Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months presented by Tosa Mitsunari

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA

Before my eyes / the snowflakes fall upon the icy pond / piling up like the years gone by / like the layered feather coats of the oshi… wrote Fujiwara Teika back in 1214. Many years later Fujiwara Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months presented by Tosa Mitsunari delight us with their elegance and beauty! http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

Who is Fujiwara Teika? Fujiwara Sadaie, also called Teika, or Fujiwara Teika, (born 1162, Japan—died Sept. 26, 1241, Kyōto), is one of the greatest poets of his age and Japan’s most influential poetic theorists and critics until modern times. The son of a great poet, Shunzei (or Toshinari, 1114–1204), Teika surpassed his father’s literary legacy and raised his family in political importance. His literary talent attracted the attention of retired emperor Go-Toba (1180–1239), who appointed him, in 1205, one of the compilers of the eighth Imperial anthology Shin kokinshū (c. 1205, “New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times”), and in 1232, sole compiler of the ninth anthology, Shin chokusenshū (1235; “New Imperial Collection”). This is a great accomplishment and honour. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fujiwara-Sadaie

Who is Tosa Mitsunari? Tosa Mitsusuke (1675–1710) was a Japanese artist of the Edo era. In 1696, as the 18th head of the Tosa school of painting, Mitshunari was appointed  Official Court Painter with duties to serve the Emperor. He worked for the Imperial Official Bureau of Painting and managed to revive his family’s political and economic fortunes. In 1709, he did paintings of room partitions in the royal palace and in the Sento palace with Kano Tsunenobu. Mitsuoki was known for reintroducing the Yamato-e style and reviving the Tosa school of painting. He painted delicate bird-and-flower (kacho) paintings in the Chinese court manner and was especially noted for his precise depictions of quail. https://prabook.com/web/tosa.mitsuoki/3742785 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tosa_Mitsusuke

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art,

How are a poet and a painter connected in art? Japanese secular painting and poetry walk side by side. Poets composed verses about images in paintings and painters made works based on poems and inscribed them with erudite calligraphy, or pasted a poem in elegant characters onto the painting. The resulting synthesis exceeded the sum of the parts, creating many layers of meaning. http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art,

Are Fujiwara Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months painted by Tosa Mitsunari in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Screen an example of artistic collaboration? Yes, the Indianapolis Screen is a perfect example. The pair of six-fold screens in the Indianapolis Museum masterfully combines landscape painting and poetic texts. The texts, poems by Fujiwara Teika, subtly express emotions through metaphors of nature. The imagery, a typical landscape by Tosa Mitsunari, celebrates the changing aspect of nature. The depicted months are numbered according to the lunar calendar, and the first month, presented in the first panel, roughly corresponds to February. http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

For a Student Activity inspired by the Indianapolis Museum Japanese Screens, please… Check, HERE!

New Kingdom Temple Architecture

The Cult Temple of Amun-Ra, Hypostyle Hall, was begun by Ramesses I (19th Dynasty, 1292-1290), continued by his son, Seti I (19th Dynasty, 1306-1290 BC), and completed by Ramesses II (19th Dynasty, 1303-1213), Karnak, Egypt

Late in the Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650–1550 B.C.), the Theban rulers (Dynasty 17) began to drive the Hyksos kings (Dynasty 15) from the Delta. This was finally accomplished by Ahmose I, who reunited Egypt, ushering in the New Kingdom—the third great era of Egyptian culture. Ahmose’s successors in Dynasty 18 conducted military campaigns that extended Egypt’s influence in the Near East and established Egyptian control of Nubia to the fourth cataract. As a result, the New Kingdom pharaohs commanded unimaginable wealth, much of which they lavished on their gods, especially Amun-Re of Thebes, whose cult temple at Karnak was augmented by succeeding generations of rulers and filled with votive statues commissioned by kings and courtiers alike. New Kingdom Temple Architecture is the next step in exploring the Art of Pharaonic Egypt!

Thebes became the cultural and religious capital of New Kingdom Egypt. The Pharaohs lavished their gods with luxurious Cult Temples and built their Mortuary Temples on Thebe’s west bank, where they were also buried in huge rock-cut tombs decorated with finely executed paintings or painted reliefs illustrating their everyday life, and religious texts concerned with the afterlife. For the talented artists working diligently for the Pharaohs, a town was established in western Thebes, where archaeologists discovered a wealth of information about life in an ancient Egyptian community of artisans and craftsmen. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nking/hd_nking.htm

Known especially for monumental architecture, Cult and Mortuary Temples dedicated to Gods and Pharaohs, the New Kingdom, a period of nearly 500 years of political stability and economic prosperity, produced an abundance of architectural masterpieces we must explore… starting with our 4-Steps to Success… and an Essential Question… What did ancient Egyptian Temples represent?

Egyptian Temples were holy centers where priests served the gods (Cult Temples) and the memory of the diseased Pharaoh (Mortuary Temple). Cult Temples were the earthly houses of one or more deities. Egyptians believed that the worshiped God or Goddess lived within the statues kept in the Temple’s Sanctuary. Temples were also the centers where cultural knowledge was stored and curated in libraries and scriptoria.

Each Temple represents the universe as the ancient Egyptians understood it. To exemplify their point of view, Temple walls and Columns were divided into three zones. The lower zone, the closest to the ground, is decorated with “physical” images of the Egyptian land like plant motifs. The middle zone represents the world of the living. It is dedicated to the Pharaoh and presents scenes like the king conducting rituals and worshipping the gods. Finally, the third zone, the ceiling of the Temple, is covered in stars and constellations representing the world of their deities.

It is important to remember that ancient Egyptian Temples shared structural similarities, but they were also singular and distinctive. The beauty of their Architecture is that they evolved over Egyptian history like living organisms. They started as small edifices built of organic materials like river reeds, into large stone monuments. In places like Karnak, Luxor, and even Abu Simbel, they dazzle the viewer with their grandeur and splendor.

During a class period dedicated to New Kingdom Temple Architecture, we will discuss the specific characteristics each Cult Temple shared… the Pylon, the open Court, the Hypostyle Hall, and the Sanctuary. Two very unique Cult Temples, that of Amun-Ra at Karnak, and the Ramesside Temple of Abu Simbel will be presented and further investigated.

Mortuary Temples, equally important to Cult Temples, were places of worship dedicated to the Pharaoh and his cult under whom they were constructed. During the New Kingdom period (1539–1075 BC) the kings were buried in rock-cut tombs, in the Valley of the Kings in the area of western Thebes. Their Mortuary Temples, constructed in the vicinity of the royal tombs, served as depositories for gifts and food to the dead monarch. They were economically independent through endowments of estates and lands to ensure religious services and offerings in perpetuity and fully staffed with priests, to perform the necessary rituals. The finest example of a New Kingdom Mortuary Temple was commissioned by Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty, r. 1507-1458 BC) at Deir el-Bahri.

For the PowerPoint ‘The Art of the 2nd Intermediate Period’, please… Check HERE!

For the PowerPoint ‘New Kingdom Temple Architecture’, please… Check HERE!

For the New Kingdom Timeline, please… Check HERE!

Enjoy a Travel Video by Rick Steve titled Luxor, Egypt: The Karnak Temple Complex… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqO4PE4uZhc  

Another Video about New Kingdom Architecture and the Karnak Cult Temple Complex by Manuel Bravo… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_6inr3KLx0

A Khan Academy Video on the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and Large Kneeling Statue, New Kingdom, Egypt, very informative and educational… https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/ancient-mediterranean-ap/ancient-egypt-ap/v/mortuary-temple-of-hatshepsut-and-large-kneeling-statue-new-kingdom-egypt

The Girl with the Pigeons

Polychronis Lembesis, Greek Artist, 1849-1913
The Girl with the Pigeons, 1879, Oil on Canvas, 120×80 cm, Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art, Metsovo, Greece

The Girl with the Pigeons is a famous Greek painting by Polychronis Lembesis in the Collection of the Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art in Metsovo. It reminds me of a poem I read by  Ustav Shah… With the onset of the sun in the horizon, the little creatures awake / And dance and sing melodies tantamount to a group of chortling people / Oh, how I wish such convivial sights be captured / And played back on repeat everytime you feel low     /     As vagabonds they fly in search of food and shelter / And when the sun does set, off they disappear in their nests / Robbing the nature of its beauty… Lembesis definitely captured the vagabonds’ convivial sight, their dance, and singing melodies… https://hellopoetry.com/words/pigeon/

Polychronis Lembesis, one of Greece’s most important 19th-century painters, is a distinguished representative of the so-called “School of Munich”, the major 19th-century Greek Art Movement. Born on the Island of Salamis, graced with ‘smiling shores and calm pine-covered slopes,’ Lembesis spent a humble early life near his father’s flock. Distinguishing himself as a student, he was granted a scholarship by the politician Dimitrios Voulgaris (“Tsoumpes”) to study painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts, firstly, and then, in 1875, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. His teachers in Munich were Wilhelm Lindenschmidt and Ludwig von Löfftz; his best friend was the already-known Greek painter Nicholaos Gyzis.

Returning to Greece, in 1880, the artist settled in the Thision area of Athens, where he established a Studio, becoming well-known as a Portraitist, a teacher of painting (Prime Minister Stefanos Dragoumis’s children were his students), and a Hagiographer. He participated in many group exhibitions in Athens, the 1903 International Exhibition of Paris, and the International Exhibition of Athens, in 1904. Polychronis was a gentle, humble, and quiet man throughout his life, wrote Nikos Zias. Disappointed by the Athenian artistic ‘disputes’ Polychronis Lembesis chose to retire to the island of his birth, Salamis, where he lived “in obscurity” and poverty.https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/lembesis-polychronis.html and https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/24/opinions/o-pio-spoydaios-ellinas-zwgrafos-2/

Polychronis Lembesis, Greek Artist, 1849-1913
The Child with the Rabbits, 1879, Oil on Canvas, 130z103 cm, National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens, Greece https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/the-bourgeois-class-and-its-painters/genre-painting/the-child-with-the-rabbits.html

The artist was an accomplished Portraitist, using the dark background of the painting, to brightly project the sitter’s head. He was an excellent landscape painter, connecting the composition of each painting with either the historicity of the place he depicts or with ethnographic references. Lembesis is also an exemplary painter of everyday scenes in a Greek village, not with the arrogance of the scholarly observer as Nikos Zias writes, but with the simplicity of the man who lives in it. https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/24/opinions/o-pio-spoydaios-ellinas-zwgrafos-2/

Every time I visit the Epirote village of Metsovo, I feel it is my duty to check on the Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art and stand, once more, in front of The Girl with the Pigeons. I like how the artist captured the ‘moment’ without being an Impressionist, with his free, broad brush strokes, and warm colours. I enjoy the ‘energy’ he creates around a standing young girl who feeds the boisterous vagabonds and tries to protect herself at the same time… I can almost hear their overexcited melodies…

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Pendant with the Bust of an Empress

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress, 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA http://colorsandstones.eu/2020/11/08/necklace-with-a-pendant-roman-overview/

St. Ambrose describes her, Aelia Flacilla, wife of emperor Theodosius I, as “a soul true to God” (Fidelis anima Deo. – “De obitu Theodosii”, n. 40, in P. L., XVI, 1462). In his panegyric, St. Gregory of Nyssa bestowed the highest praise on her virtuous life and pictured her as the helpmate of the emperor in all good works, an ornament of the empire, a leader of justice, an image of beneficence. He praises her as filled with zeal for the Faith, as a pillar of the Church, and as a mother of the indigent. Theodoret in particular exalts her charity and benevolence (Hist. Eccles., V, xix, ed. Valesius, III, 192 sq.). He tells us how she personally tended cripples and quotes a saying of hers: “To distribute money belongs to the imperial dignity, but I offer up for the imperial dignity itself personal service to the Giver.” Could the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress in the Getty Collection depict this extraordinary Early Christian Empress? https://www.ecatholic2000.com/cathopedia/vol6/volsix114.shtml

Let’s answer some questions.

When did the Getty Museum acquire the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress? Yes, we do… Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, a most reputable expert archaeologist in ancient gold, contributed an article, titled A Group o f Late Antique Jewelry in the Getty Museum (pages 107-140) in Studia Varia from the J. Paul Getty Museum: Volume 1 (OPA 8), 1993. Let me quote… The majority of Late Roman and Early Byzantine jewelry that we do have has no known provenance and is undated. Our knowledge of jewelry of the period is based mainly on a few larger hoards with recorded find spots but without any external evidence for dating. It is therefore fortunate that in 1983 the Getty Museum was able to acquire a group of fifteen pieces of jewelry buried around A.D . 400. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 107

Where were the Late Antique pieces of jewelry, including the Pendant with Empress, found? We do not exactly know… but according to Barbara Deppert-Lippitz… As all pieces had a similar patina, it need not be doubted that the group was, indeed, found together. They are all in very good condition, except for missing pearls on some items. Nothing is known about the previous history of this hoard, but no treasure corresponding to the present one is recorded as having been excavated anywhere during this century There are, however, certain indications that the hoard must have come from the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Further interesting observations point out that… The Getty hoard belongs among the well-known treasures from the Hill of Saint Louis in Carthage, Tunisia, and from Ténès in Algeria, both now generally agreed to belong to the period around A.D . 400, and the one from Thetford at Gallows Hill, near Thetfordin Norfolk, dated to the late fourth century A.D. All these hoards are dated on a purely stylistic basis, with no external evidence. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 107, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage_Treasure and https://www.persee.fr/doc/rbph_0035-0818_1960_num_38_1_2309_t1_0098_0000_2 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetford_Hoard

How did the Getty Museum acquire the Late Antique pieces of Jewelry? In 1983, the J. Paul Getty Museum purchased the group of fifteen pieces of Late Antique pieces of jewelry from the Company of “Robin Symes, Limited,” founded in 1977 and dissolved in 2005. https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/object/103VE6#full-artwork-details

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress, 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA http://colorsandstones.eu/2020/11/08/necklace-with-a-pendant-roman-overview/

How can you describe the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress? This is actually a necklace consisting of a chain and a circular medallion. The gold ropelike multiple loop-in-loop chain shows remarkable workmanship. It ends with a hook-and-eye clasp, decorated with openwork circlets as well as filigree and granulation. The medallion-shaped pendant displays a frontal female bust flanked by two Victory Goddesses holding wreaths. A circular outer band, with inset garnets, and blue and green glass beads, serving as a frame to the repoussé medallion, was a rather primitive later addition to the original jewel. Three chain pendants and two strong rings attached to either side of the medallion were also added later. Today, only one pendant chain remains attached to the outer frame, holds an emerald, and terminates in a decorative scroll ornament. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html pages 109-111.

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress (Detail), 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

Who is the depicted woman? It most probably is Aelia Flacilla, the first wife of Emperor Theodosius I. According to Barbara Deppert-Lippitz… a small but significant detail, the diadem, the Empress wears, offers valuable information. Based on numismatic evidence, similar diadems have been worn only by the empresses Aelia Flacilla, wife of Theodosius I, whose coinage commenced in A.D . 383 and who died in 386, and by her daughter-in-law Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius (A.D . 383-408). This narrows the chronological range of the medallion pendant to the last two decades of the fourth century A.D. The differences between the coin portraits of Flacilla and of Eudoxia are marginal. However, the oval face with a short straight nose, small mouth with thick lips, and energetic chin seem to be closer to the portrait on certain issues of Flacilla than to that of Eudoxia. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 110

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The dynamic Middle Kingdom

Model of a Boat from the Tomb of Meketre  12th Dynasty, ca. 1981–1975 BC, Wood, paint, plaster, linen twine, linen fabric, Length: 132.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA

The dynamic reunification of the Two Lands in ancient Egypt, in the period we call the Middle Kingdom, created new requirements for the Egyptian Pharaohs. No longer an aloof divine representative of the gods on earth, the king in the Middle Kingdom was expected to be more available to the people. This period also saw increased interactions with the outside world, the re-establishment of connections with Syria to the north and the establishment of forts reaching south deep into Nubia. Rich in literature (often of great knowledge and wit), this era also produced exquisite works of art. The cult of Osiris grew as did the number of Egyptians who could equip themselves for the afterlife, what we might recognize as a “middle class.” The dynamic Middle Kingdom represents an amazing period in Egyptian history worth exploring… https://smarthistory.org/middle-kingdom-and-second-intermediate-period-introduction/

During the Middle Kingdom, a period stretching from about 2040 to 1650 BC, Egyptian cultural principles were reimagined. We will start with my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline… our Goal is to “travel” through the Middle Kingdom timeline and discuss aspects of cultural and social developments, changes in religious perspectives, and new artistic viewpoints. Let’s not forget that the Middle Kingdom is considered by some scholars the ‘classical’ period of the ancient Egyptian era.

Credited with reuniting Egypt, Mentuhotep II of the 11th Dynasty, brought back peace and prosperity to Egypt and became the first Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom. During the extended period of his reign, a unique burial complex in Deir el-Bahri was constructed, and a fresh style in Pharaonic representation took shape. By the end of the 12th Dynasty art production reached new heights in architecture, sculpture, painting, relief decoration, and jewelry.

Statues of Senusret or Sesostris or Senworset III, 12th Dynasty, c. 1878-1839 BC, Granodiorite, Height: 122 cents, British Museum, London, UK

If the art of the Old Kingdom appears majestic and confident, let’s not forget the solid stone pyramids, and the youthful, serene, self-assured statues of the pharaohs, the new Middle Kingdom era captivates us with its sense of maturity, and realism. The key development in art is the invention of the Portrait. The transition towards a humanizing tendency in portraiture is captivating. The Portrait of Senwosret III is a good example, as the ruler seems to have consciously chosen to represent his humanity rather than an idealized image of eternal kingship.

Fascinating is the Middle Kingdom’s penchant for symbolic jewelry. The cloisonné pectoral of Princess Sithathoryunet, for example, is astounding. Inlaid with 372 carefully cut pieces of semiprecious stones the pectoral presents us with high-quality craftsmanship and a new  Egyptian love for rendering detail… even on the back part of a jewelry piece, the part visible solely to the Egyptian who wore it!

Finally, the increase in the number of private monuments, like the rock-cut tombs in Beni Hasan, the lavish fresco decoration on the walls of these monuments, and the vast production of simple, yet enchanting, funerary gifts like the wood models of workshops, food-production facilities, and domestic structures, is compelling. It shows that a group of talented workmen served the provincial ‘aristocracy’ with fine quality work in every medium, suggesting that during the Middle Kingdom afterlife was ‘democratized’ to allow nonroyal individuals access to a different type of afterlife, and a wider range of ‘available’ symbols to use.

For the PowerPoint ‘The Art of the Middle Kingdom’, please… Check HERE!

For the Middle Kingdom Timeline, please… please Check HERE!

Learn about Pharaoh Mentuhotep II and his achievements through a DW World History Videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNArI5Y8MOg

Watch a Video about the small MET Model of an Offering Lady  Bearer from the Tomb of Meketrehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4k9JklNrTk

The Art of Ancient Egypt: A Resource for Educators is very informative and easy to download… https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Art_of_Ancient_Egypt_A_Resource_for_Educators

Murrhine Vases in the British Museum

The Barber Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/9125/the-barber-cup
The Crawford Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 10.70 cm, Height: 9.70 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1971-0419-1

Fluorite(or Fluorspar) crystals were among the most highly prized gemstones in ancient Greece and Rome. In numerous Latin works, the word ‘murrina’ (today, known as murrhine) is used elliptically to designate a certain category of costly vessels, known asvasa murrina.’ Suetonius, for example, tells us that Augustus, of all the royal riches he was presented with in Alexandria… he set aside for himself, one object only, a murrhine vase… The two Murrhine Vases in the British Museum, rare and precious, are worth exploring.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/24191123?read-now=1#page_scan_tab_contents Alain Tressaud and Michael Vickers, Ancient Murrhine Ware and Its Glass Evocations, Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 49 (2007), pp. 143-152 (10 pages), Published by: Corning Museum of Glass

The two Murrhine Vases in the British Museum were discovered by an Austro-Croat officer during the First World War near the then border between Turkey and Syria, in what was once ancient Cilicia. Apparently, he first discovered a marble cist which contained a lead casket containing some gold medallions, a two-handled stone ‘cup’, covered with ashes, and a slightly taller stone ‘jug’ with one carved handle, also covered in ashes. Shortly after World War I, the officer who discovered this amazing treasure, sold both of ‘his’ stone vases, but to two different buyers.

The Barber Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/9125/the-barber-cup

The ‘jug,’ today known as the Barber Cup, went to a Greek dealer of antiquities who sold it to Baron Adolphe Stoclet, the wealthy Belgian engineer, financier, and noted collector, from whose estate the British Museum acquired it in 2004, thanks in part to the British Museum Friends and it is now named in honour of their former Chairman, Nicholas Barber. The acquisition of the Barber Cup was generously funded by the Art Fund and the Caryatid Fund as well. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-barber-cup/2wEO5TvohhMDUw

The Barber Cup (details), 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK
The Barber Cup (detail), 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK

According to Dyfri Williams, the shape of the Barber Cup has been carved from a single piece of a mineral known as fluorspar and is richly veined with purple, green, yellow, and white. The cup has been further decorated with a low-relief panel of vine leaves, grapes, and tendrils, with a bearded head presumably Dionysus or one of his companions, under the handle. The Barber Cup is unusual, and it is likely that the craftsman intended to create a two-handled ‘kantharos,’ but for some reason changed his mind during the carving. The decoration is very carefully cut and can be found in both in Roman silverware and in glass. The date is probably the 1st century AD, and the find-spot in Roman Cilicia and the high quality of the object suggests the rich and cosmopolitan city of Antioch as a place of manufacture. https://ocean.exacteditions.com/issues/92787/spread/49

The Crawford Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 10.70 cm, Height: 9.70 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1971-0419-1

The two-handled ‘cup,’ today known as the Crawford Cup went to a private collector, who published the story of its discovery. In 1971, the ‘cup’ was presented to the British Museum, a gift by the Art Fund in honour of David Lindsay, 28th Earl of Crawford, chairman of the Fund between 1945-1970. The Crawford Cup was also carefully cut from a single piece of fluorspar, and is richly veined with purple, green, and yellow, but has no additional, like the Barber Cup, low-relief decoration.  It has the shape of a two-handled goblet, or to be more precise, the shape of the ancient Greek drinking cup known as Kantharos. The shape of the Crawford Cup has been compared to the Hellenistic agate Cup of the Ptolemies in the Cabinet des Médailles at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. https://ocean.exacteditions.com/issues/92787/spread/49

For a Student Activity on the Barber Cup, please… Check HERE!

Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519
Saint John the Baptist, 1508–1519 (?), Oil on walnut wood, 69×57 cm, the Louvre, Paris, France https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_John_the_Baptist_(Leonardo)#/media/File:Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Saint_John_the_Baptist_C2RMF_retouched.jpg

…an Angel who raises in the air an arm whose part from the shoulder to the elbow, coming forward, appears in foreshortening, while with the other he brings his hand to his heart. And it is an admirable thing that this genius (Leonardo), having the desire to give the greatest relief to his works, had, with the dark shade, gone to find some of the darkest backgrounds, so much so that he was looking for blacks that shade and were darker than the other blacks, so that by their means the light would be more lucid, and that, in the end, there would have resulted from it this manner so dark that, not remaining there any light, his works had the appearance of things. made to counterfeit night rather than the finesse of daylight; but all this was intended to give a greater relief, to reach the end and the perfection of the art. This is how Vasari describes a now-lost Leonardo painting in the collection of the Grand Duke Cosimo I. Could Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci be the natural development of a previous composition by the master? https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062374

I carefully read Vincent Delieuvin, July 2021 text, on the Louvre presentational page for Saint John the Baptist. I also read The Mysterious Meaning of Leonardo’s “Saint John the Baptist” by Paul Barolsky, and Vasari’s Life of Leonardo just to remind myself of the painter’s significance. The bibliography is exhaustive… the scholarly opinions diverse… and I need to read more! https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062374 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/23202683 and http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/leonardo_da_vinci/

I particularly like how Paul Barolsky relates the painting in the Louvre, to the first verses of the Gospel according to Saint John: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not stopped it. There was a man sent by God; his name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness to the Light, that all might believe through him. This man was not the Light, but he was there to bear witness to the Light. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/1 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/23202683

For Vincent Delieuvin of the Louvre, Leonardo’s Saint John the Baptist is undoubtedly the most accomplished illustration of the Gospel’s text where the last prophet is defined as the witness of the light. The artist uses chiaroscuro to stress the spirituality of the scene. He also uses the characteristic gesture of the upraised hand, expressive as well as prophetic, to create the ideal twist of a body, the perfect rendering of the play of light and shadow to magnify movement, build volume and enliven the smile, with an extraordinary economy of means, almost colourless.

What a journey… so many questions I cannot answer!

For a PowerPoint on St John’s ‘gesture’, please… Check HERE!

The Twelve Months of Flowers by Pieter Casteels III

Pieter Casteels III, 1684-1739
The Twelve Months of Flowers, 1730, Oil on Canvas, 76.2×63.5 cm, Private Collection

January brings the snow, / Makes our feet and fingers glow.     /     February brings the rain, / Thaws the frozen lake again.     /     March brings breezes, loud and shrill, / To stir the dancing daffodil.     /     April brings the primrose sweet, / Scatters daisies at our feet.     /     May brings flocks of pretty lambs / Skipping by their fleecy dams.     /     June brings tulips, lilies, roses, / Fills the children’s hands with posies.     /     Hot July brings cooling showers, / Apricots, and gillyflowers.     /     August brings the sheaves of corn, / Then the harvest home is borne.     /     Warm September brings the fruit; / Sportsmen then begin to shoot.     /     Fresh October brings the pheasant; / Then to gather nuts is pleasant.     /     Dull November brings the blast; / Then the leaves are whirling fast.     /     Chill December brings the sleet, / Blazing fire, and Christmas treat… writes Sara Coleridge (1802-1852), the English translator and author of children’s verse… and I think of The Twelve Months of Flowers by Pieter Casteels III! https://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/the-months/

Pieter Casteels III, painter, etcher, and designer, was a leading Flemish artist of lavish Still Life paintings. He was born in Antwerp, the son of Pieter Casteels II, a painter of landscapes and history paintings. He trained with his father, but soon, as early as 1708 he traveled to England where he established himself first as a copyist of Old Masters. While in England, Pieter became an active participant in London’s artistic community, subscribing to the Kneller Academy of Painting and Drawing in 1711 and becoming a member of the Rose and Crown Club. https://en.artsdot.com/@@/A2686B-Pieter-Casteels-Iii-Bouquet-of-flowers-in-an-urn-on-postamente

The artist returned to Antwerp in 1712 and stayed for the next five years. In 1717 he settled permanently in England becoming a successful painter of exotic Still Life paintings of flowers, game, and birds that chiefly served a decorative purpose, as over-door and over-chimney pieces of ornamentation.

During the 1730s Casteels became interested in the business of printing and came into partnership with leading professionals like the engraver Henry Fletcher, and the nurseryman Robert Furber. The three of them undertook the commercial venture of designing, producing, and selling sets of hand-coloured engravings to a group of subscribers. The Twelve Months of the Year is one such set, the most popular and ambitious of all sets, the team had created.

The Twelve Months of Flowers by Pieter Casteels III presented today, is a set of twelve flower arrangements, painted in oil on canvas, the artist created in 1730. The twelve extravagant compositions represent nearly 400 different species of flowers grouped according to the month in which they bloom. The compositions reflect the grand style of the Baroque period, with the flowers arranged in perfected bouquets, set in decorative and stylized urns resting on a plinth. This amazing set of flower bouquets served as the prototype for the colour engravings Casteels produced with Fletcher and Furber, his business partners. https://www.pricefineart.com/product/twelve-months-of-flowers/

For a  Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Nativity scene from the Menologion of Basil II

Menologion of Basil II, The Nativity of Christ, c. 1000, Illuminated Manuscript, Vatican Library  (Ms. Vat. gr. 1613)

Η Γέννησίς Σου, Χριστέ ο Θεός ημών, ανέτειλε τω κόσμω το φως το της γνώσεως· εν αυτή γαρ οι τοις άστροις λατρεύοντες, υπό αστέρος εδιδάσκοντο, Σε προσκυνείν, τον Ήλιον της δικαιοσύνης, και Σε γινώσκειν εξ ύψους ανατολήν, Κύριε, δόξα Σοι. (Απολυτίκιο των Χριστουγέννων, ήχος δ΄). Your birth, O Christ our God, dawned the light of knowledge upon the earth. For by Your birth those who adored stars, were taught by a star, to worship You, the Sun of Justice, and to know You, Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You. (Christmas Apolytikion: Fourth Tone)… Merry Christmas… Best Wishes for Peace, Health, and Happines! Enjoy the Day with the Byzantine Nativity scene from the Menologion of Basil II. https://www.pemptousia.gr/2021/12/i-gennisis-sou-christe-o-theos-imon/ and https://www.goarch.org/-/hymns-of-nativity

One of the most luxurious of all Byzantine manuscripts, the Menologion of Emperor Basil II (958 – 1025)in the Vatican Library (Ms. Vat. gr. 1613), contains 430 amazing miniatures in 272 folios! It is a treasure cove for Byzantine Art and a high point of the Macedonian Renaissance.

The Byzantine Menologio, a book arranged according to the months, is a liturgical book of the Greek Orthodox church. Simply put, it is a Book of Saints, presenting short information on the saint’s life and martyrion. It is read on the Saint’s feast day, during the morning matins, and serves as a Church Calendar.

The Menologion of Basil II has compiled ca. 1000 AD, under the auspices of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II of the Macedonian Dynasty. It is an unusually opulent manuscript, created at Constantinople for liturgical use, and in its present form, covers the first six months of the Byzantine liturgical year, from September through February. The portrait of Emperor Basil II, one of the most successful military leaders of the Byzantine Empire, shows him as a warrior defending Orthodoxy, standing on a low podium, clad in his military regalia, graciously accepting his enemies’ submission.

The manuscript contains around 430 miniature paintings executed by eight different artists. The artists identified by their name written at the edge of each miniature are: Pantoleon, who seems to have been in charge of the group, Georgios, Michael the Younger, Michael of Blachernai, Simeon, Simeon of Blachernai, Menas, and Nestor.

Menologion of Basil II, The Nativity of Christ, c. 1000, Illuminated Manuscript, Vatican Library  (Ms. Vat. gr. 1613)

The Nativity scene, celebrating the Birth of Jesus and the Annunciation to the Shepherds, was painted by Symeon of Blachernae. It is a well-balanced composition achieved within a typical Byzantine ‘Nativity’ Landscape comprised of a mountain cave executed in the typical ‘broken terrace’ motif of the Greco-Roman tradition.

The central axis of the composition is dedicated to the presence of God, as exemplified by the Bethlehem Star at the very top, the newborn Child in a manger, and a midwife bathing Christ at the lower part of the scene… The Star of Bethlehem is heraldically flanked by two rejoicing angels, festively dressed in sky-blue and taupe-coloured garments. To the right, Simeon of Blachernai presented the Annunciation to a rather rugged-looking Shepherd. To the left, the depicted Virgin sits near Christ, but Joseph, in the lower left corner of the miniature from the Menologion of Basil II, seems distant and thoughtful. What an amazing Nativity scene this is!

Merry Christmas!!!

For a Student Activity inspired by the Menologion of Basil II – The Nativity of Christ Scene, please… Check HERE!

Αn Annotated Picture of the Nativity scene

Interesting to read… The Illuminators of the Menologium of Basil IIby Ihor Ševčenko, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 16 (1962), pp. 243+245-276 (43 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291164?read-now=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Winter by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Winter, 1563, oil on linden wood, 66,6×50,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds; running to and fro to stamp one’s icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.     /     To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.     /     We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling. / Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up. / We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors… / this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights. This is Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s (1678 – 1741) Sonnet L’Inverno (Winter). The great composer wrote it as a descriptive accompaniment, experts believe, for the music of his “Four Seasons.” Today the first day of Winter, I took the time to listen, read and look at Winter by Giuseppe Arcimboldo! It was a magical time! https://www.charlottesymphony.org/blog/vivaldis-four-seasons-poems/

Arcimboldo’s friend, the Milanese art critic, and travelogue author, Paolo Morigia writes for him… This is a painter (Arcimboldo) with a rare talent […] having proved his worth both as an artist and as a bizarre painter, not only in his own country but also abroad, he has been given the highest praise, in that word of his fame has reached the Emperor’s court in Germany.” The “court” Morigia refers to, is the court of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna first, where Arcimboldo moved in 1563 at the age of thirty-six, and Prague later, where he served as court painter for twenty-five years. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/arcimboldo-giuseppe/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

While in Vienna, to celebrate the reign of Emperor Maximilian II, Arcimboldo created his “ signature Portraits of the 4 Seasons,” composed of imaginatively arranging elements of nature like plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. For each “Portrait” (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), created in 1563, Arcimboldo combined plants associated with a particular season to form a portrait of that time of year. The series proved extremely popular in the Habsburg court, and Arcimboldo reproduced it several times so the emperor could send versions to friends and important political figures. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Winter (detail), 1563, oil on linden wood, 66,6×50,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Closely associated with Mother Earth, Arcimboldo’s “Winter”, the last in his Four Seasons series, takes the form of a withered old man whose skin is rough and wrinkled and whose craggy features are sculpted out of the folds and cracks in the tree’s bark. “Winter’s” face is fashioned out of a single tree and its parts. Giuseppe Arcimboldo used broken branches, cracks in the tree trunk, abrasions, and swellings.  http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/arcimboldo-s-gift–the-fantast/fourseasons/winter

“Winter’s” hair, a mess of twisted branches and small leaves, completes the look at the back part of the head… but the leaves crowning his head are not as bright as the leaves of other seasons’ portraits. Further down, the artist represented the eye as a small blackish split in the log, the ear by a broken small piece of a branch and the nose as a curved stump from a broken branch. “Winter’s” beard is composed of poorly kept, thin roots, and branches, while the mouth is cleverly created by placing two mushrooms just below the nose. https://www.thehistoryofart.org/giuseppe-arcimboldo/winter/

From the neck down the feeling of the composition is different. Clad with a woven mat, “Winter” provides a bit of warmth and the promise of life and renewal beyond the cold.  From “Winter’s” chest a thin branch sprouts an orange and a lemon, and the woven mat is there to protect the fruit, provide warmth and get them through the months of winter. Their bright colors provide a small, cheery note to an otherwise dreary portrait, and assure the painting’s viewers that despite the chill, spring is not long behind. http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/arcimboldo-s-gift–the-fantast/fourseasons/winter

For a PowerPoint of the Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, please… Check HERE!

I would like to draw your attention to a modern take of Arcimboldo’s The 4 Seasons paintings… a set of four and a half meters high fiberglass sculptures of the Four Seasons by American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas, created in 2012. Interesting… to say the least! https://crystalbridges.org/blog/the-four-seasons-philip-haas-interprets-giuseppe-arcimboldo/

Philip Haas, b. 1954
The Four Seasons – Winter, 2012, fiberglass, H. 4.572 m, first seen in the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK