The Supernatural


This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.

Princess Tuvstarr gazing down into the dark waters of the forest tarn., John Bauer, 1913, From the collection of: Malmö Konstmuseum
The artist creates a very surreal feeling with this work. I get the sense that the scene is pregnant with some kind of supernatural power. There is almost another dimension hinted at in this image - in the way he arranges the boughs of the trees and this opening created by the trees and the pond. It's as if the Princess is there to commune with some kind of supra-sensible force. I like the dark colors here; they create an uneasiness in the viewer, as if upon "entering" the scene, one is initiated to the possibly dark forces at here. Like an initiation into some kind of dark arts.
Crucifix with the Virgin and Saints Francis and Agatha, Bernardino Mei, Sixth decade of the XVIIth century, From the collection of: Fondazione Musei Senesi
This painting struck me as very unlike many Christian paintings of the crucifixion or representation of holiness in general. The bizzare green tinge of Christ's and Saint Francis and Agatha's skin gives the painting a very eerie quality. Some of the angels seem rather unconcerned with what is going on in the foreground which is slightly comical. At the base of the cross lies a heavily shadowed skull and what appears to be two breasts on a golden platter. In the background, what a ppears to be a battle between ghostly soldiers is taking place. I like this painting because, although it is a religious painting, it seems to have some pagan elements and hints of a dark sort of other-worldliness peeking through as evidenced by the skull and ghostly warriors and sickly green skin of most of the subjects. It seems to be a melding of Christianity with good old-fashioned dark-arts/nature worship paganism.
Karttikeya, God of War, Seated on a Peacock, Indian; Andhra Pradesh, Madanapalle, Ganga period, about 12th century, From the collection of: The Art Institute of Chicago
I chose this work because I enjoy how different Hindu gods are from the Christian God, Jesus and saints. They seem extremely human, yet somehow endowed with supernatural powers. The only hint of their supremacy is the extra appendages noticeable in Indian representations of them. Despite being the god of war, Karttikeya seems surprising peaceful, even serene, in this pose as he makes one of the Hindu Mudras or sacred hand gestures, although it is impossible to tell which one since the sculpture is damaged.
Naked man and skull, Edelfelt Albert, 1890/1905, From the collection of: EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art
What is perhaps most interesting in this drawing is that we get a sense that as the man gazes at the skull, the skull also gazes out, perhaps a bit past the man. Maybe this is meant to depict man's nakedness and vulnerability in the face in of death. The nude man seems to be contemplating something but his facial expression reveals little - is he contemplating death, or merely visually negotiating the crannies and crevices of the skull? Either way, the painting says much with little: I can't exactly pick out why or how it conveys this sense that the skull is animate, yet I get the feeling that the artist intended to convey this.
The Creed, unknown artist, 1700, From the collection of: Benaki Museum of Greek Civilization
This painting depicts a very jovial scene indeed. Adam and Eve are pictured center, surrounded by what appears to be a rejoicing Christ or saints. I love how connected the holy figure and Adam and Eve are to the earth. In Christian paintings one finds much detachment from all earthly things. This makes sense because Christianity teaches a rejection of the flesh and of material objects and possessions. Yet, this painting/icon is truly a celebration of nature, creation and man. In contrast to some of the other works in my gallery, here the supernatural is nothing to be feared - an experience of it is an experience of joy, basking in God's greatness and giving thanks for life.
Chaos, George Frederic Watts, Around 1875, From the collection of: Tate Britain
Watts portrays chaos as a superhuman force of nature here, yet it seems to have some human elements embedded within it, as evidenced by the forms and figures of these, perhaps, semi-human incarnations of chaos itself. Chaos explodes out of the earth, trying to untangle itself from the earthen and move into a state of increasing order. It's interesting to note here that Watts and many other artists have this understandable tendency to interpret nonhuman forces in human terms. I think that this is because we can more easily identify these forces with, for example, our own human strength and animation.
Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils, William Blake, Around 1826, From the collection of: Tate Britain
This is a work of extreme power that seems to reach out beyond the limits of the frame. There is a real epic quality to the painting - as if it exists on a grand scale. The red sun in the background lends a supernaturally unsettling air to the scene. One of the most unusual things about this work is the representation of Satan - this is not the wretched, conniving red-skinned and hooved Satan of popular imaginations, he looks like an angel with a rather indifferent expression on his face. Yet the black clouds around him and red tinge to his wings create a sense of awe, and simultaneously, dread. The viewer may feel genuinely anxious in the face of the powerful and imposing figure of doom. I think the colors and value here are what really lend this awe and dread-inspiring quality to the piece.
Dionysus, Unknown, Ancient Rome. 2nd century, From the collection of: The State Hermitage Museum
Dionysus offers a sharp contrast to the gods/godhead of Western religions. We would surely never find a god of chaos, disorder and intoxication in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Also characteristic of Greek gods is their entirely human appearance. He resembles a human, and, unlike Indian gods, bears no extra appendages to identify as suprahuman. In opposition to Western religions, the Greeks embraced some level of chaos and saw value in it, even engaging in Dionysian ecstatic rituals involving intoxication and sex. Apollo, who brought order to the world, was counterbalanced with Dionysus. Both are necessary and complete each other according to Greek mythology. In many respects we can see that Greek notions of the godly and supernatural sharply differ from Western ones.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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