Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Girl With Sword Revisited: Wednesday Evening Comments on an OSR Art Friday Post

Last week's Girl With Sword was one of this blog's most well-read posts. No wonder. It's a great painting.

I wanted to make two more comments. Or, rather, one correction and one comment:

1. The girl is the Flame Princess. Apparently, in a post or interview somewhere or another, James Raggi confirmed this. But all you have to do is look at her hair, which is clearly Flame Princess orange-red, in contrast of course with everyone else's 'normal' hair.  This obvious fact eluded me, at least initially. Three things are implied:

a) Spalding can be an idiot (well, that's not really news, but still).
b) She survived.
c) Presumably this is the beginning of the story as to how the Flame Princess became the Flame Princess.

2. Some have said that the painting puts the viewer in the position of being the attacker or attackers. I understand this point of view, and in saying what I'm about to say, I don't mean to personally criticize those who hold it.  But I don't buy it. If I did buy it, I would of course hate the piece. For the record, before I originally posted, I asked a number of my friends and co-workers whether they felt the painting put them in that position. And no one said that it did. That isn't by itself completely determinative of course, but it does mean something. I believe the painting is set up as it is because the artist believed it to be about the girl, not the bandits or monster, or even about the girl plus the bandits or monster. And the only way to do that was to frame it from that particular angle. As I see it, the girl (and the woman with the baby) isn't looking at me, but someone or something slightly over my shoulder. Okay, so Raggi may revel (!) in showing a sexy Medusa doing what sexy Medusas probably do (if you really stop to think about it) or graphically portraying an adventurer being horribly slimed to death. Or whatever. But I don't think he wants us to look at things from the perspective of a child murderer.


  1. "You're like me." -Frank Booth [staring at audience], Blue Velvet

  2. Does it matter what the artist intended? I mean, it does to a degree, but if the artist's intent is not clearly communicated, then the artist failed and it doesn't matter what he wanted - it matters what we see.

    What I see is a child in distress. Her pleading eyes look at me, the viewer, with a cry for... help? Mercy? I don't know. I agree that it's a terrible thought - that we might be the monsters here - but that just makes it more interesting. What is the viewer's role? How do I contribute to this scene? Am I the murderer? Or am I a bystander who happened upon a tragic moment?

    However I might answer these questions, ai'm not looking to the artist for an unspoken intent. All the information I need should be in the painting.

  3. This is a very interesting thing to consider. View this piece of art and compare and contrast with William-Adolphe Bouguereau's Pieta. This latter work was (perhaps still is) displayed in the Dallas Museum of Art. I would walk to this museum and sit in front of this work and meditate. The look in the mother's eyes I took to mean that I was to internalize and personalize what I was beholding and make many inferences regarding my role as the viewer in respect to the event depicted in this great artwork.