Angels in the Palatine Chapel by John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Angels, Mosaic, Palatine Chapel, Palermo, 1897 or 1901, watercolor gouache, and graphite on off-white wove paper, 25×35.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Angels%2C_Mosaic%2C_Palatine_Chapel%2C_Palermo_MET_50.130.83f.jpg

John Singer Sargent’s watercolours of Sicilian Monuments reveal an extraordinary sensitivity to the unique beauty of Norman churches and their Byzantine mosaic decoration. The artist’s paintings communicate the character of these churches far better, I humbly believe, than modern photography. They create a visual experience I find difficult to describe… yet, seen, these watercolours of shimmering Sicilian mosaics, together or individually, manage to transport me to places of pure magic! The watercolour of Angels in the Palatine Chapel by John Singer Sargent is undoubtedly my favourite!

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Self-Portrait, 1892, oil on canvas, 53.3×43.2 cm, National Academy of Design, USA
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/John_Singer_Sargent_-_Self-portrait_%281892%29.jpg

During the early months of 1897, Sargent was in Sicily exploring its monuments and preparing for the Boston Library Murals, a project that will keep him busy for twenty-nine years! Cappella Palatina, with amazing Byzantine mosaics, one of the finest works of art of its kind in Italy, was for Sargent an obvious shrine to investigate. https://www.bpl.org/blogs/post/the-origins-of-a-masterwork/

Cappella Palatina, 1132-1143, mosaic decoration, Palermo, Italy
https://gr.pinterest.com/pin/303500462386852490/

Today’s presentation focuses on the mosaic decoration of the sanctuary’s dome, which, in a typical Byzantine manner, presents the bust of the Pantokrator and a chorus of eight, majestically dressed, guardian Angels. Sargent chose to depict the Cappella’s Dome as seen from the nave of the chapel and off to one side, choosing to concentrate his attention more so on the Angels than Christ, whose head is rather obscure. He also pays meticulous attention to three of the Archangels, Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, their ornate costumes and the inscriptions, in Greek, that identify them. It is interesting how Sargent is acting in this case as a researcher, attentive to specific elements and to issues of style that he could apply to his… Boston Library commission. It has been, on several occasions mentioned, how the Cappella Palatina mosaics in Palermo influenced Sargent’s rendering of the Frieze of Angels, at the south end of the Special Collections Hall at the Boston Public Library, installed in 1903. American Drawings and Watercolors in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Singer Sargent, by Stephanie L. Herdrich and H. Barbara Weinberg with and an essay by Marjorie Shelley, The Metropolitan Museu of Art, New York, 2000, Page 293 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/3047256?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A8d742d266060fbf70ed292204c17b202&seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

John Singer Sargent, American artist, 1856–1925
Dogma of the Redemption; Trinity and Crucifix, Frieze of Angels, ca. 1895–1903, mural – oil on canvas, Boston Public Library, USA
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:sq87dv73s

John Singer Sargent is the par excellence representative American artist of the Gilded Age. His life represents its very characteristics! He was born in Florence, Italy, to expatriate American parents…  He had a nomadic childhood, spending winters in Florence, Rome, or Nice and summers in the Alps or other cooler locations. Early in his life, he realized what he wanted to do in life was to become an artist, and supported by his mother, Mary Newbold Sargent, who was herself an accomplished amateur watercolorist he accomplished it. Sargent and his mother carried sketchbooks throughout their extensive travels across Europe, and he developed a quick eye and fast reflexes for recording his impressions of the landscape. Eighteen years old, under the tutelage of the painter Carolus-Duran, who encouraged him to paint directly onto the canvas, without any preparatory drawing, and to study the Old Masters, John Singer Sargent developed his skills, exhibited both landscapes and portraits to much acclaim, and developed a reputation as a fine society portraitist on both sides of the Atlantic. What a life… Brooklyn Museum – Teaching Resource: Special Exhibition – John Singer Sargent Watercolors – April 5–July 28, 2013, p. 2

Sargent wanted more… He grew restless at the height of his career, and sought escape from the constraints of the studio and the demands of his patrons for society portraits. What he did was to travel to remote spots, choose his own subjects, and paint without distraction inspirational watercolours… of landscapes, genre scenes, friends, and family. After 1900 Sargent spent his summers traveling throughout Europe, painting both oil paintings and watercolors. What a life… Brooklyn Museum – Teaching Resource: Special Exhibition – John Singer Sargent Watercolors – April 5–July 28, 2013, p. 2

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri

Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533
Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625
The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Published on October 14, 2018at the Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews, I read: Frans Hals was rediscovered as a modern idol two hundred years after his death. He was admired, even adored by late 19th-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Max Liebermann… Vincent van Gogh…  and American artist Robert Henri, I would like to add. They were all impressed by his loose touch and rough painting style, which came across as ‘Impressionist’… Comparing paintings by Frans Hals to work by the artists whom he inspired gives insight into how modern Frans Hals was in their eye and why they used to say that ‘Frans Hals, c’est un moderne’. The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri is a painting that shows how Frans Hals influenced an American artist of the Ashcan School as well… https://hnanews.org/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Robert Henri Photo Portrait, circa 1897, Black and white photographic print, 19 x 9 cm, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Henri_1897.jpg

About 1900, a group of Realist artists set themselves apart from and challenged the American Impressionists and academics. They came to be known as the Ashcan School and Robert Henri was a leading figure among them. The Ashcan School artists selectively documented an unsettling, transitional time in American culture that was marked by confidence and doubt, excitement, and trepidation. Ignoring or registering only gently harsh new realities such as the problems of immigration and urban poverty, they shone a positive light on their era. Along with the American Impressionists, the Ashcan artists defined the avant-garde in the United States until the 1913 Armory Show introduced to the American public the works of true modernists Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and others. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ashc/hd_ashc.htm

Robert Henry Cozad (1865-1929 ) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Theresa Gatewood Cozad and John Jackson Cozad, a gambler and real estate developer. The family, in a true “Wild West” story of land dispute and fatal pistol shooting, fled from Cincinnati to Denver, Colorado where young Robert changed his name to Robert Earl Henri, and in 1883, the family moved to New York City, and then, to Atlantic City in New Jersey. In 1886, a twenty-one years old Robert Henri enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, one of the finest Art Schools in the US at the time, where he studied under Thomas Anshutz. Later, in Paris, Henri studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. From 1888 to 1891, when he returned back to Philadelphia, Robert stayed and traveled in Europe where he came to admire greatly the work of Francois Millet, and embrace Impressionism. Back in the United States, Robert Henri gradually became a fine Art teacher and an acclaimed artist, a leading member of the Ashcan School, an organizer, and a contributor artist of a landmark show entitled “The Eight” in N York. Robert Henri was an avid traveler, an influential Art teacher, and a great mentor to women artists in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Henri

The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/
Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533

During the summers of 1907 and 1910, Henri worked in the Netherlands, where he became captivated with the work of Frans Hals (1580-1666), the Dutch painter known for using lively brushwork to create animated portraits. Hals, according to the Birmingham Museum of Art in the US, made a number of pictures of laughing children, which Henri sought to emulate in his own paintings of Dutch youths. Henri described the subject of this canvas, Jopie van Slouten, as “a great, real human character to paint.” Robert Henri painted a second portrait of the Dutch boy, known as Dutch Joe, and exhibited it in the Milwaukee Art Museum. For his second portrait of young Jopie van Slouten, Henri said: “Jopie thought it was a great joke to pose, and I thought him a great, real character. I consider it one of my successes in an effort to record a boy as he was.” http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533 and https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Between October 13, 2018, to February 24, 2019, in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, a very interesting exhibition took place titled Frans Hals and the Moderns. This exhibition showed the enormous impact of Frans Hals on modern painters. It was for the first time, that portraits of the famous 17th-century Dutch artist were presented alongside modern artistic reactions to his work… like the Laughing Boy by the American Robert Henri. https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/nl/event/frans-hals-en-de-modernen/

View of the 2018 Exhibition in Harlem titled: Frans Hals and the Moderns
https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/en/event/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Villa Arianna at Stabiae

Villa Arianna Terrace, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Terrazza_B_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Arianna_terrazza_B.JPG

During the Archaic period (8th century BC) Stabiae already played an important strategic and commercial role. The city reached its highest population density between its destruction by Sulla (89 B.C.) and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (79 A.D.). During this period, on the northernmost edge of the Varano hill, many villae were built taking advantage of the panoramic views. They were mainly residential villas, with beautifully decorated large apartments, thermal baths, porticoes and nymphaea. At present, only some of these villas, not entirely excavated yet, can be visited: …Villa Arianna at Stabiae, the most ancient, named after a large mythological fresco on the far wall of the triclinium is one of them…  writes Archaeologist Silvia Martina Bertesago. All I can say is… let’s explore it! http://pompeiisites.org/en/stabiae/

Excavations in Villa Arianna started in 1757 and were conducted by the Swiss engineer Karl Weber, until 1762. At the time, the archaeological site of the Villa was seen more like a treasure hunt exploration site. The Weber team dug underground tunnels, explored the excavated areas, and whatever was discovered and considered of value, like furnishings and frescoes, were detached and taken to the Bourbon Museum at the Royal Palace of Portici. A lot, deemed unworthy or ruined, were left behind and much was ruined by the methods employed by the “archaeologists” of the time. Today, parts of the Villa nearest the sea have collapsed down the cliff and perished forever, extended areas of the site are still buried awaiting excavations, but thanks to a Bourbon-period map showing where tunnels dug and thereafter re-buried, archaeologists resumed excavations in 1950, and proceed with proper scientific research.

Villa Arianna Plan, Stabiae (after Kockel 1985 with corrections by Allroggen-Bedel A. and De Vos M.) https://www.pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/VF/Villa_102%20Stabiae%20Villa%20Arianna%20plan.htm
 

On the western hills of Varano, and overlooking the Bay of Naples, Villa Arianna, is impressive, to say the least. It is estimated that it covered an area of over 11,000 sq.m., whereas its excavated parts cover only 2,500 sq.m. The villa has an unconventional layout, due in part to its continuous development but also to the sloping nature of the site. As much of the building is still buried, the original floor-plan is quite difficult to interpret. Certainly, the main range of rooms was at the front of the highest of a series of terraces; some of these rooms featured views both of the sea on one side and of the mountains on the other. There was also a long tunnel (B) leading from the stables and farm court under the residential quarters to the shore. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/stabiae/villa-arianna

Villa Arianna – Entrance to the Archaeological Site – View of Mt Vesuvius, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vista_dall%27ingresso_2.jpg

The oldest section of the Villa dates back to the late Republican period (2nd century BC), and develops around its Atrium (24) and the surrounding rooms. The Thermal Baths (6),  the grand Triclinium (3), the summer Triclinium (A), and the surrounding rooms date from the middle of the 1st century AD. The large Palestra, located at the west end of the Villa was added to the complex shortly before the eruption, probably between 60 and 70 AD.

Villa Arianna Atrium (No. 24 on the Villa Plan), 3rd Pompeian Style Frescoes, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Atrio_24_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Impluvium.jpg

Villa Arianna was lavishly decorated with frescoes and portable furnishings, an undisputed testimony of the expensive lifestyle the owners enjoyed, and evidence of their refined taste and style. One such high-quality fresco, drawing inspiration from the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne, gave the Villa its modern name.

A presentation of the amazing Frescoes discovered in Villa Arianna will be part of another BLOG POST… Villa Arianna, Part 2

For a Student Activity on Villa Arianna at Stabiae, please… Check HERE!

Happy Birthday Miss Jones by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, 1894-1978
Happy Birthday Miss Jones, Saturday Evening Post cover March 17, 1956, The original oil on canvas painting is part of the collection of filmmaker George Lucas.
https://prints.nrm.org/detail/261035/rockwell-happy-birthday-miss-jones-school-teacher-1956

On the 5th of October, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, by acknowledging the critical role teachers play in achieving inclusive, quality education for all… and recognizing that during the pandemic …teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, that no learner is left behind. Around the world, they have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue… I would like to celebrate World Teachers’ Day with a Poem, The School Where I Studied, by Yehuda Amichai, and a Painting, Happy Birthday Miss Jones by Norman Rockwell. https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldteachersday

I passed by the school where I studied as a boy / and said in my heart: here I learned certain things / and didn’t learn others. All my life I have loved in vain / the things I didn’t learn. I am filled with knowledge, / I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge, / the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites. / I’m an expert on the botany of good and evil, / I’m still studying it, I’ll go on studying till the day die. / I stood near the school building and looked in. This is the room / where we sat and learned. The windows of a classroom always open / to the future, but in our innocence we thought it was only landscape / we were seeing from the window. / The schoolyard was narrow, paved with large stones. / I remember the brief tumult of the two of us / near the rickety steps, the tumult / that was the beginning of a first great love. / Now it outlives us, as if in a museum, / like everything else in Jerusalem.https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/40662/the-school-where-i-studied

The 17th of March 1956, Saturday Evening Post Magazine Cover Page with Norman Rockwell’s painting Happy Birthday Miss Jones
https://picclick.com/Saturday-Evening-Post-Magazine-March-17-1956-Norman-284335404003.html

On the 17th of March 1956, The Saturday Evening Post published Happy Birthday Miss Jones, one of my favourite Norman Rockwell paintings. The artist had a long-standing collaboration with The Saturday Evening Post, which he considered to be the greatest show window in America. The collaboration started in 1916 when the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for the magazine and continued over the next 47 years. By 1963, when the collaboration with the Post ended, 322 Rockwell paintings had appeared on the cover of the magazine. https://www.nrm.org/about/about-2/about-norman-rockwell/

Photo half-length portrait of Norman Rockwell, facing left, arms folded, 1921, Library of Congress, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rockwell-Norman-LOC.jpg

I would like to draw your attention to page 82 of Picturing America, and how masterfully the controversy over Rockwell the artist, or Rockwell the illustrator, is addressed… Rockwell had been born into a world in which painters crossed easily from the commercial world to that of the gallery, as Winslow Homer had done. By the 1940s, however, a division had emerged between the fine arts and the work for hire that Rockwell produced. The detailed, homespun images he employed to reach a mass audience were not appealing to an art community that now lionized intellectual and abstract works. But Rockwell knew his strengths did not lie in that direction: “Boys batting flies on vacant lots,” he explained in 1936, “little girls playing jacks on the front steps; old men plodding home at twilight, umbrella in hand — all these things arouse feeling in me.” https://picturingamerica.neh.gov/downloads/pdfs/Resource_Guide/English/English_PA_TeachersGuide.pdf

In 1956 his feelings motivated him to pay tribute to his own 8th Grade teacher who had encouraged him to draw. Using a real Elementary School classroom in his hometown, Stockbridge, as his reference, and local models, Rockwell painted Happy Birthday Miss Jones to popular praise. The composition is highly organized, the colour tones are warm (even the greys), and the light is soft. This is a familiar scene we have all experienced, a moment we cherish, and a Norman Rockwell painting we love!

The original oil on canvas painting is part of the collection of filmmaker George Lucas and was on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art in 2010. A pencil on joined paper study of the painting, also owned by Lucas, was also on display alongside the original painting. http://www.best-norman-rockwell-art.com/1956-happy-birthday-miss-jones.html#ixzz73lTatp76

It’s worth watching! …a Video on Rockwell’s painting of Miss Jones created by the Saturday Evening Post, on May 22, 2019… https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2019/05/rockwell-video-minute-happy-birthday-miss-jones/

For a Student Activity, please … Check HERE!

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene, between the4th and 8th centuries, Istanbul, Turkey
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Hagia_Eirene_Constantinople_July_2007_001.jpg

The church of the Holy Peace (Hagia Eirene) was built in the fourth century at the place where the old church of the bishop of Byzantium stood before the refoundation of Constantine the Great. The church was destroyed by fire in 532 and then rebuilt. Its present shape goes back to a restoration after an earthquake in 740. The Hagia Eirene formed a complex together with the Hagia Sophia, the Hospital of Sampson in between, and some other subsidiary building, and it was served by the same clergy. Though the Hagia Eirene was always one of the greatest churches of Byzantium, it is mentioned rarely by the sources in later times. In the ottoman time, it became an armory and later a military museum. A fitting introduction for the Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene … short and sweet! http://www.byzantium1200.com/eirene.html

The Byzantine Churches of Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

To be frank… I feel intimidated writing about one of the greatest Churches in Constantinople. How do I start… maybe quoting Procopius and his most valuable book Περὶ Κτισμάτων-De Aedificiis-On Buildings, in Greek… 2. Ἐκκλησίᾳ δὲ τῇ μεγάλῃ ὅμορον οὖσαν καὶ συγκαταφλεχθεῖσαν αὐτῇ πρότερον τὴν τῆς Εἰρήνης ἐπώνυμον Ἰουστινιανὸς βασιλεὺς ὑπερμεγέθη ἐδείματο, ἱερῶν τῶν ἐν Βυζαντίῳ σχεδόν τι ἁπάντων, μετά γε τῆς Σοφίας τὸν νεών, οὐδενὸς δεύτερον. 3. Ἦν δέ τις μεταξὺ ταύταιν δὴ ταῖν ἐκκλησίαιν ξενών, ἀνθρώποις ἀνειμένος ἀπορουμένοις τε καὶ νοσοῦσι τὰ ἔσχατα, εἰ πρὸς τῇ οὐσίᾳ καὶ τὸ σῶμα νοσοῖεν. Τοῦτον ἀνήρ τις θεοσεβὴς ἐν τοῖς ἄνω χρόνοις ἐδείματο, Σαμψὼν ὄνομα. Ἔμεινε δὲ οὐδὲ αὐτὸς τοῖς στασιώταις ἀνέπαφος, ἀλλ´ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἑκατέρᾳ συγκαταφλεχθεὶς ἀπολώλει. Ἰουστινιανὸς δὲ αὐτὸν ἀνῳκοδομήσατο βασιλεύς, κάλλει μὲν κατασκευῆς ἀξιώτερον, πλήθει δὲ οἰκιδίων παρὰ πολὺ μείζω· προσόδῳ τε αὐτὸν ἐπετείων δεδώρηται χρημάτων μεγάλων, ὅπως δὴ πλείοσιν ἐς ἀεὶ ταλαιπωρουμένοις ἀνθρώποις ἰῷτο τὰ πάθη. And in English…The church called after Eirene, which was next to the Great Church and had been burned down together with it, the Emperor Justinian rebuilt on a large scale, so that it was scarcely second to any of the churches in Byzantium, save that of Sophia. And between these two churches there was a certain hospice, devoted to those who were at once destitute and suffering from serious illness, those who were, namely, suffering in loss of both property and health. 15 This was erected in early times by a certain pious man, Samson by name. And neither did this remain untouched by the rioters, but it caught fire together with the churches on either side of it and was destroyed. The Emperor Justinian rebuilt it, making it a nobler building in the beauty of its structure, and much larger in the number of its rooms. He has also endowed it with a generous annual income of money, to the end that through all time the ills of more sufferers may be cured. http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/historiens/procope/edifices1gr.htm and https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/hagia-eirene

How do I continue… discussing the Architecture of Hagia Eirene, I will be respectful… and refer you to Alexander Van Millingen, Byzantine Churches In Constantinople Their History And Architecture, London: Macmillan and Co. page 84-104 and The Church of Saint Eirene at Constantinople by W.S. George. If any of the site’s readers have not yet explored, Alexander Van Millingen’s book on the Byzantine Churches In Constantinople  … please do, it’s online! I also read Byzantinai Meletai Topographikai (in Greek), 1877, Constantinople, by Alexandros Georgiou Paspates (1814-1891) pp. 336-338 (387-391). https://archive.org/details/byzantinechurche014623mbp/page/n126/mode/1up and https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-hellenic-studies/article/abs/church-of-st-eirene-in-constantinople-by-w-s-george-a-van-millingen-a-m-woodward-a-j-b-wace-byzantine-research-fund-oxford-university-press-1912/BD6FFE609E6837346F5CAD138E71DDC6 and https://ia800304.us.archive.org/0/items/vyzantinaimelet00unkngoog/vyzantinaimelet00unkngoog.pdf

The Byzantine Church of Hagia Eirene, Interior View, between the 4th and 8th centuries, Istanbul, Turkey
https://mobile.twitter.com/ConstantineCity/status/1022854965176541184/photo/3

As a teacher, the Church of Hagia Eirene in Constantinople features prominently in my Byzantine Art curriculum. The Iconoclastic period mosaic of the monumental Golden Cross in the Church’s Holy Apse, rare as it is, is noteworthy for my students. The talented Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (718-775) commissioned it, and an unknown master mosaicist created it. This monumental Cross, a unique evidence of Iconoclastic art, has flared ends that terminate in teardrops and rests on a three-stepped base. Its colour palette is gold on gold, the outline of the cross delineated in black tesserae. The golden background of the Holy Apse Mosaic is executed in an interesting, new technique whereby unusually tiny and closely set gold tesserae were combined with silver tesserae, inserted randomly. The effect is spectacular, as the reflection of natural light on the golden background of the mosaic creates the feeling of a subtle, velvety-like… divine presence. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=10895 and https://www.academia.edu/690187/THE_SPLENDOR_OF_ICONOCLASM_THE_MOSAICS_OF_HAGIA_EIRENE_CONSTANTINOPLE_in_Mosaic_the_Square_of_Civilization_ed._G._S%C3%B6zen_Istanbul_2011_

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Samnite House in Herculanium

The decorated Atrium of the Samnite House in Herculaneum has a Gallery with Ionic Columns and Latticework Screens, 1st century AD, made of painted stucco https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Irelli-Aoyagi-De_Caro-Pappalardo_417#/media/File:Parte_alta.JPG

Herculaneum was a peaceful seaside town which was struck by a succession of pyroclastic flows during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. It was then covered with 25 metres of volcanic mud. Approximately one third of the town has been excavated. It is notable for the high standard of preservation of the houses and the public baths as well as perishable material such as wood, textiles and papyri. A significant number of high quality painted walls may be seen. The Roman seashore has been exposed during the excavations and a Roman boat has been preserved in a special museum. What a remarkable place to visit… and don’t forget, The Samnite House in Herculanium is a must! https://www.herculaneum.ox.ac.uk/links/visit

If you wonder why… Herculaneum has been preserved like no other site in the world, not even nearby Pompeii. Volcanic ash and mud saved two-story domus homes with the internal architecture and décor intact, including features in wood and marble, decorations, jewelry, and even organic remains like food, providing a unique view into the daily lives of the ancient population of Herculaneum. Among the finest and oldest houses that survived is the Samnite House we will attempt to explore. https://www.visitpompeiivesuvius.com/en/herculaneum

The Samnite House is one of the oldest private residences that has been discovered in Herculaneum, so far, and dates back to the 2nd century BC. It was originally much larger in size, with a three-sided Peristyle Court to the east, followed perhaps by a Hortus area. In the course of the 1st century AD, and for financial reasons, one could suspect, the property changed the plan. A second entrance door leading directly to the second floor was added and the entire upper floor space was rented out. The eastern section of the property, that is the Peristyle and possible Hortus was sold off, allowing a separate residential property, the House of the Great Portal, to be built. What survived of the original property, was a ground-floor house with a huge atrium and six small rooms arranged around it. The owners of the Samnite House… downsized, but part of the original decoration survived… it is unique and worth exploring! https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

Entrance Corridor and Atrium photo of the Samnite House, late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Samnite_House_%287254091242%29.jpg

What I like best is the decoration of the original House Fauces, that is the entrance passageway leading to the Atrium. This small area is a “treasure trove” of distinctive examples of late 2nd century BC architectural features. For example, the House Entrance Portal and the Interior Portal leading to the Atrium, are flanked by impressive tufa columns with Corinthian capitals, intricately sculpted… The walls of the Fauces are decorated with rare frescoes in the 1st Pompeian Style, imitating, in vivid earth colours,  polychrome marble… Finally, the Fauces floor, covered with a fine dark red and white mosaic in the Opus Signinum style, is simple, consisting of a scale-type pattern in white. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

The Samnite House Atrium is impressive, to say the least! The largest area in the House, includes a central marble impluvium and a well-constructed floor in the Opus Signinum style, as well. The Atrium walls decoration, imitating a fancy two-storey structure, is the main attraction of the whole house! The lower part is decorated in frescoes of the 4th Pompeian Style, while the upper part, really fancy, features a false loggia with Ionic columns closed off with a stucco-lined latticework screen on three of its sides. I particularly like this false loggia decoration as it gives me the opportunity to compare it to another fresco, dated in the early 2nd century BC, coming from Pella, in Greece. https://herculaneum.uk/Ins%205/Herculaneum%205%2001%20p2.htm

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

1st Pompeian Style Wall of the Entrance Corridor of the Samnite House (North Wall – detail photo), late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeian_Styles#/media/File:Herculaneum_Wall_1.Style.jpg

End of the Season by William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase, American painter, 1849-1916
End of the Season, c. 1885, Pastel on Paper, 35 x 45 cm, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley https://www.wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html

The familiar rhythm of the cricket’s chirps / Create the soundtrack for each day, / Echoing Summer’s end / And that Autumn’s on her way.     /     The stifling heat of the summer sun / Is now tempered by the clouds. / Those fluffy, cotton August clouds, / That soft breezes push about.     /     Shadows falling everywhere / As the sun plays peek-a-boo. / Losing her strength with each new day, / A sure sign that summer is through…     /    But there’s also a haunting sadness sometimes. / That I feel when those dark shadows fall. / And that my greatest adventures in life / Are just memories, now aroused by those sweet cricket calls. The end of summer, carefree days, is fast approaching… the beginning of the new School year is right in the corner…  and I think of Patricia A. Fleming’s Poem for Kids The Summer’s End and the End of the Season by William Merritt Chase. I feel melancholic… just like the lady in the painting! https://www.momjunction.com/articles/poems-about-summer-for-kids_00720909/

I like how perceptively William Merritt Chase’s ideas on how Idle Hours should be depicted is described in the article William Merritt Chase and modern leisure, and presented in ANTIQUES, back on August 29, 2016. Furthermore, an introduction to his life is more than essential to understand his style… That aura of pleasure suffuses Chase’s work and belies the effort he put into creating innovative paintings of modern life. He worked hard to make his art look easy. Born to a middle-­class family in Indiana, Chase cobbled together the support of local businessmen to finance his art education in Munich. From 1872 to 1878 he studied at the Royal Academy there, mastering the dark, gestural brushwork of the Munich school and studying the work of the old masters. He sent his paintings back to New York for display, earning admiration even before he returned to the United States in 1878. He immediately took rooms in New York’s most prestigious studio space, the Tenth Street Studio Building, where he established himself at the center of the city’s art world and created an eclectic, European-­inspired studio space that announced his reputation as a well-traveled bohemian and an imaginative, creative artist. Soon thereafter, he began to explore modern subjects of relaxation in an innovative style. https://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/idle-hours-william-merritt-chase-and-modern-leisure/

Spending my summers in a Greek sea-front small village, being a teacher who treasures my last days of summer bliss, I feel very close to the End of the Season, by William Merritt Chase in Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. It is one of his early paintings depicting a scene at the beach at the end of the summer season. A woman in fashionable summer greyish attire sits comfortably, leaning over the empty table, at the right side of the composition. She is looking at the distant fishermen whose boat rests on the strand… and the fresh, choppy sea… There are more tables in the composition, the chairs tipped up against them… empty now of holiday visitors. No wonder the title is End of the Season.  http://museums.fivecolleges.edu/detail.php?t=objects&type=ext&id_number=MH%201976.9

William Merritt Chase probably painted the End of the Season during a summer visit to Holland as a tribute, according to a critic, to a “Continental watering-place, with  chairs and tables upset by the seashore, and a single lonely figure.” This is one of the artist’s earlier pastel paintings, a medium much admired for its dry powdery finish and brilliant colors. Pastel painting was a declaration of modernism in the period, admired by the avant-­garde for the way in which its sketch-­like character called attention to the artist’s hand. Chase, the cofounder in 1883 of the Society of Painters in Pastel, was a master of it. https://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/idle-hours-william-merritt-chase-and-modern-leisure/

For a Student Activity, please… Check Here!

Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras

Ioannis Altamouras, 1852-1878
Off the harbor, 1874, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, 23.3 x 30.5 cm, Bank of Greece
https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/501_Altamouras_en.html

Emily, / A ship is floating in the harbour now, / A wind is hovering o’er the mountain’s brow; / There is a path on the sea’s azure floor, / No keel has ever plough’d that path before; / The halcyons brood around the foamless isles; The treacherous Ocean has forsworn its wiles; / The merry mariners are bold and free: / Say, my heart’s sister, wilt thou sail with me? / Our bark is as an albatross, whose nest / Is a far Eden of the purple East; / And we between her wings will sit, while Night, / And Day, and Storm, and Calm, pursue their flight, / Our ministers, along the boundless Sea, / Treading each other’s heels, unheededly… wrote for Epipsychidion, Percy Bysshe Shelley back in 1821. Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras is a small painting that reminds me of Shelley’s description… A ship is floating in the harbour now… https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poem/epipsychidion_(excerpt)_5166

Ioannis Altmouras, an accomplished representative of the Seascape painting genre, is one of my favourite modern Greek painters. Born in Italy, his parents were both artists, Ioannis Altamouras was of Greek/Italian descent. He was the son of Saverio Altamura, an Italian Painter, and Professor at the Naples School of Fine Arts, and Eleni Boukouri from the island of Spetses, who, daringly dressed as a young man, studied Art in Italy, at times, under the tutelage of her future husband Saverio. Between 1857 and 1859 his parents separated, and Eleni took her two older children and returned to Greece, where she raised them teaching Art to prominent members of the Athenian society, including the Greek Queen, Olga. Eleni was Altamouras’s first Art Teacher, who, in 1871-72, coached by Nikephoros Lytras, studied at the School of Fine Arts in Athens. Between 1873 and 1876 Ioannis Altamouras was in Denmark, on a scholarship from King George I, where he continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at Copenhagen, close to the great painter of the time, Carl Frederick Sorensen. During the summer of 1876, Altamouras’s revolutionary spirit took him to the fishing village of Skagen, where 40 Danish painters had created the well-known “Skagen Colony”. It was at Skagen where the ideas of Impressionism in his art, took roots, as he spent time outdoors observing, the Skagen open horizon and the interplay of different colors in natural light. Sick with tuberculosis, Altamouras returns to Greece and tragically young, he died, six years later, in 1878. https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/altamouras-ioannis.html

Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras is a small painting in the Art Collection of the Bank of Greece, rarely seen by the public but nicely documented as it was exhibited in the 2018 Exhibition at the Benaki Museum, titled Frames of Reference from the Bank of Greece Collection. I like how it is described… A dull, rainy, and humid seascape is revealed in front of us. Small boats are scattered here and there, schematically defined, somewhat vaguely against the background. A little to the fore, we see a few boats painted in dark colours and contrasting the overall blue-white landscape. Their cross-like shape makes them a point of reference for the entire composition. Sea and sky appear united, in the absence of a clear separating line for the horizon. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/501_Altamouras_en.html

For a PowerPoint Student Activity on Altamouras’s Seascapes, please… Check HERE!

The Byzantine Icon of Panagia Nicopoiou

Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou, Komnenian period (1081-1185), Wood, 58×55 cm, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

I like how Chrysa A. Maltezou starts her article “Βενετία κι Βυζαντινή Παράδοση – Η Εικόνα της Παναγίας Νικοποιού” (Venice and the Byzantine Legacy – The Byzantine Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou). Please allow me to paraphrase… It was May of 1797, the army of Napoleon Bonaparte was at Venice’s doorstep, the end of the Venetian Republic was fast approaching and the citizens of La Serenissima were desperate… Their hopes rested on divine intervention and like the Byzantines, a centuries-old memory, the Comnenian Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou, Venice’s Palladium, was placed on public veneration at San Marco’s Basilica…It is only interesting to contemplate how the Venetians, hoping for salvation and victory remembered their ties to the long-lost Empire of Byzantium and its Legacy! https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/index.php/bz/article/view/3570/3430

Tradition links the Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou to Constantinople and the fateful days of the Fourth Crusade, when according to Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) the Icon of Nikopoiou (Bringer of Victory) abandoned by Alexios Mourtzouflos on the battlefield, was captured by the Crusaders… The barons and the Venetians battered the walls and towers day and night without with various machines, and redoubled the War, conducting many great skirmishes from one area to another; it was in one of these that they valorously acquired the banner of the Tyrant but with much greater joy a panel on which was painted the image of Our Lady, which the Greek Emperors had continuously carried in their exploits since all their hopes for the health and salvation of the Empire rested in it.  The Venetians held this image dear above all other riches and jewels that they took, and today it is venerated with great reverence and devotion here in the church of San Marco, and it is one that is carried in procession during times of War and plaque, and to pray for rain and good weather… https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou (detail), Komnenian period (1081-1185), Wood, 58×55 cm, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

It has been debated, since 1821, whether the Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou, as Nikitas Choniatis mentions in his Χρονική Διήγησις with one brief sentence …ητηςθεομήτοροςεικών, ήνοιβασιλείςΡωμαίωνποιούνταισυστράτηγον, τοῖς ἐναντίοις ἑάλωκεν… is the same Icon Emperor Alexios Mourtzouflos abandoned on the Walls of Constantinople. Giovanni Battista Ramusio thinks so, and writes about it, establishing a tradition that still keeps strong… http://users.uoa.gr/~nektar/history/tributes/byzantine_historians/nicetas_choniates_historia.htm and https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/index.php/bz/article/view/3570/3430

The Icon itself, presenting Mary holding the Child before Her, is a wonderful work of Art… a fine example of Byzantine iconography. Stark and imposing, it has a compelling effect on me every time I visit San Marco to pay my respects. Conserved in the left transept of the great Basilica, in a chapel of the same name, the Icon of the Virgin was once covered with precious jewels, diamonds, and pearls, now exhibited in the Treasury, following theft and later recovery.

Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou (detail of the embellished frame), Komnenian period (1081-1185), Wood, 58×55 cm, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

Today, the Icon is enhanced by its Byzantine frame of gilded silver with gold enamels, pearls, and gemstones, of great beauty. The best-preserved part of the Icon is the face of the Virgin, oval in shape, with thick, arched eyebrows, a definite trait of beauty, large eyes, looking slightly to the left, a long nose, and small lips. It is not firmly established when and by whom this amazing Icon was painted. I can only say that it displays extreme delicacy and refinement in the painter’s technique. https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Plan of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy – marked in red (No. 13) is the location of the Icon of Panagia Nikopoiou https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/nicopeia-icon-san-marco-loot-from-constantinople-1204-crusade

The Formidable Queen Tiye

Queen Tiye (probably), ca. 1353–1336 BC, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, Quartzite, 13.3×12.5×12.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

The long-lost mummy of The Formidable Queen Tiye has been found. Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Akhenaten, and grandmother of Tutankhamun (?), she has been lurking undetected, virtually under the noses of the Egyptologists, for more than 75 years until Professors Edward P Wente of the Oriental Institute and James R. Harris of the University of Michigan made their spectacular discovery.

The road to the discovery really began in 1898 when the French archaeologist V. Loret came upon three nameless bodies in a side chamber of Amenhotep II’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. One of these was of a middle-aged woman. Despite the passage of thousands of years her well-preserved face still wore a striking, haughty look, and her head was covered with long, curly, brown hair, that lent a certain sensuality to her face. But there was no clue to the identity of the woman.

Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922. In that tomb, in one of a series of miniature coffins, was a lock of Queen Tiye’s hair, deposited as an affectionate memento to accompany the young king on his journey into the beyond. The connection between these two discoveries was overlooked until very recently when Professors Wente and Harris began to prepare a book on the royal mummies of ancient Egypt. While grappling with the problem of the unidentified woman, the idea occurred to them that she might be Queen Tiye. How could they be sure? The lock of hair buried with Tut came to mind, and scientific tests comparing the lock and the mummy’s hair proved beyond doubt that the two belonged to the same person. Queen Tiye was found – and through a discovery of a refreshing degree of certainty. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Egypt/Queen%20Tiye%20Found.pdf

I love rereading the October 1976 article on the discovery of Tiye’s mummy in the Oriental Institute’s News & Notes (No. 30). Even more so today, as I prepare the presentation of one of my favourite sculptural portraits of Queen Tiye exhibited in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/nn30.pdf

Colossal statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye with three of their daughters from Medinet Habu in Western Thebes, 1360 BC, limestone, 7 x 4,4 m, Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt
https://joyofmuseums.com/museums/africa-museums/egypt-museums/cairo-museums/egyptian-museum/statue-of-amenhotep-iii-and-tiye/

When I think of Queen Tiye, I think of Egypt’s golden age, a successful Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep III (1391–1353 or 1388–1351 BC), a sizeable and prosperous empire, great wealth from Nubia and the Levant, and a new era of monument building and artistic expression. I also think of a formidable lady whose influence on the Pharaoh grew stronger over the years. It is interesting how in official statues of the royal couple, she and Amenhotep are the same height, symbolizing a relationship of equals.https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/history-magazine/article/king-tut-grandparents-tiye-amenhotep-egypt-royal-couple

Queen Tiye (probably), ca. 1353–1336 BC, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, Quartzite, 13.3×12.5×12.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

The quartzite head of Queen Tiye in the Metropolitan Museum, in New York, dates from the time of Akhenaten’s reign and it seems to be a statue commemorating the Pharaoh’s (Akhenaten’s) royal family in the new “Amarna” style. The sensitive modeling of the face is typical of the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose at Tell el-Amarna and the existence of gypsum plaster casts excavated in Thutmose’s studio suggests that this portrait may have been part of a group statue depicting Akhenaten with his parents, Tiye, and Amenhotep III. The New York portrait shows an imperious, authoritative, and clever woman realistically rendered yet respectful to her maturity. Tiye’s life is an intriguing chapter in Egyptian history, and the MET’s portrait, scared and broken, intrigues me as well… https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

For a Student Activity on The Formidable Queen Tiye Post, please… Click HERE!