The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise

The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise, around the year 920, mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door in the Narthex of Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul, Turkey https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/inner-outer-narthex-hagia-sophia.html

I like what the late Professor Nicolas Oikonomides wrote about the Byzantine mosaics in the vestibule and the narthex of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia… The imperial mosaics of Saint Sophia, beyond their artistic value, are of considerable historical importance… and… mosaics were made in the hope that they would survive ad saecula saeculorurn. Consequently, although representing a particular scene, or event, or idea that prevailed at the time of their composition, they were also supposed to bequeath their presumably understandable message to future generations. I am reading his article, Leo VI and the Narthex Mosaic of Saint Sophia, follow his steps, and learn interesting facts about the Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise, the mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door of the Great Church. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 30 (1976), pp. 151+153-172 (26 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291393 and http://archive.eclass.uth.gr/eclass/modules/document/file.php/SEAD336/Oikonomides-Leo%20VI.pdf

In 1930 Thomas Whittemore, an American scholar, archaeologist, and restoration expert founded the Byzantine Institute of America and in 1931 took over the responsibility of recovering the mosaics of Hagia Sophia after receiving the approval of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, who turned Hagia Sophia into a museum four years later. 1n 1933 Whittemore uncovered and restored the mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door of Hagia Sophia. This mosaic, featuring the enthroned Christ in the center, a Byzantine Emperor in a prostrate position to his right, Whittemore identified him as Leo VI the Wise, and two medallions presenting the Mother of God and the Archangel Gabriel, is most unusual-a hapax in Byzantine art, according to Nicolas Oikonomides.  https://greekreporter.com/2020/07/14/the-american-who-restored-hagia-sophias-ancient-mosaics-to-their-former-glory/ and The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul by Thomas Whittemore, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun. 1938), p 220 https://www.jstor.org/stable/499667?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A6760f2942e2ab709e12081a284c41584&seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf

Byzantinologists agree that the Hagia Sophia Mosaic over the Imperial Door (Christ and Emperor Leo VI, the Wise) is to be dated to the second half of the ninth century or the beginning of the tenth. There is a disagreement, however, over the meaning of the whole composition, on which Oikononides gives an explanation I find interesting. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf page 154

The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise (detail), around the year 920, mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door in the Narthex of Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul, Turkey https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Detail_of_the_Imperial_Gate_mosaic_in_Hagia_Sophia_showing_Leo_VI_the_Wise.jpg

Prof. Nicolas Oikonomides presents, I believe, a very persuasive argument over the meaning of the composition. He stresses the idea of how unique and unusual the theme of an emperor prostrating himself in front of Christ is in Byzantine imperial iconography and questions… Is the depicted Emperor exhibiting extreme humiliation or repentance? Oikonomides is in favor of repentance over humiliation. To support his case, he recalls that the initial meaning of the Greek word μετάνοια is repentance. He also recalls that since early Byzantine times, the same term, μετάνοια. is used by Orthodox Greeks to mean prostration, because prostration was-and still is, an act of penance, a normal way for the Orthodox Greeks to show repentance. He then compares the Emperor depicted in the Hagia Sophia mosaic to famous manuscript illuminations depicting the Repentance of David, the Biblical King, and he concludes that the Hagia Sophia mosaic of an Emperor in a prostrate position shows a repentant emperor. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf Pages 154-158

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Treu Head

The Treu Head, c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy—meaning “many colors,” in Greek—and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods… write the Metropolitan Museum experts as they introduce their Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color (Through March 26, 2023) Exhibition. A modern study of the color scheme of the so-called Treu Head in the collection of the British Museum is interesting to explore. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma

The Treu Head was found on the Esquiline Hill in Rome in 1884 and soon after its discovery was acquired for the British Museum. It is a high-quality Parian marble sculptural piece from a statue of Venus or Minerva, with extraordinarily rich traces of black and red paint on the eyebrows and eyes, and yellow paint on the hair and brow. The flesh is remarkably rendered in pinkish skin colour. This is an insert head. It is finished and painted only on the front side because it was inserted into a larger-than-life sculpture, which was made of a different material. This extraordinary mid-2nd century AD Roman Head was named after the late nineteenth-century German archaeologist Georg Treu who first published his investigations of its preserved colour. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262324723_The_’Treu_Head’_a_case_study_in_Roman_sculptural_polychromy and https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

The Treu Head (black and white photo), c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1

Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann and Vinzenz Brinkmann, fascinated by ancient Greek polychromy and supported by Stiftung Archäologie, are instrumental in coloured reconstructions of famous Greco-Roman statues. The Brinkmanns worked hard in the making of polychrome casts of ancient sculptures, as well as publications and scientific documentation (e.g. in the form of film documentaries) on the subject in question. A chief aim of the Stiftung Archäologie was to promote the creation of didactic (cognitive) objects on the basis of scientific research. http://www.stiftung-archaeologie.de/reconstructionsen.html  

Reconstruction Process: Memos and a colour study of the so-called Treu Head (c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm) in the British Museum https://www.liebieghaus.de/en/insights/looking-back-40-years-research and https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1

A key piece in their research is the Treu Head in the collection of the British Museum since the late 19th century. According to Vinzenz Brinkmann, it is remarkable that the Treu Head was not cleaned following its discovery, as was the usual practice at the time. As a result, the clear evidence for an evenly applied skin tone over the entire face is of central importance for our basic understanding of the polychromy of ancient statuary. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects

Study 1 of the color scheme of the Treu Head, (c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK) 2014 (2022 recreated after loss in 2021), by Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, Marble stucco on a plaster cast after a 3-D scan, natural pigments (chromatographically calibrated) in egg tempera, H. 37 cm, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung (Liebieghaus Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt am Main, inv. Dep.64 https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects  

Remarkably rich in traces of different coloured pigments, Treu Head is a valuable source of information in Roman sculptural polychromy. According to Giovanni Verri, Thorsten Opper, and Thibaut Deviese, the head retained extensive traces of its original polychromy, including otherwise rarely preserved skin pigments. Ever since the German scholar Georg Treu published the sculpture in 1889, it has played a significant part in the discussion on ancient sculptural polychromy and in particular the question of whether or not the flesh parts of marble sculptures were originally painted. Examining the Treu Head, the above mentioned scholars, found that complex mixtures of pigments, and selected pigments for specific areas, were used to create subtle tonal variations. The conclusion of their research confirmed beyond doubt the authenticity of the preserved pigments and thereby the sculpture itself, which can now rightfully reassume its important place in the art historical discussion of the polychromy of ancient sculpture. https://www.academia.edu/5842238/G_Verri_T_Opper_and_T_Deviese_The_Treu_Head_a_case_study_in_Roman_sculptural_polychromy_The_British_Museum_Technical_Bulletin_4_2010_39_54

For a PowerPoint on Polychromy, please… Check HERE!

An interesting, Metropolitan Museum Video titled The “Treu Head”: A Virtual Color Reconstruction…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5iEDtL2I8Y

If you are interested in visiting or browsing through the Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color (Through March 26, 2023), please Check… https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/visiting-guide and https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects

The Treu Head, c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

Simon Bening’s September

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book September (f. 26v and f. 27r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) is a famous Scottish poet who wrote a Ballade dedicated to the Royal Game of Golf…There are laddies will drive ye a ba’ / To the burn frae the farthermost tee, / But ye mauna think driving is a’, / Ye may heel her, and send her ajee, / Ye may land in the sand or the sea; / And ye’re dune, sir, ye’re no worth a preen, / Tak’ the word that an auld man’ll gie, / Tak’ aye tent to be up on the green! Simon Bening (d. 1561) is an equally celebrated Flemish artist who dedicated a manuscript illumination, f. 27r dedicated to the month of September, to the popular game of “Golf.” Let’s see what Simon Bening’s September page all is about! https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/ballade-royal-game-golf/

Part of a very unique and special manuscript in the Collection of the British Library, known as the Golf Book, are two pages (f. 26v and f. 27r), dedicated to the month of September. Simon Bening, the manuscript’s illuminator, created two very different scenes. Folio  26v, for example, depicts typical agricultural activities of September like ploughing, sowing, and harrowing. Folio 27r, on the other hand, is about sports, specifically about men playing a game that closely resembles golf (hence the name given to this manuscript, the Golf Book). https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, September (Detail f. 27r), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

As the British Library experts support… golf is not to everyone’s taste. Mark Twain, they explain, is accredited with describing the game as “a good walk spoiled”; and, like many sports, it’s arguably better fun to play, Twain believed, than to watch. So, what is the fuss with the game of “Golf” depicted in Folio 27r of the 16th century Flemish Manuscript splendidly illuminated in the city of Bruges by Simon Bening? https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/05/a-good-walk-spoiled.html?_ga=2.181798823.1064566353.1657532469-1622143414.1655957049

At first sight, the British Library experts continue, we can certainly deduce that this game does resemble golf, even down to the cloth caps that some of the competitors are wearing. Simon Bening presents a fenced field, four competitors, three of which hold curled sticks, reminiscent of modern golf clubs, and three “golf” balls. Could the man that wears a green cloak, depicted gesticulating to his companion, be what we now call a caddie? Could the fifth man presented in the middle ground be a “golf” fan waiting at the door of the nineteenth hole for a round of beer? We will probably never know. For modern golf players the stance of the player on the right, in the orange-red jerkin, is all wrong as modern golfers play the game on their feet, rather than on their knees, both to get a better purchase on the ball and for better balance. Simon Bening presents us with a wonderful scene of a 16th-century golf-like game played with curled sticks and a leather ball. Could this be an early form of modern Golf? We will probably never know. https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/05/a-good-walk-spoiled.html?_ga=2.181798823.1064566353.1657532469-1622143414.1655957049

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

Rooms by the Sea

Edward Hopper, American Artist, 1882–1967
Rooms by the Sea, 1951, Oil on canvas, 74.3 × 101.6 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA https://www.edwardhopper.net/rooms-by-the-sea.jsp

John Keats (1795-1821), as a true Romantic… dwells in Solitude, alone, in pleasant surroundings rather than in a city populated by murky buildings… O solitude! (he writes) if I must with thee dwell, / Let it not be among the jumbled heap / Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,— / Nature’s observatory—whence the dell, / Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell, / May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep / ’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap / Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell. / But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee, / Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind, / Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d, / Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be / Almost the highest bliss of human-kind, / When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee. Edward Hopper (1882–1967) with his painting Rooms by the Sea creates, visually, an Icon of his own Solitude! https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46561/ode-on-solitude and https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52939

Ever since Hopper visited Cape Cod, back in 1930, he fell under its spell… As Gregory Dicum of the New York Times wrote… At low tide, the warm water of Cape Cod Bay recedes to expose banks of smooth sand, which swarm with kids, dogs, and blissfully vacationing parents. As the sun sinks toward Provincetown, it cuts through a hazy summer sky, shimmering off the quicksilver bay. Hopper was enchanted! Summers on Cape Cod were welcoming and joyful… so in 1934, he and his wife, Josephine, built a modest summer house/studio, a classic Cape, but for a huge north-facing window. For nearly 40 summers, Hopper returned to this simple dwelling to enjoy and paint… the ease of an open landscape of beach, heath, and woodlot.

Arnold Newman, American Photographer, 1918-2006
Portrait of Edward Hopper, Aug. 14, 1960, in Truro, Mass., in front of his Cape Cod Studio https://alanclaude.com/blogs/news/edward-hoppers-cape-cod-studio

In 1951, a mature Edward Hopper painted Rooms by the Sea, a view of what Hopper would have seen out the back door of his studio… the expanse of the Cape Cod sea and the bright sunlight. What an interesting, awkward,  composition! A white, wide wall dominates the center of the composition, dividing his canvas into two distinctive parts. The left side depicts an ordinary room glared with boring tones. The right side, bathed in sunshine, presents the vastness of the sky and the energy of the sea. This is the painting of an artist who liked us to focus on mood more than detail, and the mood is that of silence and solitude. Let’s not forget that the original title of the discussed painting was Rooms by the Sea. Alias the Jumping Off Place. https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/52939 and https://www.edward-hopper.org/rooms-by-the-sea/

Edward Hopper, American Artist, 1882–1967
Two Studies for Rooms by the Sea (recto and verso), 1951, Charcoal, 21.4 × 27.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/132659

The Art Critic Clement Greenberg persuasively described Edward Hopper as a bad painter but a superior artist. I would like to wrap this presentation up with what Greenberg further wrote: “Hopper is not a painter in the full sense; his means are second hand, shabby, and impersonal, But his rudimentary sense of composition is sufficient for a message that conveys an insight into the present nature of American life for which there is no parallel in our literature, though that insight in itself is literature.” So interesting… Reviewed Work: Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography by Gail Levin, by: Alan Rutenberg, The American Scholar, Vol. 65, No. 4 (Autumn 1996), pp. 628-631 https://www.jstor.org/stable/41212573

For a PowerPoint on Hopper’s Cape Cod, please… Check HERE!

An interesting Video, titled Summer On Cape Cod with Edward Hopper, by curator Joachim Homann of Harvard Art Museums… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9KzVQ_9qQI

Babylonian Panel with a Striding Lion

Panel with a Striding Lion, Neo-Babylonian period, 605–562 BC, glazed ceramic, 97.2 × 227.3 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2021-04-21/getty-villa-mesopotamia-louvre

The Inscription of the Ishtar Gate reads… Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the faithful prince appointed by the will of Marduk, the highest of princely princes, beloved of Nabu, of prudent counsel, who has learned to embrace wisdom, who fathomed their divine being and reveres their majesty, the untiring governor, who always takes to heart the care of the cult of Esagila and Ezida and is constantly concerned with the well-being of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the humble, the caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, the firstborn son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon. Both gate entrances of Imgur-Ellil and Nemetti-Ellil —following the filling of the street from Babylon—had become increasingly lower. Therefore, I pulled down these gates and laid their foundations at the water-table with asphalt and bricks and had them made of bricks with blue stone on which wonderful bulls and dragons were depicted. I covered their roofs by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them. I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings. I placed wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder. The Babylonian Panel with a Striding Lion exhibited in the MET, in New York City… was part of Babylon’s amazing Processional Way that connected the Ishtar Gate to the Temple of Bit Akitu, or “House of the New Year’s Festival.” http://www.kchanson.com/ANCDOCS/meso/ishtarins.html and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/322585

City model of the main Procession Street (Aj-ibur-shapu) towards Ishtar Gate in Babylon, Model at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar_Gate

The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way in ancient Babylon may not be among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but they were spectacular to view and memorable to walk by them. They were both commissioned by the longest-reigning king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled for forty-three years, from August 605 BC to October 561 BC. The Procession Way, ran through the Ishtar Gate, connecting the inner city with the Temple of Bit Akitu, or House of the New Year’s Festival.

The Ishtar Gate walls were constructed with coloured glazed bricks, decorated with figures of Bulls and Dragons, symbols of the weather god Adad and of Marduk. The walls flanking the Processional Way were lined with figures of Striding Lions made of coloured glazed bricks as well. The depicted lions, the animal associated with Ishtar, goddess of love and war, served to protect the street; their repeated design served as a guide for the ritual processions from the city to the temple. Archaeologists believe there were friezes of flowers and sixty fierce-looking Babylonian lions on either side of the Procession Way. Glazed bricks of blue, turquoise, and golden-ochre colours, created a “magical” effect of grandeur and splendor, suitable for a city enveloped in the lore of majesty and luxury! https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/322585

Babylon Processional Stay with Striding Lions, Neo-Babylonian period, 605–562 BC, glazed ceramics, Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Babylon_processional_way.jpg

The Babylon Processional Way is a marvelous achievement of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. Monumental in size, vibrantly colourful, and highly ornate, the Processional Way was meant to dazzle the passer-by, citizen of the city of Babylon, or traveler from afar. The entire structure served as a monument rather than having practical uses, and the religious devotion is clear cut in the representation of the gods in their animal form. https://history2701.fandom.com/wiki/Processional_Way

Hundreds of thousands of glazed brick fragments being sorted in the colonnades of the Neues Museum, Berlin, 1927–1928 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum/photographer unknown https://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/from-fragment-to-monument/

Excavations in Babylon started in 1899 by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (German Oriental Society) and continued to 1917. From the very beginning the objective of the excavations included not only scientific research but also the acquisition of exhibits for the Berlin museums. Shipments of excavated Babylonian glazed bricks were used to create a life-size construction of the Ishtar Gate, and the Processional Way, widely regarded as one of the most spectacular reconstructions in the history of archaeology. The reconstruction was completed in 1930 for the Pergamon Museum, on MuseumInsel in Berlin. A number of pieces from the Processional Way were sold to other museums, and these can be seen in 11 museums, the MET Museum in New York is one of them, around the world. https://archaeology-travel.com/photo-album/ishtar-gate-in-the-pergamon-museum/ and https://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/from-fragment-to-monument/

For a Student Activity on the Babylonian Striding Lion, please… Check HERE!

An Educational Video, by Khan Academy… Reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way, Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany, created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker… https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/ancient-near-east1/babylonian/v/ishtar-gate-and-processional-way-reconstruction-babylon-c-575-b-c-e

A Google Arts & Culture short Video (2:23min) of the Ishtar Gate and the Procession Way in 3D reconstruction… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew88Z1h6jzg

For a YouTube Clip on Alexander’s grand entry into Babylon from Oliver Stone’s  2004 movie, Alexander (1.46min)… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRK_X5NbIXs

Hand With Seaweed and Shells by Émile Gallé

Émile Gallé, French Artist, 1846–1904
Hand With Seaweed and Shells, 1904, Glass modeled under heat with inclusions of metallic oxides, veins, applications in low and high relief and wheel engraving, 33.4 x  13.4 cm, Musée d’Orsay
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/exhibitions/hand-seaweed-and-shells-emile-galles-artistic-testament-196300 and https://gr.pinterest.com/pin/51791464437097192/

Charles Baudelaire wrote… Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer! / La mer est ton miroir; tu contemples ton âme / Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame, / Et ton esprit n’est pas un gouffre moins amer.     /     Tu te plais à plonger au sein de ton image; / Tu l’embrasses des yeux et des bras, et ton Coeur / Se distrait quelquefois de sa propre rumeur / Au bruit de cette plainte indomptable et sauvage.     /     Vous êtes tous les deux ténébreux et discrets: / Homme, nul n’a sondé le fond de tes abîmes; / Ô mer, nul ne connaît tes richesses intimes, / Tant vous êtes jaloux de garder vos secrets!     /     Et cependant voilà des siècles innombrables / Que vous vous combattez sans pitié ni remords, / Tellement vous aimez le carnage et la mort, / Ô lutteurs éternels, ô frères implacables! Could the amazing Hand With Seaweed and Shells by Émile Gallé in the Musée d’Orsay celebrates the symbolic role of the sea as well? https://fleursdumal.org/poem/113

The French designer Émile Gallé, a pioneer glassmaker of the late 19th, and early 20th centuries was a leading creator of the Art Nouveau style. According to the POLA Museum of Art experts, Art Nouveau is characterized by curvilinear lines inspired by natural organic forms. Gallé was at the forefront of glass art in this style. He produced a succession of outstanding artworks incorporating his knowledge of the natural sciences, particularly botany and biology, and his outstanding technical expertise. The art production by Gallé, with their plant, insect, animal, and sea creature motifs, can be compared to the act of collecting nature. https://www.polamuseum.or.jp/en/exhibition/20180317s01/

Back in 2004, Musée d’Orsay organized an exhibition titled La Main aux algues et aux coquillages. Le testament artistique d’Emile Gallé to celebrate the centenary of Émile Gallé‘s death (1846-1904). As the title indicates the Exhibition was centered on the artist’s ultimate masterpiece, generously donated to the museum by his descendants in 1990, Hand With Seaweed and Shells. https://archivesdunord.com/5291–p-galle-le-testament-artistique-p-.html

Hand With Seaweed and Shells is the last work of crafted glass produced by the master from Nancy and represents the culmination of his technical mastery. It was exhibited at the Decorative Art Exhibition in Nancy in October 1904, a month after the artist’s death. This exceptional glass sculpture has been hot when modeled, metal oxides were used, and the engraving has been made in relief at the base. The artist used the marbling technique and glass applications in low and high relief. Finally, the engraving was done with the help of a wheel. https://www.wikiwand.com/fr/La_Main_aux_algues_et_aux_coquillages and https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/hand-with-seaweed-and-shells-emile-gall%C3%A9/3QH1q7j-jzvqaw

Émile Gallé, French Artist, 1846–1904
Hand With Seaweed and Shells (Details), 1904, Glass modeled under heat with inclusions of metallic oxides, veins, applications in low and high relief and wheel engraving, 33.4 x  13.4 cm, Musée d’Orsay https://www.panoramadelart.com/main-galle and https://art.rmngp.fr/fr/library/artworks/emile-galle_la-main-aux-algues-et-aux-coquillages_inclusion_grave-a-la-roue-verre_cristal-matiere_application-a-chaud_1904

According to the Musée d’Orsay experts, Hand With Seaweed and Shells is a strangely and ambiguously connoted work questioning if the artist’s work depicts a Hand coming out of the water or if it shows a Hand slowly sinking into it. Does it symbolize life or death? Is it an allusion to Aphrodite being born from the foam in the Ionian sea, or to Ophelia floating along the current? Is this Hand, despite appearances – fineness of the fingertips, shells looking like rings – really a woman’s hand, or is it the artist’s own hand? Whatever the answers are, this is exceptional… a work of art inspired by the world of the sea. https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/exhibitions/hand-seaweed-and-shells-emile-galles-artistic-testament-196300

For a PowerPoint on Émile Gallé and the World of the Sea, please… Check HERE!

The Hodegetria Plaque

The Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.3×10.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222608%22&sort=0&page=5

In 1939, John Hanson writes, Mildred Bliss brought this plaque, The Hodegetria Plaque, to Princeton for advice from the most important authority on Byzantine ivory carving at the time, Kurt Weitzmann who, with Adolf Goldschmidt, had published the corpus of Byzantine ivories in 1930 and 1934. He later recalled Mrs. Bliss showing him the piece: When I showed my enthusiasm for this entirely unknown ivory I was courteously reprimanded for having made my judgment too quickly—“It would have taken Dr. Goldschmidt a little longer to make up his mind.” http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222608%22&sort=0&page=5

This amazing Ivory Plaque intrigued me… particularly John Hanson’s reference to the Louvre Ivory relief of St. Theodore… Weitzmann succeeded, Hanson writes, in identifying a relief of St. Theodore in the Louvre as one of the wings for the Dumbarton Oaks ivory. Fascinated, I searched the Louvre Byzantine Collection of Ivory carvings and digitally “reunited” the left wing (in the Louvre) of the original triptych, with the Dumbarton Oaks central plaque. Both Ivories show exceptional quality of artisanship – seen in the subtlety of the drapery folds and the noble bearing of the figuressuggesting an aristocratic owner, perhaps even an emperor.http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222608%22&sort=0&page=5 and https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010112514

The left panel of a triptych: Saint Theodore, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.8×13.4 cm, the Louvre, Paris, France https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010112514  
The Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.3×10.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222608%22&sort=0&page=5

The Louvre Ivory wing presents St. Theodore as a dignified, and bearded mature man, standing tall, facing the viewer. His head is, however, turned to the left, and presented slightly bent. Although St. Theodore is a military saint, is presented, in this case, wearing civilian clothes. I particularly like his coat… fastened on the right shoulder, and beautifully embellished with embroideries like the “tablion” element, noticeably, and centrally placed. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010112514

The Dumbarton Oaks ivory group of Panagia Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil is equally impressive! It is an understated, yet majestic Deësis (intercession) scene. St. John the Baptist, and St. Basil, their heads bent and hands pleading, take the role of intercessors…. while the Hodegetria, tall and elegant, rises over them.

Searching for information and answers… I was charmed by the way Hayford Peirce, and Royall Tyler described the Ivory Plaque as possessing… unobtrusive grace, a reconciliation of the extremes of elegance and austerity and suppleness to drapery, by introducing shallow folds between the deep ones. An Ivory of the Xth Century by Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 2, Three Byzantine Works of Art (1941), pp. 11+13-18 (29 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291034?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Adddb1a0fffb6beb88c85fcb7f5253cca&seq=2

An article titled Two Images of the Virgin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection by Sirarpie der Nersessian in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 14 (1960), pp. 69+71-86 was equally interesting. The author describes the Hodegetria as exhibiting the finest qualities of the sculpture of the tenth centuryhttps://www.jstor.org/stable/1291145?read-now=1&seq=5

For a Student Activity on Panagia Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, please… Check HERE!

Boating by Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating, 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436947

Boating by Édouard Manet was exhibited in the Salon of 1879, and the art critic J. K. Huysmans wrote… The bright blue water continues to exasperate a number of people… Manet has never, thank heavens, known those prejudices stupidly maintained in the academies. He paints, by abbreviations, nature as it is and as he sees it. The woman, dressed in blue, seated in a boat cut off by the frame as in certain Japanese prints, is well-placed, in broad daylight, and her figure energetically stands out against the oarsman dressed in white, against the vivid blue of the water. These are, indeed, pictures the likes of which, alas, we shall rarely find in this tedious Salon. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Masterpieces_of_European_Painting_1800_1920_in_the_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art  pages 104-105

Édouard Manet, the scion of a wealthy French family, was a Parisian good-looking, charming, and cosmopolitan artist of great talent… He believed, according to the National Gallery of Art experts, that art should be about modern life and embraced the role of social commentator. He admired the old masters… but his artistic inspiration came from the ‘modern’ city of Paris, dramatically transformed at the time of Napoleon III, by the vision of Baron Georges Haussmann. His goal was to document the world around him: the grand boulevards, fashionable cafés, busy racetracks, and people and activities in his own neighborhood, and wherever else fashionable Parisians were expected to be. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdouardManet.pdf

In the summer of 1894, Édouard Manet was at Gennevilliers, opposite Argenteuil, on the river Seine where the Manet family had a country estate. He was in good company! His friend Claude Monet lived nearby, at Argenteuil. The two artists accompanied, at times, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted together and continued their conversations which were for Manet precious… Nothing could have been more interesting than our discussions… he once said. The summer of 1874 was also pivotal as the time when Manet’s friendship with the younger Impressionist Claude Monet took deep roots. http://www.worldsbestpaintings.net/artistsandpaintings/painting/172/

Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating (Detail), 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://blog.artsper.com/en/a-closer-look/understanding-impressionism/
Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating (Detail-Woman), 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Manet#/media/File:Edouard_Manet_Boating.jpg

At Argenteuil Manet painted Boating along with more paintings on similar subject matter like Monet in his Studio Boat, The Monet Family in their Garden, Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil,  and more. Boating depicts one of the most popular leisure activities of the French bourgeoisie… sailing on the Seine! There has been a lot of speculation as to who the people in the painting are. It has been suggested that the depicted “sailor” is Rodolphe Leeenhoff, Manet’s brother-in-law. No consensus has been reached, however, as to who the female in the painting is. According to the Metropolitan Museum experts, she might be Alice Lecouvé, the model for the 1875 painting The Laundry in the Barnes Foundation. https://www.edouard-manet.net/boating/ and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Masterpieces_of_European_Painting_1800_1920_in_the_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art  pages 104-105

Shown in the Salon of 1879, Boating was deemed “the last word in painting” by Mary Cassatt, who recommended the acquisition to the New York collectors Louisine and H.O. Havemeyer. Louisine bequeathed it to The Met upon her death in 1929. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436947

For a PowerPoint on Boating by Édouard Manet and the Summer of 1874, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening’s August

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (f. 25v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Like liquid gold the wheat field lies, / A marvel of yellow and russet and green, / That ripples and runs, that floats and flies, / With the subtle shadows, the change, the sheen… writes American poet Hannibal Hamlin Garland, and Simon Bening’s August scene comes to my mind… a scene of wheat fields like liquid gold and green countryside full of subtle shadows, change, and sheenhttps://sites.google.com/site/rainydaypoems/poems-for-kids/poems-teachers-ask-for/color-in-the-wheat-by-hamlin-garland

Simon Bening is a master manuscript illuminator. Hailed by Portuguese art critic and artist, Francisco da Hollanda as the greatest master of illumination in all of Europe, Simon Bening was one of the most celebrated painters of Flanders in the 1500s. He served powerful aristocrats and worked for a group of international royal patrons including Emperor Charles V and Don Fernando, the Infante of Portugal. He is famous for creating some of the finest illuminated Books of Hours in the history of art. His specialty was painting, in the Flemish tradition, poetic landscape vistas… just like the August scene in the famous Golf Book! https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/person/103JTN

The Month of August full-page miniature (f. 25v) is dedicated to distinct aspects of peasant occupations in the month of August. It is divided into three parts, the lower right one, leading the composition. Prominently posed, a pair of field hands are taking a break, their tools of labor lying on the ground, happily munching on some kind of food… waiting for more! A young woman is approaching them with a basket of more food balancing on top of her head, and a heavy, large carafe of a beverage held by her right hand. Behind a low fence made of wicker canes woven around stakes driven into the ground, a second peasant is still working hard in the field… bent, scythe in hand, cutting wheat.

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (Details, f. 25v), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The left part of the composition is my favorite! Separated by a canal or river with swimming swans and a small bridge, Bening painted a country path along a hedged country estate of lush greenery. This is what the artist was famous for… images of unique landscapes in delicate brushwork and an extravaganza of green tints and shades. Never to forget that this is a composition dedicated to harvesting, Bening painted a path with a horse-drawn cart loaded with sheaves of straw going along it. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/500e65cc826a5

The third, back part of Bening’s August page, is fully dedicated to Bening’s August theme… harvest, and the lush countryside. A fortress-like, gated area, equally plush and verdant, with an impressive church to the right, dominates the scene. In front of it, was another field of yellow, willowy wheat, and a peasant hard in harvesting. In the very distant, blue cloudless skies… the majesty of nature at its best…

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s July page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (f. 25v and 26r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Poppies on the Isles of Shoals

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals, 1891, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Childe_Hassam,_Poppies,_Isles_of_Shoals,_1891.jpg

At the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore lies the small garden which in the following pages I have endeavored to describe. Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old. From this, year after year, the larger one, which has given so much pleasure to so many people, has grown. The first small bed at the lighthouse island contained only Marigolds, pot Marigolds, fire-colored blossoms which were the joy of my heart and the delight of my eyes. This scrap of the garden, literally not more than a yard square, with its barbaric splendors of color, I worshiped like any Parsee… writes Celia Thaxter, the lover of gardening, flowers, and the good friend of painter Childe Hassam. Poppies on the Isles of Shoals is one of his many paintings celebrating the flora of this unique group of nine small, rocky islands off the coast of New Hampshire, in the Atlantic. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/thaxter/garden/garden.html

Appledore (House) Hotel and landing, Isles of Shoals, NH, between 1901 and 1906, Detroit Publishing Co., publisher, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
https://www.historynet.com/childe-hassams-island-escape/

Imagine a summer day in the company of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, poets Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and artists Childe Hassam, and  William Morris Hunt. Now add conversations on art, and music, recitations of poetry, intellectual “arguments,” and gardening “lessons.” The result is… a summer day at Appledore House, a family-run Hotel on Appledore Island, off the coast of Maine, where every summer Childe Hassam and a group of musicians, writers, and artists mad an informal colony as guests of Celia Thaxter, poet extraordinaire, passionate gardener and Hotel proprietor. https://americanexperience.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Hassam.pdf

Childe Hassam painting on Appledore, from The Cruise of Mystery and Other Poems by Celia Thaxter, 1888, archival photograph. Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department https://www.christies.com/features/Lot-427-Childe-Hassam-The-East-Headland-Pool-Appledore-9072-6.aspx

For three decades (between 1886 and 1916), Childe Hassam was perfectly happy to spend his Summers at Appledore House painting, en plain air, Celia Thaxter’s Hotel garden, and the rugged landscape of the Isles of Shoals. His body of work at Appledore remains a pinnacle of American Art of the Impressionist movement. He was particularly fond of painting Babb’s Cove from the shaded piazza of Thaxter’s cottage. He routinely set up his easel there to paint the vista, which included the brilliant field of Iceland poppies cascading beyond the borders of her famous flower garden. As Thaxter wrote in 1894, “How beautiful they are, these grassy, rocky slopes shelving gradually to the sea, with here and there a mass of tall, blossoming grass softly swaying in the warm wind against the peaceful, pale blue water!” https://www.incollect.com/articles/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals and https://www.pem.org/exhibitions/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals (detail), 1891, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Childe_Hassam,_Poppies,_Isles_of_Shoals,_1891.jpg

The National Gallery Poppies on the Isles of Shoals painting of1891 is my favorite! The painting, as Franklin Kelly wrote, presents a broad vista moving from a dense foreground of flowers to a background of rocks, water, and sky. The poppies that spread beyond Celia Thaxter’s garden were the artist’s favorite subject. They cover the foreground with brilliant, warm hues of green and red in wavy brushstrokes. For the rest of the painting, the middle and background is painted in cooler tones of blue, purple, and white for the rocks and water, and pale blue for the sky. Hassam’s brushwork is equally varied, ranging from lush red and white strokes defining the flowers to long drags of pigment suggesting the multihued surfaces of the rocks. The artist’s painting is a tour de force of Impressionistic landscape painting en plein air. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals (Detail of Signature), 1891, Oil on Canvas, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://www.lonequixote.com/blog/hassam-poppies-isles-of-shoals-details-1891-b

For anyone accustomed to academic landscape painting, seeing one of Hassam’s Isles of Shoals paintings was, as one reviewer wrote, “like taking off a pair of black spectacles that one has been compelled to wear out of doors, and letting the full glory of nature’s sunlight color pour in upon the retina.”  https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html

For a PowerPoint titled 15 Paintings by Childe Hassam depicting the Isles of Shoals, please… Check HERE!

An original UNC-TV Documentary (27.55min) exploring the North Carolina Museum of Art exhibit of American impressionist painter Childe Hassam. The documentary focuses on Hassam’s work on Appledore Island over the course of thirty years… https://www.pbs.org/video/unc-tv-presents-childe-hassam-and-isles-shoals/