The Month of April

The Month of April, 1407, possibly by Maestro Venceslao, Fresco, Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy

The Italian proverb “Aprile dolce dormire” certainly does not suit the fourth scene of the calendar of the Cycle of Months of Torre Aquila in Trento. Here, under the great April sun, one does not sleep, nor is one idle, but it is all a fervour of activity. http://senzadedica.blogspot.com/2013/04/il-ciclo-dei-mesi-aprile.html

The Month of April fresco comes from Torre Aquila in the Castello del Buonconsiglio, in Trento, Italy. It is part of an amazing fresco Cycle of the Twelve Months painted on the walls of the tower’s 2nd-floor main room. It was commissioned by Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, who wanted to show how well-governed his territories were and how his labourers thrived. The painter of these remarkable paintings, Master Wenceslas, understood well what he was asked to do, created the best 15th-century advertising brochure for Trento, and for the Month of April fashioned a dazzling spring scene, crowded with a well-dressed crowd who, in the lush local countryside, serenely performed their necessary everyday chores. 

Master Wenceslas, a Bohemian painter active in Trento since 1397, creates a rich April scene, full of natural beauty and pastoral activities. Nature awakens and the citizens of Trento are busy. The farmers catch up with their activities and the Ladies of the Court and enjoy a stroll in the woods. The scene is rich, dense and joyful… inspired by real-life but immensely beautified. The commissioner of this fresco, Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, wants to give the idea that his territories flourish under his good governance. and prudent guidance. The painter, Master Wenceslas, understood this very well, and created a verdant scene of dazzling colours, the winter greys have disappeared, crowded with well-dressed farmers and elegant ladies.  https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciclo_dei_mesi

…the month of April, Many and June

Wenceslas’s countryside is fertile and well organized. The fields are separated in an orderly manner and protected, like precious gardens, by braided willow fences. Everything is represented with such precision… the land, the buildings, the farmers’ chores. The April fresco looks as if it is the page of a textbook for a young farmer to study and learn! https://www.ilmiraggio.com/ciclo-dei-mesi-torre-aquila/

At the top of the composition, a lush fir forest offers refuge to one of those bears that populated the Alps at the time. Further down, a pilgrim, fully dressed in white with a hat and a cane, walks through a borough of thatched-roof houses arranged around a small church, empty of villagers… silent. Even the dogs in this village keep silent, as they are both dozing.

The farmers are busy with their pastoral duties. In a fenced and already ploughed field a farmer sows, while another farmer works the land with a harrow pulled by a horse. Further down to the left, two men, probably coming from a water-mill, carry sacks of flour on a cart driven by oxen. In the foreground, two other farmers plough the land with a heavy wheeled plough pulled by a pair of oxen and a horse. Women do not remain idle. Two of them, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, participate in the fervour of spring activities, gardening their well-fenced plot! Their precious land is on the border of a small forest where, among immense mushrooms, a dog chases a hare!

The month of April fresco is not only about hard work. The presence of two aristocratic young ladies, in the lower, right part of the composition, can not be missed. Depicted on the edge of the painted scene, the elegant ladies seem to walk towards the festive procession depicted in the following month of May. One of them, wearing an elegant green gown with long sleeves, crosses the thin, pillar-like, frame that divides the two months, and effortlessly, just as the succession of seasons is constant and uninterrupted, guides us to the next composition… that of May!

Until Next Month… check HERE! for a student Activity!

Still Life à la cafetière

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life à la cafetière, Still Life with Coffee Pot, May 1888, Oil on Canvas, 65 × 81 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The three primary colours, red, blue yellow, a touch of orange… and how you can create a masterpiece! Still Life à la cafetière in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, at Athens, is a case to study!!!

“Painting Still Lifes is the beginning of everything,” Van Gogh said back in the winter of 1884/85, and as Dutch in origin, he was so right! Let’s not forget the Netherlandish attachment to this genre. During his prolific career that did not last more than a decade, from 1881 until his death in 1890, Van Gogh painted more than 170 Still Lifes! https://www.museum-barberini.com/en/van-gogh/

He started by “paying tribute” to his Dutch, 17th-century tradition of painting Still Lifes with sombre, melancholy, earthy tones. We can describe these early Still Life paintings as experiments in colour! Direct, powerful, and sincere, these early Still Life studies were created while living with his parents in Nuenen. Across a dark background, he used humble everyday objects that were probably used by his family for their everyday meals. By mixing primary colours himself, his palette was dark, brown and greyish, and the objects he was presenting were brought to life with touches of white paint. His painting, titled Still life with three bottles and earthenware, is a perfect example. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0138V1962?v=1

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life with three bottles and earthenware, 1884/5, oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

That was not enough for Van Gogh! He felt the need to develop and evolve, to practice and struggle in getting better… and so, he travels to Paris, gets in touch with Impressionism, and his Still Life paintings gradually acquire the bright Mediterranean colours of Southern France, which he so loved. Painting Still Lifes during the Paris period is very important for him. He studies every book he can get on the fundamentals of “Colour Theory” and experiments until his colour palette dramatically changes. He doesn’t mix colours any more, he uses them separately, he combines complementary colours and gets rid of the use of browns. In Paris, painting flowers fascinates him, changing his technique intrigues him, communicating his feelings as well as what he sees becomes his objective. The newly authenticated Vase with Poppies at the Wadsworth Atheneum is such a representative example of his efforts at the time. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/blog/two-van-gogh-exhibitions-in-a-single-week

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Vase with Poppies, ca. 1886, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, 56.0 cm × 46.5 cm, Hartford, Connecticut

Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in early 1888, and his palette positively explodes with colour and vibrant brushstrokes. The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation painting Still Life à la cafetière is an amazing example of his final period. Quoting a description of the painting in a Van Gogh letter to his brother Theo, we read… “A coffee pot in blue enamel, a cup (on the left) royal blue and gold, a milk jug checkered light blue and white, a cup (on the right) white with blue and orange patterns on a plate of earthenware yellow-grey, a pot of barbotine or majolica blue with red, green, brown patterns, finally two oranges and three lemons; the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background yellow-green, thus six different blues and four of five yellows and oranges.” The art of simplicity at it’s best. Once more, dispassionate items of his everyday life, search for immediacy and turn into a moving painting of extraordinary vitality. The three primary colours, lots of blues and greens, an amazing red borderline that encloses the painting, juxtapose to “touches” of complementary oranges. A diagonal composition with crossed lines animates the composition. Incredible brushstrokes forcefully convene in the enamel coffee pot, creating a sense of perspective. He works like a man in a frenzy and creates a world, his world, that feels ALIVE! Color, Space, and Creativity: Art and Ontology in Five British Writers, by Jack Stewart, 2008, Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., page 224, and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/vincent-van-gogh-still-life-coffee-pot

For a Student Activity, please… check HERE!

Virtual Spanish Weekend

Toledo now and by El Greco!

A dear former student of mine, Juan N., a young doctor, is fighting Covid 19 in Spain so that we can all stay Safe… at HOME! My weekend proposal is to have a… Virtual Spanish weekend… Visit Toledo… Meet El Greco… and send positive vibes to Juan…

Pythagoras of Samos once said that… Do not seek for happiness. It is always within yourself. During COVID 19 Days, happiness is so close… It’s our family and friends and Art within us all…

We may not be able to travel to Spain right now… but we can do it Virtually! Stay in the comfort of your HOME! Snack on something deliciously SPANISH! …and ACTION!

Let’s travel to Toledo

and …meet El Greco! the Cretan artist of the Renaissance who chose Toledo as his final destination of artistic voyaging and exploration. El Greco, born Domenikos Theotokopoulos, the precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism, was so unique, scholars believe his art belongs to a no conventional school.

Toledo, Spain: The Art of El Greco https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/artist/el-greco-domenikos-theotokopoulos/b031da57-6a7e-43f2-a855-293275efc340

Explore El Greco in the Prado Museum with lots of valuable information and multimedia references https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/artist/el-greco-domenikos-theotokopoulos/b031da57-6a7e-43f2-a855-293275efc340

El Greco, View of Toledo, famous painting in the MET, New  York https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/metropolitan-museum/82nd-and-fifth/nature/v/my-first-time

Movie Time in Spain …and more ACTION!

El Cid is a 1961 epic historical drama film that romanticizes the life of the Christian Castilian knight Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, called “El Cid” (from the Arabic as-sidi, meaning “The Lord”), who, in the 11th century, fought the North African Almoravides and ultimately contributed to the unification of Spain. The film stars Charlton Heston in the title role and Sophia Loren as Doña Ximena. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/

The story of the uncompromising artist, Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known to the world as El Greco. Based on the fictionalized biographical movie, El Greco: the Painter of God, it was released in 2007. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0905329/

Life and events of the man who realized one of the most important discoveries of the 19th century: Altamira’s Caves and its Paleolithic Paintings. The film chronicles the groundbreaking discovery of stone age cave paintings in the Cave of Altamira in Cantabria, Spain, and the subsequent controversy by leading religious and scientific figures of the day. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3014910/

SNACKS …Español style! Tapas ideas everybody will… love! https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/collections/tapas

For the original document, please… click HERE!

El Greco: Formative Years

Domenikos Theotokopoulos… El Greco, 1541 – 1614
The Dormition of the Virgin, before 1567, egg tempera on wood, Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, Syros island, Greece

“I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.” El Greco: Formative Years introduces us to the world of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, and his Cretan period Icon of the Dormition of the Virgin, in the Cycladic Island of Syros.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos was a Cretan Greek, born at Handaka-Candia, present-day Herakleion, part of the thriving Republic of Venice. Archival research in Venice showed that between 1526-28 his family relocated from Chania to Handaka, where, in 1541 Domenikos was born. His Orthodox-Greek family belonged to the upper-middle class, as his father, Giorgos Theotokopoulos, worked for the government of the Venetian Republic, most probably as a merchant and a tax collector. Very little is known of  Domenikos’s mother and early childhood. He was undoubtedly talented, and his father, realizing it, placed him as an apprentice in a painter’s workshop to learn this profitable trade. The name of his teacher is unknown, but judging from Domenikos’s earliest paintings, he was a great master of the Post-Byzantine Cretan School. Crete at the time was the center of a thriving artistic community and understanding the artist’s early influences and style is important in decoding his later work!

Very little is also known of Domenikos’s early years as a painter in Handaka, except a1563 reference on him as “a master painter” on a  document issued by the Venetian Administration of Candia, and later, in 1566 his testament as a witness in a Candia solicitor’s document in which he is mentioned as ‘maistro Menegos Theotokopoulos, artist’. By late 1566, Domenikos was ready to pursue his career and artistic prospects in Crete were limited. On December 26, 1566, he asked permission from the Venetian authorities in Handaka to auction one of his paintings depicting the Passion of Christ, a painting estimated to be worth 80 ducats but sold for 70. This valuable information comes from the Venetian archives and proves two things. First, Domenikos was still in Crete in 1566, and second, he was an extremely important artist because the price of 70 ducats his small painting fetched was as high as any great Italian artist of the Renaissance would get. https://www.historical-museum.gr/webapps/elgreco/xronologio.php?lang=en

For a PowerPoint on El Greco: Formative Years, please… click HERE!

The Dormition of the Virgin, on the Island of Syros, is a fine example of Theotokopoulos’s 16th-century Cretan period where his personality and artistic being were formed. Greco’s signature on the base of the central candelabrum was discovered, in the process of restoring the Icon, in 1983 by archaeologist George Mastoropoulos. The Dormition’s undoubted attribution to Theotokopoulos helps scholars better understand and interpret the artist’s unique artistic idiom and early production.  

The Icon follows the Post-Byzantine Orthodox tradition of painting, introducing at the same time elements of the Renaissance Mannerism. Today, in juxtaposition to his most “sublime” work, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, the Dormition is seen as Domeniko’s Archetypal representation of “a visionary experience” of two worlds, “the physical world of earth and the spiritual world of heaven, each portrayed in their own ways. Earth is captured on a normal scale with more proportional figures, whereas heaven is composed of swirling clouds and abstract shapes, with a more intangible quality to the figures. This clear distinction greatly allows for two ideas: on the one hand, a union between both worlds is proposed, on the other, the separation of the worlds is enhanced.” https://www.theartstory.org/artist/el-greco/artworks/#nav

Domenikos Theotokopoulos or El Greco, 1541 – 1614
The Dormition of the Virgin, before 1567, egg tempera on wood, Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, Syros island, Greece
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, between 1586 and 1588, oil on canvas, 480 cm × 360 cm, Iglesia de Santo Tomé, Toledo

The Dormition of the Virgin is the only Theotokopoulos Icon still serving today as an object of Christian Orthodox veneration. It is still “exhibited” in Syros, the 1828-29 Basilica Church of “Psarianon” (the church of the Psara islanders) or officially known as the Dormition of the Virgin. The Icon was brought to Syros in 1824, in the midst of the Greek War of Independence by Psara Island refugees, survivors of the Psara Island destruction. https://www.lifo.gr/articles/arts_articles/253223/sti-syro-vrisketai-enas-apo-toys-protoys-kai-mexri-protinos-agnostoys-pinakes-toy-el-gkreko

Panagia Kosmosotira in Feres

The imposing, the 12th century Panagia Kosmosotira in Feres

A church of the utmost quality, unpretentious, beautiful and imposing, the 12th century Panagia Kosmosotira in Feres, is the Katholikon of a grand Monastery, in the Byzantine type of the cross-in-square church with two columns and five domes. The Monastery is built in a magnificent location, the Byzantine city of Bera, modern-day Feres, next to the Delta of Evros River.

Panagia Kosmosotira, the Monastery, and its Katholikon were founded by Sevastokrator Isaakios Komnenos, the third son of Alexios I Komnenos (c. 1048 – 15 August 1118), founder of the Komnenian dynasty. Isaakios was a Porphyrogennetos (born in the purple) prince, a title he was granted as he was born during the reign of his parents. Although the origin of the title Prorphyrogennetos is not clear, it is widely accepted that a special Chamber known as “Porphyra” in the Great Palace of Constantinople was used for the delivery of the imperial newborns. Anna Komnene, a Porphyrogennete herself, describes this special room as “set apart long ago for an Empress’s confinement” located “where the stone oxen and the lions stand” (the Boukoleon Palace), and was in the form of a perfect square from floor to ceiling, with the latter ending in a pyramid. Its walls, floor and ceiling were completely veneered with imperial porphyry, which was “generally of a purple colour throughout, but with white spots like sand sprinkled over it.” https://www.doaks.org/resources/online-exhibits/gods-regents-on-earth-a-thousand-years-of-byzantine-imperial-seals/imperial-titulature/porphyrogennitos and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born_in_the_purple

Isaakios Komnenos had the title of Sevestokrator as well, granted to him by his brother, Emperor Ioannis II Komnenos (1087 – 1143) with whom he was in constant dispute and rivalry over the Byzantine Throne. He is also known as the author of several treatises and poems, a cultured man of learning and a great patron of the arts. Isaakios is responsible for rebuilding the Chora Church in Constantinople, where on the lower right side of the grand Deesis mosaic, his donor portrait survives to this day.

The Katholikon of Panagia Kosmosotira was Isaakios’s final resting place. A bit after 1150 he was forced to retire to his estate in Thrace, where in 1151/52, he founded the cenobitic monastery of Kosmosoteira (“Theotokos the World-Saviour”) in Bera (modern Feres). “The construction of the monastery, which was meant as his residence and final resting place, was of great emotional importance to Isaac, who invested considerable time and effort in it: although heavily ill at the time, he still went and supervised the monastery’s construction almost daily, and personally authored its typikon (charter) in 1152, making meticulous provisions about its governance and assigning extensive grants to it, including his own estates at Ainos. Possibly in imitation of his brother’s foundation of the Pantokrator Monastery, he also ordered the erection of a hospital outside the monastery walls.”

When visiting Panagia Kosmosotira, please note 1. The “monumental simplicity” of its architecture 2. The curved “contour” lines that characterize the structure of the church 3. The interplay of stone and brick in the construction 4. The interior fresco decoration dates back to the 12th century, an exquisite example of the Constantinopolitan style 5. The four painted military saints depicted between the arched windows of the northern and southern aisles (portraits of members of the Komnenos family?), and 6. the walled-in ceramic depiction of the single-headed eagle, a symbol of the dynasty of the Komnenos family in Trebizond.

For a WAC (stands for Writing Across the Curriculum) Student Activity, please… check HERE!

Correggio’s Jupiter and Io

Antonio Allegri da Correggio, 1489 – 1534
Jupiter and Io, 1531-32, oil on canvas, 163.5 × 70.5 cm, Kunsthisstorisches Museums, Vienna
Photo credited to https://da.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/high-ren-florence-rome/late-renaissance-venice/v/correggio-jupiter-and-io

According to Kelly Richman-Abdou “Mannerism is the Style That Put an Elaborate Twist on Renaissance Art.” I like her comment, and how it applies to our Mannerist painting in focus, Correggio’s Jupiter and Io! MY MODERN MET, October 21, 2018, https://mymodernmet.com/what-is-mannerism/

My question is how can order, harmony, and balance, ideals of Classical Art and the Renaissance be “turned/twisted” into something fresh and exciting? Is Mannerism to Renaissance what Hellenistic Art was to 5th century BC Classicism? This is not an easy question to answer. Is Correggio’s mythological painting of Jupiter and Io a good example to start… better so, scratch the mere surface?

Antonio Allegri da Correggio is an interesting artist to consider. Famous today for his illusionistic, grand domed ceilings, Correggio is a protagonist of Mannerism! Giorgio Vasari wrote, “…everything that is to be seen by his [Correggio’s] hand is admired as something divine.” He is so right! Correggio’s paintings were appreciated by generations of fervent art patrons and artists… from Dukes to Emperors and from Rubens to Boucher. Vasari was also the first to write about Corregggio’s handling of colours, chiaroscuro, and textures, as well. “It may, at least, be held for certain that no one ever handled colors better than he and that no craftsman ever painted with greater delicacy or with more relief, such was the softness of his flesh-painting and such the grace with which he finished his works…” Today, describing the unique “softness” of his painting technique, we use the term “morbidezza,” meaning extreme softness, delicacy, and fuzziness. https://www.oxfordreference.com/noresults;jsessionid=58804597E272C2C21C9F375C6CEFC612?btog=chap&noresults=true&pageSize=20&q=morbid+ezza&sort=relevance

Correggio’s Jupiter and Io was most probably, one of four mythological paintings representing the Loves of Zeus, or Jupiter for the Romans, commissioned by the Duke of Mantua, Federico Il Gonzaga, for the decoration of his private Studiolo. These paintings render the myths of, 1. Jupiter and Io, 1531-32, oil on canvas, 163.5 × 70.5 cm, Kunsthisstorisches Museums, Vienna 2. Danaë, 1531, oil on canvas, 161 x 193 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome 3. Leda and the Swan, 1532, oil on canvas, 156.2 x 195.3 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin 4. Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle, 1531-1532, oil on canvas, 163.5 × 70.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The myth of Jupiter and Io, depicted in one of the two Vienna paintings by Correggio, is popular and well-liked since antiquity. Lust, deceit, jealousy, revenge and suffering, interwind, creating a fascinating story to render in art. Correggio did an amazing job! I love his Mannerist “twisted” use of posture, movement, and texture. Using a narrow upright format he creates a stable, vertical composition, but Io’s body turns, curls and entwines, so unnaturally, around the charcoal grey cloud of Zeus, it is impossible not to notice. Her firm naked body shimmers in the light and contrasts with the thick, dark, fuzzy cloud that envelops her. What a magnificent contrast of colours and textures. The faces of Zeus and Io make you wonder… what is he whispering to her ear that makes her look so “abandoned”?

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

Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos

Attributed to Kallimachos architect and sculptor working in the second half of the 5th century BC, Funerary Grave Stelae of Hegeso, c. 410-400 BC, found in Kerameikos, Pentelic Marble, 1,56  x 0,97 m, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

“Sometimes, staring at Hegeso. I am thinking that through tears the best smiles grow up.” The smile and the tears of Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos by Katerina Samara

Kerameikos Cemetery of ancient Athens

The amazing Funerary Stelae of Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos, is one of the many masterpieces exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Found during the 1870 archaeological excavation period at the ancient Athenian Cemetery of Kerameikos, Hegeso’s Stelae was made of Pentelic marble and has been attributed to the sculptor and architect Kallimachos. She was a cherished member of a prominent Athenian family, as the magnificence of the relief sculptural Stelae and the family grave plot to which the Stelae was paced, indicate. https://www.namuseum.gr/en/collection/klasiki-periodos-2/

Hegeso’s Stelae is an exquisite example of the so-called “Rich” style that dates to the end of the 5th century and its main characteristics are the artists’ interest in the human body, on garments with elaborate pleats and on airy figures that move gracefully in space. Hegeso is depicted seated on a smart seat (klismos), her feet resting on a footstall. She wears a chiton, a himation, and a transparent veil on her head. With her right hand, she takes a jewel (originally painted) from a pyxis (jewel box) handed to her by a young servant girl, who solemnly stands before her. The servant wears a “barbarian” (not Greek) garment, with long sleeves, and a net on her hair. What a simple, and unpretentious composition the artist achieved! At the same time elegance, grace, class, and sophistication prevail.

The relief sculpture of Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos, according to the epigram on the top of the stele which kept alive the Lady’s name for 25 centuries, is probably the work of a skillful artist called Kallimachos. Little is known about the artist, not even if he was Athenian or Corinthian. He is, however, reputed to have worked in the building of the Athenian Acropolis, and for designing the first Corinthian Capital at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, after observing acanthus leaves growing out of a basket placed on top of a young girl’s tomb. Kallimachos, according to Pausanias, is described as clever, innovative, and “catatexitechnus,” meaning he was an extreme perfectionist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callimachus_(sculptor)

The Theban poet Pindar wrote that “We are things of a day… When brightness comes, and the gods give it, there is shining light on man, and his life is sweet.” Let me quote Gabriela Chartier and her comments on how “People should not strive only to be remembered after death, but instead to enjoy the sweetness of life…” and how “Hegeso’s stele seems to coincide with Pindar’s idea. Hegeso is not doing anything heroic; the image does not refer to myths or to the epic past. Instead, she is shown in an event of everyday life: a moment in democratic Athens when the light was shining on her. The fact that this image is on a grave stele reinforces Pindar’s message. Placing such scenes along the main road in the Kerameikos would have offered a constant reminder: human life is passing. We are things of a day.” https://archaeologystudentsspeak.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/gabriela-chartier-on-the-grave-stele-of-hegeso/

Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos RWAP (stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project) is… HERE!

Examples of student RWAP (stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project) Sketchbooks… HERE!

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, 10th century AD,  ivory relief panel from Constantinople, Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, BODE Museum, Berlin
https://history2701.fandom.com/wiki/The_Forty_Martyrs_of_Sebaste

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Ivory Icon at the BODE Museum in Berlin is a favorite of mine for making me think, reflect and compare.

First of all, I like the story of these 40 tough Roman soldiers, devoted to their faith, suffering… in the city of Sevaste, in Armenia, during the reign of Emperor Licinius, and under the presidency of Agricolaus, in the year 320 AD. Their story is beautifully told by MATHEW in http://dignareme.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-40-martyrs-of-sebaste.html

Then, I like Byzantine Ivory Carving! What a magnificent medium in… small-scale. Byzantine Art is not only about monumental, awe-inspiring mosaics and frescoes. The aficionados of Byzantium find equal pleasure even more! in artifacts of smaller scale, like luxurious ivories, silverware, glassware, and jewelry, even humble pottery and woodwork.

I am fascinated by Ivory itself. One only has to imagine the caravans or the galleys bringing to Constantinople African elephant tasks, the anticipation of the artisans ready to put their expertise into practice, and the eagerness of the buyers as they consider one more coveted possession. During the 10th and the 11th centuries, Byzantine Ivories were popular among the City’s aristocrats and highly prized as Imperial gifts to foreign dignitaries.

Meticulously carved, ivory icons, consular diptychs, or pyxides, enchant us today with their beauty. “The allure of this substance is easily understood: its smooth, tactile quality and creamy color made it ideal for the creation of” amazing works of art, just like the Icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sevaste in the BODE Museum.

Fresco painting by Luca Signorelli (1499) of Paradise, Orvieto Cathedral, Orvieto, Umbria
The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, 10th century AD,  ivory relief panel from Constantinople, Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, BODE Museum, Berlin

Is this amazing carving a case of Byzantine Renascence? The depiction of forty agonizing bodies, winding and twisting, reminds me of Signorelli’s fantasia of Paradise and Hell in Orvioto’s Cathedral, in the Capella of San Brizio.  Are there missing links connecting these two masterpieces I don’t know about? Whatever the answer is, the BODE Ivory Icon is a strategic player in the equation. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ivor/hd_ivor.htm and http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/lucasignorelli/sanbriziochapel.htm

For a “Similarities and Differences” Student Activity, please… check HERE!

Fresco painting by Luca Signorelli (1499) of Paradise, Orvieto Cathedral, Orvieto, Umbria

What a life you had Bianca Cappello!

Alessandro Allori, 1535–1607
Portrait of Bianca Cappello, Second Wife of Francesco I de’ Medici, c. 1580, fresco – tempera on plaster, 75 x 52 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
https://centuriespast.tumblr.com/post/67158750360/allori-alessandro-portrait-of-bianca-cappello

What a life you had Bianca Cappello! Rich, powerful and passionate! Born a Venetian lady of noble birth, you chose love over propriety and married Pietro Bonaventuri, escaped to Florence… and found your destiny with Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany… as a mistress, mother, and wife! You were loved devotedly! In 1579 you married the Grand Duke and on the 12th of June 1579, you were crowned the Grand Duchess of Tuscany at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. You were probably disliked equally strongly. You died along with Francesco in October 1587, at the famous Villa Medici in Poggio a Caiano. Some historians and scientific evidence suggest malaria fever, others believe you were both poisoned with arsenic! What a life you had Bianca Cappello! http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/biancacappello.htm

Of all of Bianca’s Portraits, my favorite, painted by Alessandro Allori, c.1580, is in the Galleria Degli Uffizi, in Florence. She is depicted as the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, her beauty assured, elegant in an understated way, self-content, looking at us… critically thinking… are we among her supporters or her foes?  

Where can we “feel” Bianca’s presence in Florence?

As soon as Bianca became Francesco’s mistress she moved from the humble lodgings of her in-laws, where she was expected to do manual work, to the Palazzo Venturi-Ginori. a splendid estate with a fine garden (so-called Oricellari Gardens) and a prestigious history. According to Giorgio Vasari, between 1483 and 1500, Bernardo Rucellai commissioned the construction of the Palazzo and the planting of the famous gardens following designs by Leon Battista Albert. It was during the same period that several meetings of the famous Neo-Platonic Academy took place in the Palazzo. In 1534, the property passed to Bianca Cappello and the Palazzo was turned into a place for leisure and entertainment. The gardens, in particular, were the stage for numerous festivities staged by Bianca Cappello, some of which… quite profane!

Palazzo Venturi-Ginori with a view of the  Oricellari Gardens
http://www.palazzospinelli.org/architetture/scheda.asp?ID=689  
and for Bianca’s Garden Parties…
https://books.google.gr/books?id=guN0CgAAQBAJ&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=Bianca+Cappello+Oricellari+Gardens&source=bl&ots=WTbhv9Bq6X&sig=ACfU3U0uHjTZbXkTksrfXPDP7aYoc_xwng&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi315eT68vnAhWPyqQKHS2xBuwQ6AEwDHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=Bianca%20Cappello%20Oricellari%20Gardens&f=false

In 1974, Francesco, still deeply in love with Bianca Cappello, commissioned  Bernardo Buontalenti to design and build a new house for his mistress, much closer to his official residence, Palazzo Pitti. The now-famous Casa Bianca Capello is one of the Florentine historical landmarks you can’t miss! The exterior decoration of the Casa, by Bernardino Pocetti, is done in the black and white sgraffito technique, in which Pocetti was considered an expert. To please the Venetian Lady, the artist designed the Medici crest along with that of the Capello family crest and motifs of marine life within an extravagance of Renaissance designs.

Casa Bianca Capello in Florence
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_di_Bianca_Cappello

For a Student Activity, on “What a Life you had Bianca Cappello!” please check… HERE!

Wondrous Birds

Hans Thoma, 1839–1924
Wondrous Birds, 1892, 92.4 x 74.0 cm, North Carolina Museum of Art

“A romantic realist who has devoted his life to making love to Nature and expressing it in glowing colour.” Writes Huntly Carter, for Hans Thoma, the painter of Wondrous Birds!

Born in the Black Forest area, the son of a Miller, Hans Thoma developed a keen eye for the beauty of his ancestral home. His landscapes, genre paintings, and prints have little in common with contemporary artistic styles and ideas. He is “in love” with nature, its idyllic simplicity, ethereal quality, and effortless grandeur. He created his very own, distinctive, creative manniera, close to that of the early German masters, particularly that of Albrecht Altdorfer and Lucas Cranach the Elder. His love for nature, his attention to “local” colouring, drawing and the importance of outline, his fondness for “homeland” scenery, brings him close, but not part of another group of special artists, the Pre-Raphaelites.

According to North Carolina Museum of Art “Hans Thoma painted several compositions of flying storks that are quite remarkable for the bird’s-eye viewpoint from which they are represented, almost as if the artist were flying beside them. Although Thoma was known to have been profoundly interested in symbolism and mythology, he never publicly explained the meaning or symbolism of his Wundervögel.” NCMA offers an interesting introduction to Wondrous Birds and an educational lesson plan at https://learn.ncartmuseum.org/artwork/wondrous-birds/ and https://learn.ncartmuseum.org/lesson-plans/a-birds-eye-view/

Hans Thoma, 1839–1924
Self-portrait in front of a birch forest, 1899, oil on canvas, 91 x 75.5 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Hans Thoma started his career in art, entering, in 1859, the Karlsruhe Academy under the tutelage of Johann Wilhelm Schirmer and Ludwig des Coudres. Visiting Paris in 1868 was the second important step he took. The great French Realist, Gustav Courbet, became his teacher, mentor and the third step to artistic maturity. In 1874 he visited Italy and fell under the spell of Renaissance Art. In 1899 Hans Thoma was named Director of the Karlsruhe Academy, his reputation was firmly established through exhibitions and his days were spent between Düsseldorf, Paris, Italy, Munich, and Frankfurt. Today, many of his paintings have found their way into museums and private collections and are widely exhibited… Scholars of 19th century Art describe him as a Romantic Realist, a member of the “German Romans” group. For more on Hans Thome and the artistic environments in 19th century Germany, please, check: German Masters of the 19th Century, Paintings and Drawings from the Federal Republic of Germany, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981, New York https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15324coll10/id/71300

A bird’s-eye view is an elevated view of an object from above, with a perspective as though the observer were a bird, often used in the making of blueprints, floor plans, and maps.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird%27s-eye_view

For student RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) please… check HERE!