Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton
Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

It was but recently the whole human race celebrated various ten-year periods for the great Emperor with festive banquets. It was but recently we ourselves hymned the conqueror with praises for his twenty years, taking the floor at the Council of God’s ministers. Just now we wove garlands of words also for his thirty years, in the very palace hardly yesterday to crown his sacred head. But today our thought stands helpless, longing to express some of the conventional things, but at a loss which way to turn, stunned by the sheer wonder of the amazing spectacle. Wherever it casts its gaze, whether east or west, whether all over the earth or up to heaven itself, every way and everywhere it observes the Blessed One present with the Empire itself… writes Eusebius PamphiliOn the Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine back in the 4th century AD. Today, celebrating Emperor Constantine’s Name-Day, I present you a Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and wish every person named Constantine or Constantina… Health, Happiness, and Prosperity! http://archive.eclass.uth.gr/eclass/modules/document/file.php/SEAD260/%CE%95%CF%85%CF%83%CE%AD%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82%2C%20Life%20of%20Constantine%20%28trans.%20Averil%20Cameron%20-%20Stuart%20Hall%29.pdf

Emperor Constantine is often described as the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. His political and military acumen, foresight, and sagacity mark his rule as a significant pivot point between Ancient History and the Middle Ages. His reign was eventful and brutal, but his momentous decisions created a whole new world for Europe and parts of the Eastern Mediterranean… He legalized and supported Christianity, and he founded the “New Rome,” mythical Constantinople, the city that ruled supreme in beauty, and power, for a thousand years! Emperor Constantine, while alive, was revered and feared at the same time. He was the greatest of statesmen… he became a Saint of the Christian faith, and a shining example for Emperors to come into the world! https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/constantine

Originally in the Collection of the famed connoisseur of European paintings and of objects of fine art from many cultures, Count Grigory Sergeievich Stroganoff (1829-1910) of Rome, Paris, and St Petersburg, the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine entered the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in 1947. The small ivory representation of a Saint dressed in Imperial attire, a loros wrapped around his body and a crown with pendilia, is identified with Emperor/Saint Constantine I (208?-337 AD). Along with his mother St. Helena, according to John Hanson of Dumbarton Oaks, also dressed in royal robes, these saints were often shown flanking a representation of the True Cross. In all probability, this is the case for the Dumbarton Oaks Ivory panel. It was the left-wing of a precious triptych..  http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine (detail), mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

There were no less than eleven Byzantine Emperors by the name of Constantine, the number rising to twenty-two if children and relatives with little or no independent power were added to the list. They all wanted to connect with the Empire’s founder and share his legacy. It is perhaps for this reason that the saint’s features resemble, as stated by John Hanson, the facial features of early 10th century Byzantine Emperors, the time when the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine was created. If the identity of the emperor was specifically Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, the resemblance creates a complex sign of authority and sanctity, aligning the living emperor with his imperial namesake. https://www.persee.fr/doc/numi_0484-8942_2005_num_6_161_2594 and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27455

For a Student Activity on the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, please… Check HERE!

The Bee Goddess of Eleutherna

Gold Pendant with the representation of a Bee Goddess, On the upper torso she is depicted as a female with a Daedalic wig and arms bent at the elbows. The rest of the body resembles an insect, its large wings decorated with stippled rosettes, 7th century BC, Archaeological Museum of Eleutherna, Crete, Greece
https://mae.uoc.gr/exhibits/

On the 20th of May… Let’s celebrate World Bee Day! Let’s observe the importance of the 25,000 to 30,000 species of bees as effective pollinators. According to the United Nations pollinators allow many plants, including many food crops, to reproduce. Indeed, the food that we eat, such as fruits and vegetables, directly relies on pollinators. A world without pollinators would equal a world without food diversity – no blueberries, coffee, chocolate, cucumbers and so much more. The ancient Greeks understood the importance of pollination and revered Bees as the “Divine Queens” of their ecosystem. The 7th century BC Gold Pendant with the representation of a Bee Goddess from Eleutherna in Crete is proof enough! https://www.un.org/en/observances/bee-day/background

The so-called Dark Ages of Greece, when the Eleutherna Gold Pendant with the representation of a Bee Goddess was created, were not dark at all! They were years of adjustment to a new reality, the aftermath years of the Homeric Epos, the years of the naissance of the great Greek art of antiquity. The small Bee Goddess of Eleutherna, a wonderful amalgam of old, and current Cretan traditions, is persuasive in its purpose and beautiful in its artistry. Whoever the pendant’s artist was, he was familiar with the Minoan past of female divine potency and the Homeric, rich literary tradition of metaphors relating the bee to human society. Let’s not forget how Homer (8th cent. BC) compares the Achaean warriors leaving the ships to attend an assembly to a swarm of bees leaving their hive in search of flowers:     From the camp the troops were turning / out now, thick as bees that issue from some / crevice in a rock face, endlessly pouring / forth, to make a cluster and swarm on / blooms of summer here and there, glinting / and droning, busy in bright air.     /     Like bees innumerable from ships and huts / down the deep foreshore streamed those / regiments toward the assembly ground. (Iliad II 86-93, trans. Robert Fitzgerald) https://www.apiservices.biz/documents/articles-en/beekeeping_in_mediterranean.pdf

The small Bee Goddess pendant was discovered in the necropolis of Orthi Petra in Crete and inspired Professor Νikolaos Stampolidis to use it as the logo of the Museum of ancient Eleutherna. This amazing ornament is a composite creation: it shows the bust of a woman, with arms folded over the chest, and the lower body of a bee, with large wings, adorned with dotted flowers. https://www.lamdadev.com/en/the-company/corporate-social-responsibility/culture/commemorative-volume-eleutherna.html?os_image_id-34

Gold Pendant with the representation of a Bee Goddess, 7th century BC, Archaeological Museum of Eleutherna, Crete, Greece
https://gr.pinterest.com/pin/343540277802257776/ and https://www.pinterest.de/pin/91409067412568201/

The city of Eleutherna, on the island of Crete, was of great importance in prehistoric times and continued to be so from the dawn of Hellenic Civilization to the Byzantine era. Systematic excavations organized by the University of Crete under the directorship of Professors Petros Themelis, Athanasios Kalpaxis, and Nikos Stampolidis since 2009, brought to light three sectors of the city and the necropolis at Orthi Petra, enhancing our knowledge of the political, economic, social, religious, and artistic history of the whole of Crete, particularly during the so-called “Dark Ages.” Eleutherna, close to Mount Ida, where the Νεφεληγερέτης (Cloud Gatherer) Zeus was safely born, raised with milk and honey, and protected by the Kourites warriors, is a city that eloquently bespeaks the continuity of the island’s prosperity and its seminal contribution to the genesis of Hellenic civilization. Discover its importance with the help of ELEUTHERA, by Nikolaos Chr. Stanmpolidis, LAMDA DEVELOPMENT, 2020. https://www.latsis-foundation.org/content/elib/book_29/eleytherna-english-l.pdf and https://www.latsis-foundation.org/content/elib/book_29/eleytherna-greek-f.pdf

For a Student Activity inspired by the 7th century BC Gold Pendant with the representation of a Bee Goddess from Eleutherna in Crete, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening’s May

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The American children’s poet Annette Wynne introduces us to charming spring with… May / Has such a winsome way, / Loves to love and laugh and play, / To be pretty all the day, / Never loves to sulk and frown, / As April does; when rain comes down, / May is sorry, says: “Rain, please / Go away soon, flowers and trees / Love the merry shining sun, / Want to laugh now, every one, / For the happy time’s begun.” / All you people who love play, / Love to love the livelong day, / Do you not love May / With her winsome way? The artist of the Golf Book, one of the finest manuscript illuminators of the Northern Renaissance introduces us to the month of May with an amazing miniature… Let’s celebrate with Simon Bening’s May…a day of boating, merriment, and joy! https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/may-poems/

Folio 22v of the Golf Book, showing the Month of May, is one of the most glorious pages Simon Bening, the renowned Flemish artist from the Netherlands, ever created. It is a characteristic Renaissance Maying scene in its depiction of a spring landscape (Bening is known for his landscapes), with green leaves, and branches of greenery… and much more! At first glance, it presents two distinctive scenes related to May Day and a glorious river-side cityscape background scene of fortification walls, several well-constructed secular buildings, and what seems like two impressive Gothic churches. It also includes an anecdotal scene of a small gate leading to the river and a young going down the gate steps leading to the river with a container in each hand, perhaps to fill them with water… so typical Flemish! http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/2004/05/01/its-may-2/ and https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/159

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, details),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The main scene, in the foreground of the composition, depicts a May Day boating trip along the local canals. In this scene, two boatmen, one at each end of the boat, are rowing a nobleman and two well-dressed ladies along a river, just about to glide under an impressive arched bridge. Enjoying the trip are a man dressed in a large, loose French gown with a sable collar, playing, appropriately I would add,  an ambiguous-looking wind instrument that could be a flute, and two women, dressed in gold-toned garments, one of whom plays the lute, equally appropriate for a female, with a plectrum. The boat is filled with flowering branches reminding the viewer that this is a May Day excursion indeed. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/ and https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/159

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/
Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The middle ground scene focuses on the activity taking place on the bridge connecting the city to the riversides. Horses are depicted crossing the bridge, and Bening directs the attention of the viewer to an aristocratic couple, well-dressed, crowned with large, white flowers and carrying branches. They seem to be returning “home” after a day of merriment in the countryside. Were they part of the elegant group of riding aristocrats depicted strolling through the wood in the bas-de-page scene of folio 23r? It would have been interesting to know what Simon Bening thought! https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

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

For references to Student Activities on Simon Bening’s May Day page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v and 23r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Byzantine-Style Mosaic Necklace with Christ and Twelve Apostles

Unidentified Artist from Murano, Venice? 
Byzantine-Style Mosaic Necklace with Christ and Twelve Apostles, the 1870s-1910s, gold with glass and shell inlay, Smithsonian American Art Museum, USA
https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/byzantine-style-mosaic-necklace-christ-and-twelve-apostles-30961

Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano(October 8, 2021 – May 8, 2022, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA) brings to life the Venetian glass revival of the late nineteenth century and the artistic experimentation the city inspired for visiting artists. It is the first comprehensive examination of American tourism, artmaking, and art collecting in Venice, revealing the glass furnaces and their new creative boom as a vibrant facet of the city’s allure… write the Smithsonian American Art Museum experts, and I was “hooked” to virtually explore this amazing Exhibition. I was particularly intrigued by the reference to the Magic of Murano, and the age-old Venetian industry of glassmaking. Exploring the artworks exhibited, I came upon a Byzantine-Style Mosaic Necklace with Christ and Twelve Apostles in the Smithsonian Collection, and I was determined to learn more about it! Well, I learned more… and less… https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/sargent-whistler-glass and https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.saam.media/files/documents/2021-09/SWAVG%20checklist_FINAL.pdf

Exhibition Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano Installation Photography, Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2021, Photo Credit: Albert Ting https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/sargent-whistler-glass

Back in 1929, the Byzantine-Style Necklace was part of an impressive donation to the Smithsonian’s “National Gallery of Art” (now SAAM), by the art collector John Gellatly. Originally, it was thought to be a piece of 6th century Byzantine Jewelry, but contemporary conservators believe it’s more likely a nineteenth-century imitation or forgery.  

The necklace consists of 15 medallions presenting Christ in the middle (the biggest in size), the Twelve Apostles (receding, slightly, in size, six on either side of Christ), and medallions with Constantine’s Cross (the smallest two of the fifteen), at the two ends of the necklace. The necklace medallions are connected with gold chains of hollow wire! The rims of each medallion are decorated with hundreds of small gold balls, applied in a technique called granulation… a technique invented in the ancient world… declined in popularity after the first century BC, and was revived by the Castellani jewelry firm in the mid-19th century. Could the use of granulation make scholars begin to question the necklace’s Byzantine attribution?

Unidentified Artist from Murano, Venice? 
Byzantine-Style Mosaic Necklace with Christ and Twelve Apostles (detail), the 1870s-1910s, gold with glass and shell inlay, Smithsonian American Art Museum, USA
https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/byzantine-style-mosaic-necklace-christ-and-twelve-apostles-30961

Apparently, the conservator’s examination brought up more questions than answers, and as the Pietre Dure technique was popular in Florence, they jokingly question if the Smithsonian necklace was created by an itinerant nineteenth-century Florentine Pietre Dure stone craftsperson who moved to Venice to restore the San Marco mosaics and was commissioned by a wealthy patron to make a Byzantine-style necklace… One can only wonder!

Unidentified Artist from Murano, Venice? 
Byzantine-Style Mosaic Necklace with Christ and Twelve Apostles (Detail), the 1870s-1910s, gold with glass and shell inlay, Smithsonian American Art Museum, USA
https://americanart.si.edu/blog/byzantine-art-mystery

Information on my presentation of the Necklace comes from the December 8, 2021article The Mystery Around a Byzantine-style Necklace – When SAAM’s “Art Doctors” Become Art Detectives by Ariel O’Connor and Sarah Montonchaikul… https://americanart.si.edu/blog/byzantine-art-mystery

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening’s April

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Praise the spells and bless the charms, / I found April in my arms. / April golden, April cloudy, / Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy; / April soft in flowered languor, / April cold with sudden anger, / Ever changing, ever true — / I love April, I love you…wrote Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971), the 20th-century American writer of humorous poetry! Could Simon Bening’s Calendar page for the Month of April be an example of a Renaissance April Love? https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/always-marry-an-april-girl/

Folio 21verso of Simon Bening’s Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, is dedicated to the Month of April and exhibits a magnificent scene of Renaissance courtship! It all takes place in a beautiful garden, possibly in a town, surrounded by a low fence containing three trees, whose crowns are rather sparse because of their recent blossoming, grass, flowers, and a hexagonal fountain topped by a bronze-colour statue of a discreet Venus pouring water into a hollow in the garden, where a dog drinks. Simon Bening, the inventive painter of the Book of Golf presents the viewer with a detailed vista of impressive Flemish buildings, a magnificent Italianate colonnaded tower, and a lovely vignette… of a pair of storks nesting on a chimney, one of them flying over it. The scene, apart from the courting couple, is quite busy with a lady strolling about the garden alone… a couple of sweethearts talking and a man with a falcon perched on his left hand. In the foreground of the composition, Bening painted a boy, picking up flowers, and a young girl stretching her hands out towards the water, enjoying a crisp day of Spring. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (Details, f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The protagonists of Bening’s April arrangement, depicted in the center of the composition, outshine everything else! The young Lady, beautifully dressed in the latest of 16th-century fashion, wears a loose-fitting blue gown, revealing a red petticoat underneath when raised, with a wide, square neckline with a white ruff (a large round collar of intricately pleated muslin).  She demurely gives her left hand to a gentleman, even more impressively dressed, who sits on the edge of the fountain, holding with his right hand a hooded falcon, and leaning towards her. The depicted man seems older than his mistress. He wears French garb consisting of a square-necked gown over a fastened shirt with a high, ruffled-edge collar, a skullcap (close-fitting cap), and a hat, long, dark-coloured hose, a very short type of footwear that appeared in the last quarter of the 15th century, and, hanging from his belt, an impressive, long sword. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (Detail f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

This is an elegant scene of courtship between members of the aristocratic society. A romantic scene of a couple emotionally and socially attached is a symbol of a tacit agreement of commitment between the two persons. What I like most in Bening’s April scene is how the young Lady lowers her eyes shyly while her gallant suitor looks at her…amorously smiling! What a scene! https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

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

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s April Page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 22r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/
Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 21v and 22r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Joseph Karl Stieler’s Portrait of Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris

Joseph Karl Stieler, German Painter,1781–1858   
Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris, 1841, oil on canvas, 72,4 x 59 cm, Gallery of Beauties, Schönheiten-Galerie König Ludwig I, Nymphenburg Palace, Munich, Germany
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portr%C3%A4t_von_Katharina_Botzaris.jpg

The diarist Christiane Lüth (1817–1900), whose husband was appointed personal chaplain to Queen Amalia of Greece wrote about Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris in her diaries: Of the two young ladies-in-waiting, Miss von Wiesenthau was not very well mannered, Catholic and not very pretty, although she talked constantly. The Greek, very beautiful Rosa Botzaris was not agreeable, but stingy and hated everything German. She was poor, but the glory which surrounded the name of her father, the freedom hero, Marko Botzaris, shone its light over her. When she travelled with the Queen, she was much celebrated for her beauty, which was highlighted by her national costume. She hid the fact that she understood the German language and spread dangerous political comments around her which much damaged Their Majesties, her benefactors. It is obvious Christiane Lüth did not like much, either of Queen Amalia’s Ladies in Waiting, but Rosa’s beauty is undisputed, and Joseph Karl Stieler’s Portrait of Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris is an excellent testimony! https://www.kathryngauci.com/blog-105-25-3-2021-a-literary-world-katerina-rosa-botsaris/

Between 1827 and 1850 Joseph Karl Stieler, court painter of Bavaria, was commissioned by King Ludwig I to create 36 portraits of the most beautiful women from the nobility and middle classes of Munich, Germany. These portraits were to decorate the south pavilion of Ludwig’s Nymphenburg Summer Palace. Among these very popular portraits was that of a Greek lady, Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris, the daughter of Markos Botsaris, the hero of the 1821 Greek Revolution. https://arrayedingold.blogspot.com/2011/11/gallery-of-beauties.html

Katerina’s life was not easy. Born to the prominent Souliot Botsaris family, Katerina was the daughter of Chrysoula Kalogirou and Markos Botsaris, the famed, and revered leader of the Greek War of Independence, who died on the night of August the 8th, 1823, at Kefalobryso in Karpeisi, while with 450 Souliotes, ambushed the enemy camp of Mustafa Pasha of Shkoder (modern northern Albania) inflicting serious casualties. At the time, a child of 5 or 3 years old, Katerina Botsaris lived the life of a “hostage” in the city of Drama, at the harem of Dramali Mahmud Pasha, under the protection of upper-class Ottoman women. Katerina was apparently a particularly charming child, so much so that one of her “protectresses” wanted to officially adopt her. It was not meant to be, and during a prisoner exchange initiative, Katerina was returned to her family and reunited with her mother. Many “adventures” later, the orphaned family of Markos Botsaris settled at the newly created Greek state where members of the Botsaris family were to play an important role. https://archive.org/details/poikilstoaethni02raphgoog/page/n299/mode/2up?view=theater

While in Athens, the importance of the Botsaris name, her delightful personality, and great beauty attracted the attention of Amalia of Oldenburg, Queen of Greece from 1836 to 1862 as the spouse of King Otto (1815–1867), who appointed Katerina as her 1st Greek Lady-in-Waiting. In 1841, Katerina Botsaris accompanied Queen Amalia to Munich, the birthplace of King Otto of Greece. Tradition has it that upon arrival, as she was getting out of her carriage King Ludwig of Bavaria noticed Katerina’s Mediterranean beauty and hurried to assist her. Later on, the royal couple of Greece, Otto, and Amalia, suggested Katerina’s Portrait for the Gallery of Beauties, and King Ludwig wholeheartedly agreed. It is said that she was given the name Rosa, leaving behind her real name, from the ruby ​​color of the rose … that her lips and cheeks had… https://www.bovary.gr/oramatistes/15798/roza-mpotsari-i-ellinida-kalloni-kori-toy-markoy-mpotsari-poy-emeine-sto-pantheon and https://www.patris.gr/2021/01/30/katerina-roza-mpotsari-i-kori-toy-iroa/

Katerina “Rosa” Botsari Costume, mid-19th century, crimson velvet, and embroidery of gold cords, National History Museum – Historical & Ethnological Society of Greece (EIM), Athens, Greece
Photograph Credit: Christina Hilla Famel
https://www.huffingtonpost.gr/entry/endema-pseches-apo-te-foresia-tes-kera-frosenes-mechri-tes-rozas-mpotsare_gr_60f6b247e4b0e92dfebc53bb

Stieler’s Portrait of Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris shows a great Mediterranean beauty. Her complexion is glowing and creamy, her cheeks blushed with youth. High arched eyebrows frame a long straight nose and brown heavy-lidded eyes, which look out at us kindly, a light smile drawn at the corners of her mouth. Glossy chestnut hair flows down her neck, blending into the tassel of her jauntily placed hat and the fur collar of her jacket. She poses in front of the blue, tranquil Aegean Sea, and the pale blue but luminous Greek sky… a landscape that is atmospheric and tranquil,  matching her character and demeanor. She wears an exquisite, fitted Kontogouni (vest)of crimson velvet, embroidered with gold cords, a crisp white Poukamisa (shirt), and a full, silk, pleated skirt, emphasizing her feminine shape. The Kontogouni survived time and it is still a prized treasure of the National History Museum of Greece. The artist Joseph Karl Stieler, trained in the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and in the Parisian atelier of François Gérard, a student of Jacques-Louis David, created, inspired by the Greek beauty of Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris, the perfect example of a controlled and romanticized Neoclassical portrait. https://www.art-theoria.com/painting-of-the-month/katerina-rosa-botzaris/ and https://www.nationalgallery.gr/images/docs/books/athina-monacho.pdf pages 546-548

In 1845 Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris married Prince George Karatzas. a military man of Fanariot descent and had four children, two of whom died at a young age. The marriage was not particularly happy due to her husband’s strict and authoritarian character and the death of her children. The beautiful Souliotissa died at the age of 57 in January 1875. https://www.patris.gr/2021/01/30/katerina-roza-mpotsari-i-kori-toy-iroa/

Katerina Agrafioti wrote a book (in Greek) about Katerina’s life… the story of a woman who, always respecting her origin, unreservedly served the social “musts” and overlooked her personal pursuits with the power and dignity she derived from her father’s name.https://www.kathimerini.gr/opinion/707109/aikaterini-roza-mpotsari-sti-skia-toy-onomatos-mythistorimatiki-viografia-apo-tin-katerina-agrafioti-ekdoseis-papyros/ and https://www.ianos.gr/ekaterini-roza-mpotsari-sti-skia-tou-onomatos-0195564

Pietro Luchini,  Italian Painter,1800-1883
Ekaterini Botzaris Caradja, 1845, oil on canvas, 207×159 cm, Private Collection
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ekaterini_Caradja_Botzaris.jpg
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/84/89/14/848914762a7727cfeb43a89aef41f647.jpg

A Damask Rose species bred in 1856, brightly white and very fragrant, was named Rosa Botsaris after her. https://garden.org/plants/view/415/Rose-Rosa-Botzaris/

For a Student Activity, please … Check HERE!

Rose named after Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris
http://diolkos.blogspot.com/2011/07/blog-post_136.html

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta, 1294-1296, Arta, Greece
https://efaart.gr/portfolio/panagia-parigoritisa/

According to a popular Epirote legend… the anonymous “πρωτομάστορας” (master architect), commissioned to build the Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta was accomplished, famous, and much in demand! Hired to design plans for another church, while still working in Arta, the “πρωτομάστορας” was obliged to travel away, leaving his assistant in charge. The assistant, anonymous as well, was young, ambitious, innovative, and highly creative. He decided to change the original plans… implement a novel architectural proposal, and, in the process, created an original Church design we still admire today! Upon his return, the “πρωτομάστορας” was stunned, envious and… vengeful! He wanted revenge and he planned carefully… He tricked his unsuspecting assistant into climbing to the roof under the pretext that he was going to show him a mistake he made and then… the plan was, to push him over. But the plan did not materialize as wished! As the young assistant was falling, he grabbed the master-builder dragging him along to their death. The mother of the young assistant was devastated… but one night the Virgin Mary appeared to her dream and “την παρηγόρησε,” consoled her for her unjust loss. Mary’s consolation was considered a miracle and thus… the Church in Arta was called “Παναγία η Παρηγορήτισσα,” the Church of the Virgin Mary of Consolation. https://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/o-thrilos-tou-protomastora-pou-zilepse-to-epitevgma-tou-voithou-tou-ke-ton-dolofonise-panagia-i-parigoritissa-i-vizantini-ekklisia-tis-artas-me-ton-protoporiako-troulo-pou-eorite/

Ιn Arta the Parigoritissa Church is considered the city’s Αρχόντισσα… most Aristocratic edifice! Built on the western slope of Peranthis hill, the church is associated with the Komnenos Doukas ruling family of the Despotate of Epiros. Archaeologists discern 2 construction phases. The older 1st phase dates to the middle of the 13th century and is associated with Michael II Komnenos Doukas (1230 until his death in 1266/68 ruler of the Despotate of Epirus) and his wife Theodora Petraliphaina (canonized as Saint Theodora of Arta, ca. 1225 – after 1270). Recent archaeological discoveries show that large parts of its original masonry were preserved to a sufficient height and incorporated via various modifications for the construction of the church’s 2nd phase which materialized under the sponsorship of Nikiphoros I Komnenos Doukas (c. 1240-1297) and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene (d. 1313). On the western wall of the main church, over the entrance, an inscription verifies the fact that the Parogoritissa church was founded in the period 1294-1296 by the despot of Epirus Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas, his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene, and their son Thomas. The aspiration of the princely couple was to create a Metropolitan Church worthy of a Byzantine Capital, impressive and original in design, luxurious and imposing on its exterior and interior decoration!  http://www.peartas.gov.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66:2011-06-15-08-30-45&catid=23:2011-06-10-06-28-51&Itemid=26

Thomas Smart Hughes, Travels in Sicily Greece, and Albania… Illustrated with engravings of maps scenery plans &c., vol. Ι, London, J. Mawman, 1820, Collection: Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation
https://eng.travelogues.gr/item.php?view=44972

The church of Parigoritissa was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and was formerly the Katholikon of a large Monastery, of which 16 cells and the Refectory are also preserved. It is one monumental, voluminous, cubic in essence (has dimensions of 20,30×22 m) building, which external masonry and design “elusively” resemble the Italian mansions of the Early Renaissance period. The exterior façade of the church is divided into three zones: The lowest one is irregularly built and unadorned because until 1865 it was covered by a portico, as evidenced by the existence of 12 pilasters on the three sides of the temple to support its roof. The two upper zones of the church are meticulously built according to the isodomic “cloisonne” system, adorned with a large number of double (dilova) windows with a colonnette in between, and further embellished with elaborate brick decorations. The Parigoritissa like many other churches in Arta, uses bricks and clay tiles in a variety of colours and designs, to decorate their walls with designs like meanders, concentric rhombuses, and toothed strips to name just a few. Finally, the church is crowned by five domes, from which the central one is larger and taller. Among the two western domes, there is a smaller, open dome, which gives the impression of a ciborium. http://www.peartas.gov.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66:2011-06-15-08-30-45&catid=23:2011-06-10-06-28-51&Itemid=26 and https://issuu.com/efaartas/docs/parigotitissa_arta_fylladio_32sel

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta (Keramoplastika), 1294-1296, Arta, Greece
https://www.greekgastronomyguide.gr/ena-24oro-stin-arta/

For an interesting 3D Video on the Byzantine city of Arta and its Monuments created by the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities of Art, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vZ6fVBDzj0

For interesting Photographs, go to… https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/parigoritissa

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

My thoughts on the interior architectural plan and decoration of the Parigoritissa Church will be presented in another BLOG POST…

Visiting the Parogoritissa with my students…
Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

Simon Bening’s March

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v and 21r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Never mind, March, we know / When you blow / You’re not really mad / Or angry or bad; / You’re only blowing the winter away / To get the world ready for April and May… writes Annette Wynne… just as in Simon Bening’s March Page preparations for Spring are in order! What a magnificent scene… an introductory full-page miniature showing the agricultural labours associated with the beginning of the agricultural season. https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/march-poems/ and https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The main miniature on f. 20v of the Golf Book by Simon Bening, shows, in the foreground, an organized, enclosed Medieval Garden. The depicted labourer, a neatly dressed peasant, is presented to stop digging and to dock his cap to an aristocratic lady who gestures eloquently and energetically to him with her left hand as if she is instructing him on what his gardening chores should be. Followed by her lady-in-waiting the “principal” female figure of the composition is quite impressively dressed in a tunic with a fur collar and wide sleeves with a small, white dog in her right hand. Even her companion/maid is beautifully groomed in a dress with a generous neckline that is straight across the lower edge and covered by a high ruff of thick fabric. This is a lovely introductory scene to medieval gardening and the importance of medicinal plants for the people of the Middle Ages. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/158

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v) (detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

What I find particularly interesting about this composition, is the depicted garden or orchard – possibly containing medicinal herbs and vegetables – that Bening depicted in the left forward part of his March verso page composition. For my students, the March page is a perfect opportunity to discuss Gardening during the Middle Ages, the importance of herbal or medicinal gardens, and how they are depicted in art. A fascinating book to read, beautifully illustrated is Sweet Herbs and Sundry Flowers: Medieval Gardens and the Gardens of The Cloisters by Tania Bayard, which I use for a Student Activity… HERE! https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Sweet_Herbs_and_Sundry_Flowers_Medieval_Gardens_and_the_Gardens_of_The_Cloisters

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

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v and 21r) (details),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / or may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sassiness upset you? / Why are you beset with gloom? / ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room.    /    Just like moons and like suns, / With the certainty of tides, / Just like hopes springing high, / Still I’ll rise.    /    Did you want to see me broken? / Bowed head  /and lowered eyes? / Shoulders falling down like teardrops.    /    Weakened by my soulful cries.    /    Does my haughtiness offend you? / Don’t you take it awful hard / ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines / Diggin’ in my own back yard.    /    You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?    /    Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.    /    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise / Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, / I am the dream and the hope of the slave.    /    I rise    /    I rise    /    I rise… writes Maya Angelou and I think of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens… https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/dance

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (detail), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/shop/category/edgar-degas

Edgar Degas found ballet dancing irresistible and at the Paris Opéra, he frequently attended grand ballet productions on stage and small ballet classes in rehearsal studios. He was an astute observer of the ballerinas’ daily routine of rehearsing, stretching, and resting. He studied dance movements and filled numerous notebooks with sketches to help him remember details so he could later compose paintings and model sculptures in his studio. His penetrating observations are best exemplified in the artist’s statue of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen exhibited in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens. The Little Dancer’s name was Marie van Goethem… and she was a young student at the Paris Opéra Ballet School. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Adolescent Marie, according to Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation experts, is presented standing in a dynamic but relaxed way, her feet in the “fourth position,” her hands held behind her back, the head slightly raised, and the entire appearance revealing all the ambiguity of an adolescent figure deformed by the dancing practice. The thinness of her body, the possible malnutrition suggested by a slightly swollen belly, does not diminish the girl’s sensuality, whose proud position, almost with an air of defiance, may seem, according to observers, dignified, provocative, or despisingI rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I risehttps://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (back view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen
Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (side view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Degas worked on Little Dancer Aged Fourteen for more than two years. He first created an armature of metal, wood, wire, rope, and two long paintbrushes for the dancer’s shoulders. Then, he modeled the figure first with clay to define the muscles, and then he modeled the final layer of the sculpture in wax. It was not enough… He dressed the statue in real ballet satin slippers, a linen bodice, a muslin tutu, and a wig of human hair, braided and tied with a ribbon. Finally, to complete the illusion, a coat of wax spread smoothly with a spatula over the surface of the sculpture, giving it an overall waxy,  lifelike look. After Degas died in 1917, copies of this wax figure were cast in plaster and bronze, and Little Dancer Aged Fourteen grew in fame around the world. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Museum Hall view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/visit/be-athens

Byzantine Girdle

Marriage Belt, 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1937.33.jpg/view

That which her slender waist confin’d, / Shall now my joyful temples bind; / No monarch but would give his crown, / His arms might do what this has done.     /     It was my heaven’s extremest sphere, / The pale which held that lovely deer, / My joy, my grief, my hope, my love, / Did all within this circle move.     /     A narrow compass, and yet there / Dwelt all that’s good, and all that’s fair; / Give me but what this ribbon bound, / Take all the rest the sun goes round… wrote Edmund Waller, back in the 17th century… and I imagine another slender waist confin’d  by a Byzantine Girdle, masterfully created back in the 6th or the 7th century… https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45437/on-a-girdle

The Gold Byzantine Marriage Belt at Dumbarton Oaks is small, but lo and behold, it’s luxurious and precious, unique, and ever so beautiful! It combines Christian and pagan iconography… two large medallions depicting Jesus uniting a young couple as they clasp each other’s right hand, in a gesture, known as the dextrarum iunctio, that had been part of the Roman marriage rite, and twenty-one small medallions that contain busts of pagan figures: all men, some draped, several bearded, others with leaves in their hair, a few holding the thyrsos—a staff associated with Dionysos—and some a caduceus, the rod of the god Hermes/Mercury. Framing the central, Marriage scene, is the inscription, “From God, concord, grace, health.” http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

The fascinating aspect of the Dumbarton Oaks marriage belt is how the artist combined the “sacred with the profane…” Jesus blessing the young couple, with Dionysus and his male entourage. The combination of Pagan and Christian traditions in early Byzantine marriage art is captivating. The presence of Christ uniting the young couple in the larger, central two disks was apparently a popular practice in wedding belts and marriage rings. There is a similar second belt at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and numerous variations on marriage rings to testify to the fact. What the Dumbarton Oaks experts find challenging is the integration of non-Christian figures with the Christian scenes. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010256506 and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27445

It is also interesting to read the actual Epithalamic Poem by Dioscorus of Aphrodito dedicated to Count Callinicus… τον περίβλεπτον κόμετα Καλλίνικον… Bridegroom, may your wedding be filled with the dancing of the Graces; may it ever seek the help of Wisdom after Beauty. You are marrying a bride who is an enviable Ariadne, silver-sandaled Theophile wreathed in gold. (May your marriage) have the scent at once of love and of wisdom. Gold has embraced gold, and silver has found silver. You raise up the honey-sweet grape cluster, in its bloom of youth; Dionysus attends the summer of your wedding, bearing wine, love’s adornment, with plenty for all, and blonde Demeter brings the flower of the field. . . . They have woven holy wreaths round your rose-filled bedroom. Like splendid Menelaus, but more tawny colored, follow your Helen, a wife who will not leave you. And afterwards you shall see dear children on your lap, like both your excellence and your wife’s to look upon. I wish a famous painter would accurately depict your lifelike image, with his craft to work your beloved likeness, whose bright beams flash with joy like the moon. Your young body has surpassed prize-winning Bellerophon, and your beauty is that of measureless excellence. To judge impartially, you have outdone Achilles and Diomedes, and easily outstripped Ares and brave Herakles. Be gracious to me in my awe of you, so I may sing your song: I came sailing on my voyage, inspired by your measureless excellence. Not in a worldly sense . . . https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft0m3nb0cs;chunk.id=d0e3949;doc.view=print -88-

If you are interested in discovering how the Dumbarton Oaks Marriage Belt ended in the renowned Washington DC Museum, please click HERE! and read the correspondence between Mildred and Robert Bliss and Royall Tyler between September 1937 and August 1938. It is a fascinating story… https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/letters#b_start=0&c1=Marriage+Belt