Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pompeii No.21: The Muse of Sculpture

The Muse of Sculpture was the Bürkner engraving that I thought most resembled a Michelangelo study.
Bürkner understood that Michelangelo's female bodies were probably all based on the male form (one wonders whether Michelangelo ever did use a female model). Bürkner also had a good sense of Michelangelo's rather heroic poses and the way he draped clothing.

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In fact I've made very few changes to Bürkner's engraved design. My only real critique of Bürkner's engraving is that the muse's sculpture is a weak design, and it's definitely reflective of the Victorian era. I also have an aversion to mythical entities with insect wings.

Only the tiniest of sprites —
like Tinker Bell — should merit them!

And so I've added a more classic sculpture. This type of sculpture, below, is known as a "term" (thanks, Stefan), and it very often incorporates the head of a god, but more usually the head of a satyr. Were the term used as a furniture leg, it would be known as a "terminal."

Because the children depicted with the Muse of Painting were not winged, I decided to drop the wings on this little attendant as well.

I looked at several renditions of blond hair by Michelangelo and noticed that he would sometimes add a tint of red or orange to the yellow. Perhaps the Muse of Sculpture is a strawberry blond.

The finished Muse of Sculpture is below.

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Next week, we'll look at
the Muse of Architecture.
I hope you'll join me then!

In my last posting, several of my blogging friends suggested that something extra was needed around or above the muse. I want to assure my readers that I am still unveiling the Pompeii Room in its early stages, so please don't think for a moment that this is near completion!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pompeii No.20: The Muse of Painting
As I studied this engraving by the 19th-century illustrator, Hugo Bürkner, it occurred to me that he had in turn studied Michelangelo, and that my color interpretation of Bürkner's engraving would benefit from my revisiting Michelangelo and his work.

The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
The great irony of this resplendent painting by Michelangelo, the tondo of the Holy Family, is that its creator didn't consider himself a painter and vigorously resisted most painting assignments. Even more amazing is that the man who commissioned this as a wedding gift for his wife was dissatisfied with the result.

The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
In all of Renaissance painting, one will be hard pressed to find a more sensitively rendered infant Jesus.

I've chosen the tondo primarily as a color reference, and in particular, I'm looking at Michelangelo's sumptuous fabrics.

I begin with lots of color reference at hand, and by working upon a light, neutral silhouette. To work directly on those dark background colors would be difficult for me (though I have known artists who do like to work from dark to light).

I've made a number of changes to Bürkner's original design to suit my own purposes:

  • The image is reversed so that the shadows fall in the same direction as the mural's adjacent columns.
  • I'm guessing that the two small figures, which are male and female, represent the yin and yang of creativity. But as all the muses will be feminine, I have decided to make all their attendants masculine. We'll just have to come up with a different allegory for these two.
  • I've added height to the pedestal, and that has everything to do with adjusting the figures so that they bisect the two background colors in a pleasing manner.
  • I've also lengthened the muse's paint brushes, just to add a little more generous dimension.
  • The muses's face is more mature, and I've indicated that she actually does have a jaw!
  • I wasn't sure what instrument the boy was resting his hand on, but I've painted it to look more like a prism. Then I added reflected light to the bottom of his leg.
  • One of the biggest changes is getting rid of all that fussy Victorian underbrush. For a sparer, more classic foliage, I turned to Mr. Wedgwood, below.

 Below is the final Muse of Painting.

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No matter how much color correction I do, the purple of the base translates more vividly on the Internet. It is in actuality less intense.

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Next week we'll go to the opposite wall
and look at the Muse of Sculpture.
I hope you'll join me then!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pompeii No.19: Finding the Muse

In my last three postings, we looked at the trophy as an ornament, as well as my interpretations of the trophy, which now decorate both sides of the dining room window.

Now it's time to decorate the three panels that are x'd above. My thought all along was that these areas should have figures, as so many Pompeian murals did.

Italian Frescoes: The Flowering of the Renaissance  |  Roettgen
Originally, I was planning on three figures posed heroically, like this image by Domenico Ghirlandaio. If I used centurions, it would be a nice continuation of the trophy theme.   |   Antiques in Italian Interiors, Verbavolant
I also considered using statues of Roman gods, like this one of Jupiter with his lightning bolts, and maybe putting them in alcoves like the image on the right. There were certainly a lot of Roman gods from which to choose!

Pompeii, Riverside
Another thought was to paint what I would call vignettes, figures on plain backgrounds. The painting on the right you might call a celebrity portrait; it's of the Greek playwright Menander, who authored more than a hundred comedies.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia  |  Rizzoli
In Pompeian decoration — and its numerous revivals — such figures often float in the center of a panel, but in the back of my mind . . .

. . . I really liked the look of the grounded figures shown above. This is a screen-save from a video on British royal palaces. Fiona Bruce is walking through the Venitian lodging of the 18th-century British consul, Joseph Smith. (If you are like I am, you're always admiring the wallpaper at the very moment in a movie when someone gets killed!) I like those pedestals, and if I had figures at the bottom of the panels, there would still be room for ornamentation between the figures and the garlands.

click to enlarge  |
In my wanderings through the Internet, I came upon these engravings by a 19th-century German illustrator named Hugo Bürkner (1818-1897). What struck me about these images is that Bürkner obviously studied Michelangelo. You can see that especially in the central engraving, in the musculature and draping of cloth. I would make some changes, but I think these muses of painting, sculpture and architecture would make dandy Pompeian motifs.  |  photo by Wkinght94
And it would also be a nice nod to Michelangelo, whose tomb coincidentally bears the three muses of painting, sculpture and architecture. Michelangelo's tomb, by the way, was designed by Vasari, remembered today primarily for his biographies of other artists.

So it's settled.
Next week I'll unveil the first panel figure,
the Muse of Painting!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pompeii No.18: The Right Trophy

Last week, I unveiled the finished left trophy, but I've actually been working on both trophies simultaneously.

Like the left trophy, the right trophy features a helmet that is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Metropolitan Museum of Art  
The helmet is called a burgonet, a term that is derived from the word Burgundy. This one is embossed steel and dates to between 1545 and 1550, and it was probably made in Milan, Italy. The Metropolitan rues the fact that early conservators polished a subtly engraved background pattern completely away!

I've mentioned that I like to use as much reference as possible, and when I was designing the trophies, I had a clear vision of heavily grained poles upon which to mount the paraphernalia. Where would such wood exist? I ended up photographing weathered telephone poles that face the Gulf of Mexico, near my neighborhood.

Moving down and behind the shield are a number of implements that are historically correct. (I have taken a little license with the baton in the form of a battering ram, if only because I wanted the pleasure of painting the ram's head!) The hand is the top of a Roman standard.

Unlike the shield of the left trophy, the design of this shield was never seen in Rome. Instead, I have borrowed the design of a cameo from the collection of Catherine the Great, below.

photo-illustration, Mark D. Ruffner  |
Looking at the collections of Catherine the Great, one quickly realizes what a discerning eye she had. She loved cameos, and especially jeweled ones, but it was her habit — one can clearly see by looking at her collection — to replace any jeweled frames with very simple ones. She evidently didn't want anything to detract from the artistry of the cameo itself.

The base of the right trophy complements, but is not identical to the left trophy.

Below is the finished Right Trophy Wall.

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That panel on the right is looking quite bare now, don't you think? In the next week we'll figure out what to put there. I hope you'll join me then!