Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wishing You Happy Holidays!

In my last posting, I unveiled a dove to complete part of my Pompeian mural. And today I'm offering you this dove from my collection of ephemera. The red ribbon in the dove's beak reads, "May joy be around you." That's my wish for your holiday season and for the year to come. Thanks to all my blogging friends, and all the best in 2015!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Pompeii No.39: A Dove for Marcus Aurelius

Two postings ago, I revealed the primary wall of the Pompeii Room, finished above the green and red that could be considered a wainscoting.

Today, we'll look at the opposite wall, where I'll add a mourning dove on the ledge above Marcus Aurelius' portrait; it will complete that portion of the mural to the same degree.

Mosaic from fineartamerica.com, all others,  The Art of Pompeii  |  Magagnini  |  de Luca 
Doves were often depicted in Pompeian murals and mosaics. Doves mate for life and both the male and female build their nest. For the Pompeians, the dove represented love, friendship and care of the family. It was also associated with the goddess Venus.

I am not a birder, so as I researched the mourning dove, I looked at it with fresh eyes. What looks rather ordinary from a distance is actually almost opalescent at close range, and look at the beautiful blue ring around the eye!

click to enlarge
Here's the Marcus Aurelius corner, complete above the green bar. We'll be working on that green and red later (and if I had planned a little better, the green and red work would have been perfect for the Christmas season). But first, there's work to be done on that yellow section, to the right of the columns.

I hope you'll join me as the mural encompasses the kitchen door and inches towards the living room!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pompeii No.38: Gifts from Vesuvius

Recently, Allan and Peter – good friends and neighbors – traveled to Spain to visit with Peter's family. While there, they shared my blog with Peter's brother-in-law, Joan, who has visited Pompeii.

Joan is a very generous fellow, because he parted with four little gems that he had picked up in the rubble of Pompeii.

When they got home, Peter and Allan gave me these artifacts in the handsome presentation you see above. You can imagine how surprised and delighted I was, especially since I have never been to Pompeii!

The first item is a piece of pumice measuring approximately one inch. When Vesuvius erupted, there were two phases of the destruction, which lasted over two days. First, on the morning of August 24, 79 A.D., there was a tall column of material that shot up from Vesuvius and then fell like rain. This is named the Plinian phase, so-called after Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption at a distance and who left the only eye-witness account.

Light and small pumice like the one above rained for 18 hours, and while the pumice rain was not a direct threat to human life, it accumulated to probably more than eight feet, causing roofs to collapse and buildings to fill with the equivalent of heavy Styrofoam pellets.

By the morning of August 25, the residents still in Pompeii realized that the city was uninhabitable. There was a mass exodus, but for those who had remained, it was already too late. The second, or Peléan phase of eruption started. (Peléan is a reference to the observations of the 1902 eruption of Martinique's Mount Pelé.)

In that phase the 18-hour column collapsed and a glowing cloud of high-temperature gas and dust raced down Vesuvius at approximately 60 mph (100 km), killing anyone who remained in its path.

The second item is a piece of lava, shown above. Ironically, the rain of pumice and dust which initially destroyed Pompeii, also preserved the city against the lava that followed. This piece measures 1¼".

Finally, the third and fourth items are two mosaic pieces, each less than ½". Some mosaics were scattered to the winds, as the weight of the pumice destroyed ceilings, walls and floors.

I will be proud to permanently display these interesting and historic artifacts in the Pompeii Room when it is completed!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pompeii No.37: Painting the Legends

I thought it appropriate to label the roundel portraits (the last three of the Five Good Emperors), and so I cast about for a good label design to do them justice.

Here's how Michelangelo labeled each of the Sibyls in the Sistine Chapel. That's what I settled on, and as it turns out, my choice of colors is close to his as well.

This type of design is called "strapwork," because the shapes mimic the artful designs that leather and metal straps of Michelangelo's time featured. My blogging friend Theresa of Art's The Answer has posted extensively about strapwork, and you can read more about it at her site, here.

Below is the primary wall of the Pompeii Room, finished above the green bar. I'll be doing more work on the green and red areas a little later.

click to enlarge
Notice that the two roundel portraits on this wall balance the clipeus, or metal shield that hangs over the cityscape. Likewise, the bases of the muses balance the flowers and the white cloth behind them, in the identical stepped pattern. Finally, within the cityscape itself, the divided pediments in the background follow the stepped pattern as they relate to the foreground pediment.

I have one more element to add above Marcus Aurelius, and then we'll look at his wall, too. But first, I'll be sharing a Pompeian surprise that came my way recently. I hope you'll join me next week for that!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pompeii No.36: Last of the 5 Good Emperors

Marcus Aurelius  |  photo illustration, Mark D. Ruffner
In my last posting, I unveiled my Pompeii Room portrait of Emperor Antoninus Pius. Hadrian had named Antoninus Pius his successor on the condition that he would adopt the young Marcus Aurelius and also Lucius Verus (who was the son of Lucius Ceionius Commodus — Hadrian's first-chosen successor), and make them co-heirs. This Antoninus Pius faithfully did. His faithfulness to such a demand was one of the reason's the Romans called him "Pius."

the young Marcus Aurelius  |  mutualart.com
Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) displayed qualities from a very early age that made people think that he would be a fine choice to become emperor. He was born into an aristocratic family, yet at an early age embraced Stoicism, preferring to live so simply that he had to be persuaded to sleep in a bed rather than on the ground. He had a fine education, including lessons from Alexander of Cotiaeum, the leading Homeric scholar of the day, and Herodes Atticus and Fronto, the leading orators of the day.

After Antoninus Pius adopted him, Marcus Aurelius married the emperor's daughter, Faustina the Younger, who was — through his adoption — also his step-sister. Thereafter he was given high appointments at a very early age, though his quick ascent did nothing to change his good, studious character.

a bust of Lucius Verus from the Metropolitan  |  commonswikimedia.org
Upon Antoninus Pius' death in 161 A.D., Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus became co-emperors. The Senate was prepared to declare only Marcus Aurelius as emperor, but Marcus Aurelius insisted that Hadrian's plan of succession be fulfilled. It might have been a formula for disaster, except that Lucius Verus was outranked and perfectly happy to play second fiddle. He left Rome on several military campaigns, lived a life of debauchery, and died in 169 A.D.

Thereafter, Marcus Aurelius ruled alone until his death in 180 A.D. He is probably best remembered for his personal musings, Meditations, and for being the quintessential philosopher-king. Ironically, this scholarly emperor spent much of his reign away from Rome, fighting German tribes along the empire's borders.

Here's my portrait of Marcus Aurelius, in the style of Hadrian's and Antoninus Pius'. It hangs above the Muse of Painting, on the opposite wall.

I hope you'll join me next week when I add labels to these portraits, making use of a design by none other than Michelangelo.

See you then!