m not referring to Jackdaw) is when the contemporary art world is being attacked only to wish for some kind of nostalgic return to “values,” all this New Academic and Classical Realism I personally refer to as “family values painting.” Do these guys think they have some remote chance of restoring Old Master painting by making what amount to 2nd rate forgeries (at best)?…. well, sorry, guys… that’s cloud cuckoo land. It’s simply not in the realm of remote possibility.

    On the other hand, what do I know? America might go fascist and then we can have Graydon Parrish and Jacob Collins Met Retrospectives and Jeff Koons, Warhol and Mike Kelley exhibited as “degenerate artists” , their works fodder for jeering crowds of Fundamentalists.

    How did Marx put it? “History repeats itself. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” I think of that quote quite a bit when I reflect on the contemporary art world. I wish a fiction writer would construct this kind of scenario. That would be a book I’d love to read. As far as as having a bad memory for words, languages, pronunciation, grammar…. and a vanishing respect for brevity… you’re in the right place. And, believe me, I greatly appreciate your catching my visual bloopers!

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