Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Leviathan: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, styling, make up, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Kay Rozencaster
Additional resources: Goblin-Stock (scales), Kuschelirmel-Stock (texture), Nightgraue (wings), Taeliac-Stock (texture).

Among all the “traditional” Demons, Leviathan is one of those whose status as a Demon is most disputed. According to the Bible, most notably the Book of Jobs, the Leviathan is nothing but a sea monster that represents chaos. It’s portrayed as a feminine giant serpent with crocodile features (such as sharp teeth) and he’s associated with the Behemoth (the land monster) and, occasionally, the Ziz (the air monster). Traditions have it that it is to be slain and served as a meal to the righteous ones after Judgement Day.
This vision was partly changed by the Christians during the Middle Ages, when the Leviathan became a serpent-like demonic creature that endangered God’s creatures both by eating them and by threatening them with the waters of Chaos, and was also associated with the Hellmouth, a monster that eats sinners after the Final Judgement.
Behemoth and Leviathan by William Blake (1826).
The first account of Leviathan as a proper Demonic figure comes from Thomas Aquinas, who described him as the Demon of Envy, in charge of punishing the related sinners. This version was further developed by Peter Binsfeld, according to whom Leviathan was the Demon that tempted men with Envy. Sebastian Michaelis described him as a former Seraph and the third Angel to be cast out of Heaven, following Lucifer and Beelzebub. Many sources describe him as the Great Admiral of the Infernal Fleet, and even as the very Serpent who tempted Adam and Eve in Eden. Finally, his figure was further developed in Satanism, where Leviathan is one of the most importand Demons and represents one of the four Elements, Water.

Mammon from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary
Such a rich and detailed tradition about Leviathan made it easy for me to notice him immediately; even Kaori Yuki mentioned him in Angel Sanctuary, despite drawing him only in the side notes (for he was too difficult to do) and not giving him even a small cameo anywhere (except cloaked among the other Seven Satans in one scene). Her version is not much different from the traditional one, and Leviathan appears as the silhouette of a huge sea dragon.
With all this material, Leviathan was one of the first names to be written on my Demons-to-do list back in autumn 2009. Similarly to Mammon and Beelzebub, he presented me with the challenge to render his animal-like features without spoiling the good looks of the model. What you can see today is the exact idea I had back then: dragon wings on his back and scales on his cheeks (a small exception to the total absence of monstrous features); I also initially thought of a forked tongue, but it would have looked tacky.
For some reason not even I do know, I had decided that Leviathan should have long, straight, black hair; I looked for a model with serpentine features (and possibly with a nose, unlike Lord Voldemort), but I necessarily wanted him with long, black, perfectly straight hair parted in the middle; I also decided all along that Leviathan’s Seal would be on his forehead. I found a possible model who lived in Turin as soon as February 2010, but when I went there to meet BriarRose and shoot Lilith, he was in London. He said he was interested in the role anyway, but when I tried again to arrange a meeting some months later, he replied thad he did “not have time for my project”. Which was fine, at least he did not reply “maybe, someday” and I could go on with my search. I considered two other people, but was not totally convinced until I found Kay on Facebook. His features were perfect for the role and after talking about what he was going to do with his hair, I decided that the role was his. He accepted and, after a couple of postponements, we arranged to meet and shoot.
As I mentioned above, the final work looks almost exactly how I initially imagined it. The serpentine dagger was one of the first elements I decided to include: I saw it at my dear Ayl’s house, and asked her if she could lent it to me; I decided the dagger was to be included because I see Envy as a rather violent, murderous sin, but in a subtler way than Wrath, and a dagger is a more mischievous weapon than Barbelo’s whip (it was the Borgias’ weapon of choice, for instance). The last element I added to the picture was the jacket: beside his hair, another thing I really wanted for Leviathan was to have a look in-between military and sumptuous, as he belongs to the highest group of Hell’s nobility but is an important serviceman too. When I bought my H&M jacket, beside being amazed by the fact I found my size, I also thought it would be perfect for Leviathan’s outfit, so I decided I would bring it along and lend it to the model. The funny thing is that when I pulled it out of my suitcase, Kay laughed and showed me he had the same jacket, so we eventually used his: it was just destiny; with its military-like but decorated shape, the jacket completed the symbolism of the photo. As Leviathan is not a Goetic Demon, I borrowed his Seal from Eligos, as it really looks like a sea serpent. At a certain point I also wanted to include an apple in the photo, horizontally cut in two to show the five-pointed star in the core, but while shooting I realised the idea just didn’t work.
I think it’s quite clear why I used green as the theme colour for the Demon of Envy, isn’t it? As for the song, Reptile by The Crest (Nell Sigland’s first band) was the perfect fit for the character.
On a side note, due to some postponements this photo was finally shot on November 13th, which is Nell’s birthday. Thus, I want to dedicate this work to her. Nell, I know a portrait of the Demon of Envy is a weird birthday dedication, but I hope you like it anyway (besides, Theo Hutchcraft from Hurts got a photo of me half-drowned, so maybe this is not the weirdest birthday dedication I’ve done).
Once again, special thanks to LunarShore for his precious advice.

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