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Work of Art:
Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII
by Jean-Paul Laurens



Title: Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII

Artist: Jean-Paul Laurens

Completion Date: 1870

Style: Academicism

Jean Paul Laurens’ monumental 1870 painting Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII stands as an extraordinary achievement of French academicist technique. Laurens can be appropriately placed among Jean-Léon Gérôme and William-Adolphe Bouguereau among France’s pantheon of  XIXe siècle artists. Born in 1838, he studied under Léon Cogniet and Alexandre Bida at the École des Beaux-Arts and combined a highly detailed style with flawless technical proficiency. Laurens’ approach firstly utilized broad daubs of paint in order to highlight shadowing and then incorporated smaller, precise brushstrokes with a sable-hair pencil. Punctilious use of oil pigments and the ‘building-up’ of layers on the canvas created panoptical scenes of awing splendour.

Laurens’ politics were anti-clerical and republican, which assisted him during the Troisième République. Subservient to its ‘approved’ tastes, he painted the Paris City Hall’s vaulted ceiling, the picaresque series illustrating St Genevieve’s life in the Pantheon and illustrated Augustin Thierry’s Récits des temps mérovingiens. This latter work unfavorably depicted the founding kings as capricious autocrats allied with black-robed churchmen. Many of Laurens’ paintings illustrated medieval settings but are coagulated over with rationalist, liberal prejudices regarding France’s ancient past and the Church. His anti-clerical, anti-royalist biases echoed Diderot’s eschatonic desire for the ‘last king to be strangled with the entrails of the last priest’. In Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII, Laurens delineated his Gothic vision of the infamous papal Synodus Horrenda of January 897 A.D. for his admiring bourgeois audiences.

Ghoulishly engaging, the painting depicts a rotting cadaver dressed in sacerdotal vestments. A gilded cope, headdress and gloves all adorn the corpse’s frame while its eye sockets stare emptily and jaw hangs down. This is the body of Pope Formosus, who was posthumously tried and convicted of violating canon law and perjury. His accusers and judges consisted of lackeys loyal to his papal successor. Pope Stephen VII ascended to the Cathedra Romani and desired to enact a Damnatio memoriae against his predecessor in order to efface him from History. When examined by the inquisitor, a deacon provided answers for the putrefying corpse; presumably the best act of ventriloquism in Western Civilization! Pronounced guilty, a papal seneschal cut three fingers from the cadaver’s right hand and later flung it into the Tiber.

Washing up on the riverbank later, rumours circulated through Rome that the corpse could perform miracles. The Roman mob rose against Stephen VII and deposed him. In July 897, he was murdered while imprisoned. Later, Pope Theodore II (897) rehabilitated Formosus but Pope Sergius III (904-911) reaffirmed Formosus’s conviction. Currently Formosus is not discussed at Roman Catholic universities. Similarly to the Borgia popes, Tridentine historians and theologians will discreetly omit him in order to avoid tarnishing Mother Church’s image in the eyes of the world. Following his politics, Laurens explicitly sought to depict the Church as backward and barbaric by painting this particularly dark scene from its long History.

Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII is absolutely nonpareil in its technical execution and stylistic complexities. Laurens completed it at the dawn of Academicism’s last golden decade before Impressionism. Expertly using chiaroscuro, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the ghastly, pale skull nestled in pontifical vestments. Contrastingly, Stephen VII is ensconced in blackness and gazes  out from under beetled brows with undisguised malice.The cassocked deacon palpably retreats before the inquisitor’s accusing finger while serried ranks of prelatic sycophants observe the grotesque spectacle. The thurifer, carpet and inquisitor’s vestments are deliberately Orientalist in order to highlight Laurens’ conception of Rome as barbarous and alien to Western progress.

Laurens proposes a radical dichotomy between latitudinarian modernity (as exemplified in the Third Republic) and papistic, oppressive autocracy. While an arresting tableau of Gothic complexities, we must be conscious of Laurens’ leftist beliefs. Those drawn to medievalist oneiric visions will surely find much to contemplate in Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII long after they depart from the gallery.

Peter Sayles

Bangor, Maine (2012)


Welcome to The Devil’s Review!

Greetings! In my capacity as Political Editor, I am pleased to welcome you to the Devil’s Review! Call me Alfred Smith. Not because that’s my name. It isn’t.  My real […]


In my capacity as Political Editor, I am pleased to welcome you to the Devil’s Review!

Call me Alfred Smith. Not because that’s my name. It isn’t.  My real name is listed under the heading ‘PhD candidates’ on the website of a certain university located somewhere in the UK. The real names of my dear friends and fellow scholars, Henri de Mistral and Peter Sayles, editor-in-chief and artistic editor respectively, will also be found on the websites of universities in the UK and the US.  We are, as it were, in the belly of the beast that is the modern Western educational establishment, and given our views on politics, race, culture, aesthetics, and history, we cannot safely reveal our true identities to the world.

In our daily lives we are forced much of the time to be silent or to employ subterfuge. For instance, some months ago at a gathering of my peers, after having drunk about a third of a bottle of whisky (this may be an overly modest estimate), I declared, staring everyone down with wide bloodshot eyes, the following: ‘ “European” does not mean “cosmopolitan,” it does not mean the EU; the term denotes a distinct people, or family of peoples. What are Europeans? Well, they’re NOT BLOODY TURKS! Let’s agree on that for a start!’  And what, you may ask, was the response? Peals of laughter, of course! This, they understood, was one of my jokes.  I have managed to cultivate a reputation for myself as the funny chap in the department who drinks rather a lot at parties and pretends to be a bigot for the sole purpose of providing amusement. I’ve even heard my peers whisper on occasion, ‘Ha! Surely Alfred doesn’t really mean those silly things!’

Of course we do tire of play-acting all the time. For this reason, we go under cover a few times a year to places where we can talk openly and seriously to people who, unlike most inhabitants of ivory towers, have the distinct advantage of being sane. Well, at least they know, as all our illustrious ancestors knew, that Turks are not Europeans! We regularly attend such events as the annual conferences of the Mencken Club, Traditional Britain Group and American Renaissance, and would be most pleased to make your acquaintance on such occasions. But annual or semi-annual conferences are not enough. We aim, as far as is possible, to create a space for truth and honesty on the central problems facing the European race that will be accessible all the time and from any location.  At any of the above-named conferences so much unvarnished truth and brutal honesty are bandied about that an ordinary inhabitant of the politically correct post-modern West might suffer a nosebleed. After hour in such a punishing environment, a typical 300 lb. lesbian Marxist ‘woman and gender studies’ lecturer could, I imagine, spontaneously combust, or perhaps be transformed into a woolly mammoth, or an immense swarm of  fleas. In short, we aim to create a similar environment on the web as much to educate, inspire and amuse our friends as to cause the eyes and ears of our enemies to bleed, and their heads to explode. This is the purpose of The Devil’s Review.

But why, you may ask, do we need another webzine like Alternative Right, the blogs of the Traditional Britain Group and The Quarterly Review, American Renaissance, VDare or Takimag? I answer: We like to think that our work complements that of the above publications. Though our writers do sometimes comment on the news and what passes today for ‘culture,’ our writing is not primarily journalistic. We are more concerned with deeper questions of social and political philosophy, of history and aesthetics, of the concrete lived traditions of our European ancestors. As the above list of topics implies, our writers have a variety of interests. We also have different opinions on various matters. For instance, some of us are sympathetic to the traditional European Christianity practiced by our ancestors before the advent of Puritanism and the Enlightenment. Others embrace the teachings of Norse Paganism.

On one question, however, we are all in agreement: that the form of political life called ‘democratic capitalism’ or ‘liberal democracy’ is, and always has been, an ugly failure and a fraud, and that the salvation of our people is to be found in a reconstruction of the aristocratic ethos and the aristocratic forms of our European ancestors. Such a reconstruction has many facets. Our aim is to supply the ideas and the inspiration for an aristocratic revolution in politics, in economics, in opinions on race and good breeding, in religion, historiography and aesthetics.

I will take this opportunity to highlight a few of our programmatic writings.

On the nature of man, I recommend S.J. Irving’s five-part essay The Political Anthropology of the Divine Beast. Part 1 can be read here:

On aesthetics in general, and the art of painting in particular, see Peter Sayles’ essay ‘Classical Realism and The Renewal of Art: The Viability of Traditional Painting in an Era of Rampant Ugliness’:

Anyone who has an appreciation for fine classical European art can probably think of a painting, at the first sight of which, he was in awe.  Even without a description or any knowledge, the beauty is there. Only a great soul could have imagined and created this.  Piss Christ will not produce this effect. We must hear or read a complicated explanation as to why this ought to be considered art. But the explanation is nothing but lies. It is what it appeared to be at first glance, an obscene thing, which should be hurled from atop a high cliff together with the mutilated corpse of its author.

That said, I recommend Mr Sayles’ occasional commentaries on particular works of art. The aim of his project, I believe, is to help his readers re-cultivate the taste for beauty which the post-modern age has beaten out of so many of us, and a healthy loathing for ugliness.

I shall also not miss an opportunity for shameless self-promotion. Some of our ideas on aristocratic politics and the aristocratic revolution to come can be found in two of my essays below:

Reflections on the 2012 American Renaissance Conference

In defence of the Lords – Reinstating heredity and continuity to Britain’s constitution


Reflections on the 2012 American Renaissance Conference

[This essay first appeared on Alternative Right ( in April 2012. It is no longer available there after that site was rebooted. Therefore, we are re-posting it here.]



Bon sang ne saurait mentir. These were the words with which Guillaume Faye ended his spirited post-prandial address to attendees of the 2012 American Renaissance conference.  The words are true:  Good blood cannot lie. Individuals and indeed entire races who are of good blood, though they may think it unseemly to boast, nevertheless produce a shower of blessings that are there for all the world to see. The reverse, I conceive, is also true: Mal sang ne peut que mentir. Bad blood cannot but lie.   In denial about the inferiority of themselves and their kind, those of bad blood become of necessity liars. Indeed they must come up with really extraordinary lies in order to convince us that the multiculti shower of bastards they are foisting upon us is actually a shower of blessings.

Trouble is the liars are legion, and the people, by and large, believe their lies. The truths which Amren members defend are 1.) that human quality is determined more by heredity than by any other factor and 2. that European peoples have received from their ancestors a unique bio-cultural heritage which they have a right and a duty to preserve.  Defending these truths is a challenge today not because factual evidence for them is wanting, or because they are counterintuitive. On the contrary, evidence for these claims abounds, and they are nothing if not intuitive.  The problem, as many of the speakers pointed out, is that these basic truths are perceived to be immoral in themselves, or at least fraught with immoral consequences.

Therefore, if we wish to have any success, the first thing we have to do is learn how to make moral, rather than scientific or libertarian, arguments. This, as Alex Kurtagic said in his speech, is how the Left managed to sell its poison to the masses, by claiming moral high ground.  We must take the same approach. With all due respect to Jared Taylor, whose talk was otherwise erudite, witty, and at times rousing, his formulation of a pro-European identitarian-hereditarian morality left much to be desired. ‘We have a right to be ourselves and to be left alone. What could be more moral than that?’ he said.  The fact is, that according to our opponents we do not have a right to be ourselves, for we are the incarnation of evil. As Carl Schmitt has taught us, those who view their opponents as hostis generes humani  (the enemy of the human race) will not abide by the maxim of ‘live and let live’. To ask our enemies and their millions of willing dupes to leave us alone is to say ‘Dear friends, would you be so good as to permit us to persist in being our evil selves? We solemnly promise not to become any more evil than we have been heretofore.’

Kurtagic, I say again, has the right idea. The adoption of a defensive, reactive stance is always a losing strategy. We must ignore the categories of the left and formulate a positive moral doctrine of our own based on the principles of difference, quality, beauty and good breeding. And we must demonstrate that, judged against the principles of our moral doctrine, the present order is profoundly, revoltingly immoral.

Good breeding, or eugenics, is probably the hardest idea to sell in the present cultural climate. Our society recoils at the idea of blaming individuals for inadequacies for which they themselves are not responsible. This reflects an ancient European notion of justice: it is immoral to kill or otherwise punish one who is guilty of no crime.  So be it.  But this does not mean that ‘merciful’ social policies designed to help the stupid and inadequate of the world are above moral reproach. It is just to show mercy to the stupid. But can it be just to maintain a social system which multiplies the stupid and the incompetent, and depresses the numbers of the intelligent? Can a social system be just, which provides perverse incentives for the mass breeding of bastards and imbeciles who, in default of hereditary advantages and a suitable upbringing in a two-parent family, are likely to bring nothing but grief both to their parents and to society as a whole? Is that social system just, which encourages every intelligent woman to pursue a high powered career in, let us say, advertising, so that she finds herself childless and full of regret at age 40, and the rest of the nation deprived of whatever talents or wisdom her children might have contributed to it? A social system such as this is not just, but criminal. It facilitates heinous crimes against quality. It is also hardly compatible with the goal of human happiness. Should not parents be afforded the joy of raising children who will make them proud, or at least spared the anguish of nursing future drug dealers and murderers?

Such are the ‘moral’ arguments for good breeding that occur to me.  Very likely there are better ones. One could, no doubt, be ‘nicer’ in one’s choice of words. In any case, moral arguments must be advanced for all of our principles. The US supreme court justice whom Richard Lynn quoted in his speech was certainly thinking morally, when, ruling in favour of Virginia’s law for the sterilisation of the mentally retarded, he declared: ‘Three generations of imbeciles are enough.’ The social systems and policies which we would remove are going to stay unless and until they be found guilty in the court of public opinion of crimes against difference, quality, and beauty.


As I mentioned privately to several other attendees in the tea and coffee intervals, there was one word which seemed to me to be very much in the air during the speeches though it was never actually pronounced. ARISTOCRACY! Historically, the principles of difference, quality, good breeding and others which the ‘alternative right’ seems poised to embrace have been the preserve not of any nation taken as a whole, much less of humanity as a whole, but of a particular class within certain nations. Difference and quality are values peculiar to hereditary aristocracies. If one reads Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, one will immediately understand why democratic man trades tradition and quality for equality and quantity. The democratic man is rootless. He is not tied to any place, he has no memory of an earlier time. Day after day, he expends all his energy merely reacting to the exigencies of the present. Such a condition of life is not conducive to the formation of taste, discernment, knowledge of and reverence for one’s ancestors, or care about one’s descendants.  Indeed, Guillaume Faye gave a perfect example in his speech of the characteristic short-sightedness of our bourgeois party politicians. Commenting on President Sarkozy’s pre-election remarks on the surfeit of foreigners in France about which something ought to done, he said ‘Monsieur le President, you have been in office for five years. Only now this enters your consciousness?’

At his best, the hereditary aristocrat, owing to his station in life, is one who, in Tocqueville’s words ‘almost always knows his ancestors and respects them; he believes he already sees his grandsons, and he loves them. He willingly assumes his duty toward both, and he often happens to sacrifice his personal enjoyments for these beings who are no more or who do not yet exist.’[1] Freed from the drudgery of the field, the factory and counting house, he has time to refine his taste, to study the words and deeds of his forebears and to learn judgment and far-sightedness. For the hereditary aristocrat such modes of thought are habitual. For the bustling bourgeois internationalist masses they are not, and cannot be. One therefore needs an hereditary aristocracy to impose its judgment, its reverence for ancestors, its belief in the necessity of good breeding and its far-sightedness on the rest of the nation. Long before Tocqueville’s time our European ancestors understood this.

Were I to be by some great stroke of luck appointed Minister of Education of an Anglo-Saxon ethno-state of the kind Sam Dickson alluded to on Sunday morning, my first official act would be to order all copies of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government to be burnt by the public hangman. Government is based on a contract between free and equal individuals, you say? Rubbish! Into the fire with you, with the curses of all honest men!

Instead I would have our young men read a book by George Lawson called Politica Sacra et Civilis (1660). Lawson never imagined a state of nature in which all individuals were free and equal; indeed he dismissed this as an ahistorical absurdity. All human communities, he said, were composed of different orders. And this inequality was ‘consistent with an imparity of birth, parts, estate, or age: for this is from nature or providence.’[2] Nations commonly had three classes of citizens: virtual members, full members, and eminent members. The virtual members were women, children and servants. They had no direct role in politics; their interests were looked after by their masters.  Full members were ‘males of full age, free, independent, have the use of reason, and some competent estate.’[3] In England these were the free commoners who could elect knights and burgesses to the House of Commons. The eminent members he described as ‘such, who by reason of their descent, estates, parts, noble acts, are not once members, but somewhat more, as being fit for honour, offices and places of power, if once a commonwealth be constructed.’[4] In England these were the Peers of the realm.

For Lawson it was essential that only the fit and the independent be allowed to judge concerning the affairs of the nation. And the most fit, those from families of the best birth and parts who had served the nation well before, should have the most power and influence within the framework of the ancient constitution. These lessons were not lost, I think, on an English nation that had watched the quasi-egalitarian constitutional experiments of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate fail one after the other.

Ultimately, the peace, prosperity, and freedom of a nation depended on two things. First, on the good affections of citizens one towards another, which Lawson thought were based on common blood, language, religion and laws. Indeed, this is the point we on the alternative right harp on so much. As Sam Dickson put it: ‘Only in an ethnostate can there be true tolerance, because when people are all of one stock, naturally occurring diversity poses no threats and truly can be celebrated.’  There is no question, ethnic homogeneity is one of the greatest blessings a political community can have. But even ethnically homogeneous compatriots will come to blows with each other if they lack sufficient guidance. According to Lawson, the second factor upon which the prosperity of a nation depended was ‘the number of just, wise and eminent persons amongst them, who are fit, not only to be the matter of the state, but to model it, and order it once constituted.’[5] An hereditary aristocracy was a ready source of such men who had ‘the best education’ and ‘sometimes participate in some measure of the noble spirit of their ancestors, whose rare examples may do something to inspire them.’[6]  Those who wish to form a white ethno-state in America should first get to work on breeding an aristocracy fit to rule it.


I should like to conclude with a few more remarks on the speeches of Guillaume Faye and Richard Lynn. Faye offered a useful analogy for the diagnosis of our problems.  A people is like tree. A tree has roots, a trunk and branches. The first correspond to the biological substrate of the nation, the second to its culture, the third to its civilisation. The branches and the trunk, he said, may be damaged, but so long as the roots are not killed, the organism may recover.  Culture and civilization may be damaged, but so long as the biological substrate remains intact, the nation may still be reborn.

All of this is no doubt true. Yet it seems to me that the main problem at present is that the trunk of the tree, the culture, has been burnt to a cinder, and that is the only reason why the roots are being poisoned. If we could but restore the culture, all the damage that has already been done to the roots by third world immigration and the welfare state could be undone over time by a combination of positive and negative eugenics.  We could appoint Richard Lynn Minister of Racial Hygiene and start mending the roots tomorrow were it not for our sick, blighted culture.

Moreover, I am doubtful that, should European peoples finally destroy themselves beyond all possibility of recovery, the torch of civilization would be passed to the Chinese as Lynn predicts.  He is certainly right that European peoples have become ‘too nice.’ But that does not mean that the authoritarian oligarchy of East Asia, however stern, will embrace difference and quality. Asian oligarchs are derived from the same pestilential scum as Western liberal politicians. They are concerned only with material prosperity, the branches (civilisation) in Faye’s analogy of the tree.  Human biological quality and culture are of no interest to them, and therefore they will ultimately lead their people down the same path to suicide.

It is not democracy or oligarchy that we need, but aristocracy. Revival can come only from an aristocratic revolution in culture.


[1]Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, trans. James T. Schleifer. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010), Vol. III, 883.

[2] George Lawson, Politica Sacra et Civilis, ed. Conal Condren, (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 30.

[3] Lawson, Politica Sacra et Civilis, 29.

[4] Lawson, Politica Sacra et Civilis, 29.

[5] Lawson, Politica Sacra et Civilis, 26.

[6] Lawson, Politica Sacra et Civilis, 95.


Work of Art


Title: Knight, Death and Devil

Artist: Albrecht Dürer

Completion Date: 1513

Style: Northern Renaissance

Genre: Allegorical Painting

Technique: Engraving

Gallery: Metropolitan Museum of Art


Albrecht Dürer’s monumental 1513 engraving Ritter, Tod und Teufel (Knight, Death and Devil) stands as an extraordinary achievement of Northern Renaissance art. Dürer was one of Germany’s greatest artists and his works shaped and molded völkisch identity. Frequently deploying medievalist symbolism, Dürer’s engravings convey multiple messages that appear as one gazes further into the depicted scenes. Ritter, Tod und Teufel is internationally recognizable and people across the world possess prints of this work. Gothic, twilit and utterly compelling, it commands rapt attention and admiration. The figure of the noble knight riding with Death echoes in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and various Danse Macabre murals adorning Europe’s cathedrals. What makes Dürer’s engraving so remarkable is its degree of detail and metaphorical complexity thoughout the work.

At first glance, the viewer observes a proud knight clad in armor riding through a Teutonic wilderness. A walled citadel stands in the upper far background but our ritter rides through a rocky cleft far removed from feudal courts. His loyal spaniel darts forward besides him with ears back and alarmed eyes. Beside him rides Death clutching an hourglass while worms squirm out of his rotting death’s head. At once a frightening image of mortality and decay, he urges the knight on to his ultimate fate. Death rides with all of us but like our knight, we are so often oblivious to his presence. Sand is trickling through our hourglass every second and we ought to fully realized our own mortality. Likewise, our knight is accompanied by the Devil in grotesque bestial form. The rebelling angel boasts a boar’s snout and a bull’s horn while clutching a halberd. Following hotly on our heels, Satan desires to consume our souls in his hateful fire. With Death and Devil pursuing us, we must safeguard our souls against these dangers.

Deeply allegorical, Dürer’s work brilliantly accomplishes its goal of educating and inspiring the viewer. Dürer proved a master engraver and his fine lines provided shadowing and illustrative complexity to this remarkable work. Ritter Tod, und Teufel represents medieval Teutonic culture through a distinct artistic medium. In 1915, Dr. Hans F.K. Günther penned a rightist, nationalist tract titled Ritter, Tod und Teufel: Der Heldische Gedanke, (Knight, Death and Devil: The Heroic Idea). In this work, Günther used Dürer’s deeply Germanic imagery as a visual example of positive Germanic racial characteristics. The noble Aryan knight riding forwards to his ultimate fate served as a metaphor for the nation’s racial and cultural struggle for elite purity. In our decadent age of racial panmixia and democratic confusion, Western youth ought to look back to Dürer’s engraving. Within its delicate lines, they will find inspiration borne from our medieval past and gain courage and strength for Europe’s future.

Peter Sayles

Bangor, Maine (2012)


Work of Art


































Title: Medusa

Artist: Franz Von Stuck

Completion Date: 1892

Style: Symbolism

Genre: mythological painting

Tags: Greek and Roman mythology, Medusa


Painted in 1892, Von Stuck’s Medusa arrests the viewer at first gaze. Writhing, sinuous snakes crown the Gorgon while she stares out at the world with mesmerizing eyes. Limpid and reflective, her irises are set within a feminine visage. Von Stuck focused the viewer’s attention to the eyes in order to convey the petrifying power behind them. August Kubizek related in his memoirs, Adolf Hitler, mein Jugendfreund that he had visited a gallery with the young Adolf Hitler. The future Führer of the Third Reich gazed at Von Stuck’s Medusa and suddenly exclaimed, “Those eyes, Kubizek! Those were my mother’s eyes”. The similarity is remarkable when one views a photograph of Klara Hitler. Von Stuck’s oneiric visions were both extraordinary and prescient.




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