Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Nergal: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, styling, make up, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Raz Estacado
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture), SalsolaStock (wings)

Thanks to Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary, I found out that not only I like Angels and Demons, but also men in military outfits. There are several moments in which some of the characters get to wear a military hat and they all look particularly sexy in it. Thus, when I found out about Nergal, a Demon in charge of some important military duties in Hell, I got immediately fascinated by his figure and decided it could be nice to have him on board. As I once mentioned, the idea of Heaven and Hell being basically two opposite kingdoms with their own court and armies is what intrigues me the most about the Christian conception of supernatural, and Nergal was particularly fitting with this mundane vision. He’s based on a fiery god of destruction, death and war, adored in the Mesopotamian city of Cuth according to the Bible, and when assimilated into the monotheistic system, he was turned into a warrior Demon who, according to Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, is in charge of the “secret police” of Hell, as well as being an “honorary spy” of Beelzebub’s.
The Mesopotamic god Nergal, upon which the Demon is based.
The aesthetics for such a character were conceived quite easily and almost everything was already clear in my mind by early 2009, when I purchased a DDR Aeronautics hat for the purpose; I had already decided I would also use the handcuffs I already owned for, well, other recreational purposes. Other details would be a military jacket and some medals; the ones you can see in this photo are my grandfather’s, so original Soviet decorations (70th anniversary of the October Revolution, and 20th and 30th anniversaries of the end of World War Two).
As I really liked this Demon but I’ve never been, like, dying to shoot him, I took my time and waited patiently for the right model without rushing, elaborating even more symbolism meanwhile. This time, it was Raz who found me and proposed me a collaboration, which I accepted; looking at him I thought he would suit the role and we took the photo amidst a larger photoshoot. By the way, I had to provide the military jacket we needed,  so yes, it’s the same that I used several times in the past, albeit it suits him better than me.
One thing I’m particularly proud of in this work are small details, which I put a big deal of care in, most notably on the hat. I did the red gem with the Infernal emblem and the metallic Seal badge entirely in Photoshop, and then took advantage of the slight blur and noise and the sharp light in the photo to try and blend them correctly, making them look three-dimensional. Below you can see a detail of the photo with the hat (which, by the way, was originally grey with a blue border, quite interesting to turn black and red).
Nergal by *GothicNarcissus: detail
Nergal by GothicNarcissus – detail. Click to enlarge.
Besides the outfit, that represents the military side of Nergal, and the handcuffs, that underline his police duties, the rest of the symbolism is indirectly derived from the deity the Demon was based upon via his Greek counterpart: in Babylonian astrology, Nergal was associated with planet Mars, and he found a counterpart in Ares. Thus, I put the symbol of the planet on his forehead and gave him vulture wings, as vultures were Ares’ sacred animals. I also gave him bright red eyes, as I wanted many red details to stand out of a generally murky photo (thus the sharp, lateral light), and thought they’d be scarier and particularly fitting for Nergal.
On a side note, in this work I put the Seal (borrowed from Aim because it resembles an arrow) on a piece of clothing rather than on the model’s skin. Nergal does have his own Seal imprinted on his body and he has it reproduced on his hat as an identification for lower soldiers (as all military Higher Demons do). I decided to do so in order to try something new and because I had to replace the propeller of the original hat, which didn’t suit the fantasy theme.
The theme colour is asparagus, which is widely used in military clothes, and the theme song is Murder by Within Temptation, really fitting for the character.

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