Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cloven Viscount - vultures and crows have now given way to storks and flamingos and cranes

This piece is based on some of the opening moments of Italo Calvino's novella, The Cloven Viscount. Here is an excerpt of the passage:
"What can draw such birds to a battlefield, Kurt?" he asked.
"They eat human flesh too, nowadays," replied the squire, "since the fields have been stripped by famine and the rivers dried by drought. Vultures and crows have now given way to storks and flamingos and cranes."
My uncle was then in his first youth, the age in which confused feelings, not yet sifted, all rush into good and bad, the age in which every new experience, even macabre and inhuman, is palpitating and warm with love of life.
"What about the crows then? And the vultures?" he said. "And the other birds of prey? Where have they gone?" He was pale, but his eyes glittered.
The squired, a dark-skinned soldier with a heavy moustache, never raised his eyes. "They ate so many plague-ridden bodies, the plague got 'em too," and he pointed his lance at some black bushes, which a closer look revealed were not made of branches, but of feathers and dried claws from birds of prey.
I had so much fun making this piece. When I was looking for photos to use as reference for this piece, I was surprised by the number of photos of horse carcasses. I have drawn a lot of horses in the past, but never a dead one before.

Watercolor and gouache on paper. Original is 18"x24". This piece was all done at once, on one piece of paper. Below are a some details of the animals, as well as scan of the pencil version I did before painting everything in.


Anonymous said...

Hi Naomi - I'm Karen Carlson, and I write a small personal blog called A Just Recompense at - I'm working on a post about Calvino's story "The Cloven Viscount" and I'd love to use your art. I'll credit you and link to your website. It's a great piece! I'm not sure how I'll use it yet possibly as a background for that particular paragraph, if I can figure out the html, but most likely just as an image inserted into the text.
I was struck by that paragraph too, how the evil things had given way to good things which were now evil too. I was struck by the whole novella, it's wonderful, and I'm so glad to find all this art inspired by it.
I plan to post tomorrow morning so it's short notice, but I hope this will be ok. If not, I can always take it down if you let me know.

N said...

Hi Karen,

Absolutely! Thanks for checking in with me. I'm excited to see your post about "The Cloven Viscount."


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Naomi - post went up today ( ), I think it looks great (the background idea didn't work, text and image obscured each other, so I just inserted it next to the quoted text).

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