Thaïs, The Opera
Sometimes a picture can be a long time in the making. Recently, I was listening to Massenet’s famous Méditation, an interlude, from Thaïs, when I wondered what the actual opera was about.
Based on a novel by Anatole France from 1891, it relates the story of an Alexandrian concubine in the time of the Emperor Constantine (4th century AD). A monk, Athanaël, attempts to convert Thaïs to Christianity, more courtship than conversion as it transpires. She is an acolyte of Hathor, the Egyptian Venus, before she converts to Christianity. I wondered if I had a picture in my archive that could be placed in an ancient Egyptian context.
The Roman Tunnel
In October 2013 I photographed Manuela, who had earlier that day participated in Moonshine (p.106), at the entrance to an ancient Roman tunnel called the Emissario, underneath Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.
It features in an engraving by Piranesi the Venetian artist who depicted many Roman remains; I decided to Egyptify this.
I remembered another shoot of a model, Veronika, who came into my gallery in May 2015 with the most fantastic hairstyle (her hairdresser had messed up), so I had her pose as a sphinx the same day – but I had never found a use for the shots. The Egyptian Sphinx is a ferocious guardian, so I placed two in the foreground, as custodians of an Egyptian temple. The Greek sphinx is rather different from the Egyptian, she sets a riddle and those who fail to resolve it are devoured. The most famous example features in the Oedipus story.
I created a head dress for the figure of Thaïs based on the goddess Hathor and lo! – I had the most Freudian of all my pictures to date. Hathor was an overtly sexual goddess with singing dancing and drinking taking place in her shrine.