The Colosso del’Appennino by Giambologna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Labours of the Months: October

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

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

This small painting is one of 12 small pictures that together show the ‘Labours of the Months’ – the activities that take place each month throughout the farming year. They were meant to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors, and seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other. This set of painted Doors combine simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! The paintings, very small in size, about 13.6 x 10.6 cm, were achieved in vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like ultramarine blue for the sky, strong vermilion and red lake for the clothing, with rich greens and yellows in the landscape. The restricted and repeated use of colour gives the group of little pictures a charming, decorative simplicity. All but one of the scenes show a man working outdoors on what appears to be the estate of a large villa, seen in several of the paintings, at the foot of the distant blue mountains. The small panel paintings in the National Gallery are rare and special. They document life in the Veneto area, with the peasant activities and duties to their land. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized even then, from bare and covered with snow, to rich and fertile, to autumnal, covered with fallen leaves. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

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

The Labours of the Months had a role in highlighting authority and privilege, hard work and occasionally, small, everyday pleasures. They are often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decoration of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Books of Hours, palace frescoes and rarely, panel painting. The Trentino Fresco Panels at Torre Aquila for example, present trained and obedient peasants busy with their seasonal activities, but dominated by the local aristocracy who seem to only care for their idler activities. (I presented the eleven surviving Torre Aquila frescoes in 2020. Please Check https://www.teachercurator.com/?s=torre%20aquila&cat=plus-5-results)

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

Weaving in Ancient Greece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portrait of a Halberdier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Samnite House in Herculanium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

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

Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas

Konstantinos Maleas, 1879-1928
Monemvasia (Houses at Monemvasia), 1920-28, oil on cardboard, 50 x 57.5 cm
https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/504_Maleas_en.html

Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas is one of my favourite paintings…of a city rugged, wildly beautiful, and very historic according to the Byzantine Chronicle of Monemvasia …Τότε δη και οι Λάκωνες το πατρώον έδαφος καταλιπόντες οι μεν εν τη νήσω Σικελίας εξέπλευσαν, οι και εις έτι εισίν εν αυτή εν τόπω καλουμένω δέμεννα και δεμενίται αντί Λακεδαιμονιτών κατονομαζόμενοι και την ιδίαν των Λακώνων διάλεκτον διασώζοντες. Οι δε δύσβατον τόπον παρά τον της θαλάσσης αιγιαλόν ευρόντες και πόλιν οχυράν οικοδομήσαντες και Μονεμβασίαν ταύτην ονομάσαντες διατο μίαν έχειν των εν αυτώ ειςπορευομένων την είςοδον εν αυτή τη πόλει κατώκησαν μετά και του ιδίου αυτών επισκόπου. (…That was the time (maybe 9th century) when the Laconians abandoned their Homeland, some traveled to Sicily – where they live until today, in Demenna, and are called Demenitai instead of Lacedaemonians – still using the Laconian Dialect. Some others discovered an inaccessible place, by the sea-​​shore, where they established a new city, and they named it Monemvasia, because it has only one entrance. This is the city they inhabited along with their Bishop.) https://chilonas.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/cea0ce91cea1ce91cea1cea4ce97ce9cce91-ce94-cea7cea1ce9fce9dce99ce9ace9f-ce9cce9fce9dce95ce9cce92ce91cea3ce99ce91cea3.pdf

Maleas’s painting of Monemvasia belongs to the Bank of Greece which acts as a guardian and disseminator of Greek culture through the activities of its Centre for Culture, Research, and Documentation. In 1928 the Bank began collecting artworks, gradually forming a core of creations by painters of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, who stand out in Greek art history. Up to this day, the Collection comprises around 3,000 works of painting and printmaking, as well as a small number of sculptures, dating until nowadays and highlighting different aspects of Greek art. What an amazing achievement! https://www.bankofgreece.gr/en/the-bank/culture and https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/index_en.html#home-slider

Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas, one of the masterpieces acquired by the Bank of Greece for its Art Collection, is a painting created by the artist during his mature, later period. In 2018, an Exhibition at the Benaki Museum, titled Frames of Reference from the Bank of Greece Collection was organized to celebrate the 90-year anniversary of the Bank’s start of operations, and Maleas’s painting of Monemvasia was presented with great acclaim. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/index_en.html#home-slider

The Exhibition experts introduce us to the painting in a masterful way… We are standing on high ground, facing a slope that winds down to the sea and the distant horizon. In the background, the rock of Monemvasia stands grandiose. The landscape is depicted in overlaid colour zones, for us to observe, successively, the slope, the trees, the sea and the rock. The choice of clear and bright colours is interesting, as they capture the intensity, the glow, and the purity of Greek light. The painterly world of Maleas, who has brought a new perspective to modern Greek painting, is defined by geometry. He designs his landscapes with a penetrating look, expressiveness, and wisdom. Details are simplified, reduced to the essentials. The pines are elliptical in shape, the cypress has the form of a cone, and the sea is rendered with a single shade of blue. Yet, the composition as a whole is far from simplistic, as the streamlined individual elements, coupled with the use of very bright colours, bestow it with pulse and rhythm. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/504_Maleas_en.html

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Portrait Medallion of Gennadios

Will we meet again? He is waiting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York… musically accomplished, all ‘chiseled’ up… and I have to face COVID traveling restrictions, a long trip, and a rather bad knee… He is Gennadios, a young man from Alexandria whose portrait is simply fabulous… one of my favourite works of Art in the world! Our story goes back to 1977 when, as a University student I visited, for the first time ever New York City, I marveled at the ‘Age of Spirituality’ Exhibition, and I set my amazed eyes on his Portrait Medallion…the rest is part of my life story. Ever since, and every time I visit New York I simply have to see him… These days, the Portrait Medallion of Gennadios, a fine example of Alexandrian ‘Good Life,’ welcomes MetropolitanMuseum visitors to ‘The Good Life: Collecting Late Antique Art at The Met’ Exhibition (May 24, 2021–May 7, 2023)… It’s an invitation I somehow have to meet… https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2021/good-life-collecting-late-antique-art

Introducing Gennadios, the Metropolitan Museum site reads: This exquisitely vivid image of an educated youth of the powerful port city of Alexandria probably celebrates his success in a musical contest. The medallion worked in gold on dark blue glass, was made to be mounted and worn as a pendant. There is so much more to Gennadios’s story… https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/466645?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=480&rpp=80&pos=510

The Metropolitan MuseumPortrait Medallion, thanks to the inscription, and its grammatical variants, ΓΕΝΝΑΔΙ  ΧΡΩΜΑΤΙ  ΠΑΜΜΟΥCΙ, introduces us to an upper-class young man from Alexandria named Gennadios, a young man most accomplished in the musical art. This portrait served as an exceptional piece of Jewelry, a disk to be framed as a pendant… proudly worn by Gennadios… in the aftermath of a victorious musical competition, one may wonder. Age of Spirituality – Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. (1979), page 287 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century

Portrait Medallion of Gennadios (detail), 250–300 AD, made in Alexandria, Egypt. Gold Glass, D. 4.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://twitter.com/rubsmontoya/status/1224314731885998080

Worked in gold on sapphire-blue glass… to be specific, the drawing of Gennadios’s face was scratched with a fine point on gold leaf applied to the surface of a thin layer of glass… the Metropolitan Museum Medallion is a masterpiece of portraiture on a small scale. There is a group of similar jewel-like glass medallion portraits exhibited in museums around the world, but none is so exquisitely engraved. Scholars believe a lot of these Medallions come from Alexandria where a tradition in gold glass portraiture, like that of Gennadios’s, was active and popular. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Autumn 1977, page 46 file:///C:/Users/aspil/Downloads/The_Late_Roman_World_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_Bulletin_v_35_no_2_Fall_1977.pdf

The Gold Glass technique was particularly popular throughout the Roman Empire during the 4th century AD. Images in this technique were etched in gold leaf and then, the leaf was fused between two layers of glass… like a sandwich! Items of Gold Glass were usually created into circular bottoms of luxurious drinking vessels since the Hellenistic period. A popular practice for the Romans of the later period was to cut out the Gold Glass decorated roundel of a cup and cement it to the wall of a catacomb Grave to serve as a grave marker for the small recesses where bodies were buried. In Rome, where this practice was particularly popular, archaeologists discovered over 500 pieces of Gold Glass used in this way. Decoration themes for Gold Glass items vary from pagan mythology and portraits to purely Jewish or Christian imagery. Chapter 13 Making Late Antique Gold Glass by Daniel Thomas Howells, pp.112-120 https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20190801105206/https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/research_publications_series.aspx#AllResearchPublications

Here is a wonderful Video on the Gold Glass making technique by the Corning Museum of Glass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALNMn6DGQJg

I greatly enjoyed reading: The Ficoroni Medallion and Some Other Gilded Glasses in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Joseph Breck, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Jun. 1927), pp. 352-356 (5 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/3046553?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Ae1a77ea3960c80fa8029287c7789e3cd&seq=5#page_scan_tab_contents and Portraits, Pontiffs and the Christianization of Fourth-Century Rome by Lucy Grig, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 72 (2004), pp. 203-230 (28 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/40311081?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

For a PowerPoint on Gold Glass Portrait Medallions, please… Check HERE!

The Labours of the Months: September

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

Another smell of autumn / sweet sweet smell / of Concord grapes / warming ripening/ ready to burst with flavor / strong urgent smell / lured me closer/ spreading outward /from the makeshift arbor / a plume twenty feet wide / enticing, coaxing / me to linger /luxuriate in its aroma smile at the memory / of other pickings / long ago / Sweet fruit / high above me, / out of reach up in the canopy / formed by wire and bush… lovely and short, by Raymond Foss, a lawyer from New Hampshire who writes poetry in his spare time… a wonderful introduction for my new BLOG POST on The Labours of the Months: September. https://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/harvesting-grapes-812007/

A man in the National Gallery painting sits beneath a tree inform us the Renaissance experts in the London Museum, through which a vine has been trained. A large bunch of red grapes hangs from a leafy stem. He uses both hands to squeeze the juice from another bunch into a wooden vat on the ground at his feet. The grape juice will be turned into wine and possibly stored in the barrel we see being made in an earlier scene. This is a fitting scene for any painting depicting the Labours of the Months and particularly the scene representing September. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-september

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

Europeans of the Renaissance period created, in various Art media, Calendars of specific religious events celebrated every month of the year. These Calendars were often embellished with scenes of seasonal, agricultural activities and popular scenes of the life of the elite courtiers as well. These iconographic scenes are traditionally called the ‘Labours of the Months’. They can be seen in manuscripts like Psalters, Breviaries, and Books of Hours, sculptural decorations of Cathedrals, and like in the case we explore this year, a set of decorated doors for a Venetian Palazzo. Their artistic rendering and content varies depending on the date, location, and purpose of each artwork

A typical Calendar depicting agricultural Activities present, often but not always, scenes of Feasting for January, Sitting by the fire for February, Pruning trees or digging for March, Planting and enjoying the country or picking flowers for April, Hawking and courtly love for May, Hay harvest for June,  Wheat harvest for July, Wheat threshing for August, Grape Harvest for September,  Ploughing or sowing for October,  Gathering acorns for pigs for November and Killing pigs or baking for December.

The small painting in London presenting September as a man squeezing the juice from a bunch of grapes is part of a special set of Renaissance painted Doors. The unknown artist who created this painting used vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like reds, blues, white and green. He combined simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect, creating a charming decorative effect.

For a PowerPoint on the painting under focus at the National Gallery in London, please… Check HERE!

End of the Season by William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase, American painter, 1849-1916
End of the Season, c. 1885, Pastel on Paper, 35 x 45 cm, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley https://www.wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html

The familiar rhythm of the cricket’s chirps / Create the soundtrack for each day, / Echoing Summer’s end / And that Autumn’s on her way.     /     The stifling heat of the summer sun / Is now tempered by the clouds. / Those fluffy, cotton August clouds, / That soft breezes push about.     /     Shadows falling everywhere / As the sun plays peek-a-boo. / Losing her strength with each new day, / A sure sign that summer is through…     /    But there’s also a haunting sadness sometimes. / That I feel when those dark shadows fall. / And that my greatest adventures in life / Are just memories, now aroused by those sweet cricket calls. The end of summer, carefree days, is fast approaching… the beginning of the new School year is right in the corner…  and I think of Patricia A. Fleming’s Poem for Kids The Summer’s End and the End of the Season by William Merritt Chase. I feel melancholic… just like the lady in the painting! https://www.momjunction.com/articles/poems-about-summer-for-kids_00720909/

I like how perceptively William Merritt Chase’s ideas on how Idle Hours should be depicted is described in the article William Merritt Chase and modern leisure, and presented in ANTIQUES, back on August 29, 2016. Furthermore, an introduction to his life is more than essential to understand his style… That aura of pleasure suffuses Chase’s work and belies the effort he put into creating innovative paintings of modern life. He worked hard to make his art look easy. Born to a middle-­class family in Indiana, Chase cobbled together the support of local businessmen to finance his art education in Munich. From 1872 to 1878 he studied at the Royal Academy there, mastering the dark, gestural brushwork of the Munich school and studying the work of the old masters. He sent his paintings back to New York for display, earning admiration even before he returned to the United States in 1878. He immediately took rooms in New York’s most prestigious studio space, the Tenth Street Studio Building, where he established himself at the center of the city’s art world and created an eclectic, European-­inspired studio space that announced his reputation as a well-traveled bohemian and an imaginative, creative artist. Soon thereafter, he began to explore modern subjects of relaxation in an innovative style. https://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/idle-hours-william-merritt-chase-and-modern-leisure/

Spending my summers in a Greek sea-front small village, being a teacher who treasures my last days of summer bliss, I feel very close to the End of the Season, by William Merritt Chase in Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. It is one of his early paintings depicting a scene at the beach at the end of the summer season. A woman in fashionable summer greyish attire sits comfortably, leaning over the empty table, at the right side of the composition. She is looking at the distant fishermen whose boat rests on the strand… and the fresh, choppy sea… There are more tables in the composition, the chairs tipped up against them… empty now of holiday visitors. No wonder the title is End of the Season.  http://museums.fivecolleges.edu/detail.php?t=objects&type=ext&id_number=MH%201976.9

William Merritt Chase probably painted the End of the Season during a summer visit to Holland as a tribute, according to a critic, to a “Continental watering-place, with  chairs and tables upset by the seashore, and a single lonely figure.” This is one of the artist’s earlier pastel paintings, a medium much admired for its dry powdery finish and brilliant colors. Pastel painting was a declaration of modernism in the period, admired by the avant-­garde for the way in which its sketch-­like character called attention to the artist’s hand. Chase, the cofounder in 1883 of the Society of Painters in Pastel, was a master of it. https://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/idle-hours-william-merritt-chase-and-modern-leisure/

For a Student Activity, please… Check Here!