Theotokos ton Blachernon in Constantinople

The Ride of Emperor Theophilos to the Church of Theotokos ton Blachernon
Madrid Skylitzes Illuminated Manuscript, 12th to the 13th centuries, Manuscript on Parchment, 36 x 27 cm, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Spain
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Emperor_Theophilus_visits_St_Mary_of_Blachernae.jpg

According to John Skylitzes, the 11th-century historian, the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (r. 829–42)… ἀπῄειἑκάστης ἑβδομάδος ἔφιππος διὰ τῆς λεωφόρου ἐπὶ τὸν ἐν Βλαχέρναις τῆς θεομήτορος θεῖον ναόν, ὑπὸ τῶν δορυφόρων παραπεμπόμενος… each week would ride out on horseback together with his bodyguard along the thoroughfare leading to the sacred Church Theotokos ton Blachernon in Constantinople… the most important Pilgrimage Complex in the Βασιλεύουσα dedicated to the Mother of God. https://byzantium.gr/keimena/skylitzes.php and https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/john-skylitzes-a-synopsis-of-byzantine-history-8111057/michael-iii-the-son-of-theophilos-842867-and-his-mother-theodora-842862/CF57964EF1A48FA4EBDD26D8CF54FE3E

Blachernae Palace Area, Constantinople
1. Basilica Church of Theotokos ton Blachernon, 2. Hagia Soros Chapel, 3. Danubios Hall, 4. Okeanos Hall, 5. Anastasiakos Hall, named after Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491–518) who built it, 6.Alexiakos Hall, 7. So-called Anemas Dungeons, 8. Palace bath recently found, 9. Palace of Manuel Comnenus, 10. Chapel, 11.Palace of Empress Bertha, 12.Tower of Isaac Angelus
http://www.byzantium1200.com/blachernae.html

At the breezy and woody suburb of Blachernai, on the shores of Golden Horn, just outside the Theodosian city walls, the Byzantine Pilgrimage Complex of Blachernae comprised of the Basilica Church of Theotokos ton Blacernon, the Hagia Soros Chapel, where the Maphorion (the holy veil) of the Virgin was kept, and the Lousma, an Edifice built over a natural spring of mineral water, which was used for Baths, to which healing qualities were attributed at some point by the 5th century. It is traditionally believed that Pulcheria and Emperor Maurice were the founders of the Vlachernai complex, but according to Procopius and recent research (C. Mango), the theory that the Basilica Church was erected by Emperor Justin I (518-527) was brought forward. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11778 

Procopius in his De Aedificiis, I.3.3-5, describes the Basilica Church as…  τὸν μὲν οὖν ἕνα τῆς θεοτόκου νεὼν ᾠκοδομήσατο πρὸ τοῦ περιβόλου ἐν χώρῳ καλουμένῳ Βλαχέρναις· αὐτῷ γὰρ λογιστέον καὶ τὰ Ἰουστίνῳ εἰργασμένα τῷ θείῳ, ἐπεὶ καὶ αὐτοῦ τὴν βασιλείαν κατ’ ἐξουσίαν αὐτὸς διῳκεῖτο, ἐπιθαλάσσιος δὲ ὁ νεώς ἐστιν, ἱερώτατός τε καὶ σεμνὸς ἄγαν, ἐπιμήκης μέν, κατὰ λόγον δὲ περιβεβλημένος τῷ μήκει τὸ εὖρος, τά τε ἄνω καὶ τὰ κάτω ἄλλῳ οὐδενὶ ἀνεχόμενος ὅτι μὴ τμήμασι λίθου Παρίου ἐν κιόνων λόγῳ ἐνταῦθα ἑστῶσι… (This church is on the sea, a most holy and very stately church, of unusual length and yet of a breadth well proportioned to its length, both its upper and its lower parts being supported by nothing but sections of Parian stone which stand there to serve as columns. And in all the other parts of the church these columns are set in straight lines, except at the centre, where they recede. Anyone upon entering this church would marvel particularly at the greatness of the mass which is held in place without instability, and at the magnificence which is free from bad taste.) https://archive.org/details/procopius00proc_0/page/38/mode/2up pages 38-41

The Basilica Church of Theotokos ton Blacernon, still outside the city walls in 626, at the time of the Avar siege, was spared destruction, because of a miraculous intervention of the Theotokos who spared her own church as a sign of her power and grace. During the following centuries, the Virgin Vlachernitissa came to be considered as the city’s divine protector par excellence. George Pisides, the 7th-century poet describes Blachernae beautifully… If you seek the dread throne of God on the earth, marvel as you look at the house of the Virgin; for she who carries God in her arms carries him to the majesty of this place. Here those appointed to rule the earth believe that their scepters are made victorious; here the vigilant patriarch averts many catastrophes in the world. The barbarians, attacking the city, on seeing her alone at the head of the army, at once bent their unbending necks.’ http://constantinople.ehw.gr/forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11778  and https://figshare.com/articles/online_resource/E00568_Two_Greek_epigrams_by_George_Pisides_in_the_shrine_of_the_Blachernae_at_Constantinople_celebrating_the_miraculous_raising_of_the_626_siege_of_Constantinople_with_the_help_of_Mary_Mother_of_Christ_S00033_Recorded_in_the_10th_c_Greek_A/13800251/1

Unfortunately, the church was entirely destroyed by a fire in 1070, rebuilt by 1077, and destroyed once more by fire, in 1434 when the damaged portico of the Church was hit by lightning in a great storm. The fire was seen all over the city and was one of the last great disasters to strike Christian Constantinople… a huge blow to the morale of the city and the Imperial family who could not afford to spend money on reconstructions, but on cleaning and repairing the City Moat and Walls. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11778  and https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/church-of-mary-of-the-blachernae.html 

The existing Church of Theotokos ton Blachernon is dated to the mid-19th century. The istorikon of the modern Church starts in 1867 when the guild of Orthodox Greek furriers bought land in Istanbul, including the lot with the Hagiasma/Holy Water Shrine of the original Blachernae Complex. A hundred and fifty years later, with the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a small Church was “rebuilt” on the site of what was once the most important pilgrimage shrine of Theotokos at Constantinople… the site where the “Akathistos Hymnos” was first sung… http://constantinople.ehw.gr/forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11778

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Villa Arianna’s Dionysus and Ariadne Fresco

Lying in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius… Stabiae is home to a group of enormous, sea-edge, Villae Marittimae, which are set on a cliff above the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia. We know of at least six of these villas, built directly next to one another—a sort of Roman high-rent resort district next to the small town of Stabiae. They were beautifully preserved by the eruption of 79 A.D., with standing walls, some of the highest quality frescoes surviving from antiquity, and some of the most innovative garden architecture in the Roman world. On the 13th of October I presented you with information on Villa Arianna, today, on the 11th of December… let’s discuss Villa Arianna’s Dionysus and Ariadne Fresco. https://www.baslibrary.org/archaeology-odyssey/8/1/5

Ariadne on Naxos, 4th Pompeian Style Fresco, Villa Arianna grand Triclinium, Room No. 3, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Triclinio_3_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Mito_ri_Arianna.jpg
Villa Arianna Areal View
https://www.stabiaholidayhouse.it/en/visit-to-the-ancient-stabiae/
 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

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.

Ιmagine the scene… Theseus and Ariadne flee Crete in a hurry. With the help of Ariadne, Theseus had just killed the horrible Minotaur in the depths of Knossos’s palace maze. Their first stop to rest on their way to Athens is the island of Naxos… where the story unfolds dramatically and excitingly. God Dionysus, in love with Ariadne, appears to Theseus in his sleep and convinces him to abandon Ariadne at Naxos and continue his trip alone. Ariadne, unaware of divine intervention disembarks at Naxos enchanted by the beauty of the island, happily explores it, and tired falls asleep on the beautiful islet of Palatia. When she wakes up… god Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Dione, looks at her adoringly and a new love affair is in the making. A glorious wedding follows and an eternal gift is still with us to admire… the constellation known as Corona Borealis is said to be Dionysus’s wedding gift to Ariadne, a special ornament to adorn her beautiful head.

Please take the time to look at the Villa’s Plan, locate Room 3, and imagine a December Symposium night two thousand years ago…

Villa Arianna’s Dionysus and Ariadne Fresco is a small part of Villa’s grand Triclinium decoration. Room 3 is decorated in the 4th Pompeian Style, elaborate and complex as it can be, combining large-scale Narrative Painting, small Panoramic Vistas, and Still Lifes, within an architectural fantasy of pedestals, aediculae, columns, entablatures, and… theatrical masks! The Villa’s grand Triclinium decoration doesn’t resemble any believable space but instead consists of a variety of architectural elements arranged in an unrealistic manner with an unrealistic perspective, set against a flat background. The three large mythological scenes framed in blue on a yellow and red ground above a lower red and black decorative frieze are the room’s main artistic attraction. A panel presenting the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne decorates the South Wall, a rare scene of Lycurgus and Ambrosia is presented on the West Wall, and on the East Wall, the unknown master painter of the grand Triclinium presented the myth of Zeus and Ganymede. https://depts.washington.edu/hrome/Authors/ninamil7/TheFourStylesofRomanWallPaintings/pub_zbarticle_view_printable.html

Room number 3 was Villa Arianna’s grand Triclinium… the main dining room of a luxurious Roman residence, so-called because of the three banqueting couches (klinai) arranged around the walls. All you have to do is… imagine a warm summer night, overlooking the Bay of Naples, in the company of good friends, bathed in the flickering light, and content with scrumptious food… If you were the owner of Villa Arianna, life was good!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Ariadne on Naxos, 4th Pompeian Style Fresco, Villa Arianna grand Triclinium – South Wall, (Room No. 3 on the Villa Plan), 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stabiae#/media/File:Villa_Arianna_(Stabia)_WLM_099.JPG
Ariadne on Naxos (detail – Mask  and Landscape scene), 4th Pompeian Style Fresco, Villa Arianna grand Triclinium – South Wall, ( (Room No. 3 on the Villa Plan), 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Triclinio_3_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Affresco_particolare_7.jpg

Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
https://www.centrepompidou.fr/fr/ressources/oeuvre/cyjjkkA#&gid=viewer-lightbox&pid=0

The French artist Suzanne Valadon is the protagonist of a unique Exhibition at the Barnes, in the heart of Philadelphia, that introduces to the general public a late 19th – early 20th-century Woman of extraordinary qualities. The Exhibition will be open to the public until the 9th of January, 2021, and so far, the Artist and the Exhibition have been described as… A thrilling tour of [her] portraits, nudes, still lifes, and drawings by The New York Times, or… A brilliant artist making breathtaking paintings that have the flat, colorful solidity of Gauguin, but a piercing intelligence and emotional insight by The Washington Post, or… She is a maverick artist, who often drew from her own life to create a body of work that envisions the 20th-century woman by WHYY, and Breathing new life into rebellious early 20th-century art by the Broad Street Review. https://www.barnesfoundation.org/whats-on/exhibitions/suzanne-valadon?gclid=CjwKCAjwzaSLBhBJEiwAJSRokgRhEY928WI-tXfLFrUON5esRwP3uD8RRKR9pNAu2rdgIPlxP88W8hoCkC4QAvD_BwE

Maurice Utrillo and his mother Suzanne Valadon, c. 1890 by an unknown photographer
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M_Utrillo_et_sa_m%C3%A8re_S_Valadon_vers_1890.jpg

Born Marie-Clémentine, Suzanne Valadon, was born into poverty, as the daughter of an unmarried domestic worker. She grew up in Montmartre, the bohemian quarter of Paris, supporting herself from the age of ten with odd jobs: waitress, nanny, and circus performer. A fall from a trapeze led her in a new direction…that of modeling for some of the most important artists of her time. She was more than a model… she became the muse and the friend of artists like Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Miguel Utrillo, who agreed to give Maurice, Valadon’s son, born out of wedlock, his last name and legally recognize him as his son. Suzanne was artistic. She loved to draw while in the company of her artists/friends, practice her skills by observing them paint, and with the encouragement and tutelage of her mentor Edgar Degas, learn how to master the art of drawing and etching techniques. Valadon soon transitioned from an artist’s model into a successful artist with …a complicated personal life. She was a free spirit and a bohemian in every sense of the word… Suzanne Valadon, her second husband André Utter, and her son Maurice Utrillo were known as the trinité maudite (cursed trinity) because the family environment was characterized by violent outbursts, reconciliations, and alcoholism. https://nmwa.org/art/artists/suzanne-valadon/ and https://www.messynessychic.com/2021/10/15/renoirs-art-model-was-the-greatest-painter-you-never-heard-of/?fbclid=IwAR33WEcmDTxJ4n84O07M7RIJ1rv5WaCZb8Xtc8auSwKRndJhQPfTpaliFZI and https://www.arts-spectacles.com/Valadon-Utrillo-et-Utter-la-trinite-maudite-entre-Paris-et-Saint-Bernard-1909-1939-du-16-octobre-au-12-fevrier-2012_a6460.html

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self-Portrait, 1898, Oil on Canvas, 40×26.7 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suzanne_Valadon_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

The artist is famous for her unapologetic female and male nudes… bold, controversial, and provocative! My favourite Valadon painting is her 1912 Self Portrait with Family…odd, disturbing, and unconventional. https://www.centrepompidou.fr/fr/ressources/oeuvre/cyjjkkA#&gid=viewer-lightbox&pid=0

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Portrait_de_famille%2C_1912_-_Suzanne_Valadon.jpg

The Centre Pompidou painting shows Suzanne Valadon in the center, flanked by André Utter, her second husband, her mother Magdeleine Valadon, and her son in the foreground, Maurice Utrillo. Suzanne Valadon is the only one directly facing the viewer, but she does so tentatively, with her hand on her chest… Utter and Madame Valadon are gazing to their right, each foreseeing a different future: the young man looks confident and rather content, while the woman – all wrinkled and slightly hunchbacked, with the corners of her mouth turned downwards – appears resigned. Maurice Utrillo’s depiction earns the most sympathy, for he seems to be the most miserable and out of place, gazing melancholically with his head leaning on his hand, as if he simply cannot muster the energy to stand or sit upright… What an unusual family portrait! https://artschaft.com/2018/05/23/suzanne-valadon-family-portrait-1912/

For a Student Activity inspired by the Exhibition at the Barnes, in Philadelphia, please… Check HERE!

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Portrait of the painter Maurice Utrillo, 1921, Collection of the City of Sannois, Val d’Oise, France, on temporary loan to the Musée de Montmartre, Paris
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maurice_Utrillo,_par_Suzanne_Valadon.jpg

Simon Bening’s January

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, January (f. 18v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/01/a-calendar-page-for-january-2013.html

It’s the 1st of January 2022… It is time to start a new Calendar Presentation… and Wish you ALL a Happy New Year, Health, Love, and Prosperity!!! Let’s start the Year with Simon Bening’s January, our new BLOG POST.

My search for the perfect Calendar for the new year is a long process, and starts during summer! I want each “Calendar under Focus” to embrace and present every month in a comprehensive way… to make me wonder how effectual it can be. I search for information on the artist who created it and the patron who commissioned it. I want to explore and present you with Calendars of different mediums… For example, the 2000 Calendar presentation was on the Maestro Venceslao Fresco Calendar in Torre Aquila, Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy. In 2021 I focused on a Venetian Set of Doors presenting the Twelve Months created by an anonymous Venetian artist in the National Gallery in London. This year it is time to turn to an Illuminated Manuscript, a medium I love, and present you a 16th century famous Book of Hours with an interesting name… the Golf Book! https://www.teachercurator.com/art/the-month-of-january/ and https://www.teachercurator.com/art/the-labours-of-the-months-february/ and http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?docId=IAMS032-002031376&fn=permalink&vid=IAMS_VU2

Some of the greatest paintings and drawings of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, according to Wendy A. Stein, are not displayed on church and museum walls; instead, they shine forth from the pages… of very special illuminated manuscripts known as Books of Hours. Thousands of Books of Hours made between 1250 and 1700 survive today in libraries and museums, a testament to their popularity in their heyday, especially in northern Europe. They were functional prayer books made for the nonordained, and the paintings in them were intended to foster reflection and devotion. Each Book of Hours was unique, serving the spiritual needs of its patron. Book of Hours were devotional books containing prayers to be recited at set times of the day. By the 15th century, the norm was to contain the Hours of the Virgin, a Calendar, a set of Gospel lessons, Hours focusing on the Cross, a group of Psalms, and prayers to saints called Suffrages. It is interesting how most Books of Hours begin with a Calendar, to help the owner keep track of saints’ days and other feasts. Each month gets a page with listed days, holy days are often written in red (the origin of the term “red letter day”), and significant feast days are written in gold letters. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hour/hd_hour.htm

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, January (f. 18v – f. 19f ),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/01/a-calendar-page-for-january-2013.html

The 16th century Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, is a very unique and special manuscript in the Collection of the British Library. Unfortunately, the Golf Book is not, in its present state, a complete manuscript as most of the text is now missing. Thirty parchment leaves, however, remain, twenty-one pages of which, are full-page miniatures, in colours and gold, surrounded by a historiated border (12 pages are part of the Calendar section). The remaining forty pages feature historiated borders as well, that incorporate medallions, architectonic decoration, and cameos in grisaille and semi-grisaille. The text pages present large and small initials and line-fillers, in colours and gold. Simon Bening (d. 1561), with the assistance of his workshop, was the artist from Bruges responsible for this amazing manuscript. Bening’s accomplishments will feature in the Month of February Presentation. http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?docId=IAMS032-002031376&fn=permalink&vid=IAMS_VU2

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, January (details of f. 18v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/01/a-calendar-page-for-january-2013.html

The miniatures for the Month of January (ff. 18v-19r) cover two pages facing each other. Folio18v is a full-page miniature of a winter landscape with peasants busy with their chores or simply relaxing, and enjoying the pleasures of a cold, snowy day. The protagonists of the composition are the couple in the foreground chopping and collecting wood. Next comes the couple inside the house behind them – one wall of which is conveniently missing to show the indoor scene. The room, showing signs of certain wealth, is warm and cozy with a linen-covered table, set with food and drink – the fruits of their hard work. The Lady of the house is breastfeeding her baby in front of a raging fire, the Lord of the house is relaxing… talking to her, I want to imagine, planning their family future! A busy landscape completes the composition… a windmill on a promontory with a peasant carrying his load towards it,  a church with a person coming out of it, and other people talking or simply strolling about wrapped up in capes or warm clothes to protect themselves from the cold. Several bare trees with snow-lined branches, birds resting on the roof-top, a smoking chimney, and a clear, blue sky, complete the full-page composition. The historiated borders of both folios presenting to the Month of January (ff 18v and 19r) include depictions, in cameo fashion, of children or youths pulling sleds. What an amazing scene Simon Bening’s January is! https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/156

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

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s January page, please… Check HERE!

Floor Mosaic with Apolausis the personification of Enjoyment

Floor Mosaic with Bust of Apolausis/Enjoyment (Baths of Apolausis, Pool Room West of the Frigidarium), late 4th century-early 5th century, Mosaic on Mortar, 98×266 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2

I have always said and felt that true enjoyment can not be described… said Jean Jacques Rousseau… but at the vestibule of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Enjoyment has a face… the Floor Mosaic with Apolausis the personification of Enjoyment welcomes visitors since its doors opened to the public in 1941and I can not think of a better way to welcome you to the New Year!  May 2022 be a Year of pure Enjoyment! https://www.stresslesscountry.com/enjoyment-quotes/

Floor Mosaic with Bust of Apolausis/Enjoyment (Baths of Apolausis, Pool Room West of the Frigidarium), late 4th century-early 5th century, Mosaic on Mortar, 98×266 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2

Antioch on the Orontes, the modern-day city of Antakya in Turkey, was founded near the end of the fourth century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great’s generals and successors to his Empire. It flourished and prospered, rivaling even the city of Alexandria in Egypt, as the capital of the Seleucid Empire until 63 BC, when the Romans took control in Syria. Called the cradle of Christianity, Antioch, a great military, and economic metropolis with a population of about 250,000 people became the hub of both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. The city’s decline started during the Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628 and continued during the Umayyad period as Antioch found itself on the frontline of the conflicts between two hostile empires, the Byzantine,  and the rising realm of the Arabs. In 1268 the Baibars (Mamluks of Egypt),  besieged Antioch, capturing the city on May 18, marking, thus, the end of its history. https://vrc.princeton.edu/archives/collections/show/7 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antioch

Between 1932 and 1939, archaeological excavations of Antioch, its wealthy suburb Daphne, and the port city of Seleucia Pieria, were undertaken under the direction of the “Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity”, which was made up of representatives from Princeton University, the National Museums of France, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Worcester Art Museum, and later (1936),  Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, founders of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Archaeologists unearthed magnificent public and private buildings, and …over three hundred mosaic pavements. The Syrian Government agreed that in return for their contributions, the institutions and the donors to the excavation project would receive archaeological finds like the Apolausis Floor Mosaic. https://vrc.princeton.edu/archives/collections/show/7 and https://www.getty.edu/publications/romanmosaics/catalogue/excavations-antioch/ and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2

Excavation Photo showing the Mosaic of Apolausis, Bath of Apolausis – Pool Room West of the Frigidarium, Antioch, Syria, 1938 Antioch Expedition Archives, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University No. 4082
Plan of the Bath of Apolausis, based on an original excavation drawing (Stillwell, 1941, plan 5)
https://www.getty.edu/publications/romanmosaics/catalogue/excavations-antioch/#&gid=1&pid=4
https://www.getty.edu/publications/romanmosaics/catalogue/excavations-antioch/#&gid=1&pid=2

The Bath of Apolausis, a small public building that originally served an agricultural complex or group of country villas on the eastern side of the plain of Antioch, at the foot of Mount Silpios was richly decorated with floor mosaics and wall frescoes. Today, the mosaics discovered in this small Bath-House are shared between the Getty Museum (Mosaic Floor with Animals), the Hatay Museum (Sotiria/Salvation Floor Mosaic), and the Dumbarton Oaks (Apolausis/Enjoyment Floor Mosaic). https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/103452/unknown-maker-panel-from-a-mosaic-floor-from-antioch-central-panel-part-of-70ah96-roman-syrian-about-ad-400/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spir8xGciQo and http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2

Floor Mosaic with Bust of Apolausis/Enjoyment (Baths of Apolausis, Pool Room West of the Frigidarium), late 4th century-early 5th century, Mosaic on Mortar, 98×266 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA
http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2

The personification of Apolausis/Enjoyment, after which the bath was named, decorated the bottom of a large pool with an apsidal end accessed through a doorway on the west side of the octagonal Hall/Frigidarium. As Dr. Will Wootton noted during a 2016 lecture… water would have run over the surface of the Apolausis floor Mosaic… showing that the water was so clear and pure that you could see the mosaic perfectly beneath it. http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info?query=Portfolios%20%3D%20%222606%22&sort=0&page=2 and https://www.doaks.org/newsletter/how-mosaics-were-made-and-made-known

To Celebrate the New Year with your Kindergarten – Early Elementary School students… do a HAND-FAN Activity. Create simple, paper HAND-FANS and decorate them with Synonyms to ENJOYMENT! Add a beautiful coloured ribbon and… Voila!!!

For the Student Activity Worksheet, please Check HERE!

To see the Princeton Antioch Catalogued Photographs on the 1938 Apolausis Bath Excavations and finds, go to… http://vrc.princeton.edu/researchphotographs/s/antioch/item?fulltext_search=Apolausis+Bath&property%5B0%5D%5Bjoiner%5D=and&property%5B0%5D%5Bproperty%5D=&property%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=eq&property%5B0%5D%5Btext%5D=&resource_class_id%5B%5D=&item_set_id%5B%5D=5&resource_template_id%5B%5D=2&resource_template_id%5B%5D=4&resource_template_id%5B%5D=5&resource_template_id%5B%5D=6&resource_template_id%5B%5D=7&resource_template_id%5B%5D=8&resource_template_id%5B%5D=9&resource_template_id%5B%5D=10&resource_template_id%5B%5D=18&resource_template_id%5B%5D=19&resource_template_id%5B%5D=20&resource_template_id%5B%5D=21&resource_template_id%5B%5D=22&submit=Search#?cv=&c=&m=&s=

Five O’Clock Tea with Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea, 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt_-_The_Tea_-_MFA_Boston_42.178.jpg

I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock… Oscar Wilde humorously wrote in Act 1 of his famous play The Importance of Being Earnest… Five O’Clock Tea with Mary Stevenson Cassatt is how an American painter portrayed, in all seriousness, the same customary ritual with paints. https://www.shmoop.com/importance-of-being-earnest/act-i-full-text-2.html

Cassatt seated in a chair with an umbrella. Verso reads “The only photograph for which she ever posed. Courtesy of Durand-Ruel.”, 1913
Source: http://digitalcollections.frick.org/digico/#/archive/Archives/Images%20of%20Artists%20
Images of Artists Collection. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt_photograph_1913.jpg

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 – 1926) was a fortunate lady! Born into a prosperous family in Pennsylvania who believed it was important for women to receive an education, she grew up attending school in Philadelphia and traveling to Europe where …Art kept changing. Reaching adulthood, she persuaded her parents that her life’s destination was to be in Europe, and painting professionally was to become her life’s pursuit! It was not easy for her father to accept Mary’s artistic ambition, but after serious deliberation, he came around and… in 1866, with her mother and family friends acting as chaperones, she settled in Paris and was accepted to study Art in the private studios of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Charles Joshua Chaplin and Thomas Couture. She expanded her training with daily copying in the Louvre and trips to the French countryside where she drew from life. Two years later, in 1868, her painting A Mandoline Player, was accepted for exhibition in the Paris Salon. She was noticed as a professional painter, but she was not fully content!

Everything changed in 1877 when she submitted paintings to enter the year’s Salon and was rejected by the committee. When she met Edgar Degas, an artist she greatly admired, Cassatt was disillusioned with academic painting and eager to experiment. The French artist invited her to collaborate with the Impressionists and exhibit with them in 1879, during the 4th Impressionist Exhibition… I accepted with joy, she later recalled as I hated conventional art. She was one of just a few women, and the only American, to exhibit with the group. She was finally happy in an artistic environment that suited her needs… Plein Air painting, vibrant, metallic in some cases, color, in short, dancing brushstrokes, flat space, the discovery of Japanism… and scenes of everyday modern life in Paris – her family, friends, and their children. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-MaryCassatt.pdf and https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea (Details – 2 women), 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
https://atsunnyside.blog/2018/08/31/tea-by-mary-cassatt-1880/

In 1880 Mary Cassatt painted Five O’Clock Tea documenting the trendy social ritual of well-to-do women like herself. Paintings of women taking afternoon tea became a popular theme for Cassatt in the late 1870s and early 1880s, and in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mary Cassatt aficionados can admire three fine examples of this trend, two paintings in oil and a print. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cast/hd_cast.htm

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
The Cup of Tea, ca. 1880–81, Oil on Canvas, 92.4 x 65.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
Afternoon Tea Party, 1890–91, Drypoint and aquatint, printed in color from three plates, Plate: 34.6 x 26.7 cm, the MET, NY, USA
Lady at the Tea Table, 1883–85, Oil on Canvas, 73.7 x 61 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/The_Cup_of_Tea_MET_DT88.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Afternoon_Tea_Party_MET_DP819587.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Lady_at_the_Tea_Table_MET_DT516.jpg  

The MFA Five O’Clock Tea, modern, intimate, and informal, is my favourite. It displays a contemporary drawing room, sometimes described as Cassatt’s own. The fine striped wallpaper and carved marble fireplace, ornamented with an elaborately framed painting and a porcelain jar, are typical of an upper-middle class Parisian interior, and the antique Silver Tea Service on the foreground table implies a distinguished family history. The truth is that the depicted Tea Service was part of a family Tea Set made in Philadelphia about 1813, of which six pieces (but not the tray) are now in the MFA’s collection. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7 and https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7f/ef/3d/7fef3d6daead8cc0cbed4636a232971f.jpg

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea (Detail Tea Set), 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
https://atsunnyside.blog/2018/08/31/tea-by-mary-cassatt-1880/

Mary Cassatt’s Five O’Clock Tea is a testimony to modernity by rejecting several traditional artistic conventions. For example, the artist denies the human form its usual compositional primacy as the tea service seems larger in scale than the women themselves. Taking further steps towards novelty in art, Mary Cassattt renders the depicted guest in the transitory act of drinking. By selecting the only point in the action when her subject’s face is almost completely hidden by the teacup, Cassatt reiterates her modernist creed that her painting is not only about representing likeness, but also about design and color. Furthermore, she uses the oval shapes of cups and saucers, trays, hats, and faces as repetitive patterns, offsetting the strict graphic geometry of the gray and rose striped wallpaper. I am not surprised that J.-K. Huysmans wrote that the Five O’Clock Tea was an excellent canvas. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Pissarro’s Basket of Pears

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life: Pears in a Round Basket, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 45.7 x 55.2 cm, The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum, USA
https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/21437

They are juicy and sweet, can be tart or buttery, soft, or crunchy, they have been around since the 5th millennium BC, they are my favourite winter fruit! We celebrate them on the 5th of December… during World Pear Day! Lamar Cole’s poemIt always made him feel so refreshed and new. / When he tasted pear juice. / On pears he loved to munch. / He loved the sound of their crunch. / He was happy as could be. / Because on his grandma’s farm. / There were many pear trees… sets the tone! Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears invites me to contemplate and Enjoy! https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/pears-3/ and https://nationaldaycalendar.com/world-pear-day-first-weekend-in-december/

Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears is a rare treat! An exceptional theme for Camille Pissarro, the Princeton Museum painting surprised me… ever so pleasantly, I may add. It dates from the year after his move to Pontoise, a village north of Paris where, in 1872, joined by Cézanne, who regarded Pissarro as a father figure, the artists, often working side by side outdoors, experimented with the Impressionist techniques pioneered by some of their friends. https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/21437

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Self-Portrait, 1873, Oil on Canvas, 55.5×46.0 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/portrait-de-lartiste-366

According to the experts at Sotheby’s… Pissarro lived in Pontoise, a village located northwest of Paris, between 1872 and 1882, finding great inspiration in its landscapes. Pontoise played an integral role in Pissarro’s work, establishing his reputation as an innovative painter of rural scenes, as well as contributing to the emergence of Impressionism. For this reason, his works painted between 1872 and 1873 are often considered his masterpieces, works that would have a long-lasting influence on both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists. The 1877 Musée d’Orsay painting of Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, is a wonderful example of how Pissarro, during his ten years at Pontoise, developed his style influenced by Gustave Corot, Claude Monet, and William Turner. Painted en plain air, with short, visible brushstrokes, and colorful cast shadows, the Orsay painting of Flowering Trees, I would like to think of them as Pear Trees! exhibits all the characteristics of the Impressionist style, Pissarro is so famous about. https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/impressionist-modern-art-day-sale-/lallee-des-vignes-a-pontoise

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, 1877, Oil on Canvas, 65.5×81 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camille_Pissarro_-_Orchard_with_Flowering_Trees,_Spring,_Pontoise.JPG
Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life with Apples and Pitcher, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 46.4 x 56.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437317

During his sojourn at Pontoise, in 1872 to be exact, Pissarro painted two, very similar Still Lives, I particularly like. Identical in size, Pears in a Round Basket (Princeton University Art Museum), and Still Life with Apples and Pitcher (the MET, New York), stun the viewer with the artist’s clarity of vision, and simplicity of composition. Featuring the same floral-patterned wallpaper in the background, I love its vertical orientation, floral design, and pastel colour scheme, both paintings clearly expressed forms and subtle manipulation of light. The viewer can only wonder… How much were Cezanne’s Still Life paintings influenced by Pissarro? https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437317

For a PowerPoint on Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears, please… Click HERE!

The Turkeys by Claude Monet

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109  

On Thanksgiving Day remember Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) and Give thanks for each new morning with its light, / For rest and shelter of the night. / For health and food, / For love and friends, / For everything they goodness sends… and feast your eyes with The Turkeys by Claude Monet.  https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109and https://www.southernliving.com/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-poems

Claude Monet was a prolific painter, an innovator, and an astute businessman. He painted over 2.000 paintings, disillusioned with the Académie and the Salon system, along with friends like Degas, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, and others, he founded the Impressionist movement, and despite popular belief, he became quite independently wealthy. Early on, at Le Havre, where he grew up, the15 years old Monet was quite known and popular as a caricaturist, charging the local buyers 10 to 20 francs for his art, signed O. Monet, as his first name is Oscar. As a teenager, Monet was also introduced to painting at Plein Air by his mentor and friend Eugène Boudin, who instilled in him a deep appreciation for the play of light on natural forms… If I have become a painter, it is entirely due to Eugène Boudin, Monet later acknowledged. It is interesting to know that in 1861, at the age of twenty, Monet was drafted into the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry and served for one year in Algiers where, upon later reflection, he believed that the impressions of light and color that he received there…contained the germ of his future researches. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/21-facts-about-claude-monet

In 1876, Monet painted The Turkeys, a unique theme for his artistic repertoire as Monet hardly ever painted birds. The painting was originally commissioned, along with three more canvases, by Ernest Hoschedé, his wealthy patron at the time, but soon changed owners until 1947, when the Princess Edmond de Polignac bequeathed the painting to the State of France to be exhibited in the Louvre Museum, and in 1986, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Turkeys, not a particularly known painting by Monet, was first exhibited in 1877 at the 3rd Impressionist Exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Gallery. It was also part of major early 20th century Exhibitions like the 1910 Universal and International Exhibition in Brussels, and the first, 1931, Claude Monet: Retrospective Exhibition at the Orangerie Museum in Paris. The last grand Exhibition, this very unique Monet painting was presented, was the 2018-2019 Orsay as seen by Julian SchnabelExhibition at the Orsay Museum. https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109 and https://www.leparisien.fr/archives/grandeur-et-decadence-du-mecene-de-monet-31-01-2015-4493225.php

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Museum View
Photo Credit @scribeaccroupi
https://scribeaccroupi.fr/visite-privee-collection-depeaux-musee-des-beaux-arts-rouen/

The Turkeys, or Les Dindons, in French, exhibit all of Monet’s visual aesthetics and the driving characteristics behind them. His asymmetric, diagonal composition, in Japanism style, is set in a serene, lush, French countryside landscape. Painted en Plein Air,  Les Dindons use a palette of vibrant whites and fresh greens with splashes of red to create an atmosphere of radiance. Finally, Monet’s brushstrokes, a key feature of all of his paintings, are short, fast, turning and twisting, quick to portray the reflective power of the bright morning sun.

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Borghese Dancers

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665
A Dance to the Music of Time, about 1634,
By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London (P108) © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/poussin-and-the-dance/major-loan-announced-for-poussin-and-the-dance
Relief with Five Dancers before a Portico (The Borghese Dancers), 2nd century AD, Marble, 74×186 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Ilya Shurygin 2014 – http://ancientrome.ru/art/artworken/img.htm?id=8452

Thence, fleet as thought, he leaves the earth for Olympos / and goes to the palace of Zeus and the company of the other gods. / Forthwith the immortals take interest in his song and lyre, / and all the Muses, answering with beautiful voices, / hymn the divine gifts of the gods and the hardships / brought upon men by the immortal gods. . Men live an unresourceful and thoughtless life, unable / to find a cure for death and a charm to repel old age. / And the fair-tressed Graces and the kindly Seasons / and Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, / dance, each holding the other’s wrist. / Among them sings one, neither ugly nor slight of stature / but truly of great size and marvelous aspect, / arrow-pouring Artemis, Apollon’s twin sister. / And with them play Ares and keen-eyed Argeiphontes; / Phoibos Apollon, his step high and stately, / plays the lyre, enveloped in the brilliance / from his glittering feet and well-woven garment. / And Leto of the golden tresses and Zeus the counselor / rejoice in their great souls as they lookupon / their dear son playing among the immortals. This is how the ancient Greek Poet of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (186-206) describes the fair-tressed Goddesses of Mount Olympus dance… and I can only think of The Borghese Dancers in the Louvre and the Poussin and the Dance Exhibition at the National Gallery (9 October 2021 – 2 January 2022)… and hope I can somehow see them… in London! https://escholarship.org/content/qt1bt36698/qt1bt36698_noSplash_b06fdd7a1448e726a360295a8d2c7f29.pdf and https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/poussin-and-the-dance

Relief with Five Dancers before a Portico (The Borghese Dancers), 2nd century AD, Marble, 74×186 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Photo: Ilya Shurygin 2014 – http://ancientrome.ru/art/artworken/img.htm?id=8452

The Borghese Dancers is named after the Villa Borghese in Rome, where the sculptural piece was originally exhibited above the door of the grand gallery, since the early 17th century. The celebrated Roman relief displays five female figures in clinging draperies dancing to a gentle but measured step. It is a fine work of art, typical of the Neo-Attic sculptural style of the 2nd century AD, that emphasizes grace and charm, serenity, and restrained animation. Could the Borghese Dancers be a portrayal of the Dance of the Horae, the Greek Goddesses of the changing Seasons and Time? Could they be just “dancers” holding hands while moving gracefully in front of a wall with a row of Corinthian pilasters? Difficult questions to answer… In 1807, the Roman relief was purchased by Napoleon Bonaparte, brother-in-law of Prince Camillo Borghese. Between 1808 and 1811 it was sent to Paris where in 1820 it was displayed in the Musée du Louvre… where it can still be viewed today. https://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=65841&viewType=detailView and https://www.worldhistory.org/image/10521/borghese-dancers/ and https://www.capronicollection.com/products/borghese-dancers-item-193 and https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010275681

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665
A Dance to the Music of Time, about 1634, by kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London (P108) © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/poussin-and-the-dance/major-loan-announced-for-poussin-and-the-dance

The sculptural relief, known as The Borghese Dancers in the Louvre has been an amazing source of inspiration for many artists, among them the Baroque French artist Nicolas Poussin, whose paintings of revelry, dance, and drama are brought together in this first exhibition dedicated and titled Poussin and the Dance, at the National Gallery, in London (9 October 2021 – 2 January 2022). The Museum experts tell us how… Poussin’s paintings of dance are unique…  bringing to life the classical world of gods and mortals with wild and riotous movement. The Exhibition, by bringing together the antique sculpture the artist studied, invites us to trace the evolution of his ideas from marble to paper to paint. A pure Joy… Tambourines shake, wine spills, and half-naked figures whirl across the canvas and teach us …invaluable lessons!https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/poussin-and-the-dance and https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/poussin-and-the-dance#VideoPlayer103778

For a Student Activity inspired by The Borghese Dancers, please… Check HERE!

Preparing for the POST I came across and read with great interest Sarah Elizabeth Olsen Dissertation: Beyond Choreia: Dance in Ancient Greek Literature and Culture,  whose Abstract begins… The chorus of Euripides’ Bacchae heralds the arrival of the god Dionysus by promising that “right away, the whole world will dance in a chorus” (αὐτίκα γᾶ πᾶσα χορεύσει, 114). Their exuberant claim reflects the enthusiasm for dance generally expressed in early Greek sources. Indeed, it has been well established that dance – specifically choreia (communal song-dance) – played a significant role in archaic and classical Greek social life and was thus accorded a high level of value and esteem in art and literature… https://escholarship.org/content/qt1bt36698/qt1bt36698_noSplash_b06fdd7a1448e726a360295a8d2c7f29.pdf

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket, 4th century, Wool, linen; tapestry weave, H. 64 cm, W. 50 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/443639?&pkgids=684&exhibitionId=%7bD6F10BA8-6A28-45C2-AD23-4AFE0D41B5EC%7d&oid=443639&ft=*&fe=1

Once more, inspiration comes from the Exhibition The Good Life: Collecting Late Antique Art at The Met (May 24, 20221-May 7, 2023) that showcases the Museum’s important and rare collection of third- to eighth-century art from Egypt and reevaluates it through the lens of late antique ideas about abundance, virtue, and shared classical taste. Writers and craftspeople translated these ideas into a concept celebrated as “the good life.” A Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket helped me explore the idea of The Good Life… how it is connected to social status, wealth, and living well in Late antiquity, and how it reflects the extraordinary values and lifestyle of the upper classes in the world of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2021/good-life-collecting-late-antique-art and https://www.teachercurator.com/uncategorized/portrait-medallion-of-gennadios/

Searching for information on Early Christian Textiles, I came across two short books  I would like to share… and acting more like a Curator rather than a Teacher, I present you Textiles of Late Antiquity, a 1995 Metropolitan Museum of Art Publication, and Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, an Exhibition Catalogue of 2020, organized by the George Washington University Museum, The Textile Museum, and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Textiles_of_Late_Antiquity and https://museum.gwu.edu/woven-interiors-furnishing-early-medieval-egypt

I like how the 2020 Exhibition, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, introduces the role intricate textiles played… during the early medieval era, when the eastern Mediterranean’s palaces, villas, and sacred spaces were richly decorated with hangings, curtains, and other luxury fabrics. These beautiful and rare examples of artworks dating from the 4th to the 10th centuries, demonstrate for us today, how textiles defined spaces and moved ornamental motifs between cultures, over time, and across media. They show us, as well, how the large-format hangings, covers, and other, smaller in size, fabrics were often the most valuable possessions of any household at the time. They served, according to the experts, critical physical and social functions alongside more permanent architectural forms. In addition to revealing textiles’ importance and use, the Exhibition Woven Interiors also documented continuities and changes in weaving and aesthetics. In so few words, I was hooked to learn more… https://museum.gwu.edu/woven-interiors-furnishing-early-medieval-egypt

Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket in the Metropolitan Museum Collection of Textiles is a precious piece of artistic handicraft that immediately caught my attention. The rich coulours, subtle gradients of reds for the background, blues and beiges for the bird, and warm greens for the decorative bands, create a composition, however, fragmented it is, that immediately draws the viewer’s attention to the blue bird maybe a sparrow, picking at a basket of grapes. The skillful weaver not only created a masterful colour palette but using thin parallel lines managed to enliven the small bird who seems to quiver and quake with enthusiasm in front of its basket of treats …in a style typical of the figural naturalism of the late Greco-Roman period. According to the Museum experts, the textile under focus was …originally part of a series of decorated bands composing a wall hanging or curtain, …probably used in a domestic setting. The MET textile, thought to have been woven at Herakleia in Anatolia, shows evidence of the importation of exceptional fabrics into Egypt.

For a Student Activity inspired by the Hanging Fragment with Bird and Basket in the MET, please… Click HERE!