Saturday, 16 July 2011

Xaphan: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Fabio Rossini
Styling: Wiegenlied and GothicNarcissus
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (textures), Cesitlie95 (wings), (fire)
Special thanks to LunarShore for his advice about blending the fire.

When doing some researches about Demons, it’s quite easy to bump into Xaphan. He is mentioned in Colin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal which, despite having no more than a four-line entry about him, provides some concrete and interesting facts about him, and even a glimpse about his personality. So, we have a Second-Level Demon whose mind is described as “inventive”, going as far as setting Heaven afire right before being cast out. His emblem is a bellows, but he fans the flames of the furnaces with his mouth and hands. I don’t remember where I found it, but I can swear that I read he’s also credited for inventing chips. Wow, I seriously wouldn’t expect to find anything so interesting and particular about a given Demon. No wonder I immediately decided to include him in my project; also, in his illustration on the Dictionnaire Infernal he’s, well... sort of kawaii, and the evil-eyed bellows is so hilarious I couldn’t help but like him.
Xaphan from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
Xaphan from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
However much kawaii his original portrayal was, though, I had to think of a rendition of my own for Xaphan. I’m sure my first idea came up no later than December 2009. As a bellows would be a bit difficult to find, I immediately scrapped the idea, opting for having him holding something with fire instead; the most obvious choice was a candlestick, or better yet a candelabrum. I can be sure I already had this idea clear in my mind by December 2009 because I took some candelabra stock photos during a visit at my aunt’s for Christmas, as the last ditch in case I couldn’t find one while shooting (not everybody has an old-fashioned house full of useless ornaments nowadays, so I thought it wouldn’t be easy). Also, I immediately thought it would be nice if he had moth wings; as he was deeply connected with fire it would fit the character, beside providing some variation from the other works. Beelzebub, Decarabia and another Demon would already have insect wings, rather than feathered ones, so no big deal. The first general idea for the work was there.
I found a possible model for Xaphan as soon as January 2010: a friend of mine who lived near the Milan area offered to pose for me when I complained about the lack of male models and I agreed, thinking he would fit the role rather well with long, black hair. Nevertheless, any attempt in this direction just didn’t work and we never managed to actually set up the photoshoot. As my dear Ayl Rose had a candelabrum to lend me, I always tried to arrange the session when I went to visit her, but to no avail. The first attempt was due in early February, in occasion of the Autumn and The Gathering concert, but we didn’t meet because, I think, he was ill; attempt number two, to take place in mid-February while I was coming back from Turin via Milan after shooting Lilith, was hindered by a train strike; a third attempt in mid-March we partly successful, as we finally met and took some photos, but didn’t shoot Xaphan because Ayl couldn’t come by and bring the candelabrum; the fourth attempt was delayed about a zillion time, up to December, when I visited Ayl again, but it was cancelled last minute, which annoyed me a bit. As my friend hinted that I could look for someone else, I didn’t think twice and decided to recast Xaphan. This time, I decided a gingerhead would be much more fitting for the role and I looked for a new model accordingly. I first saw Fabio modelling for Sarah Wayne on deviantART and immediately asked the photographer if she could lend me her model. This time we arranged the meeting soon when I went to Milan for Ayl’s degree and everything went fine and smooth. I think it’s a sign that Fabio was just meant to be the right model all along (I only had to find him).
It’s quite easy to imagine that in the nineteen months between the original conception and the actual photoshoot, the idea for Xaphan has changed quite drastically until the current, finished, perfect form. The moth theme was initially supposed to be reinforced by a moth wing-like eye make up, so Xaphan 1.0 would have had long, black hair, the moth-inspired make up and a traditional gothic outfit with the candelabrum. As the model went into steampunk, I quite liked the idea and decided to expand the “ingenious mind” concept: Xaphan 2.0 had to have slightly shorter hair, the same make up, a steampunk outfit and, again, the candelabrum. Also, by then I had decided his moth wings would have got burnt in the arson and he’d have also mechanical ones, which I carefully prepared.
When I went for the alpha version, I changed my mind quite a lot. First of all, I dropped the moth make up idea as I wanted to keep it simpler and tidier, and opted for Fabio’s usual bohemian-chic style for the outfit in order to have a more glamorous photo rather than sticking to strict gothic or steampunk styles (which would have been reduced to some minor detail if anything). I asked my dear Bloempje for advice about the outfit and she came up with the idea to have him bare-chested under a leather jacket, while I thought of the scarf and necklace. The latter is a choice that could be a bit controversial due to the many crosses in the necklace, but I really love the slightly blaspheme touch they give. Also, the glamorous pose came out quite spontaneously during a small break to show Fabio the previous photos and I liked it so much I just shouted him to freeze, adjusted it a bit and shot him that way. Actually, the Vogue-esque feel of this photo is what I love most about it. I eventually scrapped the insertion of mechanical wings as they just didn’t fit, just like other steampunk details.
As Ayl was very busy with her degree, I decided not to bother her and didn’t even ask for her candelabrum, going out to buy one myself instead. I found this rose-shaped candlestick by pure chance the day before leaving for the photoshoot and, after an initial reluctance, the idea of turning it onto a metal torch struck. Below you can see a detail of it with the fire: click onit for the full size.
Xaphan by *GothicNarcissus: detail
Xaphan by GothicNarcissus – detail. Click to enlarge.
Now some words about the characterisation: as my own Second Level was already quite crowded, I decided Xaphan would go to the Fourth Level instead, but as a Duke (a high title would be expected for arson in the Heavenly War). I expanded his inventive side and scrapped the fact he fans the furnaces with his hands (if he’s a genius, he would make them automatic, wouldn’t he?), and as a moth, I thought he had to be fascinated by the Demon of Fire, Barbelo. The torch and burnt wings represent his arson, while the metal flower and necklace his actual element. I don’t think I need to explain why the theme-colour is flame, do I?
On the other hand, choosing a theme-song proved quite difficult. I had some songs dealing with fire, but none of them truly satisfied me until Iron by Within Temptation was released earlier this year; it’s just perfect to portray Xaphan’s character.


  1. theme song The Flex & The BUFF RESULT by LIFTER PULLER :)