Max Ernst's Celebes

leading from
Still collating
Celebes (1921)

a)  Details
The huge entity's shapes like a diving bell displays elements of both an elephant and in the end of its trunk,  the horns of a bull. Fish are seen to be flying through the air that might make one ask if was set under water. With its trunk, it also resembles an oversized vacuum cleaner and perhaps vacuum cleaners would become more and more like the thing as the years went by.

Fish swimming through the air?

b) History
Celebes painted by Max Ernst , completed in 1921 was inspired by a photo of a Konkombwa corn bin in Sudan.  From his days at school, he remembered a school boy rhyme that went (translated into English : "The elephant from Celebes has sticky, yellow back grease. The elephant from Sumatra, the memory lane of his grandmother. The elephant from India, one can never find the hole." Celebes was an island in Indonesia that would later be renamed Sulawesi.

The Konkombwa corn bin that inspired Celebes

c) Celebes - Celephais?
A year after Celebes was painted, HP Lovecraft would have published a story named Celephais, in which the name was a city in a dreamworld, and one might wonder if there was a connection between the names and if Lovecraft had seen the painting or read a brief report of it in a publication and was impressed by the oddity of it all. 
Lux 1 vacuum cleaner , 1912

d) References Treasures of Satan?
In this series, Celebes, has gone to Delville's undersea underworld and near enough transformed Satan into an elephantine strange vacuum cleaner like submarine inspired by an African storage vessel. 

Like Treasures of Satan, Celebes takes place in an under water world, is dominated by a monstrous form.

The Satan's wing tentacles have transformed into a trunk, and the front pointed parts have transformed into perhaps the tusks or the bulls horns or both.

Only one of the ensnared naked people remain but standing and without a head. 

The tree like growth Delville's work on the right becomes this strange cactus like form,

Jean Delville's "Treasures of Satan" (1894)

e) References Otto Dix's "Skat Players- Card Playing War Invalids" from 1920?

Perhaps Max Ernst considered the Otto Dix's painting of the Skat players from the year before with the central players leg stumps at the centre of the picture when seeing a picture of the Konkombwa corn bin. 

The large eye of the central player became the half an eye at the top of Ernst's painting. 

The hat stand becomes transformed into this cactus like tree
Otto Dix's "Skat Players- Card Playing War Invalids" (1920)

f) Referenced by Giger?
Celebes would become part of the final part of the inspiration for Giger's Necronom III as if it was where it was heading towards because of his interest in the world of Surrealism and also details from it would be incorporated into his painting Anima Mia. 
See: also Giger's Necronom III

Necronom iii version II ( Dark Star HR Giger's world documentary version)


    Source quotes
  1. Simon Wilson: 'Celebes' is one of a group of paintings done by Max Ernst between 1921 and 1924 at the time of the transition between Dada and Surrealism. They may be considered as the first Surrealist paintings and three of them are in the collection of the Tate Gallery Max Ernst took from Giorgio de Chirico the idea of bringing together unrelated objects in strange settings. This procedure was seized on by the Surrealists because it corresponded to the process of free association which was one of the methods used by Freud to discover the patterns of unconscious thought in his patients. These patterns, Freud believed, were also revealed in dreams.
    Following Freud, the Surrealists attached great importance to dreams and the undoubted dreamlike character of de Chirico's pictures gave them a ready model for painting them.
    In 'Celebes' the atmosphere of violence and the half mechanical, half elephant-like monster may be related to Ernst's traumatic experiences in the German army during the First World War which he mentions in his autobiography. The monster is somehow reminiscent of a military tank and the mechanical element on top has a single eye looking out as if from a periscope. The monster appears to be standing on an airfield and the trail of smoke in the sky suggests an aircraft being shot down. However, not all is simple, since also in the sky are two fish, swimming. More specifically, the artist has revealed some of the associations which produced the monster. The shape was derived from a photograph, found in an anthropological journal, of a corn storage bin used by a tribe in Sudan. Its elephant-like appearance and non-European origin must then have reminded Ernst of a playground chant about elephants when he was at school: 'the elephant from Celebes, / has sticky yellow bottom grease' is one couplet of it. Celebes is a large island in Indonesia next to Borneo.
    (Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.161  September 2004
  2. See Celebes in Wikipedia
  3. See Celephais in Wikipedia

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