The Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Egg

House of Fabergé, Saint-Petersburg, Workmaster: Mikhail Perkhin, Miniaturist: Johannes Zeingraph, Icon painter: Mikhail Dikarev
The Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Egg, 1898, Gold, Ruby, Rose-cut diamonds, Pearls, Ivory, Glass, Technics Casting, Embossing, Engraving, Guilloche enamel, Watercolor, Gilding, Height: 15,1 cm (opened: 19,9 cm), Fabergé Museum, Shuvalov Palace of Saint-Petersburg, Russia https://fabergemuseum.ru/en/collections/collection-highlights/lilies-of-the-valley-easter-egg

In the realm of art and beauty, William Blake, with his evocative poetry, reminds us on the one hand that… The modest Rose puts forth a thorn, / The humble sheep a threat’ning horn: / While the Lily white shall in love delight, / Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright. Echoing this celebration of beauty and purity, on the other hand, Peter Carl Fabergé brings to life the unparalleled elegance of the lily in one of his most celebrated creations: The Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Easter Egg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lilly_(poem)

Peter Carl Fabergé was a master jeweller and goldsmith of the Russian Empire, renowned for his exquisite and intricate craftsmanship, particularly in the creation of the famed Fabergé eggs. Born in Saint Petersburg in 1846 into a family of French Huguenot descent, Fabergé inherited his father’s jewelry business and elevated it to extraordinary heights of artistic and commercial success. He became most famous for the series of elaborately decorated Easter eggs he created for the Russian imperial family from 1885 to 1917. These eggs, crafted from precious metals and gemstones, were feats of engineering and artistry, containing surprises such as miniatures, clockwork birds, or ships. Fabergé’s work extended beyond these eggs to include a vast range of jewelry and luxury objects, admired for their beauty and precision. Despite the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, which eventually led him into exile, Fabergé’s legacy endures, symbolizing the pinnacle of craftsmanship and the opulence of pre-revolutionary Russia.

The Imperial Easter Eggs by Fabergé represent a highpoint in the world of art and craftsmanship, a series of 50 opulent, jewelled Eggs created for the Russian imperial family from 1885 to 1917. Commissioned initially by Tsar Alexander III as an Easter gift for his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the tradition continued under his son, Nicholas II, who gifted them to his mother and wife. Each Egg, meticulously crafted from gold, enamel, and precious gems, concealed a unique surprise, ranging from miniature replicas of the imperial regalia to intricate mechanical objects, showcasing the unparalleled skill of Fabergé and his craftsmen. Beyond their artistic merit, these eggs held personal significance for the imperial family, commemorating events and anniversaries, and have become symbols of the extravagance of the Romanov dynasty and the lost opulence of Imperial Russia. Today, the surviving eggs are treasured as masterpieces of decorative art, housed in museums and private collections around the world, embodying the legacy of Fabergé’s genius and the enduring fascination with the Romanovs.

House of Fabergé Easter Eggs in the Fabergé Museum, Shuvalov Palace of Saint-Petersburg, Russia https://russiable.com/faberge-museum-st-petersburg/

The Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Easter Egg, crafted in 1898, is the opulent gift given to Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna by Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. This exquisite piece, designed by the renowned jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, is adorned with translucent pink guilloché enamel on a gold base, vertical strips of rose-cut diamonds and pearl lilies of the valley elegantly accented with diamonds among green enamelled leaves. The Easter Egg is topped with a diamond and ruby-set Imperial crown, that hides a surprise, three miniature watercolour portraits, framed in diamonds, of Nicholas II and the two daughters of the royal family, Olga and Tatiana, in the form of a trefoil that opens when a pearl button is pushed. The Easter Egg is supported by cabriolet legs of graceful gold leaves adorned with pearls and sinuous lines of rose-cut diamonds.

House of Fabergé, Saint-Petersburg, Workmaster: Mikhail Perkhin, Miniaturist: Johannes Zeingraph, Icon painter: Mikhail Dikarev
The Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Egg (detail), 1898, Gold, Ruby, Rose-cut diamonds, Pearls, Ivory, Glass, Technics Casting, Embossing, Engraving, Guilloche enamel, Watercolor, Gilding, Height: 15,1 cm (opened: 19,9 cm), Fabergé Museum, Shuvalov Palace of Saint-Petersburg, Russia https://fabergemuseum.ru/en/collections/collection-highlights/lilies-of-the-valley-easter-egg

Lilies of the valley, symbols of purity, youth, and innocence, were the favourite flowers of Alexandra Feodorovna, who avoided “any kind of pomp” and dedicated almost all her time to her husband and children. They were also a favourite ‘motif’ of the Art Nouveau style, a movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by its focus on organic forms, intricate designs, and a harmonious integration of art with everyday objects. This Easter Egg exhibits several key characteristics of Art Nouveau, such as its graceful and asymmetrical form, which mimics the natural curves of the lilies of the valley. The use of enamel, a hallmark of Art Nouveau craftsmanship, adds vibrant colour and depth to the piece, while the incorporation of pearls and diamonds accentuates its luxurious appeal. Furthermore, the attention to detail, from the delicate placement of each gemstone to the subtle nuances in the design, reflects the meticulous craftsmanship synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement.

Renowned for its elegance and the intricacy of its design, the Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Easter Egg, encapsulates not just the unmatched skill of its creators but also the rich historical and emotional depth of the era it represents, making it a timeless testament to both the artistic innovations of its time and the enduring legacy of the Romanov dynasty. It epitomizes the Art Nouveau movement through its embodiment of organic beauty, exquisite craftsmanship, and the seamless fusion of art with functionality, while simultaneously serving as a symbol of imperial opulence, intricate artistry, and the poignant narrative of a bygone era.

As we welcome the 1st of May and with the Greek Orthodox Easter upon our threshold, I extend heartfelt Wishes to all for Health, Happiness, and the Warmth of shared moments with loved ones. Let the Lilies of the Valley Fabergé Easter Egg, an exquisite artefact that captures the essence of beauty and tradition, stand as a poignant reminder of the enduring spirit of rejuvenation, hope, and rebirth that Easter brings to many around the world.

For suggested Student Activities, please, Check… HERE!

The Dolphin Frieze from the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla

Dolphin Frieze, Second half of the 13th century BC, Fresco, from the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla in Boeotia, Archaeological Museum of Thebes, Greece – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, February 19, 2024

On February 19, 2024, I fulfilled a long-awaited wish by visiting the Archaeological Museum of Thebes, one of Greece’s most significant archaeological museums. The collections, some of which are rare or unique, have been on my bucket list for quite some time. These artefacts, originating from excavations across Boeotia, span from the Paleolithic era to post-Byzantine times, providing a comprehensive view of the region’s cultural history. The Dolphin Frieze from the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla was at the top of my list; seeing it in person was a moment of sheer delight and fulfilment.

The Mycenaean period is of profound significance in both art and history, acting as a vital cultural link between the Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and the classical world of ancient Greece. Artefacts from this era, ranging from architecture to fresco painting and pottery, illuminate the emergence of distinct artistic styles and techniques that greatly influenced classical Greek artistry. Mycenaean builders demonstrated their prowess through the construction of grand palaces, robust fortifications, and imposing tombs, showcasing advanced architectural and engineering capabilities. Their vibrant fresco paintings, characterized by bold depictions of figures, animals, and geometric patterns, stand as a testament to their artistic abilities. Moreover, the Mycenaean civilization played a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political landscape of ancient Greece, laying the groundwork for the development of Greek culture and identity.

Model of the Archaeological site of Gla, Archaeological Museum of Thebes, Greece
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gla_-_Modell_of_archaeological_site.JPG

The least known of all Mycenaean Palaces is probably that of Gla in Central Greece. Perched atop a rugged hill, the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla is a site of historical and archaeological significance dating back to the Late Bronze Age. This fortified settlement, strategically positioned on the Boeotian plain jutted into Lake Kopais (now drained) or formed an island within it. It served as a vital center of the Mycenaean civilization, showcasing the architectural prowess and strategic foresight of its ancient inhabitants. With its imposing Cyclopean Walls, about 3 m thick, and 2.8 km long, enclosing about 235,000 square meters of land, and commanding views, the Acropolis of Gla stands as a testament to the military and cultural achievements of the Mycenaeans, offering invaluable insights into their society, economy, and interactions within the broader Aegean world.

The Acropolis of Gla is famously associated with the ambitious endeavour to drain Lake Kopais, a feat considered unparalleled in Bronze Age antiquity, highlighting the advanced technical knowledge possessed by Mycenaean engineers. It is also known for its sheer magnitude and complexity. Encircled by robust Cyclopean Walls featuring four gates constructed from imposing stone blocks, Gla reigns as the largest fortified Mycenaean Acropolis within Greek territory. Less known, but equally important is the site’s residential area, a sprawling L-shaped edifice, often hailed as a ‘Palace’, and situated in the site’s northern expanse. Built atop an engineered plateau, this ‘Palace’ or, Melathron’, unfolds into three distinct sections, featuring a layout reminiscent of the renowned Megaron structures found in ancient centers like Tiryns, Mycenae, and Pylos. However, the absence of hallmark Mycenaean Palace elements, specifically a “throne room”, a circular hearth, and a “bathroom”, raises questions about its classification as a fully-fledged Mycenaean Megaron.

Among the buildings’ debris, archaeologists discovered as early as 1893, evidence of a wastewater system, unique clay roof tiles suggesting pitched roofs, and evidence of decorative wall frescoes, damaged and fragmentary, but extremely precious. Today, these fragments, discovered in the elongated East Wing of the South Enclosure, during excavations conducted by S. Iakovidis, in the early 1980s and 1990s are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thebes. The most remarkable of these fragments show diving Dolphins and parts of other maritime scenes, including large Argonauts. These fresco fragments were expertly reconstructed by Christos Boulotis. (See Bibliography)

Dolphin Frieze, Second half of the 13th century BC, Fresco, from the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla in Boeotia, Archaeological Museum of Thebes, Greece – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, February 19, 2024

The Dolphin Fresco from the Mycenaean Acropolis of Gla is a remarkable artefact that showcases an unusual naturalism and a sophisticated understanding of marine life, captured through the depiction of Dolphins with an astonishing level of detail and realism. These elegant creatures, spanning 75 to 80 cm in height, are painted against a vivid blue background, highlighting their dynamic forms and graceful postures. The Dolphins, numbering between six and seven, are depicted in a uniform size and posture, their bodies elegantly curved into open arches or crescents, embodying the fluidity and grace of living dolphins. Their upper bodies are painted black, featuring a triangular dorsal fin, while their bellies are a contrasting white, delineated from the black with yellow stripes. Their eyes are almond-shaped, set against a yellow background, adding a striking detail to their overall appearance.

The use of colours in the Gla Dolphins fresco draws closer to the real hues of these marine creatures, with the black, white, and yellow providing a stark contrast to the deep blue sea they inhabit. This colour choice not only enhances the naturalism of the scene but also demonstrates the Mycenaeans’ advanced skills in pigment selection and application. Indeed, recent analyses have revealed the use of rare, imported lapis lazuli mixed with hematite and possibly an organic colour derived from murex, underscoring the significant effort and resources devoted to achieving the fresco’s vibrant colours.

This fresco, along with other Dolphin Paintings of the Aegean Bronze Age period demonstrates a persistence of themes drawn from nature within Mycenaean art, suggesting a deep-rooted appreciation for the natural world. The Gla Dolphins, with their lifelike appearance and intricate detailing, stand as a testament to the Mycenaean civilization’s artistic prowess and their enduring fascination with the sea and its inhabitants.

For a Student Activity, inspired by the Dolphin Freeze, please… Check HERE!

Bibliography: Christos Boulotis, Reconstructing a Dolphin Frieze and Argonauts from the Mycenaean Citadel of Gla, ΜΕΛΕΤΗΜΑΤΑ 72, Mycenaean Wall Painting in Context, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, 2015, pp. 371… https://www.academia.edu/39148590/RECONSTRUCTING_A_DOLPHIN_FRIEZE_AND_ARGONAUTS_FROM_THE_MYCENAEAN_CITADEL_OF_GLA_In_MYCENAEAN_WALL_PAINTING_IN_CONTEXT_ATHENS_2015_371_403

The Allegory of Calumny

In a world where misinformation can spread with the click of a button, the echoes of truth and deceit battle in the court of public opinion. This timeless struggle was vividly captured in the brushstrokes of The Allegory of Calumny, an intriguing 16th-century painting attributed to ‘Botticelli’s’ Workshop. Displayed as part of the exhibition titled ‘ΝοΗΜΑΤΑ’: Personifications and Allegories from Antiquity to Today at the Acropolis Museum, this Renaissance masterwork travelled from the Galleria Colonna in Rome to Greece, offering a unique opportunity to explore the multifaceted world of allegorical art.

Rising above the primary notion of the image, an allegorical painting seeks to uncover hidden, deeper meanings, visualizing abstract concepts with the aspiration of yielding educational outcomes. In this context, allegory emerges as a powerful form of expression that succeeds in cloaking the true meaning, engaging both written words and visual arts in a delicate dance of revelation and concealment. The Allegory of Calumny painting stands out as one of the most instructive examples from antiquity and the Renaissance, embodying the intricate layers of meaning that such symbolic representation can convey. To understand the painting, we first need to travel back to the 4th century BC and seek information on a lost painting by Apelles, then explore the Renaissance painting Calumny of Apelles by Sandro Botticelli, and finally discuss the painting in the Collection of Galleria Colonna in Rome.

The story of the painting Calumny by the legendary 4th century BC ancient Greek artist Apelles, as recounted by the writer Lucian (Luciano di Samosata, 2nd century BC), is a fascinating narrative that has inspired artists and thinkers through the ages. In Lucian’s telling, the celebrated Greek painter Apelles crafted the painting Calumny after becoming the victim of slander himself. The allegorical painting illustrated a tale of injustice and deception, where a blameless man was falsely accused by Calumny (Slander), personified as a beautiful but deceitful woman. Flanked by Malice, and Deceit, and led by Evil, Slander was depicted taking the innocent man before a judge, who was depicted with donkey’s ears, symbolizing his foolishness and inability to discern the truth. Beside the judge stood his advisors, Ignorance and Assumption. Apelles’ work served not only as a personal reflection on his experiences with slander but also as a universal commentary on the nature of truth, justice, and the destructive power of false accusations. Through this allegory, Apelles conveyed a poignant message about the ease with which innocence can be marred by malevolence, a theme that resonates as deeply today as it did in antiquity. http://lucianofsamosata.info/wiki/doku.php?id=home:texts_and_library:essays:slander

Alessandro Filipepi known as Sandro Botticelli, 1445-1510
Calumny of Apelles, c. 1495, Tempera on Wood, 62×91 cm, The Uffizi, Florence, Italy https://www.uffizi.it/en/artworks/calumny-botticelli

Next, the journey through the Allegory of Calumny takes us into the heart of the Renaissance. It is here that Sandro Botticelli, drawing inspiration from ancient texts that describe Apelles’ work, reimagines this timeless theme through the lens of 15th-century Florence. Botticelli’s Calumny of Apelles not only pays homage to the original masterpiece but also enriches it with the nuanced intricacies of Renaissance artistry and thought, inviting us to explore how the allegorical message has been transformed and recontextualized for a new era. Crafted around 1495, this painting emerges at a pivotal moment, marking the transition from the flourishing Laurentian era to the dawn of a Republic under the influence of Girolamo Savonarola. This piece stands as Botticelli’s final foray into the realm of allegorical and mythological themes, showcasing his unparalleled ability to weave intricate narratives and interpret complex ideas through his art.

According to Giorgio Vasari, Botticelli’s painting was a gift to the artist’s friend Antonio Segni, with the following lines of his own composition beneath it: Indicio quemquam ne falso laedere tentent Terrarum reges, parva tabella monet. Huic similem Aegypti regi donavit Apelles Rex fuit et dignus munere, munus eo… Let any kings of the earth beware of attempting to harm anyone falsely; a small tablet warns them. Apelles, the painter, gave a similar one to the king of Egypt; he was both a king deserving of the gift, and the gift was deserving of him. http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/sandro_botticelli/ and https://www.uffizi.it/en/artworks/calumny-botticelli

Having traversed the historical and artistic landscapes shaped by Apelles’ ancient masterpiece and Botticelli’s Renaissance reinterpretation, our exploration leads us to a final piece: The Allegory of Calumny, created by ‘Botticelli’s’ Workshop and residing in the prestigious Galleria Colonna in Rome. This rendition, exhibited, currently, in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and crafted by an artist whose name has eluded history, embodies the aesthetic values of harmony, proportion, and beauty that defined the period. With a delicate and polished use of line and colour, the unknown artist skillfully captures the viewer’s attention, guiding it across an intricate narrative tableau. The painting, lucking Botticelli’s extravagant architectural ‘fantasy’, depicts the allegorical figures with grace and emotional depth, weaving a rich tapestry of human drama that invites the observer to delve into its complex layers. Furthermore, reaffirms the themes and aesthetic principles of its predecessors, serving as a vivid testament to the enduring legacy of the Calumny motif. It invites us to appreciate the nuanced layers of interpretation and craftsmanship that span centuries, from classical antiquity, through the Renaissance, and into the heart of Italy’s artistic heritage.

For a Student Activity, inspired by the Allegory of Columny painting, please… Check HERE!

The so-called ‘Rubens Vase’

The so-called ‘Rubens Vase’, c. 400 AD, Agate and Gold, 18.1 x 18.3 x 12.1 cm, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, USA https://art.thewalters.org/detail/10284/the-rubens-vase/

‘…nothing has ever delighted me more than gems…’  Rubens wrote to his friend and antiquarian Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, and I think of The so-called ‘Rubens Vase’ in the Walters Art Gallery, in Baltimore. https://www.jstor.org/stable/879678 The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 121, No. 916 (Jul. 1979), pp. 424+426-432 (8 pages)

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a renowned Flemish Baroque painter, known for his masterful use of colour, dynamic compositions, and his contributions to the Counter-Reformation. What is lesser known is his passion for collecting ‘gems’ and antique ‘curiosities’. Known as a man of wide interests, the artist, described by Pierre Cassendi as a most experienced connoisseur of all antiquities, but most of all of cameos… was known to exchange his artworks for precious gems, and in his own words, never miss the opportunity to become familiar with antiquities and buy rarities that he paid cash. https://www.jstor.org/stable/879678

The so-called ‘Rubens Vase’, c. 400 AD, Agate and Gold, 18.1 x 18.3 x 12.1 cm, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, USA https://art.thewalters.org/detail/10284/the-rubens-vase/

Rubens’s diverse collection encompassed classical sculptures, coins, medals, manuscripts, and paintings, reflecting a deep fascination with the world of art. Rubens’ interest in antiquities extended beyond mere aesthetics, as he sought to surround himself with artefacts that not only inspired his artistic endeavours but also fueled his scholarly curiosity about ancient history and civilization. His “cabinet of curiosities” served as a testament to his intellectual pursuits, creating a space where the convergence of art, literature, and science fostered learning and reflection. Rubens’ collaborations with other collectors, such as Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, and his active engagement in the cultural and intellectual circles of his time further solidified his legacy as a multifaceted figure in the rich tapestry of the Baroque period.

Among the artist’s many treasures is The so-called ‘Rubens Vase’, currently in the Walters Art Gallery. According to the Museum experts, this amazing piece was most probably created in high relief from a single piece of agate, in the imperial workshops of Constantinople for an unknown Byzantine Emperor. It made its way to France, probably carried off as treasure after the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, where it passed through the hands of some of the most renowned collectors of western Europe, including the Dukes of Anjou and King Charles V of France. In 1619, the vase was purchased by the great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens in Paris, at the Saint-Germaine Fair for the considerable price of 2,000 scudi. Rubens was so excited about his purchase, that he created a drawing of his agate vase, which is currently in the collection of the Hermitage Museum, in Saint Petersburg. https://art.thewalters.org/detail/10284/the-rubens-vase/

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640
The Rubens Vase, before 1626, Paper, pen and brush and brown wash-over sketch in black chalk, 201×148 cm, The State Hermitage Museum, Russia https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/02.+drawings/248654
Paulus Pontius, Flemish Artist, 1603 – 1658
The Rubens Vase, about 1630, Etching, sheet: 39.5 × 53.3 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, UK https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-rubens-vase/

The Rubens Vase is an amazing work of art, an exquisite testament to craftsmanship — almost in perfect condition, ovoid in shape, with a finely turned rim veiled in a gold mount, flattened yet tapered to a flanged base. The vase’s handles, resembling knobs, bear the characteristics of Pan, his coarse features, drooping goat-like ears, moustache, and free-cut horns adding an intriguing dimension. As the heads of Pan rest on large acanthus leaves, and lively grapevines, with leaves, tendrils, and small fruit in high relief, playfully embrace the wider sides, the ‘Rubens Vase’ unfolds a captivating narrative in its design. The bottom, adorned with a low relief carving of a rosette, completes this masterpiece, leaving an indelible mark on the connoisseur’s imagination! https://www.jstor.org/stable/20168774?read-now=1&seq=2

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Prometheus Triptych by Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian Artist, 1886-1980
Triptych – Hades and Persephone, The Apocalypse, Prometheus, 1950, © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

…And ready-witted Prometheus he bound with inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft through his middle, and set on him a long-winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal liver; but by night the liver grew [525] as much again everyway as the long-winged bird devoured in the whole day. That bird Heracles, the valiant son of shapely-ankled Alcmene, slew; and delivered the son of Iapetus from the cruel plague, and released him from his affliction—not without the will of Olympian Zeus who reigns on high, [530] that the glory of Heracles the Theban-born might be yet greater than it was before over the plenteous earth… If Hesiod’s words laid the foundation and introduced the Myth of Prometheus to his readers back in the 7th century BC, The Prometheus Triptych by Oskar Kokoschka brought the tale into the modern era, creating a forceful and compelling resonance! https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0130%3Acard%3D507

Oscar Kokoschka’s 1950 Triptych, a profound exploration of the human condition through his distinctive expressionist style, was commissioned by the Anglo-Austrian art collector Count Antoine Seilern. The masterpiece was intended to adorn the entrance hall ceiling of Seilern’s London house in South Kensington, and Kokoschka, working diligently, dedicated over six months to its creation. In a reflective note on July 15, the artist expressed the significance of completing the monumental work, stating… I put the last brush-stroke (I feel like saying axe-stroke) to my ceiling painting yesterday… This is perhaps my last big painting, and perhaps it’s my best… Count Seilern later bequeathed the Prometheus Triptych, along with his remarkable collection of old master paintings and drawings, to The Courtauld in 1978. https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian Artist, 1886-1980
Triptych – Hades and Persephone, 1950, © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

This monumental triptych reflects Kokoschka’s profound engagement with the existential and psychological dimensions of his subjects. The three panels, Hades and Persephone, The Apocalypse and Prometheus, unfold a visual narrative that is both intimate and universal, capturing the complexities of human relationships, emotions, and the existential journey. Painted after the painful years of the Second World War and during the beginning of the Cold War era, Kokoschka’s Triptych serves as a cautionary tale against human intellectual arrogance, embodied by Prometheus on the right, whose audacious act of stealing fire to empower humanity led to his eternal punishment by Zeus. The central panel depicts a vivid scene from St John’s Apocalypse with the four horsemen heralding the Last Judgment. On the left, a tale of regeneration unfolds as Persephone escapes Hades, portrayed as Kokoschka himself, with assistance from her mother Demeter, standing between them.

Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian Artist, 1886-1980
Triptych – The Apocalypse, 1950, © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

Painted on an epic scale, The Prometheus Triptych is, according to the Courtauld experts, one of Kokoschka’s most ambitious compositions… and intended to be a demonstration of the possibilities of figurative painting. Figures contort and intertwine, conveying a sense of tumultuous upheaval and spiritual crisis. The artist’s use of symbolism and distorted forms adds an otherworldly dimension to the composition, inviting viewers to grapple with the profound and unsettling aspects of the human experience. Prometheus Triptych stands as a testament to Kokoschka’s ability to infuse his work with profound emotion and existential inquiry, providing a gripping interpretation of a timeless and weighty theme. https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian Artist, 1886-1980
Triptych – Prometheus, 1950, © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 https://courtauld.ac.uk/whats-on/oskar-kokoschka-the-myth-of-prometheus/

The artist’s use of bold brushstrokes, intense colours, and dynamic compositions infuses the Triptych with a visceral energy, inviting viewers to delve into the depths of the artist’s emotional and intellectual exploration. Through this commissioned work, Kokoschka not only pays homage to the tradition of the triptych but also showcases his continued commitment to pushing artistic boundaries and expressing the human experience in a profoundly evocative manner.

For a Student Activity inspired by The Prometheus Triptych by Oskar Kokoschka, please… Check HERE!

Maid of Athens

Theodoros Vryzakis, Greek Artist, 1814–1878
The Maid of Athens, 1860, oil on canvas, 97,5 x 71 cm, Anthony E. Comninos Foundation, Greece https://www.facebook.com/teloglion/photos/pcb.5776572499028058/5776566092362032

Maid of Athens, ere we part, / Give, oh give me back my heart! / Or, since that has left my breast, / Keep it now, and take the rest! / Hear my vow before I go, / Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ.     /     By those tresses unconfined, / Wood by each Ægean wind; / By those lids whose jetty fringe / Kiss thy soft cheeks’ blooming tinge; / By those wild eyes like the roe, / Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ.     /     By that lip I long to taste; / By that zone encircled waist; / By all the token-flowers that tell / What words can never speak so well; / By love’s alternate joy and woe. / Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ.     /     Maid of Athens! I am gone: / Think of me, sweet! when alone. / Though I fly to Istambol, / Athens holds my heart and soul: / Can I cease to love thee? No! / Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ. (Zoë mou, sas agapo – My Life, I love you)… wrote Lord Byron in 1810 while visiting Athens… https://allpoetry.com/Maid-Of-Athens,-Ere-We-Part

Lord Byron, the famous British poet, visited Greece in 1809-1810 as part of his Grand Tour of Europe and the Near East. He was motivated by a desire to explore the classical world and to see the ruins of antiquity. He was also interested in the politics of the region and was particularly intrigued by the ongoing struggles of the Greek people against Ottoman rule. Byron became a strong advocate of the Greek Struggle for Independence, donating money and resources to support the cause. His actions helped to raise awareness of the Greek cause and inspired other Europeans to support Greek independence as well. He is remembered as one of the most prominent philhellenes of the 19th century, the man whose influence on British public opinion helped the recognition of Greek independence by the British government.

Fascinated by the ancient Greek culture and history, Byron spent during 1810, several months in Athens, immersing himself in the local culture. Athens had a profound impact on his poetry, particularly in the creation of his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which was published in 1812 and became a literary sensation. The poem is a reflection on the ruins of ancient Greece and the contemporary state of the country, which was still under Ottoman rule. Greece inspired him to write several other poems, such as The Curse of Minerva, The Isles of Greece, and  The Siege of Corinth, all of which reflect his admiration for ancient Greece and its culture.

The Maid of Athens is a poem by Lord Byron, published in 1810. It is a tribute to a Greek girl named Teresa Makri, whom the poet met during his first, 1810, stay in Athens. The poem expresses the speaker’s admiration for Teresa’s beauty and spirit, and his regret at not being able to spend more time with her. The poem is known for its romantic and exotic imagery and its evocation of the beauty and mystery of Greece.

In 1860, Theodoros Vryzakis, a 19th-century Greek painter, known for his historical and patriotic canvases depicting scenes from the Greek War of Independence, painted The Maid of Athens, inspired by Byron’s famous poem.

According to the National Gallery of Greece citation… After his father was hanged by the Turks in 1821, Theodoros Vryzakis and his brother Euthymios were sent to the Capodistrias Orphanage on Aegina. In 1832, probably with the help of Ludwig Thiersch, a progressive educator in the Court of King Otto of Greece, he went to Munich where he studied at the Panhellenion, the Greek school founded by Ludwig I for the orphans of the veterans of the Greek War of Independence. In 1844, he was accepted by the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, and until 1855 continued on a scholarship financed by the Greek community in Munich. https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/artist/vryzakis-theodoros/

From 1848 to 1851, still financed by the Greek community in Munich, Vryzakis returned to Greece for an extended visit. He aimed to study the landscape and the people of Greece so he could accurately depict them in his history paintings. Could the Maid of Athens be the result of such a study? I wish I could accurately say Yes or No!

Vryzakis’s painting of the Maid of Athens, a tribute to the famous Philhellene, Lord Byron, is characteristically executed in the artist’s classical romantic spirit. His style, clearly influenced by Neoclassicism, idealizes the girl’s features, emphasizing her dark hair and eyes. If the Maid of Athens is indeed Theresa Macri, the eldest daughter of Theodora Macri, the widow of a former English vice-consul, she is depicted as described by the artist, Hugh W. Williams, who visited Athens in May 1817… Theresa, the Maid of Athens, …has black, or dark hair and eyes; her visage is oval, and her complexion somewhat pale, with teeth of pearly whiteness. Her cheeks are rounded, her nose straight, rather inclined to aquiline.  Her countenance, except when the conversation has something of mirth in it, may be said to be rather pensive. She is elegant, and her manners pleasing and lady-like, such as would be fascinating in any country… https://genius.com/Lord-byron-maid-of-athens-ere-we-part-annotated  – Travels in Italy, Greece, etc., ii. 291, 292.

Celebrating the Greek Revolution of 1821 and remembering… people and events!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE! Lord Byron’s famous Poem Maid of Athens… is also the source of inspiration for a Melody by Charles Gounodhttps://www.google.com/search?q=Maid+of+Athens+music+by+Gounod&rlz=1C1GGRV_enGR751GR751&oq=Maid+of+Athens+music+by+Gounod&aqs=chrome..69i57j33i160l3.20210j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:10334ca8,vid:FEwgmMo0l5c

Chagall’s magnificent ceiling at the Opéra Garnier

Marc Chagall, from Belarus, 1887-1985
The ceiling of the Opéra Garnier, started in 1963 and completed on the 23rd of September, 1964, nearly 240 m² canvas, Opera Garnier, Paris, France – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, May 8, 2023

Russian-born artist Marc Chagall once said that “the dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.” And it is difficult to conceal one’s wonder beneath Chagall’s magnificent ceiling at the Opéra Garnier, a masterwork that was unveiled in 1964… This is exactly how I felt on the 8th of May, 2023, attending the Dante Project by Wayne McGregor… WONDER! https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/marc-chagall-opera-ceiling

Today’s goal is to highlight the artistic significance of the Opera Garnier’s painted Dome, featuring the breathtaking work of renowned painter Marc Chagall.

Chagall’s work at the Opera Garnier in Paris stands as a captivating testament to artistic innovation within the confines of historical grandeur. The vivid colors and imaginative forms of Chagall’s masterpiece create a striking juxtaposition against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque building. As one gazes upon the ornate details and classical elegance of the Opera House, the unexpected burst of modernity and expression on the dome becomes a mesmerizing focal point. This dynamic interplay between tradition and avant-garde artistry enhances the overall aesthetic experience, inviting viewers to appreciate the harmonious coexistence of two distinct yet complementary artistic worlds within the iconic Parisian landmark.

Marc Chagall’s involvement in painting the dome of the Opera Garnier in Paris is a fascinating chapter in the history of both art and architecture. In 1963, French Minister of Culture André Malraux proposed the idea of commissioning a contemporary artist to contribute to the decoration of the historic building. Chagall, renowned for his dreamlike and symbolic works, was chosen for this ambitious project, hoping for this commission to mark a departure from the conventional approach of adorning opera houses with historical or mythological themes. The artist embraced the opportunity to infuse the space with his distinctive blend of colors and imaginative compositions. He embarked on the task with great enthusiasm, creating a 560-square-meter masterpiece that would become one of his largest and most celebrated works.

Completed in 1964, Chagall’s painted dome is a visual feast, featuring a rich tapestry of scenes and characters from famous operas. The vibrant hues and dynamic forms evoke a sense of lyricism and movement, encapsulating the essence of the performing arts.

The theme behind Marc Chagall’s painting of the dome of the Opera Garnier is a celebration of the world of music, dance, and the performing arts. Chagall’s approach to the commission was to create a vibrant and whimsical visual narrative that captured the spirit of opera and ballet. The dome serves as a vast canvas for Chagall’s imaginative interpretation of the cultural and emotional resonance found in the world of performing arts, featuring a kaleidoscope of colors, floating figures, and symbolic elements drawn from various operas. Dancers, musicians, and mythical creatures come together in a dreamlike composition, conveying a sense of lyricism and movement. The artist skillfully weaves together scenes and characters from famous operas, creating a harmonious and dynamic tapestry that reflects the magic and drama of the performing arts.

Marc Chagall, from Belarus, 1887-1985
The ceiling of the Opéra Garnier started in 1963 and was completed on the 23rd of September, 1964, nearly 240 m² canvas, Opera Garnier, Paris, France https://www.pariszigzag.fr/insolite/histoire-insolite-paris/lhistoire-du-plafond-de-lopera-garnier-par-marc-chagall

Chagall’s dome at the Opera Garnier received mixed reactions initially, with some critics appreciating the modern approach and others expressing reservations about its departure from tradition. However, over time, the masterpiece has come to be recognized as a pivotal work in the intersection of contemporary art and historic architecture. Today, Chagall’s contribution to the Opera Garnier stands as a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression and the willingness to embrace innovation within venerable cultural institutions. The painted dome continues to enchant visitors, offering a unique and immersive experience that transcends the boundaries of time and tradition.

For a full explanation of what Chagall’s ceiling composition presents, please check Google Arts & Culture… https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/marc-chagall%E2%80%99s-ceiling-for-the-paris-op%C3%A9ra-marc-chagall/RwHNmMsONyvObQ

For a Student Activity, inspired by Chagall’s magnificent ceiling at the Opéra Garnier, please… Check HERE!

Opéra Garnier in Paris filmed by a drone… is an interesting, short, video to watch: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marc-chagall-opera-love-never-died-look-paris-op%C3%A9ra-garnier-cruz-1/ 

On Marc Chagall: The artist of the Opera’s dome, Marc Chagall, was of Russian-French origin, known for his unique blend of fantasy, symbolism, and elements of folk art. He was associated with several art movements, including Cubism and Surrealism, but his work defied easy categorization. Chagall’s art often featured dreamlike and poetic scenes, filled with vibrant colors and floating figures. He painted a variety of subjects, including village life, biblical themes, and memories of his hometown Vitebsk. Marc Chagall’s contributions to the art world have left a lasting impact, and he is considered one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.

On the Opera Garnier: Officially known as the Palais Garnier, this is an architectural masterpiece and a cultural icon located in the heart of Paris, France. Designed by Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1875, the opera house is a splendid example of Beaux-Arts architecture, characterized by its opulent ornamentation, grandiosity, and meticulous attention to detail. The exterior is adorned with sculptures, columns, and a grand staircase, while the interior boasts a lavish auditorium with a stunning chandelier, intricate frescoes, and a ceiling painted by Marc Chagall in the 1960s. The Opera Garnier has been a focal point for Parisian cultural life, hosting a myriad of operas, ballets, and other performances. Its rich history, architectural beauty, and artistic significance make it a symbol of Paris’s enduring cultural legacy.

The March Marigold by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, British Artist, 1833–1898
The March Marigold, circa the 1870s, Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas, 71.7×77.4 cm, Private Collection https://www.wikiart.org/en/edward-burne-jones/the-march-marigold

The March Marigold by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones celebrates the vibrantly tinted and warmly hued, Μarigold, the flower that carries rich symbolic meaning across various cultures. Often associated with the sun, these flowers symbolize positivity, joy, and the life-giving energy of sunlight. In many traditions, marigolds are also linked to themes of celebration, prosperity, and good fortune, making them popular choices for festivals, weddings, and other auspicious occasions. Additionally, marigolds are known for their resilience and ability to thrive in diverse conditions, serving as a symbol of endurance and tenacity. Whether used in religious ceremonies, cultural celebrations, or simply as decorative elements, marigolds convey a profound message of optimism, resilience, and the enduring beauty that can emerge from even challenging circumstances.

So… What Do Marigolds Symbolize Internationally?

The scientific name of the Marigold flower is Calendula officinalis, and it comes from Latin. The Romans noticed the plant’s consistent flowering on the Calends, the first days of each month in the Roman Calendar and associated it with the regular intervals of their calendar, hence the name Calendula. The specific epithet officinalis, Latin as well, indicates that the plant was officially used as a medicinal or culinary herb, emphasizing its recognized and established role in traditional practices.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the bright and vibrant marigold flowers were seen as a reflection of the sun’s rays, and they were sometimes considered symbols of light and positivity, often linked to the God Apollo, and Goddesses Aphrodite or Hera. They were also valued for their medicinal properties. Calendula flowers, used for their healing attributes, were employed in salves and ointments to treat wounds, inflammation, and various skin conditions. Additionally, Calendula petals were incorporated into culinary practices, lending color to salads and dishes. The plant’s association with health and well-being is reflected in its use in rituals and ceremonies, demonstrating its cultural and practical importance in ancient Greek and Roman society.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, British Artist, 1833–1898
Stooping Woman, circa the 1870s, Chalk on paper, 152 × 165 mm, TATE, London, UK https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/burne-jones-stooping-woman-a00069

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, the golden color of the Marigolds, reminiscent of the radiance associated with Mary’s purity and divine nature in the Christian tradition, was linked to the Virgin Mary and her pure heart. Over time, this visual connection, coupled with the flowers’ frequent use in religious ceremonies and art, solidified the link between marigolds and the Virgin Mary in Christian symbolism. While marigolds are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, their use in religious and cultural practices reflects a rich tapestry of symbolic meanings within the Christian context.

In Mexico, Marigolds, or Cempasúchil in Spanish, hold deep cultural significance, particularly during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Marigolds are thought to guide the spirits of the deceased back to the world of the living with their vibrant orange and yellow colors. Families often create intricate floral arrangements and altars adorned with marigolds, candles, and mementos to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. The flower’s strong aroma is believed to attract the spirits, and its use in Day of the Dead rituals reflects a blend of indigenous traditions with Catholicism, symbolizing the interconnectedness of life and death in Mexican culture. Marigold’s role in these traditions goes beyond aesthetics, embodying a powerful symbol of remembrance, spirituality, and the enduring connection between the living and the deceased.

In India, Marigolds hold multifaceted cultural and religious significance. These vibrant flowers, known as Genda Phool in Hindi, are commonly used in religious ceremonies, festivals, and decorations. Marigold garlands are often offered in temples to various deities, symbolizing purity and auspiciousness. The golden hue of Marigolds is associated with the sun, representing positive energy and prosperity. Additionally, during festivals like Diwali and Durga Puja, Marigolds are extensively used for decoration, adorning homes, and public spaces as a symbol of joy and celebration. The flower’s resilience and vibrant color contribute to its popularity in Indian culture, where marigolds serve as more than mere ornamental elements, embodying spiritual, cultural, and festive significance.

For a Student Activity inspired by the Marigold Flower, please… Check HERE!

The Bronze Hellenistic Dancer at the MET

Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, 3rd–2nd century BC, Bronze, 20.5 × 8.9 × 11.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255408?pkgids=351&pos=20&nextInternalLocale=en&ft=*&oid=255408&rpp=4&exhibitionId=%7Bc81fa618-19f5-47a1-a089-fd1b22309109%7D&pg=1

Dance is an ephemeral art. Is it about sentiment, imagination, and expression? Is The Bronze Hellenistic Dancer at the MET the quintessence of a Hellenistic Dancer’s soul?

The MET Dancer emerges, as if from the shadows, draped in layers of gleaming veils that conceal and reveal her movements. With each step, she gracefully twists and turns to the left, casting a downward gaze. As she dances, her left hand lifts a veil over her left hip, while her right arm, holding folds of fabric, shields the lower part of her veiled head, which arches backward. The ethereal dance causes her dress to swirl around her body, and the edges of her enveloping cloak flare out at her sides.

The complex motion of this dancer, the MET experts tell us, is conveyed exclusively through the interaction of the body with several layers of dress… This Hellenistic Bronze statuette of a Dancer not only provides insights into the cultural context of its creation but also invites speculation about the statue’s original owner. Questions arise: Where was this captivating figure displayed? What thoughts and emotions did she elicit? How much joy did she bring to those who beheld her? https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255408?pkgids=351&pos=20&nextInternalLocale=en&ft=*&oid=255408&rpp=4&exhibitionId=%7Bc81fa618-19f5-47a1-a089-fd1b22309109%7D&pg=1

Quoting the MET experts… The bronze Dancer performs a private dance for the viewer—a kind of dance of the seven veils—that is both alluring and surprisingly contemporary in appearance, having been rendered in a realistic style. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly very much a product of the ethos of the Hellenistic Age, the work of a master sculptor perhaps from Alexandria, Egypt… This dancer has been convincingly identified as one of the professional entertainers, a combination of mime and dancer, for which the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria was famous in antiquity… https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2016/pergamon and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255408?pkgids=351&pos=20&nextInternalLocale=en&ft=*&oid=255408&rpp=4&exhibitionId=%7Bc81fa618-19f5-47a1-a089-fd1b22309109%7D&pg=1

She is, luckily, not alone. In addition to the captivating Hellenistic Bronze statue showcased at the MET, the collection also features a charming array of clay statuettes portraying dancers.

Terracotta statuette of a Dancing Woman, 3rd century BC, Terracotta, 24.1 × 10.2 × 8.3 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/248712
Terracotta statuette of a Dancing Woman, 3rd century BC, Terracotta, 15.2 × 6.2 × 8.6 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/248601
Terracotta statuette of a Veiled Dancer, 3rd century BC, Terracotta, H. 20.0 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/251216

Sculptures of dancers from this era often captured the dynamic and graceful movements of the human body, showcasing the Hellenistic fascination with naturalism and the portrayal of emotion. These sculpted dancers, whether in bronze or clay, reflected the cultural significance of dance as a form of entertainment, religious ritual, and social expression. The intricate detailing of their poses and flowing garments not only celebrated the physical prowess of the human form but also conveyed a sense of vitality and joy, providing a testament to the Hellenistic commitment to aesthetic excellence and the embodiment of life in art.

For a Student Activity on Hellenistic Dancing, please… Check HERE!

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1526/1530–1569
The Tower of Babel, 1563, Oil on Panel, 1,140×1,550 mm, Collection      
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria https://www.bruegel2018.at/en/the-tower-of-babel/

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there. / 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” / 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” / 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. This is how the construction of the Tower of Babel is described in Genesis 11:1–9. The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, portrays this description within the context of Netherlandish Art. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2011%3A1-9&version=NIV

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a prominent Netherlandish Renaissance artist, lived from around 1525 to 1569. Known for his distinctive style and masterful compositions, Bruegel excelled in depicting scenes of everyday life, landscapes, and complex narrative paintings. His works often showcased a keen observation of human behavior and a meticulous attention to detail. The Tower of Babel, The Peasant Wedding, and The Hunters in the Snow are among his notable paintings. Bruegel’s contributions to art extended beyond mere technical skill; he played a significant role in influencing subsequent generations of artists, leaving a lasting impact on the Northern Renaissance.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1526/1530–1569
The Tower of Babel (details), 1563, Oil on Panel, 1,140×1,550 mm, Collection      
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria https://www.bruegel2018.at/en/the-tower-of-babel/

Among the artist’s many notable paintings, The Tower of Babel in Vienna vividly captures the viewer’s imagination. The composition is a bustling panorama of a colossal tower in progress, set against a sprawling landscape that showcases Bruegel’s meticulous attention to detail. The architectural marvel dominates the canvas, with countless workers toiling at various tasks, creating a bustling scene of organized chaos. The painting skillfully combines elements of biblical storytelling with a keen observation of human behavior, portraying the futility of human arrogance and the inevitable consequences of divine intervention. Bruegel’s use of color, texture, and intricate details adds depth and complexity to the narrative, making The Tower of Babel a masterpiece that continues to captivate viewers with its rich storytelling and artistic brilliance.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1526/1530–1569
The Tower of Babel, 1563, Oil on Panel, 1,140×1,550 mm, Collection      
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
The building of the tower of Babel, circa 1568, Oil and Wood, 59.9×74.6 cm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_of_Babel_(Bruegel)

The Renaissance artist painted two versions of the Tower of Babel. One is in Vienna, my favourite, and the other is housed in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in Rotterdam. Seen side by side, the two paintings may depict the same subject in a similar setting, but there are a number of important differences between the two compositions. The most obvious difference is the size of the Vienna panel, which is almost four times bigger than that of the Tower in Rotterdam – but if we were able to enter the compositions, we would realize that the Tower in Rotterdam is in fact 250 % bigger than the one in Vienna. https://www.bruegel2018.at/en/the-tower-of-babel/

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s two renditions of The Tower of Babel, exhibit subtle yet significant distinctions. In the Vienna painting, the tower commands a central and meticulously detailed position, with a slender design featuring a distinctive spiral staircase. The foreground is bustling with a multitude of workers engaged in various construction tasks, contributing to a sense of organized chaos. On the other hand, the Rotterdam version offers a slightly elevated perspective, showcasing a more massive and block-like tower positioned towards the left side. The architectural structure differs, and the foreground activity, while still busy, is less intricately detailed, allowing for a broader view of the expansive landscape. These variations in composition, architectural design, foreground activity, and atmospheric elements highlight Bruegel’s nuanced approach to depicting the same biblical narrative, providing viewers with unique visual experiences in each rendition.

For a Student Activity, inspired by Pieter Bruelel’s paintings, titled The Tower of Babel, please… Check HERE!