Monday, May 23, 2011


Richard Amsel

Movie Posters of Richard Amsel

The early 1970s witnessed a keen interest in nostalgia. A war was raging in Southeast Asia, and people, possibly yearning for a simpler, more innocent time, rediscovered their show-business past. Old records, old movies, old stage shows were dusted off and reissued, remade or revived -- often with Richard Amsel providing the artwork.
("Portraits in Stardust: The Art of Richard Amsel" at

Hello Dolly Original Art, 1969
Lace, colored paper collage
Pencil, pen and ink and watercolor

The finished poster

Richard Amsel studied at at the Philadelphia College of Art, and "exploded" onto the New York art scene in 1970 after creating the poster art for Barbra Steisand's film version of "Hello, Dolly."
("Portraits in Stardust: The Art of Richard Amsel" at


The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
Directed by: John Huston

Murder on the Orient Express

The Sting (1973)
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Poster artwork by Richard Amsel
Poster design by Bill Gold

The Shootist (1976)
Directed by: Don Siegel

Richard Amsel (December, 1947 – November 17, 1985) was an American illustrator and graphic designer. His movie posters commissions included some of the most important and popular films of the 1970s including The Champ, Chinatown, Julia, The Last Picture Show, The Last Tycoon, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Muppet Movie, Murder on the Orient Express, Nashville, Papillon, The Shootist, and The Sting. (The latter's poster design paid homage to the painting style of J.C. Leyendecker, evoking both his "Arrow Collar Man" and his covers for The Saturday Evening Post.)

Lily Tomlin

Though brief, Amsel's career was prolific. By the decade's end his movie posters alone matched or exceeded the creative output of many of his contemporaries. His work graced the cover of Time—a portrait of comedienne Lily Tomlin, now housed in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. In keeping with the magazine's stringent deadlines, Amsel's illustration was created in only two or three days.

Preliminary study for movie poster Nijinsky, 1980
Three heads, surrounded by six dancers
Colored pencil on glassine

Nijinsky, 1980
Movie starred Leslie Brown and Alan Bates as Diaghilev

Lindsay Wagner as The Bionic Woman



Amsel's work, once described as "thoroughly captivating, totally romantic, artful commercial art," combined a unique sense of "now" with a keen fondness for earlier times. As one critic remarked, "Amsel's work usually pays affectionate tribute to the past. His style, however, is timeless and his attractive use of warm, glowing colors adds an even greater 'modernity' to his evocations of times and styles gone by."
"I'm interested in uncovering relationships between the past and the present," Amsel once confessed, "and in discovering how things have changed and grown. I don't see any point in copying the past, but I think the elements of the past can be taken to another realm."
("Portraits in Stardust: The Art of Richard Amsel" at

Formerly The Harlettes (1976)

TV Guide, The Big Three Anchors (1985)

To mark the acquisition of the more than 500-piece collection of illustrations and sketches of alumnus Richard Amsel, The University of the Arts presented "Richard Amsel: A Retrospective” at its Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery (333 S. Broad St., Philadelphia).
Amsel created some of the most recognizable, iconic show business-related imagery of the late 20th century before he died in 1985. His “AMSEL” signature can be found on posters for more than 30 major motion pictures, close to 40 TV Guide cover illustrations and numerous album covers and concert posters.
A close friend of Amsel’s and the director of Late Night Programming at CBS Television in Los Angeles for 15 years, Dorian Hannaway donated the collection and designated it as a teaching resource for the university.
“I believe University of the Arts students will be inspired by seeing Richard’s original work,” Hannaway said. “My hope is that it will educate future generations of artists. I’m grateful that the university is preserving his art as well as maintaining the legacy of one of its famous alumni.”
"Richard was an amazing person capable of this genius work, who was also this silly and wonderful and shy man," said Dorian Hannaway, "He wasn't ostentatious about his talent, but he was confident."
The portraits pay homage to the nostalgia of old Hollywood, often through the groovy lens of the Age of Aquarius, while still managing to look contemporary by today's standards.
"He was drawing on influences from the past that were timeless. He was influenced by Art Nouveau, Klimt, Mucha, and Walt Disney," said professor Mark Tocchet, the head of the school's illustration department. "He found a way to assimilate it all into his art."
Hannaway, who met Amsel in 1974, said she had the collection of sketches stored under her bed for decades and knew that it would be a valuable teaching tool for art students.
"I never felt it was mine. I always thought it should be preserved," she said. "Now it's been set free, and it's a wonderful feeling."
(Philadelphia exhibit shows Hollywood illustrations By JOANN LOVIGLIO, Associated Press Writer at

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Amsel’s last poster was the one he created for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, finished just weeks before his death of AIDS-related complications at the age of 37. Thinking back on the work of Richard Amsel, as well as contemporaries like Bob Peak, is to remember a time when movie one-sheets and poster art, when placed in the hands of men and women like these artists, were more often considered artistic opportunities of their own apart from, but always in graceful support of, the movies themselves. The University of the Arts at Philadelphia’s Richard Amsel collection provided those who appreciate Amsel’s work that chance to see, through his sketches and illustrations, how the artist’s ideas develop, where he intends to take them, and the process of exploration that occurs in each drawing.
Even though Richard Amsel passed away 24 years ago, his artwork is still some of the most recognizable in the world. Fan from every corner of the earth salivate at the sight of some of his more famous work, while others have stood the test of time on their own merit of just being some of the most well-crafted pieces of art out there. One wouldn't expect such attention to be put into a movie poster, but that is exactly what Amsel did. Now, his name is as world-renowned as some of the movies that inspired him.
Like many great artists, Richard Amsel died before his time, but also left a legacy that those in his medium never achieved. His name is forever engrained in the collective minds of the public, maybe without them even knowing it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


A story is often cited in illustration of the different characteristics of three great nationalities which equally illustrates the different paths which may be followed in any intellectual undertaking. An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a German, competing for a prize offered for the best essay on the natural history of the camel, adopted each his own method of research upon the subject. The German, providing himself with a stock of tobacco, sought the quiet solitude of his study in order to evolve from the depths of his philosophic consciousness the primitive notion of a camel. The Frenchman repaired to the nearest library, and overhauled its contents in order to collect all that other men had written upon the subject. The Englishman packed his carpet-bag and set sail for the East, that he might study the habits of the animal in its original haunts.
The combination of these three methods is the perfection of study. The man who peruses a hundred books on a subject for the purpose of writing one bestows a real benefit upon society, in case he does his work well. But some excellent work has been composed without the necessity either of research or original investigation.
With some great writers, it has been customary to do a vast amount of antecedent work before writing their books. It is related of George Eliot or Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) that she read one thousand books before she wrote "Daniel Deronda." For two or three years before she composed a work, she read up her subject in scores and scores of volumes. She was one of the masters, so called, of all learning, talking with scholars and men of science on terms of equality. Carlyle spent fifteen years on his "Frederick the Great." Alison perused two thousand books before he completed his celebrated history. It is said of another that he read twenty thousand volumes and wrote only two books. "For the statistics of the negro population of South America alone," says Robert Dale Owen, "I examined more than 150 volumes." David Livingstone said: "Those who have never carried a book through the press can form no idea of the amount of toil it involves.
It is said of one of Longfellow's poems that it was written in four weeks, but that he spent six months in correcting and cutting it down. Longfellow was a very careful writer. He wrote and rewrote, and laid his work by and later revised it. He often consulted his friends about his productions before they were given to the world. Thus he sent his work out as perfect as great care and a brilliant intellect could make it. The poet's pleasant surroundings must have acted as a stimulus upon his mind. His library was a long room in the northeastern corner of the lower floor in the so-called Craigie House, once the residence of General Washington. It was walled with handsome bookcases, rich in choice works. The poet's usual seat here was at a little high table by the north window, looking upon the garden. Some of his work was done while he was standing at this table, which reached then to his breast.
The historian Gibbon, in speaking of the manner in which he wrote his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," said: "Many experiments were made before I could hit the middle tone between a dull tone and a rhetorical declamation. Three times did I compose the first chapter, and twice the second and third, before I was tolerably satisfied with their effect." Gibbon spent twenty years on his immortal book.
Victor Hugo composed with wonderful rapidity. He wrote his "Cromwell" in three months, and his "Notre Dame de Paris" in four months and a half. But even these have been his longest periods of labor, and as he grew older he wrote faster. "Marion Delorme" was finished in twenty-four days, "Hernani" in twenty-six, and "Le Roi s'amuse" in twenty. Although the poet wrote very quickly, he often corrected laboriously. He rarely rewrote. Mme. Drouet, who was his literary secretary for thirty years, copied all his manuscripts. Otherwise the printers would have found him one of the most difficult authors to put into type. Mme. Drouet saved them much worry, and him or his publishers much expense in the way of composition. She also assisted in the correction of the proofs. He generally had several works in the stocks at the same time. Hugo considered a change of subject a recreation. He would go from poetry to fiction, from fiction to history, according to his mood. As a rule, he rose at six o'clock in the morning, took a cold bath, then took a raw egg and a cup of black coffee, and went to work. He never sat down to write, but stood at a high desk, and refreshed himself by an occasional turn across the room, and a sip of eau sucrée. He breakfasted at eleven. One of his recreations was riding on the top of an omnibus, a habit he contracted during a short visit to London, when he was advised that "the knife-board" was a good place from which to see the street life of the English metropolis. The "knife-board," indeed, was his favorite point of observation, whence he gathered inspiration from the passing crowds below. Many of his famous characters have been caught in his mind's eye while taking a three-sou drive from the Arc de Triomphe to the Bastile.
Emanuel Kant, the philosopher, lived the life of a student; in fact, his life may be taken as the type of that of a scholar. Kant, like Balzac, gave a daily dinner-party; but when his guests were gone he took a walk in the country instead of seeking broken slumbers in a state of hunger. He came home at twilight, and read from candle-light till bedtime at ten. He arose punctually at five, and, over one cup of tea and part of a pipe, laid out his plan of work for the day. At seven he lectured, and wrote till dinner-time at about one. The regularity of his life was automatic. He regulated his diet with the care of a physician. During the blind-man's holiday between his walk and candle-light he sat down to think in twilight fashion; and while thus engaged, he always placed himself so that his eyes might fall on a certain old tower. This old tower became so necessary to his thoughts that when some poplar trees grew up and hid it from his sight, he found himself unable to think at all, until, at his earnest request, the trees were cropped and the tower was brought into sight again.
The Austrian poet, Rudolph Baumbach, is partial to daylight, and never writes at night. He always makes an outline of his work before beginning in good earnest. When meditating on his poems he walks up and down the room, but gives the open air the preference. He likes much light; when the sun does not shine his work does not progress favorably. In the evening he lights up his room by a large number of candles. Literary labor is pleasure to him when the weather is fine, but it is extremely hard when clouds shut out the sunlight. The poet has no fixed rule as regards working-hours; sometimes he exerts himself a great deal for weeks, and then again he does not write at all for a long time.
Otto von Leixner, German historian, poet, novelist, and essayist, composes prose, which requires logical thinking, in the daytime, but does poetical work, which taxes principally the imagination, in the evening. He makes a skeleton of all critical and scientific compositions, indeed of all essays, and then writes out the "copy" for the press, seldom making alterations. But he files away at poems from time to time until he thinks them fit for publication. He is a smoker, but does not smoke when at work. Whether promenading the shady walks of a wood or perambulating the dusty streets of the city, Leixner constantly thinks about the works he has in hand. Literary work has no difficulties for this author; he penned one of his poems, "The Vision," consisting of five hundred and eighty lines, in three hours and a half and sent it to the printer as it was originally written; and he composed the novel "Adja," thirty-nine and one-half octavo pages in print, in nine hours. But he often meditates over the topics which go to make up his novels, etc., for years and years until he has considered them from every standpoint. After composition he often locks up his manuscript in his desk for half a year, until it is almost forgotten, when he takes it from its place of concealment and examines it carefully to detect possible errors. If at such an examination the work does not prove satisfactory to him, he throws it into the stove. Being the editor of a journal of fiction, he is often compelled to work whether he wants to or not. From 1869 to 1870 he worked sixteen hours a day; from 1877 till 1882 about thirteen hours, even Sundays.
Rousseau tells us that he never could compose pen in hand, seated at a table, and duly supplied with paper and ink; it was in his promenades,—the promenades d'un solitaire,—amid rocks and woods, and at night, in bed, when he was lying awake, that he wrote in his brain; to use his own phrase, "J'écris dans mon cerveau." Some of his periods he turned and re-turned half a dozen nights in bed before he deemed them fit to be put down on paper. On moving to the Hermitage of Montmorency, he adopted the same plan as in Paris,—devoting, as always, his mornings to the pen-work de la copie, and his afternoons to la promenade, blank paper, book, and pencil in hand; for, says he, "having never been able to write and think at my ease except in the open air, sule dio, I was not tempted to change my method, and I reckoned not a little on the forest of Montmorency becoming—for it was close to my door—my cabinet de travail." In another place he affirms his sheer incapacity for meditation by day, except in the act of walking; the moment he stopped walking, he stopped thinking, too, for his head worked with, and only with, his feet. "De jour je ne puis méditer qu'en marchant; sitôt que je m'arrête je ne pense plus, et ma tête ne va qu'avec mes pieds." Salvitur ambulando, whatever intellectual problem is
solved by Jean Jacques. His strength was not to sit still. His Réveries, by the way, were written on scraps of paper of all sorts and sizes, on covers of old letters, and on playing cards—all covered with a small, neat handwriting.
Edward P. Roe, who, if we may rate success by the wide circulation of an author's books, was our most successful novelist, preferred the daytime for literary work, and rarely accomplished much in the evening beyond writing letters, reading, etc. When pressed with work he put in long hours at night. In the preface to "Without a Home," Mr. Roe presents some extremely interesting matter in regard to the causes which led to his authorship, and the methods of work by which he turned out so many well-constructed stories in so short a time. "Ten years ago," he says, "I had never written a line of a story, and had scarcely entertained the thought of constructing one. The burning of Chicago impressed me powerfully, and, obedient to an impulse, I spent several days among its smoking ruins. As a result, my first novel, 'Barriers Burned Away,' gradually took possession of my mind. I did not manufacture the story at all, for it grew as naturally as do the plants—weeds, some may suggest—on my farm. In the intervals of a busy and practical life, and also when I ought to have been sleeping, my imagination, unspurred and almost undirected, spun the warp and woof of the tale and wove them together.... I merely let the characters do as they pleased, and work out their own destiny. I had no preparation for the work beyond a careful study of the topography of Chicago and the incidents of the fire. For nearly a year my chief recreation was to dwell apart among the shadows created by my fancy, and I wrote when and where I could—on steamboats and railroad cars, as well as in my study.... When the book appeared I suppose I looked upon it much as a young father looks upon his first child. His interest in it is intense, but he knows well that its future is very doubtful." Mr. Roe always wrote from a feeling that he had something to say; and never "manufactured" a novel in his life. While writing he was absorbed in his work; and made elaborate studies for his novels. "I have visited," said he, in reference to "Without a Home," "scores of typical tenements. I have sat day after day on the bench with the police judges, and have visited the station-houses repeatedly. There are few large retail shops that I have not entered many times, and I have conversed with both employers and employees." Mr. Roe did not make "outlines" or "skeletons" to any great extent, and when he did so, he did not follow them closely. Indeed, he often reversed his plan, satisfied that following an arbitrary outline makes both story and characters wooden. He held that the characters should control the author, not he them. He usually received the suggestion of a story unexpectedly, and let it take form in his mind and grow naturally, like a plant, for months, more often for years, before he began to write. He averred that after his characters were introduced he became merely the reporter of what they do, say, and think. He imagined that it was this spontaneity which, chiefly, made his books popular, and said that to reach intelligent people through fiction, the life portrayed must seem to them real and natural, and that this can scarcely be true of his characters if the author is forever imposing his arbitrary will upon them. Mr. Roe wrote in bound blank-books, using but one side of a sheet. This allowed ample space for changes and corrections, and the manuscript was kept in place and order.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Methods of Authors, by Hugo Erichsen)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The Colombian volcano Nevado del Ruiz is an active stratovolcano with a history of generating deadly volcanic mudflows (lahars) from relatively small-volume eruptions. In 1595, a lahar swept down the valleys of the River Guali and the River Lagunillas, killing 636 people. In 1845, an immense lahar flooded the upper valley of the River Lagunillas, killing over 1000 people. It continued for 70 kilometers downstream before spreading across a plain in the lower valley floor. The young village of Armero was built directly on top of the 1845 mudflow deposit. Over the ensuing years, Armero grew into a vibrant town with over 27,000 residents. On November 13, 1985, history repeated itself for the third time in 400 years,

Omayra Sanchez
Trapped in the Armero tragedy
Eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Armero, Colombia
Contact Press Images

Omayra Sánchez (sometimes spelled Omaira Sanchez) was a 13-year-old victim of the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which erupted on November 13, 1985, in Armero, Colombia causing massive lahars which killed nearly 25,000. Trapped for three days in water, concrete, and other debris before she died, Omayra captured the attention of the media as volunteer workers told of a girl they were unable to save. Videos of her communicating with workers, smiling and making gestures to video cameras circulated around the media. Her "courage and dignity" touched Frank Fournier and many other relief workers who gathered around her to pray and be with her.
After 60 hours of struggling, she died. Her death highlighted the failure of officials to respond promptly to the threat of the volcano and also the struggle for volunteer rescue workers to save trapped victims who would otherwise be quickly saved and treated.

Della and Frank Fournier
Photo scanned by Bob Frei at

Sánchez became famous for a photograph of her taken by photojournalist Frank Fournier shortly before she died. When published worldwide after the young girl's death, the image caused controversy because of the photographer's decision to take it and the Colombian government's inaction in not working to prevent the Armero tragedy despite the forewarning that had been available.

Omayra Sanchez

An explosive eruption from Ruiz's summit crater on November 13, 1985, at 9:08 p.m. generated an eruption column and sent a series of pyroclastic flows and surges across the volcano's broad ice-covered summit. Pumice and meltwater produced by the hot pyroclastic flows and surges swept into gullies and channels on the slopes of Ruiz as a series of small lahars. Flowing downstream from Ruiz at an average speed of 60 km per hour, lahars eroded soil, loose rock debris and stripped vegetation from river channels. By incorporating water and debris from along river channels, the lahars grew in size as they moved away from the volcano--some lahars increased up to 4 times their initial volumes.
Within four hours of the beginning of the eruption, lahars had traveled 100 km and left behind a wake of destruction: more than 23,000 people killed, about 5,000 injured, and more than 5,000 homes destroyed along the Chinchiná, Gualí, and Lagunillas rivers. Hardest hit was the town of Armero at the mouth of the Río Lagunillas canyon. Three quarters of its 28,700 inhabitants perished - Amalgamation of sentences taken verbatim from source.
(Author Jeffrey Marso, USGS geologist)
Frank Fournier traveled to Armero, which was, according to Fournier, "very remote", by driving for five hours and traveling on foot for another two and a half hours. Reaching Armero at dawn on the 16th, he was directed to Omayra Sánchez by a farmer, who was at that time almost deserted, having been trapped for nearly three days. Fournier later described the town as "very haunting", with "eerie silence" marked by screaming. He took the photograph feeling that he could only "report properly on the courage and the suffering and the dignity of the little girl" in his attempt to spread awareness of the disaster's need for relief efforts.
At the time the now famous photograph was taken, the world was already fixated on the tragedy. Omayra was one of the victims at the center of the associated controversy over responsibility for the disaster. Almost immediately after its release, the image captured widespread attention. According to an unnamed BBC author, "many were appalled at witnessing so intimately what transpired to be the last few hours of Omayra's life".
The image also attracted controversy after it appeared in Paris Match. The public began to accuse Fournier of being "a vulture", to which he responded by stating, "I felt the story was important for me to report and I was happier that there was some reaction; it would have been worse if people had not cared about it." He added, "I believe the photo helped raise money from around the world in aid and helped highlight the irresponsibility and lack of courage of the country's leaders." The picture later went on to win the World Press Photo of the Year for 1985.

Rescue Workers
Efe Agencia at

Frank Fournier describes how he captured the tragic image of 13-year-old Omayra Sanchez trapped in debris caused by a mudslide following the eruption. Red Cross rescue workers had apparently repeatedly appealed to the government for a pump to lower the water level and for other help to free the girl. Finally rescuers gave up and spent their remaining time with her, comforting her and praying with her. She died of exposure after about 60 hours.
“I arrived in Bogota from New York about two days after the volcanic eruption. The area I needed to get to was very remote. It involved a five-hour drive and then about two and a half hours walking.
The country itself was in political turmoil - shortly before the explosion, there had been a takeover of the Palace of Justice in Bogota by leftist M-19 guerrillas. Many people had been killed and this had a big impact on the way people in the remote town of Armero were helped. The army, for example, had been mobilised in the capital.
I reached the town of Ameroyo at dawn about three days after the explosion. There was a lot of confusion - people were in shock and in desperate need of help. Many were trapped by debris.
I met a farmer who told me of this young girl who needed help. He took me to her, she was almost on her own at the time, just a few people around and some rescuers helping someone else a bit further away.
She was in a large puddle, trapped from the waist down by concrete and other debris from the collapsed houses. She had been there for almost three days. Dawn was just breaking and the poor girl was in pain and very confused. All around, hundreds of people were trapped. Rescuers were having difficulty reaching them. I could hear people screaming for help and then silence - an eerie silence. It was very haunting. There were a few helicopters, some that had been loaned by an oil company, trying to rescue people.
Then there was this little girl and people were powerless to help her. The rescuers kept coming back to her, local farmers and some people who had some medical aid. They tried to comfort her. When I took the pictures I felt totally powerless in front of this little girl, who was facing death with courage and dignity. She could sense that her life was going. I felt that the only thing I could do was to report properly on the courage and the suffering and the dignity of the little girl and hope that it would mobilise people to help the ones that had been rescued and had been saved. I felt I had to report what this little girl had to go through. By this stage, Omayra was drifting in and out of consciousness. She even asked me if I could take her to school because she was worried that she would be late.
I gave my film to some photographers who were going back to the airport and had them shipped back to my agent in Paris. Omayra died about three hours after I got there.
At the time, I didn't realise how powerful the photograph was - the way in which the little girl's eye connect with the camera.
The photograph was published in Paris Match magazine a few days later. People were very disturbed by it because Omayra's plight had been captured by television reporters and relayed around the world. Then my picture of her in the last few hours of her life was published after she had died. People were asking: "Why didn't you help her? Why didn't you get her out?" But it was impossible…..”
The anecdotal human experience will always command our attention. Josef Stalin predated modern electronic newsgathering, but in a twisted way he got one thing right: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
For better or worse, we are all transfixed by the singularity, Omayra living and breathing and in close-up. Whether it’s a baby pulled out of the rubble of a Haitian earthquake, or a tourist who survived a tsunami, the “human interest” anecdote will inevitably trump the Big Picture story. It’s not good or bad, it’s just human psychology…..
(Claude Adam, freelance journalist at

Armero aftermath

By danauicopt at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Margaret Bourke White

Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and documentary photographer. She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet Industry, the first female war correspondent (and the first female permitted to work in combat zones) and the first female photographer for Henry Luce's Life magazine, where her photograph appeared on the first cover.

‘Fort Deck Dam in Montana’
First cover of Life magazine
Getty Images / Walter Daran

She was born in Bronx, New York, U.S.A. and grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey. Her father, Joseph White, was an engineer-designer for the printing industry and her mother, Minnie Bourke White, worked in publishing. She was encouraged early by her parents to set high standards for herself. In 1922, she began studying herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) at Columbia University in New York. In 1925, she married Everett Chapman, a graduate student in engineering, but they divorced a year later. Before graduating from Cornell, she made a photographic study of the rural campus for the Cornell Alumni News. Following her graduation, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio to embark on a career in photography.
In 1929, she accepted a job with the new Fortune magazine as an associate editor. She was talented, took risks and was becoming more successful than some of her male colleagues.
(Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997 at
A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Margaret Bourke-White first gained recognition as an industrial photographer based in Cleveland. "I stood on the deck to watch the city come into view," she said of her Lake Erie boat trip to the Ohio city. "As the skyline took form in the morning mist, I felt I was coming to my promised land ... columns of machinery gaining height as we drew toward the pier, derricks swinging like living creatures. Deep inside, I knew these were my subjects."
In 1930, Russia was in the midst of an industrial and cultural revolution. Its doors were all but closed to westerners, especially photographers. Bourke-White was attracted to Russia, but her editors at Fortune doubted that she would gain access. They instead sent her to Germany to photograph the emerging industry there.
She decided that she would go on her own, and after six weeks of waiting, her visa had cleared the Soviet bureaucracy. She loaded up her cameras along with trunks of food, and set off on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia was full of red tape for Bourke-White. Fortunately for her, an official was so impressed with her portfolio that he granted her a permit requiring all Soviet citizens to aid and assist Bourke-White whenever she needed it. Over the next five weeks, she traveled all over Russia, capturing dams, factories, farms, and their workers. She had taken nearly three thousand negatives of Russia, the first complete documentary of the newly emerging Soviet Russia. In the summer of 1931, she was invited back to Russia by the government. This time through Russia, she concentrated not on machinery, but on people. The New York Times Sunday Magazine published six articles that she had written about the trip, along with her photographs. In the summer of 1932, Bourke-White went back to Russia, this time to film. This trip, however, was mainly a failure, since Bourke- White was not technically adept and hadn't learned the skill of seeing in motion. As a result, her films did not have the same feeling her photographs had. She tried to sell the footage to a Hollywood studio, but they would not buy it because of their fear that it would be seen as propaganda.

Cover of You Have Seen Their Faces

Two Women, Lansdale, Arkansas, 1936

Hamilton, Alabama, We manage to get along
BOURKE-WHITE, Margaret, & CALDWELL, Erskine
You have Seen their Faces
'Hamilton, Alabama, We manage to get along'
s.l., Viking Press 1937

Snuff is an almighty help when your teeth ache
BOURKE-WHITE, Margaret, & CALDWELL, Erskine
You have Seen their Faces
s.l., Viking Press, 1937

When the time comes to die
BOURKE-WHITE, Margaret, & CALDWELL, Erskine
You have Seen their Faces
s.l., Viking Press, 1937

In 1936, Bourke-white toured the south with the writer Erskine Caldwell to supply the pictures for the book ‘You Have Seen Their Faces’. The book was a photo documentary of the poor, rural people of the south. Later in 1936, Henry Luce decided to launch a picture magazine, spurred on by the success of European picture tabloids. In this magazine, pictures wouldn't be subservient to the text; the pictures would tell the story. The magazine was called Life and Bourke-White was one of the four original photographers hired. She covered everything from the New Deal towns springing up in the Midwest to the growing conflict in Europe.

Peasant women eating food from the same bowl
Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

Russian children waiting their turn at a children's clinic, Moscow
Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

Russian women loading crushed rock, Novorossisk
Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

In early 1941, tensions were running high in Europe, and Life asked her to return to Russia, to make a comparison between the current Russia and the one that she saw ten years before. Bourke-White and Caldwell entered Russia though China. On July 22nd, the first bombs fell on Moscow and Bourke-White was the only foreign photographer present. The resulting pictures were a major scoop for Bourke-White and Life. She spent the next four years covering the European theater of war, its leaders, and the aftermath of the Nazi death camps. She also flew in American bombers on their bombing raids, taking pictures of the destruction.
( the war progressed, she was attached to the U.S. Army Air Force in North Africa, then to the U.S. Army in Italy and later Germany. She repeatedly came under fire in Italy in areas of fierce fighting.
"The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as 'Maggie the Indestructible.'" This incident in the Mediterranean refers to the sinking of the England-Africa bound British troopship SS Strathallan which she recorded in an article "Women in Lifeboats", in Life, February 22, 1943.
In the spring of 1945, she traveled through a collapsing Germany with General George S. Patton. She arrived at Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp, and later said, "Using a camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me." After the war, she produced a book titled Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, a project that helped her come to grips with the brutality she had witnessed during and after the war.
Patton was so incensed by what he saw that he ordered his police to get a thousand civilians to make them see with their own eyes what their leaders had done. The MPs were so enraged they brought back 2,000. Bourke-White said, "I saw and photographed the piles of naked, lifeless bodies, the human skeletons in furnaces, the living skeletons who would die the next day... and tattooed skin for lampshades. Using the camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between me and the horror in front of me." LIFE published in their May 7, 1945 issue many photographs of these atrocities, saying, "Dead men will have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them."

Prisoners at Buchenwald, 1945

This photo of the Communist prisoners at Buchenwald was taken on April 15, 1945 by Margaret Bourke White. This was a group of privileged prisoners who actually ran the Buchenwald camp, according to the Buchenwald report.
The Buchenwald Museum web site has this to say about the Little Camp at Buchenwald:
“When the inmates from Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and other evacuated camps in the east were deported to Buchenwald at the end of 1944, the Little Camp became the “hell of Buchenwald”. With a population of far more than 10,000, it became a place of dying and death where the SS took the people they no longer had any use for in their subcamps. For example, thousands of sick and disabled inmates were brought to the Little Camp from Ohrdruf Subcamp. The so-called “Muselmann” became a symbol of the complete debilitation and immiseration of many inmates which led to their giving up all hope of survival. Corpses piled up in front of the barracks; some of the desperate prisoners even took to eating them. From the beginning of 1945 to the day of liberation, more than 5,000 died in this hell on earth.”
Regarding the orphans at Buchenwald, the Buchenwald Museum web site says:
“In January 1945, political inmates succeeded in convincing the SS to set up a kind of shelter, Barrack 66 in the Little Camp. There the children were protected from the hell of Buchenwald, they were not assigned to any labour detachments and they received somewhat more nourishing rations. Nearly 900 children and adolescents thus survived in this barrack, among them the later Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel as well as Robert Büchler, who would go on to research the history of their experiences.”
Margaret Bourke-White wrote or co-authored 11 books. Her most famous is You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), with Erskine Caldwell, on social conditions in the South during the Depression. Also see her informative autobiography, Portrait of Myself (1963). There are two good collections of her photographs which also contain biographical information, For the World to See: The Life of Margaret Bourke-White by Jonathon Silverman (1983) and The Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White, edited by Sean Callahan (1972).
"To many who got in the way of a Bourke-White photograph — and that included not just bureaucrats and functionaries but professional colleagues like assistants, reporters, and other photographers — she was regarded as imperious, calculating, and insensitive."
Her photographs are in a number of museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is also represented in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Mahatma Gandhi

Portrait of Mahatma Ghandi

Portrait of Mahatma Ghandi, 1946

Unlike most photographers, she was as famous as her pictures. The images she captured are memorable enough on their own: a line of flood victims in Kentucky stretched in front of a billboard braying prosperity; the German bombardment of the Kremlin by night during World War II; Mohandas Gandhi reading newspaper clippings near a spinning wheel, the primitive tool he used to forge a subcontinent's independence. Millions of people saw these photographs and others equally striking in LIFE; the big news to many was that they had been taken by a woman.
Margaret Bourke-White's position behind her camera attracted attention that often rivaled the interest commanded by her subjects. She made headlines almost from the moment her career took off: THIS DARING CAMERA GIRL SCALES SKYSCRAPERS FOR ART. In the early 1940s, Hollywood issued a number of films based roughly on Bourke-White's character or exploits and starring the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Claudette Colbert and Ann Sheridan. When, in the 1950s, she contracted Parkinson's disease and underwent an experimental operation to arrest her deterioration, she shared her experience with LIFE readers and inspired a TV drama called The Margaret Bourke-White Story.
Such brilliant success, according to popular wisdom, must have left dark and dreadful shadows. Biographer Vicki Goldberg, an art and photography critic, has indeed dug behind the Bourke-White legend to find some details that the daring camera girl chose not to develop in her autobiography Portrait of Myself (1963). But these snippets hardly amount to the negative image of a triumphant life. Bourke-White did not outdistance her wildest dreams; she plotted her course to the top, assessed the costs along the way and willingly paid them all.
(Books: Fortunate Life Margaret Bourke-White by by PAUL GRAY Monday, Jun. 02, 1986 at

Thursday, May 12, 2011


While people do universally lie, people also universally acknowledge that it is wrong; at least they universally acknowledge that they do not want people to lie to them. But why is it wrong to lie? What is going on when lies are told and believed? Human beings condemn murder yet do murder; they condemn rape and yet commit rape. Should we just accept rape and murder because we don’t live up to our own standards?
Why do politicians so easily get away with telling lies? In large part, the news media are more interested in bonding with politicians than in exposing them. People are encouraged to believe that the media will serve as a check and a balance on the government. Instead, the press too often volunteers as unpaid pimps, helping politicians deceive the public.
( at
All governments thrive on lies. We might even say that apart from weapons and men cruel enough to wield them on behalf of the rulers, lies are a government’s most essential resource. Opponents of the state may be powerless in nearly every way, but so long as they are free to speak the truth, the rulers can never sleep soundly. It therefore behooves them to suppress the truth and to substitute the state’s propaganda at every turn.
(Robert Higgs at
There was once a time when the media understood it had a job to do: Question everything, take nothing for granted and do whatever it takes to ferret out the truth. Sadly, that time has passed. Now, the corporate media blindly accepts its nuggets of food from its government master — never questioning and often cheerleading rather than reporting.
(Bob Livingston at
It is not a matter of bias in the media; it is a matter of deception. Bias, however damaging, is nowhere as dangerous and destructive as the sheer deception that is taking place. People can detect bias, but unless they are actively exploring alternative news sources they might never even suspect that they are being deceived or lied to by omission. The corporate media have abused the trust that had been earned by journalists past. They know the public trusts them to tell the truth. They know that a public that trusts them will not spend time fact checking.
News is simply information about events taking place around us. What news is reported and how that news is presented influence and shape public opinion. The people who are responsible for reporting news have enormous power over public opinion. Corporate entities whose financial or political interest depends on the support of the people to advance their agendas cannot and should not be trusted to control the information that shapes public opinion. This is an obvious and extremely dangerous conflict of interest.
Journalism is a profession. It is a calling. Unfortunately, what the public sees as journalists are is far too often people staking out careers in corporate world. Why is it that we now can rely only on the independent journalist (or news organizations) for unfiltered information? Regardless of one’s political position, people must understand that a free press can exist under a capitalist structure. However, profits, ratings or agenda should play no part in reporting news events to the public. News should not be a business. Surely, everyone in the journalism industry should be fairly compensated, but we cannot permit vested interests, either political or economic, to affect the validity of the information that is delivered. And yet, this is exactly what is taking place today.
Why are so many people so willing to accept the lies of the State? Is it simply "ignorance is bliss"? Or is it the inevitable result of many years of compulsory government prisons for kids aged 5-18, also known as public schools? You probably learned in government school that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the Constitution; that FDR pulled America from the depths of the Depression with his New Deal; that the Japanese perpetrated a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor; that if Truman hadn’t dropped the Big One on Japan – twice! – The war would have lasted several more years and hundreds of thousands more soldiers would have died.
The lies will continue as long as we have a system that perversely encourages the worst among us to rise to positions of power. As long as the government monopoly on education continues, the lies will continue to be drilled into the soft, mushy heads of our nation’s youth. No tactic will be considered verboten as long as it seeks legitimacy among the "docile and gullible."
The wisest course of action for the independent thinker is to constantly question authority, to assume that anything he hears from the mouth of a politician or bureaucrat is unadulterated bullshit, and to recognize that the worst will always make it to the top. And because the worst among us always believe the ends justify the means, lying will always be a hallmark of their modus operandi.
(Rick Gee at
We spend a good deal of time discussing the statements made by politicians and other dignitaries and test those statements against common knowledge, common sense, physics, economics and what others have stated on the same subject. Sometimes we look at each other with astonishment on how people of honor, in high places, could make such utterances, or believe such non-sense. Perhaps the prevailing words here are, "people of honor".
We have come to two conclusions on what are the real political realities of today. The first conclusion is that the problems have grown so large and so complex, that puny man seems to be impotent in his attempts to solve them, especially when shackled by single-focused political constituencies. That complexity is largely of our own doing. The second conclusion is related to the first. Since the national problems are so huge, politicians resort to propaganda, hype, distortions and lies to convince the masses that they are in control of the situation and what they are doing is for the masses' own good, in spite of the fact that for purely political reasons, there can be no common-sense solutions to any of the problems. The decisions the politicians do make, so they tell us, are usually made as a result of some emergency, real, imagined, or purposely cooked up for their own ends. The hard cold truth of the matter is, politicians lie and for the most part, cannot be believed, no matter which side of the aisle they reside. The unwise person that does believe them does so at their own peril. All of this is due to the growing lack of honor and integrity by those in power, to the principles of freedom and liberty.
(Ron Ewart at
In general people already have their own ideas when they view television, read newspapers, or log on to websites. This leads to "selective attentiveness" and acts as a type of filter that allows the viewer to pay attention to the details that agree with his or her own opinion. The media are more effective with those who have not formed a stable political opinion, whether it is on issues or candidates. Studies show that commercials and debates aired right before Election Day have the most effect on undecided viewers. Voters who have already formed their opinions are hardly influenced by the media to the point of changing their minds.
(Tatum Wilcox at
The media is conspicuously silent when it comes to holding the government accountable for the impact of special interest legislation on the well-being of the public. Although newspapers and reporters may occasionally run an ephemeral article about a gift to big business, coverage of the real social impacts rarely, if ever, evolve into sustained scrutiny and analysis. The media is obsessed with portraying the perfect body. Throughout its many channels, many women and men learn to identify with the perfect images displayed.
(Brandon T. Pacey at

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, known throughout his artistic career as Parmigianino (a nickname meaning 'the little one from Parma'), was one of the Italian Renaissance's great geniuses. He was one of the first artists to develop the elegant and sophisticated version of Mannerist style. As an artist he was not afraid to push boundaries and break with convention; it was this daring streak that paved the way for other bold artists to continue in the same vein and create work which would be called 'modern' for decades after. Contemporary art critics christened Parmigianino the 'Prince of Mannerism'.
The Mannerism movement was initially a reaction against Classism, and harmonious works of previous artists such Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. It was a style that was notable for its spatial incongruity and elongated forms. It played with the idea of artificial, rather than natural qualities within art.
The Mannerist movement developed around 1520 in either Florence or Rome and replaced the High Renaissance era. It lasted until around 1580 with the emergence of the Baroque style. Early Mannerist painters include Andea del Sarto, Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorento.
Parmigianino was a prominent Italian Mannerist painter and printmaker active in Florence, Rome, Bologna, and his native city of Parma. He was lauded as “a Raphael reborn” by his peers. He became a devotee of alchemy. Vasari hypothesizes that this was due to his fascination with magic. Scholars now agree that Parmigianino’s scientific interests may have been due to his obsession with trying to find a new medium for his etchings.
Parmigianino was the eighth child of Filippo Mazzola and Maria di ser Guglielmo. His father died of the plague two years after this son's birth, and the children were raised by their uncles, Michele and Pier Ilario, who according to Vasari were modestly talented artists.
In 1523-1524, Parmigianino frescoed 14 lunnettes depicting episodes from Ovid’s Metamorphosis of "Diane and Acteon" for the ceiling of a room in Duke Galeazzo Sanvitale's Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato, some 20 miles from Parma. Also in this period, he met Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli, a fellow apprentice in the shop of Parmigianino's uncles, and who had married Parmigianino's cousin.

Camilla Gonzaga
condesa de San Segundo y sus hijos

Portrait of Francesco Mazzola

Gian Galeazzo Sanvitale
Count of Fontanellato, 1524

Pedro María Rossi
O Roscio, conde de San Segundo
Museo del Prado

After moving to Rome in 1524, where Parmigianino could view firsthand the work of Raphael and Michelangelo, his work acquired a deeper sense of grace and fluidity. He had an abiding involvement with the antique and his many drawings illustrate that Parmigianino studied Roman statues and other classical ornaments.
Parmigianino also copied Raphael's capacity to blend and join figures together to create a sense of harmony and flow. In many of his paintings you can see the charm and grace of Raphael, but Parmigianino also gave his religious paintings a sumptuousness and sensuality that would have perhaps made Raphael recoil from them.

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
Wood, 1524
Autorretrato en espejo convexo
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

In Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, above, we get the impression that the artist is the 'hero' of the piece and that the painting celebrates his youthful talent. Parmigianino's direct gaze holds the viewers' attention and the light literally falls on and illuminates the artist. Parmigianino is portrayed as contemplative but there is also an emphasis placed on his hand and it is this which dominates the foreground of the picture.
The artist's hand perhaps represents the manual and technical skill that he deicated to his work. However, his head is also illuminated and central to the picture's composition, stressing the importance of learning and the philosophical nature of the artist.
The mirror enlarged everything that was near and reduced everything in the background and Parmigianino wanted to mimic this effect. At the bottom of the image the artist's hand looms large and dominates the painting.
Unlike Parmigianino, many of the early Renaissance artists used the mirror as a tool to iron out distortions, not to represent them. Mirrors were regarded as a sort of third eye for painters. Leonardo called the mirror the, 'master of painters', and he wrote that 'Painters oftentimes despair of their power to imitate nature, on perceiving how their pictures are lacking in the power of relief and vividness which objects possess when seen in a mirror. . . '
Many Mannerist artists, including Parmigianino, were keen to exploit and employ differing perspectives and conflicting spaces; they dismantled the Renaissance works that promoted a sense of orderly space.
Vasari records that in Rome, Parmigianino was 'celebrated as a Raphael reborn'. Like many other artists, within a year the Sack of Rome caused Parmigianino to flee. After residing in Bologna for nearly three years, by 1530 Parmigianino had returned to Parma.

Portrait of a Man with a Book
Ritratto di uomo con libro
Oil on canvas, 1526
Yorks Museum Trust
City Art Gallery, York, England

The assumption that this painting, above, dates from around 1526 - Parmigianino's Roman sojourn - seems very plausible since its stylistic and psychological unrest mark it as one of the most refined documents of the cultural climate then dominating the court of Clement VII.
The left eye is shaded so as to almost merge with the dark background. Only on close inspection does one notice that the left eye is closer to the outer rim of the eye than the right one. Due to this asymmetry the pupil appears "blind", though this may be the result of a change in the pigments or an earlier retouching. However, the artist may also have intended the effect in order to hide a physical defect such as a damaged or blind eye.

Retrato de hombre, 1530-1531
Óleo sobre table
Galería de los Uffizi, Florencia, Italia

The history of this painting, above, can be traced back to 1682 when it entered the Uffici Galleries and was recorded as one of the self-portraits in the collection of Cosimo III, paintings that came from the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo.
We know that the painting has been identified as a self-portrait by Parmigianino since the 18th century. As such it was included in the Serie degli Uomini più illustri nella Pittura (series of the most famous men in painting). Although there is no documentary evidence and the pysiognomic similarities with other known portraits of Parmigianino are in dispute, the picture's outstanding quality makes the cardinal's determination to identify it as a self-portrait understandable - an important condition for its inclusion in the collection he had assembled.

Pallas Athene
Oil on canvas, c. 1530-1539
Hampton Court, Royal Collection

Although the author of the inventory called the deity, above, by her Latin name (Minerva), she is depicted wearing a piece of jewellery inscribed with her Greek name, "Athena" . The magnificent piece of jewellery depicts the victory goddess hovering over the city of Athens, holding a palm (a symbol of victory) in her left hand and an olive branch (a symbol of peace) in her right hand.
The warm colour of the skin, so characteristic of Parmigianino, is dramatically contrasted with the shining green of her robe. The delicate gesture of her left hand and the hair falling over her nude breast, together with her dreamy, almost melancholic expression create the exquisite elegance that is so characteristic of the master's ultimate manner.

Oil on canvas, 1534
Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples

Since 1671 this painting (above) has been inventorised as a portrait of Anthea or the mistress of Parmigianino, purportedly identifying the sitter as a famous courtesan who lived in Rome during the first half of the 16th century. The validity of this identification has always been questioned and this discussion has merged with the debate concerning the dating of the painting. Most scholars do not believe that it was executed in Rome - that is between 1524 and 1526 - the years in which Parmigianino might have fallen in love and portrayed the young woman.
Regardless if whether the portrait depicts a courtesan or not, it is one of the most remarkable examples of Italian Mannerism from the early 16th century.
Parmigianino was a gifted portrait artist and could easily convey the emotions and personality of his subject. Antea's gaze seems to be ambiguous though; her piercing eyes are almost haughty and nonchalant. Her cool demeanor makes the viewer question what she would think of the viewing world.
The viewer feels as though the subject is directly looking at them and judging what she sees and her critical gaze brings to light thoughts about status and positions in society. The relationship between viewer and subject becomes blurred. Once again Parmigianino has managed to create an interesting illusionary effect in his painting; Antea is looking at the viewer in equal measure and intensity as that which they are looking at her.
Parmigianino has manipulated the space in the painting so nothing interrupts the interaction between Antea and the viewer.
The background is bare and dark, except for the shadows and light that illuminate her body. The outline of her figure is sharp and strong as if she could pop out of the picture at any moment. Her hands and face are almost unnaturally smooth and have a marble-like quality; you get the impression that Antea could have been sculpted.
Parmigianino's Antea has fascinated art historians for centuries and is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Italian female portraiture. Arguably the second-most enchanting and mysterious portraits of the Renaissance after the Mona Lisa, this work intrigues art fans and critics as very little is known about why the painting was commissioned or the identity of the sitter. All that is known is that the artwork was painted when Parmigianino made his final return to Parma.
Antea is rich in symbolism, from the fine clothing and jewelry to the odd proportions and suggestiveness of the subject's body. Parmigianino has created an odd and boldly confident beauty that fixes the viewer with her audacious gaze.
Like the Mona Lisa, Antea has the same, almost fierce eye contact with the viewer and she too appears enigmatic and unattainable.

Venus and Mars with Putti
Pen and brown ink on cream laid paper
laid down on ivory laid paper
The Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection
From The Art Institute of Chicago at

Wise Virgins, Allegorical Figures And Plants

Wise Virgins, Allegorical Figures And Plants

Parmigianino was also an early Italian etcher, a technique that was pioneered in Italy by Marcantonio Raimondi, but which appealed to draughtsmen: though the techniques of printing the copper plates require special skills, the ease with which acid, when substituted for ink, can reproduce the spontaneity of an artist's hand attracted Parmigianino, a "master of elegant figure drawing". Parmigianino also designed chiaroscuro woodcuts, and although his output was small he had a considerable influence on Italian printmaking. Some of his prints were done in collaboration with Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio.
Parmigianino had a massive stylistic influence on Mannerism and sixteenth-century graphic art in general. He successfully managed to combine in his work the graceful and elegant style of the great masters with a new sense of movement and a striving for a sensuous beauty beyond nature. Many of his paintings contain within them mysterious ambiguities and conceal strains and tensions of the time.
During his short career, Parmigianino completed a vast body of work, including small panels and large-scale frescoes, sacred and profane subjects, portraits, and drawings of scenes from everyday life and of erotica. He is also credited with inventing etching and was one of the first artists to engrave his own work, distributing it throughout Italy and northern Europe.
Parmigianino died in Casalmaggiore on the 24 August 1540 at the age of 37 years, and is buried in the church of the Frati de' Servi "naked with a cross made of cypress wood on his chest".