Areskon is my Name and I am an Actor

Funerary Altar-Shaped Stele of Actor Marcus Varinius Areskon, 170-200 AD, Marble with traces of the original paint, 1670×70-72×52-66 cm, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

O man, with your wonderful dower, / O woman, with genius and grace, / You can teach the whole world with your power, / If you are but worthy the place. / The stage is a force and a factor / In moulding the thought of the day, / If only the heart of the actor / Is high as the theme of the play.     …     No matter what role you are giving, / No matter what skill you betray, / The everyday life you are living, / Is certain to colour the play./ The thoughts we call secret and hidden / Are creatures of malice, in fact;/ They steal forth unseen and unbidden, / And permeate motive and act. Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was an American author and poet who wrote THE ACTOR…an appropriate, in my humble opinion, introduction to our new POST… Areskon is my Name and I am an Actor.  http://www.ellawheelerwilcox.org/poems/pactor.htm     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Wheeler_Wilcox

Funerary Altar-Shaped Stele of Actor Marcus Varinius Areskon, 170-200 AD, Marble with traces of the original paint, 1670×70-72×52-66 cm, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

Marcus Varinius Areskon… I seek him out every time I visit the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. I introduce him to my students every time I guide them around this wonderful “shrine” of the Muses… and yet I know so little about him. An inscription introduces himself.  Carved above his portrait and under it, the epitaph inscription reads… Λ(ούκιος) Σηνάτιος Οἴκιος καὶ Οὐαρε | νία Ἀρέσκουσα Μάρκῳ Οὐαρ[ε] | νίῳ Ἀρέσκοντι τῷ τέ | κνῳ μνήμης χάριν Lucius Senatius (probably an unknown member of the family) and Var(e)inia Areskousa to her son Marcus Var(e)inius Areskon in memory… I am intrigued… can the portrait of a young man and an inscription help us unravel the knot?     https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

Areskon was the son of Var(e)inia Areskousa, he was related? to Lucius Senatius, he was Roman, he lived in Thessaloniki, and he died painfully young. This beautiful funerary memorial, in marble and vividly painted, the colours remain remarkably well-preserved, testifying to the economic ability of the family to honour their young demised member with a worthy memorial.     https://m.flickr.com/photos/69716881@N02/50914350016/in/faves-36551225@N05/

Areskousa and Areskon, mother and son, members of a popular family of actors, were probably entertainment “stars” of the time. This is what their names connotate (Areskon/Areskousa= one who pleases, who is popular). The mother was probably an actress of the popular mime theatre, while the son managed to elevate himself and become a young, versatile tragic actor of fame and fortune. His funerary monument is a proper testament to his popularity and wealth.

The portrait on his rectangular funerary altar shows him en face, upright, attired in military gear. His right hand is raised in salutation, the left seems to hold a sword?  In the upper left corner of the composition, still beautifully coloured, a mask, worn by male actors for a female theatrical role, identifies the male portrait as an actor of versatile abilities.

1917, Trip to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki… my respects to Areskon… Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

The Portrait of Areskon is shown in the middle of a simple yet elegantly proportioned structure described by the Museum archaeologists as a funerary altar. It is simply framed, sits on a pedestal and is crowned by an inscribed pediment with a central rosette, leaves and stylized acroteria. It was discovered near the eastern fortification walls of Thessaloniki, almost embedded in an apartment building of modern times. Today, exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, it is considered one of the Museum’s highlights!

For a PowerPoint presenting a School Trip to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Funerary Altar of Areskon, please… Check HERE!

For a StudentActivity, please… Check HERE!

2017, Grade 4 STARS in front of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki! Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

Teaching with Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck, before 1395-1441
Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?),
1433, oil on wood, 25,5 x 19 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/e/eyck_van/jan/01page/13turban.html

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Jan van Eyck’s oeuvre I start with his remarkable motto, Als Ich Can – As well as I can, inscribed in large Greek letters on the upper part of the frame of his Self-Portrait? at the National Gallery in London. Humble words… but appreciate how subtly they draw attention to his extraordinary skills as a painter. Where can you go wrong Teaching with Jan van Eyck?     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-portrait-of-a-man-self-portrait

“Jan van Eyck is credited with originating a style of painting characterised by minutely realistic depictions of surface effects and natural light. This was made possible by using an oil medium, which allowed the building up of paint in translucent layers, or glazes.” These three lines by the National Gallery in London embody the essence of van Eyck’s painting style and technique. I like to read it to my students emphasizing his contribution to Western European Art. Information about his training and his life is scarce, we do know, however, that he was a member of the gentry class and that by 1425 he lived in Bruges and Lille as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. We also know that in 1428 he travelled to Portugal to paint Philip the Good’s future wife, Isabella of Portugal.     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/jan-van-eyck

“Hubrecht van Eyck, the most famous painter ever known, started this work of art; his brother Jan, who was second in the art, finished the task at the request of Joos Vijd. With this verse the donor consigns the work to your charge on May 6th 1432. Admire what they have done for you”. The famous inscription on the frame of the Ghent Altarpiece sets off my Jan van Eyck PowerPoint Presentation and lets my students admire what they (Hubrecht and Jan) have done for us.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the Ghent Altarpiece (detail) by Jan van Eyck, 1432, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-ghent-altarpiece-adoration-of-the-mystic-lamb-detail-of-the-holy-spirit-in-the-guise-of-a-dove-hubert-and-jan-van-eyck/MwEFlDeCLbw9RQ

Introducing a former BLOG POST at the 2020 Ghent Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition, titled Van Eyck – An Optical Revolution, I further discuss with my students his painting characteristics: 1. How he perfected the Oil Technique by adding siccatives. With oil paints, he created rich, deep, lustrous colours, flawless golden tones, and amazing life-like textures. 2. How Observation of reality is key to Jan’s Art. For example, his portraits are lifelike to the minutest detail, his depiction of nature and natural phenomena are credible and authentic, his art seems like it’s competing with reality itself! 3. How Observation of Reality is key to Jan’s Art. For example, his portraits are lifelike to the minutest detail, his depiction of nature and natural phenomena are credible and authentic, his art seems like it’s competing with reality itself! 3. How Observing and Painting Optical Light Phenomena shows an artist deeply interested “in the painting of light, so crucial to his optical revolution.” Scholars believe that Jan van Eyck “not only gathers practical but also theoretical knowledge in order to reproduce the effects of light.”     https://vaneyck2020.be/en/the-optical-revolution/     and     https://www.teachercurator.com/art/van-eyck-an-optical-revolution/

Teaching with Jan van Eyck… Online References PowerPoints and Activities…

For the List of ONLINE References on Jan van Eyck’s oeuvre, TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on the Ghent Altarpiece, please… Click HERE! https://www.teachercurator.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Twith-JvanE-Ghent2-PP.pptx. List of Slides and Photo Credits for the Ghent Altarpiece PowerPoint, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Jan van Eyck’s Oeuvre, please… Click HERE! List of Slides and Photo Credits for Jan van Eyck’s Oeuvre PowerPoint, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

For High School level Student Activity, please… Click HERE!

For a RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project), please… Click HERE!

I hope that teaching with Jan van Eyck will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name TeacherCurator?

Alexandra D. and her Arnolfini Wedding RWAP Sketchbook Pages
Marios M. and his Arnolfini Wedding RWAP Sketchbook Pages

The Labours of the Months: February

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: February, 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: February POST will start with In February, a poem by John Addington Symonds, the English poet, literary critic, cultural historian and writer of numerous biographies of writers and artists: “The birds have been singing to-day / And saying: “The spring is near! / The sun is as warm as in May, / And the deep blue heavens are clear.”   /     The little bird on the boughs / Of the sombre snow-laden pine / Thinks: “Where shall I build me my house, / And how shall I make it fine?     /     “For the season of snow is past; /  / The mild south wind is on high; / And the scent of the spring is cast / From his wing as he hurries by.”     /     The little birds twitter and cheep / To their loves on the leafless larch: / But seven foot deep the snow-wreaths sleep, / And the year hath not worn to March.https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/february-poems/

The Labours of the Months is a theme that frequently occurs during the Late Medieval-Renaissance Period Art. It attracts our attention in sculptural pieces adorning Churches and Cathedrals of the time, striking Vitreaux Windows, amazingly colourful manuscripts, and paintings, monumental, like the eleven surviving panels in Torre Aquila I presented in 2020 (check: https://www.teachercurator.com/?s=torre%20aquila&cat=plus-5-results), or small, like the paintings in the National Gallery, in London, we will explore in 2021… month by month… https://archive.org/details/labormonth00webs/page/n9/mode/2up Webster, James Carson – 1905-1989, The labors of the months in antique and mediaeval art to the end of the twelfth century, 1938, Evanston, Ill., Northwestern University,     and      https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: February (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

For 2021, I want to present something different, unpretentious but rare. In London, at the National Gallery, there are 12 small pictures, “painted on canvas and then each glued to a wooden panel. It is possible that they were made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors. The paintings seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other and are currently displayed in two frames in groups of six. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combines simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! 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.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

For the Month of February, we have an outdoor scene. “A young man kneels beside a wooden block and cuts stakes with a hatchet. A line of stakes has already been set in the field behind him, which is ploughed into rows ready to be planted, perhaps with vines or olives. The stakes would be used to support the young plants.” The festivities of the holidays are over and now the young farmers need to bundle up and take care of the daily chores…

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

Constantino Brumidi

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington, 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Myrtle Cheney Murdock, the wife of John R. Murdock, the elected congressman from Arizona, was a teacher and an enthusiastic tour guide at the United States Capitol. She was amazed and dismayed at how little was known about Constantino Brumidi, the Greek/Italian/American artist of the Apotheosis of Washington on the Capitol’s Rotunda Dome. She frequently asked, “How can countless exquisite frescoes and paintings adorn our Capitol Building and yet the American people have little or no knowledge of their existence?” Researching for her Monograph on Constantino Brumidi, Michelangelo of the United States Capitol, she discovered the artist buried in an unmarked grave in Glenwood Cemetery. Myrtle Cheney Murdock’s research and dedication to Constantino Brumidi led to a posthumous appreciation of the artist’s artistic achievements and a commemorative plaque placed over his tomb in 1952, inscribed with a wish allegedly expressed by Brumidi back in 1855: “I have no longer any desire for fame and fortune. My one ambition and my daily prayer is that I may live long enough to make beautiful the Capitol of the one country on earth in which there is liberty.”     https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2flocal%2fbrumidi-study-of-capitol-dome-painting-to-go-to-smithsonian%2f2012%2f03%2f05%2fgIQAclhhtR_story.html     and     https://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_item/Michelangelo_of_the_US_Capitol.htm

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington, 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Constantino Brumidi’s father was Stavros Brumidis from Filiatra in the Peloponnese, who, after the 1770 Orlov insurrection, a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence in 1821, and fearing Ottoman repercussions,  fled Greece for Italy. Stavros Brumidis settled in Rome, married  Anna Bianchini, opened a coffee shop to support his family and in 1805 became the father of a boy named Constantino. The boy was artistic and talented, studied Art for fourteen years at the Academy of St. Luke in Rome and became quite successful as a fresco painter working for the Vatican. In 1849 he was caught up in the Italian Risorgimento, he was arrested, accused of serious crimes and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. The Pope pardoned him but his only hope for freedom was to leave Italy for the United States.     https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/constantino-brumidi

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington (detai), 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Brumidi reached the United States in September 1852 and for the next two years he worked, on private or church commissions in New York, Massachusetts and Mexico City. In December 1854 he met with Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, the Army Corps of Engineers officer who was supervising the construction of extensions to the Capitol. Impressed with Brumidi’s credentials, Meigs offered him the opportunity to paint for the United States Capitol through the 1860s and the 1870s. His major contribution  is the 1865 Apotheosis of Washington and the frieze of the new Capitol Dome.

For a PowerPoint on the Apotheosis of Washington, please… check HERE!

Constantino Brumidi, 1805-1880
The Apotheosis of Washington (detail), 1865, Fresco, 4,664 square feet, United States Capitol Building’s Rotunda, Washington, DC

Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
An Old Man and his Grandson (detail), c. 1490, Tempera on wood, 62 x 46  cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris https://paintersonpaintings.com/clarity-haynes-on-domenico-ghirlandaio/

Domenico di Tommaso del Ghirlandajo, who, from his talent and from the greatness and the vast number of his works, may be called one of the most important and most excellent masters of his age, was made by nature to be a painter; and for this reason, in spite of the opposition of those who had charge of him (which often nips the finest fruits of our intellects in the bud by occupying them with work for which they are not suited, and by diverting them from that to which nature inclines them), he followed his natural instinct, secured very great honour for himself and profit for his art and for his kindred, and became the great delight of his age… This is how Giorgio Vasari describes Domenico Gh irlandaio, the artist who was …endowed by nature with a perfect spirit and with an admirable and judicious taste in painting! Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I admire. Domenico’ Portrait of An Old Man and his Grandson in the Louvre is one of my all-time favourite Renaissance paintings. It touches me in a very personal way. It reminds me of my father’s love and unconditional devotion to my son, his Grandson… Του παιδιού μου το παιδί, δυο φορές παιδί (My child’s child, is twice my child), he used to say and looked at him with unbelievable tenderness…     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/domenicoghirlandaio.htm

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Madonna and Child (detail), 1470-75, Tempera on panel, 71 x 49 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC https://www.nga.gov/features/exhibitions/verrocchio-discoveries.html

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Domenico’s oeuvre I start with Giorgio Vasari description of how …He is said to have been so accurate in draughtsmanship, that, when making drawings of the antiquities of Rome, such as arches, baths, columns, colossea, obelisks, amphitheatres, and aqueducts, he would work with the eye alone, without rule, compasses, or measurements; and after he had made them, on being measured, they were found absolutely correct, as if he had used measurements. He drew the Colosseum by the eye, placing at the foot of it a figure standing upright, from the proportions of which the whole edifice could be measured; this was tried by some masters after his death, and found quite correct. I usually finish my presentation of Ghirlandaio with Vasari’s final sentence… Wherefore he has deserved to be held in honour and esteem for such rich and undying benefits to art, and to be celebrated with extraordinary praises after his death.     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/domenicoghirlandaio.htm

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Last Supper (detail), 1480, Fresco, 400 x 880 cm, Ognissanti, Florence https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domenico_ghirlandaio,_cenacolo_di_ognissanti,_1480,_03_giardino_con_uccelli.jpg

Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio Lesson Plan, PowerPoint and Activities…

For a List of ONLINE References on Domenico Ghirlandaio TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Domenico Ghirlandaio, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

7 Steps to Success Lesson Plan

For Student Activities (four Activities), please… Click HERE!

I hope that Teaching with Domenico Ghirlandaio will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name Teacher Curator?

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494
Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90, Frescoes on the right wall: Stories of St John the Baptist, W. 450 cm, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence https://www.wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html

House of Venus in the Shell

Venus in the Shell (detail), 1st century AD, fresco, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, 2017 Photo courtesy of Klaus Heese http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%2011.htm

…Ah, goddess, when the spring  /  Makes clear its daytime, and a warmer wind  /  Stirs from the west, a procreative air,  /  High in the sky the happy-hearted birds,  /  Responsive to your coming, call and cry,  /  The cattle, tame no longer, swim across  /  The rush of river-torrents, or skip and bound  /  In joyous meadows; where your brightness leads,  /  They follow, gladly taken in the drive,  /   The urge, of love to come. So, on you move /  Over the seas and mountains, over streams  /  Whose ways are fierce, over the greening leas,  /  Over the leafy tenements of birds,  /  So moving that in all the ardor burns  /  For generation and their kind’s increase… The amazing fresco of Venus in the House of Venus in the Shell inspired me to search for Roman Poems dedicated to the Goddess of beauty… and I “stumbled” upon Lucretius’s Hymn to Venus, the goddess of pleasure.     https://newepicurean.com/lucretius-hymn-to-venus-and-the-defense-of-pleasure/     and     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuqPhR8QTZQ

Entrance doorway, looking south, House of Venus in the Shell or House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes, Pompeii, 2012 Photo, courtesy of Michael Binns http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%201.htm
Ground Plan of the House of Venus in the Shell or House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes, Pompeii http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20plan.htm

The Via dell’Abbondanza, one of Pompeii’s two Decumani Maximus, formed the main east-west axis which traversed the entire urban area of the city. Facing Via dell’Abbondanza, in Regio II of the city, near the Porta Sarno, the Amphitheatre and the Large Palaestra, lies a private property of particular interest, the House of Venus in the Shell (Insula 3), also known as House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes.  Excavated between 1933-35, it was damaged by bombings during World War II in 1943, but was re-excavated and restored in 1952.     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, Frescoes in Room 4, 1st century AD, fresco, looking towards south-east corner and south wall, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy,  Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee. https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%202.htm

The House of Venus in the Shell has all the characteristics of a typical Pompeiian House. A narrow corridor (1) (fauces) beautifully decorated in the 3rd Pompeiian Style opens directly onto a square atrium (2) with a central impluvium. Both areas were intricately decorated with red or yellow painted panels with small medallions in the center to enhance the visual effect. Three cubicula face the atrium, the one in the south east corner (4) is decorated in the 3rd Pompeiian Style “with framed white panels separated by fantastic architectural views above a lower dark red frieze. The central panel of the south wall contains a badly faded mythological scene of Hermes and Dionysus. The side panels on the north wall contain floating figures while on the east are two portrait medallions.” https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, Frescoes in Room 6, 1st century AD, fresco, south wall of Triclinium, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%203.htm   

Two more interesting rooms open to the Atrium (2), a Triclinium (6) and a large Tablinium  (5). The Triclinium (6) has vaulted ceilings and walls, painted in the 3rd Pompeian Style, with architectural themes framing floating figures within black panels, and on the uppermost part of the room’s decoration, small scenes and still lives. The Tablinum (5), “has lost most of its decoration but still impresses with its size. The tablinum has a second doorway on its south wall which opens onto the north side of the peristyle.”     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, looking towards the south-west corner of the Atrium, with doorway into room 11, on the left, and rooms 5 and 6, on the right, Pompeii Archaeological Site, 2017 Photo courtesy of Klaus Heese
House of Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, fresco in the Peristyle area, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy     http://janzen3journeys.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-ruins-of-pompeii.html    

The nicest part of the House, the Peristyle area, develops around a lovely garden with 9 fluted columns of stuccoed brickwork (11). Rooms and Porticos, sumptuously decorated, once more, with frescoes in the 3rd Pompeiian Style, display interesting scenes that reveal almost impressionistic qualities. “On the rear wall (17) of the peristyle are three large framed frescoes each set on a blue background. The lefthand painting, is of the god Mars shown standing naked on a plinth while holding a lance and a shield. Around him the foliaged garden is teaming with birdlife. The central painting on the rear wall is of Venus lying in a conch shell with a cherub either side of her. The nymph on the left side of the painting is shown riding a dolphin while the one on the right supports the conch shell. The righthand painting is of flowers and birds drinking at a fountain. The fresco incorporates a niche painted with plants.”     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, fresco in the central panel of the Peristyle area South Wall, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, 2016 Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%2011.htm
Venus in the Shell (detail depicting one of the Cherubs), 1st century AD, Fresco, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Venus_Anadyomenes_in_the_House_of_Venus_(Pompeii)#/media/File:Casa_de_Venus_Pompeya_07.jpg

The star fresco in the House, after which the house, let’s not forget, was named, depicts Venus in the Shell. It portrays a large and striking depiction of the goddess Venus, naked but relaxed “giving no signs of modesty, yet no signs of overt sexuality,” reclining in a shell, swelling “sails” behind her, accompanied by a cortege of two Cherubs. This fresco may not be one of the finest discovered in Pompeii, but it is definitely eye-catching. Venus’s  head of curly hair and pale skinned body, resplendent with gold jewels, “looking off into the distance seemingly without a worry in the world” create a stunning vision. The Cherubs’ look of curiosity and astonishment is a strike of ingenuity. The combination of aquamarine blue and plum-hued violet, cool and refreshing, is precious! Simply put… I love it!!!     https://womeninantiquity.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/the-portrayal-of-venus-in-pompeian-frescoes/

For a student RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project), please… Check HERE!

The Labours of the Months: January

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

Twelve months in a row,  /  Use them well and let them go;  /  Welcome them without a fear,  /  Let them go without a tear—  /  Twelve months in a year;  /  Greet the passing miracle,  /  Spring and summer beautiful,  /  Autumn, winter, gliding on,  /  Glorious seasons quickly gone—  /  God’s treasures in a row,  /  Take them, love them, let them go! I like the simplicity of Annette Wynne verse in Twelve Months in a Row, it reminds me of the simple way the anonymous Venetian Artist of the 16th century depicted the twelve months of the year, in twelve small paintings, now… in the National Gallery, in London. The Labours of the Months: January will start a new journey, exploring and learning… month by month…     https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/month-poems/     and     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january

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

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. 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 2021, I want to present something different, unpretentious but rare. In London, at the National Gallery, there are 12 small pictures, “painted on canvas and then each glued to a wooden panel. It is possible that they were made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors. The paintings seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other and are currently displayed in two frames in groups of six. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combines simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! 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.”     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: January (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

For the Month of January, we have a cosy indoor scene. “An old man sits indoors by the fire with his elbow propped on the fireplace or stove, and his forehead leaning on his hand. He pulls his jacket closer around himself and wears a yellow wrap or blanket against the cold. The interior of his room is bare and simple, and not in good repair – the plaster has fallen from the brick wall beneath the window.” The festivities of the holidays are over and now… young and old, privileged or not, need to recuperate, relax and rest…

Happy New Year… may 2021 be a BETTER, HEALTHIER and HAPPIER YEAR for ALL!!!

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

The Legendary Shield of Achilles

Philip Rundell (1746-1827) for Rundell, Bridge & RundellPhilip
Shield of Achilles, 1821-22, Silver-gilt, 90.5 x 90.5 x 18.0 cm (whole object), Royal Collection Trust     https://www.rct.uk/collection/51266/shield-of-achilles

First of all he forged a shield that was huge and heavy,  /  elaborating it about, and threw around it a shining  /  triple rim that glittered, and the shield strap was cast of silver.  /  There were five folds composing the shield itself, and upon it  /  he elaborated many things in his skill and craftsmanship.  /  (483) He made the earth upon it, and the sky, and the sea’s water,  /  and the tireless sun, and the moon waxing into her fullness,  /  and on it all the constellations that festoon the heavens,  /  the Pleiades and the Hyades and the strength of Orion  /  and the Bear, whom men give also the name of the Wagon,  /  who turns about in a fixed place and looks at Orion  /  and she alone is never plunged in the wash of the Ocean… ” When Homer describes The Legendary Shield of Achilles my eyes fill with images of a world long gone and my mind dreams of fabled stories… I wonder how Achille looked like carrying it and how brave Hector felt facing him…     http://www.u.arizona.edu/~afutrell/w%20civ%2002/iliad.html

The making of the Shield of Achilles brings the readers of the Iliad closer to its horrific end… When Hector killed Patroclus and stripped him of Achilles’s Armour, his fate was sealed! He committed Ύβρις and his punishment was imminent! In Homer’s 18th Ραψωδία, Thetis, Sea Goddess and mother of Achilles took immediate charge. She commissioned God Hephaestus to create a new Armour for Achilles, the lame God of Smithing got to work… and Homer created an amazing description of his world! Achilles’ shield was “a mirror of the world of gods and men, within the mighty Stream of Ocean and although Homer described its appearance in great detail, the precise relationship of the various elements was unclear…”     https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/publications/carlton-house/the-shield-of-achilles

Philip Rundell (1746-1827) for Rundell, Bridge & RundellPhilip
Shield of Achilles (detail), 1821-22, Silver-gilt, 90.5 x 90.5 x 18.0 cm (whole object), Royal Collection Trust     https://www.rct.uk/collection/51266/shield-of-achilles

Lines 468 to 607 in the 18th Ραψωδία, give readers a vivid and detailed portrayal of the imagery which adorns the new Shield of Achilles. “Starting from the shield’s centre and moving outward, circle layer by circle layer, the shield is laid out as follows: (in the center) The Earth, sky and sea, the sun, the moon and the constellations (484–89).” The circle that immediately follows depicts two cities, one peaceful and festive, its people taking part in a wedding and a case of law administration (490–508), the other in trouble, besieged, ambushed and in battle (509–40). The Shield is furthered decorates with scenes depicting a field being ploughed (541–49), a harvest setting (550–60), a vineyard with grape pickers (561–72), a herd of straight-horned cattle under attack by a pair of lions, herdsmen and cattle dogs trying to them beat off (573–86), a picture of a sheep farm (587–89) and a group of young men and women dancing (590–606). The great Ocean is depicted in the outermost circle, somehow encasing Homer’s view of a civilized microcosm…  “where images of conflict and discord… i.e. war and peace, work and festival… show the basic forms of a civilized, essentially orderly life.” (607–609).     https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Shield_of_Achilles

Philip Rundell (1746-1827) for Rundell, Bridge & RundellPhilip
Shield of Achilles (detail), 1821-22, Silver-gilt, 90.5 x 90.5 x 18.0 cm (whole object), Royal Collection Trust     https://www.rct.uk/collection/51266/shield-of-achilles

“In 1810 John Flaxman (a British Sculptor and Draughtsman, and a leading figure in British and European Neoclassicism) received the first of a number of payments from Rundells  (Philip Rundell for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell master jewellery makers) to reconstruct” the legendary Shield described by Homer in the Iliad. Flaxman was a well-versed Greek scholar and an admirer of Homer “who spent many evenings reading aloud (in Greek) from the Iliad.” Flaxman completed his design in 1817 and then “modelled and cast it in plaster himself. This shield was the first in a series of silver-gilt and bronze casts and was completed in 1821, when it was prominently displayed at George IV’s coronation banquet. Flaxman was said to have been justly proud of his design, which was subsequently described by Rundells as a masterpiece of modern art and considered by many as one of the artist’s most successful works.” Other silver-gilt versions of the shield were made in 1821/2 for the Duke of York (now Huntington Collection, San Marino), and in 1822/3 for the Duke of Northumberland (now Al-Tajir Collection) and the Earl of Lonsdale (now National Trust, Anglesey Abbey). There is an early bronze cast of the shield, subsequently electro-gilt, in the Royal Collection (RCIN 31606) https://www.rct.uk/collection/51266/shield-of-achilles    includes a Video and      https://issuu.com/artsolution/docs/koopman_2019_the_shield_of_achilles

For a PowerPoint on The Legendary Shield of Achilles, please… Check HERE!

For a PowerPoint of Student Work inspired by The Legendary Shield of Achilles, please… Check HERE!

Bulletin Board display of Grade 3 student work inspired by The Legendary Shield of Achilles

Christmas-Time

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family, 1864, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5cm, the MET, NY
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

I heard the bells on Christmas Day  /  Their old, familiar carols play,  /  And wild and sweet  /  The words repeat  /  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!…  Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)… a wonderful way to introduce Christmas-Time by Eastman Johnson and Wish you all Merry Christmas!!! https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1423.html and https://poets.org/poem/christmas-bells

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Eastman Johnson, 1890s, albumen print (cabinet card) by Edwin S. Bennett (detail), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Department of Image Collections
Self-portrait of Eastman Johnson, circa 890, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 50.7 cm, Brooklyn Museum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Johnson

In 1846 Eastman Johnson was in Boston, where he was commissioned to create portraits of several of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s friends and family members. At the time, Eastman Johnson was a young man of twenty-two, but his draftsmanship was accomplished and thus he drew the attention of the established poet and Harvard professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. All of these portraits hang today in the Vassall/Craigie/Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a site that offers unique opportunities to explore 19th-century literature and arts. https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/15896     and     https://www.nps.gov/long/index.htm

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Portraits of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1846, Crayon and Chalk on Paper, 21 x 19 in. Oval, Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House
Scanned from Eastman Johnson: Painting America     https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eastman_Johnson_portrait_of_Longfellow.jpg

Young Eastman Johnson was pleased to place himself under Henry Wadsworth Longfellow patronage, but like his patron, his dream was to travel and study in Europe… and this is exactly what he did in 1849, “when he travelled to Düsseldorf, Germany, and received rigorous training in drawing at that city’s academy. More congenial, however, was the time he spent in the studio of Emanuel Leutze,” the German/American artist who painted in 1851 Washington Crossing the Delaware “where he concentrated on painting. In 1851 he went to London to see the Universal Exposition and then relocated to The Hague, remaining for over three years. His lengthy stay at The Hague was somewhat unusual for an American artist, but he apparently found much inspiration in the Dutch Old Masters as well as ready patronage through August Belmont, the wealthy American ambassador. His European education ended with several months spent in the Parisian studio of Thomas Couture before the death of his mother brought him home in 1855.”     https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1423.html

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Negro Life at the South, 1859, oil on canvas, 129.5×154.9 cm, The New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection

Back in the United States, Eastman Johnson spent his time painting in his rented studio in New York City or travelling extensively, visiting members of his family in Washington, D.C., or Lake Superior, where he sketched members of the Chippewa Tribe.  His reputation was established in 1859 when, at a time when slavery was heatedly debated,  he presented in a New York exhibition a painting of the backyard of his father’s house in Washington, D.C. titled Negro Life in the South. https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibit/negro-life-south-0

Eastman Johnson, 1824–1906
Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family (detail), 1864, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5cm, the MET, NY https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

In 1864, he was commissioned to paint Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family, a group portrait with interesting narrative elements. “It shows William Tilden Blodgett (1823–1875), a supporter of the Union cause and a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, with his family in the Renaissance Revival parlour of their house at 27 West 25th Street. Depicted during the Civil War, at a time of urban upheaval, the serene interior decorated for Christmas embodies the best sentiment of home, as a critic observed in 1865.”  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11258

Eastman Johnson, 1824-1906
The Girl I Left Behind Me, 1872, oil on canvas, 106.7 x 88.7 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

One of the foremost painters of American life, Eastman Johnson’s reputation grew further with paintings like the A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, of 1862 or The Wounded Drummer Boy, of 1864-1870 or The Girl I Left Behind Me, of 1872. He was financially comfortable and professionally successful. He lived in a large house in Manhattan and vacationed on the island of Nantucket, the scene of many of his paintings. He was an active member of the National Academy, the Century and Union League Clubs, the Metropolitan Museum, and even the Society of American Artists. He is remembered for his humour and kindness in helping other artists, as a good story-teller, a short, rotund kind of a man. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1664

For a Student Activity on It’s Christmas with Eastman Johnson, please… Check HERE!

Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos

The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuctus, built by Anicia Juliana in the 520s, on the northern branch of Constantinople’s Mese, between the Forum Tauri and the Church of the Holy Apostles, today in the Saraçhane area of Istanbul. Photo by Dick Osseman https://pbase.com/dosseman/polyeuktos

“The empress Eudocia, in her eagerness to honour God, was the first to build a temple to the divinely inspired Polyeuktos; but she did not make it like this or so large, not from any thrift or lack of resources—for what can a queen lack?—(5) but because she had a divine premonition that she would leave a family which would know how to provide a better embellishment. From this stock Juliana, bright light of blessed parents, sharing their royal blood in the fourth generation, did not cheat the hopes of that queen, who was mother of the finest children, (10) but raised this building from its small original to its present size and form, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors.” The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos has it all… a 6th-century magnificent building, in ruins today, with intricate decoration, a documented 76-line poem in Greek Anthologia (AP 1.10), stories of greed and looting, excavations in the 1960s, extensive Bibliography from around the world and currently, an Archaeological Site, frequently overlooked(?)…https://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/3263.mary-whitby-the-st-polyeuktos-epigram-ap-1-10-a-literary-perspective     and     https://topostext.org/work/532

Empress Aelia Eudocia?, c. 907, coloured stone inlay on marble from Church of Lips Monastery, 66 by 28 cm, Archeological Museum, Istanbul     http://monasticmatrix.osu.edu/figurae/icon-saint-eudokia
Portrait of Anicia Juliana flanked by Megalopsychia and Phronesis, Vienna Dioscurides, Folio 6v, about 515 AD, Byzantine Greek Illuminated Manuscript of De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscurides, vellum folios measure 37 by 30 cm, Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, Vienna     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anicia_Juliana#/media/File:Wiener_Dioskurides_6v_(portrait_detail).jpg

Empress Eudocia, according to the poem, was the first to build a small Church dedicated to Polyeuktos and Anicia Juliana, great-granddaughter of Eudocia, was the family member “which would know how to provide a better embellishment.” What an interesting family affair! To further elaborate on the early history and topography of the Church… it was constructed between 524 and 527, on the northern branch of Constantinople’s Mese, between the Forum Tauri and the Church of the Holy Apostles, near the Column of Marcian and the Aqueduct of Valens, in near proximity to the Palace of Anicia Juliana.    https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/polyeuktos     and     http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/filePage.aspx?lemmaId=11784

Topographical map of Constantinople during the Byzantine period. The Green STAR marks the location of the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos.     https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Byzantine_Constantinople-en.png

An accidental discovery in the 1960s, led to excavations in the area Saraçhane of modern Istanbul… which brought to light the foundation of a monumental church while inscriptions on several of the unearthed sculptural blocks, in fact, they were magnificently decorated extracts of the donor’s inscription, allowed Cyril Mango and Ihor Ševčenko to identify the archaeological discovery as the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos. Excavations on the site of the Church lasted six seasons (1964-69) and it was a joined effort between the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (represented by Nezih Fıratlı) and Dumbarton Oaks, Centre for Byzantine Studies of Harvard University, under the directorship of Professor Martin Harrison.  Mango C., Ševčenko I., Remains of the church of St. Polyeuktos at Constantinople, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 15, 1961     https://www.jstor.org/stable/i255238     and     https://www.academia.edu/2122854/Martin_Harrisons_Excavations_in_Istanbul


In the background of this photograph taken in 1968, of the Archaeological Excavation of the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos is the famous “Aqueduct of Valens”, a bridge that carried water for the Byzantine and Ottoman city…    https://www.academia.edu/2122854/Martin_Harrisons_Excavations_in_Istanbul

At the time she commissioned the Church of St. Polyeuktos, Anicia Juliana, sharing …royal blood in the fourth generation,” was the noblest and the wealthiest woman in the Empire. She lived in a magnificent palace in the area of the Church and raised this building from its small original to its present size and form, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors.”At the entrance of the church, outside the narthex, archaeologists discovered five more inscribed plaques where we read… “What choir is sufficient to sing the contests of Juliana who, after Constantine, embellisher of his Rome, after the holy all-golden light of Theodosius, (45) and after royal descent from so many forebears, accomplished a work worthy of her family, and more than worthy     /     in a few years? She alone has overpowered time and surpassed the wisdom of the celebrated Solomon, raising a temple to receive God, the richly wrought and gracious splendour of which a great epoch cannot celebrate.”

There is no doubt Anicia Juliana was Emperor Justinian’s political and artistic, if I may add, adversary. Her dedicatory poem at the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos is a blunt challenge. Her Imperial lineage and wealth was a test to match for Justinian and his ambitions… According to Gregory of Tours, and well-recorded in Byzantine Legacy… “the Emperor Justinian requested the wealthy Juliana to make a contribution to the public treasury. She feigned to be willing to do so and invited the Emperor to visit her in her house after a given period of time during which she might be able to bring her treasure together. Meanwhile, she called in craftsmen, handed them all her gold and directed them to cast it into plaques which were to be affixed to the roof of Hagios Polyeuktos. After this had been done, Juliana invited the Emperor to come and, having taken him to the martyr’s church, pointed to its roof. My poverty is contained in this work. Do with it whatever you please…” she allegedly said, and thus avoided Justinian’s rapacity. What a story…     https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/anicia-juliana     and     http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E00655     and     http://www.anastasiaashman.com/anastasiaashman/tag/Gregory+of+Tours

Reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuctus     https://dahabianalog.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/ayios-aziz-polyeuktos-kilisesi/

The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos was one of Constantinople’s most admired monuments for over five hundred years. “The church was certainly still in use in the 10th century, as it was one of the landmarks visited by the emperor during his Easter procession.” Then… we can only guess… the ornate Church of Anicia Juliana was gradually abandoned and valuable building materials were taken and used in the construction of other Constantinopolitan churches, such as the Pantokrator Monastery. In 1204 the Crusaders seized Constantinople and the Church, abandoned at the time, fell into ruins and many of its decorative architectural pieces were removed to Venice, Barcelona and Vienna.

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, “houses and a mosque were built in the now completely flattened space of St Polyeuktos’ church. This occupation of the location lasted until 1940 when the mosque was demolished. In 1960, during construction works in the area, some parts of the architecture of St Polyeuktos were unearthed” and a new period for the history of the Church started as a significant Archaeological Site “both due to the wealth and variety of the findings, and the architectural type of the church discovered.” http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/filePage.aspx?lemmaId=11784

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos, Part II, Architecture and Interior Decoration will follow in January 2021…

The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuctus, built by Anicia Juliana in the 520s, on the northern branch of Constantinople’s Mese, between the Forum Tauri and the Church of the Holy Apostles, today in the Saraçhane area of Istanbul. Photo by Dick Osseman https://pbase.com/dosseman/polyeuktos