Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Look ma, no horns...


This is an illustration by the Berlin artist Joseph Sattler (1867-1931). It was created in 1895 for the avante garde magazine Pan. Soon after it was reprinted in the French “Les Maîtres de l'Affiche” five volume collection of art nouveau and jugendstil poster illustration published from 1896 to 1900.

This small poster has always been one of my personal favorites and has hung in Leslie and my bathroom for over thirty years. I love the strong orange cast shadow on Pan's head and shoulder as a counterpoint to the dull olive green.

In Greek mythology Pan was the son of Hermes and Penelope.

It is a symbolist work. My interpretation of it is that the wildman Pan figure is looking at an opium poppy flower, which has been cultivated, with some measure of bemusement. Man confronting his animal nature and passions. Opiates were in vogue in the latter half of the nineteenth century but their effects were double edged and bittersweet, to say the least. 

While people of the time like Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Florence Nightingale who took opium appreciated the dreamy vision granted by the narcotic, people's addictions were indeed swift and severe. 

Look at the ghastly ogre like faces in the flower petals. Definitely a foreboding warning of its perils.


I was thinking of this slightly horned figure the other day. The Feuilleton website shared an image of it.

And yesterday a friend came by and I thought about it again. 

My friend D----------- is visiting from Florida. Yesterday he told me that he recently met a man from Texas and the man was staring curiously at his head. D------- asked him what was up and he said, quite honestly, that he had heard D------was jewish and was actually looking for his horns. He had been told that the kipahs or yarmulkes were worn to hide them. D------ ran his fingers through his hair to show him that he was not in fact hiding anything.

Amazing world we live in, unfortunately stupid and ignorant is winning big.

No comments: