Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pompeii No.56: The Tympanum

In Pompeii No. 41, I showed the pediment above the kitchen door thusly, asking my readers whether its interior should be left plain or ornamented. The unanimous response was that the tympanum (properly identified by Jim of The Road to Parnassus) should be ornamented, and so by popular demand, that's the project for this week.

click to enlarge
My first tympanum drafting was "A," but the more I looked at it, the more those leaf scrolls reminded me of a Victorian furniture design. So I redesigned the tympanum as "B," which has a more graceful and authentically Greek feel to it. (The Pompeians were looking to ancient Greece for inspiration.) Incidentally, all parts of the mural have been worked out in tracings like the examples above.
The architectural decoration above is called an akroter, and is found at the apex of gables on classical buildings, especially Greek temples. Within the typical akroter is an element called the palmette, which I'm incorporating into my own design.

Ercolano-Green by Richard Ginori  |
This handsome plate also features palmettes.

click to enlarge

The finished tympanum — a look one doesn't often see above a kitchen door. Thanks to my readers for encouraging me to add it!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Pompeii No.55: An Homage to Piranesi
I decided that my Pompeian mural would not be complete without an homage to one of the most remarkable men of the eighteenth century, Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Piranesi (1720-1778) was born in the then Republic of Venice, and studied with his uncle, who was an engineer specializing in excavation. Perhaps that whetted Giovanni's appetite for the etchings that would make him famous.

Piranesi: The Complete Etchings  |  Luigi Ficacci
At the age of 20, Piranesi went to Rome, studied etching and engraving, and soon produced a series of Roman views that brought him his initial fame. Above is his depiction of the ruins of the forum of Nerva.

Piranesi: The Complete Etchings  |  Luigi Ficacci
Piranesi measured the ruins of Rome, then made beautiful topographic maps, as well as reconstructions of imperial Rome at its height. Above is Piranesi's reconstruction of the Campus Martius, originally a military field dedicated to the god Mars. Below is a another reconstruction of the Campus Martius, perhaps inspired by Piranesi's work.
Piranesi: The Complete Etchings  |  Luigi Ficacci
If that were that not enough, Piranesi recorded countless Roman fragments in multiple compositions like the one above.

The three previous engravings came from this book published by Taschen, and no library of architectural history (or for that matter decorative design) would be complete without it.

click to enlarge
I should add before I go on that Piranesi is also famous for having drawn a series of imagined prisons. They'd fit in nicely with contemporary fantasy art and today's blockbuster movie sets. Piranesi was a most prolific fellow.
When I saw this lovely urn, designed by Piranesi, I thought it would be perfect to place between the living room's ignudi.

As you can see, my own version has a different bottom than the original reference, but one that is also based on a Piranesi design.

Such a substantial urn deserves a plinth, perhaps even one with a commemorative portrait. But who is this? Certainly not Giovanni Battista Piranesi!

It is yours truly. The self-portrait measures approximately three inches high, or about the same size you're seeing it now, if you have a 21.5-inch screen.

click to enlarge
Now the ignudi can contemplate the urn, rather than ogle each other, as they seemed to be doing before. This is a dark corner that abuts a floor-to-ceiling mirror, so it's a little difficult to light properly.

This angled view is actually a truer representation.

And with that, the living room part of the mural is finished. Now I'm going to double back and tweak a couple areas to which I mentioned I would return.

I hope you'll join me for the next stage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pompeii No.54: Adding a Brown Anole

I thought that for the next stage of the mural, I would add a touch of Florida, which is where I'm located. And what better than the brown anole, which is more familiarly called the gecko.
Actually, the native lizard is the green anole. The brown anole is Cuban and started proliferating in Florida in the 1970s. A more aggressive lizard, the brown anole chased the green anoles off the ground and into the bushes and trees. On any given day, I see a half dozen brown anoles on my porch, but never green ones.
This remarkable photograph of a green anole eating its nemesis comes by way of Timothy Mitchell's blog, which can be found here. The scene is usually reversed.

And so, because I associate the Cuban anole rather than the green anole with my environment, I have placed him at the top of my Carracci wall. A lamp is below this image, so in real life the anole would be in the very same spot, waiting for a morsel to happen by.

In my next posting I'll add one more element to the living room wall, then I'll pull back to reveal that part of the mural, completed. I hope you'll join me then!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday's Answer

Gina of Ginaceramics and Jim of Road to Parnassus got it correct, and Rosemary of Where Five Valleys Meet got it exactly correct. (And I need to devise a more difficult quiz for you smarties!)

The purpose of the hole was for inserting a knotted rope. The cradle would be next to the parents' bed, and when the baby started crying at night, the mother could tug on the rope and rock the cradle without having to get out of bed.

With tomorrow's posting, I'll be resuming
the progress of the Pompeii Room.

Monday, May 25, 2015

An American Frontier Mansion

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
This past week, I visited Asheville and the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. I spent time with good friends, enjoyed the Asheville sights and savored the cool mountain air — a welcome change of pace from Florida's humidity. When Sandy and I left Asheville, the morning temperature was 41 degrees.

click to enlarge  |  Mark D. Ruffner
Before I continue with today's story, I'd like to share this panoramic view that I patched together from four separate photographs. (Incidentally, the trick to making panoramic views — whether manually, as I did, or with a PhotoShop feature — is to overlap the photographs by approximately 25%.)

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
Bill, our gracious host, took Sandy and me to see the birthplace of Zebulon B. Vance, the Confederate Civil War governor of North Carolina, and afterwards, its senator. The image above shows — from left to right — the smoke house, the loom house, the main house and the tool house. There are other outbuildings as well.

Mathew Brady: Historian With a Camera  |  Horan
In his time, Vance was especially noted for his colorful oratory, and he initially reflected the neutral view of North Carolinians, who didn't want to enter the Civil War. Today he is still admired for having been an effective governor and senator, though he has many detractors as well, for he was a founding klansman. A monument to him in Asheville is being restored, and apparently not everyone is thrilled.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
Putting that aside, the Vance house, built by Zebulon's grandfather in the 1790s, is a fascinating peek into the frontier life of 1800. As Americans pushed westward, the average house of the time was just one room, usually about 15 feet square. It would have had one door and perhaps two tiny windows. By contrast, the Vance house had five rooms in two stories, indicating considerable wealth. Above and below are views of the front room, which served as a kitchen and dining room.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
The second room on the ground floor was a sitting room with a bed for the adults. Beyond it was a very small bedroom that was reserved for guests.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
Upstairs were two bedrooms for the children, one for the boys and one for the girls. The children would share beds, but the right side of this photo shows a smaller single bed for one of Zebulon's brothers, who was sickly.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
The Vance house retains its original fireplace and mantle, but it was mostly reconstructed to accurately match early photographs, using old buildings from other sites for material. The door to one of the outbuildings has this faint hex sign. That suggests that it came from a Pennsylvania Dutch house, which would have used the hex sign on a door as a blessing.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace  |  Mark D. Ruffner
And now I'm going to end with a little quiz. In the above photograph, we're looking down at a cradle. Can you tell me why it has a hole in its top? If you guess correctly, I'll withhold your comment until it's time to reveal the answer, on Friday.