Let's figure it out: what pictures did Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" feature?
The brief plot summary, in case you should forget itThe story begins in Phoenix, Arizona. Secretary Marion Crane has stolen 40 thousand dollars from her boss and escapes from the city. She stops for the night in a secluded Bates Motel. The proprietor of the gloomy hotel is a charming young man named Norman Bates, who has rather strange and unhealthy relationship with his mother. Norman has taken a liking to his guest, but his mother strongly opposes him. And then Marion decides to take a shower, and it becomes her fatal mistake.
In case you have not seen the "Psycho" yet and are just going to watch it, we will stop here. Especially as the targeted paintings are shown in the first part of the film.
The painting and a hole in the wallWhen Marion comes to Bates Motel, Norman invites her to a light dinner in the living room. The wall behind the young man is decorated with stuffed birds and two paintings. Later, when Marion goes to her room, Norman takes one of the canvases off the wall and spies on the changing girl through a hole in the wall. Let us dwell upon this picture in detail.
The most attentive researchers of Hitchcock’s work have determined that the picture hiding the hole is the painting by the Dutch painter Frans van Mieris, the Elder "Susanna and the Elders" painted in the 17th century. It depicts a popular story from the Old Testament Book of Daniel.
The subject of this picture is very symbolic in the context of the movie. Norman Bates peeks Marion through the hole in the wall hidden behind the picture, just like the elders peeked Susanna. He is also "wounded with the love", but he has to suppress his feelings for the sake of his despotic mother. The shower scene is the culmination of the growing sense of the threat of violence, common for the picture and the movie.
The story of Susanna, who was unjustly accused and happily saved, was a rather popular story in painting since Late Renaissance. More often than not, the artists portrayed Susanna either bathing (with the elder men in the background) or defending herself against the harassment of lascivious elders. Frans van Mieris has several works depicting this story, and the canvas, captured in the film, is not the most popular of them. It is stored in the Museum of Hyacinth Rigo in Perpignan, France. There are no color reproductions of it in the Internet, as if it is a mark of respect for the black and white "Psycho".
And what about the second painting?The canvas hanging next to "Susanna and the Elders" is much easier to identify. This is a reproduction of the famous "Venus with a Mirror" by Titian. The painting was one of the artist’s favorite works, and he adamantly refused to sell it. There are many replicas of the "Venus", painted both by Titian himself and his studio.
After the death of the artist, the painting was in the possession of a Venetian patrician Cristoforo Barbarigo. It remained in his family palazzo for almost three hundred years. In 1850, Nicholas I of Russia bought the collection of the last member of the Barbarigos, thus the canvas moved to the Hermitage. However, it was not the end of the journey of the "Venus with a Mirror". In 1929, the government of the USSR decided to sell some of the Hermitage paintings, that was how this canvas and some other Titian’s paintings became part of the collection of Secretary of the US Treasury Andrew Mellon. After his death, the collection came into national possession. It became the basis for the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
What`s it got to do with Edward Hopper apparently?The paintings of the American artist Edward Hopper are directly related to the "Psycho" movie. Look at the famous sinister building of Bates Motel. It was built specifically for the film and became its most expensive scenery. And the idea of the house was inspired by the lonely empty structure half hidden in the shade at Hopper’s painting "The House by the Railroad".
In his interview about the film production, the scriptwriter Joseph Stefano said, "I told Anthony Perkins (playing Norman — Ed.) that if Norman Bates was a picture, it would be painted by Edward Hopper; and he agreed with me."
“What’s in a frame? That which we call a picture
In an improper frame will look less nice.”
Or, perhaps, the picture’s message will be obscured by too ornate or too plain framing. Here, we present a retrospective journey into the history of framing and its evolution, with illustrations and an expert’s commentary. Read more
Even Dali has to do with itBut Hopper was not alone. In 1945, Hitchcock addressed Salvador Dali with a proposal for cooperation. He wanted the artist to take part in the production of a surreal episode in the "Spellbound" movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. It was the scene of a nightmarish sleep of the Peck’s amnesic character; his woman, a psychiatrist, tries to figure out his role in a mysterious murder. Therefore, Hitchcock decided that he needed Dali for the nightmare to be more accute.
The Hollywood tradition of the time held that dreams were rather obscure and fuzzy. The director did not accept this approach. After many years, Hitchcock gave an interview about the work on the film, "I wanted to depict a dream of great visual clarity — even sharper than the film itself. I invited Dali, because his works were architecturally clear. Well, De Chirico had the same qualities, like long shadows, infinite distances, convergence of lines and perspective. Nevertheless, Dali had some strange ideas. He wanted a statue, decaying into pieces like a shell, and ants creeping over it. Moreover, Ingrid Bergman covered with ants was supposed to be inside! It was really impossible."
After the "Spellbound" was released, it has received many enthusiastic reviews. However, now this film is rarely mentioned among the best works of Hitchcock. As for Dali, he almost never talked much about this work, which was completely untypical for him. Probably, it was caused by his disappointment. Only once the artist dropped that the best scenes from the dream episode were trimmed.
You can propose the ideas in the comments to this material or send an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org