Anastasis at the Monastery of Hosios Loukas

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that, He was seen of above five thousand brethren at once.” 1 Cor. 15:3-6… The culmination for the Holy Week in the Orthodox Church comes with Anastasis! Happy Easter and… Rejoyce!https://www.goarch.org/-/holy-week-in-the-eastern-orthodox-church

This year’s Anastasis scene comes from the Narthex of the Katholikon Church in the Monastery of Hosios Loukas near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece. Along with the mid-11th century Nea Moni (“New Monastery”) on the island of Chios and the late-11th century Monastic Church at Daphni, in Attica, the visitor of these three Monasteries, will get an informative glimpse of monumental architecture and mosaic-work in Byzantium of the Macedonian Dynasty. A  glimpse that is impressive and awe-inspiring.  

Monastery of Hosios Loukas, founded in the early 10th century, Katholikon (1011-12) and the Church of the Theotokos (959-963), near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greecehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosios_Loukas

The location where the Monastery of Hosios Loukas was founded, is perfect… the slopes of Mount Helicon, a scenic valley and an olive grove. The founding father, Luke of Steiris… was respected and much loved by the local population. Retaining its authenticity, still, a vibrant Monastic Community with spiritual vigour, the Monastery of Hosios Loukas shows us today, how perceptive the 11th century Byzantines were!

The pilgrim/caller to the Monastery of Hosios Loukas is expected to visit three Churches, all of them unique in their own right.

Built under the great domed Katholiko Church, the Burial Crypt is decorated with remarkably well-preserved frescoes painted shortly after 1048 AD. Little damaged, with the exception of the apse, the iconographic programme of the Crypt is complete… an almost perfect example of how the interior of a Byzantine Church of the 11th century should be adorned.

Monastery of Hosios Loukas, founded in the early 10th century, Interior of the Church of the Theotokos (959-963), near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece

During the second half of the 10th century, the monastic community of Hosios Loukas built a remarkable Church, dedicating it to the Theotokos. Less visited by tourists, this is a place for serene contemplation. It is considered a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, featuring the cross-in-square type architectural plan, similar to that of the Lips Monastery in Constantinople. Very little interior decoration survives but the beauty of the Church’s masonry is astounding. The cloisonne-style masonry is made of brick, stone or marble and curious pseudo-Kufic patterns are intricately displayed. Whenever I visit the Monastery of Hosios Loukas this is where I spent most of my time!

Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Interior of the Katholikon Church, 11th century, near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece
https://gallerybyzantium.com/unlocking-the-secrets-of-hosios-loukas/

The 11th century Katholiko Church of the Monastery, impressive and imposing, stands next to the church of the Theotokos. Its purpose was to house the relic of St. Luke, which is “…said to have exuded Myron, a sort of perfumed oil which produced healing miracles.” This newer church, dedicated to St. Luke, is of the octagonal cross-in-square architectural type, with coloured marble panels on the walls and mosaics on the surfaces above them. The result is a unique, rich and luminous interior. Standing in the middle of the Katholikon Church is a unique experience to “feel.” https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/hosios-loukas and https://gallerybyzantium.com/unlocking-the-secrets-of-hosios-loukas/

Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Katholikon Church Floor Plan, 11th century, near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece – The black-coloured star marks the location of the Anastasis mosaic http://papierdoreille.blogspot.com/2014/01/green-beautiful-byzantine.html

The amazing mosaic of the Anastasis in the Narthex area of the Katholikon Church of Hosios Loukas is a fine example of the early 11th-century style in Byzantine Art. It depicts the Resurrection of Christ, or in true Byzantine style, the Descent of Christ into Hades, according to the occult gospel of Nicodemus. Christ is depicted in the centre of the composition, unobstructed and enveloped by golden light, stepping at the gates of Hades and lifting Adam from within an open sarcophagus. Behind Adam is Eve and on the opposite side Biblical kings like Solomon and David. This is a mosaic of outstanding artistic quality, the product of a workshop whose practice goes back to Hellenistic times, stark and austere in essence but monumental, direct and highly spiritual.

Some Considerations on the Eleventh-Century Byzantine Wall Mosaics of Hosios Loukas and San Nicolò di Lido is an interesting article by Irina Andreescu-Treadgold to read.  aninterestinghttps://www.academia.edu/7926757/Some_Considerations_on_the_Eleventh_Century_Byzantine_Wall_Mosaics_of_Hosios_Loukas_and_San_Nicol%C3%B2_di_Lido?email_work_card=view-paper

For a Student Activity please… Check HERE!

Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Interior of the Katholikon Narthex, 11th century, near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece

The Raising of Lazarus by Duccio

Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1278 – 1318
The Raising of Lazarus, 1310–11, Tempera and gold on panel, 43.5 x 46.4 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, USA https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/apx-197501

Lazarus Saturday… “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany…” (John 12:1) and The Raising of Lazarus by Duccio is a wonderful painting to start our 2021 Journey of the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church

Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1278 – 1318
The Raising of Lazarus (detail), 1310–11, Tempera and gold on panel, 43.5 x 46.4 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, USA https://www.wikiart.org/en/duccio/raising-of-lazarus-fragment-1311

Duccio di Buonisegna is one o the greatest Μasters of Early Renaissance Art. Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, introduces the great Sienese artist with admiration and respect… “Without doubt those who are inventors of anything notable receive the greatest attention from the pens of the writers of history, and this comes to pass because the first inventions are more observed and held in greater marvel, by reason of the delight that the novelty of the thing brings with it, than all the improvements made afterwards by any man whatsoever when works are brought to the height of perfection, for the reason that if a beginning were never given to anything, there would be no advance and improvement in the middle stages, and the end would not become excellent and of a marvellous beauty. Duccio, then, painter of Siena and much esteemed, deserved to carry off the palm from those who came many years after him…” http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25759/25759-h/25759-h.htm#Page_7

My decision to start the 2021 Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church presentation with a painting by Duccio was carefully thought. James H. Stubblebine’s 1975 article Byzantine Sources for the Iconography of Duccio’s Maestà triggered my imagination… It was finally in his hands! A centuries-old Manuscript Codex from a Monastery somewhere in the land of ancient Macedonia. He felt curious and lucky and privileged to hold such a treasure in his hands! His spirit lifted, in awe… ideas and images wildly dancing in his head, a tingling sensation going down his hands… he felt the urge to start painting… a spiritual golden world, divine, yet with layered hills and trees effortlessly arranged to create a feeling of depth, ethereal figures clad in spring-like coloured robes… How can I combine His World and mine, he thought, and he started painting… The Art Bulletin, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Jun. 1975), pp. 176-185 (10 pages), Published by CAA https://www.jstor.org/stable/3049368?seq=1. (The text in italics is purely fictional)

Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1278 – 1318
Maesta – Back Side, 1310–11, Tempera and gold on panel, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maest%C3%A0_(Duccio)#/media/File:Maest_001_duccio_siena_duomo.jpg

In 1771 the Maesta was dismantled and damaged in the process. Few pieces were lost forever, some of its original panels were sold, and today, like orphan siblings, these panels are housed in European or American Museums. I always seek them out when I visit the National Gallery in Washington DC or the National Gallery, for example, in London. Viewing a Duccio panel is always a pleasure! Visiting, however, the Tuscan city of Siena, its splendid Cathedral and finally the first floor of its Museo Dell’Opera, where Duccio’s Maesta is exhibited, I am in “exaltation.” The Duccio Altarpiece, painted from 1308 to 1311 in Siena and exhibited in Sienna “visible from both sides, is one of the most prodigious artistic undertakings of all time.” If I may humbly add, it is also Duccio’s remarkable gesture of respect to the Byzantine artistic tradition, surprisingly still alive in Tuscany of the early fourteenth century. https://operaduomo.siena.it/en/sites/museum/ and https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/apx-197501

“Thus, under Duccio’s aegis, Byzantium had its last, and perhaps noblest stand on the Italian field.” https://www.jstor.org/stable/3049368?seq=1 Page 184

For a Student Activity on Duccio’s The Raising of Lazarus, please… Check HERE!

Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1278 – 1318
The Raising of Lazarus (detail), 1310–11, Tempera and gold on panel, 43.5 x 46.4 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, USA https://twitter.com/roisin_donohoe/status/1276307352501784576/photo/2

The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks

Interceding Theotokos – Virgin Hagiosoritissa Relief, Middle Byzantine, mid-eleventh century, Marble, 104 cm x 40 cm x 7 cm, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC, USA https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1938.62.jpg/view

“…denuded of all help, and deprived of human alliance, we were spiritually led on by holding fast to our hopes in the Mother of the Word, our God, urging her to implore her Son, invoking her for the expiation of our sins, her intercession of our salvation, her protection as an impregnable wall for us, begging her to break the boldness of the barbarians, her to crush their insolence, her to defend the despairing people and fight for her own flock…” writes Patriarch Photius in the second of his two homilies on the siege of Constantinople by the Rus’ and  Sirarpie der Nersessian, in his 1960 Dumbarton Oaks Papers article titled Two Images of the Virgin, quotes him. I couldn’t find better introductory remarks for a BLOG POST on the marble Icon of The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291145?seq=15#metadata_info_tab_contents page 72 and https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1938.62.jpg/view

The Dumbarton Oaks Museum is my favourite temple of the Muses in Washington DC! It breathes history, scholarship elegance and class… Its collection of Byzantine Art is top quality, the ways and the hows this collection was acquired fascinates me, the scholarship involved, I believe, is more than appreciated by everyone who loves Byzantium. https://www.academia.edu/3585132/_Royal_Tyler_and_the_Bliss_Collection_of_Byzantine_Art_in_James_N_Carder_ed_A_Home_of_the_Humanities_The_Collecting_and_Patronage_of_Mildred_and_Robert_Woods_Bliss_Washington_D_C_Dumbarton_Oaks_Research_Library_and_Collection_27_50?email_work_card=view-paper “Royal Tyler and the Bliss Collection of Byzantine Art,” in James N. Carder, ed., A Home of the Humanities: The Collecting and Patronage of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Museum – Byzantine Gallery
https://www.doaks.org/visit/museum/explore/byzantine-gallery

I confess, I first noticed The Marble Interceding Theotokos in the collection of Dumbarton Oaks when I visited the grand Metropolitan Museum Exhibition The Glory of Byzantium back in 1997. Exhibited then, along with the Lips Monastery Icon of Saint Eudokia from the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, the two marble Icons “opened my eyes” in the genre of Sculpted Marble Icons from the Byzantine era. Ever since I seek them out, and when I visit the Museum of Byzantine Culture in my hometown Thessaloniki, I always pay my respects to the marble ΜΗ(ΤΗ)Ρ Θ(ΕΟ)Υ(=Mother of God) Icon in Room 4, where artefacts of the Macedonian and Komnenian dynasties are presented. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Glory_of_Byzantium_Art_and_Culture_of_the_Middle_Byzantine_Era_AD_843_1261 and https://www.mbp.gr/en/object/marble-icon-praying-virgin

Icon with Saint Eudokia, early 10th century, Marble, inlaid with coloured glass, 66×28 cm, Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey
The Interceding Theotokos – Virgin Hagiosoritissa Relief, Middle Byzantine, mid-eleventh century, Marble, 104 cm x 40 cm x 7 cm, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC, USA
Praying ΜΗ(ΤΗ)Ρ Θ(ΕΟ)Υ(=Mother of God), 11th century, Marble, 135×70 cm, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki, Greece
https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2016/08/saint-eudocia-empress-wife-of-emperor.html
https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1938.62.jpg/view
https://www.mbp.gr/en/object/marble-icon-praying-virgin

One more confession… the title of this BLOG POST was a decision that troubled me. At Dumbarton Oaks Museum the marble Icon of the Theotokos is presented as Virgin Hagiosoritissa Relief. The Glory of Byzantium Exhibition Catalogue uses a similar name Icon of the Virgin Hagiosoritissa. I thought, this is it…until I started reading Sirarpie der Nersessian article Two Images of the Virgin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, and I changed my mind! The author presents in detail the different styles, whereabouts and use of Interceding Theotokos Icons in every medium! Bottom line… I was not convinced the Marble Icon of the Theotokos is of the Hagiosoritissa type… and the title changed to The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks.

For a Student Activity on The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks, please… check HERE!

Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
Photo credit: Carole Raddato published on 06 May 2020
https://www.ancient.eu/article/1552/a-visitors-guide-to-oplontis-stabiae–boscoreale/

I wish I were standing in the middle of Villa Poppaea’s central sitting room (Room 18 on the plan), gazing at “the portico in front of the swimming pool and its surrounding garden… the large window (behind me, that opens) onto the principal garden of the villa… (more) windows, (on my sides) opening into rooms richly-painted with garden scenes, and (further beyond those) into tiny ‘garden’ courtyards, again decorated with garden frescos. Trees, greenery, flowers, birds and water (are) visible in every direction, both painted and real, with nature being brought into the interiors. …It’s hard not to imagine the building filled with …peace, …accompanied by the twittering of birds and the wind in the grass and leaves.” Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes have a strange effect on me!     https://www.italyheaven.co.uk/campania/villa-oplontis.html

Villa Poppaea Plan: Room 16 marks the Viridarium area

Villa Poppaea, built on a plateau fourteen meters above sea level, took advantage of all the scenic pleasures of the Bay of Naples, the latest trends in architecture and the art of fresco painting. Rooms, one hundred of them, were in such a way organized so that its residents and their guests would be able to enjoy the open air and the dramatic view of the sea in an environment of the utmost luxury. Walls decorated with sumptuous frescos further enhanced the effect this Villa probably had on its residents and visitors. Please allow me to explain why exploring the fresco decoration in just one Room in Villa Poppaea, makes your trip to Oplontis, worth your time…

Digital model of the current state of the Villa’s Viridarium (Room 16 in plan)
Photo Credit: © King’s College London, 2011
https://www.kvl.cch.kcl.ac.uk/oplontis03.html

Back in the late 19th century, the German archaeologist August Mau (1840–1909), delineated and described a system of dividing Pompeian Frescoes into four distinct Styles. It is amazing how in Villa Poppaea visitors can see fine examples of the latter three of these four Fresco Styles by just walking from room to room. The amazing frescoes in the small Viridarium area (Room 16 in our Villa Plan) of Villa Poppaea are incredible!

The Viridarium is described as an indoor garden sitting room, decorated with frescoes depicting plants and birds. Room 16 in our Villa Plan is one such Viridarium beautifully embellished with what scholars describe as “Garden Painting,” a very precise genre that is distinct from landscape painting. Garden Paintings give viewers an interesting glimpse of the relationship that existed between architecture and landscape in the ancient world. Exploring the frescoes of Villa Poppaea I read OPLONTIS: VILLA A (“OF POPPAEA”) AT TORRE ANNUNZIATA, ITALY by John R. Clarke and Nayla K. Muntasser, and particularly Chapter 6: Wilhelmina Jashemski and Garden Archaeology at Oplontis, by Kathryn Gleason. The information provided in this presentation is the result of an enjoyable weekend of seeking more and more data…     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viridaria_Villa_Poppaea_30.JPG

The delightful frescoes in Room 16, the Villa’s Viridarium, display arrangements of evergreen foliage of arbutus, laurels and branches of roses, artfully shaped alone or around a decorative fountain. Hues of red and yellow, powerful primary colours, serve as a striking background. Birds twittering and drinking water from the fountains give an extra sense of joyful life. Kathryn Gleason describes them as Topiarii and continues presenting Ars Topiaria, as the art of creating displays of foliage and shrubs by clipping plants, the pruning and dwarfing of large trees… to the training of ivy into ornate patterns in small peristyle gardens.  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

I found of particular interest the site of The Oplontis Project, a collaboration of John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas of the University of Texas at Austin and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompe, along with the Visual Restorations of King’s Visualisation Lab, in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, by Martin Blazeby.     http://www.oplontisproject.org/     and     http://www.oplontisproject.org/index.php/visualization/

For a PowerPoint on Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes, please… Click HERE!

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://historyandarchaeologyonline.com/ancient-roman-gardens/

Angelic Musicians

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Concert of the Angels, c. 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 115-217 cm, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html
Together with…
The Annunciation, 1614, oil on canvas, 2.940,00×2.090,00 mm, Banco Santander, Spain
https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Domenikos_Theotokopoulos,_El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Domenicos Theotokopoulos is in my heart. I find him an attractive personality in every aspect… talented, educated, ambitious, curious, adventurous, persistent…  Art is everywhere you look for it, hail the twinkling stars for they are God’s careless splatters…” he wrote and I think of his Angelic Musicians, shining like flickering stars, in the National Gallery in Athens. http://elgreco.net/el-greco-quotes.jsp and https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

Domenicos Theotokopoulos was a Cretan Greek, born in Handaka-Candia, present-day Herakleion, part, at the time, of the thriving Republic of Venice. Archival research in Venice showed that between 1526-28 his family relocated from Chania to Handaka where in 1541 Domenicos was born. His orthodox-Greek family belonged to the upper-middle class, as his father, Giorgos Theotokopoulos, worked for the government of the Venetian Republic, most probably as a merchant and a tax collector. Very little is known of  Domenicos’s mother and early childhood. He was undoubtedly talented, and his father, realizing it, placed him as an apprentice in a painter’s workshop to learn this profitable trade. The name of his teacher is unknown, but judging from Domenicos’s earliest paintings, he was a great master of the Post-Byzantine Cretan School. Crete at the time was the center of a thriving artistic community and understanding the artist’s early influences and style is important in decoding his later work! https://www.historical-museum.gr/webapps/elgreco/xronologio.php?lang=en

By 1567/8 Theotokopoulos travelled to Venice, by 1570, he was in Rome, by 1576 he moved to Spain and in 1577 the artist settled in Toledo, where he found his spiritual home and remained for the rest of his life. He died on the 7th of April 1614, admired for his unique fluid style, temperamental character and humanist education. One of his friends and admirers, Hortensio Félix Paravicino y Arteaga (1580-1633) the Spanish poet, preacher and a member of the Trinitarian Order, wrote for the artist “O Greek divine! We wonder not that in thy works / The imagery surpasses actual being.” Paravicino also wrote, foreseeing Theotokopoulos’s legacy “Future generations will admire his strange genius, but for centuries he will not be imitated.” http://www.nccsc.net/essays/spanish-style  

I would like the reader of this BLOG POST, titled Angelic Musicians, to focus on two paintings. One of them is in Athens and is titled The Concert of the Angels, the other is in Madrid, and is an Annunciation scene. Now imagine them together and you will see one of the last, if not the last painting, the artist created but never finished. The original painting, an Annunciation scene, was commissioned for the Chapel of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist outside the walls of Toledo. Today, separated, the product of 19h century vandalism, may look slightly odd, but still, enthral the viewer with their unique “beauty.”

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Concert of the Angels, c. 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 115-217 cm, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens
https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

The Concert of the Angels in Athens is for me a wonderful depiction of an imaginary, celestial concert, full of energy and vibrato. Domenicos Theotokopoulos, the so-called El Greco, loved music and treated it with respect. The painting in Athens shows a musical ensemble with seven “ecstatic” angels, reading music, singing or playing the spinet, a harp, a flute and a viola da gamba. I wonder what kind of music Domenico enjoyed most, and which musician of his time he favoured… https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

The artist uses swift brushwork and swaying movement in postures and robes to create excitement in his composition. Like tongues of fire, his swirling figures look more like spiritual beings than real bodies…

The colour palette that the artist uses is another distinctive characteristic of his mannerism. The colours are iridescent but bold. He uses oranges in red and green and yellow/gold in blue. Tints and shades are juxtaposed. Values of high or low intensity are treasured. Theotokopoulos’s final Annunciation was never finished but whether you see its upper part in Athens or the actual Annunciation part in Madrid, its expressive power is unquestionable.

For a PowerPoint on Theotokopoulos’s paintings of the Annunciation, please … Click. HERE!

The National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation in Athens has uploaded a wonderful (in Greek) Video to watch… https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=316373302403183  

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Annunciation, 1614, oil on canvas, 2.940,00×2.090,00 mm, Banco Santander, Spain
https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Domenikos_Theotokopoulos,_El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Odilon Redon and Pandora’s Box

Odilon Redon, 1840-1916
Pandora, 1910/1912, oil on canvas, 143.5 x 62.9 cm, NGA, Washington DC, USA https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46531.html#bibliography

It is nature also who orders us to obey the gifts she has given us. Mine have led me to dreams; I submitted to the torments of imagination and the surprises she gave me under my pencil; but I directed and led those surprises in accordance with the laws of the organism of art which I know, which I feel, with the single goal of producing in the spectator, by sudden attraction, the whole evocation, and the whole enticement of the uncertain within the confines of thought… writes Odilon Redon in his journals To Myself: Notes on Life, Art, and Artists… and I think of Odilon Redon and Pandora’s Box in Washington DC, at the National Gallery. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/288740.Odilon_Redon

Odilon Redon is one of my favourite artists. As a student, I knew little of him. As a young teacher of Art History I hardly ever used his work… until, preparing for a Lesson Plan on the Myth of Pandora, I rediscovered his Pandora painting at the NGA and the Museum’s wonderful suggestions for Student Activities. My students responded positively to his imaginary world… and I was hooked!

Odilon Redon, 1840-1916
Self-Portrait, 1880, oil on canvas, 33.3×52 cm, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France https://www.wikiart.org/en/odilon-redon/self-portrait-1880

I like how Odilon’s work is described at ARTSY… “Known for his unique blend of artistic naturalism and symbolic subject matter, Odilon Redon was highly influential among the late 19th century French avant-garde circle. Working in charcoal, pastel, oil, and lithography, Redon created imaginative scenes that, while often based in the supernatural, were nonetheless executed in a highly representational manner. Redon considered this descriptive accuracy essential, writing “every time that a human figure does not give the illusion that it is … about to come out of the picture frame to walk, act or think, the drawing is not a truly modern one.” Redon was influenced by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé and admired by the painters Gustave Moreau and Gustave Klimt—as such he is often remembered as a Symbolist, though Redon preferred autonomy and never actually considered himself part of the group.” What more could I add… https://www.artsy.net/artwork/odilon-redon-ari

My students and I are captivated by the Myth of Pandora and the elusive way Odilon presents her story… Off-centre, Pandora stands in front of an atmospheric background, misty and hazy, luminous, ethereal and a touch, mysterious. The power of the artist’s mind creates organic forms, indistinct and intangible. The colours the artist uses are subtle, understated, yet joyous, warm and earthy. The box in Pandora’s hands is small, easily discerned buts not ostentatious… http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Art/Books/en/BeyondTheVisibleTheArtOfOdilonRedon.html

Painted by: The Niobid Painter
The Creation of Pandora,
460BC-450 BC, Attic Red Figure Calyx krater, attributed to the Niobid Painter, Archaic period, British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1856-1213-1

The myth of Pandora is beautifully told by the experts of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC… According to Greek mythology, in the beginning the earth was free from toil and misery. The land was covered with flowers and the rivers flowed with milk and honey. Earth was inhabited only by men, who had been created by Prometheus. He made them of clay and modeled them after the gods, which angered Zeus, the king of the gods. When Prometheus offended Zeus again by stealing fire from heaven to give to man, Zeus exacted revenge. He ordered Hephaestus, the god of the forge, to create Pandora, the first woman. The gods gave her many traits including beauty, curiosity, charm, and cleverness. Hence her name “Pandora,” meaning “all gifted” or, alternately, “a gift to all.” Before he left Pandora on earth, Zeus handed her a beautiful box saying, “This is my own special gift to you. Don’t ever open it.” As Zeus anticipated, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the box, ending earthly paradise. From the small chest flew troubles and woes—sorrow, disease, vice, violence, greed, madness, old age, death—to plague humankind forever. However, Zeus did not realize that hope had been secretly added to the box by Promethesus. When Pandora opened the box and released trouble and woe into the world, hope was there to help people survive. https://www.nga.gov/education/teachers/lessons-activities/origin-myths/pandora.html

For interesting Student Activities, please click and explore the NGA site… https://www.nga.gov/education/teachers/lessons-activities/origin-myths/pandora.html

The myth of Pandora’s box by Iseult Gillespie at TEDEd is worth exploring… https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-myth-of-pandora-s-box-iseult-gillespie

For a PowerPoint on the Myth of Pandora Teacher Curator prepared, please… Click HERE!

Odilon Redon, 1840–1916
Pandora, 1914, oil on canvas, 143.5 x 62.2 cm, the MET, NY https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437383

Lips Monastery in Constantinople

Lips Monastery in Constantinople, East Side of both South and North Churches, 10h and 13h cent., Constantinople. Today the Byzantine Church is a Mosque known as Fenari Isa Cami. https://grandeflanerie.com/portfolio/byzantineistanbul/7/

“The frequent fires that have caused such terrible destructions in Constantinople have, in some respect, facilitated archaeological investigation and the study of Byzantine monuments. As is well known, the byzantine churches that have been converted into mosques usually stood tightly surrounded by wooden houses in the center of labyrinthic Turkish quarters. Following the disappearance of these obstructive houses, many Byzantine monuments have emerged as isolated ruins in the midst of wide open spaces… This has been the case with the monastery of Lips to which the Empress Theodora added towards the end of the thirteenth century the church of the Prodromos, intended as a mausoleum for herself and the family of the Palaeoplogi…” writes Theodore Macridy as an introduction to his article… and I am indebted for all the information he provides for the Lips Monastery in Constantinople and the Theotokos Panachrantos Church BLOG POST https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291214?origin=crossref&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Nicholas V. Artamonoff, 1908-1989
Monastery of Lips, Exterior view from the west, December 1935, Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection http://images.doaks.org/artamonoff/items/show/131

It was a summery June day of 907 (or 908) and Emperor Leo (Leo VI, called the Wise, 866-912) was on his way to the inauguration ceremony of a new Church dedicated to the Mother of God “Πανάχραντος.” The streets were quiet in the Lykos valley where Patrikios Constantinos Lips decided to commission his new Church taking into consideration novel architectural ideas. Constantinos Lips, aristocrat and military official, is at the peak of his career and he wants the Church of Πανάχραντοςto to reflect his status and… ambitions...

Lips Monastery in Constantinople (Today, Fenari Isa Camii, Istanbul), 10th to 14th century, Architectural Plan
http://projects.mcah.columbia.edu/medieval-architecture/htm/related/ma_theotok_of_lips_01.htm

The Church of Theotokos Panachrantos, or the North Church as is popularly known, is the oldest example of the cross-in-square domed type of Church Architecture in Constantinople. It is also a religious structure with a tripartite sanctuary to the east, and north to the west. The north and south vaults of the church terminate in huge windows that gloriously illuminate the interior of the church. The eastern vault extends over the church’s apse, creates a spacious Bema and is flanked by two tiny but elegant, quatrefoil structures that serve as the Prothesis and the Diakonikon. Apparently, the walls of this impressive church were further enhanced with marble veneering, both inside and outside. The Church of Theotokos Panachrantos was domed but the four columns supporting the vaults are missing, although three column bases survived the church’s probable fire destruction, and remain in their original positions. Equally interesting is the three-bay Narthex of the Church, which culminates, on its narrow sides, in shallow niches. Originally, the Narthex was preceded by a narrow exterior porch that covered the main entrance to the narthex. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=10907

Photo Reconstruction of the North Church by A. Megaw with minor alterations… https://www.byzantium1200.com/c-lipsos.html

The original Church of the Panachrantos, incorporated in its original design plan, had six additional Chapels. Two of them, single-naved, flanking the Prothesis and Diakonikon, are now lost in their initial state. The North Chapel suffered the most. Today only a part of its apse has been discovered and unearthed as the result of archaeological excavations. The Southern Chapel, on the other hand, located next to the Panachrantos Diakonikon, was partially saved, serving as the Prothesis of the, attached, thirteenth century Church of Saint John. Four more Chapels existed on the roof of the North Church. These Chapels, partialy destroyed during the fire of 1917, were not visible if you were inside the Church. Two of these Chapels, in quatrefoil shape, were situated over the western corner bays of the naos, and two more Chapels, located over the Diakonikon and Prothesis, were to be seen at the east end of the building. Access to the roof was through a staircase inside the tower south of the Narthex. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/lips

Nicholas V. Artamonoff, 1908-1989
Monastery of Lips, Marble Cornice of the Apse Arch (North Church), May 1937, Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection http://images.doaks.org/artamonoff/items/show/131

The North church provides probably the largest and the most “outstanding collection of Middle Byzantine sculptural decoration in Constantinople” write Cyril Mango and Ernest J. W. Hawkins in their 1964 DO article. What survived shows “a wealth of carved ornaments both inside and outside… (unique quality in execution, and the use of) …an endless variety of motifs – highly stylized palmettes, and “bouquets” of different forms, fleurons, stars and crosses (peacocks and eagles) – (that create) a sense of unit on the decoration as a whole.” The style of sculptural rendering is crisp, with sharp ridges that are carefully “smoothed down to the flat background upon which the forward contours of the motifs are repeated.” Mango and Hawkins proceed to an amazing description of amazing discoveries. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291216?origin=crossref&seq=6#metadata_info_tab_contents, pp. 304-311

The Church Constantinos Lips, built in the early 10th century, survived time, devastating fires and invasions. Attached to it, Empress Theodora, widow of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282), established a second Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist known today as the “South Church.” Constantinos’s Church was now part of a prestigious Nunnery, a Xenon and the Burial “ground) of the Paleologean family. (…to be addressed)  

During the Ottoman period the Lips Monastery (South Church) served as a Mescit (a small mosque) and later, in 1636, after a fire in 1633, the South Church was upgraded to Camii while the North Church was converted into a Tekke (a dervish lodge). Two more fires down the path of history…the building was abandoned… but excavations in 1929, and a thorough restoration between the 1950s and the 1960s by the Byzantine Institute of America, gave it new life, so that today, known as Fenari Isa Camii, serves once again as a mosque.

An interesting Video of the exterior of Lips Monastery can be accessed … https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1703858606415101

For a Student Activity, please…Click HERE!

Monastery of Lips: The North Church Sculptural Decoration, early 10th century, Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo Credit: Dick Ossemann, https://pbase.com/dosseman/image/159013722

The Labours of the Months: April

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: April, about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote:   When April with its sweet-smelling showers  /  The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,  Has pierced the drought of March to the root,   /  And bathed every veyne in swich licour  And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid  /  Of which vertu engendred is the flour;   By the power of which the flower is created;  /  Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth   When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,  /  Inspired hath in every holt and heeth   In every holt and heath, has breathed life into  /  The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne   The tender crops, and the young sun  /  Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,   Has run its half course in Aries,  /  And smale foweles maken melodye,  And small fowls make melody,  /  That slepen al the nyght with open ye   Those that sleep all the night with open eyes  /  (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages),   (So Nature incites them in their hearts)… Geoffrey Chaucer first line for The Canterbury Tales refers to April…   for The Labours of the Months: April cer/gp-aloud.htm

In London, at the National Gallery there are 12 small pictures, “painted on canvas and then each glued to a wooden panel. It is possible that they were made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors. The paintings seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other and are currently displayed in two frames in groups of six. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combines simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

The painting that may represent “sweet-smelling” April, shows  a cooper making a wooden barrel. “He raises his mallet ready to strike the tool in his other hand. The work must be physically hard as he has tied a band of white cloth around his forehead to keep the sweat out of his eyes. The barrel will be used to store wine made from the grapes we see being pressed in September.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-april

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: April, about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

Coopers were important craftsmen during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They created wooden barrels to store wine, spirits and salted meats, buckets to draw and carry water, wooden bowls and plates for daily use, pails, churns and tubs for various agricultural or home-industry needs. Coopers, like the one depicted in the small London painting, were respected and valued Renaissance professionals.

Depicting the Labours of the Months was a popular artistic theme that was frequently used in the decoration of Cathedrals and Churches, Castles and  Palaces, Psalters, Breviaries and Books of Hours across Europe during the Medieval and Early Renaissance period. Each month, depicting popular activities of peasants or/and the gentry throughout the year were sometimes paired with the Signs of the Zodiac circle. They would be either simple and small in size or large and elaborate, crafted in stone, wood, stained glass, painted in murals or often enough, painted in parchment. Many great Monuments and Libraries in Europe display fine examples of such artefacts for art lovers to enjoy.  http://www.livingfield.co.uk/ages/labours-of-the-months/

For a PowerPoint on The Labours of the Months at the National Gallery in London, please… Check HERE!

Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship

Nikiforos Lytras, 1832-1927
Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship, 1873, oil on canvas, 143×109 cm, Averoff Gallery, Metsovo, Greece     https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/kanaris-burning-the-turkish-flagship/?lang=en

“Mais le bon Canaris, donc un ardent sillon  /  Suit la barque hardie,  /  Sur les vaisseaux qu’il prend, comme son pavillon,  /  Arbore l’incendie !          But good Kanaris, whose daring boat  /  Is followed by a burning wake,  /  On the vessels he seizes, as his ensign,  /  Displays the blaze!” Writes Victor Hugo inspired by the daring deeds of Konstantinos Kanaris (anglicised as Constantine Canaris), distinguished as a brave fire ship captain. In 1873, Nikiforos Lytras painted Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship, honouring the great man.     https://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/victor_hugo/canaris     and     https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/fr_canar.html

Averoff Gallery, Metsovo, Greece     

Every time I travel to Metsovo, in the Epirote mountains of Pindos, in Northern Greece, I visit the Averoff Gallery and stop in front of Nikiforos Lytras’s painting Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship. You cannot miss it… It is one of the most captivating 19th-century Greek paintings. https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/

Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship is an amazing departure from what Nykiforos Lytras studied in the Münchner Akademie der Bildenden Künste under the tutelage of Karl Theodor von Piloty (1826-1886). An influential Art School, the Münchner Akademie, attracted and trained artists from around the world to become leading painters, able to combine in their style, academic realism, baroque colourism and dark chiaroscuro. The artists of the Akademie were committed to monumental history paintings, landscapes, ethnography, portraits and still life. Naturalism in its depiction of human emotions was not among the School’s greatest artistic pursuits. http://www.artmag.gr/art-history/art-history/item/270-i-sxoli-you-monaxou

Konstantinos Kanaris (1793 – 1877)
Greek and Philhellene Fighters in the Greek Revolution of 1821, Portraits of the German officer and Philhellene Karl Krazeisen
This is a rare series of the lithographs of Krazeisen, which are hand-painted.
https://www.eefshp.org/en/portfolio-item/konstantinos-kanaris-1793-1877/

Lytras’s painting on the heroic deed by Konstantinos Kanaris is a historic painting with a twist! The artist moves away “from the romantic tendency that prevailed in the School of Piloty to a more naturalistic one in which the genre element played the dominant role.” According to the description provided by the Averoff Museum “Lytras` anthropocentric painting… was not concerned so much with the historical event per se. More so it was the projection of the heroic act carried out by brave persons worthy of emulation. The flaming ship is thrust into the distance to form the backdrop for the human action that is played out on a plane close to the viewer. Thus, in contrast to the ambiguous treatment of the background, where the ship disappears half-hidden by the smoke, the realistic rendering of the Psarians with Kanaris in the boat gives the work the immediacy and truth that interested the artist.”     https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/kanaris-burning-the-turkish-flagship/?lang=en

Nikiforos Lytras, the painter of Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship in Metsovo, was born in Pyrgi, on the Cycladic island of Tinos, the son of a marble sculptor. An exceptional talent, Lytras studied at the Athens School of Art from 1850 until 1860 and then, as the recipient of a state scholarship, he continued his studies at the Munich Academy, in the class of Karl von Piloty. In 1866 Lytras was back in Greece and was appointed professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts, a position he held for 38 productive years. A conscientious teacher, but interested to experience new ideas and always open to new trends, Nikiforos Lytras became the leading Greek artist of his time, popular with the people and honoured by his students and fellow artists.

Nikiforos Lytras, 1832-1927
Self-Portrait, 19th century, oil on canvas, 51,5 x 43,5 cm, National Gallery of Athens      

There are two paintings on the theme of Kanaris Burning the Turkish Flagship. The earliest, chronologically, was painted by Nikiforos Lytras and today is exhibited in the Averoff Museum at Metsovo, one of my favourite Art Museums in Greece. The second painting, by  Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, was painted in 1881 and is part of the E. Koutlidis Collection and is exhibited in Athens at the National Gallery. For a Student “Compare and Contrast” Activity, paintings, please… Check HERE!

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, 1817-1900
The Burning of the Turkish Flagship, 1881,oil on canvas, 162×223 cm, National Gallery of Athens     https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Burning_of_the_Turkish_Flagship_by_Kanaris_-_Ivan_Aivazovsky,_1881.png

If you wish to learn more about the Greek War of Independence and the Bicentennial Celebrations in 2021, please VISIT the official Greece 1821-2021 Bicentennial site http://www.greece2021.gr, Twitter, https://twitter.com/Greece_2021, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Greece2021/, and Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/greece2021/?hl=el

Celebrating the Greek Revolution of 1821

Johann Georg Christian Perlberg, 1806-1884
Drums for the War of Independence – Young Drummer in Missolunghi, oil on canvas, 48.5 x 34.5 cm, Private Collection
https://www.dorotheum.com/en/l/2897144/      and     http://ellas2021.eu/gallery.html

It was for these children that we fought… paraphrasing the words of Yanni Makrigianni, 1794-1864, Greek Revolutionary Fighter of 1821! Celebrating the Greek Revolution of 1821 and remembering the children who probably suffered the most.

Messolonghi… View of the location where Lord Byron died, 1848
ESTOURMEL, Joseph d’, Comte. Album du Journal d’un Voyage en Orient, Paris, Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation
http://eng.travelogues.gr/item.php?view=39968

“The torch that was Missolonghi shed its light as far as Vasiladhi and Klisova and over the whole plain, and even reached us. The flashes of gunfire looked like a host of fireflies. From Missolonghi we heard the shrieks of women, the sound of gunfire, the explosion of powder magazines and mines, all combined in an indescribably fearful noise. The town was like a roaring furnace” remembers Nikolaos Kasomoulis (1795 – 1872), who took part, fought and survived the Exodus. I hope Perlberg’s Young Drummer Boy, so romantically groomed, successfully survived the tragedy…     https://books.google.gr/books?id=GhCLDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA26-IA16&lpg=PA26-IA16&dq=%22The+flashes+of+gunfire+looked+like+a+host+of+fireflies.%22&source=bl&ots=sDTZ6TqHS3&sig=ACfU3U1jIfv4avEDAVvPpC9AfvJbcVkRmQ&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiE8qvu2bvvAhWDO-wKHTb_A5MQ6AEwAnoECAEQAw#v=onepage&q=%22The%20flashes%20of%20gunfire%20looked%20like%20a%20host%20of%20fireflies.%22&f=false

For our Youngsters… the National Historical Museum in Athens

National Historical Museum of Greece – The building was designed by Francois Boulanger to serve as the first Greek Parliament. Construction began in 1858 and ended in 1875. It served as the Nation’s Parliament until 1935 and became a museum in 1960.     https://www.greece-is.com/national-historical-museum/

For celebratory mood and quality time with your youngster, you can VISIT the National Historical Museum site http://www.nhmuseum.gr/en and then go to     http://www.nhmuseum.gr/el/ekpaideysi/ekpaideytiko-yliko/.

This is a “Colouring Page” Activity (in Greek BUT easy to understand and DO) on famous figures of the Greek War of Independence. It was inspired by the Exhibition The 1821 Greek War of Independence Retold in… Playmobil! The Activity is very EASY!     http://www.nhmuseum.gr/el/ekpaideysi/ekpaideytiko-yliko/

To do the Colouring Activity Press on each picture you wish your child to colour – download it – print it – DONE! You can choose between heroes and heroines of the Greek War of Independence and celebrate an important moment in Greek History. From top to bottom, the Colouring Page Figures are: Theodoros Kolokotronis, Odysseas Androutsos, Laskarina Bouboulina, Konstantinos Kanaris, Manto Mavrogenous, Germanos, Metropolitan Paleon Patron, Andreas Lontos, Asimo Goura, Ioannis Makrigiannis, Domna Visvizi, Christos Kapsalis, Andreas Pipinos, Dimitrios Papanikolis

For our Youngsters… a List of Student Activities on the Greek Revolution of 1821 prepared by Greek Museums and Foundations… HERE!

Student work… Foustaneloforoi!

For an easy to print Celebrating the Greek Revolution of 1821 Worksheet, please… Click HERE!

If you wish to learn more about the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the preparation for the Bicentennial Celebration in 2021, please VISIT the official Greece 1821-2021 Bicentennial site: https://www.greece2021.gr/en/ and/or https://www.greece2021.gr/