Monday, 10 September 2012

Narcissus (or is it Adam ?)

Would I like to know who created this woodcut print 50 years ago in 1962. It is most probably Dutch or German in origin (but I can't be sure) and I believe it has a classic and maybe slightly homo erotic aesthetic power. Even as a hetero-sexual I very much appreciate the beauty of it. I had a hunch about the printmaker but the initials donot fit. There's a warm brownish glow (layer) of color in the torso and right leg and center surrounding ribbon like structures.
I'm quite sure it is showing Narcissus, son of the rivergod Kephissos and the nymph Liriope,  after Ovid's  (43 bc -17 ad) Metamorphoses. The painting above is by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). Narcissus is mostly depicted solo because he's first and for all very much in love with himself.

But it could also be a biblical Adam (fig tree and leafs) or, more appropriate, Adonis,  the mortal son of King Cinyras of Cyprus and his daughter Myrrha. Adonis was the lover of Aphrodite (= Venus) and secretly of Apollo (hence the gay connection), also after Ovids Metamorphoses. But he is mostly depicted with his equally beautiful mistress Venus/Aphrodite (painting left by Annibale Caracci 1650-1609)

And what about a portrait of Johnny Weismuller (1904-1984) as Tarzan (or young Lord Greystoke) by Edgar Rice Burrough's (1875-1950) ? Who often is depicted with his muse: Jane Porter (Maureen O'Sullivan 1911-1998). But I don't think so.

And we could decide it's just a handsome unknown classic god-like (or godly) male specimen in his prime, posing or resting in the woods by an unknown printmaker like the semi-god in the vintage photo of an unknown Adonis by an unknown photographer. 

The initials I read:  M.F. (or maybe M.Y. Although I really like it, this print is maybe more in place in an other collection then it is in mine, which has a focus on impressionist flower bouquets and colorfull parrots by early German modern printmakers. It's professionally framed in a classic frame (33 x 43 cm) and the prints is 22 x 30 cm. Just contact me if you have something in my field to trade and like it. But it has to be something as nice as this. Or maybe if you have an idea who the printmaker is.

I was so impressed by Charles' fast comment and knowledge I cannot withhold his remark about the "Cocteau fluid line" in this print. Because the post is still so fresh and to show how to-the-point he is, I add one of Cocteau's lesser explicit drawings to illustrate. It's Apollo and dated 1963. Jean Cocteau (1889-died one day after Edith Piaf (1915-1963), French poet, novelist, dramatist, playwright and filmmaker, bisexual, friend of Picasso and Edith Piaf. 


  1. Interesting print, Gerrie! Do you have a close-up of the initials? I can't see them in your photo.

    best regards,


  2. Sorry, the last image, of course... :-)

    1. Indeed. I hope it will be recognized one day.

  3. Those post-war muscle mags used to doll up guys like Greek gods. There's Cocteau's fluid line there. Plus isn't it a linocut?

  4. I'm very very impressed Charles and have added your wise comment to the posting. And yes it could be a linocut.

  5. Gerrie, I am going to suggest you may be barking up the wrong tree on this one. I am not inclined to agree that it is actually a linocut of Narcissus. Yes it is a linocut, and likely German, but it is more likely to me to be Adam in the Garden. There is no requirement for Narcissus to be surrounded by foliage, since he was primarily interested in his own reflection. Which leads me to the next point, Germans know their classics, and at that time, knowing the classics whilst undertaking art was almost certainly a requirement. I am doubtful that they would have intentionally forgotten the reflection...or the water.

    Which leads me nicely into....Johnny Weismuller? Really Gerrie? You may be muddying the waters a bit with that. Anyway, a closer photograph of the monogram is required and although it has the linear aspect of Cocteau, it has none of his minimalism. It is an interesting print regardless.

  6. Hello Clive, thank you stopping by. You could be right with the Adam analysis, I've thought of it too as you can read. Tarzan ofcourse not muddying the waters but presented as a joke. WEith the torso and legs of a true swimming champion he was a real, non mythological Olympic Adonis or Apollo. Last picture (before the Cocteau drawing) is showing the monogram and the date in detail.

  7. I thought the inspiration might have been "l'après-midi d'un faune"

  8. Thank you for again a very interesting suggestion Archimandrill, I will instantly post a follow up.