Henri-Paul Motte: Druids Cutting the Mistletoe on the Sixth Day of the Moon
During the Druid celebration of the Winter Solstice, the dark force Mean Geimhridh weakened in its battle against the sun as the days began to lengthen. When darkness gave way to the first rays of light, bonfires were lit in fields, crops and trees charmed with prayers and huge feasts prepared in barns.
On the sixth day of the moon, the first day of the Celtic month, the Yule time All-Heal ritual was performed. Dressed in ceremonial white robes, the Druid priest and priestess cut the mistletoe from the tree with a golden sickle. This mysterious evergreen plant is sacred to the Druids. Found embedded in ancient oaks, apples and poplars, suspended mid-way between heaven and earth, it symbolises a gateway to another world. A spray was given to every family to hang in their homes to intensify spells and prayers, to protect the inhabitants and induce beautiful dreams. Beneath it, a kiss of peace was exchanged.
Henri Motte was a student of Jean-Léon Gérôme, exhibiting for most of his life at the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris. He specialised in historical and mythological paintings such as Hannibal Crossing the Rhone and Vercingetorix Surrendering to Caesar, receiving a bronze medal at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. He was awarded Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1892. [Leicester Galleries]
Danäe is depicted here locked away from the reach of all men by her father - well, almost - and down from the roof comes Zeus in the shower of gold.
In Greek myth, Danäe was the royal daughter of Acrisius, an ancient king of Argos. After an oracle warned her father that Danäe's son would someday kill him, Acrisius had his daughter shut up inside a sealed room, atop an impenetrable bronze tower, away from all men. However, Zeus -- the amorous and all-powerful king of gods - desired Danäe. He came to her through the roof of the sealed chamber, in the form of a shower of gold that poured down into her lap. As a result of this union, Danäe had a son - Perseus - the hero who later took on the chilling Medusa. [John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery]
As described on the frame plaque, this painting illustrates a pivotal moment in Guy de Maupassant’s short story, Mademoiselle Fifi (1822), set during the Franco Prussian War. A group of German officers lodged far away from the fighting in a chateau in Normandy have become exceedingly bored after days of drinking, gambling, and destroying paintings. Thus, the Captain—whose soldiers have nicknamed “Mademoiselle Fifi”—arranges for women to entertain his fellow comrades at a dinner party. After an evening of “Fifi” and his officers praising German military power and disparaging France and its women, Rachel rebukes him. As he lifts his hand, she swiftly and fatally stabs “Mademoiselle Fifi” with a dessert knife without anyone noticing—the dramatic moment captured in the present work. The story continues with her jumping out of a window and running to a nearby church where she rings its bell until the day of armistice, signaling her own victory over the Germans. [Sotheby's]
Compare this with Gérôme's painting on the same subject. Interesting differences in the treatment of the same subject: in one Truth is a pissed-off dominatrix, and in this one she's an ingenue apparently falling victim to the first men she meets.
Henri-Georges-Jacques Chartier: The Battle of Wagram
The Battle of Wagram took place in July 1809. It was a decisive victory for Napoleon's forces over an Austrian army. The two-day battle was particularly bloody, mainly due to the
use of 1,000 artillery pieces on a flat battlefield packed with some
300,000 men. [Wikipedia]