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Thursday, 27 August 2020

The Art of Amalaric, Part 2 - Ancient History

201 The Spoils Of War

No-one knows who invented slavery, but it was certainly practised by the Romans and this 'family portrait' echoes the sentiment expressed in 'Warlord' in Part 1, that a fine-looking slave (with quality tackle) is a possession to be proud of. All the more so if he is a conquered enemy.

The slave's own opinion looks (understandably) less enthusiastic about this arrangement, but his look is sensibly neutral. He perhaps realises that he is the find of a lifetime for men of a certain inclination and is resigned to ending up in the hands (literally) of the richest of them. The shaft of light falling on the his shoulder seems to emphasise how special he is, relegating his rich owner to the shadows. (Notice how Amalaric has aligned the lighting with that on the wall behind*).

This slave has a rather modern look about him that allows us to fantasise about a time travelling gym bunny who finds his attention-getting physique is an unexpected disadvantage in this era.

*This image is also incorporated into a larger work 'A Few Good Men' @Telemachus with lighting that is quite different. This image can also be seen with the Senator differently-posed in '1001 Nights No 246' @Aquadude. Amalaric's predilection for revising and re-using his ingredients is a feature of his work that will become more apparent as we delve deeper. 

 

202 Afternoon Delight

This image shows a delighted Senator Balbus lecturing his handsome, new slave on the House Rules, a lesson that will be driven home afterwards with a humiliating, introductory whipping. Rufus Scipio was once a free man, now he is reduced to slavedom,. Despite his demotion, he is still proud enough to take any punishment without complaint, which always goes down well with slave owners. In truth he has no choice, for enslavement is part of the legal system in this world and (in theory) applicable to all classes as a punishment. The chain that tethers him to the majestic columns of this villa, ultimately symbolises his subordination to the might of Rome.

With this image the artist conjures up a domestic moment in a Roman slave household. It illustrates the vast gulf which exists between the wealthy owner and his slaves in terms of status, money and refinement. His slaves have nothing but whatever he chooses to give them, although there's a reverse disparity in physical strength and, outwardly at least, in masculinity.

The dog shows the Senator's liking for pets and reflects his hope that Rufus will become one of them, like his existing slave standing with head respectfully bowed in the foreground and no doubt calculating the effect of the new arrival on the pecking order.

Afternoon Delight @Telemachus

 

203 Dionysius Cordarum

Quintus (centre) is a Roman soldier who deserted the Army and like Rufus he has been condemned to become a slave. Amelia (right) purchases him and for a while he has visions of becoming her 'bed slave' until she has him strung him up (in the classic Amalaric X-restraint). He then learns that he has been purchased as a gift for her drunken brothers, who take pleasure in torturing young men.

The title of this picture is the name of the disgusting servant seen here tormenting the captive slave before the brothers get going. Amalaric translates it as 'Dennis of the Ropes' but Dionysus is also the God of wine and mayhem so there's an alternative sense of a god-like man being bound as a centrepiece for a drunken orgy.

This is an early work and Amalaric regards the series as relatively crude, but this image has an earthy substance. The tethered slave seems starkly real, glowing with life in an otherwise slightly misty scene that seems to reflect the drunkenness of those around him. He looks genuinely stretched too, the awkward positioning of the feet an authentic indicator of his discomfort. Only the lofty, cruel woman who has engineered this cruel drama stands out sharply, underlining her deceit. Cruel women turn up in other Amalaric stories as well, helping to despatch straight men to sexual hell.

(from Roman Army Deserter - not publicly available at the moment)

204 Young Crusader

This simple but attractive image powerfully conveys Amalaric's love of the male form. He plucks men from mundane modelling existences and casts them into adventures that make hay of their maleness and desirability. This image conjures up visions of young travellers in distant lands being made captive, deprived of their clothes and possessions, put in chains and left in darkness to imagine a fate worse than death.

The loin cloth is redolent of the Ancient World and a near identical garment features in the picture I used for my introductory post for this series, 'The Disciplined Argonaut' set in ancient Greece (ca 500 BC). We see the loin cloth as the ancient equivalent of modern underwear but the very similar fundoshi of Japan and langots of India seem more direct descendants and their modern connections with wrestling and athletic endeavour align more naturally with the jockstrap.

But unlike any of these modern counterparts, ancient loincloths seem emblematic of a lowly status and have become a uniform for the condemned too, thanks to centuries of Christian crucifixion imagery. That link makes it uncomfortable and ironic garb for this prisoner in a scenario set during the intensely religious wars of the Crusades (ca 1200 AD). The loin cloth is not the normal apparel of a Crusader, it augments the fetters on his wrists as a symbol of his captivity and degradation.

The looseness of Amalaric's garment is suggestive of easy dressing (and removal!) but aficionados will know it also supplies the wearer with sensual pleasure as well as comfort (a quality it shares with baggy tighty-whiteys). 

 

205 Destined For The Bed Chamber

The enmity between the sides who fought the Crusades was bitter and this young man has a touch of hardness in his look that one can imagine translating into the sort of ruthlessness that earns a man no friends. Preparing to face his captor, he adopts a brave stance, defiant in the face of a whip and a snarling, wild animal.

He has now lost the last veil of his modesty, but despite that he seems to have grown in stature from the previous image, with an attitude verging on swagger. Primed to expect brutal treatment he is perhaps deceived by the soft, plush furnishings of the Sheik's apartments. The title tells us that this captured soldier is facing a degrading evening, perhaps the first of many. More that that, he is destined to experience the terrors of the night from one who desires men but loves their fear even more.

Like other historical pieces it's easy to imagine this man as a GI who got separated from his unit and was spotted by a despot's lackey as suited to his master's tastes. The luxuriant apartment is probably more Disneyland than Damascus but I suppose that connection is not entirely without relevance. Is this Beauty about to be Beasted?

The figures on the right can also be spotted in Marrakech (secret MOSLA operatives perhaps?).

(these last two images from The Crusader at Telemachus)

 

206 The Pilgrim

This rather different loin cloth image is extraordinarily sexy. It can also be seen adorning a different man entirely, a blond adonis in the 125th of 1001 Nights at Aquadude and comparing the pictures gives an insight into the extent of Amalaric's manipulations (which are enlarged on in the comments). The sheer process of transplanting clothing from one man to another must give him an erotic thrill, GI Joe/Action Man for adults! In this image the cleverly-matched tones lend authenticity to a scene that is actually compiled from both photographic and painted art sources.

In this story a pious Christian pilgrim travelling to Jerusalem becomes an unwitting casualty of the shifting politics of the region. Taken prisoner, he sees how other captives are sold and put to hard work under the lash. The image shows him watching his fellow pilgrims being haggled over while awaiting his own fate. He prays to God for deliverance and in a cruel irony his purchased body is indeed spared hard labour, but his religious fervour is re-purposed into the worship of a new Lord and Master, his congregation the members of an all-male harem.

Illustration for “The Pilgrim, Tales of the Crusades Part 2” by Jean Cristophe at Aquadude


207 A Gathering Storm

Another memorable, sexy loincloth image showcasing the garment's ability to embellish punishment scenarios, here seeming more exposing of those luscious buns than total nudity would be. This image is also remarkable for it's dramatic setting, a domed basilica of immense grandeur, under which the naked man in his vulgar, skimpy, loincloth is dwarfed as though doomed to be the insignificant offering in a momentous, ceremonial rite. The crazy angle seems to give the scene an unreal, nightmarish quality.

The lonely, condemned captive gazes up towards the distant window overhead whose light seems to give his body a mystical, portentous glow. In the storyline this man is another Roman Army deserter who has been caught and condemned to be sold into slavery, but first he must be flogged. We know Romans did sometimes wear their hair short, but the jar-head severity of this man's cut seems an apt reflection of his new status as prisoner and perhaps the discipline of his now-ended military career.

(image from Gladiator at Telemachus, link below)


208 A Gift For The Caliph

This startling image is again cast in the era of the Crusades, witness the sword casually propped against the wall, tantalising close to it's owner. The Caliph regards his gift with one of those unfathomable looks we ascribe to cultures we don't understand, but it's not hard to imagine him 'visually devouring' that seductive torso and what hangs below (suggestively aligned with his foot).

Amalaric describes this setting as 'the dungeon' which would account for the state of the wall tiles. The background scene brings the word 'stable' more to mind (or whatever it is that elephants are housed in). The location and the presence of this beast implies that the naked Crusader is seen as no more than an animal and that even the greatest of beasts a subject to the Caliph's will. There are some other interesting interpretations of the foreground imagery at the link below.

This is one of a series of images based by Amalaric on paintings of life in the Middle East. These were produced at a time when the region was 'discovered' as a startlingly different and immensely picturesque and romantic part of the world (around the turn of the 19th century). Amalaric's skill in dovetailing photographic ingredients into them is impressive and demonstrates his love of conventional, traditional paint artistry which I also hinted at in the cop's jail cell scene in Part 1. Cock-watchers may recognise another friend from Part 1 (Welcome to MOSLA). Amalaric has given him a new head which I find immensely sexy.

(from  A Gift For The Caliph at Aquadude)


209 Purveyors to the Mamluk Court

In this image, the artist cleverly substitutes men for carpets, creating a ready-made slave emporium in full flow. The whip handle, just visible in the foreground gives the captives food for thought as they wait.

There's no narrative for this series but Mamluks were slaves who became soldiers and became established as a warrior class of higher status, even rising to rule some Muslim domains. They were instrumental in driving the Crusaders out of the Holy Land which is presumably what is referenced here. Their background as slaves adds a frisson to the plight of their captives although it's also possible to see this is a recruitment scenario rather than the simple purchase of European servants.

Amalaric is following a well-trodden path here, the original Middle Eastern scenes were intended as documentary reflections of the culture but inspired other artists to produce slave market scenes in the same style, usually with female 'harem' stereotypes on offer. These images are interesting in that your intellect quickly tells you these are a synthesis of paintings and photographs, but it's rather more difficult for the eye to see, particularly when the 'real men' are placed in the foreground where the difference in textures and tones simply creates a distancing effect.


210 The Courtyard of the Mamluk Sultan

This, I think, is the best of them all. An integration that is almost impossible to see at first sight and glorious colouring carried through to the captive's head of glowing red hair - a quirk calculated to arouse the Sultan's interest. Even the recycled figure of the ruler seems to have subtly changed in this imagining, although his gaze remains as steely and impenetrable as ever, despite being presented with another splendidly muscular, defenceless torso that cries out to be touched and embraced. The yawning dark doorway which the captive faces is a shiveringly sinister detail.

The impact of this image owes much to it's simplicity which notably contrasts with the complexity of the Caliph image above. It's erotic power is triggered by the bound, naked figure, but resides mostly in our imaginations. Great Art!

211 Roman Captives of the Celts

'Gladiator', is an epic loosely themed around the story of Owein, a Celtic leader, seen in the image above brandishing his sword above two captive Roman soldiers against the apocalyptic background of a dramatic sky and burning fortress. The captives have been forced to surrender their uniforms and Owein seems to be wearing the skirt of one of them as he decides their fate.

The Romans have been left wearing only a form of loincloth with a dangling 'modesty panel' at the front that's probably authentic for the era* but also seems to have an improvised, temporary quality boding ill for the wearers. Their gleaming, sweaty torsos may reflect their fear for the future as much as the exertions of their recent, unsuccessful fighting.

I particularly like the corner detail here, set apart from the more formal ceremonials, it shows a tied captive kneeling, submissive and dismayed, probably contemplating whether death is preferable to enslavement.

*Loose shifts something like this also appear in Quaintance's Roman art and Zagato's slave art.


212 Celtic Warriors Made Captive

As you might imagine, Owein is not fated to enjoy a long, successful career as a rebel against the might of Rome. When he in his turn is captured, he's treated in much the same way, shackled and stripped to reveal what Amalaric calls his 'linen sheath'. It's quite disorienting to see a 1950's posing pouch pop up (as it were) in this Roman scene. The quizzical expression of Owein's comrade seems to show similar confusion (and a witty artist).

Levity aside it's appearance here confers a powerful and unexpected sense of seeing the embarrassing exposure of an intimate garment which makes a stark contrast to the grand attire of Owein's earlier triumph. Of course those pouches were made for gropers and that is exactly what the Roman soldiers do to him, amongst other more painful things.

Owein has not been particularly kind to his hated Roman enemies and the story of his own humiliation and degradation is accompanied by an interesting, ironic counterpoint referencing the brutal treatment suffered by Roman soldiers at the hands of their foes and also by servants and others who offend the Roman elite.

213 The Test of Potency

Owein's spirit is not quenched by soldierly mistreatment. Doomed to be sold into slavery, he is seen here calmly enduring yet another manhandling in a private 'inspection cubicle'. He looks out at us gawpers, defiantly proud, while the mesmerised son of the prospective buyer stares at his magnificent endowment as though willing it to gush forth, much to the amusement of the slave trader just outside who's already verified Owein's non-gay inclinations.

Owein's resistance to the ministrations of massage oil and eager male hands is remedied, not by the whip for once, but by an aromatic paste provided by the local 'apothecary witch' (above left). This potion magically produces a near-instant ejaculation, but not before Owein's tender parts have endured enough unpleasant sensations to wipe that complacent look off his face.

I can offer no artistic excuses for including this picture! 

 

214 Owein is Lashed

Duly purchased, Owein is soon introduced to the severe punishments considered normal for his new status. Being lashed in surroundings as grand and beautiful as the Senator's gardens is probably a privilege but I doubt he would have appreciated the distinction. At this point the punishment is just begun, the artist spares us the worst of the outcome. The off-setting of the whipman, low in the corner works well, seemingly acknowledging Owein's special status.

Most of the captives created by Amalaric's pen can expect to receive repeated treatment like this, but he doesn't often portray it in explicit pictures. He gifts us a sight of Owein's impressive rump which is a worthy complement to his magnificent frontage seen above. As you might imagine, it soon attracts unwelcome attention from other quarters as his story is progresses.

All Amalaric's images contain beautiful men, but Owein is one of those chosen to play a leading role and his beautiful body dominates this epic. Sadly the story is incomplete as yet but, as the title suggests, his anger and thirst for revenge heads him towards the Gladiatorial Arena. Amalaric draws on the imagery of recent Spartacus films for these episodes which I suppose you might regard as ambiguous indicator of the final outcome.

(From 'Gladiator' at Telemachus)


More suffering hunks in The Art of Amalaric Part 3

 Read this series from Part 1

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