15 July 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes: Courtiers, Favorites and Les Mignons

The fairy tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 -1875) tells the story of a vain ruler. Two tailors promise him garments so rare and beautiful that only the enlightened can see them. The men are tricksters who manipulate the emperor’s vanity leaving him naked. He and his fawning court pretend to see the invisible robes rather than be viewed as obtuse. It is through the purity of a child’s vision that the truth is told. Opportunists seeking favors have long surrounded the powerful. Henry III of France (1551-1589), called chers yeux by his mother, insulated himself with a group of favorites known as Les Mignons. These young men received gifts by ingratiating themselves with the king; property, titles, jewels and the right to wear royal colors. Henry is shown wearing a Polish hat in a portrait painted in the manner of Etienne Dumonstier (1540-1603). Persian artist Mirza Abol-Hassan Khan (1814-1866) depicts the young Naser o-Din Shah being engulfed by his courtiers. The illustration from the Emperor’s New Clothes is by Irish artist Harry Clarke (1889–1931). Camel Productions' documentary on Clarke, Darkness in Light tells the story of a man who never compromised art or truth despite conflicts with a powerful State and Church.

10 comments:

  1. Ah, yes, the Emperor's New Clothes! Every time I open an interior design magazine - print or online - I see instances of this syndrome. Love the Persian painting - those faces are exquisite.

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  2. Talking of favourites, I digress.. In a recent London show of Indian/Persian portraits there are two views of a glamorous courtier of Shah Jehan ( I think it was).In the first he is handsome, beautifully dressed, impressive but the second is a view of him looking skeletal as an opium addict. It was said to be commissioned by his master out of compassion. I am sure you know the image and do correct me where wrong!

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  3. Blue I can not agree more! That is why I love your postings so much. Best, Kendra

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  4. Rosie, I was intrigued by this story and had to look it up. The courtier was Inayat Khan who was dying from opium and alcohol addiction. Jahangir who was fascinated by art had his portrait done. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! Best, Kendra

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  5. Kendra,

    I have actually been waiting for you to post this theme, based on your format! Where is the end in its application? ;)

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  6. Hi Sarah~ Yes I have wanted to post this for a week now but was having computer issues. It seems so applicable! Best, Kendra

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  7. I too feel myself referring to the Naked Emperor time and again, sadly so much of our current world of art, fashion, & literature, seems to be puffed up silliness .Yet are culture fawns upon this silliness.
    Have always loved the word Les Mignons, there is a homoerotic element to all of this , No?
    Always a pleasure to read/view your postings.
    Leonard

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  8. Yes, there is so much of the Naked Emperor going on right now and that is why I cherish my bloggers of substance. I have not found out much about Les Mignons and I think it is sad that there was a maligned homo erotic aspect to them. Always a pleasure to hear from you, Kendra

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  9. Wonderful images and text, kendra. In you post I am reminded of the courtier supreme, George Villiers, the first duke of Buckingham.
    -Also a metaphor for current events, certainly.
    Your posts all have such a mood, and are filled with insights.
    Warmly,

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  10. Thank you Philip, I am touched you enjoy my posts. Best, Kendra

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