Theseus and Antiope

Theseus and Antiope, sculpture from the West Pediment of the Temple of Apollo Daphnephorus in ancient Eretria, late 6th century, Marble, 110 cm, Archaeological Museum of Eretria, Greece

The multiple aspects of the concept of Kallos in the everyday life and the philosophical discourse of ancient Greece are presented in the major, emblematic, archaeological exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art, titled ΚΑLLOS. The Ultimate Beauty. Τhis exhibition displays three hundred emblematic antiquities from fifty-two museums, collections, and Ephorates of Antiquities throughout Greece, as well as from Italy, and the Vatican. The overwhelming majority appear for the first time outside of the museums of their provenance. They meet and mingle in the Museum of Cycladic Art, so as to give an integrated picture of the ideal of Kallos, inadequately translated into English as Beauty. On the 6th of November I presented you one such exhibit… the Kore from Chios today, I will present you a favourite Archaic work of art… Theseus and Antiope!

The story of  Theseus and Antiope has it all… adventure, strife, love, and devotion! According to Pausanias and his Description of Greece… As one enters the city (of Athens) there is a monument to Antiope the Amazon. This Antiope, Pindar says, was carried off by Peirithous and Theseus, but Hegias of Troezen gives the following account of her. Heracles was besieging Themiscyra on the Thermodon, but could not take it, but Antiope, falling in love with Theseus, who was aiding Heracles in his campaign, surrendered the stronghold. Such is the account of Hegias. But the Athenians assert that when the Amazons came, Antiope was shot by Molpadia, while Molpadia was killed by Theseus. To Molpadia also there is a monument among the Athenians.

ΚΑLLOS. The Ultimate Beauty Exhibition Photo, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece
Photo Credit: Paris Tativian, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece

The effigy of Theseus and Antiope, temporarily exhibited in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, was originally created for the West Pediment of the Temple of Apollo Daphnephorus in Eretria. Information regarding the Temple of Apollo in Eretria is unfortunately scarce. Eretria, a town in Euboea facing the coast of Attica, was first mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as one of the cities that provided ships against the Trojans. During the 8th century BC, the citizens of Eretria, a flourishing city during the Geometric and Archaic periods, built an impressive Temple to honour God Apollo, apsidal in architectural form. Soon after, a second, wooden Temple followed on the same site. Finally, around 520- 490 BC, a larger stone Temple was built, the remains of which are still visible today. Unfortunately, the Archaic Temple was badly destroyed during the Persian invasion of 490 BC.

Theseus and Antiope, sculpture from the West Pediment of the Temple of Apollo Daphnephorus in ancient Eretria, late 6th century, Marble, 110 cm, Archaeological Museum of Eretria, Greece
In colour reconstruction on plaster and on paper, Investigations by Vinzenz Brinkmann, executed by Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, 1992–490
(c) Vinzenz Brinkmann 2018 & Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, Polychromy Research Project

The late Archaic period (510-500 BC) pediment sculpture depicting the abduction of Antiope by Theseus portrays the moment of Theseus stepping onto a chariot’s platform while tightly holding Antiope in his arms… a decisive moment in the development of the story, a key moment in the development of ancient Greek Art. Notice the depicted entwined torsos and think of the evolution accomplished as figural depiction moves from the frontal and immobile Kouros and Kore type of sculpture to the more naturalistic modeling of the classical era. Notice how the psychological drama unfolds, and consider the subtle ways the artist of Theseus and Antiope presents the understated surrender of the elegant Amazon, and the restrained triumph of the victorious hero. Notice how the heads of both figures slightly bend and observe the created interplay of light and shade, shapes and forms. What an accomplishment for the unknown artist. Could he be the famous Athenian sculptor Antenor?

For a PowerPoint on the Theseus and Antiope theme, please… Check HERE!

Photograph of the actress Katharine Hepburn in the 1932 Broadway production of The Warrior’s Husband, March 1932

Pissarro’s Basket of Pears

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life: Pears in a Round Basket, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 45.7 x 55.2 cm, The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum, USA

They are juicy and sweet, can be tart or buttery, soft, or crunchy, they have been around since the 5th millennium BC, they are my favourite winter fruit! We celebrate them on the 5th of December… during World Pear Day! Lamar Cole’s poemIt always made him feel so refreshed and new. / When he tasted pear juice. / On pears he loved to munch. / He loved the sound of their crunch. / He was happy as could be. / Because on his grandma’s farm. / There were many pear trees… sets the tone! Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears invites me to contemplate and Enjoy! and

Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears is a rare treat! An exceptional theme for Camille Pissarro, the Princeton Museum painting surprised me… ever so pleasantly, I may add. It dates from the year after his move to Pontoise, a village north of Paris where, in 1872, joined by Cézanne, who regarded Pissarro as a father figure, the artists, often working side by side outdoors, experimented with the Impressionist techniques pioneered by some of their friends.

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Self-Portrait, 1873, Oil on Canvas, 55.5×46.0 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

According to the experts at Sotheby’s… Pissarro lived in Pontoise, a village located northwest of Paris, between 1872 and 1882, finding great inspiration in its landscapes. Pontoise played an integral role in Pissarro’s work, establishing his reputation as an innovative painter of rural scenes, as well as contributing to the emergence of Impressionism. For this reason, his works painted between 1872 and 1873 are often considered his masterpieces, works that would have a long-lasting influence on both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists. The 1877 Musée d’Orsay painting of Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, is a wonderful example of how Pissarro, during his ten years at Pontoise, developed his style influenced by Gustave Corot, Claude Monet, and William Turner. Painted en plain air, with short, visible brushstrokes, and colorful cast shadows, the Orsay painting of Flowering Trees, I would like to think of them as Pear Trees! exhibits all the characteristics of the Impressionist style, Pissarro is so famous about.

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, 1877, Oil on Canvas, 65.5×81 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France,_Spring,_Pontoise.JPG
Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life with Apples and Pitcher, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 46.4 x 56.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA

During his sojourn at Pontoise, in 1872 to be exact, Pissarro painted two, very similar Still Lives, I particularly like. Identical in size, Pears in a Round Basket (Princeton University Art Museum), and Still Life with Apples and Pitcher (the MET, New York), stun the viewer with the artist’s clarity of vision, and simplicity of composition. Featuring the same floral-patterned wallpaper in the background, I love its vertical orientation, floral design, and pastel colour scheme, both paintings clearly expressed forms and subtle manipulation of light. The viewer can only wonder… How much were Cezanne’s Still Life paintings influenced by Pissarro?

For a PowerPoint on Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears, please… Click HERE!

The Labours of the Months: December

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: December, about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London

Last, for December, houses on the plain,  /  Ground-floors to live in, logs heaped mountain-high,  /  And carpets stretched, and newest games to try,  /  And torches lit, and gifts from man to man  /  (Your host, a drunkard and a Catalan);  /  And whole dead pigs, and cunning cooks to ply  /  Each throat with tit-bits that shall satisfy;  /  And wine-butts of Saint Galganus’ brave span.  /  And be your coats well-lined and tightly bound,  /  And wrap yourselves in cloaks of strength and weight,  /  With gallant hoods to put your faces through.  /  And make your game of abject vagabond  /  Abandoned miserable reprobate  /  Misers; don’t let them have a chance with you. My new BLOG POST for The Labours of the Months: December starts with a sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893).

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 through 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. The Labours of the Months had a role in highlighting authority and privilege, hard work and occasionally, small, everyday pleasures. They are often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. Many great Monuments and Libraries in Europe display fine examples of such artefacts for art lovers to enjoy.

Throughout 2021, on the 1st day of every month, I presented you with a small painting, part of a group of twelve, from the National Gallery in London, depicting a young man busy with some kind of a pastoral chore. According to the National Gallery experts… painted on canvas and then glued to a wooden panel these paintings 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 …show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combine simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! The paintings, very small in size, about 13.6 x 10.6 cm, were achieved in vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like ultramarine blue for the sky, strong vermilion and red lake for the clothing, with rich greens and yellows in the landscape. The restricted and repeated use of colour gives the group of little pictures a charming, decorative simplicity. All but one of the scenes show a man working outdoors on what appears to be the estate of a large villa, seen in several of the paintings, at the foot of the distant blue mountains.

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: December (detail), about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London

The last painting for 2021… a simple brick building to the right, and a bare, uninviting landscape, introduces the viewer to the composition depicting the December Labour of the Month. It shows a popular theme… a slaughterman pinning an animal down with his right knee, holding its snout shut to stop it from struggling, whilst slitting its throat and moving its leg to make its blood flow quickly into the skillet on the ground. December is a month to celebrate the Birth of Christ, and the preparations for the festivities are about to begin!

For a PowerPoint on the Venetian paintings depicting the Labours of the Months, please … Check HERE!

Titian in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Tiziano Vecelli (Titian in English), c. 1488/90-1576
The Rape of Europa, between 1560 and 1562, Oil on Canvas, 178 × 205 cm, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA

Titian in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is about an amazing Exhibition titled Titian – Women, Myth & Power running from August 12 to January 2, 2022. The Exhibition presents Titian’s poesie — or painted poetries — that envision epic stories from classical Antiquity. These poesies were created between 1551 and 1561, for King Philip II of Spain, by no other than the incredible Venetian artist, Titian! It is, undoubtedly, priceless, for the Exhibition visitor, to be able to see for the first time in over four centuries, the renowned paintings reunited… conversing with each other. For the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, inspiration was, I can only guess, their own painting of Titian’s… Rape of Europa.

Tiziano Vecelli (Titian in English), c. 1488/90-1576
Philip II of Spain, between 1549 and 1550, Oil on Canvas, 103×82 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

 Not every painter has a gift for painting, in fact, many painters are disappointed when they meet with difficulties in art. Painting done under pressure by artists without the necessary talent can only give rise to formlessness, as painting is a profession that requires peace of mind. The painter must always seek the essence of things, always represent the essential characteristics and emotions of the person he is painting… Titian believed and applied when, between 1549 and 1550, he painted the Portrait of his most important patron, Philip II of Spain, the man with whom, the artist established one of the most fruitful artistic relationships of the European Renaissance. This fruitful artistic relationship between the aging Venetian Master, and the 21-year-old Prince of Spain, at the time, led to the poesie paintings… large canvases inspired by stories taken from Ovid’s (43 BC–17 AD) Metamorphoses and other Classical works. and and

Titian, given free rein by Philip to choose the subjects and to create new and innovative compositions, outdid himself choosing Myths that involve Gods and Mortals, Love and Death… The artist chose Myths that rely on powerful emotions, curiosity, jealousy, love, and desire, for their drama.

DanaëAlthough Danaë was isolated at the top of a tower by her father, King Acrisius of Argos, in an attempt to prevent her from becoming a mother, Zeus sought her out and in the form of a shower of gold, impregnated her. Titian’s Danaë, one of his favourite mythological women, ever sensual and voluptuous, was always a woman depicted at the moment in which Zeus possesses her in the form of golden rain, surprised, contented, and innocent looking. Danaë was the first Poesie presented to Prince Philip.

Titian’s Aphrodite and Adonis, presents a moment… not described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses or any other classical source. Invenzioned by Titianthe painting portrays Adonis, ready for the hunt, separating himself from Venus´s embrace. This is a scene of seduction, female initiative, and scandalous behaviour. Aphrodite, in a desperate effort, tries to restrain her lover with a seductive embrace… all in vain, Adonis’s fate is sealed!

While out hunting, Actaeon accidentally discovered the secret bathing place of Artemis, goddess of the moon and hunt. Titian’s Artemis and Actaeon, in the National Galleries of Scotland, chose to portray the exact inciting incident when the victims’ fate is sealed. A dramatic intrusion scene, a dynamic arrangement of figures, sparkling light, intense colour, and animated brushwork… Titian’s painting is a glimpse of the artist’s ability  to create magic!

Every time I see the constellation of Ursa Major, I think of Callisto, Zeus, Hera, and Artemis, a myth of innocence, violence, wrath, and punishment… a Renaissance painting by Titian, Artemis and Callisto, and a Patron who loved women and hunting…

Titian’s Rape of Europa, painted in Venice in the 1560s, is inspired by a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Infatuated with Europa, Jupiter—king of the gods—transforms himself into a beautiful white bull and joins a herd grazing near the seashore. Europa, close by with her companions, approaches the beautiful creature with her hand outstretched. Finding him tame, she plays with the bull in a meadow and entwines flowers around his horns. When she climbs playfully on his back, the mischievous god seizes the opportunity and springs into the sea, spiriting away the target of his affections while she clings to him in terror… waving desperately at her companions on the shore.

Arrogance, revenge, sacrifice, bravery…the Myth of Perseus and Andromeda, has it all! Painted between 1551 and 1562 by Titian, a poesie for King Philip II of Spain, is an epic scene of heroic bravery. Perhaps, the most dramatic of all poesie paintings, shows how Perseus, Danaë’s son, swoops down to rescue Andromeda, his powerful vertiginous descent contrasting vividly with her passive vulnerability.

Although never delivered to Philip II, the last of Titian’s poesie, the Death of  Actaeon, is another powerful painting of unprecedented originality as the subject is rare in Italian art and Titian may never have seen another painting of it. With dynamic brushstrokes and majestic colours, Titian depicts the moment of divine wrath and punishment… Actaeon in the process of transformation is torn to death by his own hounds!

Short Video Presentation on the five Poesies by Titian…

An interesting Video by Mary Beard on Titian and Ovid…

For the PowerPoint on Titian’s Poesies, please… Click HERE!

The Turkeys by Claude Monet

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France  

On Thanksgiving Day remember Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) and Give thanks for each new morning with its light, / For rest and shelter of the night. / For health and food, / For love and friends, / For everything they goodness sends… and feast your eyes with The Turkeys by Claude Monet.

Claude Monet was a prolific painter, an innovator, and an astute businessman. He painted over 2.000 paintings, disillusioned with the Académie and the Salon system, along with friends like Degas, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, and others, he founded the Impressionist movement, and despite popular belief, he became quite independently wealthy. Early on, at Le Havre, where he grew up, the15 years old Monet was quite known and popular as a caricaturist, charging the local buyers 10 to 20 francs for his art, signed O. Monet, as his first name is Oscar. As a teenager, Monet was also introduced to painting at Plein Air by his mentor and friend Eugène Boudin, who instilled in him a deep appreciation for the play of light on natural forms… If I have become a painter, it is entirely due to Eugène Boudin, Monet later acknowledged. It is interesting to know that in 1861, at the age of twenty, Monet was drafted into the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry and served for one year in Algiers where, upon later reflection, he believed that the impressions of light and color that he received there…contained the germ of his future researches.

In 1876, Monet painted The Turkeys, a unique theme for his artistic repertoire as Monet hardly ever painted birds. The painting was originally commissioned, along with three more canvases, by Ernest Hoschedé, his wealthy patron at the time, but soon changed owners until 1947, when the Princess Edmond de Polignac bequeathed the painting to the State of France to be exhibited in the Louvre Museum, and in 1986, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Turkeys, not a particularly known painting by Monet, was first exhibited in 1877 at the 3rd Impressionist Exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Gallery. It was also part of major early 20th century Exhibitions like the 1910 Universal and International Exhibition in Brussels, and the first, 1931, Claude Monet: Retrospective Exhibition at the Orangerie Museum in Paris. The last grand Exhibition, this very unique Monet painting was presented, was the 2018-2019 Orsay as seen by Julian SchnabelExhibition at the Orsay Museum. and

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Museum View
Photo Credit @scribeaccroupi

The Turkeys, or Les Dindons, in French, exhibit all of Monet’s visual aesthetics and the driving characteristics behind them. His asymmetric, diagonal composition, in Japanism style, is set in a serene, lush, French countryside landscape. Painted en Plein Air,  Les Dindons use a palette of vibrant whites and fresh greens with splashes of red to create an atmosphere of radiance. Finally, Monet’s brushstrokes, a key feature of all of his paintings, are short, fast, turning and twisting, quick to portray the reflective power of the bright morning sun.

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

First Steps by Georgios Iakovidis

Georgios Iakovidis, 1853-1932
First Steps, 1889, Oil on Canvas, 64×50 cm, Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art, Metsovo, Greece

World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on the 20th of November each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare. …Mothers and fathers, teachers, nurses and doctors, government leaders and civil society activists, religious and community elders, corporate moguls and media professionals, as well as young people and children themselves, can play an important part in making World Children’s Day relevant for their societies, communities and nations. …World Children’s Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children. This is how the United Nations describes this important Celebratory Day… First Steps by Georgios Iakovidis will be my humble contribution.

Iakovidis’s Painting of a Child taking his First Steps in the Averoff Gallery is one of my all times favourite 19th-century Greek Paintings. It touches me in a very personal way. It reminds me of my father’s love and unconditional devotion to my son, his Grandson… Του παιδιού μου το παιδί, δυο φορές παιδί (My child’s child, is twice my child), he used to say, and looked at him with unbelievable tenderness… First Steps, a circa 1889 painting executed in Germany where the artist resided at the time, is much admired, for the artist’s first, tentative steps towards aspects of luminosity in art… and much loved for the sentimentality of its theme.

Carl Teufel, 1845-1912
Gerorgios Jakobides in his studio in Munich, 1883, Photograph, Collection: Bildarchiv Foto Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Georgios Iakovidis painted the theme of a child taking his/her First Steps twice. The oldest painting (1889), part of the Averoff Collection at Metsovo, portrays a grandfather assisting an enthusiastic child walk towards the open arms of a seated, equally enthusiastic sister. The second painting (1892) at the National Gallery in Athens, favors a grandmother as the child’s First Steps assistant. Both paintings were created while the artist resided in Munich… both paintings have similarly structured compositions… yet, the Averoff painting shows changes in the way the artist is rendering light and colour. According to the Averoff Gallery experts… The light that permeates the room is diffused throughout the space, giving a special glow to the places where it falls – the baby, the girl’s head, and hands – and deleting the contours. On the other hand, the chiaroscuro precisely models the details of the faces, the clothing, and the furniture. It is interesting how these first, timidly attempted changes, led the artist into a freer, more luminous painting style, connecting him to the most progressive painters in Germany – the so-called German Impressionists.

A Video (in Greek) on Georgios Iakovidis’s life and artistic achievements…

For a PowerPoint on Paintings of Children by Georgios Iakovidis, please… Check HERE!

Georgios Iakovidis, 1853-1932
First Steps, 1892. Oil on canvas, 140×110 cm, National Gallery, E. Koutlidis Foundation Collection, Athens, Greece
First Steps, 1889, Oil on Canvas, 64×50 cm, Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art, Metsovo, Greece

The Borghese Dancers

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665
A Dance to the Music of Time, about 1634,
By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London (P108) © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection
Relief with Five Dancers before a Portico (The Borghese Dancers), 2nd century AD, Marble, 74×186 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Ilya Shurygin 2014 –

Thence, fleet as thought, he leaves the earth for Olympos / and goes to the palace of Zeus and the company of the other gods. / Forthwith the immortals take interest in his song and lyre, / and all the Muses, answering with beautiful voices, / hymn the divine gifts of the gods and the hardships / brought upon men by the immortal gods. . Men live an unresourceful and thoughtless life, unable / to find a cure for death and a charm to repel old age. / And the fair-tressed Graces and the kindly Seasons / and Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, / dance, each holding the other’s wrist. / Among them sings one, neither ugly nor slight of stature / but truly of great size and marvelous aspect, / arrow-pouring Artemis, Apollon’s twin sister. / And with them play Ares and keen-eyed Argeiphontes; / Phoibos Apollon, his step high and stately, / plays the lyre, enveloped in the brilliance / from his glittering feet and well-woven garment. / And Leto of the golden tresses and Zeus the counselor / rejoice in their great souls as they lookupon / their dear son playing among the immortals. This is how the ancient Greek Poet of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (186-206) describes the fair-tressed Goddesses of Mount Olympus dance… and I can only think of The Borghese Dancers in the Louvre and the Poussin and the Dance Exhibition at the National Gallery (9 October 2021 – 2 January 2022)… and hope I can somehow see them… in London! and

Relief with Five Dancers before a Portico (The Borghese Dancers), 2nd century AD, Marble, 74×186 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Ilya Shurygin 2014 –

The Borghese Dancers is named after the Villa Borghese in Rome, where the sculptural piece was originally exhibited above the door of the grand gallery, since the early 17th century. The celebrated Roman relief displays five female figures in clinging draperies dancing to a gentle but measured step. It is a fine work of art, typical of the Neo-Attic sculptural style of the 2nd century AD, that emphasizes grace and charm, serenity, and restrained animation. Could the Borghese Dancers be a portrayal of the Dance of the Horae, the Greek Goddesses of the changing Seasons and Time? Could they be just “dancers” holding hands while moving gracefully in front of a wall with a row of Corinthian pilasters? Difficult questions to answer… In 1807, the Roman relief was purchased by Napoleon Bonaparte, brother-in-law of Prince Camillo Borghese. Between 1808 and 1811 it was sent to Paris where in 1820 it was displayed in the Musée du Louvre… where it can still be viewed today. and and and

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665
A Dance to the Music of Time, about 1634, by kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London (P108) © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

The sculptural relief, known as The Borghese Dancers in the Louvre has been an amazing source of inspiration for many artists, among them the Baroque French artist Nicolas Poussin, whose paintings of revelry, dance, and drama are brought together in this first exhibition dedicated and titled Poussin and the Dance, at the National Gallery, in London (9 October 2021 – 2 January 2022). The Museum experts tell us how… Poussin’s paintings of dance are unique…  bringing to life the classical world of gods and mortals with wild and riotous movement. The Exhibition, by bringing together the antique sculpture the artist studied, invites us to trace the evolution of his ideas from marble to paper to paint. A pure Joy… Tambourines shake, wine spills, and half-naked figures whirl across the canvas and teach us …invaluable lessons! and

For a Student Activity inspired by The Borghese Dancers, please… Check HERE!

Preparing for the POST I came across and read with great interest Sarah Elizabeth Olsen Dissertation: Beyond Choreia: Dance in Ancient Greek Literature and Culture,  whose Abstract begins… The chorus of Euripides’ Bacchae heralds the arrival of the god Dionysus by promising that “right away, the whole world will dance in a chorus” (αὐτίκα γᾶ πᾶσα χορεύσει, 114). Their exuberant claim reflects the enthusiasm for dance generally expressed in early Greek sources. Indeed, it has been well established that dance – specifically choreia (communal song-dance) – played a significant role in archaic and classical Greek social life and was thus accorded a high level of value and esteem in art and literature…

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket, 4th century, Wool, linen; tapestry weave, H. 64 cm, W. 50 cm, the MET, NY, USA*&fe=1

Once more, inspiration comes from the Exhibition The Good Life: Collecting Late Antique Art at The Met (May 24, 20221-May 7, 2023) that showcases the Museum’s important and rare collection of third- to eighth-century art from Egypt and reevaluates it through the lens of late antique ideas about abundance, virtue, and shared classical taste. Writers and craftspeople translated these ideas into a concept celebrated as “the good life.” A Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket helped me explore the idea of The Good Life… how it is connected to social status, wealth, and living well in Late antiquity, and how it reflects the extraordinary values and lifestyle of the upper classes in the world of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. and

Searching for information on Early Christian Textiles, I came across two short books  I would like to share… and acting more like a Curator rather than a Teacher, I present you Textiles of Late Antiquity, a 1995 Metropolitan Museum of Art Publication, and Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, an Exhibition Catalogue of 2020, organized by the George Washington University Museum, The Textile Museum, and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. and

I like how the 2020 Exhibition, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, introduces the role intricate textiles played… during the early medieval era, when the eastern Mediterranean’s palaces, villas, and sacred spaces were richly decorated with hangings, curtains, and other luxury fabrics. These beautiful and rare examples of artworks dating from the 4th to the 10th centuries, demonstrate for us today, how textiles defined spaces and moved ornamental motifs between cultures, over time, and across media. They show us, as well, how the large-format hangings, covers, and other, smaller in size, fabrics were often the most valuable possessions of any household at the time. They served, according to the experts, critical physical and social functions alongside more permanent architectural forms. In addition to revealing textiles’ importance and use, the Exhibition Woven Interiors also documented continuities and changes in weaving and aesthetics. In so few words, I was hooked to learn more…

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket in the Metropolitan Museum Collection of Textiles is a precious piece of artistic handicraft that immediately caught my attention. The rich coulours, subtle gradients of reds for the background, blues and beiges for the bird, and warm greens for the decorative bands, create a composition, however, fragmented it is, that immediately draws the viewer’s attention to the blue bird maybe a sparrow, picking at a basket of grapes. The skillful weaver not only created a masterful colour palette but using thin parallel lines managed to enliven the small bird who seems to quiver and quake with enthusiasm in front of its basket of treats …in a style typical of the figural naturalism of the late Greco-Roman period. According to the Museum experts, the textile under focus was …originally part of a series of decorated bands composing a wall hanging or curtain, …probably used in a domestic setting. The MET textile, thought to have been woven at Herakleia in Anatolia, shows evidence of the importation of exceptional fabrics into Egypt.

For a Student Activity inspired by the Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket in the MET, please… Click HERE!

“Κάλλος” and the Kore from Chios

The “Kore from Chios,” c. 510 BC, Marble from the island of Paros, H. 0.545 m, Acropolis Museum, Athens Greece

Kallos, according to the Museum of Cycladic Art experts, is an ideal developed in ancient Greek thinking and was expressed through the verses of the epic (8th century BC) and lyric (7th – 6th century BC) poets, initially as outward beauty. From the sixth century BC onwards, the concept was crystallized gradually through the texts of the philosophers, who referred to Kallos as a combination of physical appearance and virtues of the soul. It is on this dimension of Kallos that the exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art concentrates, enhancing the contribution of ancient Greece to defining the notion of beauty that prevails to this day.Κάλλος The Ultimate Beauty is a must-see Exhibition in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens running from 29/09/2021 until 16/01/2022. “Κάλλος” and the Kore from Chios is my new BLOG POST inspired by this wonderful Exhibition… focusing on a unique exhibit from the Acropolis Museum in Athens. and

The “Kore from Chios,” c. 510 BC, Marble from the island of Paros, H. 0.545 m, Acropolis Museum, Athens Greece

The Kore from Chios is one of the most impressive Kore excavated on the Acropolis of Athens back in the late 19th century, part of the Perserschutt, the numerous remains of statues vandalized by the Achaemenids during the terrible years of the second Persian invasion… Ten years after the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), the Persians returned to Greece and after their victory at the Battle of Thermopylae, in September of 480 BC, they entered Athens. The small number of Athenians who had barricaded themselves on the Acropolis, hoping that the Wooden Walls of the Delphic Oracle will protect them, were eventually defeated, and Xerxes ordered Athens to be torched. Those Persians who had come up first betook themselves to the gates, which they opened, and slew the suppliants; and when they had laid all the Athenians low, they plundered the temple and burnt the whole of the acropolis. (Herodotus VIII.53). Months later, after the victory at Salamis, and the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, the Athenians returned to their city… they respectfully buried the mutilated sacred statues of the Archaic period on the Acropolis and proceeded with reorganizing their civic and private lives… waiting for the right time to rebuild their Acropolis.

In 1886, excavating the Perserschutt deposits, archaeologists discovered the head of the Kore from Chios east of the Parthenon while its body was discovered in 1888 south of the Parthenon temple. The “Chiotissa” as it is affectionately called by the Greeks, is an Archaic period (c. 600-480 BC) Kore, whose artist was most probably from the Aegean island of Chios. Statues of a Kore, plural korai, refer to a type of freestanding effigy of a maiden. Kore is a draped female figure—carved from marble and originally painted—standing erect with feet together or sometimes with one foot, usually the left, slightly advanced. The arms are sometimes down at the sides, but in most cases, one is brought up closely across the front of the body or is extended, holding an offering; the other is lowered, often clasping a fold of drapery. In the earliest korai, the bodies are so blocklike that they hardly seem to represent feminine form… Later, the drapery became more fluid, with a greater variation in the folds gained by having one hand of the kore pull the drapery tightly across thighs and buttocks. The garments worn by the kore figures changed in style as well, displaying a pattern, either on borders or as single ornaments scattered over larger areas., You can also check BLOG POST Daughters of Eleutherna

Kallos. The Ultimate Beauty Exhibition, Museum of Cycladic Art – from 29/09/2021 until 16/01/2022 – Photo Credit: Paris Tavitian
The “Kore from Chios” (in colour), c. 510 BC, Marble from the island of Paros, H. 0.545 m, Acropolis Museum, Athens Greece
My life and fortunes are a monstrosity, partly because of Hera, partly because of my beauty. If only I could shed my beauty and assume an uglier aspect, the way you would wipe color off a statue… by Euripides, Helen, 260-263. (Translated by R.Kannicht, Heidelberg 1969)

The Kore from Chios is small in size but impressive in… Κάλλος! Created by a fine Eastern Greek sculptor… maybe the grandson of  Archermos of Chios, the fine-looking “Chiotissa,” is depicted stepping slightly forward pulling her skirt to the side with her left arm, creating thus, a fan of fine radiating folds. She wears the Ionian style of dress… a fine, crinkly chiton over which a short himation is draped diagonally. The carving is richly detailed, the paint even more so. The chiton is blue, the himation edged with a red and blue design, the Stephane was decorated with a Maeander, the earrings and a necklace painted, and the hair colored as well. I look at her and remember Eleni, Euripides’s heroine… My life and fortunes are a monstrosity, partly because of Hera, partly because of my beauty. If only I could shed my beauty and assume an uglier aspect, the way you would wipe color off a statue… and

For a Student Activity on the Kore from Chios, please… Check HERE!

The Labours of the Months: November

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: November, about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London

Waken, lords and ladies gay, / On the mountain dawns the day; / All the jolly chase is here / With hawk and horse and hunting-spear; / Hounds are in their couples yelling, / Hawks are whistling, horns are knelling, / Merrily merrily mingle they, / ‘Waken, lords and ladies gay.’     /     Waken, lords and ladies gay, / The mist has left the mountain gray, / Springlets in the dawn are steaming, / Diamonds on the brake are gleaming; / And foresters have busy been / To track the buck in thicket green; / Now we come to chant our lay / ‘Waken, lords and ladies gay.’ …sings Sir Walter Scott with his Hunting Song… a fitting introduction for the new BLOG POST The Labours of the Months: November.

Referred to as Labours of the Months… portrayed on the pages of an illuminated manuscript, sculpted areas of a church or on panel paintings… are decorative images that feature a seasonal agricultural or pastoral activity appropriate and different for every month of the year. Such artworks, popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, were created all over Western Europe, from countries of the colder North to Italy, France, and Spain of the warmer South. Depending on the area or the era these “pastoral” compositions were created, they vary in what is presented and how.

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: November (detail), about 1580, oil on canvas, 13.6 x 10.6 cm, National Gallery, London

The typical November Labour scene in a Northern European Calendar would be a composition depicting farmers gathering acorns for feeding their pigs. Not so in the Venetian November Labour panel in the Collection of the National Gallery in London… A young huntsman in a red cap and jacket, the Museum experts tell us, holds the leashes of his two hounds. He looks at his hawk, which perches on his hand. A hunting horn is tied from a cord at his waist… In other cycles of the labours of the months, the Museum experts continue, hawking and falconry are associated with courtly love and the months of April and May. For the London panel… hunting has been ascribed to November as a winter pursuit.

The National Gallery painting of November belongs to a group of 12 small painted panels that together decorated a set of painted Doors. These 12 paintings, very small in size, about 13.6 x 10.6 cm, were achieved in vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like ultramarine blue for the sky, strong vermilion and red lake for the clothing, with rich greens and yellows in the landscape. The restricted and repeated use of colour gives the group of little pictures a charming, decorative simplicity. All but one of the scenes show a man working outdoors on what appears to be the estate of a large villa, seen in several of the paintings, at the foot of the distant blue mountains. The small panel paintings in the National Gallery are rare and special. They document life in the Veneto area, with the peasant activities and duties to their land. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized even then, from bare and covered with snow, to rich and fertile, to autumnal, covered with fallen leaves.

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