The occasional observations of Carolyn Kephart, writer

Friday, December 07, 2007


9:04 PM PST, December 7, 2007
The hammer fell at Sotheby's New York and the tiny Guennol Lioness (see my previous entry) sold for a whopping 57.2 million USD, the highest price ever paid for a sculpture in recorded history. Given her diminutive size, that's about 16.3 million an inch, and worth every nickel. The buyer's name is not yet disclosed, but I'm looking forward to finding out the identity of that modern-day Sardanapalus.
On to something less staggering, but just as breathtaking in its way.

Sir William Russell Flint seems to have spent his working life surrounded by beautiful women in pronounced states of undress. Even if watercolor was a less recent medium than it is, Flint would still be considered one of its greatest exponents today. His pictures shimmer, and no effect seems beyond his powers. I love the man. Here's just one reason out of hundreds why:

During the Italian Renaissance that this picture evokes with such cool deliberation, no artist would have thought of doing a portrait of his model. Models impersonated goddesses, the Virgin Mary or allegories, and the portrait, especially in profile, was reserved for ladies of social position who would never have dreamed of revealing so much flesh, nor probably could have possessed it to such a luscious degree. Flint did his best work after World War II, and this picture captures all the chic, slightly reticent elegance of Fifties England.

Flint seldom ever painted portraits, or men for that matter; he seems to have been an artistic pasha, serenely enjoying and depicting the lush carnality that filled his studio. Watercolor perfectly captures the evanescent, floating-world quality of the subject shown here -- the provoking contrast of flawless skin barely yet sumptuously clad, luminous blues and ivories, the regal pose and the delicately rendered, ironically ordinary face. Flint specialized in such offhand bravura, and all of his works never fail to temper the sensuous with just the right amount of distance. Lots of them can be found at this site.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wonder, Going Once...

11:25 PM PST, November 28, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, define 'priceless.' I present the Guennol Lioness, to be auctioned at Sotheby's very soon (December 8) in what promises to be a paddle-waving frenzy of heavy hitters in the art world.

The Lioness has haunted my imagination ever since I first encountered her many years ago in a book about the art of the ancient Near East. I'll never forget how stunned I felt at the sight of those merciless elegant contours and juts, feral with a terrible touch of humanity; I know my gasp was audible. I'd thought her bigger--Ozymandian proportions would have worked perfectly--but even at three and a half inches tall she's massive. I'm almost glad she doesn't have legs, since they might have diminished her breathtaking force (historians have theorized that the limbs were made of precious metal and therefore stolen, leaving the remains intact and unvalued--yet another of fate's piquant ironies). Drilled into the back of her exquisitely savage skull are holes by which she could hang around the neck of some lucky purple-robed satrap.

Despite her admittedly cool resemblance to a video-game anthromonster, the Lioness had her birth in Babylonia at about the time the wheel was invented, five thousand years ago. The crown jewel of a dazzling private collection, she's expected to realize anywhere from 14 to 18 million dollars, which seems more than reasonable to me considering what too much junk fetches nowadays, and the proceeds will be donated to charity.

Is it any wonder I have hope for mankind, when it creates things like this? 


Friday, October 05, 2007

The Unicorn and the Cash Cow: A Fable

9:13 AM PDT, October 5, 2007

Since these comments of mine were received favorably on the fantasy discussion thread "CAPPING OFF THE LONG-RUNNING, UNREMITTING, OVERWORKED SERIES" (caps NOT mine), I will include them here, for diversion's sake. No particular author is singled out, my observations are strictly general, etc.:

Writer creates unicorn, who has many interesting adventures. Readers flock to marvel at this new and fascinating creature.

Unicorn, fattened by adulation, morphs into cash cow.

Cash cow begins meandering aimlessly, tolerated by the faithful but an irritation to those who believe the purpose of the cow is to be eaten, digested and done with, next unicorn please.

Cash cow continues to meander and becomes an irritation to the faithful, some of whom consider seeking another unicorn.

Unicorn is ultimately remembered only as a cash cow, save by a few of the remaining faithful who recall its glorious early days with a nostalgic sigh.