Art Stories

Each of the stories added here periodically explores a single work of art. The themes range from warmth of heart to courage and peace, cruelty, weakness, and war.

If the creations of human hand and brain presented here spark your interest, then why not visit the originals in the galleries of Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Our current themes here are: #Moments, objects, stories from the 125-year history of Kunsthistorisches Museum, images of the Virgin Mary, explored from the perspective of the portrayed: #I am Mary and  #The Face of Europe.

Furor

Master of the Furies, Fury, Salzburg (?)
c. 1610/20, KHM, Kunstkammer, inv. no. KK 3727

Lunging vigorously forward on his long legs, an emaciated figure strides before the viewer.

Everything is in a state of agitation : limbs look as light as a feather, the loincloth as though it has a life of its own, drapes and hair, frenzied facial expressions, all is driven by a force seemingly uncontrollable.

The Roman furies, or as they were known in earlier Greek mythology, Erinyes, were gods of vengeance. They would attach themselves to malefactors’ heels and were regarded as the personification of a bad conscious.

Later the fury came to embody rage, malevolence, and envy—the source of evil. Representations combined extremes of earthly transience and physical decline.

In eighteenth-century literature and theatre the contrast of “fury” and “law” was frequently employed. The fury—in tandem with her counterpart, grace—represented opposition to order and reason: fickle, agitated, fanatical, and unpredictable.

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Orestes Pursued by the Furies
1862
Chrysler Collection, Norfolk

Interestingly, no other representation of a fury in western sculpture is known. However, furies were portrayed in painting and the graphic arts. These are often similar to depictions of wrath.

One example from the 19th century however shows that ugliness and old age were not essential characteristics.

The artist created this impressive sculpture for an elite public. His name has remained unknown until the present; however he probably lived and worked in the Salzburg region.

Some 25 works, all in ivory, are attributed to the “Master of the Furies”.

written by Cäcilia Bischoff, translated by Joshua Stein on 8.11.2018 in #The Face of Europe
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