Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
Photo credit: Carole Raddato published on 06 May 2020
https://www.ancient.eu/article/1552/a-visitors-guide-to-oplontis-stabiae–boscoreale/

I wish I were standing in the middle of Villa Poppaea’s central sitting room (Room 18 on the plan), gazing at “the portico in front of the swimming pool and its surrounding garden… the large window (behind me, that opens) onto the principal garden of the villa… (more) windows, (on my sides) opening into rooms richly-painted with garden scenes, and (further beyond those) into tiny ‘garden’ courtyards, again decorated with garden frescos. Trees, greenery, flowers, birds and water (are) visible in every direction, both painted and real, with nature being brought into the interiors. …It’s hard not to imagine the building filled with …peace, …accompanied by the twittering of birds and the wind in the grass and leaves.” Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes have a strange effect on me!     https://www.italyheaven.co.uk/campania/villa-oplontis.html

Villa Poppaea Plan: Room 16 marks the Viridarium area

Villa Poppaea, built on a plateau fourteen meters above sea level, took advantage of all the scenic pleasures of the Bay of Naples, the latest trends in architecture and the art of fresco painting. Rooms, one hundred of them, were in such a way organized so that its residents and their guests would be able to enjoy the open air and the dramatic view of the sea in an environment of the utmost luxury. Walls decorated with sumptuous frescos further enhanced the effect this Villa probably had on its residents and visitors. Please allow me to explain why exploring the fresco decoration in just one Room in Villa Poppaea, makes your trip to Oplontis, worth your time…

Digital model of the current state of the Villa’s Viridarium (Room 16 in plan)
Photo Credit: © King’s College London, 2011
https://www.kvl.cch.kcl.ac.uk/oplontis03.html

Back in the late 19th century, the German archaeologist August Mau (1840–1909), delineated and described a system of dividing Pompeian Frescoes into four distinct Styles. It is amazing how in Villa Poppaea visitors can see fine examples of the latter three of these four Fresco Styles by just walking from room to room. The amazing frescoes in the small Viridarium area (Room 16 in our Villa Plan) of Villa Poppaea are incredible!

The Viridarium is described as an indoor garden sitting room, decorated with frescoes depicting plants and birds. Room 16 in our Villa Plan is one such Viridarium beautifully embellished with what scholars describe as “Garden Painting,” a very precise genre that is distinct from landscape painting. Garden Paintings give viewers an interesting glimpse of the relationship that existed between architecture and landscape in the ancient world. Exploring the frescoes of Villa Poppaea I read OPLONTIS: VILLA A (“OF POPPAEA”) AT TORRE ANNUNZIATA, ITALY by John R. Clarke and Nayla K. Muntasser, and particularly Chapter 6: Wilhelmina Jashemski and Garden Archaeology at Oplontis, by Kathryn Gleason. The information provided in this presentation is the result of an enjoyable weekend of seeking more and more data…     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viridaria_Villa_Poppaea_30.JPG

The delightful frescoes in Room 16, the Villa’s Viridarium, display arrangements of evergreen foliage of arbutus, laurels and branches of roses, artfully shaped alone or around a decorative fountain. Hues of red and yellow, powerful primary colours, serve as a striking background. Birds twittering and drinking water from the fountains give an extra sense of joyful life. Kathryn Gleason describes them as Topiarii and continues presenting Ars Topiaria, as the art of creating displays of foliage and shrubs by clipping plants, the pruning and dwarfing of large trees… to the training of ivy into ornate patterns in small peristyle gardens.  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

I found of particular interest the site of The Oplontis Project, a collaboration of John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas of the University of Texas at Austin and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompe, along with the Visual Restorations of King’s Visualisation Lab, in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, by Martin Blazeby.     http://www.oplontisproject.org/     and     http://www.oplontisproject.org/index.php/visualization/

For a PowerPoint on Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes, please… Click HERE!

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://historyandarchaeologyonline.com/ancient-roman-gardens/

Angelic Musicians

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Concert of the Angels, c. 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 115-217 cm, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html
Together with…
The Annunciation, 1614, oil on canvas, 2.940,00×2.090,00 mm, Banco Santander, Spain
https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Domenikos_Theotokopoulos,_El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Domenicos Theotokopoulos is in my heart. I find him an attractive personality in every aspect… talented, educated, ambitious, curious, adventurous, persistent…  Art is everywhere you look for it, hail the twinkling stars for they are God’s careless splatters…” he wrote and I think of his Angelic Musicians, shining like flickering stars, in the National Gallery in Athens. http://elgreco.net/el-greco-quotes.jsp and https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

Domenicos Theotokopoulos was a Cretan Greek, born in Handaka-Candia, present-day Herakleion, part, at the time, 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 Domenicos 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  Domenicos’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 Domenicos’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! https://www.historical-museum.gr/webapps/elgreco/xronologio.php?lang=en

By 1567/8 Theotokopoulos travelled to Venice, by 1570, he was in Rome, by 1576 he moved to Spain and in 1577 the artist settled in Toledo, where he found his spiritual home and remained for the rest of his life. He died on the 7th of April 1614, admired for his unique fluid style, temperamental character and humanist education. One of his friends and admirers, Hortensio Félix Paravicino y Arteaga (1580-1633) the Spanish poet, preacher and a member of the Trinitarian Order, wrote for the artist “O Greek divine! We wonder not that in thy works / The imagery surpasses actual being.” Paravicino also wrote, foreseeing Theotokopoulos’s legacy “Future generations will admire his strange genius, but for centuries he will not be imitated.” http://www.nccsc.net/essays/spanish-style  

I would like the reader of this BLOG POST, titled Angelic Musicians, to focus on two paintings. One of them is in Athens and is titled The Concert of the Angels, the other is in Madrid, and is an Annunciation scene. Now imagine them together and you will see one of the last, if not the last painting, the artist created but never finished. The original painting, an Annunciation scene, was commissioned for the Chapel of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist outside the walls of Toledo. Today, separated, the product of 19h century vandalism, may look slightly odd, but still, enthral the viewer with their unique “beauty.”

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Concert of the Angels, c. 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 115-217 cm, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens
https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

The Concert of the Angels in Athens is for me a wonderful depiction of an imaginary, celestial concert, full of energy and vibrato. Domenicos Theotokopoulos, the so-called El Greco, loved music and treated it with respect. The painting in Athens shows a musical ensemble with seven “ecstatic” angels, reading music, singing or playing the spinet, a harp, a flute and a viola da gamba. I wonder what kind of music Domenico enjoyed most, and which musician of his time he favoured… https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/domenicos-theotokopoulos-el-greco/the-concert-of-the-angels.html

The artist uses swift brushwork and swaying movement in postures and robes to create excitement in his composition. Like tongues of fire, his swirling figures look more like spiritual beings than real bodies…

The colour palette that the artist uses is another distinctive characteristic of his mannerism. The colours are iridescent but bold. He uses oranges in red and green and yellow/gold in blue. Tints and shades are juxtaposed. Values of high or low intensity are treasured. Theotokopoulos’s final Annunciation was never finished but whether you see its upper part in Athens or the actual Annunciation part in Madrid, its expressive power is unquestionable.

For a PowerPoint on Theotokopoulos’s paintings of the Annunciation, please … Click. HERE!

The National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum – Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation in Athens has uploaded a wonderful (in Greek) Video to watch… https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=316373302403183  

Domenicos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614
The Annunciation, 1614, oil on canvas, 2.940,00×2.090,00 mm, Banco Santander, Spain
https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Domenikos_Theotokopoulos,_El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Odilon Redon and Pandora’s Box

Odilon Redon, 1840-1916
Pandora, 1910/1912, oil on canvas, 143.5 x 62.9 cm, NGA, Washington DC, USA https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46531.html#bibliography

It is nature also who orders us to obey the gifts she has given us. Mine have led me to dreams; I submitted to the torments of imagination and the surprises she gave me under my pencil; but I directed and led those surprises in accordance with the laws of the organism of art which I know, which I feel, with the single goal of producing in the spectator, by sudden attraction, the whole evocation, and the whole enticement of the uncertain within the confines of thought… writes Odilon Redon in his journals To Myself: Notes on Life, Art, and Artists… and I think of Odilon Redon and Pandora’s Box in Washington DC, at the National Gallery. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/288740.Odilon_Redon

Odilon Redon is one of my favourite artists. As a student, I knew little of him. As a young teacher of Art History I hardly ever used his work… until, preparing for a Lesson Plan on the Myth of Pandora, I rediscovered his Pandora painting at the NGA and the Museum’s wonderful suggestions for Student Activities. My students responded positively to his imaginary world… and I was hooked!

Odilon Redon, 1840-1916
Self-Portrait, 1880, oil on canvas, 33.3×52 cm, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France https://www.wikiart.org/en/odilon-redon/self-portrait-1880

I like how Odilon’s work is described at ARTSY… “Known for his unique blend of artistic naturalism and symbolic subject matter, Odilon Redon was highly influential among the late 19th century French avant-garde circle. Working in charcoal, pastel, oil, and lithography, Redon created imaginative scenes that, while often based in the supernatural, were nonetheless executed in a highly representational manner. Redon considered this descriptive accuracy essential, writing “every time that a human figure does not give the illusion that it is … about to come out of the picture frame to walk, act or think, the drawing is not a truly modern one.” Redon was influenced by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé and admired by the painters Gustave Moreau and Gustave Klimt—as such he is often remembered as a Symbolist, though Redon preferred autonomy and never actually considered himself part of the group.” What more could I add… https://www.artsy.net/artwork/odilon-redon-ari

My students and I are captivated by the Myth of Pandora and the elusive way Odilon presents her story… Off-centre, Pandora stands in front of an atmospheric background, misty and hazy, luminous, ethereal and a touch, mysterious. The power of the artist’s mind creates organic forms, indistinct and intangible. The colours the artist uses are subtle, understated, yet joyous, warm and earthy. The box in Pandora’s hands is small, easily discerned buts not ostentatious… http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Art/Books/en/BeyondTheVisibleTheArtOfOdilonRedon.html

Painted by: The Niobid Painter
The Creation of Pandora,
460BC-450 BC, Attic Red Figure Calyx krater, attributed to the Niobid Painter, Archaic period, British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1856-1213-1

The myth of Pandora is beautifully told by the experts of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC… According to Greek mythology, in the beginning the earth was free from toil and misery. The land was covered with flowers and the rivers flowed with milk and honey. Earth was inhabited only by men, who had been created by Prometheus. He made them of clay and modeled them after the gods, which angered Zeus, the king of the gods. When Prometheus offended Zeus again by stealing fire from heaven to give to man, Zeus exacted revenge. He ordered Hephaestus, the god of the forge, to create Pandora, the first woman. The gods gave her many traits including beauty, curiosity, charm, and cleverness. Hence her name “Pandora,” meaning “all gifted” or, alternately, “a gift to all.” Before he left Pandora on earth, Zeus handed her a beautiful box saying, “This is my own special gift to you. Don’t ever open it.” As Zeus anticipated, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the box, ending earthly paradise. From the small chest flew troubles and woes—sorrow, disease, vice, violence, greed, madness, old age, death—to plague humankind forever. However, Zeus did not realize that hope had been secretly added to the box by Promethesus. When Pandora opened the box and released trouble and woe into the world, hope was there to help people survive. https://www.nga.gov/education/teachers/lessons-activities/origin-myths/pandora.html

For interesting Student Activities, please click and explore the NGA site… https://www.nga.gov/education/teachers/lessons-activities/origin-myths/pandora.html

The myth of Pandora’s box by Iseult Gillespie at TEDEd is worth exploring… https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-myth-of-pandora-s-box-iseult-gillespie

For a PowerPoint on the Myth of Pandora Teacher Curator prepared, please… Click HERE!

Odilon Redon, 1840–1916
Pandora, 1914, oil on canvas, 143.5 x 62.2 cm, the MET, NY https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437383

The Labours of the Months: April

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

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote:   When April with its sweet-smelling showers  /  The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,  Has pierced the drought of March to the root,   /  And bathed every veyne in swich licour  And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid  /  Of which vertu engendred is the flour;   By the power of which the flower is created;  /  Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth   When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,  /  Inspired hath in every holt and heeth   In every holt and heath, has breathed life into  /  The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne   The tender crops, and the young sun  /  Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,   Has run its half course in Aries,  /  And smale foweles maken melodye,  And small fowls make melody,  /  That slepen al the nyght with open ye   Those that sleep all the night with open eyes  /  (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages),   (So Nature incites them in their hearts)… Geoffrey Chaucer first line for The Canterbury Tales refers to April…   for The Labours of the Months: April cer/gp-aloud.htm

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

The painting that may represent “sweet-smelling” April, shows  a cooper making a wooden barrel. “He raises his mallet ready to strike the tool in his other hand. The work must be physically hard as he has tied a band of white cloth around his forehead to keep the sweat out of his eyes. The barrel will be used to store wine made from the grapes we see being pressed in September.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-april

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

Coopers were important craftsmen during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They created wooden barrels to store wine, spirits and salted meats, buckets to draw and carry water, wooden bowls and plates for daily use, pails, churns and tubs for various agricultural or home-industry needs. Coopers, like the one depicted in the small London painting, were respected and valued Renaissance professionals.

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

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

Teaching with Andrea Mantegna

Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506
Camera degli Sposi, The West Wall: The Meeting, (detail of the left panel), 1465-74, Walnut oil on plaster, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrea_Mantegna_075.jpg?uselang=it

“How great is the effect of reward on talent is known to him who labors valiantly and receives a certain measure of recompense, for he feels neither discomfort, nor hardship, nor fatigue, when he expects honor and reward for them; nay, what is more, they render his talent every day more renowned and illustrious. It is true, indeed, that there is not always one to recognize, esteem, and remunerate it as that of Andrea Mantegna was recognized. This man was born from very humble stock in the district of Mantua; and, although as a boy he was occupied in grazing herds, he was so greatly exalted by destiny and by his merit that he attained to the honorable rank of Chevalier, as will be told in the proper place…” This is how Giorgio Vasari introduces Andrea Mantegna, the artist who was is “seen to have been wrought with much art and diligence.” Teaching with Andrea Mantegna is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I admire. To visit Andrea’ Camera degli Sposi in the Palazzo Publico in Mantua was for years an unreachable dream. In 1988 along with a group of students/friends my dream came to fruition and I was finally, in the middle of this amazing room… moved, I confess, and emotional.     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/andreamantegna.htm

Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506
The presentation of Christ in the temple (detail-Probably Self-portrait), 1465-1466, tempera on canvas, 86×67 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Portraits_of_Andrea_Mantegna#/media/File:Andrea_Mantegna_049_detail_possible_self-portrait.jpg

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Mantegna’s oeuvre I start with Giorgio Vasari’s final words. “Andrea was so kindly and praiseworthy in all his actions, that his memory will ever live, not only in his own country, but in the whole world; wherefore he well deserved, no less for the sweetness of his ways than for his excellence in painting…” and continue with the artist’s tutelage under Squarcione, who “made him practise much on casts taken from ancient statues and on pictures painted upon canvas which he caused to be brought from diverse places, particularly from Tuscany and from Rome. By these and other methods, therefore, Andrea learnt not a little in his youth…” I finish my presentation of Andrea Mantegna’s contribution to world art with his reaction to Squarcione’s criticism that “his pictures resembled not living figures but ancient statues of marble or other suchlike things.” My students are intrigued and a discussion takes place by how “This censure piqued the mind of Andrea; but, on the other hand, it was of great service to him, for, recognizing that Squarcione was in great measure speaking the truth, he set himself to portray living people, and made so much progress in this art, that, in a scene which still remained to be painted in the said chapel, he showed that he could wrest the good from living and natural objects no less than from those wrought by art. But for all this Andrea was ever of the opinion that the good ancient statues were more perfect and had greater beauty in their various parts than is shown by nature, since, as he judged and seemed to see from those statues, the excellent masters of old had wrested from living people all the perfection of nature, which rarely assembles and unites all possible beauty into one single body, so that it is necessary to take one part from one body and another part from another.”     http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/giorgiovasari/lives/andreamantegna.htm

Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506
The San Zeno Polyptych (detail), 1457-60, Tempera on panel,  480 x 450 cm, San Zeno, Verona
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Details_of_Pala_di_San_Zeno_by_Andrea_Mantegna#/media/File:Andrea_Mantegna_024.jpg

Teaching with Andrea Mantegna References – References, a PowerPoint and Activities…

For the List of ONLINE References on Andrea Mantegna TeacherCurator put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Andrea Mantegna, please… Click HERE!

I always feel confident discussing an artist with my students when I prepare my 7 Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline

For Student Activities (5 Activities), please… Click HERE!

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

Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506
Ceiling decoration of the Camera degli Sposi (detail), 1465-74, Walnut oil on plaster and fresco, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Camera_picta_-_Ceiling#/media/File:Andrea_mantegna,_camera_degli_sposi,_1465-74,_volta,_oculo,_07.jpg

Villa Poppaea

Villa Poppaea (garden view), 1st century AD, ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy)     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Poppaea

A traveller cruising by boat in the Bay of Naples during the 1st century AD would have marvelled at the continuous chain of private villas lining the coast. Although evidence of these villas survives to the present day, our knowledge is mostly fragmentary due to the fact that many are buried beneath Vesuvius’s ashes, modern estates or have been swallowed by the sea. Travellers would have been amazed by the opulence of the architectural features exhibited in these structures: porticoes, panoramic exedras, artificial or natural grottos, galleries, nymphaea, and piscinae. Travellers would have been equally amazed by the diverse interior designs and luxurious materials used by the artists. Villa Poppaea, in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy) was one such extraordinary Villa…

Villa Poppaea by Jean-Claude Golvin
https://jeanclaudegolvin.com/oplontis/

“Villa A of Oplontis, attributed by some to Poppaea the second wife of emperor Nero, was, strictly speaking, a maritime villa. It commanded a panoramic view from the top of a sheer cliff more than 14 m high that overlooked the ancient shoreline. To the south the view ranged from the limestone cliffs of the faraglioni (tall formations that resemble lighthouses) of Rovigliano, the islet near the port of Pompeii at the mouth of the Sarno River, to the length of the coast of the Sirens as far as Capri. To the west the superimposition of various layers of lava that created the Capo Oncino promontory during the Middle Ages had not completely concealed the Neapolitan and Phlegraean coast.”     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:18

Villa Poppaea, built on a plateau, fourteen meters above sea level, took advantage of all the scenic pleasures of the Bay of Naples. Rooms were in such a way organized so that its residents and their guests would be able to enjoy the open air and the dramatic view of the sea in an environment of the utmost luxury. Please allow me to explain why Villa Poppaea was, for me, worth exploring…

Tabula Peutingeriana, a 12th-century copy of a 4th century Roman illustrated Itinerarium (ancient Roman road map), parchment, Austrian National Library https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:20

Tabula Peutingeriana, a unique twelfth-century copy of a fourth-century Roman map, marks Oplontis, the area where Villa Poppaea was discovered, as a large square building fronting the sea with twin, gabled, entrances. Interestingly, this is the only Roman reference to a site named Oplontis available to scholars. The name Oplontis is an intriguing mystery!     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:20

Poppaea Sabina, 1st century AD, Parian Marble, Archaeological Museum of Olympia, Greece
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poppaea_Olimpia.jpg

The luxurious Villa Maritime in Oplontis is believed to have been one of the residences of Poppaea Sabina, the second wife of Emperor Nero. Poppaea Sabina, born in nearby Pompeii, was the grand-daughter of Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus, Imperial Proconsul of Greece and the daughter of Poppaea Sabina the Elder, a celebrated Roman matron praised by Tacitus for her wealth and loveliness.

Villa Poppaea Architectural Plan https://www.storiesbysoumya.com/villa-oplontis-pompeii-itinerary/

Villa Poppaea, uninhabited and under reconstruction at the time of Vesuvius’s eruption, was a massive residence of more than one hundred rooms and thirteen gardens. Construction started in the 50s BC, while renovations and extensions occurred regularly until the 79 AD volcanic eruption. This sumptuous villa was probably the model house for many of the smaller and less opulent houses built in the area at the same time. The oldest part of the house developed around the atrium, with a number of private or public rooms to serve its purpose for leisure and formalities. By 54 AD, the house extended to the east, with the addition of peristyles with collonaded porticoes extending out from the building’s core, an immense swimming pool and formal gardens.     http://pompeiisites.org/en/oplontis-en-2/villa-poppaea/

Villa Poppaea, fresco in the W. Triclinium, the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy)     

The 4th reason why Villa Poppaea was, for me, worth exploring, is its interior decoration… please bear with me as I will discuss the Villa’s frescoes in Villa Poppaea, Part II.

For a PowerPoint on Villa Poppaea, please… Check HERE!

The model of a Cubiculum (Room 11 in Villa Poppaea), one of the richly decorated bedroom-sitting rooms. Room 11 is located between the Villa’s atrium and the grand reception room and offers splendid examples of Second Style Pompeian wall painting.    https://exhibitions.kelsey.lsa.umich.edu/oplontis-leisure-and-luxury/cubiculum.php

The Labours of the Months: March

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: March, 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-march

Dear March – Come in – / How glad I am – / I hoped for you before – / Put down your Hat – / You must have walked – / How out of Breath you are – / Dear March, how are you, and the Rest – / Did you leave Nature well – /Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –/I have so much to tell –     /     I got your Letter, and the Birds – / The Maples never knew that you were coming – / I declare – how Red their Faces grew – / But March, forgive me – / And all those Hills you left for me to Hue – / There was no Purple suitable – / You took it all with you –     /     Who knocks? That April – / Lock the Door – / I will not be pursued – / He stayed away a Year to call / When I am occupied –  / But trifles look so trivial / As soon as you have come     /     That blame is just as dear as Praise / And Praise as mere as Blame –   Dear March, Come in!, a poem by Emily Dickinson, is about the love and joy it brought to her… She personifies March as if he were a friend… and I find it a fitting introduction to the new POST The Labours of the Months: March!     https://poets.org/poem/dear-march-come-1320     and     https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/emily-dickinson

Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos, or Hagios Eleftherios or Mikri Mitropolis, 12th or 15th century, Athens
http://www.religiousgreece.gr/athens-attica/-/asset_publisher/lpcrESlL5iOO/content/panagia-gorgoepekoos

Depicting The Labours of the Months in works of art is a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek times. The charming Church of Hagios Eleutherios in Athens, also known as the Panagia Gorgoepikoos or the Mikri (Small) Metropolis, made up entirely of spolia of both ancient and Christian monuments, is a good example to start with. Above the main entrance to the Church and under the roof cornice, the builders of this extraordinary church placed “a frieze of Pentelic marble, which shows the months of the Attic Calendar, some festivals, and the complete circle of the Zodiac.” This ancient frieze “attempts to put together and coordinate the lunar calendar (Attic months and festivals) and the solar calendar (the signs of the Zodiac).” Amazing…     https://hellenismo.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/the-frieze-of-the-attic-calendar/

Calendar Frieze at the Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos or Hagios Eleftherios or Mikri Mitropolis (Date of the Calendar Frieze: 2nd century BC- Date of the Church: 12th or 15th century) Athens
Photo credit: http://surprisedbytime.blogspot.com/2011/10/cyriaco-and-little-metropolis.html

Drawings of the Calendar Frieze in the Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos or Hagios Eleftherios or Mikri Mitropoli (Date of the Calendar Frieze: 2nd or 15th  century BC- Date of the Church: 12th century) Athens
https://hellenismo.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/the-frieze-of-the-attic-calendar/

Olga Palagia, Professor of Classical Archeology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, argues that the Calendar Frieze, in most probability,  was created in Athens for the Great Panathenaic festivities of the year 142/3. If this small Attic Calendar Frieze, Palagia still argues, is tied to Herodes Atticus, who presented Athens with a number of public buildings…if this Calendar Frieze was part of the grand Athenian marble Panathenaic Stadium complex, built entirely at the expense of Herodes Atticus for the Great Panathenaia that fell in 142/3… well,  makes it most interesting evidence of public Calendar representation… but in the realm of pure speculation!     The date and iconography of the calendar frieze on the little metropolis, Athens, JdI 123, 2008, by Olga Palagia,     https://www.academia.edu/843544/The_date_and_iconography_of_the_calendar_frieze_on_the_little_metropolis_Athens_JdI_123_2008

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

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: March (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-march

For the Venetian Month of March at the National Gallery, we have yet another outdoor scene. “A bearded man wearing a yellow tunic trims vines that have been trained to grow up two trees. The branches of the vine are bare, while the trees have a few brownish leaves. Pruning vines is an activity carried out in Italy in winter, when the plant is dormant, and in spring when the new leaves have started to grow.” Once more, young farmers need to bundle up and take care of the daily chores…     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-march

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

By an unknown Venetian artist…
The Labours of the Months: March, 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-march
Calendar Frieze at the Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos, Hagios Eleftherios or Mikri Mitropoli (Date of the Calendar Frieze: 2nd century BC- Date of the Church: 12th or 15th century) Athens     http://surprisedbytime.blogspot.com/2011/10/cyriaco-and-little-metropolis.html

Areskon is my Name and I am an Actor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a StudentActivity, please… Check HERE!

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

Teaching with Jan van Eyck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Labours of the Months: February

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

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

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

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

For 2021, I want to present something different, unpretentious but rare. In London, at the National Gallery, there are 12 small pictures, “painted on canvas and then each glued to a wooden panel. It is possible that they were made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors. The paintings seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other and are currently displayed in two frames in groups of six. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.” This set of painted Doors combines simplicity in execution and extravagance in visual effect! The paintings, very small in size, about 13.6 x 10.6 cm, were achieved in vivid, bright, luxurious colours, like “ultramarine blue for the sky, strong vermilion and red lake for the clothing, with rich greens and yellows in the landscape. The restricted and repeated use of colour gives the group of little pictures a charming, decorative simplicity. All but one of the scenes show a man working outdoors on what appears to be the estate of a large villa, seen in several of the paintings, at the foot of the distant blue mountains.”     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/italian-venetian-the-labours-of-the-months-january#painting-group-info

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

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