(from the "Seven Deadly Sins")
The design for "Lust" is based on one of a seven-part series of tapestries by Dutch designer Pieter Coecke van Aelst, titled the "Seven Deadly Sins". The originals were woven in Brussels, ca. 1542-44 and currently reside in the Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real de Madrid. Reinterpreting a long-standing medieval fascination with the conflict between the Vices and Virtues, the series places an eclectic collection of exemplary figures in a Renaissance setting. The description of its complex iconography is culled from a manuscript that still survives in Madrid. The tapestry typically contained one dominant Vice, surrounded by exemplary figures that either embodied, or failed to embody the Vice. The human figures have been modified to be part-human and part-winged exotic creatures, much like those created by goldsmiths during the Art Nouveau period.
Note: All pictures above and below are thumbnails and maybe clicked on to be viewed as full-size pictures.
As usual, I started out with a drawing that I transferred to a 1/2" plywood base (using graphite paper) that had been previously framed and also stained and sealed - the sealing medium was a 50:50 mixture of Weldbond and water. In this case, however, I added a little lesser amount of water and made up the deficiency with a water-based stain. Several coats are applied so that the mixture is absorbed into the wood, and does not merely create a film on the top. The tiles will be applied in what is known as the "direct" method - which is merely placing the tile facing upwards directly onto the plywood or whatever base you choose. The plywood base measures 24" x 24". For cutting, I will be using a mosaic glass cutter. This mosaic will be done entirely in smalti (with an occasional addition of vitreous glass, murrines and jewels), and consequently, will not be grouted. The tesserae (tiles) are therefore being placed fairly close to each other.
Weldbond is being used to glue the tiles to the plywood. It is available at most hardware stores. For beginners, eye protection is not altogether a bad idea!
Lalique is paid homage in the depiction of Lust, represented with a crown of roses (the flower of love), who admires herself in a mirror (the symbol of vanity and seduction) held in one hand while lifting a golden chalice in the other, an allusion to the "cup of abominations" of the Whore of Babylon in the Apocalypse of St. John (17:4). Both sublime and predatory, she is portrayed as being one with nature (the dragonfly body), and yet does not exist in a natural form. In her wake trail the flames of Hell, containing none other than Lucifer, depicted "traditionally" in the form of a serpent. Ahead of her lie Carnal Pleasure (male moth) and Voluptuousness (female peacock), who ensnare "many in kisses and vicious embraces, attracted by transitory desire and mortal delectation". Near the base lies Inconstancy (depicted by the lizard), blind to the Inferno about to engulf it, while at the top, the spider weaves its web of seduction.
I began with the figure of Voluptuousness; as you can see the lady is trimmed in pearls (I wanted a lacy effect with the feathers !!)- the body is composed of black (actually a marvelous shade of bluish-purple) and white baroque South Sea pearls; the feathered tail consists of Australian opals for the "eyes" surrounded by a ring of acid-green gold (verde acido); unfortunately, the beauty of the opals is lost in the picture - I could not capture that in the picture :-( The actual feathers are white baroque pearls - the rest of the "body" that peeps through the feathers is cobalt-blue gold (oro bleu). The body and tail were worked on first (since there was minimal cutting involved - did try to cut a pearl in half - what came out was gobs of sand! ) The human portion of the figure is tiled with regular smalti - once again, cutting tile pieces is entirely at the mosaicist's discretion - what you endeavoring to portray in the final image is what really counts. Size is of importance only to that extent. The pictures to the right show the figure in more detail.
This is the figure of Lust; introduced murrines (millefiore) in this composition - the flaxen-haired dragon-lady has her hair studded with leaves and flowers made of crackled glass and murrines. The dark green limbs and claws are dark-green gold (verde bottiglia); the wings are outlined and veined in natural gold (oro naturale), while the "eyes" are really bicolored emeralds surrounded by crackled glass and murrines; speckled olive green smalti tiles are used for the filler; "breaks" in the wings are bumpy gold (oro granulato), while the long tailed body is composed of transparent smalti (green and yellow backed by copper-tape) separated by acid-green gold (verde acido). The "cup of abominations" is done in wavy gold (oro rivestimento), and the mirror in the other claw utilizes crackled glass and natural gold as well. As usual, the pictures aren't of very good quality, but it will have to suffice - the one on the right shows a little more detail. Since I deviated from the drawing in several places (which I happen to do all the time!!), the tracing on the wood shows up considerably around the mosaic, and distracts considerably - this situation will be remedied when the tiles for the background are laid down, and the figure itself becomes the focus : have to say the color choices for this figure took up too much time, much to my consternation! Another note: the verde bottiglia tiles were really difficult to cut compared to the verde acido ones - the colored glass film over the gold very readily separated!!
Lucifer is portrayed here, in the historical form of a serpent (with whiskers!!); once again, the picture isn't too good, but you get a sense of the burning fires - the stylized "flames" are done entirely in smalti. The flames follow Lust wherever she goes.... the figure of Lucifer itself is done in black smalti, with two tones of transparent smalti forming it's neck - above that are three tri-colored fluorite spears of almost the same hue. Using extremely hot colors like yellow and orange has introduced a focal point in the visual sense, one which certainly follows Dante's axiom "As you sow, so shall you reap!", a warning to all those who are "attracted by transitory desire and mortal delectation" that this is what will befall them. This also forces me to balance out the "heat" on the "other side" of the mosaic. Will I succeed in doing that? Only once the background has been laid down will that become more apparent. UPDATE: Decided I wanted to change the serpent to resemble a "fallen angel" (go figure!), so to the right here is the new picture, along with a detailed view - the serpent is now edged in white gold (oro bianco) and is composed of white smalti and cobalt-blue gold (oro bleu); also removed the bottom ring of the "flames"; wanted to tone "down" the warm colors - better pictures this time around !!
The pictures here depict the spider; the torso has been done in transparent and regular smalti; as usual the tiles are backed in aluminum or copper tape; the legs are mint green smalti; the "web" is composed of "white gold" tiles (oro bianco) while the background is a smalti color that is very deep forest green (almost black) that I obtained from Michele Petno (smalti.com). Love that color.
Decided I wanted to replace the figure of Inconstancy (originally a lizard on the drawing) with a scorpion. So here it is, done in transparent smalti and white gold (oro bianco); it sits on leaves of the caladium "candidum" composed of leaf green and dew green smalti. One of the leaves is partially constructed because the lower wing of the male moth (Carnal Desire) will overlap it.
Here is the figure for the representation of Carnal Desire; materials used for the part-human, part-moth creature include smalti, mother-of-pearl, murrines, iridized tiles, colored gold and white gold; the mother-of-pearl "feathers" that arise from the head are set atop a solitary peridot, and are based loosely on the majestic and beautiful saturniid moth; ironically, it lives only a few days, long enough to mate, and then dies! The wings are bordered in purple colored gold, giant murrines and iridized tiles. The lower half of the creature is all moth and composed of white gold and bullseye murrines. The prominent "phallus" utilizes white crackled glass and white gold. Set directly opposite the figure of Voluptuousness, both creatures embody the personification of lust - those "attracted by transitory desire and mortal delectation". What looks like bunches of grapes are really "flowers" that will hang on vines that have encircled a tree trunk (yet to be tiled); the creature itself hangs off one such branch. Above and to the right corner of the picture are a family of ladybugs - they represent, the virtue of Chastity, awaiting their victory - for the inscription says "Cvra placens, praedvlce malvm, tristiq: volvptas, hev vasana fvrens pectora coecat amor (The pursuit of pleasure leads to misery and sorrow, for unbridled love blinds and deranges the heart)".
Here is a view of the mosaic with all the main figures completed.....I've added the central tree trunk (using smalti) and a twisting wisteria around it.... the wisteria "flowers" are made of South Sea pearls (of an amazing violet-black color) ...... on to the background next!
Started the background (bottom half) of the piece, using a variety of material - smalti, brecciated jasper, citrine, carnelian, leopard skin jasper, sodalite, yellow jasper, moss agate and "crazy lace" agate .... created what would resemble a busy "forest floor" in the immediate foreground..... to the right shows an "overall" view - to the left are detailed views of the same, showing the various materials used. Used an amazing "ocean jasper" to create the "tree" in the top half of the mosaic - cut a huge slab with a wet saw (my first experience with one - have to say it was a happy one :-) The yellow "fruit" that can be seen below the "tree" branches are glass cabochons that will form part of the branches of the trees in the distance.
Added the "leaf/branch" formation to the trees in the background - used a "spruce" colored tile (smalti) to create the leaf structure. The yellow "fruit" now have a home! Onto the background for the central part of the mosaic next ....
Finished off the central background with antique gold using the "crazy paving" technique; added "bands" of dark green smalti horizontally to resemble patches of vegetation..... and here is the final picture!