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The Battle of the Penthesilea

The Battle of the Penthesilea

1937

Raoul Ubac

(Belgian, 1910-1985)

Gelatin silver print

Image: 17 x 22.9 cm (6 11/16 x 9 in.); Paper: 18.2 x 24.1 cm (7 3/16 x 9 1/2 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2007.154

Description

Ubac’s Penthesilea series (1937–39) is named for an 1808 play by poet Hermann von Kleist about the queen of the Amazons, the female warriors. This print, the finished work, is a photograph of a thick collage of cut-up photographs set on a black background and re-photographed using darkroom manipulations, including solarization. Bits of bodies, rope, and wood can be discerned but the end product is distant from reality, in keeping with its mythological origins. The chaotic composition and fragmented, disfigured bodies convey the frenzy and horrors of battle, a subject that would soon become all too real in Europe.

See also
Department: 
Photography
Type of artwork: 
Photograph

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