The Empire Never Ended (sarmoung) wrote,
The Empire Never Ended

La Mort de Sardanapale


I leave tomorrow for France. The final segment of the holiday takes me to Cannes. I've never had any particular desire to visit the place (well, unless it's some idle fantasy of winning the Palme d'Or, which would probably require having made an actual film, so it seems unlikely as yet) and I am visiting at the invitation of a friend who is in competition for the Sony World Photography Awards, of which this is the inaugural year.

It is also the final week of Lent, so any Mediterranean shenanigans take place against a backdrop of numerous services, culminating in Easter and the Resurrection itself. Following the example of Lord Brougham (inventor of the said one-horse carriage amongst other achievements) in the 1830's, Cannes also found particular favour with one Maria Alexandrovna née Hesse, wife of Tsar Alexander II and Empress of Russia. The Russian Cathedral of St Nicholas in Nice is well known, but there is also St Michael-the-Archangel in Cannes which she commissioned, it is here that I'll be attending services.


There are several members of the Russian royal family buried in the crypt (Two other noted Russians buried in Cannes are Charles Fabergé and Olga Picasso who, aside from being Pablo's first wife, also danced under Diaghilev) including Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich Romanov and his brother Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich and their wives. The four of them were closely involved with the fashion for the occult in fin-de-siècle Russia and they were also responsible for introducing Rasputin at court. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture edited by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal is one of the few English language books dealing with the influence of the occult during the pre/post revolutionary period. I digress...


Thursday (24th) is the service of the Holy Passion, which I find to be the most intense of all the services that week. In the words of the 15th antiphon (here in Greek):

At the conclusion of this service, I'd normally stagger home and lie down for a few hours in a dark room. I don't think anyone reads this journal for spiritual edification, but trying to describe the nature of this week to my friend, about the only relevant comparison I could come up with, perhaps unfortunately, was watching the Ring cycle at Bayreuth. It is rather like opera at one level. A very long opera.

This year after the service, however, my presence will be required at the Gala Evening & Awards Ceremony at the Palais des Festivals where, should I so choose, I can lob bread rolls at Martin Parr, Rankin and Nan Goldin amongst others. However, since bread is quite possibly the only thing at the table that I'll be able to eat in good conscience, I shall probably be hoarding them. I imagine the distinction between these two spaces will be rather evident.


The picture that heads this entry is The Death of Sardanapalus by Delacroix, which was based on a work by Byron about the supposed final Assyrian king. I've not had the time to get to work with scanning any of the books I've bought recently about both Terayama and Shibusawa, but here is another interpretation of that death (with Shibusawa in the main role and for once without dark glasses) by the photographer Narahara Ikko in 1968.


I'm not sure that Cannes will turn out like this photograph though...
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