Anna Karenina and The Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory

9 years, 4 months ago 52
Posted in: New Doll, show

I will be posting the artist’s statements I wrote for each doll that were hung next to them in the gallery. I was wanting to do it earlier, but didn’t get around to it with all the preparations for the opening.

Anna Karenina Survives The Train. 2010

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This one-of-a-kind engraved, porcelain doll, features a complex, full-body, color tattoo of an orthopedic corset and a prosthetic leg device. Face is one of a kind. Magnetic wig is removable, and permanently styled into intricate braiding adorned with a Victorian copper comb.

This doll is based on the main protagonist from the majestic and tragic novel Anna Karenina written by Leo Tolstoy. I tried to re-imagine Anna’s heartbreaking love story with a different ending where she survives her horrific suicide attempt at jumping under a slow-moving train, but sustains severe, disfiguring injuries, losing her left leg, mangling her left arm and breaking her back instead.

I took the metaphor of straight-laced, yet decadent attitudes of Victorian Russian society that governed and ultimately decided Anna’s fate, and interpreted it in a literal, visual way as her medical bondage braces and prosthetic devices, which now literally hold her shattered body together. She is protected, yet restrained by the inhumanity of social conventions. I wonder if surviving her suicide would make any difference in her destiny despite her transgression of the status quo.

Amongst a myriad of deeply philosophical issues, the biggest question that the novel Anna Karenina leaves one with is perhaps whether love can really conquer all.

A part of me wants to believe that Anna’s near death experience would serve as a powerful epiphany for her and her lover count Alexey Vronsky, and transform their deteriorating relationship back into a loving union it once was, but a realist in me questions this idealistic approach, rationalizing that her difficult situation in life brought on by breaking the social rules and conventions of the day, and can not have a long-term, happy resolution unless all the stigma of her illicit relationship is removed and her public image reinstated.

The incident may cause a profound spiritual awakening for her and Alex, but they will continue to face the same external problems of gender inequity, which have undone their powerful love before.

Sadly, their first near death experience is a testament that perhaps love does not conquer all: When Anna nearly dies during childbirth and Alexey shoots himself in despair of losing her, both survive and are overcome with gratitude and love for each other, but their happiness is fleeting as it provides only a temporary, idealized escape from their difficult situation, followed by an eventual boredom, loneliness, frustration and inevitable return to a grim reality.

Will this, second near death experience with an added problem of Anna’s disability be any more profound and lasting than the first? Perhaps, but I’m skeptical.

And yet, a romantic in me believes in Anna’s life, while John Milton’s quote from Paradise Lost encourages me to believe that perhaps there could have been a happy ending for Anna Karenina after all:

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”

Perhaps Anna and Alex could have made their own heaven in the hell that they found themselves?

I re-imagined the climax scene where Alexey finds Anna broken, but alive instead of dead and mutilated on the table at the train station where they had carried her body, and the despair and grief of her ugly death turns instead into relief and a renewal of their love for each other. Just like in Disney movies, they embrace, kiss, and ride off into the sunset, leaving their superficial selves, the superficial society that bred them and all its false idols behind to live happily ever after. The End.

The Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory. 2010

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One of a kind, porcelain, ball-jointed, costumed doll. A very complex costume is assembled from 23 separate, original Sterling Silver pieces with 24k gold plating and an Indian wedding saree skirt. All clothes and accessories are removable. Face is one of a kind. Removable wig is magnetic.

This doll is based on a real historical figure of Transilvanian countess Elizabeth Bathory (17 August 1560 – 21 August 1614), from the renowned Báthory family.

Allegedly, Elizabeth was a sadistic serial killer who tortured and murdered as many as six hundred girls in a span of 20 years. Despite going down in history as the most prolific female serial killer with a kill rate of mythological proportions, there is very little historical evidence against her. In fact, when considered in a larger historical and political context, it appears that Elizabeth was a victim of an aristocratic conspiracy with a resulting mass hysteria, and that her original accusers were politically, financially and possibly, ideologically motivated.

Regardless of evidence, history appears to be infatuated with the image of this woman as a ruthless murderer, even if this image is nothing but a myth. Her presence in history is as mysterious and secretive as her enigmatic smile, which could hide either a twisted sociopath, or an innocent victim of slander.

Although we will never know the truth behind the Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory, we must consider these following historical facts before condemning her:

There is the lack of the most basic proof: the victim’s names. There aren’t any official names on record of Bathory’s alleged victims, or bodies for that matter. It was said that she had killed daughters of peasantry as well as lesser nobility. But who are these missing women exactly?

The logistics of murder don’t make sense either. Elizabeth was accused of killing around 600 girls in 20 years. That means she killed 30 people a year. That’s 1 murder every 12 days. How could such a visible public figure get away with such an astronomical kill rate for 20 years, in a region with a population of much less than three hundred thousand people? Where was she getting all these women and why was virtually nobody noticing this, except for one single minister Istvan Magyari? One would think that if daughters were going missing left and right every month in villages, there would be some sort of a public concern and even a panic. Instead, the “rumors” of murders had began to spread only after the official investigation had already started.

Another interesting detail is the fact that when King Matthias of Hungary ordered the investigation into the rumors of murders, he was heavily indebted to the wealthy and influential Elizabeth Bathory. Based on flimsy, hearsay witness testimony, King Matthis had her imprisoned without any formal trial, conviction or further punishment and avoided having to repay her the large sum of money for which he lacked sufficient funds.

Elizabeth Bathory’s case happened at a time of religious upheaval and hostility in Hungary. As a Transilvanian Protestant aristocrat, she was a political opposition to King Matthis, who was an Austrian Roman Catholic.

My final argument in favor of Elizabeth Bathory’s innocence is that her case shows evidence not only of political conspiracy, but also of the mass hysteria phenomenon, where a runaway public fear clouds all rational judgment, leading to escalating panic and severe miscarriages of justice. Such cases and trials are often characterized by absurd accusations, unfounded witness testimony, extremely biased public opinion, coercive interrogations and incompetent investigative techniques.

I see a distinct parallel between Elizabeth Bathory’s murder investigation and the of mass hysteria of the famous Salem witch trials of 1692, the Kern County Satanic ritual child abuse hysteria of 1983 and the West Memphis Three murders of 1993, where all accusations began with one person and grew out of thin air into frenzied fear and everyone conveniently forgot that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

52 Responses

  1. Andra says:

    Both accounts of the ideas behind the two dolls were a very interesting read. I especially liked the idea behind the Bloody Countess. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of the story. It was not unheard of for nobles to be very cruel towards their servants in the Romanian principalities at that time, so maybe they exaggerated her behavior in order to get her wealth.

  2. Eva says:

    Reading these was really eye opening. I love your fairy tale dolls, but I’m glad to see that you feel comfortable expanding into new and different directions. Both of them definitely communicate the theme of the show, with interesting subtle digressions into hope, redemption, and the difficult task of finding truth out of myth as well.

    I wish I could have seen the show. Thank you so much for sharing the images and statements so that those of us who couldn’t will enjoy the next best thing.

  3. Oyuki says:

    I’ve been a fan of your dolls for a while and I always like to read how you get inspired, I love you’re romantic point of view in every story, and one can notice it in the dolls.

    I hope you’re show is going well, sadly I’m in the other side of the world, so I’m admiring from here. :3

    (Sorry for the crappy english it’s not my natural languaje)

  4. MissLK says:

    Dear Marina,

    Your write-ups on the dolls are beautifully written and definitely thought provoking!!!

    I admire and appreciate the emotion, imagination, creativity… that you devoted into each and everyone of your Enchanted Dolls from conceptualization to execution. It is truly inspiring that you never cease to evolve and challenge yourself.

    Have a wonderful wonderful vacation!

  5. Amarilli says:

    Marina, I adore the Bloody Countess doll; before reading your statement my thought was that she doesn’t have the physionomy and eyes of a mass murder…then I read what you wrote, and it explained it all! you gave such a marvellous interpretation. One can read in her face what your standpoint is. Now she looks even more beautiful to me.

  6. alma says:

    Congratulations for your show!!, thanks for the photos, your dolls are amazing!!

  7. Annina says:

    the write-ups of these two dolls were so fascinating to read, i’m enamored.
    as you know Anna is my favourite of the Berlin dolls and now i reckon it is time for me to finally read Anna Karenina’s story!

    if you are keeping scores of people’s favourite dolls, it would be cool to see the results in the end. :)

  8. Jigglypuff says:

    Anna Karenina’s braces remind me of the braces polio survivors wore a century (or 2) ago. Have you ever though about making a doll with that kind of story background. It will cetainly be interesting.

  9. Courtney says:

    I love your dolls and you definitely have talent beyond words, but I am disappointed in your defense of Lady Bathory. I think that you’re too quick to apologize for this woman, just as much as people are too quick to deem her a serial killer. Who made you God to decide whether this woman was indeed innocent, as you seem to believe she was? What power do you possess to be able to claim that she did not murder 600 girls and was the “innocent victim of slander?” I’m not saying that you’re wrong or anything, but I think that you should think twice before writing such an apology because you come across to being just as hostile as Lady Bathory’s accusers (then and today), only in the other extreme.

  10. Marina, I was fascinated to read your version of Erzsebeth Bathory’s story (elizabeth in hungarian)

    I found myself suprised, that I had never stopped to do the math and add up the number of victims that would have had to have been murdered every 12 days to end up at the eventual sum. It puts the whole matter in an entirely new light: You would think there would have been a mass hysteria in the villages, and cases of people locking up and hiding their daughters and even dressing them as boys. Also, you would think there would be widespread myths springing up of vampires/monsters/serial killers to explain the cause of so many girls disappearing.

    Growing up in Australia but with a strong Hungarian cultural upringing, I thought I knew Erzsebeth’s story…. I was very intrigued to suddenly see it in an entirely different light thanks to your depiction of her.

    In your defense, as you have said so many times before when faced with a critique of your views or depictions of characters in your dolls, you are first concerned with creating art, not necessarily a stiff historical-correct figurine.

    Bravo marina, I’m really glad you chose to make a doll of Erzsebeth… I only wish I could afford her… or at least her little hungarian crown… I love it :-)

  11. Linda says:

    Society seems easily blinded to social ills when it chooses to be. Its only when they are forced to do something about it are they sorry for whats been done. It has to be personal for change to happen.
    I am horrified by the oil in the gulf. What will society do about that I wonder? Dreams of oil soaked mermaids haunt my nights.

    Linda

  12. Olivia V. says:

    The idea behind your Anna Karenina doll (and the finished result) are so beautiful I can barely stand it.

  13. Ann says:

    I know a strong about Elizabeth.It’s very different of this one.I think she is only one kind pathetic woman.The strong named 贵族(aristocrat).It is fiction….
    I love your kids.

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