Classic Album covers : Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - The Smashing Pumpkins

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is the third album by The Smashing Pumpkins, released October 24, 1995

Unlike the real twins who adorned the cover of the band’s previous album, Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie‘s figurehead is a girl who never really existed: a daydreaming star nymph with a split personality

Her creator is John Craig, a collage artist, who had spent most of his career doing editorial commissions for magazines; here, he worked from Corgan’s scribbled notes and crude sketches, most of which arrived via fax. Craig made other illustrations that appear throughout the album’s packaging — animals smoking pipes, celestial bodies with faces, wayward children walking eerie dreamscapes — all with a vaguely antique quality. But the cover image, of a girl adrift on a celestial raft, was the simplest and the most indelible

She is assembled, like the rest of Craig’s creations, from scraps of paper ephemera, but she but doesn’t look like a collage

The face is from the French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s The Souvenir (Fidelity), 1787-1789. Yuriko Jackall, a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., says Grueze’s subject may be cluching her dog in fear of the storm gathering behind her. “The viewer may, however, also imagine that she is portrayed in the throes of longing for an absent lover,” Jackall says

The body is from Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria, circa 1507. NGA curator David Brown says, “His depiction adopts Catherine’s traditional attribute — the wheel that broke during her martyrdom — but instead of stressing the horrific aspect of the event, Raphael has her leaning on the broken wheel in a relaxed classical pose”

In Craig’s finished cover for Mellon Collie. the Raphael body is pitched forward and sized to fit with the face of Greuze’s girl. The result transforms Saint Catherine’s erect posture into an enraptured swoon and makes the composite figure appear to coast through space

The head and body seem made for each other; you’d never know they came from two different women, let alone two different works. And per Craig,that’s the kind of magic I want to achieve. Most collage is thought of as cut and torn, and really has a surface to it. I’m looking for a seamless thing. I think I have in all my work”

When asked why these two particular paintings, Craig replied, With the Greuze, there was something very dreamy or ecstatic about her expression that certainly wasn’t in the Raphael painting. And then the flow and color of the Raphael dress, just the way it’s rippling and almost traveling. I guess it’s those primary colors too. That’s what happens — you don’t know if it’s going to work, but you put the body on the star and the head on the body and you just know it’s right somehow”

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July 17, 2013

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