Men and their muses (i): two ends of the spectrum

In reviewing the work of David Hamilton there is an interesting and intriguing photograph. It is a picture of Hamilton with one of his favourite models, Mona Kristensen, who featured in most of his best work.

Correction: Many thanks to Lee Rivers (9/12/16) who has pointed out that the photo is Hamilton’s wife, Gertrude not Mona Kristensen

David Hamilton and Mona Kristensen
David Hamilton and his wife Gertrude , not Mona Kristensen as previously posted

It appears to be one of the few pictures of Hamilton with any of his models. He was later to live with another, Mona Kristensen.

977BLT_Mona_Kristensen_024.jpg

And so Hamilton appears to be one of many talented artists who have had relationships with the young and beautiful women with whom they have worked.

At one end of the spectrum, is the most famous of these: the Dark Lady and the Fear Friend of the Shakespearean sonnets, Sonnets 127 – 152 devoted to the Dark Lady while the earlier sonnets are devoted to the “Fair youth”

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compareMy mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Sonnet 130

The earlier sonnets are devoted to the “Fair youth” who is clearly much younger than the poet as seen in Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Unfortunately, we know all too little about Shakespeare’s sources of inspiration. Speculation on the identity of the Dark Lady ranges from Elizabeth I to a madam called “Lucy Negro” or “Black Luce”, who ran a notorious bawdy house in Clerkenwell and poet and member of the minor gentry, Emilia Lanier.  It seems that the Fair Friend was almost certainly Henry Wriothesley. It is intriguing to know that the Sonnets were probably published without Shakespeare’s permission meaning they represented an altogether more private and personal body of work that his plays.

And of course we have the wonderful story of Viola de Lesseps in Tom Stoppard’s play Shakespeare in Love where the heroine is seen as the inspiration not only for Romeo and Juliet but for some of the later shipwreck plays, Comedy of Errors, Pericles and Twelfth Night.

shakespeare-in-love

f I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Romeo and Juliet !.V ll 93 – 96

Another great example of the writer and his muse is seen in the recent film The Invisible Woman tells the story of Charles Dickens mistress, Nelly Ternan.

Ralph Fiennes as Dickens and Felicity Jones as Ellen Tiernan
Ralph Fiennes as Dickens and Felicity Jones as Ellen Tiernan

Unfortunately, that film does not explore the complex relationship between Tiernan and Dickens heroines such as Estella Havisham in Great Expectations, Bella Wilfer in Our Mutual Friend, Helena Landless in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities, there are clearly parallels.

At the other end of the spectrum there are some modern examples, some more creepy than others, the most famous of which is probably Woody Allen whose relationships with his glamorous film stars are well documented but his reputation is now irreparably sullied by accusations of sexual abuse which is the destructive downside of the older man younger poet muse relationship.

Poet Robert Graves, no stranger to the Muse himself had an interesting observation:

“As a rule the Muse is one whose father has deserted her mother when she was young and for whom therefore the patriarchal charm is broken, and who hates patriarchy. She may grow to be very intelligent, but emotionally she is arrested at about the age of fourteen or fifteen.”

David Hamilton has a similar view, he rights in Twenty years an artist

“There exist among young girls, within a clearly defined age group, some rare beings who are able to exert a powerful erotic attraction upon certain much older men. It is a kind of magic, a fleeting charm which touches such men, of whom I am one, in a secret part of their sensibility. By means of my photographs I make a sincere confession that few men, bewitched as I am by the forbidden desire, will dare to make.”

Humbert Humbert the narrator in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita describes

“Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets.”
-

Judy Berman has written a great blog on How to Become a Woody Allen Muse which documents some of the spectacularly beautiful women he has been involved with.

Woody Allen and his many muses: Mia Farrow Louise Lasser , Diane Keaton, Muriel Hemingway, Scarlett Johannson, Lindsay Lohan
Woody Allen and his many muses: Mia Farrow Louise Lasser , Diane Keaton, Muriel Hemingway, Scarlett Johannson, Lindsay Lohan

There is a group of people, himself included, who think Allen is one of the great movie directors of the 20th century. Yet only one of his films is generally recognised as being outstanding. Viewers voted Annie Hall 169th on IMDb top 250 movies. The movie fared better in the American Film Institute rankings coming in at 37th, while Rotten Tomatoes ranked it at 64th. So the question is: Have the muses made a difference? If history is to make a call the answer is: probably not in the case of Woody Allen.

And then there’s the case of the rather less good-looking Serge Gainsbourg, the French believe is their version of John Lennon. To check out this claim listen to Je T’aime,…Moi Non Plus. Gainsbourg had a long affair with which Bardot with whom he recorded the first version of Je T’aime,…Moi Non Plus, which was never released.

Serge and first muse: Brigitte Bardot
Serge and first muse: Brigitte Bardot

Correction: As Claire (claire.bertaina@wanadoo.fr)  points out ” I m sorry, but the pic with Brigitte Bardot on, the man is not Serge Gainsbourg!!!!! this man is one of the numerous husbands of BB: he’s Gunther Sachs, german man!!”  Thank you Claire, you obviously right particularly when you look at the picture of Gainsbourg below.

Then there was the relationship between the impossibly beautiful Jane Birkin.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? During this time, Birkin starred in If Don Juan Were a Woman with Bardot

Bardot and Birkin as smoking lesbians
Bardot and Birkin as smoking lesbians

The film was directed by Roger Vadim who had recently been married to Bardot. Birkin clearly decided that living with an erratic and unpredictable drunk outweighed being a musical and poetic inspiration when she left after 13 years. More on David Hamilton

4 thoughts on “Men and their muses (i): two ends of the spectrum

  1. I m sorry, but the pic with Brigitte Bardot on, the man is not Serge Gainsbourg!!!!! this man is one of the numerous husbands of BB: he’s Gunther Sachs, german man!!

  2. Your first photograph on your 6/17 post pictures D H with his wife Gertrude. Mona K was a blonde who resided with him for a time but never married him.

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