Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Snake Doctors

While on the subject of snake-doctored portraits, such as last week's Two-faced Queen Elizabeth Holding Asp, here are some snake doctors as painted by George Perfect Harding (can't be easy having "Perfect" as a middle name).  The subject is Lord Edward Russell.  And here is the link to its NPG webpage with a much larger jpeg.  It's dated early 1570's.

The Latin reads, "Fides Homeni Serpentirus Fraus."  Wish I knew the meaning of the words the snakes are biting.  Also appears as if Lord Edward had a minotaur complex.  I've always liked these allegory portraits with their window views opening onto some mythic scene.

The Elizabethans loved impresas, which were visual-riddles often steeped in classical symbolism and containing a Latin motto.  Only the elite could solve the impresa and thereby understand the sitter's soul (or message).

Here in the deep south USA, snake doctors are what we call the dragonflies that follow snakes across rivers.  Following our blog policy of daring associative leaps, here is Mississippi poet Frank Stanford's beautiful poem "The Snake Doctors."

Lucky link today is to Making Art in Tudor Britain project.  Spectral research by the NPG.  X-ray, infrareds, UV's etc.  Underpaintings and pencil drawings exposed for the first time in 400 years.
click for larger image

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