Rosa 'Sombreuil' - Blood or Wine?
Saturday, May 28, 2016
|Rosa 'Sombreuil' May 24 2016|
I found this interesting account by an author who calls
herself Madame Guillotine. I hope she will not mind me lifting her essay on to
this blog which follows my account of Rosa ‘Sombreul’ in our garden.
For years Rosa ‘Sombreuil’
listed in Peter Beales – Classic Roses as a Tea Rose hybridized by Robert
France in 1850 struggled in our garden. Teas are not to be confused with the later Hybrid Teas. Tea
Roses were popular during the latter half of the 19th century.
Because Teas had Chinensis in them they were not all that hardy and some like this
one not an easy one to grow in Vancouver. I was lucky to get three blooms in
one season and the shrub never grew more than two feet high even though it was located in my sunny back lane.
In my Kitsilano garden it is thriving and by the end of
May I have had 12 blooms already.
I could never find out exactly why this white rose had
the name. In French the word suggests shade. But I finally found out why the name means shade in French.
Marie-Maurille de Sombreuil
One of the most haunting and bizarre stories to come down to
us from the French Revolution is that of Mademoiselle de Sombreuil, the
daughter of the former Governor of the Invalides, Charles François de Virot,
Marquis de Sombreuil.
Mademoiselle de Sombreuil was born Jeanne Jacques Marie Anne
Françoise de Virot at the château de Leychoisier on the 14th February 1768 and
was known within her family as Marie-Maurille. Her life was unremarkable and
probably no different to that of any other aristocratic girl of the time until
the 16th of August 1792 when her beloved father was imprisoned in the Abbaye
along with other members of the nobility who had sided with the royal family
during the fall of the Tuileries. Marie-Maurille courageously demanded to share
her father’s imprisonment and so was at his side on the 2nd September when a
makeshift tribunal and mob arrived at the Abbaye as part of the infamous Prison
When the Marquis de Sombreuil was called before the
tribunal, his brave daughter went with him and implored their captors and the
‘judges’ to be lenient, reminding them of her father’s many years of faithful
service and old age. Finally she informed them that if they wished to harm the
Marquis, then they would have to kill her also.
It is at this point that accounts of what happened next
vary. The legend goes that the jeering guards, who were seated upon a pile of
corpses belonging to those that they had already slaughtered, then filled a
glass with the blood of their victims and handed it to Mademoiselle de
Sombreuil, telling her that her father would be spared if she drank the ghastly
‘One of the ruffians, touched by her resolution, called
out that they should be allowed to pass if the girl would drink to the health
of the nation. The whole court was swimming with blood, and the glass he held
out to her was full of something red. Marie would not shudder. She drank, and
with the applause of the assassins ringing in her ears, she passed with her
father over the threshold of the fatal gates, into such freedom and safety as
Paris could then afford. Never again could she see a glass of red wine without
a shudder, and it was generally believed that it was actually a glass of blood
that she had swallowed, though she always averred that this was an
exaggeration, and that it had been only her impression before tasting it that
so horrible a draught was offered to her.‘
Mademoiselle de Sombreuil herself always insisted that
the bloodstained glass contained nothing more sinister than red wine and there
is no reason to disbelieve her, although the story of an aristocratic young
woman being forced to drink human blood in order to save her elderly parent is
an enticing one. If you like that sort of thing.
Unfortunately for the heroic Mademoiselle de Sombreuil,
her father and younger brother, Stanislas (1768-1794) were again arrested a
year later and she would share their imprisonment at Port-Libre and
Sainte-Pélagie before the Marquis and Stanislas were guillotined on the 17th
The Dancer - An Essence
Friday, May 27, 2016
|Albert Galindo - 2016|
For most of my photographic life there were two aspects
that were constants. One was my love for the portrait and the other my
insistence on controlling my lighting. I have always believed in taking
portraits in a studio with my own chosen light.I still do even in my tiny Kitsilano studio.
The grab shots taken in the street have never been to my
liking. There was first a Henri Cartier-Bresson then a legion of photographers
that made the Cartier-Bresson’s shine in uniqueness.
Ever since I discovered Plato I have been obsessed with
the idea of the essence and its terrestrial copy. I remember in the late 60s
going to a concert of Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco and spotting a woman
sitting in a corner staring at a little glass of crème the menthe. My guess is
that under the influence of LSD she was contemplating the essence of green – a perfect
While teaching high school in Mexico City in the early 70s I used to tell my
students that anyone of them could be in a room with a camera and a light
pointing at them. Then one by one, their father, mother, sister, the loved one,
the brother, a teacher would all take one snap without moving the setup. I told
them that in each case once the pictures where printed and then mixed up one
would be able to see which one was taken by the father or the lover. I further
told them that if we fed the photographs into a computer and pushed enter the
resulting photograph that would shoot out would be the essence of the person (a
combination of all the facets that one is and that one reacts and becomes the person
one thinks one is for each person one knows.)
|Lauren Stewart - 2012|
Not too long ago I proposed to actor Christopher Gaze
Director of Bard on the Beach) to pose for me for tight head shots where he
would think about being Romeo, Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth. There would be no
makeup or costume, just the expression. Would we then be able to figure out
each part? I believe we could as Gaze is a very good actor. But Gaze is a busy
man and has never found the time to satisfy my curiosity.
In the last two weeks with my taking photographs of the
dancers of Arts Umbrella in performance
, in rehearsals
thoughts have been about dancers and the essence of a dancer.
It is fashionable these days to photograph dancers
(particularly individual ones) up in the air in perfect form, frozen with a
high speed light. I find that these photographs do convey dance but they do not
show anything of the individual dancer photographed. It sort of reminds me of
fashion shots where the model is the model and not a person.
On the other hand my blurs (at ¼ or 1/8 second) do convey
the idea of dance and that the blurs are dancers. But the personality of the
dancer is again not there.
It seems to me that the only way is through the portrait.
It should be a dramatic portrait with a dark side to convey depth and
|Ria Girard & Béatrice Larrivée - 2015|
As an example of this I have placed here two portraits.
One is of Ballet BC Albert Galindo which I took early this year. The other is
of my granddaughter Lauren Stewart which I took in 2012. She is now 13 and is
in her 7th year with the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. I believe that
both portraits convey something of that essence that a dancer is.
But in between that frozen in time picture of the dancer
in the air, the dance blur and the portrait is this picture of Béatrice
Larrivée and Justin Calvadores. I find it arresting and powerful. It is not completely
sharp nor unrecognizably blurry.
When we listen to music we listen to predictable notes.
But sometimes there are those odd notes in between that unsettle us. Thelonious
Monk exploited well that idea. Could it be that this photograph of the duo
conveys an in-between moment not quite at its graceful peak. The thigh muscles
are in evidence. There is strain involved.
|Justin Calvadores & Béatrice Larrivée|
And yes it has been many years since I thought of dancers
as swans. I know they are persons. I know that they are individuals.
Beatrice, Béatrice, Degas & Marie van Goethem
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
|Béatrice Larrivée & Justin Calvadores|
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Emily Dickinson (complete poem below)
"For I am Beatrice who send you on;
I come from where I most long to return;
Love prompted me, that Love which makes me speak."
(Dante Alighieri - Inf. II, 70-72)
I came to dance late in my life. It was in 1995 that I was
assigned to follow and photograph Evelyn Hart
for two days. In those two days I
fell in love with dance and with Hart.
Ever since then, dance has been dear to my heart and I
try to see as much of it as I can. My friend and former editor Malcolm Parry
always told me of what he called the privileged position. It was on the top of
a building looking down and not below looking up. The dance version of the
privileged position is to be back stage in the wings. It was in the wings of
the Paris Opera Ballet that Edgar Degas haunted to sketch and paint dancers. Of
particular note was Geneviève van Goethem who ended up immortalized as his La
Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans. The original is in the National Gallery in
Washington DC. I have made my pilgrimage to the statue three times and I have
photographed the old Paris Opera once.
It was a few years ago that I watched a rehearsal at
Ballet BC and noticed a dancer that walked like no other dancer I have ever
seen. I enquired her name. She told me that she was Sandrine Cassini
she had started dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet
when she was 14. As you can
imagine I was transfixed with delight and wonder. Cassini came to my studio
months later and posed for me
just like Marie van Goethem had for Degas.
Malcolm Parry’s privileged position is what I have, thanks
to the Arts Umbrella Dance Company and its Artistic Director Artemis Gordon. I
am given the distinct honour and pleasure
to photograph rehearsals like the one
I did tonight at the Vancouver Playhouse in preparation for the Arts Umbrella
Dance Company’s Season Finale from May 26 to May 28.
Every year I notice a particular dancer who I consider my
personal Marie van Goethem. I noticed Béatrice last year and I wrote about her
This year during the rehearsal for James Kudelka’s piece
(oddly called!) choreography
I spotted Beatrice in the wings crying in pain. It
seemed she might have had a very sore left toe. She removed her slipper and
just cried. It was a performance (not meant to be one, but it still was) full
of pathos. I felt helpless in not being able to help so I just snapped my
Later today I had the opportunity to watch Beatrice in a
duo from a piece by Crystal Pite. As I began to take photographs (and I must
insist that it was the best I saw all evening) I was told to cease. Unbeknownst
to me but not to my accompanying granddaughter Lauren, my Fuji X-E1 was sending
a very bright focusing light. This put off Pite who understandably is a
perfectionist. After I had missed the best of the evening dance as that duet was, photographer Chris
Randle handed me a piece of black tape to cover the offending light.
Pite came up to me to tell me how sorry she was to have
prevented me from taking my pictures but with a big smile on her face she said,
“But you saw it all!” She was right and the memory of a fleeting dance will
remain and I wish Béatrice no more pain and success in her career as dancer and a
muse to future Dantes.
A PRECIOUS, mouldering pleasure ’t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,
His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty,
And Sophocles a man;
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,
He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true:
He lived where dreams were born.
His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads