April by Lucien Pissarro

Lucien Pissarro, French Artist, 1863–1944
April, Epping, 1894, Oil paint on canvas, 603 × 730 mm, Tate, London, UK

Oh, to be in England / Now that April’s there, / And whoever wakes in England / Sees, some morning, unaware, / That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf / Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, / While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough / In England—now! Robert Browning probably wrote Home-Thoughts, from Abroad in 1845, while he was staying in Italy, homesick of the English countryside during a glorious April morning! Interestingly, April by Lucien Pissarro is an Impressionistic painting of a similar April morning by a French artist living in England! https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43758/home-thoughts-from-abroad

Lucien Pissarro was a French painter, printmaker, and etcher. He was born on February 20, 1863, in Paris, France, and was the oldest son of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. He began his artistic education at a young age, studying under his father and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1884, he began exhibiting his work in Impressionist exhibitions, and in 1886, he participated in the 8th and final Impressionist exhibition. In 1888, Pissarro moved to London, where he became a member of the New English Art Club and began to develop his own unique style, influenced by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and Japanese prints. He spent the next two decades in London, exhibiting his work and participating in the city’s art scene. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/lucien-pissarro-r1105344

Portrait of Lucien Pissarro, c.1937, Photograph, black and white, on paper, taken by Lafayette Ltd, London, Tate Archive, London, UK

In 1910, Pissarro returned to France and settled in the small town of Éragny-sur-Epte, where he focused on painting landscapes and rural scenes. He continued to exhibit his work, and in 1913, he was awarded the Légion d’honneur. Pissarro’s work is characterized by his use of vibrant colors, bold brushstrokes, and a focus on nature. He is considered to be one of the most important Impressionist painters of the 20th century. Pissarro died on July 10, 1944, in Éragny-sur-Epte, France. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/lucien-pissarro-r1105344

According to the TATE experts David Fraser Jenkins and Helena Bonet, …Lucien Pissarro exhibited April, Epping at the New English Art Club in November–December 1904, where he renewed contact with artists, he had met more than ten years earlier. He was invited to join Walter Sickert’s Fitzroy Street Group in 1907, and so became acquainted with those who went on to form the Camden Town Group in 1911. For the younger artists of the group in particular, Pissarro represented a direct link to the origins of impressionism and neo-impressionism, his father Camille being a great inspiration, as well as his friends Seurat, Signac, and van Gogh. The influence of Pissarro’s style and technique can be traced in the work of Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman, William Ratcliffe and James Bolivar Manson in particular. Sickert wrote of this influence in the New Age in May 1914: ‘Mr. Pissarro, holding the exceptional position at once of an original talent, and of the pupil of his father, the authoritative depository of a mass of inherited knowledge and experience, has certainly served us as a guide, or, let us say, a dictionary of theory and practice on the road we have elected to travel.’ https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/lucien-pissarro-r1105344

Created just a few years after he settled in England, April, Epping is for Lucien Pissarro a new approach to Landscape painting. He breaks away from the ‘teachings’ of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, the ‘neo-impressionist’ or ‘divisionist’ artists with whom he had been friend in Paris, and he creates a landscape painting characterized by thick, visible brushstrokes, and a strong emphasis on light and color. He uses ordered, criss-crossed touches of paint, mostly light green but with a variety of other colours, showing recession by means of colour, and he uses touches of orange, mauve and blue paints among the green of the meadow, to re-introduce the key principle of impressionism, that, of coloured shadows. In May 1894 Lucien Pissarro wrote to his father asking for new materials and …short brushes, like the ones Cézanne used … because I am going to try to paint in an entirely different way. Did he? https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/lucien-pissarro-april-epping-r1139298

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

GIOVANNI BELLINI Influences croisées

Giovanni Bellini, c. 1435/40 – 1516
The Madonna and Child at a Ledge with an Apple: “The Philips Madonna”, c.1459-1460, tempera, oil and gold on a panel of poplar, 76.8 x 53 cm,  Private collection

Giovanni Bellini opened the way to the art of colour and tones that came to be characteristic of the art of the sixteenth century in Venice… write the Musée Jacquemart-André experts, Neville Rowley and Pierre Curie, introducing the Exhibition GIOVANNI BELLINI Influences croisées (Paris, from 3 March to 17 July 2023). For a private, intimate, Museum like the Jacquemart-André, gathering fifty artworks of the great Venetian master, from public and private European collections, some of which were put on display for the first time, this exhibition was one more great accomplishment. The Exhibition’s goal is to compare the artist’s works with those of his intellectual models, and thus showcase how his artistic language has never ceased to renew itself while developing its very own unique style. Not an easy task… but in creating an effective ‘dialogue’ between Bellini’s works and the ‘models’ that inspired them… the Museum experts were successful in organizing a most interesting Exhibition! While in Paris for four days, the Musée Jacquemart-André Exhibition on Bellini was the first to visit, and thoroughly enjoy it! https://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/giovanni-bellini

The Exhibition Poster at the Musée Jacquemart-André

Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516) was an Italian Renaissance painter, considered one of the greatest Venetian painters of the 15th century. Born in Venice, he was part of a famous family of artists, including his father Jacopo Bellini, his brother Gentile, and his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna. His style is characterized by the use of rich, glowing colors, an interest in light and atmospheric effects, and his ability to create a sense of depth and space in his paintings. He is known for his religious paintings, which often featured devotional themes such as the Madonna and Child.

Giovanni Bellini, c. 1435/40 – 1516
The Madonna and Child at a Ledge with an Apple: “The Philips Madonna”, c.1459-1460, tempera, oil, and gold on a panel of poplar, 76.8 x 53 cm,  Private collection

The Madonna and Child at a Ledge with an Apple, also known as The Philips Madonna, caught my eye. I am always attracted to Byzantine-influenced Venetian paintings of the Madonna, and Bellini’s Phillips Madonna, painted circa 1460 was no exception. In 1453, when Constantinople fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire, thousands of refugees flocked to Venice, bringing with them many Greek manuscripts, icons, and relics. It was only natural for the young artist, who had just set up an independent workshop in 1459 in the parish of San Lio, near the Rialto Bridge, to be attracted to an artistic tradition with deep roots in his native city. https://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/giovanni-bellini

My amateurish iPhone attempt…

Yet, Bellini’s progressive approach to the subject of the Madonna and Child is evident. The Philips Madonna gold ground on which the image is painted represents the Byzantine influence still evident and popular in the city of Venice, but the dynamism of the pose of the figure of the infant Christ… demonstrates Bellini’s awareness of the “new style” being formulated throughout Italy. https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2022/master-paintings-sculpture-part-i/the-madonna-and-child-at-a-ledge-with-an-apple-the

Giovanni Bellini, c. 1435/40 – 1516
The Madonna and Child at a Ledge with an Apple: “The Philips Madonna”, c.1459-1460, tempera, oil and gold on a panel of poplar, 76.8 x 53 cm,  Private collection
Attributed to Donatello, 1386–1466
Madonna and Child (The Borromeo Madonna), circa 1450, terracotta, 83.5×52.1 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, TX, USA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donatello_Borromeo_Madonna_Kimbell.jpg
Putti of the throne of Saturn, 1st century AD, marble, 58,5 x 69 cm, National Archaeological Museum of Venice https://www.facebook.com/archeovenezia/photos/a.335181736569328/3017256798361795/?type=3

According to Sotheby’s experts, who auctioned the painting on the 27th of January 2022, Bellini’s composition echoes the terracotta reliefs of this same theme by Donatello, whose own work had made such an impression in Venetian artistic circles during the previous two decades. The painting’s Child is also connected, by Mauro Lucco, to the putti in the so-called “Trono di Saturno,” a pair of ancient reliefs that decorated an archway between Piazza San Marco and the Frezzaria. These amazing Roman bas-reliefs furnished inspiration not just for Donatello and Giovanni Bellini, but also for Mantegna, Titian, and Sansovino.

A delightful painting in an Exhibition worth visiting!

For a Student Activity on GIOVANNI BELLINI Influences croisées, please… Check HERE!

Cameo of two Emperors

Busts of Two Emperors, late 3rd century – early 4th century, Chalcedony on Gold, 3.5 cm x 4.3 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, USA

The period of the Tetrarchy in the Roman Empire began around 293 CE, twenty years into the rule of the emperor Diocletian. Due to the sheer size of the empire, Diocletian established four regions and appointed two augusti and two caesars, one to govern each section. During this time period, there was an explosion of art being produced emphasizing peace, or concordia. This trend is best shown in official artworks and coins presenting the four rulers in incredible similarities. Such artworks, displayed across the empire were intended to illustrate the unity of the empire despite the 4 rulers and the hierarchy of power ranking them. The Cameo of two Emperors in the Byzantine Collection of the Dumbarton Oaks is one such artwork of incredible beauty! https://sites.rhodes.edu/coins/imperial-imagery-tetrarchy

It was Christmas break 1977, a university student at the time when I first visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and saw the Dumbarton Oaks Cameo of two Emperors. Visiting the Exhibition Age of Spirituality was a ‘Christmas gift’ I will never forget! Many years later… many ‘Exhibitions’ later, I am still surprised and excited when I stand in front of small ‘gems’ like the Dumbarton Oaks Cameo…

According to James D. Breckenridge, the Dumbarton Oaks Cameo presents… two male busts carved in dark stone against an opaque white background. The man on the left of the cameo is frontal, with head turned right, bearded and mustached; his chlamys is fastened at his left shoulder – apparently an arbitrary choice of the gem cutter – with a round brooch. The man on the right appears younger – beardless and without moustache; he is slightly behind his senior and slightly lower. Whereas the older man’s hair and beard are in short curls, his hair is in wavy strands. Pupils and irises of both men are incised. https://books.google.gr/books?id=efLuB7QPDm8C&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false  

Busts of Two Emperors, late 3rd century – early 4th century, Chalcedony on Gold, 3.5 cm x 4.3 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, USA

Unfortunately, it is not clear who the depicted men are. The roughly incised inscription DIOCL(etianus) MAXim(ianus) AVG(ustus) on the gold plaque at the back of the gem, the style of execution and details of its iconography, identify, by the majority of scholars, the Cameo portraits, as a product of the Tetrarchy, and subsequently, the depicted men as members of it. Taking into added consideration that the Dumbarton Oaks gem is cut from a larger work, it is highly plausible that the original gem might have shown all four Tetrarchs.  

Back in 1956, Richter suggested Diocletian and Maximian as the represented Tetrarchs, and James D. Breckenridge put forward the names of Maximianus Herculeus and Maxentius. Interestingly, Dumbarton Oaks expert J. Hanson, sets forth the popular, among experts, identification of the two presented leaders as Diocletian and Galerius, who jointly ruled the Eastern half of the Empire from 293 to 305, and the two Western tetrarchs on the lost/missing section, as Maximian and Constantius Chlorus. https://books.google.gr/books?id=efLuB7QPDm8C&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%223671%22&sort=0&page=466

For a Student Activity on the Cameo of two Emperors, please… Check HERE!

Busts of Two Emperors, late 3rd century – early 4th century, Chalcedony on Gold, 3.5 cm x 4.3 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, USA
Map of the Roman Empire, The Period of Tetrarchy, around 293 AD https://sites.rhodes.edu/coins/imperial-imagery-tetrarchy

Eros and the Bee

Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey, 1530, Oil on Panel, 38 x 58 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark

A wicked bee once filching Eros stung, / As from hive unto hive the sly god flew. / Looting the flower-sweet honeycombs among; / With finger-tips all pierced he cried and blew     /    
His hand, and stamped upon the ground with pain, / And vaulted in the air; to Aphrodite / Sadly he came commencing to complain, / “Although the bee is small his wound is mighty.”     /     Then said his mother smiling, “Are you not / A creature small just like the bee, I pray? / But ne’ertheless it must not be forgot— / The cruel wounds you deal—how great are they!”
Idyll XIX, Eros, and the Bee, attributed to the ancient Greek Poet Theocritus of the 3rd century BC, is the source of inspiration for a number of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder depicting an alluring Venus, and Eros, a stolen piece of honeycomb in hand, stung by Bees.  My favourite version, in the SMK Art Museum in Denmark, is expecting us to probe and explore… http://nicholasjv.blogspot.com/2009/11/sweetness-of-honey-and-sting-of-bees.html

Venus with Cupid as a honey thief was probably one of the most successful mythology-inspired compositions created by the German artist of the Renaissance period Lucas Cranach the Elder. Scholars suggest there are twenty versions of the same theme, dated between 1527 and 1545, painted by the artist, his workshop, or followers of his theme and style.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Cupid complaining to Venus, c. 1526–27, Oil on Panel, 81.3×54.6 cm, National Gallery, London, UK
Venus and Cupid as Honey Thief, 1527, on beech wood, 83×58.2 cm, Güstrow Castle, Germany
Venus and Cupid, the Honey Thief, 1529, Oil and Tempera on Beech Wood, 38.1×23.5 cm, Cook collection, National Gallery, London UK
Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Venus and Cupid, 1531, Oil on Panel, 51×35 cm, Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse, France
Venus and Cupid, the Honey Thief, circa 1537, Oil on Lime Panel, 50.1×34.4 cm,
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany
Venus with Cupid as a Honey Thief against a Black Background, 1537, Oil on Lime Panel, 175.4×66.3 cm, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, Germany

These paintings depict the same two figures, Venus, the Greek Goddess of beauty and love in glorious nudity, and her son, Eros, god of love as well, holding a stolen piece of honeycomb, stung by bees, and in obvious pain. My favourite painting of Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey is exhibited in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Denmark and combines all the important elements of the composition.

In the upper, left corner of the painting in Denmark, a sign with a reference to Idyll XIX of Theocritus clearly explains the theme. “As Cupid was stealing honey from the hive / A bee stung the thief on the finger / And so do we seek transitory and dangerous pleasures. / That are mixed with sadness and bring us pain.” The wording does not reproduce Theocritus’ exact Greek text, but rather a Latin epigram based on the poem. Painted on a cream-coloured ‘panel’ on the upper left side of the painting, the epigram is related to the work of the great German humanist Philipp Melanchthon. with whom Cranach was closely connected in producing illustrations for Luther’s Bible translation. (A short but comprehensive presentation of Philipp Melanchthon’s contribution to Humanism in Germany… Melanchthon: A German Humanist by A. Pelzer Wagener, The Classical Weekly, Vol. 22, No. 20 (Mar. 25, 1929), pp. 155-160 (6 pages). I particularly like his point of view that Greek and Latin should be studied side by side by all who sought to grasp the substance of the involved rather than its shadow”. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4389299?read-now=1&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents) https://open.smk.dk/artwork/image/KMSsp719

Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey (Detail), 1530, Oil on Panel, 38 x 58 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark
Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey (Detail), 1530, Oil on Panel, 38 x 58 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark

Examining Cranach’s painting at SMK, depicting Venus, Eros, and the landscape that surrounds them, I see, compared to the rest of Cranach’s paintings of the same theme. elegance and grace, an understated sense of humor, and a subtle mood of morality. The Landscape, in a true Norther European Renaissance tradition, is glorious, lush, and detailed. It invites you to examine the luxurious foliage, the city reflections on the depicted water, and the travelers’ mannerisms. Eros, a blond toddler with blue wings, ever so charming, is displaying his surprise and pain with gusto. Venus looks at the viewer, and laughs, explaining to him that the effect is comparable to the wounds he himself inflicts on all those struck by his arrows. What a painting to consider Love, Euphoria, and Heartache!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1472-1553
Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey (Detail), 1530, Oil on Panel, 38 x 58 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark

Astragaloi Players

Alexander of Athens, 1st cent BC-1st cent AD
Astragaloi players from Herculaneum, 1st cent BC-1st cent AD, Marble and Pigment, 47.6×50.5 cm, National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy https://mann-napoli.it/affreschi/#gallery-8

Niobe ((P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses)… So many things / increased her pride: She loved to boast / her husband’s skill, their noble family, / the rising grandeur of their kingdom. Such / felicities were great delights to her; / but nothing could exceed the haughty way / she boasted of her children: and, in truth, / Niobe might have been adjudged on earth, / the happiest mother of mankind, if pride / had not destroyed her wit… and Leto’s anger fell hard on her… Childless— she crouched beside her slaughtered sons, / her lifeless daughters, and her husband’s corpse. / The breeze not even moved her fallen hair, / a chill of marble spread upon her flesh, / beneath her pale, set brows, her eyes moved not, / her bitter tongue turned stiff in her hard jaws, / her lovely veins congealed, and her stiff neck / and rigid hands could neither bend nor move.— / her limbs and body, all were changed to stone… The Astragaloi Players, the painted marble Pinax from Herculaneum, takes the viewer to moments of contentment when Leto and Niobe certainly they loved each other like true friend (Sappho Fragment 142)… before Niobe’s Ύβρις (transgression against a god) and Leto’s painful Wrath!  https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0028%3Abook%3D6 and https://digitalsappho.org/fragments/fr118-168/

The famous painting of the Astragaloi Players was discovered in the House of Neptune and Amphitrite, in Herculaneum, on Cardo IV, in May 1746. Not one of the largest houses in ancient Herculaneum, yet one of the most famous, and visited, as it boasts three masterpieces.

The Villa’s Garden Court, with a summer triclinium, veneered with marble, on the far end wall, the Nymphaeum, and the famous Neptune and Amphitrite mosaic.

First, the mosaic decorating the Nymphaeum, located in the Inner Garden Court of the house. Adorned with geometric and floral motifs and hunting scenes with dogs and deer composed of glass paste tesserae, shells, and designs of mother of pearl, the Nymphaeum mosaic is brightly colorful and elegant. Second, in the center of the east wall, the mosaic after which the house is named shows Neptune and Amphitrite surrounded by an exquisite frame of decorative motifs. Third, the Marble Pinax of the Astragaloi Players is detached and exhibited today in Naples Archaeological Museum.

The depicted scene in the marble Pinax, titled Astragaloi Players, presents the act immediately preceding the massacre of the Niobids. The myth, also told by Ovid (Metamorphoses, VI), narrates that Niobe, wife of Amphion, king of Thebes, and mother of many children, dared to declare herself even superior to the goddess Leto, mother of only two children, Apollo, and Artemis. Leto, angered by Niobe and her outrageous presumption, ordered the killing of the queen’s seven sons by Apollo and the killing of her seven daughters with arrows shot by Artemis. https://mann-napoli.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/10.-Giocatrici-di-astragali.pdf

Astragaloi players from Herculaneum, Drawing of the painting on marble, in Antichità di Ercolano: Tomo Primo: Le Pitture 1, 1757, 1,5

The inscriptions in capital Greek characters, placed next to each figure depicted in the Pinax, identify the members of the story by name. In the background, three women are identified as Leto (left), Niobe (middle), and Phoebe (right). In the foreground, kneeling and involved in a game of Astragaloi, the artist of the composition placed two of Niobe’s daughters, Aglaia (left) and Ilaria (right). Another inscription, placed in the upper left corner, introduces us to the artist, a man called Alexander from Athens (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ ΑθΗΝΑΙΟΣ ΕΓΡΑΦΕΝ).  

Antonio Coppa of the Naples Archaeological Museum believes that this marble painting is most likely a Neo-Attic remake of an original painting of the late 5th century BC, attributable to the famous Zeuxis. The archaeologist also believes that the presence of names identifying each figure depicted in the composition fits into the archaizing fashion of the Augustan age, allowing to date the work between the end of the 1st century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD. https://mann-napoli.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/10.-Giocatrici-di-astragali.pdf

The painting of the Astragaloi Players was immediately defined as “monochrome”, believing it to be an example of those paintings in which the only color for their realization was the cinnabar. However, recent investigations into the picture pigment have highlighted the use of multiple colors: pink and yellow for the clothes, red for the sandals, and black for the hair; moreover, the different gradations of color gave volume to the figures, therefore the current monochrome is only the result of the action of time. https://mann-napoli.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/10.-Giocatrici-di-astragali.pdf

What a magnificent discovery!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Enkolpion of Empress Maria

Enkolpion of Empress Maria, 398-407, Agate Cameo, Gold, Ruby or Garnet, Emerald, 2.6×1.8×1 cm, the Louvre, Paris, France https://www.doaks.org/research/byzantine/scholarly-activities/dynastic-jewels-a-late-antique-rhetoric-of-treasure-and-adornment

Late Antique poetry has often been characterized by its ‘jeweled style,’ in which authors mobilized ornament, variety, and tessellation for the purposes of visual splendor and immediacy. Jewels, and treasure more broadly, also serve as particularly effective metonyms for power. And historians frequently describe the programmatic effort to bolster dynastic power over the course of the fourth century as a ‘dynastic imperative.’ Is The Enkolpion of Empress Maria in the collection of the Louvre an example of Imperious Power? Worn around the neck of Empress Maria, was this unique Enkolpion an integral part of the sustained program of dynasty building in the tumultuous years following the death of Emperor Theodosius I? https://www.doaks.org/events/byzantine-studies/2022-2023/dynastic-jewels-a-late-antique-rhetoric-of-treasure-and-adornment

Empress Maria’s Enkolpion is a small piece of jewelry, 1.3 x 1.8 cm in size, and round in shape. It is a flat receptacle of earth grains probably from the Holy Land, smelling, at the time of its discovery, of musk. The two white and russet orange agate cameos it is made of are attached back to back by a band of gold adorned with emeralds and rubies. How splendid can it be! It can… if you consider the cameos’ simple, yet ‘powerful’ decoration.

Both cameos are embellished with inscriptions, in the shape of Christograms, cut in very low relief, arranged spikelike around a central ansate cross. One cameo reads: Honorius and Maria (the loop of the letter Rho), Stelicho, Serena, vivatis in Deo, and the other cameo reads: Stelicho and Serena (the loop of the letter Rho), Eucherius, Thermantia, vivatis in Deo. Everyone mentioned by name in the two inscriptions is an important member of the Theodosian Dynasty! https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century

Maria’s Enkolpion, suggested to be a wedding gift, is a family heirloom! Stelicho, for example, of Vandal origin, was a powerful military commander in the Roman army. Married to Serena, the niece of emperor Theodosius I, and guardian for the underage Emperor Honorius, Stelicho was the father of Maria, Emperor Honorius’s first wife, Thermantia, the young Emperor’s second wife, and Eucherius. If this isn’t a ‘dynastic imperative’ then what can it be?

The Enkolpion was found in February 1544, in Rome, in a sarcophagus in what was once the Mausoleum of Emperor Honorius, later, during the 8th century, converted into the Chapel of Saint Petronilla. The Mausoleum was built next to the Vatican Rotunda, another round structure on Vatican Hill, beside Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The Mausoleum was used as the resting place for members of the Theodosian Imperial family. The first to be buried was Augusta Maria, the first wife of Honorius, who died young, before 408. Honorius, the first emperor of the Theodosian dynasty was also entombed there in 424. The Mausoleum was used as a resting place for Honorius’s second wife Thermantia, and probably, Honorius’s sister, Augusta  Galla Placidia, her husband Augustus Constantius III, and her sons Theodosius and Valentinian III. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum_of_Honorius  

For a Student Activity, inspired by The Enkolpion of Empress Maria, please… Check HERE!

Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months presented by Tosa Mitsunari

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA

Before my eyes / the snowflakes fall upon the icy pond / piling up like the years gone by / like the layered feather coats of the oshi… wrote Fujiwara Teika back in 1214. Many years later Fujiwara Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months presented by Tosa Mitsunari delight us with their elegance and beauty! http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

Who is Fujiwara Teika? Fujiwara Sadaie, also called Teika, or Fujiwara Teika, (born 1162, Japan—died Sept. 26, 1241, Kyōto), is one of the greatest poets of his age and Japan’s most influential poetic theorists and critics until modern times. The son of a great poet, Shunzei (or Toshinari, 1114–1204), Teika surpassed his father’s literary legacy and raised his family in political importance. His literary talent attracted the attention of retired emperor Go-Toba (1180–1239), who appointed him, in 1205, one of the compilers of the eighth Imperial anthology Shin kokinshū (c. 1205, “New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times”), and in 1232, sole compiler of the ninth anthology, Shin chokusenshū (1235; “New Imperial Collection”). This is a great accomplishment and honour. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fujiwara-Sadaie

Who is Tosa Mitsunari? Tosa Mitsusuke (1675–1710) was a Japanese artist of the Edo era. In 1696, as the 18th head of the Tosa school of painting, Mitshunari was appointed  Official Court Painter with duties to serve the Emperor. He worked for the Imperial Official Bureau of Painting and managed to revive his family’s political and economic fortunes. In 1709, he did paintings of room partitions in the royal palace and in the Sento palace with Kano Tsunenobu. Mitsuoki was known for reintroducing the Yamato-e style and reviving the Tosa school of painting. He painted delicate bird-and-flower (kacho) paintings in the Chinese court manner and was especially noted for his precise depictions of quail. https://prabook.com/web/tosa.mitsuoki/3742785 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tosa_Mitsusuke

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art,

How are a poet and a painter connected in art? Japanese secular painting and poetry walk side by side. Poets composed verses about images in paintings and painters made works based on poems and inscribed them with erudite calligraphy, or pasted a poem in elegant characters onto the painting. The resulting synthesis exceeded the sum of the parts, creating many layers of meaning. http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

Tosa Mitsunari, Japanese Artist, 1646-1710
Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months, Edo period (1603-1868), 1646-1710, ink, color and gold leaf on paper, six-fold screen, 170.18x 61.92 cm (each panel), Indianapolis Museum of Art,

Are Fujiwara Teika’s Poems for the Twelve Months painted by Tosa Mitsunari in the Indianapolis Museum of Art Screen an example of artistic collaboration? Yes, the Indianapolis Screen is a perfect example. The pair of six-fold screens in the Indianapolis Museum masterfully combines landscape painting and poetic texts. The texts, poems by Fujiwara Teika, subtly express emotions through metaphors of nature. The imagery, a typical landscape by Tosa Mitsunari, celebrates the changing aspect of nature. The depicted months are numbered according to the lunar calendar, and the first month, presented in the first panel, roughly corresponds to February. http://collection.imamuseum.org/artwork/55793/

For a Student Activity inspired by the Indianapolis Museum Japanese Screens, please… Check, HERE!

The Girl with the Pigeons

Polychronis Lembesis, Greek Artist, 1849-1913
The Girl with the Pigeons, 1879, Oil on Canvas, 120×80 cm, Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art, Metsovo, Greece

The Girl with the Pigeons is a famous Greek painting by Polychronis Lembesis in the Collection of the Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art in Metsovo. It reminds me of a poem I read by  Ustav Shah… With the onset of the sun in the horizon, the little creatures awake / And dance and sing melodies tantamount to a group of chortling people / Oh, how I wish such convivial sights be captured / And played back on repeat everytime you feel low     /     As vagabonds they fly in search of food and shelter / And when the sun does set, off they disappear in their nests / Robbing the nature of its beauty… Lembesis definitely captured the vagabonds’ convivial sight, their dance, and singing melodies… https://hellopoetry.com/words/pigeon/

Polychronis Lembesis, one of Greece’s most important 19th-century painters, is a distinguished representative of the so-called “School of Munich”, the major 19th-century Greek Art Movement. Born on the Island of Salamis, graced with ‘smiling shores and calm pine-covered slopes,’ Lembesis spent a humble early life near his father’s flock. Distinguishing himself as a student, he was granted a scholarship by the politician Dimitrios Voulgaris (“Tsoumpes”) to study painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts, firstly, and then, in 1875, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. His teachers in Munich were Wilhelm Lindenschmidt and Ludwig von Löfftz; his best friend was the already-known Greek painter Nicholaos Gyzis.

Returning to Greece, in 1880, the artist settled in the Thision area of Athens, where he established a Studio, becoming well-known as a Portraitist, a teacher of painting (Prime Minister Stefanos Dragoumis’s children were his students), and a Hagiographer. He participated in many group exhibitions in Athens, the 1903 International Exhibition of Paris, and the International Exhibition of Athens, in 1904. Polychronis was a gentle, humble, and quiet man throughout his life, wrote Nikos Zias. Disappointed by the Athenian artistic ‘disputes’ Polychronis Lembesis chose to retire to the island of his birth, Salamis, where he lived “in obscurity” and poverty.https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/lembesis-polychronis.html and https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/24/opinions/o-pio-spoydaios-ellinas-zwgrafos-2/

Polychronis Lembesis, Greek Artist, 1849-1913
The Child with the Rabbits, 1879, Oil on Canvas, 130z103 cm, National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Evripidis Koutlidis Foundation, Athens, Greece https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/the-bourgeois-class-and-its-painters/genre-painting/the-child-with-the-rabbits.html

The artist was an accomplished Portraitist, using the dark background of the painting, to brightly project the sitter’s head. He was an excellent landscape painter, connecting the composition of each painting with either the historicity of the place he depicts or with ethnographic references. Lembesis is also an exemplary painter of everyday scenes in a Greek village, not with the arrogance of the scholarly observer as Nikos Zias writes, but with the simplicity of the man who lives in it. https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/24/opinions/o-pio-spoydaios-ellinas-zwgrafos-2/

Every time I visit the Epirote village of Metsovo, I feel it is my duty to check on the Averoff Museum of Neo-Hellenic Art and stand, once more, in front of The Girl with the Pigeons. I like how the artist captured the ‘moment’ without being an Impressionist, with his free, broad brush strokes, and warm colours. I enjoy the ‘energy’ he creates around a standing young girl who feeds the boisterous vagabonds and tries to protect herself at the same time… I can almost hear their overexcited melodies…

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Pendant with the Bust of an Empress

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress, 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA http://colorsandstones.eu/2020/11/08/necklace-with-a-pendant-roman-overview/

St. Ambrose describes her, Aelia Flacilla, wife of emperor Theodosius I, as “a soul true to God” (Fidelis anima Deo. – “De obitu Theodosii”, n. 40, in P. L., XVI, 1462). In his panegyric, St. Gregory of Nyssa bestowed the highest praise on her virtuous life and pictured her as the helpmate of the emperor in all good works, an ornament of the empire, a leader of justice, an image of beneficence. He praises her as filled with zeal for the Faith, as a pillar of the Church, and as a mother of the indigent. Theodoret in particular exalts her charity and benevolence (Hist. Eccles., V, xix, ed. Valesius, III, 192 sq.). He tells us how she personally tended cripples and quotes a saying of hers: “To distribute money belongs to the imperial dignity, but I offer up for the imperial dignity itself personal service to the Giver.” Could the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress in the Getty Collection depict this extraordinary Early Christian Empress? https://www.ecatholic2000.com/cathopedia/vol6/volsix114.shtml

Let’s answer some questions.

When did the Getty Museum acquire the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress? Yes, we do… Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, a most reputable expert archaeologist in ancient gold, contributed an article, titled A Group o f Late Antique Jewelry in the Getty Museum (pages 107-140) in Studia Varia from the J. Paul Getty Museum: Volume 1 (OPA 8), 1993. Let me quote… The majority of Late Roman and Early Byzantine jewelry that we do have has no known provenance and is undated. Our knowledge of jewelry of the period is based mainly on a few larger hoards with recorded find spots but without any external evidence for dating. It is therefore fortunate that in 1983 the Getty Museum was able to acquire a group of fifteen pieces of jewelry buried around A.D . 400. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 107

Where were the Late Antique pieces of jewelry, including the Pendant with Empress, found? We do not exactly know… but according to Barbara Deppert-Lippitz… As all pieces had a similar patina, it need not be doubted that the group was, indeed, found together. They are all in very good condition, except for missing pearls on some items. Nothing is known about the previous history of this hoard, but no treasure corresponding to the present one is recorded as having been excavated anywhere during this century There are, however, certain indications that the hoard must have come from the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Further interesting observations point out that… The Getty hoard belongs among the well-known treasures from the Hill of Saint Louis in Carthage, Tunisia, and from Ténès in Algeria, both now generally agreed to belong to the period around A.D . 400, and the one from Thetford at Gallows Hill, near Thetfordin Norfolk, dated to the late fourth century A.D. All these hoards are dated on a purely stylistic basis, with no external evidence. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 107, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage_Treasure and https://www.persee.fr/doc/rbph_0035-0818_1960_num_38_1_2309_t1_0098_0000_2 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetford_Hoard

How did the Getty Museum acquire the Late Antique pieces of Jewelry? In 1983, the J. Paul Getty Museum purchased the group of fifteen pieces of Late Antique pieces of jewelry from the Company of “Robin Symes, Limited,” founded in 1977 and dissolved in 2005. https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/object/103VE6#full-artwork-details

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress, 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA http://colorsandstones.eu/2020/11/08/necklace-with-a-pendant-roman-overview/

How can you describe the Pendant with the Bust of an Empress? This is actually a necklace consisting of a chain and a circular medallion. The gold ropelike multiple loop-in-loop chain shows remarkable workmanship. It ends with a hook-and-eye clasp, decorated with openwork circlets as well as filigree and granulation. The medallion-shaped pendant displays a frontal female bust flanked by two Victory Goddesses holding wreaths. A circular outer band, with inset garnets, and blue and green glass beads, serving as a frame to the repoussé medallion, was a rather primitive later addition to the original jewel. Three chain pendants and two strong rings attached to either side of the medallion were also added later. Today, only one pendant chain remains attached to the outer frame, holds an emerald, and terminates in a decorative scroll ornament. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html pages 109-111.

Chain and Pendant with the Bust of an Empress (Detail), 379–395 AD, Gold, garnet, sapphire, glass, 6.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

Who is the depicted woman? It most probably is Aelia Flacilla, the first wife of Emperor Theodosius I. According to Barbara Deppert-Lippitz… a small but significant detail, the diadem, the Empress wears, offers valuable information. Based on numismatic evidence, similar diadems have been worn only by the empresses Aelia Flacilla, wife of Theodosius I, whose coinage commenced in A.D . 383 and who died in 386, and by her daughter-in-law Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius (A.D . 383-408). This narrows the chronological range of the medallion pendant to the last two decades of the fourth century A.D. The differences between the coin portraits of Flacilla and of Eudoxia are marginal. However, the oval face with a short straight nose, small mouth with thick lips, and energetic chin seem to be closer to the portrait on certain issues of Flacilla than to that of Eudoxia. https://www.getty.edu/publications/virtuallibrary/0892362030.html page 110

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Murrhine Vases in the British Museum

The Barber Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/9125/the-barber-cup
The Crawford Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 10.70 cm, Height: 9.70 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1971-0419-1

Fluorite(or Fluorspar) crystals were among the most highly prized gemstones in ancient Greece and Rome. In numerous Latin works, the word ‘murrina’ (today, known as murrhine) is used elliptically to designate a certain category of costly vessels, known asvasa murrina.’ Suetonius, for example, tells us that Augustus, of all the royal riches he was presented with in Alexandria… he set aside for himself, one object only, a murrhine vase… The two Murrhine Vases in the British Museum, rare and precious, are worth exploring.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/24191123?read-now=1#page_scan_tab_contents Alain Tressaud and Michael Vickers, Ancient Murrhine Ware and Its Glass Evocations, Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 49 (2007), pp. 143-152 (10 pages), Published by: Corning Museum of Glass

The two Murrhine Vases in the British Museum were discovered by an Austro-Croat officer during the First World War near the then border between Turkey and Syria, in what was once ancient Cilicia. Apparently, he first discovered a marble cist which contained a lead casket containing some gold medallions, a two-handled stone ‘cup’, covered with ashes, and a slightly taller stone ‘jug’ with one carved handle, also covered in ashes. Shortly after World War I, the officer who discovered this amazing treasure, sold both of ‘his’ stone vases, but to two different buyers.

The Barber Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/9125/the-barber-cup

The ‘jug,’ today known as the Barber Cup, went to a Greek dealer of antiquities who sold it to Baron Adolphe Stoclet, the wealthy Belgian engineer, financier, and noted collector, from whose estate the British Museum acquired it in 2004, thanks in part to the British Museum Friends and it is now named in honour of their former Chairman, Nicholas Barber. The acquisition of the Barber Cup was generously funded by the Art Fund and the Caryatid Fund as well. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-barber-cup/2wEO5TvohhMDUw

The Barber Cup (details), 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK
The Barber Cup (detail), 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 6.40 cm, Height: 15 cm (total), British Museum, London, UK

According to Dyfri Williams, the shape of the Barber Cup has been carved from a single piece of a mineral known as fluorspar and is richly veined with purple, green, yellow, and white. The cup has been further decorated with a low-relief panel of vine leaves, grapes, and tendrils, with a bearded head presumably Dionysus or one of his companions, under the handle. The Barber Cup is unusual, and it is likely that the craftsman intended to create a two-handled ‘kantharos,’ but for some reason changed his mind during the carving. The decoration is very carefully cut and can be found in both in Roman silverware and in glass. The date is probably the 1st century AD, and the find-spot in Roman Cilicia and the high quality of the object suggests the rich and cosmopolitan city of Antioch as a place of manufacture. https://ocean.exacteditions.com/issues/92787/spread/49

The Crawford Cup, 50-100 AD, Fluorite, Diameter: 10.70 cm, Height: 9.70 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1971-0419-1

The two-handled ‘cup,’ today known as the Crawford Cup went to a private collector, who published the story of its discovery. In 1971, the ‘cup’ was presented to the British Museum, a gift by the Art Fund in honour of David Lindsay, 28th Earl of Crawford, chairman of the Fund between 1945-1970. The Crawford Cup was also carefully cut from a single piece of fluorspar, and is richly veined with purple, green, and yellow, but has no additional, like the Barber Cup, low-relief decoration.  It has the shape of a two-handled goblet, or to be more precise, the shape of the ancient Greek drinking cup known as Kantharos. The shape of the Crawford Cup has been compared to the Hellenistic agate Cup of the Ptolemies in the Cabinet des Médailles at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. https://ocean.exacteditions.com/issues/92787/spread/49

For a Student Activity on the Barber Cup, please… Check HERE!