Ai Weiwei in Berlin

Art is resistance against authority.

April 3 to July 7, 2014: Ai Weiwei in Berlin

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, the Berlin museum in the MARTIN-GROPIUS-BAU will open the biggest exhibition of the work of Beijing artist Ai Weiwei yet. The master himself has been invited to the opening, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have been asked to obtain permission to travel for the artist, who is banned from traveling abroad by the People’s Republic of China. Whether this is granted or not, the reaction of the Chinese government is sure to amplify the triumphant success for Ai Weiwei.

That alone is perhaps enough to explain the brilliance of Ai Weiwei. For the first time, an apparently powerless individual has succeeded in converting the authority of this huge empire (with its traditions of despots and loyal subjects dating back over 2,000 years) into a ping-pong ball for his own interests. In the process, Ai combines typical Chinese salesmanship with an altogether un-Chinese refractoriness.

One example: after the earthquake in Chengdu (Sichuan Province) in 2008, he collected the names of 80,000 casualties, including several thousand children, which he wanted to publish on his art blog. In addition, he designed a work of art showing 9,000 of the dead children’s satchels. The work was exhibited in the HAUS DER KUNST in Munich in 2009. What’s more, Ai Weiwei explained on his Internet blog why so many children were killed by collapsing school buildings: the steel girders originally intended for school construction were swiped by the responsible party bigwigs to build their own houses.

Any such announcement could have been disastrous for the Communist Party leadership, as it might have led to rebellion in the province and encouraged armed resistance. What did the authorities do? They blocked the blog, but did not institute any legal action against the artist for libel or similar, because then the truth would really have come to light. Instead, Ai Weiwei was arrested for supposed tax evasion – an accusation for which, coincidentally, the state has to this day not produced any evidence.

Since then, Ai Weiwei has continually suffered victimization and bans that make his life more difficult and affect his health. He is monitored by cameras day and night in his Beijing studio, and shadowed by security police whenever he leaves the house.

This information is not unknown abroad. Being a dissident only increases his fame. It makes him a hero and an internationally known figure. The question, “Can you name a living Chinese artist?” is answered the same by everyone across the globe: “Ai Weiwei.”

Needless to say, Ai is also the most expensive Chinese artist – the market leader and a living brand at the same time. Something that he comments on with humor: for example with the Neolithic china vase that he decorated with the Coca-Cola logo – the epitome of marketing. Waggishly, he also likes to present himself shattering Ming vases, perhaps as a way of evincing his disrespectful attitude to Chinese tradition.

Ai Weiwei also likes to provoke with apparently pornographic photographs. In this way, he provides the Chinese justice system with the opportunity to take him to court again – and at the same time gives the international press the chance to present such trials as farcical and publicize his portrait. Ai Weiwei’s Buddha habitus with the mischievous smile of a court jester might be considered the most popular artist image since Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, or Joseph Beuys.

His sangfroid makes him untouchable. And even if all the West’s hydrogen bombs could probably never bring the omnipotent party apparatus of the People’s Republic close to defeat, a chubby little man, armed with creative wit and artful wisdom, could certainly manage it: the genius Ai Weiwei.

Exhibition: Ai Weiwei, “Evidence,” Thursday, April 3 to Monday, July 7, 2014, open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the MARTIN GROPIUS BAU Berlin, . Telephone: +49-30-254-860

艾未未

Ai Weiwei (in Chinese characters)

 

Recommendation:

The ZEIT-Magazine (number 13 from 20th march 2014) has published a special edition designed by Ai Weiwei himself, where he presents photos and artworks never exhibited before (available at the newspaper trade).

Cover picture from the ZEIT Magazine Nr. 13, photo and art direction by Ai Weiwei 2014©
Cover picture from the ZEIT Magazine Nr. 13, photo and art direction by Ai Weiwei 2014©

 

Other exhibitions and events worth visiting:

Egyptian museum and papyrus collection with a bust of Queen Nefertiti: NEUES MUSEUM on the Berlin Museum Island

Antique collection with the Pergamon Altar: PERGAMON MUSEUM, ALTES MUSEUM on the Berlin Museum Island

Art gallery with works from the 13th to 18th centuries, including Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer, Raffael, Titian, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Jan Vermeer van Delft: KULTURFORUM near Potsdamer Platz

20th-century art with works by artists ranging from Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to Joseph Beuys, presented in a masterpiece of Bauhaus architecture by Mies van der Rohe: NEUE NATIONALGALERIE near Potsdamer Platz

Museum der Gegenwart including works by Andy Warhol and Anselm Kiefer, among others: HAMBURGER BAHNHOF near Berlin central station

Sammlung Boros, an important private collection with contemporary works of art, presented as a complete artwork in a former air raid shelter: BOROS BUNKER near Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Reinhardtstrasse 20, 10117 Berlin, Germany. Visits only with prior reservation by telephone at +49-30-2759-4065

JEWISH MUSEUM with documents relating to Jewish culture in Germany and the Holocaust, in the museum construction by architect Daniel Libeskind, Lindenstrasse 9–14, 10969 Berlin, Germany

DDR MUSEUM with interactive documents regarding political and private life in the formerly Russian-occupied Eastern part of Germany up to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989: Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1, 10178 Berlin, Germany

BERLIN WALL MEMORIAL, open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Bernauer Strasse 111, 13355 Berlin, Germany

 

Can then sin be love?

deutsche Version ->

The Harlot of the Holy Heart

Why Jesus, Ovid, Propertius, Caesar, Molière, and other greats fell in love with hetaerae.

Mary, a gynecological miracle according to Christian mythology (virgin and mother of God at the same time), is also often called “Queen of Heaven.” An intriguing choice, as this title was also borne (at least in the texts of the Old Testament, written in Babylon) by the “sacred harlots,” high priestesses of temple prostitution, such as Ishtar of Babylon and Ashera of Canaan.

However, recent research contests the existence of temple prostitution, suggesting it is purely mythical. But then, aren’t mythology and legend often far more enlightening than some historical fact? What use is the scientific finding that the wise Solomon did not in fact write the “Song of Songs” himself, and that his palace was hardly bigger than a goat pen?

Church choirs still sang out the lover’s oath of God to his love, Mary, in the Early Baroque period:

“Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful, from a far country full of sorrow, and come into the land which I will show thee! Come to me, your most dear lover! For I have loved thee above all others, and I will grant my kingdom to thee, for I have long admired thy beauty.” (Mundy “Vox Patris Caelestis,” around 1550).

The similarity to the “Song of Songs” of Solomon is probably intentional. God courts his chosen like a king – a true potentate. And when Mary’s son, Jesus, preaches: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he, of course, was not just referring to the giving of alms. Charity (Caritas), love of God (Agape), and the love of parents and children are among the strongest, richest, and most human of all feelings, just like eros and sexus.

Lucas Cranach: Venus and Cupid, © Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The impartial viewer might also see Mary with the baby Jesus in this image.
Lucas Cranach: Venus and Cupid, © Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The impartial viewer might also see Mary with the baby Jesus in this image.

We know that Jesus did not live his whole life without a woman. We also know that the woman who was closest to him and who (together with his mother) was the first to visit his tomb was Mary Magdalene. To John the Evangelist, considered by some exegetes to be the brother of Magdalene, Mary Magdalene was “the woman whom Jesus loved.” Records show that she was a sinner. Jesus cast out seven devils from her at her house in Magdala (by the Sea of Galilee). However, it is not this hocus-pocus that shows Magdalene was a prostitute, but rather the fact that women had no right to run their own home in ancient times – except for hetaerae.

Some confused believers fear that it might be sacrilege to call the partner of the Redeemer a “harlot.” Dear churchy types, did you ever consider that it might rather be an honor? Hetaerae were homeowning prostitutes, well-read in many languages and rhetorically brilliant in comparison to housewives. They were the first emancipated women in history. So Jesus found himself a real women’s libber. Which means he was an emancipated man. Men today would do well to follow the example of this brave, wise lover!

“I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin.” This quotation does not come from Anaïs Nin, the lover of sex apostle Henry Miller, but Mary Magdalene, the partner of a great prophet in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Exult, rejoice!

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC to 17 AD), a Roman contemporary of Jesus, was equally committed to the subject of love. His Ars amatoria is seen as the first textbook on the art of love. In 49 poems, the pornophile writer presents his readers with a handbook of love techniques that is enjoyable and practical in equal measure. Neither he nor she, he advised, should succumb to Cupid’s arrows and become a puppet of the god of love. It is far more sensible to become master of one’s emotions and refine one’s desires with a clear head – like an artist. This pinnacle of joyful love was only achievable as or with a hetaera. Ovid himself chose the hetaera Corinna as his lover, but unfortunately developed undying love for her. Corinna smiled and Ovid suffered.

All surviving elegies by Propertius (Sextus Aurelius Propertius, 48 to 15 BC), who is counted among Rome’s greatest lyricists along with Ovid, Catullus, and Tibullus, are about the hetaera Cynthia. “She loves neither power nor romance; she evaluates her lovers according to their pocketbooks,” the poet lamented. Whenever he tried to take possession of Cynthia, she eluded him. But more than her beauty and her sensuality, it was her autonomy that attracted men like a magnet. An emancipated woman was something exotic in ancient society: as rare and desirable as a jewel.

Aspasia of Miletus, hetaera, philosopher, and orator (ca 470 to 420 BC), might have looked like this: portrait by Sandro Botticelli © Uffizi, Florence
Aspasia of Miletus, hetaera, philosopher, and orator (ca 470 to 420 BC), might have looked like this: portrait by Sandro Botticelli © Uffizi, Florence

The hetaera Aspasia threw the senate of Athens into turmoil as early as around 450 BC. She was the muse and lover (and later life partner) of the most important statesman in Athenian democracy: Pericles (490 to 429 BC). He, whom we have to thank for the building of the Acropolis, and who was in charge of Athens’s fortunes for 15 years, was seen in his time as a clever diplomat, a cool-headed general, and, above all, as a great orator. “Whenever he appeared in front of the assembly of the people, he could – like a good sprinter – leave the other orators behind,” the poet Eupolis attested. So it was quite a surprise when it became known that his speeches were not written by himself, but by the hetaera Aspasia, who was schooled by Socrates and Plato.

It was embarrassing enough that the first citizen of Athens kept a paid lover; what made things worse was that she was a Milesian – and therefore an enemy. But rather than committing foolish perjury in the style of modern statesmen and repentantly returning to the marital bed, Pericles admitted his passion: in front of the assembly, he embraced his lover and, through tears, swore to the Athenians: “If you wish to take Aspasia away from me, then take my life as well!” The Athenian Council of Elders decided there was no need to get carried away, and Aspasia and Pericles stayed together.

To this day, Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII, 69 to 12 BC) is seen as the Assoluta of all famous women. Egypt’s last pharaoh referred proudly to her ancestors from the Ptolemaic dynasty and that she was descended from statesmen on her father’s side, but hetaerae on that of her mother.

However, there are also sources that claim to see her mother as the daughter of a family of high priests, based on Cleopatra’s knowledge of Egyptian. On that basis, the intelligent princess must have a great many mothers, as Plutarch reports that, in addition to Egyptian, she also mastered Ethiopian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Median, Parthian, Greek, the language of the Troglodytes (a Libyan tribe), and, of course, Latin.

She certainly acquired two abilities from her parents: her statesmanlike deftness and her art of seduction. Neither Gaius Julius Caesar (100 to 44 BC) nor Mark Antony (ca 82 to 30 BC) could resist Cleopatra’s beauty, because it didn’t exist (as her likeness on busts and coins proves). Equally nonexistent was anything resembling “romantic infatuation” in the heart of this extremely intelligent woman. Nevertheless, the erotic and sexual fascination of the pharaoh must have had an irresistible and incomparable effect on both Roman emperors. No woman can achieve such things through sentimentalism – only through a spectacular grasp of the art of love (which also involves technique, tactics, craft, and desire)!

Imagine Angela Merkel on a state visit to Putin, allowing herself to be wrapped up in a carpet, naked as the day she was born, to offer herself as a gift to the ruler of all Russians in his bedchamber. Quite. In any case, that was the trick with which Cleopatra bewitched and conquered the militarily unbeatable Caesar. We know the rest of the story: the pharaoh becomes ruler of the whole southern Roman empire, bears Caesar a son (Caesarion, 47 to 33 BC), Caesar is assassinated, Caesarion is assassinated, Cleopatra seduces Mark Antony, both seek control over all of Rome, both are defeated by Augustus, and meet their end in suicide. What was Goethe’s placid remark? “We failed together; it was a beautiful time.”

Theodora I, hetaera and the first Christian empress (527 AD), mosaic © Tourist Information Ravenna
Theodora I, hetaera and the first Christian empress (527 AD), mosaic © Tourist Information Ravenna

The first Christian empress (and later saint) began her working life in a brothel and on the streetside as what was known as a “fellatrix” and “meretrix” (prostitute). Motivated by the belief that the world could be a woman’s oyster as easily as a man’s through the goodness of Christ and her iron will, Theodora (500 to 548 AD) took acting classes and studied literature, rhetoric, and languages with the aim of seducing the most powerful ruler of her time, the emperor Justinian I (Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus, known as “Justinian the Great”, 482 to 565 AD). Something she quickly achieved.

The emperor, renowned for his puritanical, pious nature, fell in love with the beautiful, eloquent hetaera and chose her– though still married – as his consort. In 524, the lovers were wed. From then on, Theodora reigned as an empress of equal standing. While Justinian ensured his place in history with military and architectural heroics (including victory over the Persians and the rebuilding of the Hagia Sophia in its current size and splendor), Theodora practiced what would later be the method of Josef Stalin: she tyrannized the Byzantine Empire with a merciless ideology that victimized anyone who expressed contrary opinions.

“… one might more quickly, I think, count all grains of sand than the vast number (of human lives) whom this Emperor (and his Empress) destroyed,” wrote the historian and philosopher Procopius of Caesarea (500 to 562 AD). Making it all the more incredible that such a doctrinaire ruling couple promulgated the most modern marriage law of its time. The premise was that “mutual affection is the foundation of any marriage” (a revision of the forced marriage valid throughout Europe at the time). Homosexual marriages also became legal. For example, Theodora’s adviser Strategius married his male lover. At the same time, the empress fought against child labor, youth and forced prostitution, and in favor of women’s rights. The fact that they later also criminalized the occupation of hetaerae might be viewed as self-interest: while no man could threaten the most powerful woman in the Western world, she feared female rivals who were as intelligent, beautiful, and seductive as herself – but 20 years’ younger and correspondingly more attractive. Just such a nasty piece of work could easily have developed from among the circle of hetaerae.

In summary: no one and nothing succeeded in defeating Theodora – except for cancer. She died aged 48; no age for a femme d’État!

The following story might turn the stomach of some moralists, but it teaches us to ask the question “Can an evil woman be a good ruler?” without prejudice. And the answer is yes – as proven by the life of Wu Zetian (or Wu Tse-tien, 625 to 705 AD).

By the age of 13, Wu Zetian had already been taken on as a concubine in the harem of Emperor Taizong. When the aged ruler died, his young lover’s hair was shaved – following an ancient custom – and she was sent to a convent: in theory, for life. But Wu, who was gifted with a smart mind as well as a beautiful body, ingratiated herself with the new emperor and his wife through secret correspondence. After seven years, she was permitted to return to the ruler’s palace, where she seduced the heir to the throne (Gaozong) while he urinated. He was so impressed by this shameless beauty, that he chose her to become his main concubine.

In the year 654, Wu Zetian bore the emperor a child. The hitherto childless empress now had to fear for her future in the royal court – and Wu therefore had to fear her revenge. Rather than fleeing, she chose to go on the offensive. She generously allowed the empress to be the first to see the emperor’s child. Unsuspecting, she entered the child’s room – and was arrested on the spot. The cunning Wu had already beaten her own baby with a candlestick, and suspicion immediately fell on the empress – she alone had a motive for murder. And so, after the execution of her rival, Wu had the opportunity to usurp the emperor. She married him in 650, in order to become sole ruler of the Chinese Empire after his death (683). In the year 666, when she turned 41 and her husband began to glance covetously at her beautiful niece, she laced this new love rival’s wine with poison.

Her two sons who aspired to the throne also died unnatural deaths, the third she had certified insane. Her fourth offspring, meanwhile, was so young and inexperienced that she was happy to vacate the throne for him – in order to continue ruling unchallenged. In the process, she kept the multiethnic state free from war, helped trade flourish, and brought prosperity to her subjects.

In 690 she appointed herself the successor to Buddha and took on the title “Holy and Divine Emperor of China.” Even from the Chinese point of view, that was excessive megalomania! At the age of 80, she was forced to abdicate – something that displeased her so much that she died shortly after.

In India, where prostitution is strictly forbidden by religious and state doctrine, the industry has enjoyed increasing demand for hundreds of years (Puritanism, perversion and prostitution seem to depend on each other). Unfortunately not to the benefit of the prostitutes, who are mostly persecuted and despised – with the exception of the Ganika caste.

Similarly to the ancient hetaerae, a Ganika received musical education, could sing and dance, and, unlike a wife, could even read and write – which always brought with it the danger of a political voice, or even revolt. Like an aristocrat, a Ganika enjoyed the privilege of adorning herself with golden jewelry and carrying parasols and fans in public. However, she was also obliged to sleep with any man, should the king order it, and would be flogged should she refuse. If she willingly surrendered, for a cost, two days’ pay per month were due in tax. That is equivalent to a tax rate of 7%, the modern-day VAT rate for cultural items.

If you are familiar with Buddhism, you have surely read something of Ampali. This equally ingenious and spiritual Ganika invited a young prince by the name of Siddhartha Gautama (563 to 483 BC) to lunch back in the year 530 BC. The enthusiasm Ampali and her colleague Vimala showed toward the profound preacher (and their handsome prostitute’s fees) probably made a significant contribution to the enlightenment of the future Buddha. As they grew older and more pious, the generous Ganikas made the change to temple prostitution and eventually to sexual abstinence – which may have been beneficial to their karma, but not to the pockets of the Buddha.

Hindus also preferred prostitutes to frustration. They adorned their temple with pornographic sculptures (the Khajuraho temples are still a feast for tourist’s eyes to this day) and dreamed up a heaven filled with dancing ladies of easy virtue. These apsaras, such as Menaka, are on the same level as archangels, but promise greater joys to those lucky enough to have passed on than “Gloria” and “Hosanna.” To allow such otherworldly festivities to be experienced in this life, there were devadasis, temple dancers who bestowed heaven on earth (at least symbolically) on the living.

“A woman enjoys food twice as much as a man does; she has four times as much knowledge; she is six times more courageous, and gains eight times as much enjoyment from sex,” as the respect-inspiring Indian proverb says. Everyday reality in India could learn something from that.

“Love and money are good servants, but bad masters.” So went the maxim of Ninon de L’Enclos (1620 to 1705). To this day, the former convent schoolgirl and later courtesan at the time of Louis XIV (“The Sun King”, 1638 to 1715) is known as one of the most beautiful and intelligent Frenchwomen of all time. She was certainly the embodiment of female emancipation long before Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex).

Similarly to the GRETA BRENTANO® muses, she followed her own desires and affections when choosing her lovers. As an extremely charming and amusing businesswoman, she devoted her full attention to any paying beau – but only surrendered her body to the select few who aroused her passion. Anyone who experienced Ninon’s exquisite art of lovemaking could thus be sure that the favor of the intelligent courtesan had been won by their personality – not their portfolio or influence at court. This sine qua non allowed the chosen one to feel like a conquering champion and doubly enjoy their love life.

The dramatist Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622 to 1673), author of satirical dramas such as Tartuffe, The Imaginary Invalid, and The School for Wives, was among the visitors to her salon, as was François de La Rochefoucauld (1613 to 1680), founder of the Moralist school and writer of the sharp-witted Sentences and Moral Maxims. Other guests included the wife of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon (1635 to 1719), and Queen Christina of Sweden (1626 to 1689) – thus, all in all, the crème de la crème.

Only the queen mother and her royal household were appalled that a courtesan dared turn the societal hierarchy on its head. Suddenly, courtesans had prestige and authority that married, “respectable” female aristocrats could only dream of. Ninon de L’Enclos never deigned to marry, however. She remained true to her autonomy: “My God, make me an honest man, but never an honest woman!”

One can’t help but wonder: how does a professional courtesan maintain her standard of living to a ripe age? Well, Ninon charged hefty fees, acquired land, and was, so they say, still greatly desired as an 80-year-old. After her death (aged 85), the Marquis de La Fare wrote, “Never have I known a woman so reputable and worthy of mourning.”

Perhaps Alice Schwarzer should read some history books.

“I can only love, but I can never belong to another!” These words from poet and countess Franziska “Fanny” zu Reventlow (1871 to 1918) represent a motivation shared by almost all hetaerae, as truly free love can bear no ties.

To revive this idea, 12 young artists and academics came together in Berlin to form the cultural escort agency GRETA BRENTANO®. These modern hetaerae refer to themselves as muses, who bring together five assets in one being: education, eloquence, empathy, eroticism, and elegance.

Once you have met in a restaurant or a hotel bar, you and your muse will decide together how to spend your evening: do you want to explore Berlin’s nightlife? Enjoy a meal? Dance? Go to a theater or concert? If there is mutual affection, your evening could even turn into a night of passion.

However: even if your muse demands a large fee, she is not “for sale” and does not promise any erotic “services” – her art of lovemaking and passion are sparked by her own desire.

Should there be a spark, you will both feel it straight away. If that is not the case, you and your muse both have the right to go your separate ways – free of charge within the first half hour. But as your muse follows her desires and not caprices, you can be almost certain of enjoying the pleasure of love. Every muse feels a natural leaning toward polyamory, and sees an erotic experience with a stranger as an exciting adventure. At the same time, she takes pleasure in being seduced, seducing you, and increasing both your levels of desire. And as each muse accepts no more than one guest per week, you can be certain of her complete devotion.

Why does a woman do this? Because some women, like some men, are looking for an erotic adventure.

Why does she accept remuneration? Because it represents a sign of appreciation.

Does your wife see muse’s kisses as adultery? No wife need fear that a muse wants to take her place, because for a muse, the only true love is free love.

Could you find yourself in judicial difficulties? Not in Germany, and probably not in any enlightened democracy, where the right to genuine affection and free will should reign supreme.

Nota bene: “Virtue is what you make of passion,” Saint Augustine of Hippo.

 

Recommended literature:

Informed: Nils Johan Ringdal, Die neue Weltgeschichte der Prostitution (The New World History of Prostitution); (458 pages), Piper Verlag Munich, 1997, ISBN-13: 978-3-492-04797-5 and ISBN 10: 3-492-04797-1

Nils Johan Ringdal, Love for Sale – a World History of Prostitution; (448 pages), Grove Press, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0802141842 and ISBN-10: 0802 141 846

A modern Machiavelli: Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power; (452 pages), Viking New York, 1998, ISBN-13: 978-067-0881 468 and ISBN-10: 0140280197

A modern courtesan reports: Vanessa Eden, Warum Männer 2000 Euro für eine Nacht bezahlen. Der Escort-Coach (Why Men Pay 2,000 euros for One Night. The Escort Coach.); (352 pages), Egoistin Verlag, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-3000 39 64 410 and ISBN-10: 3000 396 411

A London call girl reports: Belle de Jour, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl; (300 pages), Phoenix, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0753819234 and ISBN-10: 0753819236

A study of men’s motivation: Sabine Grenz, (Un)heimliche Lust. Über den Konsum sexueller Dienstleistungen (Strange and Secret Desires. On the Consumption of Sexual Services); (255 pages), Vs Verlag 2005, ISBN-10: 353 114 77 65

Ruth C. Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood – Prostitution in America 1900–1918; (272 pages), Johns Hopkins University Press (1983), ISBN-10: 0801826659

Helen J. Self, Prostitution, Women and Misuse of the Law – The Fallen Daughters of Eve; (318 pages), Routledge (2003), ISBN-10: 071468371X

Polemical: Alice Schwarzer, Prostitution, ein Deutscher Skandal (Prostitution, a German Scandal); (336 pages), EMMA BUCH (2013), ISBN-13: 978-3-462-04578-9

Please also see:

www.greta-brentano.de

 

 

Muses

deutsche Version ->

Esprit and Eros

Ambrosial Is the Muse’s Kiss

“Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide …” – this is the invocation with which Homer (ca 700 BC) begins his Odyssey. The blind singer was clearly not totally blind to female allure, or at least not to feminine esprit.

 

The first female to succumb to an artistic affection was the poet Sappho (ca 630 to 570 BC), who is still regarded as one of the most brilliant female poets of all time, and who Plato described as the “tenth muse.” Those not so well-read mostly know her as the originator of lesbian love, although legend has it that she threw herself to her death from atop the Leucadian cliffs due to her unrequited passion for the handsome ferryman Phaon. Like many highly erotic women, Sappho was probably bisexual, a suggestion backed up by some of her verse. A disposition well worth imitating, since bisexuality (as Woody Allen remarked) doubles one’s chances of a date.

In the 21st century, we have the luxury of being able to book muses, rather than having to worship them. Men and women on business who want to use their scarce free time to relax creatively can allow a muse to accompany them to the theater, a concert, or dinner: with the possibility of an erotic revelation. But more about that later.*

Dante’s Muse Was a Minor

Dante Alighieri (1265 to 1321), Italy’s greatest poet and creator of The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia), discovered in his own experiment what Sigmund Freud (1856 to 1939) groundbreakingly lauded as sublimation: the human ability to turn its most powerful motivation, the sex drive, into artistic or scientific performance. Dante fell in love with the eight-year-old Beatrice Portinari the moment he set eyes on her. And when the object of his adoration died at the age of 24, he made her immortal in his work. Dante never had physical contact with her; he never even spoke to her. The motives of a mathematics tutor at Christ Church College in Oxford by the name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 to 1898), who became world famous as Lewis Carroll, had less to do with courtly love. He chose the daughter of the deacon of Christ Church as his muse, and, while on a boat trip with picnic, the 13-year-old Alice Liddell inspired him to tell wonderful stories that later appeared in book form as Alice in Wonderland. Honi soit qui mal y pense!

“To call Charles Dodgson a pedophile is not only to misapprehend and diminish the nature of his relationship with Alice Liddell but to deny its complexity, its depth, and its essential singularity,” claims Francine Prose in The Lives of the Muses (2004). However, some of the photos of his child muse that Lewis Carroll presents to us indicate a less twisted state of affairs. They certainly seem to show a young seductress, and perhaps also one who has been seduced (which does not mean that the writer and muse allowed more than fanciful imaginings to develop). Let’s call it platonic love.

Alice Liddell, 1859. Photo by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), © de.Wikipedia.org
Alice Liddell, 1859. Photo by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), © de.Wikipedia.org

Chaplin’s Muse Gave Birth at 15

“Platonic” is not a word you could use to describe the love between Lillita McMurray and Charlie Chaplin. The “King of Comedy” married his young muse in 1924, informing the press that she was 19. In fact, she was only 16, and 15 when she gave birth. Chaplin met Lillita when she was 12 years old, and intended to turn her into a movie star named “Lita Grey.” But rather than making an impression with cinematic performances, she bore Charlie two sons. Even when the second was born, she was still underage, and the brilliant father already 35. Lillita = Lolita? It’s no great leap to suggest who may have been the inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s drily humorous novel Lolita.

Since his amorous adventure with Lillita cost “The Tramp” a million dollars in compensation and endangered his career, Chaplin was more careful of timing when choosing his next partner. On May 14, 1943, at the age of 54, Chaplin married Oona, the beautiful daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill (1888 to 1953) and former muse of writer Jerome David Salinger (1919 to 2010), author of the best-selling The Catcher in the Rye. Oona O’Neill celebrated her birthday on the day of her marriage to Chaplin – she had just turned 18.

Virginia Eliza Clemm was just 13 when she married the 27-year-old Edgar Allan Poe (1809 to 1849), inventor of the horror story, on March 16, 1836. Her muse’s kiss was a gift typical of his genre for her husband, as she passed away aged 24: enlivened by grief and posthumous desire, Poe wrote his two best poems – “Annabell Lee” and “The Raven.” To quote the latter: “’Tell this soul with sorrow laden if … It shall … Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?’ Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”

Muses Wither in the Cage of Marriage

One of the maxims of Pablo Picasso (1881 to 1973) was, “Behind every great man is a loving woman, and there is a lot of truth in the saying that a man cannot be greater than the woman he loves and who allows him to be great.” He remained faithful to it, but not to his women. Fernande Olivier (1881 to 1966) was already a mother and once-married when she met the genius in Paris in 1904. She inspired him as a nude model and muse until Picasso married the ballet dancer Olga Koklowa in 1918. Marie-Therese Walter, who became his lover in 1927, probably fascinated Picasso primarily because she was his female counterpart: a powerful, hammer-nosed example of the era of his neoclassic oeuvre. At the same time, he was married to the photographer and painter Dora Maar (1907 to 1997), whose artistic development he jealously impeded. Frequent marital quarrels ended the relationship – and inspired Picasso to create his best works: the Weeping Woman portraits, including his monumental memorial Guernica (1937), which, alongside Desmoiselles d’Avignon (1907), is considered his magnum opus.

Françoise Gilot was Picasso’s muse for ten years from 1943. Gilot summed up this period of her life by saying that, like the “Maid of Orléans,” she had to “wear her armor day and night” in order to hold her own. He let her know that for him it was “really more fun to go to a brothel.” Why didn’t she kick him out there and then? According to Gilot, “In the long run, you can’t reject someone like Picasso; a woman is powerless against Picasso.” Which makes sense, given that the maestro liked to paint himself as a powerful Minotaur or fighting bull. In 1961, at 80 years old, Pablo fell in love again, and married the beautiful 46 years younger Jacqueline Roque (1927 to 1986). Like Marie-Therese Walter, she endured the love life of the legendary macho figure, but not his death. Both muses paid posthumous homage to him through suicide. “There are only two kinds of women,” scoffed the man made immortal by his art, “goddesses and doormats.” Muses who marry are often not spared this metamorphosis.

That is something that Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879 to 1964) also experienced, after she married the 41-year-old conductor and composer of the century Gustav Mahler at the age of 22. The music student sensed that the vertically challenged and unhealthy Mahler was a titan in musical terms earlier than the contemporary Viennese cultural scene did. But he would not tolerate foreign gods alongside him – and certainly not a goddess. “How do you imagine a married couple of composers to work?” he blustered in a letter from 1901. “Do you have any idea how absurd such a peculiar rivalry must become, and how detrimental it will be to us later?” Shortly before their marriage, Alma had inspired the great Gustav to an orchestral work that would accelerate the composer’s path to international renown with its use as the Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony in 1901 and the film music for Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice in 1976. However, in the role of Mahler’s spouse, the muse Alma was assigned a crib rather than a piano with which to find self-fulfillment.

When Alma married the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius in 1915 and then the poet Franz Werfel in 1929, she was both older and smarter than her husbands, who were grateful for her muse’s kisses. In 1912, shortly after Mahler’s passing, she began a stormy affair with Oskar Kokoschka. The sensual Alma promised the cloddish, but artistically and sexually extremely impressive, expressionist “I will marry you as soon as you paint a genuine masterpiece.” Kokoschka bought a canvas larger than a queen-sized bed and, in 1914, did in fact create the best work of his life: The Bride of the Wind. But Alma had no intention of allowing herself to be tied down in marriage to this savage beast, who was enraged with jealousy, who brought a drama called Murderer, the Hope of Women to the stage, and who declared his belief in the phrase (admittedly intended purely as a provocation): “Either be God or a criminal!”

But when Alma’s daughter Manon Gropius died of polio in 1935, her muse’s kisses, though drowned in tears, brought about another creative miracle: Franz Werfel honored the seventeen-year-old’s memory in literature, while Alban Berg did so in music. With his violin concerto, he succeeded in producing the most beautiful and poignant work yet spawned by the twelve-tone technique.

Cosima Wagner (1837 to 1930), the daughter of composer and Mephisto pianist Franz Liszt, seemed to Richard Wagner (1813 to 1883) to be the embodiment of the muse he had long sought: highly musical, more intelligent than most men and women of her time, self-confident, and energetic. An incarnation of the holy Elisabeth (from Tannhäuser) and Isolde (from Tristan and Isolde) with the passion of Venus – if such a thing is possible. But Cosima did not develop into Aphrodite, not by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, she turned out to be an anti-Semite and a precursor to Hitler, whom she wrongly believed to be a new God-like figure. This also set the reputation of Richard Wagner, the most intellectual of all composers, on the worst course imaginable.

In comparison, the muse’s kisses of Mathilde Wesendonck (1828 to 1902) were of great benefit to Wagner’s self-fulfillment. She was a poet, who appreciated Wagner’s daring compositions and his passionate lover’s oaths. Richard dedicated the Wesendonck Lieder to her, the most beautiful of which (with the catchy title “In the Greenhouse”) the deeply-in-love composer chose as the leitmotif of his opera Tristan and Isolde (first performed in 1865). Wagner’s avowal of love for Mathilde reaches its climax in “Isoldes Liebestod” (Isolde’s love death), the first musical representation of an orgasm.

Elizabeth Siddal, painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866, © Tate Gallery London
Elizabeth Siddal, painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866, © Tate Gallery London

As fate would have it, Elizabeth Siddal (1829 to 1862) was chosen by the English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a man talented and meditative in equal measure, to be the muse of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists who followed the example of the early Renaissance period. “Lizzie” was a milliner with a working-class background. But, inspired by her porcelain-white skin, waist-length titian hair, and elegiac grace, the Pre-Raphaelites transformed the chaste girl into a sophisticated beauty of glorious bygone days. For them, “Lizzie” was at times Shakespeare’s Ophelia, at others Beatrice, who died young but was the lover of Dante, with whom Rossetti (a man averse to modesty) gladly identified himself.

They married when she was 17 and he 22, but soon realized that illusion does not make a good basis for a happy marriage in reality. Consequently, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol, she hers in laudanum, a tincture of opium, which killed her aged 33. Rossetti, who was also a good businessman, had his muse buried along with his sonnets and spread word that she appeared to him at night. In 1869, he ordered his agent Charles Howell to secretly dig up the grave, save his manuscripts, and spread the rumor that the beautiful Elizabeth’s corpse had not yet decayed and that her hair had continued to grow and filled the entire coffin. He then went even further and created a new masterpiece, Beata Beatrix (1863–1870), again romanticizing his beloved as Dante’s Beatrice.

Do Intelligent Muses Kiss Better?

Can we consider Frida Kahlo (1907 to 1954) to be the muse of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886 to 1957)? Or did the creative impulse work the other way round?

In their lifetimes, Rivera was considered Latin America’s most important painter, very much on a par with Pablo Picasso. But when he is spoken of today, it is mostly as the husband of Frida Kahlo. When they married in 1929, she was a 22-year-old medical student and he (twice her age) was already Mexico’s living national treasure. Due to a tram accident, in which a rail gouged Frida’s abdomen, she was unable to ever have children. But Diego taught her to be fertile in other ways: as an artist. In return, Frida, a committed communist, motivated Diego to create monumental murals in the name of Mexico, freedom, and The Party.

In public, she appeared as the delicate “dove,” and he as the “elephant,” who threatened to crush her and betrayed her with other women at every opportunity – even with Frida’s sister Christina. For her part, Frida, who herself was certainly no chastity belt–wearer, also let her passions run free. Her lovers were always older men bent on immortality, such as the poets André Breton and Pablo Neruda, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, the cinematic genius Sergei Eisenstein, art collector Heinz Berggruen, and Josef Stalin’s adversary Leo Trotsky (“A tempestuous woman!”).

Vaginal sex was, of course, out of the question for Frida. But, when reproduction is not necessarily the aim of the activity, there are plenty of ingenious ways to play with sensuality. In this vein, Frida also enjoyed lovemaking with women, including the film stars Dolores del Rio and Paulette Goddard, as well as the beautiful Tina Modotti, muse of the famous photographic artist Edward Weston and a woman who was a notable photographic reporter in her own right. You may well remember the captivating scene in Julie Taylor’s film Frida (2002), in which Salma Hayek (as Frida Kahlo) and Ashley Judd (as Tina Modotti) dance the most erotic tango in cinematic history.

“We are just lumps of clay compared to her. She is the greatest painter of this era,” said Diego Rivera in summary. Without doubt, the fragile girl in Tehuana dress was in fact a very, very strong woman.

“Lou is as sharp as an eagle, as brave as a lion, and in the end still a very girlish child.” This is how Friedrich Nietzsche described the young writer Lou Andreas-Salomé, whom he met in Rome in 1882. Like his fellow philosopher and friend Paul Rée (1849 to 1901), Nietzsche (1844 to 1900) was initially impressed, then intoxicated, and finally completely befuddled by the 21-year-old Russian-German-Danish beauty. Lou, a bewitching Circe, well-educated and charming as she was, knew how to turn the heads of intelligent men and bring them to the point of despair. “Tonight I will take so much opium that I will lose all reason,” groaned the love-stricken Nietzsche. An emancipated woman, who is not seducible, but rather seduces, was a shocking thing to experience at the end of the 19th century. It was a feeling that, until that point, men had only had to endure at the opera, in George Bizet’s Carmen (first performed in 1875 in Paris).

“This bony, dirty, stinking she-ape with her false breasts – a disaster!” ranted Nietzsche, against his better judgment and desire. At about the same time, he admitted to his friend Rée: “We are friends, and I will keep this girl and her trust in me sacred. – In any event, she has an incredibly sure and pure character.” Lou had, after all, inspired Nietzsche to write Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–1885), which included the lines, “You go to women? Do not forget the whip!” A photograph from the time, however, shows that Lou was the one who cracked the whip.

Lou Andreas-Salomé with Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche, unknown photo studio, Zurich, 1882
Lou Andreas-Salomé with Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche, unknown photo studio, Zurich, 1882

When Lou, then aged 36, met the 21-year-old René Maria Rilke, whom she called Rainer, in Munich, she wooed the “shy boy with the beautiful eyes” with both her words and her actions. Rilke was still a virgin at the time, but that soon changed. Lou improved the style of Rilke’s early writings and encouraged him to learn Russian so that he could read Tolstoy and Turgenev in their original form. At the turn of the century, they went on two trips to Russia. “I want to see the world through you: for then I will see not the world but always and only you, you, you!” he wrote. With so much love, Lou had soon had her fill of Rainer, not least as he became more and more clingy, and bothered his beloved with crying fits and “anxiety attacks and physical seizures” that made her worry about his mental health, as she noted in her memoirs.

Concerning herself with the minds of others proved to be the greatest talent of Lou Andreas-Salomé. In 1911, she enjoyed an intense amorous adventure in Sweden with neurologist Poul Bjerre, who was 15 years her junior. He introduced her to Sigmund Freud (1856 to 1939). Freud, five years older than Lou (1861 to 1937) and still in his best years, sublimated the sexual attractiveness that Lou still exerted into professional interest – which saved him a great deal of heartache and brought him valuable insight: “The last 25 years of this extraordinary woman’s life belonged to psychoanalysis, to which she contributed valuable scientific works and which she herself also practiced. It’s not going too far to admit that we all considered it an honor when she joined our ranks of colleagues and fellow combatants …”

In the case of the beautiful Lou, he even mercifully overlooked the fact that his muse also made eyes at the theories of his rivals, C.G. Jung and Alfred Adler (a deadly sin from a Freudian point of view).

Sense and Sensuality of Modern Muses

Anaïs Nin (1903 to 1977) became world famous through her diaries and their erotic revelations. To her posthumous chagrin, she still would not be described as a great writer – but she was a great muse. Together with her husband, the banker and art patron Hugh “Hugo” Guiler, the young sophisticate, who spent her youth in Havana, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Barcelona, and New York, met the ambitious but as yet unknown American writer Henry Miller (1891 to 1980) and his wife June in Paris in 1931. The most rakish amorous escapade in the history of literature thus far developed from the spontaneous ménage à trois involving June, Henry, and Anaïs.

They were both enthusiastic readers of the novels of D.H. Lawrence (including Lady Chatterley’s Lover), which advocated his theory that only uninhibited sexuality could blast open societal constraints. With Miller’s novel Tropic of Cancer (1934), the maestro and his two muses proved that they were the better blasters. The novel was immediately banned in the USA and the United Kingdom due to its obscene content, which catapulted it to a long-term spot on the best-seller list.

Above all, Anaïs gave wings to the career of the increasingly successful author not through her orgiastic revelations, but by helping him bring his brazen stories to the page. She discussed each passage with him, proofread, wrote a foreword, lent him her typewriter, and paid printing costs. Miller, intoxicated by sex and success, carried on writing: Black Spring (1936) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939) are works in which the phallic and the philosophical complement one another. In Quiet Days in Clichy (1956), he depicts an adventure that may have seemed to him like the first conquering of the mons veneris. He states: “Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant.”

The experiences of Anaïs Nin are spread throughout her 15 diaries (1914 to 1974), primarily in Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin (1931 to 1932). She certainly wasn’t a writer of the same rank as Marguerite Duras, who brought out the autobiographical novel The Lover. With intelligent self-effacement, she herself admitted that “the role of the muse in mythology was always that of inspiration.”

The 23-year-old American Lee Miller was unerring in her path to the Parisian Bateau Ivre to offer her professional services to Man Ray in 1929. “No, thank you,” was the reply – he didn’t need an apprentice and was about to go traveling. The beautiful Lee looked deep into the bulging eyes of her future mentor, and sassily replied, “OK, then I’ll come with you.” They remained a couple for three years. She served her compatriot, 17 years her elder, as an assistant, model, muse, and lover. He, originally a painter, benefited not least from the technical accomplishment of the photography student: when Man Ray accidentally let light shine on undeveloped negatives in his darkroom, Lee experimented with him until the initial mishap had been transformed into a muse’s kiss. The idea of the “Rayograph,” which made Man Ray’s photos unmistakable, was born. The elite of Montparnasse – from Marcel Duchamp to Pablo Picasso – soon included Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitsky) in their circle. He was the first photographer whose work was truly judged to be art.

But the insatiable Man Ray also accepted the kisses of other muses and models, such as the androgynous artist Meret Oppenheim (1913 to 1985) and the lively “Kiki de Montparnasse” (Alice Prin, 1901 to 1953). Both models helped him to create more effective images (Le Violon d’Ingres with Kiki became Man Ray’s most expensive work), as Lee Miller’s beauty was already so complete that art barely had anything to add. One exception is a double portrait showing Lee sitting like a young girl in the lap of her grimly frowning father (whose sexual victim she became at the age of seven).  But even before she got to know Man Ray, Lee was an in-demand fashion model for Vogue and Vanity Fair. And after they separated, she developed into a coveted fashion photographer and photographic artist. She played the female lead in Jean Cocteau’s film The Blood of a Poet (Le Sang d’un Poète). However, she reached the peak of her career as a photo reporter during the Second World War, which, among other aspects, included harrowing documentation of events at the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

In 1947, having married the surrealist artist, art historian, and publicist Sir Roland Penrose (1900 to 1984),Lee Miller moved to an English farm with him, became a mother, and renounced her artistic activity. Lee, who in her later years developed as an excellent chef and food author, then inspired their artist guests (who included Max Ernst, Paul and Nusch Éluard, Kurt Schwitters, Antoni Tàpies, and last, but not least, Man Ray) with gourmet pleasures.

Yoko Ono (*February 18, 1933, in Tokyo) is suspected to be responsible for two significant acts – had she never delighted John Lennon (1940 to 1980) as a muse, he would probably: 1) never have become immortal as an artist; and 2) not been murdered on December 8, 1980. Because Yoko’s muse kisses gave wings to the works of her Beatle, and changed them to such a degree that the popular but trite pop bard became a critic, preacher, and agitator.

Shortly after their wedding on March 20, 1969, Yoko and John staged their first “bed-in,” a PR campaign for peace. John said, “We knew our honeymoon was going to be public anyway, so we decided to use it to make a statement. We sat in bed and talked to reporters.” At the second bed-in, in May 1969, they also recorded their single “Give Peace a Chance.” And at Christmas, the committed couple organized a poster campaign – “War is over – if you want it!” Encouraged by the theory of the psychotherapist Wilhelm Reich (1897 to 1957) that sex and uninhibited love could lead to altruism and world peace – even to global revolution – the couple supported numerous liberal and radical movements: campaigning for, among other things, the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, civil rights of black Americans and American Indians, and the Black Panthers.

Yoko even inspired – or practically indoctrinated – John musically. Her influence could be seen as early as The White Album, released in 1968. And the legendary “Imagine” is unmistakably the brainchild of both. According to Paul McCartney, he didn’t blame Yoko for The Beatles breaking up (1971). In fact, John was no longer fulfilled by the collaboration. His existential crisis initially manifested itself in drug taking, then turning spiritually to a charlatan Indian guru. His Beatles era had brought him fame and fortune, but had not sated his hunger for relevance. Being “more popular than Jesus,” was no longer an attractive aim for him, as he recognized the triviality of his actions: “I resent performing for … idiots who won’t know – who don’t know – anything.”

One of those idiots, by the name of Mark David Chapman, had John sign a record in front of the New York Dakota Building (where Yoko Ono still lives), and then shot him.

Long-lasting happiness can never really blossom alongside geniuses, supermen, and egomaniacs – especially not that of a sensitive muse. That is why muses’ kisses are fleeting, their marriages unstable. When the Brit Jane Birkin (*1946) met the happy-go-lucky writer Serge Gainsbourg (Lucien Ginsburg, 1928 to 1991), an amour en passant illuminated by ephemeral joy developed.

The liaison began with a song that Gainsbourg had written for his lost lover Brigitte Bardot. But the sex idol, at the time already married to Gunther Sachs and on the way to a life of leisure among the upper classes, took offense at Gainsbourg’s innuendos. “Je t’aime … moi non plus” (“I love you … me neither”) portrayed, charmingly but shamelessly, the loving whispers of a couple having sex. Jane, more like a high school student than a sex bomb, lent her little-girl voice to the track. The frivolous spark spread like wildfire: flames of enthusiasm among the educated youth, who were tired of hearing beat music and brainless bum-bum-bum tunes, and the hellfire of fanaticism among the self-proclaimed righteous and godly, for whom the idea of sex was apparently even more abhorrent than the Holocaust.

The Vatican excommunicated the record producer and numerous radio stations refused to play it. But “Je t’aime” sold over a million copies regardless, and Jane and Serge were suddenly famous. In 1975, Gainsbourg and Birkin made a film with the same title for all those who wanted to watch as well as listen. The couple became the darlings of the Saint-Germain intellectuals, and soon of a worldwide jeunesse dorée that lusted after airiness without shallowness.

The duo continued their successful frivolity with “La Décadanse.” In the same year, the first concert album followed in the shape of Histoire de Melody Nelson. Further success was restricted to France, and included “Baby Alone in Babylone,” “Les Dessous Chics,” and “Fuir Le Bonheur.”

After splitting from Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin played movie roles that brought admiration from cineasts: under the direction of names such as Agnès Varda, Jacques Rivette, and her future husband Jacques Doillon. After Serge’s death in 1991, Jane sang a song in the Casino de Paris that evoked memories of their love, beginning “Amour cruel – comme en duel” (“Cruel love – like a duel”).

Nota bene: Your faithful muse will fulfill many of your desires – just not that of marriage.

Greta Brentano

Except quotations marked by “quotation marks,” this text does not include any verbatim reproductions of other publications.

The following further reading is recommended:

Francine Prose, The Lives of the Muses, © 2004 Nagel & Kimsche from Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna

Annette and Luc Vezin, The 20th Century Muse (Egérie dans l’ombre des créateurs) 2002 Édition de La Martiniére, www.knesebeck-verlag.de

Farid Abdelouahab, Muses: Women Who Inspire, © 2012 Flammarion – amazon

 

* Twelve equally charming and sensitive modern-day muses can be found at: www.greta-brentano.de and www.greta-brentano.com.

 

 

 

Les Solistes ignites the senses

deutsche Version ->
Caesar van Everdingen „Bacchus mit Nymphe und Cupido“ 1660 © Gemäldegalerie Dresden
Caesar van Everdingen „Bacchus mit Nymphe und Cupido“ 1660 © Gemäldegalerie Dresden

Life is Worth Living – Even on Mondays.

My guest had a hankering for a Michelin-starred menu that had really earned the accolade. No problem in Berlin, one would think. But it was Monday, the official day off for upmarket gastronomic establishments.

Fischers Fritz at the Hotel Regent is open on Mondays in theory, but in reality Christian Lohse’s two-star culinary art is so in demand that I couldn’t get a table ad hoc. However, Les Solistes in the new Waldorf-Astoria offered not only the good fortune of free spaces, but also true bliss for every bon vivant.

Les Solistes is run under the watchful eye of Parisian three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire, described by journalist Heinz Horrmann as, “For me, the best culinary artist in the world.” This highly acclaimed chef is rarely found slaving over the stove himself in Berlin, but the head chef, a Belgian by the name of Roel Lintermans who himself has received two stars for his cooking in Gagnaire’s London restaurant, is very close to matching his master’s works.

My guest followed the oriental custom of having all the dishes served at once, allowing us to let our tasting desires run free. We enjoyed the very finest langoustine, sea bass, lobster, and maritime summer vegetables, all accompanied by a 1990 Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru.

And while the menus themselves might look unspectacular (as in all the finest hotels and restaurants, only the best ingredients are found here), with their dishes Gagnaire and Lintermans prove themselves to be unique inventors of a new style of cooking that is far removed from pretentious gimmicks.

Everything presented on the plates here has a powerful aroma and the rustic flavor one would normally associate with a Provençal brasserie. Sea bass, lobster, sole, langoustine, and oysters are served freshly caught and full of the scent of the sea, as if they had come straight off the cutter. The skill of the chefs is to take these hearty flavor notes and to combine them in surprising and sometimes daredevil ways.

Thus, we were treated to sea bass heartily combined with crispy onion rings, beans and carrots, crab and jellied fennel with Bavarian cream. The langoustine is served in a down-to-earth fashion as “Terre de Sienne” from the pan with St. George’s mushroom and almonds; in a terrine variation with algae, chicory, leek, and sake; and finally, as tartare with coconut milk and lime.

 

My guest, a passionate gourmand who never misses an opportunity to explore a culinary temple, from New York to Singapore, was as surprised and delighted by the refined simplicity of Les Solistes as I was. The enjoyment itself was a topic of conversation here.

But what we liked even more was the fact that eating and drinking are not treated as a religious exercise here. As lovers, you can enjoy a casual meal and develop an appetite together for what lies ahead that evening.

The waiters drift by your table discreetly and unobtrusively; your glasses are refilled and new bottles punctually delivered as if by magic. Not a soul breaks through the cocoon of intimacy around guests lost in conversation and knowing glances. And this is not least thanks to the master sorcerer, maître d’ Vedad Hadziabdic, whose work I had admired in the past in his previous domain, the Aqua at the Ritz Wolfsburg.

In nuce: should you wish to crown your Berlin trip with an exquisite meal, and would prefer not to spend your evening alone, but rather with a woman who awakens and ignites your senses (and is familiar with fine food and good wine), I would like to put myself forward to accompany you – or choose one of the 12 muses available from Greta Brentano®. www.greta-brentano.com

I would be happy to reserve a table for you.

Muse’s kisses,

Sharon Novalis

 

My restaurant recommendations:

Les Solistes by Pierre Gagnaire at the Waldorf-Astoria www.waldorfastoriaberlin.com/deu/Restaurants-Lounges/LesSolistes

Tim Raue‎ (two stars) www.timraue.com

Fischers Fritz (Christian Lohse, two stars) at the Hotel Regent www.fischersfritzberlin.com

„Facil“ at The Mandala (Michael Kempf, 2 stars) www.facil.de

Reinstoff (Daniel Achilles, two stars) www.reinstoff.eu

 

Gastronomy guides I would recommend:

Four – The World’s Best Food Magazine www.fourmagazine.com

Sternefresser www.sternefresser.de

Die besten Hotels der Welt by Heinz Horrmann  www.heinzhorrmann.info/news/die-10-bestenhotels-weltweit