Angels in the Palatine Chapel by John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Angels, Mosaic, Palatine Chapel, Palermo, 1897 or 1901, watercolor gouache, and graphite on off-white wove paper, 25×35.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Angels%2C_Mosaic%2C_Palatine_Chapel%2C_Palermo_MET_50.130.83f.jpg

John Singer Sargent’s watercolours of Sicilian Monuments reveal an extraordinary sensitivity to the unique beauty of Norman churches and their Byzantine mosaic decoration. The artist’s paintings communicate the character of these churches far better, I humbly believe, than modern photography. They create a visual experience I find difficult to describe… yet, seen, these watercolours of shimmering Sicilian mosaics, together or individually, manage to transport me to places of pure magic! The watercolour of Angels in the Palatine Chapel by John Singer Sargent is undoubtedly my favourite!

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Self-Portrait, 1892, oil on canvas, 53.3×43.2 cm, National Academy of Design, USA
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/John_Singer_Sargent_-_Self-portrait_%281892%29.jpg

During the early months of 1897, Sargent was in Sicily exploring its monuments and preparing for the Boston Library Murals, a project that will keep him busy for twenty-nine years! Cappella Palatina, with amazing Byzantine mosaics, one of the finest works of art of its kind in Italy, was for Sargent an obvious shrine to investigate. https://www.bpl.org/blogs/post/the-origins-of-a-masterwork/

Cappella Palatina, 1132-1143, mosaic decoration, Palermo, Italy
https://gr.pinterest.com/pin/303500462386852490/

Today’s presentation focuses on the mosaic decoration of the sanctuary’s dome, which, in a typical Byzantine manner, presents the bust of the Pantokrator and a chorus of eight, majestically dressed, guardian Angels. Sargent chose to depict the Cappella’s Dome as seen from the nave of the chapel and off to one side, choosing to concentrate his attention more so on the Angels than Christ, whose head is rather obscure. He also pays meticulous attention to three of the Archangels, Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, their ornate costumes and the inscriptions, in Greek, that identify them. It is interesting how Sargent is acting in this case as a researcher, attentive to specific elements and to issues of style that he could apply to his… Boston Library commission. It has been, on several occasions mentioned, how the Cappella Palatina mosaics in Palermo influenced Sargent’s rendering of the Frieze of Angels, at the south end of the Special Collections Hall at the Boston Public Library, installed in 1903. American Drawings and Watercolors in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Singer Sargent, by Stephanie L. Herdrich and H. Barbara Weinberg with and an essay by Marjorie Shelley, The Metropolitan Museu of Art, New York, 2000, Page 293 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/3047256?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A8d742d266060fbf70ed292204c17b202&seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Dogma of the Redemption; Trinity and Crucifix, Frieze of Angels, ca. 1895–1903, mural – oil on canvas, Boston Public Library, USA
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:sq87dv73s

John Singer Sargent is the par excellence representative American artist of the Gilded Age. His life represents its very characteristics! He was born in Florence, Italy, to expatriate American parents…  He had a nomadic childhood, spending winters in Florence, Rome, or Nice and summers in the Alps or other cooler locations. Early in his life, he realized what he wanted to do in life was to become an artist, and supported by his mother, Mary Newbold Sargent, who was herself an accomplished amateur watercolorist he accomplished it. Sargent and his mother carried sketchbooks throughout their extensive travels across Europe, and he developed a quick eye and fast reflexes for recording his impressions of the landscape. Eighteen years old, under the tutelage of the painter Carolus-Duran, who encouraged him to paint directly onto the canvas, without any preparatory drawing, and to study the Old Masters, John Singer Sargent developed his skills, exhibited both landscapes and portraits to much acclaim, and developed a reputation as a fine society portraitist on both sides of the Atlantic. What a life… Brooklyn Museum – Teaching Resource: Special Exhibition – John Singer Sargent Watercolors – April 5–July 28, 2013, p. 2

Sargent wanted more… He grew restless at the height of his career, and sought escape from the constraints of the studio and the demands of his patrons for society portraits. What he did was to travel to remote spots, choose his own subjects, and paint without distraction inspirational watercolours… of landscapes, genre scenes, friends, and family. After 1900 Sargent spent his summers traveling throughout Europe, painting both oil paintings and watercolors. What a life… Brooklyn Museum – Teaching Resource: Special Exhibition – John Singer Sargent Watercolors – April 5–July 28, 2013, p. 2

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri

Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533
Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625
The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Published on October 14, 2018at the Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews, I read: Frans Hals was rediscovered as a modern idol two hundred years after his death. He was admired, even adored by late 19th-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Max Liebermann… Vincent van Gogh…  and American artist Robert Henri, I would like to add. They were all impressed by his loose touch and rough painting style, which came across as ‘Impressionist’… Comparing paintings by Frans Hals to work by the artists whom he inspired gives insight into how modern Frans Hals was in their eye and why they used to say that ‘Frans Hals, c’est un moderne’. The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri is a painting that shows how Frans Hals influenced an American artist of the Ashcan School as well… https://hnanews.org/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Robert Henri Photo Portrait, circa 1897, Black and white photographic print, 19 x 9 cm, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Henri_1897.jpg

About 1900, a group of Realist artists set themselves apart from and challenged the American Impressionists and academics. They came to be known as the Ashcan School and Robert Henri was a leading figure among them. The Ashcan School artists selectively documented an unsettling, transitional time in American culture that was marked by confidence and doubt, excitement, and trepidation. Ignoring or registering only gently harsh new realities such as the problems of immigration and urban poverty, they shone a positive light on their era. Along with the American Impressionists, the Ashcan artists defined the avant-garde in the United States until the 1913 Armory Show introduced to the American public the works of true modernists Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and others. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ashc/hd_ashc.htm

Robert Henry Cozad (1865-1929 ) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Theresa Gatewood Cozad and John Jackson Cozad, a gambler and real estate developer. The family, in a true “Wild West” story of land dispute and fatal pistol shooting, fled from Cincinnati to Denver, Colorado where young Robert changed his name to Robert Earl Henri, and in 1883, the family moved to New York City, and then, to Atlantic City in New Jersey. In 1886, a twenty-one years old Robert Henri enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, one of the finest Art Schools in the US at the time, where he studied under Thomas Anshutz. Later, in Paris, Henri studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. From 1888 to 1891, when he returned back to Philadelphia, Robert stayed and traveled in Europe where he came to admire greatly the work of Francois Millet, and embrace Impressionism. Back in the United States, Robert Henri gradually became a fine Art teacher and an acclaimed artist, a leading member of the Ashcan School, an organizer, and a contributor artist of a landmark show entitled “The Eight” in N York. Robert Henri was an avid traveler, an influential Art teacher, and a great mentor to women artists in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Henri

The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/
Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533

During the summers of 1907 and 1910, Henri worked in the Netherlands, where he became captivated with the work of Frans Hals (1580-1666), the Dutch painter known for using lively brushwork to create animated portraits. Hals, according to the Birmingham Museum of Art in the US, made a number of pictures of laughing children, which Henri sought to emulate in his own paintings of Dutch youths. Henri described the subject of this canvas, Jopie van Slouten, as “a great, real human character to paint.” Robert Henri painted a second portrait of the Dutch boy, known as Dutch Joe, and exhibited it in the Milwaukee Art Museum. For his second portrait of young Jopie van Slouten, Henri said: “Jopie thought it was a great joke to pose, and I thought him a great, real character. I consider it one of my successes in an effort to record a boy as he was.” http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533 and https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Between October 13, 2018, to February 24, 2019, in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, a very interesting exhibition took place titled Frans Hals and the Moderns. This exhibition showed the enormous impact of Frans Hals on modern painters. It was for the first time, that portraits of the famous 17th-century Dutch artist were presented alongside modern artistic reactions to his work… like the Laughing Boy by the American Robert Henri. https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/nl/event/frans-hals-en-de-modernen/

View of the 2018 Exhibition in Harlem titled: Frans Hals and the Moderns
https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/en/event/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Villa Arianna at Stabiae

Villa Arianna Terrace, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Terrazza_B_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Arianna_terrazza_B.JPG

During the Archaic period (8th century BC) Stabiae already played an important strategic and commercial role. The city reached its highest population density between its destruction by Sulla (89 B.C.) and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (79 A.D.). During this period, on the northernmost edge of the Varano hill, many villae were built taking advantage of the panoramic views. They were mainly residential villas, with beautifully decorated large apartments, thermal baths, porticoes and nymphaea. At present, only some of these villas, not entirely excavated yet, can be visited: …Villa Arianna at Stabiae, the most ancient, named after a large mythological fresco on the far wall of the triclinium is one of them…  writes Archaeologist Silvia Martina Bertesago. All I can say is… let’s explore it! http://pompeiisites.org/en/stabiae/

Excavations in Villa Arianna started in 1757 and were conducted by the Swiss engineer Karl Weber, until 1762. At the time, the archaeological site of the Villa was seen more like a treasure hunt exploration site. The Weber team dug underground tunnels, explored the excavated areas, and whatever was discovered and considered of value, like furnishings and frescoes, were detached and taken to the Bourbon Museum at the Royal Palace of Portici. A lot, deemed unworthy or ruined, were left behind and much was ruined by the methods employed by the “archaeologists” of the time. Today, parts of the Villa nearest the sea have collapsed down the cliff and perished forever, extended areas of the site are still buried awaiting excavations, but thanks to a Bourbon-period map showing where tunnels dug and thereafter re-buried, archaeologists resumed excavations in 1950, and proceed with proper scientific research.

Villa Arianna Plan, Stabiae (after Kockel 1985 with corrections by Allroggen-Bedel A. and De Vos M.) https://www.pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/VF/Villa_102%20Stabiae%20Villa%20Arianna%20plan.htm
 

On the western hills of Varano, and overlooking the Bay of Naples, Villa Arianna, is impressive, to say the least. It is estimated that it covered an area of over 11,000 sq.m., whereas its excavated parts cover only 2,500 sq.m. The villa has an unconventional layout, due in part to its continuous development but also to the sloping nature of the site. As much of the building is still buried, the original floor-plan is quite difficult to interpret. Certainly, the main range of rooms was at the front of the highest of a series of terraces; some of these rooms featured views both of the sea on one side and of the mountains on the other. There was also a long tunnel (B) leading from the stables and farm court under the residential quarters to the shore. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/stabiae/villa-arianna

Villa Arianna – Entrance to the Archaeological Site – View of Mt Vesuvius, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vista_dall%27ingresso_2.jpg

The oldest section of the Villa dates back to the late Republican period (2nd century BC), and develops around its Atrium (24) and the surrounding rooms. The Thermal Baths (6),  the grand Triclinium (3), the summer Triclinium (A), and the surrounding rooms date from the middle of the 1st century AD. The large Palestra, located at the west end of the Villa was added to the complex shortly before the eruption, probably between 60 and 70 AD.

Villa Arianna Atrium (No. 24 on the Villa Plan), 3rd Pompeian Style Frescoes, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Atrio_24_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Impluvium.jpg

Villa Arianna was lavishly decorated with frescoes and portable furnishings, an undisputed testimony of the expensive lifestyle the owners enjoyed, and evidence of their refined taste and style. One such high-quality fresco, drawing inspiration from the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne, gave the Villa its modern name.

A presentation of the amazing Frescoes discovered in Villa Arianna will be part of another BLOG POST… Villa Arianna, Part 2

For a Student Activity on Villa Arianna at Stabiae, please… Check HERE!

The Colosso del’Appennino by Giambologna

Giambologna, 1529-1608
Colosso del’Appennino, 1570s, Rock, lava, brick, etc., H. 10 m, Garden of the Villa Medici, Park of Pratolino, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Demidoff_01.jpg

Introducing his book Ambitious Form: Giambologna, Ammanati, and Danti in Florence, Michal W. Cole refers to an October 1580 letter by the Urbinate Ambassador to Florence, Simone Fortuna, addressed to his employer, Francesco Maria II della Rovere, on a meeting he had had with Giambologna, the star artist of Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici’s Florentine court. The Flemish sculptor, the ambassador wrote, was “the best person you could ever meet, not greedy in the least, as his absolute pennilessness shows. Everything he does is in the pursuit of glory, and he has ambition in the extreme to match Michelangelo. In the judgment of many, he has already done this, and they say that if he lives much longer he will overtake him. the Duke, too, is of this opinion.” This is a wonderful quotation to start my new BLOG POST, The Colosso del’Appenino by Giambologna. https://books.google.gr/books?id=gOo9DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=Ambassador+Simone+Fortuna&source=bl&ots=HJTneuvYgR&sig=ACfU3U1NuLNaBnQxPDDmLEuHkFbr52HrEQ&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjrgr6k7tXyAhWqgf0HHWlDBq0Q6AF6BAgUEAM#v=onepage&q=Ambassador%20Simone%20Fortuna&f=false

Giusto Utens or Justus Utens, died 1609
Villa di Pratolino, 1599-1602, one of the 14 surviving Lunette Paintings of Medici Villas, Gallery at Petraia Villa Medici, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pratolino_utens.jpg

Villa di Pratolino, on the Florentine hills heading into the Mugello valley, was meant to be a dream Villa with a fairy-tale Garden, designed as a gift to Bianca Cappello, mistress, wife by 1579, of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Every artist involved in the process was a master. Bernardo Buontalenti, court architect, and engineer completed the construction of the Villa in 1581, and Giambologna, designed the Colosso del’Appennino, a monumental statue of a brooding, bearded man, personifying the Apennine Mountains or a great river god kneeling on a garden pond, respectful to the glory of the Medici.

This epic colossal statue, half-man, half mountain, erected in the late 1570s, was originally placed within the niche of a local rock area that made it appear as if it was emerging from the surrounding landscape. Today, standing 10 m. tall, The Colosso del’Appennino by Giambologna still hides a wonderful secret, grottoes, passageways, and rooms with different functions that made this colossus come to life. The Colosso’s left hand, for example, holds spewed water from an underground stream, and it is rumored that space in his head was made for a fireplace which, when lit, would blow smoke out of his nostrils. Back in the 1570s, the statue was not standing alone. It was surrounded by other bronze statues, many of which have now gone lost or stolen. The Colosso, however, withstood centuries in the same spot, managing to maintain its figurative composition in all that time. A fitting testimony to Giambologna’s genius! https://www.boredpanda.com/appennino-sculpture-colossus-giambologna-florence-italy/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic and https://mymodernmet.com/giambologna-colosso-dell-appennino/

Unfortunately, the Villa and the largest part of this amazing garden were destroyed in 1819 to make an easy to maintain “English garden”. Few parts survived including the Colosso del’Appennino, Cupid’s Grotto, a chapel, and a series of crayfish pools. In 1872 Villa di Pratolino and its gardens were sold to the Russian Prince Paolo II Demidoff, who renovated the Gardens, restored the buildings within the property, and enlarged one of the remaining outer structures into a villa that then took his name. In 1981, the Florence Province Council bought the property to turn it into a public park, known today as Villa Demidoff and Park of Pratolino. https://www.discovertuscany.com/mugello/pratolino-park.html

More on Giambologna, the great artist of the 16th century… http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giambologna.htm

On Bianca Cappello, and her extraordinary life… please go to my Teacher Curator Post: https://www.teachercurator.com/art/what-a-life-you-had-bianca-cappello/

For a PowerPoint on Giambologna’s work, please check HERE!

Happy Birthday Miss Jones by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, 1894-1978
Happy Birthday Miss Jones, Saturday Evening Post cover March 17, 1956, The original oil on canvas painting is part of the collection of filmmaker George Lucas.
https://prints.nrm.org/detail/261035/rockwell-happy-birthday-miss-jones-school-teacher-1956

On the 5th of October, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, by acknowledging the critical role teachers play in achieving inclusive, quality education for all… and recognizing that during the pandemic …teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, that no learner is left behind. Around the world, they have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue… I would like to celebrate World Teachers’ Day with a Poem, The School Where I Studied, by Yehuda Amichai, and a Painting, Happy Birthday Miss Jones by Norman Rockwell. https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldteachersday

I passed by the school where I studied as a boy / and said in my heart: here I learned certain things / and didn’t learn others. All my life I have loved in vain / the things I didn’t learn. I am filled with knowledge, / I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge, / the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites. / I’m an expert on the botany of good and evil, / I’m still studying it, I’ll go on studying till the day die. / I stood near the school building and looked in. This is the room / where we sat and learned. The windows of a classroom always open / to the future, but in our innocence we thought it was only landscape / we were seeing from the window. / The schoolyard was narrow, paved with large stones. / I remember the brief tumult of the two of us / near the rickety steps, the tumult / that was the beginning of a first great love. / Now it outlives us, as if in a museum, / like everything else in Jerusalem.https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/40662/the-school-where-i-studied

The 17th of March 1956, Saturday Evening Post Magazine Cover Page with Norman Rockwell’s painting Happy Birthday Miss Jones
https://picclick.com/Saturday-Evening-Post-Magazine-March-17-1956-Norman-284335404003.html

On the 17th of March 1956, The Saturday Evening Post published Happy Birthday Miss Jones, one of my favourite Norman Rockwell paintings. The artist had a long-standing collaboration with The Saturday Evening Post, which he considered to be the greatest show window in America. The collaboration started in 1916 when the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for the magazine and continued over the next 47 years. By 1963, when the collaboration with the Post ended, 322 Rockwell paintings had appeared on the cover of the magazine. https://www.nrm.org/about/about-2/about-norman-rockwell/

Photo half-length portrait of Norman Rockwell, facing left, arms folded, 1921, Library of Congress, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rockwell-Norman-LOC.jpg

I would like to draw your attention to page 82 of Picturing America, and how masterfully the controversy over Rockwell the artist, or Rockwell the illustrator, is addressed… Rockwell had been born into a world in which painters crossed easily from the commercial world to that of the gallery, as Winslow Homer had done. By the 1940s, however, a division had emerged between the fine arts and the work for hire that Rockwell produced. The detailed, homespun images he employed to reach a mass audience were not appealing to an art community that now lionized intellectual and abstract works. But Rockwell knew his strengths did not lie in that direction: “Boys batting flies on vacant lots,” he explained in 1936, “little girls playing jacks on the front steps; old men plodding home at twilight, umbrella in hand — all these things arouse feeling in me.” https://picturingamerica.neh.gov/downloads/pdfs/Resource_Guide/English/English_PA_TeachersGuide.pdf

In 1956 his feelings motivated him to pay tribute to his own 8th Grade teacher who had encouraged him to draw. Using a real Elementary School classroom in his hometown, Stockbridge, as his reference, and local models, Rockwell painted Happy Birthday Miss Jones to popular praise. The composition is highly organized, the colour tones are warm (even the greys), and the light is soft. This is a familiar scene we have all experienced, a moment we cherish, and a Norman Rockwell painting we love!

The original oil on canvas painting is part of the collection of filmmaker George Lucas and was on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art in 2010. A pencil on joined paper study of the painting, also owned by Lucas, was also on display alongside the original painting. http://www.best-norman-rockwell-art.com/1956-happy-birthday-miss-jones.html#ixzz73lTatp76

It’s worth watching! …a Video on Rockwell’s painting of Miss Jones created by the Saturday Evening Post, on May 22, 2019… https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2019/05/rockwell-video-minute-happy-birthday-miss-jones/

For a Student Activity, please … Check HERE!

The Labours of the Months: October

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: October, 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

The young man in the new BLOG POST The Labours of the Months: October, seems startled… he gestures to something in front of him, and turns to look over his shoulder as if talking to someone outside the picture. He is sitting on a rock but appears to be about to start ploughing. “Make sure the lines are straight” his foreman calls “use the simple wood and metal plough I gave you, push it hard on the ground, move it to either side to make an open shallow furrow. Our patrone hasn’t decided yet what we will plant, but whatever it is, it will look nice in February…” https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-october and https://www.teachercurator.com/art/the-labours-of-the-months-february/

This small painting is one of 12 small pictures that together show the ‘Labours of the Months’ – the activities that take place each month throughout the farming year. They were meant to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors, and seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other. 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. 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. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: October (detail), 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

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. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decoration of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Books of Hours, palace frescoes and rarely, panel painting. The Trentino Fresco Panels at Torre Aquila for example, present trained and obedient peasants busy with their seasonal activities, but dominated by the local aristocracy who seem to only care for their idler activities. (I presented the eleven surviving Torre Aquila frescoes in 2020. Please Check https://www.teachercurator.com/?s=torre%20aquila&cat=plus-5-results)

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

Weaving in Ancient Greece

Attributed to the Amasis Painter, active around 550–510 BC
Terracotta Black-Figure Lekythos (oil flask) depicting the preparation of wool and the weaving of cloth, ca. 550–530 BC, H. 17.15 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

First some god breathed the thought in my heart to set up a great web in my halls and fall to weaving a robe—fine of thread was the web and very wide; and I straightway spoke among them: ‘Young men, my wooers, since goodly Odysseus is dead, be patient, though eager for my marriage, until I finish this robe—I would not that my spinning should come to naught—a shroud for the lord Laertes against the time when the fell fate of grievous death shall strike him down; lest any one of the Achaean women in the land should be wroth with me, if he were to lie without a shroud, who had won great possessions…’ spoke Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey (Book 19, 138-147). Weaving in Ancient Greece is a fascinating topic to explore… https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0136%3Abook%3D19%3Acard%3D89

Searching for information on the famous Black-Figure Lekythos by Amasis Painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York of women making woolen cloth, I came across a site I would like to share… and acting more like a Curator rather than a Teacher, I present you with THE PENELOPE PROJECT site I am fascinated about. I like the way it was founded, how it operates, and the wealth of information on the topic of Weaving in Ancient Greece. I wish I was a member of this amazing group of scholars… who at the Institute for the History of Technology and Science at Deutsches Museum in Munich… aim to integrate ancient weaving into the history of science and technology, especially digital technology… encompasses the investigation of ancient sources as well as practices and technological principles of ancient weaving… and setting up in Munich a PENELOPE laboratory they detect the models and topologies of weaves and develop codes to make them virtually explorable. https://penelope.hypotheses.org/It is worth exploring and you will most definitely enjoy browsing it!

Back to the Black-Figure Lekythos by Amasis Painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York of women making woolen cloth… I love every decorated part f it… from top to bottom! https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

Attributed to the Amasis Painter, active around 550–510 BC
Terracotta Black-Figure Lekythos (oil flask) depicting the preparation of wool and the weaving of cloth (neck view of women dancing), ca. 550–530 BC, H. 17.15 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

According to the Metropolitan experts, on the shoulder, a seated woman, perhaps a goddess, is approached by four youths and eight dancing maidens. The depicted dance is a group performance of women, and it looks synchronized, with pre-planned movements. Could this scene depict a women’s religious dance… something like the Ierakio (Ιεράκειο) performed in honour of the goddess Hera? https://books.google.gr/books?id=fkSuDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=%CE%99%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%B9%CE%BF+(%CE%99%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BA%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%BF)+dance&source=bl&ots=0Dt8N4ENqf&sig=ACfU3U36X2qnvm01sqhovtng8da1yfMc1g&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjmkIyAqdrxAhVE_7sIHSydAUAQ6AEwD3oECAoQAw#v=onepage&q=%CE%99%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%B9%CE%BF%20(%CE%99%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BA%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%BF)%20dance&f=false

Attributed to the Amasis Painter, active around 550–510 BC
Terracotta Black-Figure Lekythos (oil flask) depicting the preparation of wool and the weaving of cloth (three sides of the pot’s body), ca. 550–530 BC, H. 17.15 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

On the body of the Metropolitan Lekythos, women are making woolen cloth. In the center, two women work at an upright loom. To the right, three women weigh wool. Farther to the right, four women spin wool into yarn, while between them finished cloth is being folded. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

Attributed to the Amasis Painter, active around 550–510 BC
Terracotta Black-Figure Lekythos (oil flask) depicting the preparation of wool and the weaving of cloth (detail), ca. 550–530 BC, H. 17.15 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/253348?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=560&rpp=80&pos=573

Making cloth is one of the most important responsibilities women of Ancient Greece were entrusted with. They were responsible to create the clothing worn by all members of their family, as well as textiles for household needs. Their craftsmanship was testimony to their industriousness, ‘value’ as a wife, and ‘beauty’ as a woman. According to Homer, making cloth, was the work of elite women: Helen, Andromache, Penelope, Arete, as well as goddesses. Circe and Calypso wove, to say nothing of Athene herself, warrior and weaver both. They wove patterned cloth which, in the case of the first three, expressed their own qualities, as well as their relationship to particular men. Helen weaves the story of the Trojan War, Andromache weaves flowery love charms, not knowing that Hector is dead, and Penelope weaves a stratagem to forestall betrayal of Odysseushttps://chs.harvard.edu/susan-t-edmunds-picturing-homeric-weaving/

The Metropolitan Lekythos is attributed to Amasis the Painter, an artist whose real name is a mystery, known today by the name of the Potter Amasis whose works he most often decorated. They were both leading black-figure artists active around 550–510 BC. This Metropolitan Lekythos displays characteristics the Amasis the Painter incorporated in his oeuvre like symmetry, precision, clarity, harmony, and a preference to small scale figures.

For a PowerPoint on the work of Amasis, please… Check HERE!

An interesting 1985 Book to read, prepared to accompany an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1985-1986… is titled The Amasis Painter and His World: Vase Painting in Sixth-Century B.C. Athens by Dietrich von Bothmer and Alan L. Boegehold, and you can download it… https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0500234434.html

Portrait of a Halberdier

Jacopo Carucci, called Pontormo, 1494 – 1557
Portrait of a Halberdier (Francesco Guardi?), 1529–1530, Oil (or oil and tempera) on panel transferred to canvas, 95.3 × 73 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA
http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/824/pontormo-jacopo-carucci-portrait-of-a-halberdier-francesco-guardi-italian-florentine-1529-1530/?dz=0.5000,0.5000,0.62 

Reading Vasari’s Life of Jacopo da Pontormo, and preparing for the artist’s Portrait of a Halberdier, I would like to quote three remarks about his extraordinary abilities, by great masters of the time… Jacopo’s first work was, a little Annunciation, Raphael, upon seeing this, he marvelled, and foretold Jacopo’s future success. When Andrea del Sarto saw the figures of Faith and Charity painted by Pontormo for the central arch of the portico of the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, he is reported saying to Jacopo, …your work is so good that I am sure you could not do better, and as you will have no lack of employment, use these designs (Pontormo wanted the painting changed and had created new designs for the portico) for something else. His work was of such beauty, continues Vasari, that for its new style and the sweetness of the heads of the two women and the charm of the infants it was the finest fresco ever seen till then. Michelangelo, on seeing it, and knowing it to be the work of a youth of nineteen, said… This youth, if he lives and continues to pursue art, will attain to heaven. http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/jacopo_da_fontormo/ and http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/Santissima-Annunziata.html

Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo, was a Mannerist  Florentine artist, the son of Bartolomeo di Jacopo di Martino Carrucci, an artist as well. He was famous for his ambiguous approach to pictorial space and perspective, wherein his figures, spiritual rather than physical, painted in vivid, crisp colours with fluid contoured lines, float in space, twist, swirl, and entwine, defying the forces of gravity. Pontormo was a versatile painter famous for religious scenes, secular compositions, and insightful portraits. His portraits presenting the ruling Medici dynasty in Florence, the educated elite, and his less aristocratic friends, possess a rare psychological dignity that is enhanced by the artist’s fine eye for symbolism (which, in the case of the Medici’s, alluded to their political and economic power). https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pontormo-jacopo-da/

Jacopo Carucci, called Pontormo, 1494 – 1557
Study of Francesco Guardi as a Halberdier, 1529-30, Red Chalk, 209 x 169 mm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Jacopo_Pontormo_-_Halberdier_-_WGA18130.jpg

My favourite Pontrormo Portrait, in the Getty Museum, presents a young, fashionably dressed, Florentine foot soldier, holding a roncone or a halberd, a combination spear and battle-axe weapon, standing before a fortress wall. His direct stare and swaggering pose are strikingly poignant, given the smooth unlined face and slim body that betray him as no more than a teenager. According to Vasari, during the siege of Florence in about 1529, Pontormo painted a “most beautiful work, a portrait of young nobleman Francesco Guardi as a soldier.” It was common practice during the 1529 siege, boys too young to fight took up arms and followed their fathers on patrols in defense of the republic. The historian Benedetto Varchi remarked that these Florentine youths offered “the most beautiful sight… because they were as well armed as they were splendidly dressed.”  Could the Portrait of the Halberdier portray young Francesco Guardi? I can only imagine how proud his father must have been! http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/824/pontormo-jacopo-carucci-portrait-of-a-halberdier-francesco-guardi-italian-florentine-1529-1530/?dz=0.5000,0.5000,0.62 and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/821849?&exhibitionId=%7b2c98eb4f-1cd0-43dc-912e-1fd5d5ef9c00%7d&oid=821849&pkgids=689&pg=0&rpp=20&pos=8&ft=*&offset=20

Pontormo’s Portrait of a Halberdier or young Francesco Guardi is currently exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, part of the magnificent Exhibition The Medici, Portraits & Politics, 1512-1570 (June 12-October 11, 2021). According to the MET experts… Through an outstanding group of portraits, this major loan exhibition will introduce visitors to the various new and complex ways that artists portrayed the elite of Medicean Florence, representing the sitters’ political and cultural ambitions and conveying the changing sense of what it meant to be a Florentine at this defining moment in the city’s history. The exhibition features over 90 works in a wide range of mediums, from paintings, sculptural busts, medals, and carved gemstones to drawings, etchings, manuscripts, and armor. Included are works by the period’s most celebrated artists, from Raphael, Jacopo Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino to Benvenuto Cellini, Agnolo Bronzino, and Francesco Salviati. I wish I could visit… to explore and marvel! https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2021/medici-portraits-and-politics

For a PowerPoint on Portraits by Pontormo, please… Check HERE!

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene, between the4th and 8th centuries, Istanbul, Turkey
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Hagia_Eirene_Constantinople_July_2007_001.jpg

The church of the Holy Peace (Hagia Eirene) was built in the fourth century at the place where the old church of the bishop of Byzantium stood before the refoundation of Constantine the Great. The church was destroyed by fire in 532 and then rebuilt. Its present shape goes back to a restoration after an earthquake in 740. The Hagia Eirene formed a complex together with the Hagia Sophia, the Hospital of Sampson in between, and some other subsidiary building, and it was served by the same clergy. Though the Hagia Eirene was always one of the greatest churches of Byzantium, it is mentioned rarely by the sources in later times. In the ottoman time, it became an armory and later a military museum. A fitting introduction for the Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene … short and sweet! http://www.byzantium1200.com/eirene.html

The Byzantine Churches of Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

To be frank… I feel intimidated writing about one of the greatest Churches in Constantinople. How do I start… maybe quoting Procopius and his most valuable book Περὶ Κτισμάτων-De Aedificiis-On Buildings, in Greek… 2. Ἐκκλησίᾳ δὲ τῇ μεγάλῃ ὅμορον οὖσαν καὶ συγκαταφλεχθεῖσαν αὐτῇ πρότερον τὴν τῆς Εἰρήνης ἐπώνυμον Ἰουστινιανὸς βασιλεὺς ὑπερμεγέθη ἐδείματο, ἱερῶν τῶν ἐν Βυζαντίῳ σχεδόν τι ἁπάντων, μετά γε τῆς Σοφίας τὸν νεών, οὐδενὸς δεύτερον. 3. Ἦν δέ τις μεταξὺ ταύταιν δὴ ταῖν ἐκκλησίαιν ξενών, ἀνθρώποις ἀνειμένος ἀπορουμένοις τε καὶ νοσοῦσι τὰ ἔσχατα, εἰ πρὸς τῇ οὐσίᾳ καὶ τὸ σῶμα νοσοῖεν. Τοῦτον ἀνήρ τις θεοσεβὴς ἐν τοῖς ἄνω χρόνοις ἐδείματο, Σαμψὼν ὄνομα. Ἔμεινε δὲ οὐδὲ αὐτὸς τοῖς στασιώταις ἀνέπαφος, ἀλλ´ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἑκατέρᾳ συγκαταφλεχθεὶς ἀπολώλει. Ἰουστινιανὸς δὲ αὐτὸν ἀνῳκοδομήσατο βασιλεύς, κάλλει μὲν κατασκευῆς ἀξιώτερον, πλήθει δὲ οἰκιδίων παρὰ πολὺ μείζω· προσόδῳ τε αὐτὸν ἐπετείων δεδώρηται χρημάτων μεγάλων, ὅπως δὴ πλείοσιν ἐς ἀεὶ ταλαιπωρουμένοις ἀνθρώποις ἰῷτο τὰ πάθη. And in English…The church called after Eirene, which was next to the Great Church and had been burned down together with it, the Emperor Justinian rebuilt on a large scale, so that it was scarcely second to any of the churches in Byzantium, save that of Sophia. And between these two churches there was a certain hospice, devoted to those who were at once destitute and suffering from serious illness, those who were, namely, suffering in loss of both property and health. 15 This was erected in early times by a certain pious man, Samson by name. And neither did this remain untouched by the rioters, but it caught fire together with the churches on either side of it and was destroyed. The Emperor Justinian rebuilt it, making it a nobler building in the beauty of its structure, and much larger in the number of its rooms. He has also endowed it with a generous annual income of money, to the end that through all time the ills of more sufferers may be cured. http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/historiens/procope/edifices1gr.htm and https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/hagia-eirene

How do I continue… discussing the Architecture of Hagia Eirene, I will be respectful… and refer you to Alexander Van Millingen, Byzantine Churches In Constantinople Their History And Architecture, London: Macmillan and Co. page 84-104 and The Church of Saint Eirene at Constantinople by W.S. George. If any of the site’s readers have not yet explored, Alexander Van Millingen’s book on the Byzantine Churches In Constantinople  … please do, it’s online! I also read Byzantinai Meletai Topographikai (in Greek), 1877, Constantinople, by Alexandros Georgiou Paspates (1814-1891) pp. 336-338 (387-391). https://archive.org/details/byzantinechurche014623mbp/page/n126/mode/1up and https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-hellenic-studies/article/abs/church-of-st-eirene-in-constantinople-by-w-s-george-a-van-millingen-a-m-woodward-a-j-b-wace-byzantine-research-fund-oxford-university-press-1912/BD6FFE609E6837346F5CAD138E71DDC6 and https://ia800304.us.archive.org/0/items/vyzantinaimelet00unkngoog/vyzantinaimelet00unkngoog.pdf

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene, Interior View, between the 4th and 8th centuries, Istanbul, Turkey
https://mobile.twitter.com/ConstantineCity/status/1022854965176541184/photo/3

As a teacher, the Church of Hagia Eirene in Constantinople features prominently in my Byzantine Art curriculum. The Iconoclastic period mosaic of the monumental Golden Cross in the Church’s Holy Apse, rare as it is, is noteworthy for my students. The talented Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (718-775) commissioned it, and an unknown master mosaicist created it. This monumental Cross, a unique evidence of Iconoclastic art, has flared ends that terminate in teardrops and rests on a three-stepped base. Its colour palette is gold on gold, the outline of the cross delineated in black tesserae. The golden background of the Holy Apse Mosaic is executed in an interesting, new technique whereby unusually tiny and closely set gold tesserae were combined with silver tesserae, inserted randomly. The effect is spectacular, as the reflection of natural light on the golden background of the mosaic creates the feeling of a subtle, velvety-like… divine presence. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=10895 and https://www.academia.edu/690187/THE_SPLENDOR_OF_ICONOCLASM_THE_MOSAICS_OF_HAGIA_EIRENE_CONSTANTINOPLE_in_Mosaic_the_Square_of_Civilization_ed._G._S%C3%B6zen_Istanbul_2011_

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Samnite House in Herculanium

The decorated Atrium of the Samnite House in Herculaneum has a Gallery with Ionic Columns and Latticework Screens, 1st century AD, made of painted stucco https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Irelli-Aoyagi-De_Caro-Pappalardo_417#/media/File:Parte_alta.JPG

Herculaneum was a peaceful seaside town which was struck by a succession of pyroclastic flows during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. It was then covered with 25 metres of volcanic mud. Approximately one third of the town has been excavated. It is notable for the high standard of preservation of the houses and the public baths as well as perishable material such as wood, textiles and papyri. A significant number of high quality painted walls may be seen. The Roman seashore has been exposed during the excavations and a Roman boat has been preserved in a special museum. What a remarkable place to visit… and don’t forget, The Samnite House in Herculanium is a must! https://www.herculaneum.ox.ac.uk/links/visit

If you wonder why… Herculaneum has been preserved like no other site in the world, not even nearby Pompeii. Volcanic ash and mud saved two-story domus homes with the internal architecture and décor intact, including features in wood and marble, decorations, jewelry, and even organic remains like food, providing a unique view into the daily lives of the ancient population of Herculaneum. Among the finest and oldest houses that survived is the Samnite House we will attempt to explore. https://www.visitpompeiivesuvius.com/en/herculaneum

The Samnite House is one of the oldest private residences that has been discovered in Herculaneum, so far, and dates back to the 2nd century BC. It was originally much larger in size, with a three-sided Peristyle Court to the east, followed perhaps by a Hortus area. In the course of the 1st century AD, and for financial reasons, one could suspect, the property changed the plan. A second entrance door leading directly to the second floor was added and the entire upper floor space was rented out. The eastern section of the property, that is the Peristyle and possible Hortus was sold off, allowing a separate residential property, the House of the Great Portal, to be built. What survived of the original property, was a ground-floor house with a huge atrium and six small rooms arranged around it. The owners of the Samnite House… downsized, but part of the original decoration survived… it is unique and worth exploring! https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

Entrance Corridor and Atrium photo of the Samnite House, late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Samnite_House_%287254091242%29.jpg

What I like best is the decoration of the original House Fauces, that is the entrance passageway leading to the Atrium. This small area is a “treasure trove” of distinctive examples of late 2nd century BC architectural features. For example, the House Entrance Portal and the Interior Portal leading to the Atrium, are flanked by impressive tufa columns with Corinthian capitals, intricately sculpted… The walls of the Fauces are decorated with rare frescoes in the 1st Pompeian Style, imitating, in vivid earth colours,  polychrome marble… Finally, the Fauces floor, covered with a fine dark red and white mosaic in the Opus Signinum style, is simple, consisting of a scale-type pattern in white. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

The Samnite House Atrium is impressive, to say the least! The largest area in the House, includes a central marble impluvium and a well-constructed floor in the Opus Signinum style, as well. The Atrium walls decoration, imitating a fancy two-storey structure, is the main attraction of the whole house! The lower part is decorated in frescoes of the 4th Pompeian Style, while the upper part, really fancy, features a false loggia with Ionic columns closed off with a stucco-lined latticework screen on three of its sides. I particularly like this false loggia decoration as it gives me the opportunity to compare it to another fresco, dated in the early 2nd century BC, coming from Pella, in Greece. https://herculaneum.uk/Ins%205/Herculaneum%205%2001%20p2.htm

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

1st Pompeian Style Wall of the Entrance Corridor of the Samnite House (North Wall – detail photo), late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeian_Styles#/media/File:Herculaneum_Wall_1.Style.jpg