Teaching with Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Joachim meets Anna at the Golden Gate, 1303-06, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Giotto once said… “Take pleasure in your dreams; relish your principles and drape your purest feelings on the heart of a precious lover.” Teaching with Giotto di Bondone is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I so much admire. I visited the Arena Chapel, the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and sites in Florence where Giotto left his mark, several times so far, and my hope is that I will be fortunate to visit them again. Every time I came face to face with his work I felt I saw, like Matisse said, “the summit of my desires…”     http://www.giotto-di-bondone.com/quotes/     and     https://www.theartstory.org/artist/giotto/life-and-legacy/

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Lamentation Scene Angels (detail), 1303-06, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Giotto’s oeuvre I start with Quotes on Giotto di Bondone by famous artists and writers.

Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy (Canto XI, lines 91–95), compares teacher to student, Cimabue to Giotto and writes… “O empty glorying in human power!  /  How short a day the crown remains in leaf,  /  If it’s not followed by a duller age!  /  In painting it was Cimabue’s belief  /  He held the field; now Giotto’s got the cry  /  And Cimabue’s fame is dim…”     https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/everyones-talking-about-giotto/

Boccaccio, for example, placed Giotto on the same level as Apelles, the most famous of the Greek painters and described him as “one of the lights of Florentine glory.” Most important of all, Boccaccio wrote that Giotto “[…] had a genius of such excellence, that nothing gives nature, mother of all things and operator with the continuous turning of the skies, that he, with style and with pen or brush, did not paint so similar to that, which is not similar, indeed more quickly it seemed, so much so that many times in the things he did it is found that the visual sense of men took error in it, believing it to be true that it was painted. […] ”     http://www.rose.uzh.ch/static/decameron/seminario/VI_05/intratestgiotto.htm

Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (c. 1360-1427) author of Il libro dell’arte, a treatise on artistic production of the late Medieval and early Renaissance period, writes that Giotto “translated the art of painting from Greek to Latin.”     https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/everyones-talking-about-giotto/

Finally, I present my students with a 1952 quote by no other than Pablo Picasso  “But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word: Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya were great painters. I am only a public clown-a mountebank. I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of being honest.”     http://babailov.homestead.com/PicassoConf.html

Teaching with Giotto di Bondone Activities…

For a list of “Internet” Lesson Plans, References and Student Activities “teachercurator” put together, please… Click HERE!

For my PowerPoint on Giotto di Bondone, please… Click HERE!

For the 3 Madonnas RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) and PowerPoint, please… Click HERE! and HERE!

Student (Alexandra Diamantopoulou Grade 9, 2020) RWAP on the the 3 Madonnas

For Giotto’s Angels RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) and a PowerPoint with student work, please… Click HERE! and HERE!

For a Word Search Activity, please… Click HERE!

For a WAC (Write Across the Ciciculum) Activity, titled “Giotto’s Musicians through Cinquain Poetry”, please… Click HERE!

I hope, Teaching with Giotto di Bondone will prove easy and helpful. Do you think it justifies my BLOG name as teachercurator?

Giotto di Bondone, 1266/7 – 1337
Baroncelli Polyptych Musicians (detail), c. 1334, tempera on wood, 185 x 323 cm, Baroncelli Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

Daughters of Eleutherna

Lady of Auxerre, c. 640-630 BC, from Crete, limestone statuette, H. 0.63 m, the Louvre, Paris
Daughter of Eleutherna, 7th century BC, limestone statuette, the surviving height of 60 cm, so a total of about one meter, Museum of Ancient Eleutherna
 https://www.akg-images.com/archive/Dame-d%E2%80%99Auxerre-2UMDHUH75U8W.html
http://en.mae.com.gr/exhibits.html
https://burgondiart.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/la-mysterieuse-dame-dauxerre-est-elle-vraiment-bourguignonne/

The two statues Professor Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis, so affectionately calls Daughters of Eleutherna, hold me in fascination… “Crete was obviously the most important centre and it is the place where most of the stone sculptures of the Daedalic style originate. In contrast to the works that were directly influenced by oriental standards, the Daedalic sculptures depict mostly feminine forms. They are characterized by a complete frontality, and are represented with the hands placed on the thighs, with the hair combed into horizontal layers that were considered to be wigs -the known layered wig-like hair- usually with their head quite broadened and with clothes without folds. These elements can be seen in the known “Auxerre Kore”, who wears the characteristic large belt and her clothes are decorated with engravings and painted with a geometric pattern…” and, I would like to add, the badly damaged lower part of another Daedalic Kore at the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna. Foundation of the Hellenic World –  http://www.fhw.gr/chronos/04/en/culture/321arts_sculp_daedalic.html

The Daughters of Eleutherna were exhibited side by side at the Museum of Cycladic Art during the ELEUTHERNA Exhibition. The two statues can be barely seen at the right side of the Museum Photograph.

Back on December 1, 2004, until September 1, 2005, the Daughters of Eleutherna were exhibited side by side in a Museum of Cycladic Art Exhibition, titled, ELEUTHERNA, whose purpose was to bring together “…the results of systematic excavations conducted by the University of Crete at the site of ancient Eleutherna over the past 20 years… (and) to demonstrate the continuity of human presence and habitation in a city from the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) to the Middle Ages (12th-13th c. AD), that is, a period of some 4500 years.” This exhibition marked the beginning of a new Lesson Plan for ancient Greek Archaic Art!     https://cycladic.gr/en/page/eleutherna

The Daughters of Eleutherna were exhibited side by side at the Museum of Cycladic Art during the ELEUTHERNA Exhibition.

This Lesson Plan uses the Inquiry-based teaching method known as Visual Thinking Strategy introduced by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine which “uses art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills—listening and expressing oneself. Growth is stimulated by: looking at artworks of increasing complexity, answering developmentally based questions, and participating in peer-group discussions carefully facilitated by teachers.” Philip Yenawine, Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines, 2013     https://www.amazon.com/Visual-Thinking-Strategies-Learning-Disciplines-ebook/dp/B00XO20380

8 Steps to a Lesson Plan Success

Prepare by  Reading… https://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/lady-of-auxerre-0010215 and https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/statue-woman-known-lady-auxerre and https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/24/culture/h-epistrofi-mias-kyrias/ and http://en.mae.com.gr/museum.html

Introduction Essential Questions: How do we communicate thoughts and feelings in the visual arts? – How do the arts of each period reflect the values of the culture? and Goals: Help students understand the importance of Daedalic Art in the development of Ancient Greek Sculpture – Assist students to connect the past with the present

Visual Learning PP: Show students what PP “teachercurator” has prepared, please… Click HERE!

Be Inquisitive 1: Ask Visual Learning Strategy Questions… and conduct a constructive conversation

Visual Learning Video: Show students the following Video titled “HALL B: THE LADY OF AUXERRE” directed by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas for the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna http://en.mae.com.gr/films.html

Be Inquisitive 2: Ask Questions… on the information provided by the Video on the Lady of Auxerre

Enduring Understanding: Daedalic Sculpture was the 1st step in the development of Ancient Greek Sculpture.

Assessment Activity: For an RWAP Activity, please… check HERE!     (RWAP stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project)

Daughter of Eleutherna, as exhibited in the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna

Unidentified Church in Constantinople known today as Vefa Kilise Camii

Unidentified Byzantine Church in Constantinople of the Komnenia Dynasty (11th or 12th century) with an exonarthex of the Palaiologan period (13th century)
Vefa Kilise Camii of Istanbul since the 15th century

“A former Byzantine church, now known by its Turkish name Vefa kilise camii, stands on Tirendaz Caddesi on the neighborhood of Vefa on modern Istanbul, only a few hundred metres away from the aqueduct of Valens. In the Byzantine period this area was located between the 7th and 10th regions of Constantinople. Several proposals have been put forward the dedication and identification of this church. In the 16th century, Pierre Gilles was the first to suggest that it was a church dedicated to St. Theodore. Other identifications have included a church of the Theotokos, the church of St Procopius τηςΧελώνης, and the monastery of Gorgoepekoos. Vefa kilise camii is one of the least documented monuments of the Ottoman period, and so it is not exactly clear when it lost its function as a Christian church. This event must have occurred before 1494, when it was recorded as having a medrese with fifty students… Excavations at Vefa kilise camii and a partial cleaning of the mosaics were carried in 1937 by Hidayet Fuat Tagay and Miltiadis Nomidis, but their work was published only in 1990 by Cyril Mango.” Writes Haluk Çetinkaya… an informative introduction for my new POST on the Unidentified Church in Constantinople known today as Vefa Kilise Camii.     https://www.persee.fr/doc/rebyz_0766-5598_2009_num_67_1_4834     As promised, my goal is to present short POSTs on all Byzantine Churches of Constantinople. This is my second attempt with lots of unanswered questions!

The first question to address is its Byzantine identification… “Frequently visited and recorded by 19th-century scholars and travellers, the building is sometimes identified as the church of St. Theodore (Ἄγιος Θεοδόρος ἑν τὰ Καρβουνάρια), based on the 16th-century account of Pierre Gilles, who noted a church of that dedication somewhere in this area.” The French natural scientist, topographer and translator, Pierre Gilles “In his four books on the topography of Constantinople, …describes initially the geographical location, the natural environment, the water supply and the climate of the region. He then reviews the city’s mythological and historical past, and subsequently, for each one of the seven hills of the city, describes the monuments, walls, gates and towers. He comes back to the most ancient monuments on every hill and ends with the description of Galata and the Ottoman monuments.”     http://rhegium.tripod.com/vefa.html     and     https://eng.travelogues.gr/collection.php?view=153

Identified or not, Vefa Kilise Camii is a Komnenian cross-in-square domed church of moderate size (each side is nine meters long), with an inner narthex and a three-domed exonarthex to the west. Beautifully built in a method described as “recessed brick technique”, the masonry of the building consists of alternate courses of brick and stone. The hidden brick row behind extraordinary thick bedding mortar is the characteristic of this building technique and a dating factor for the church as this construction method was popular from the second half of the 11th century to the end of the 12th century.     https://www.qantara-med.org/public/show_document.php?do_id=838&lang=en     and     https://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/html/Byzantine/index.htm?https&&&www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/html/Byzantine/home.htm

In 1937 under the direction of M.I. Nomides and the Ministry of Mosques, mosaics decorating the domes in the exonarthex were revealed, depicting, in the southern dome, the Virgin Theotokos surrounded by prophets and two imperial officers with prophets. Unfortunately, as of 2007, they have disappeared almost completely. Another note to add: Vefa Kilise Camii is one of the least studied Byzantine monuments of present-day Istanbul with the interior of the church proper, never been de-plastered and explored for remnants of its original history and decoration.    https://www.triposo.com/poi/W__110311532     and     http://rhegium.tripod.com/vefa.html     and     https://tarihivefa.blogspot.com/2019/02/vefa-molla-semsettin-gurani-kilise-cami_18.html

For a PowerPoint on the Unidentified Church in Constantinople known today as Vefa Kilise Camii, please… Check HERE!

Émile Gallé

Victor Prouvé, 1858-1943
Portrait of Emile Gallé, 1892, oil on canvas, Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy

“Our roots are in the depths of the woods-on the banks of streams and among the mosses.” How do you like this phrase as a “Motto” on your studio door? Émile Gallé loved it,  and used it! https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Gall%C3%A9

One of my fondest memories as a child was to “play” with a small Émile Gallé vase. I would take it up in my hands, study the details of the depicted flowers, gaze at it across the sunlight, count the different colours… try to understand how it was made, ask countless questions! My mother was horrified with my Gallé “games”, as at a younger age, I broke a similar vase and she did not want a repetition of my mischief. I was, however, very resourceful and time with my “vase” became my favourite pastime… one day I even hid it in my cupboard so that it will be all mine! This is how my fascination and love started for… GLASS… a humble material like silica, a constituent of sand and fire!

The French designer Émile Gallé, a protagonist of the Art Nouveau movement, was the greatest of Glass aficionados. “His naturalistic designs incorporated with innovative techniques, make him one of the pioneering glassmakers of the late 19th, early 20th centuries. Taking his inspiration from nature and plants along with a heavy Japanese feel it is no wonder the French have been known to describe his work as “poetry in glass” and across the globe, collectors are willing to pay premium prices just to own an example of this talented iconic designers masterpieces.”     http://www.artdecoceramicglasslight.com/makers/galle/gall-emile—biography

Born on the 4th of March 1846, in the city of Nancy, Émile Gallé, was the son of a successful merchant and manufacturer of glassware and ceramics, Charles Gallé, who had settled in Nancy in 1844 where his father-in-law owned a factory which manufactured mirrors. He grew up and studied in Nancy botany, philosophy and art. “The young Gallé studied philosophy and natural science at the Lycée Imperial in Nancy. At the age of sixteen, he went to work for the family business as an assistant to his father, making floral designs and emblems for both faience and glass. In his spare time, he became an accomplished botanist, studying with D.A. Gordon, the director of Nancy’s Botanical Gardens and author of the leading textbooks on French flora.”     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Gall%C3%A9

Gallé was an avid traveller who visited museums and influential glass designers, improving his glass-making techniques. In London,  at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Oriental Glass Collection, he focused his interest on the art of Glass Enameling and fascinated by Designer Eugene Rousseau, he experimented with the Glass Cameo Techniques. He trained as a glassmaker at Meisenthal before joining his father at the family factory in 1867 where he was given a chance to experiment with his newfound knowledge. When he 1877, Émile Gallé replaced his father as director of the factory… his career as an artist truly took off.

For a PowerPoint on Émile Gallé, please… Check HERE!

“The aim of my work: The study of nature, the love of nature’s art, and the need to express what one feels in one’s heart.” Ecrits pour l’art, ed. Henrietta Galle Paris 1908/Marseille (1980)…     https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Gall%C3%A9

1st Day Back to School

School Lesson, Attic red-figure Kylix from Cerveteri by the painter Duris, around 480 BC, 11.5×28.5 cm, . Altes Museum, Pergamonmuseum

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.” Said young Malala Yousafzai and I couldn’t agree more! Today, September 14, 2020, is the 1st Day Back to School for all students in Greece and I want to celebrate it with a new Lesson Plan. https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/school-quotes/

Have you ever thought about how the 1st Day Back to School was during ancient Greek time? We can only guess by examining an amazing ancient Greek Kylix in the Altes Museum, in Berlin by the Duris Painter. Using it as an example, I will introduce my students to school reality in Greece – 2.500 years ago!   

“Every student has a teacher, every teacher teaches a different discipline; the picture unites what actually took place in different rooms. One side of the shell begins on the left with lessons in the lyre game, teacher and student play in unison. A particularly worthy teacher follows in a comfortable armchair; for the viewer of the picture he has opened the scroll with the beginning of the heroic song, which the pupil standing there in a cloak has to recite by heart. On the right a strange spectator, half belonging, half excluded. He sits there with his legs crossed in a casual, ignoble style: we have to see him as the pedagogue (‘boys’ leader’), the servant who accompanies the distinguished boy to school and back home. – On the opposite side, on the left, a young teacher is playing the melody with the double flute, to which the schoolboy sings. The fourth teacher corrects a work of his pupil on the blackboard. The scene ends again with a pedagogue.”     http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightboxView/result.t1.collection_lightbox.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfilterDefinition&sp=0&sp=2&sp=1&sp=Slightbox_3x4&sp=12&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=15   

1st Day back to School Lesson Plan

Essential Question: Compared to antiquity, how similar or how different is Education and subsequently, School Classrooms, today?

Goals: Help students understand the importance of Education in the development of Mankind – Assist students to connect the past with the present – Help students learn about Education through works of art

Enduring Understanding: Education is the process of helping students acquire knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.

8 Steps to Success

Introduction to the Lesson -Essential Question: Compared to antiquity, how similar or how different is Education, and subsequently School Classrooms, today?

Visual Learning – Part 1, “My Classroom … then”: Show students what PP “teachercurator” has prepared, please… Click HERE!

Be Inquisitive – Questions and Answers: Discuss each picture and then ask students the questions “teachercurator” prepared for you … Q&A click HERE!

Goals: To help students understand the importance of education – Assisting students to connect the past with the present- To help students learn about education from works of art.

Visual Learning – Part 2, “Classrooms … now”: Show students the “33 Eye-Opening Pictures Of Classrooms Around The World” so you can discuss it.     https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/gabrielsanchez/this-is-what-going-to-school-looks-like-around-the-world

Be Inquisitive: Guide students to Comparisons between the past and the present. Compare pictures to their own classroom. Furthermore, discuss with students what they like/dislike in each picture and what they would like to have in their own classroom. Be creative!!!

Enduring Understanding: Education is the process of helping students acquire knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.

Assessment Activity: For a “Writing across the Curriculum” Activity, please… check HERE!

OR… Music was a very important component of Ancient Greek Education and students were expected to learn how to play musical instruments. Inspired by the 2nd and 3rd Slides, have students do the Getty Museum “Classy Cardboard Lyre” Art Activity because it is easy, exciting, creative, fun, and educational! https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/tips_tools/downloads/aa_cardboard_lyre.pdf

The Monastery of Pantokrator in Constantinople

The Monastery of Pantokrator of Constantinople, 12th century
Imperial Church of the Komnenian Dynasty
Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi of Istanbul

“The most important imperial foundation from the Komnene age is the Monastery of Pantokrator, which continues to this day to impress both the scholar and the casual visitor. It is as clear to those who visit its three churches, which despite repeated devastation still inspire admiration for the perfection of their construction and the elegance of their decoration, as to those who read its Typicon that John II Komnenos and his empress Eirene spared no cost to erect a splendid monastery complex, which absorbed a number of smaller foundations, mainly in the environs of Constantinople, and to make generous provision for its upkeep and operation…” writes Sofia Kotzabassi in her preface for the 2013 Volume on The Pantokrator Monastery in Constantinople. I couldn’t agree more! https://www.academia.edu/32217856/The_Icon_of_the_Three_Holy_Hierarchs_at_the_Pantokrator_Monastery_and_the_Epigrams_of_Theodore_Prodromos_on_Them

Overlooking the Golden Horn, built on the slopes of the 4th Hill of Constantinople and in the company of such great buildings like the Church of the Holy Apostles and the Aqueduct of Valens, the monastic complex of Pantokrator with its churches, library and hospital, stood formidable and impressive. What an amazing structure… Founded by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannes II Komnenos (1118-1143) and his Hungarian princess-wife Eirene, and built between 1118 and 1137, the Pantokrator Monastery served in various ways the Orthodox Byzantines, the Catholic Venetians during the Latin rule of Constantinople, and since 1491?, converted into a Mosque, it still serves the Moslem Turks, known today as Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi.

The Typikon of the Monastery of Pantokrator (Christ the Almighty), a key document that still survives, helps us understand the importance of the monastic complex, its role in the city’s milieu, and the rites followed by its residents. Reading it, we learned that the Monastery “housed 80 monks, of whom 50 were choir brothers. The monastic complex included a 50-bed hospital with a medical school and a gerokomeion (old-age home) for 24 elderly men.” In addition, the Monastery served a leprosarium constructed at some distance from the main complex. The Monastery of Pantokrator consists of three churches: the South Church, the North Church, and the Middle Church or the “Heroon.” The South Church dedicated to Christ the Pantocrator is the oldest and the largest of the three. This POST will focus on the Pantokrator Church, its architecture and amazing decoration. A second POST, coming up soon, will discuss the “Heroon” and its connection to the Venetian Pala d’Oro.     https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/pantokrator-monastery

A characteristic example of late-12th century architecture, the South Church dedicated to Christ the Pantokrator served as the Katholikon (main church) of the monastic complex. It is the largest cross-in-square church in Constantinople, with a central dome originally supported by four columns of red marble, probably spolia (replaced with piers by the Ottomans), a tripartite bema (triple apse), and a narthex. “The dome is supported by a sixteen-sided drum, each side was pierced by a window.  The side aisles had galleries, from which only the southern survived. The narthex, which projects to either side, also had a gallery. It was covered with five groin-vaults, the middle one of which was later altered to a dome. At the same time, the exonarthex was added. The prothesis and the diakonikon are simple square rooms, each with a projecting apse.”     http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11770

The Church was beautifully decorated… sparing no expense. What remains is just a glimpse of its original splendor…

The Monastery of Pantokrator of Constantinople, 12th century
Opus Sectile Floor

Wall revetments of yellow, white, porphyry and verd antique marbles decorated the entire church. Stained glass windows, a medium we associate mostly with Western Medieval Art, covered the windows of the Church presenting geometric patterns and full figures. Was that enough of a decoration? NO! The emperors of the Komnenian dynasty and their spouses were such generous donors, the Church was filled with icons and artefacts in gold and enamels, manuscripts and embroidered silk vestments. As for the upper part of the church walls, they were covered with precious and shining mosaics. Finally, the brilliant Opus Sectile floor decoration which included scenes of hunting, bucolic interludes, mythological creatures, but also a disk with the zodiac cycle and aspects from the story of  Samson… Can you imagine its beauty, eight hundred years ago…

Interesting to Read: Notes on Recent Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul by Arthur H. S. Megaw, from Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 17 (1963), pp. 333-371 Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University.

For a Student Activity, please… check HERE!

The Month of September

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

And in September, O what keen delight!  /  Falcons and astors astors, merlins, sparrow-hawks;  /  Decoy-birds that shall lure your game in flocks;  /  And hounds with bells: and gauntlets stout and tight;  /  Wide pouches; crossbows shooting out of sight;  /  Arblasts and javelins; balls and ball-cases;  /  All birds the best to fly at; moulting these,  /  Those reared by hand ; with finches mean and slight;  /  And for their chase, all birds the best to fly; /  And each to each of you be lavish still  /  In gifts; and robbery find no gainsaying;  /  And if you meet with travellers going by,  /  Their purses from your purse’s flow shall fill;  /  And Avarice be the only outcast thing. The Month of September is a Sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), is translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893).    http://www.sonnets.org/folgore.htm

There is no way for the visitor of the beautiful Italian town of Trento to miss Castello del Buonconsiglio, this imposing, impressive and unique example of secular architecture! It is equally impossible for the Trento visitor not to explore the Castello, where, since the 13th century, the prince bishops of Trento resided and embellished with two Palazzos, an Italianate Park, a Gothic-Venetian Loggia and massive Towers.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

In 1973 the Castello became an Italian regional Museum of Art, known as Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum. This is where the Trento visitor can admire numerous art collections, ranging from paintings and manuscripts to period furniture and local archaeological finds. La piece-de-resistance among the Museum’s treasures is the so-called “Ciclo dei Mesi” in Torre Aquila.     https://www.trentino.com/en/highlights/castles/castello-del-buonconsiglio/

“Ciclo dei Mesi” is a favourite theme in the arts of the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Often linked to the signs of the Zodiac, the Cycle of the Months is often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decorations of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Book of Hours, palace frescoes and, rarely, panel paintings.

Trento’s September fresco panel in Torre Aquila is characteristic of Maestro Venceslao’s, the artist who painted the “Ciclo dei Mesi”, creative abilities. It is rich, colourful and informative. It tells us of how hard the Trentino farmers worked and how idle and pleasure-seeking its aristocrats were.

The upper half of September’s composition depicts the typical agricultural activities of the month: the preparation of the land and the harvest of seasonal products.  At the very top, a shepherd watches over his sheltered flock, while three farmers across a bridged river plough a well-tended piece of land. The two men are dressed in short light tunics and lead the plough, pulled by a pair of oxen and a horse. The woman, on the other hand, dressed in a white robe but with bare feet works with the hoe along the perfectly traced lines of the furrows. The middle composition presents another peasant woman busy in collecting turnips. The white turnip was very popular at the time. Peasants cultivated turnips in vegetable gardens or in open fields in abundance as, along with cabbages, turnips were the indispensable food for the long winters of northern European territories.

The Trentino aristocrats, however, in the lower half of the composition, are depicted still interested in their favourite entertainment: hunting with a hawk. The same red castle Maestro Venceslao painted in the August scene seems to be the residence of a group of three young aristocrats, galloping and ready to go hunting. A lady and two knights, surrounded by their dogs, are about to practice falconry with their well-trained hawks. They seem eager to join two more gentlemen, depicted higher up in the composition, who are already energetically hunting among the rocks and low bushes of the Trentino landscape. Who knows… they might of Folgore, the poet from San Gimignano, and his September poem on the pleasures of September hunting with birds of prey… 

A PowerPoint on Torre Aquila’s frescoes for the Months of August and September is… HERE!

Blue Glass Amphoriskos from Pompeii

Blue Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gathering grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

“Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed  /   Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;  /  And, happy melodist, unwearied,  /  For ever piping songs for ever new;  /  More happy love! more happy, happy love!  /  For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,  /  For ever panting, and for ever young;  /  All breathing human passion far above,  /  That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,  /  A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.” Wrote John Keats in his famous Ode to a Grecian Urn… What about the Blue Glass Amphoriskos from Pompeii we will discuss todaywho is going to do justice to it?     https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44477/ode-on-a-grecian-urn

Portland Vase, between circa 1 and circa 25 AD, Cameo Glass, H. 24 cm, Diam. 17.7 cm, British Museum
Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gathering grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

The Portland Cameo Vase might be famous for its chic et simple design, but the Pompeiian Cameo Amphorisko is chic but definitely not simple!  It is luxuriously rich, elaborately designed, lavishly ornate, ostentatious, sumptuous… yet elegant in a “Baroque” way! The Classicist I admires the Portland Vase… my Hellenistic psyche, however, is all for the Pompeian Amphorisko!

It was the 29th of December 1837 and the archaeological site of Pompeii was visited by King Ferdinand II of Naples and Sicily. What a lucky day for the excavators and the visiting King… a rare Blue Glass Cameo Vase, regarded today as one of the most important treasures of the Naples National Archaeological Museum, was discovered in the area of the enclosed, small, funerary garden of the Villa of the Mosaic Columns. I do not know how true this story is… but the Romantic me likes it! https://www.interno16holidayhome.com/2019/02/22/discovering-the-blue-vase-of-pompeii/  The correct date for the discovery of the Blue Glass Amphorisko is probably 1834 as sited on the Naples Archaeological Museum site. However hard I searched Internet sources, I found little more…   https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/metal-ivory-and-glass-objects/

The area where the Blue Glass Amphoriskos was discovered.

The Pompeian Blue Glass Amphoriskos is a very rare example of ancient cameo glass. This is a type of luxurious vessel inspired by intricate Hellenistic relief-cut gems, extremely popular during the period of the Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, from 27 B.C. to 68 AD. Based on lengthy research by David Whitehouse of the Corning Museum of Glass, there are only 15 extant vessels and about 200 fragments of Cameo Glass in Museums and private collections today. The Romans created Cameo vessels, large wall plaques, and small jewellery items, using craftsmen of the finest technical skills, as highly expensive items of luxury for the Roman aristocracy.      https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20130916-mystery-of-a-missing-masterpiece     and     https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rcam/hd_rcam.htm

The Corning Museum of Glass describes a Roman Cameo piece of Glass as “an object with two or more layers of different colours; the top layer is partly cut away to fashion decoration in low relief against a background of contrasting colour. Most Roman examples are made with two layers, usually white over blue. However, fragments of vessels exist with more than two layers, and sometimes as many as five.”     https://www.cmog.org/set/reflecting-antiquity-cameo?id=1376

The Pompeian Blue Glass Amphoriskos is luxuriously decorated with Dionysiac scenes, particularly scenes of grape harvest. “On one side, a cupid is pouring rich grapes into a vat, where another cupid is intent on wine-pressing. The scene is framed by two low wide columns, on which two cupids are sitting while they accompany the grape harvest playing the syringe and the double flute. On the opposite side stands a klinos (bed), where are lying two cupids, one of which is playing the lyre, while on the other two columns a cupid picks grapes, and the other is holding a bunch in the hand and a basket already full on the head.” Between these two scenes, depicted is a Dionysiac “mask” with grapes, tendrils and birds! At the very bottom of the Vase, the artist who created this amazing Blue Glass Amphorisko masterfully presents a series of animals feeding on grass and shrubs, in between white, thin, horizontal, lines. What an accomplishment on a small scale!   https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/metal-ivory-and-glass-objects/

For a PowerPoint on the Villa of the Mosaic Columns, please… click HERE!

Villa of the Mosaic Columns

Mosaic Columns from The Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, 1st century AD, Naples National Archaeological Museum

“If you have a garden in your library, we will want for nothing” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero to his illustrious new friend Marcus Terentius Varro… and he is so right! Gardening can be so gratifying and the Romans understood it and thus “In the middle of Roman buildings…a roofless square, often with Greek sculptures and temples, was where the Hortus, the garden, was planted and enjoyed. Common Romans might only have had a small courtyard or paved square with pots. Many grew basic foods as a thin bulwark against starvation. The rich enjoyed much larger, more fertile and refined gardens, often closer to parks than yards…Cicero’s correspondent, Varro, was not only well-off but also a scholar of gardening and farming. In light of this, it’s likely that Varro did offer Cicero a well-stocked library, and in it a luxurious garden.” Villa of the Mosaic Columns is about one such lovely Garden, very specially decorated…     https://www.commonsenseethics.com/blog/5-things-that-you-need-to-be-happy-according-to-cicero

The Villa of the Mosaic Columns’ Pompeiian address is on the northern side of Via delle Tombe, behind the bars and shops facing the busy street leading to Herculaneum. Either way, you choose to enter this interesting Villa… you enter a Garden. I like to choose Entrance A (see POST Villa Plan) because Garden C is bigger, it has a mosaic-decorated Nymphaeum and a pergola supported on four magnificent Mosaic Columns. It is thanks to these unique mosaic columns that the Villa, justifiably,  took its name.    https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/villas-outside-the-walls/villa-of-the-figured-capitals

The Villa’s Columns are magnificent! They are covered in colourful mosaic decorations with successive bands of geometric, floral and/or figurative designs. The Villa is unfortunately in a poor state of preservation and thus soon after their discovery, the columns were removed and taken to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples where can today be seen.

The second Garden G is accessed by a wide-open area on the north side of Garden C as well as a corridor leading to Via delle Tombe. Very little survives of its original decoration apart from a Lalarium on its south-west corner. The colonnade to the north marks the entrance to the main living quarters which are unfortunately in an almost ruinous condition. The Villa was probably the most ostentatious in the area. “The decoration in fine painting and mosaics, the grandeur of the architecture and the size of the servant quarters put the Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico on a par with or greater than its immediate neighbours, above which it literally towered. Finally, the row of shops that lie beneath the Villa, which was certainly built during a combined sequence of construction, implies that one source of the villa owner’s wealth was the trades practised by those who worked and lived in this complex. Therefore, the shops supported the Villa economically as well as physically, extending the metaphor into a clearly visible statement of the social hierarchy of the city – a statement that complemented the public display that the Villa itself represented.”     http://online.sfsu.edu/pompeii/research2006.html

An interesting discovery lays at the Villa’s south/east side where, within a gated enclosure, a Tomb and a unique Blue and White Glass Vase were discovered. According to Jashemski… “Since this was the only tomb that had a door leading from the tomb chamber into the garden, and since the only entrance to the garden was from the villa of the Mosaic Columns, it was obvious that the tomb and its garden belonged to this villa.” Jashemski, W. F., 1993. The Gardens of Pompeii, Volume II: Appendices. New York: Caratzas, (p.256).

Today, the Blue Glass Vase, found in the Villa of the Mosaic Columns’ Tomb, is one of the most precious treasures of the Naples Archaeological Museum. We will discuss this amazing Vase in Villa of the Mosaic Columns, Part 2.

Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gather grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

I would like to finish this POST once again with Cicero, who, as he was growing older, he enjoyed more and more the calm and serenity of his gardens, either in his Tusculum Villa where he withdrew to his library and gardens to think and write, or his family Villa in Arpinum, where during his later years, he collected his scrolls and codices, away from Rome, for better protection. “By means of our hands, we struggle to create a second world within the world of nature,” Cicero wrote, thinking as a Stoic philosopher, for whom “the garden was a microcosm of the larger order of the cosmos.”     https://www.commonsenseethics.com/blog/5-things-that-you-need-to-be-happy-according-to-cicero

For a PowerPoint on the Villa of the Mosaic Columns, please… click HERE!

The Month of August

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

“I am a reaper whose muscles set at sun-down. All my oats are cradled.  /  But I am too chilled, and too fatigued to bind them. And I hunger.  /  I crack a grain between my teeth. I do not taste it.  /  I have been in the fields all day. My throat is dry. I hunger  /  My eyes are caked with dust of oat-fields at harvest-time.  /  I am a blind man who stares across the hills, seeking stack’d fields of other harvesters. …” writes the African-American poet, Jean Toomer (1894—1967) and I think of The Month of August by Maestro Venceslao, in Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy.     https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53989/harvest-song

The Cycle of the Twelve Months is a favourite theme in the arts of the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Often linked to the signs of the Zodiac, the Cycle of the Months is often perceived as a link between the work of man, the seasons of the year and God’s ordering of the Universe. As a theme, it recurred in the sculptural decorations of cathedrals and churches across Europe, in illuminated manuscripts like the popular Books of Hours, palace frescoes and, rarely, panel paintings.

The fresco panels in Torre Aquila are rare and special. They document life in the Trentino area, with references to aristocratic pastimes throughout the year, or the peasant activities and duties to their masters. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized even then, from bare and covered with snow, to rich and fertile, to autumnal, covered with fallen leaves.

August is a special month for Trentino residents and Maestro Venceslao painted it to remind us. We can easily imagine Prince Giorgio di Liechtenstein relaxing in this special room, away from his noisy Court… and among his books and curios enjoy the perfect world that Maestro Venceslao created for him! What a treat!

The Month of August fresco is horizontally divided into three zones, the lower of which is dedicated, once more, to falconry, the European sport par excellence, for the aristocracy. The fresco depicts two elegant ladies, one dressed in light blue, the other in blue-black and a gentleman holding a long stick, ready to start hunting! They just came out of the crenellated door of a castle and they walk towards a wooded area, their hawks in hand, trained for hunting. August is a summer month of leisure and moments of falconry show privilege, power and social status.

Defining Falconry, we would say that it is the “hunting of wild animals in their natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey.” Falconry most probably began in Mesopotamia, or in western Mongolia. In Europe, and towards the latter part of his life, King Frederick II, a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability, wrote a decisive treatise on falconry titled De arte venandi cum avibus (“The Art of Hunting with Birds”) for the sport that “was probably introduced around AD 400, when the Huns and Alans invaded Europe from the east.” Apparently Falconry was an aristocratic sport enjoyed equally by men and women.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry

Maestro Venceslao dedicates the biggest part of the August composition to the hard-working peasants of Trento. In the upper zone, the farmers have a lot to work on. It is harvest time, the landscape is turned to golden yellow and both men and women work hard, bending under the blazing sun, to scythe the crops, collect the ears, tie them in sheaves and arrange them in stacks. And this is not enough! Farmers still have to load their wagons with heavy grain, as depicted in the middle zone, and to transport their day’s hard work on the dirt road, to the neighbouring village, where they will store it in the local barn. The village is undoubtedly picturesque, with ocher-coloured houses, thatched roofs, and a small church, brightly coloured pink. My favourite vignette, the depiction of the village priest, standing on the rectory’s threshold intent on reading, oblivious to the commodity around him.     https://www.buonconsiglio.it/index.php/Castello-del-Buonconsiglio/monumento/Percorso-di-visita/Torri/Torre-Aquila

A PowerPoint on Torre Aquila’s frescoes for the Months of August and September is… HERE!