Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pompeii No.48: The Ignudi

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Ignudi  (plural noun) From the Italian adjective nudo, meaning "naked."

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512, he incorporated pairs of male nudes as pure decoration.

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Their purpose was to support the shields, ribbons and huge garlands that framed the major, central frescoes.

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Not everyone around the pope was thrilled with the figures because they (the male nudes) had no religious context and . . .

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. . . as you can see in my diagram, the 20 figures take up a considerable part of the design.

Michelangelo called his 20 figures "The Ignudi," and though he did not invent the word, he did — through this title — coin an art term. Countless artists like Annibale Carracci (whom I profiled in my last posting) also incorporated ignudi into their design schemes.

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This is an ignudi by Carracci, one of many that he included in the ceiling of the Farnese Gallery.

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These ignudi, by an earlier artist, are in another part of the Palazzo Farnese, in a room that served as the family boardroom. Here the ignudi are similar to the figures one sometimes sees on either side of a crest, below.

Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning  |  Ottfried Neubecker

This is the 1701 coat of arms of the King of Prussia. When seen in heraldry, figures such as these wildmen are called "supporters."

But I digress. The first stage of my Carracci wall will be an ignudi, very loosely based on one of Carracci's own. I'll unveil that in the next posting.
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Pompeii No.47: Tragic Annibale Carracci

Annibale Carracci, from a self-portrait
As I mentioned at the beginning of this series, my version of Pompeii includes details that the Pompeians themselves would have recognized, but it also incorporates later interpretations of Pompeii. I think that my version of Pompeii has an eighteenth-century feel, with a nod to the Renaissance artists who were celebrating antiquity long before Pompeii was uncovered in 1748.

The living room portion of my Pompeii will have what I call the template of the original Pompeii Room (the columns and background panels that are the bones of the mural), but otherwise will have the look of the Renaissance. For the small living room wall, I'm incorporating the work of the master Annibale Carracci, shown above.

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On the left, above, is a pastel portrait of Carracci, and on the right is Carracci's Portrait of a Lute Player, c. 1593-94, doubtlessly a self-portrait.

Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) was born in Bologna to a working class family and at a young age he was apprenticed to a goldsmith. He was forever drawing, and before long he was studying art with Barolomeo Passerotti, a successful Bolognese artist of the day.

Annibale was a great admirer of Michelangelo and Raphael, but also studied the works of northern Italian and Venetian masters. His subject matter ran the gamut ...

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... from mythology and classical antiquity ...

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... to religious works ...

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... to landscapes ...

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... to genre art.

Carracci developed a style of naturalism, or realism, that he blended very successfully with classical art, and it was a revolutionary and popular direction for his time. In the 1580s he and other family members founded the Carracci Academy, where his "idealized realism" was taught.

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In 1595, the very powerful Cardinal Odoardo Farnese called Carracci to Rome, to decorate the Palazzo Farnese, shown above.

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First Carracci painted the Cardinal's private study, then several years later, the ceiling of the famous Farnese Gallery, shown above. It was the Cardinal's idea to portray the gods of Olympus and all their loves.

Carracci, much influenced by Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, painted the ceiling to look like a combination of framed paintings and supporting sculptures, though it is all fresco work.

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Carracci, for all his brilliance, was a timid soul. He dressed poorly, was shy and prone to stuttering. If you look up Cardinal Farnese on a site like Wikipedia, he'll be credited for having been a patron of the arts. That is true, but he was also a cruel taskmaster who enjoyed mocking Annibale's handicaps at every turn.


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When the glorious ceiling was finished, the cardinal paid Carracci only 500 scudi for his years of work which, by my research into 1600's currency, was probably a lot less than minimum wage — a huge, vile insult.

Another personality — a Michelangelo, say — would have sought recourse, and probably exacted revenge, too. But Carracci was humble, and Farnese, descended from a pope and royal houses, was very, very powerful.

Carracci reacted by falling into a deep depression from which he never recovered. He suffered a stroke, quit painting altogether, and soon died.

The Farnese Gallery itself was a huge triumph and a standard for all other artists for many years thereafter.

Carracci by Carlo Maratti | pinterest, beardbriarandrose

Annibale Carracci's contemporaries realized that he had forged a new direction in Italian art, and buried him in the Pantheon next to his hero Raphael. Today, Carracci's work is considered a bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

I'll be borrowing elements from the Farnese Gallery for my living room wall, so I hope you check back for upcoming posts!
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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pompeii No.46: The Next Chapter

In my last posting I revealed a view of the Pompeii Room as it looked almost completed, below.

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But this is not what one saw when one entered my house, because the door is to the right of this perspective. In fact, the view was more like the illustration below.

It therefore occurred to me — as I was repainting the red wainscoting — that the Pompeii Room would need to extend into the living room, in order to make a fuller statement . . .

. . . and look like this. And so this posting is all about continuing the background template into the living room.

For a long time, the living room wall facing the front door featured a dramatic Victorian image of a red-haired lady (a close-up heads this posting). It was a lithograph printed on cloth, rather remarkable technology for the 1800s.

Early in the picture's residency, the 5-year-old daughter of friends entered the house and commented that the lady looked sad. "Yes," I said. "you're right. She's sad because she doesn't have a name." Without hesitating for a moment, the little girl said, "Her name is Zenita!" And thereafter she remained Zenita.

When I painted the new wainscoting, and the chair rail and moulding, I extended the project to Zenita's wall.

Then I duplicated the Pompeian background to match the original room. I also painted the interior of the bookcases a dusty mauve, a color that picks up some details from the mural and gives the living room a little extra tie-in. (The bookcase interior is brighter in this image because it's being flooded with light for the photograph; its actual impact is more subtle.)

The columns don't extend all the way down to the wainscoting because they're going to be partially obscured by future design elements.

In my next posting, I'll share the inspiration for the living room, an homage to a Late Renaissance master. I hope you'll join me then!
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Pompeii No.45: Refinished Regency Chairs

Last August I posted about four Regency chairs that were a gift from my friend Sandy. I talked about them and their interesting history in Pompeii No. 24, here.

The chairs were painted an awful mustard yellow, and had very dated upholstery. When I took them to a local refinisher, I discovered that they were made of mahogany, but that they also had endured several repairs. The refinisher insisted that he could redo them so that I'd never notice the repairs, but he doesn't know me too well! I opted to paint them instead.

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I toyed with the idea of painting my chairs black and gold and upholstering them in a red fabric (which might have approximated the handsome Regency chairs above) but in the end, I decided to use colors from the mural. It's a small room, after all, and I wanted the chairs to complement rather than overshadow the art.

I had the chairs painted a color to match Sherwin Williams' "Arresting Auburn," and had them upholstered in a moire silk to match Sherwin Williams' "Alaea." Those are the two colors that one sees as the mural's columned backgrounds.

One of the refinished chairs

Here's one of the chairs in place. The chair and mural colors are more in sync than this photograph shows. Note that the back of the chair is level with the painted chair rail.

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Here's the first full view of the Pompeii Room as it appears today. Because the room is quite small, the chairs will eventually be grouped around a small table that will fit either under the window or against the wall opposite the right-hand doorway.

There are still details to address — the table I mentioned, a lamp for the table, a window treatment to replace the venetian blinds that I've been graying out, the tympanum that my faithful commentors urged me to detail, and the painting of a marble plaque to go over the window.

Those will all happen in due time.

But don't go away!! In my next posting, the mural of the Pompeii Room will migrate to the next room. I hope you'll be there for the next chapter!
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Pompeii No.44: The Moulding & Chair Rail

I often paint mouldings and frames into the art I do on canvas, like the detail above. As I was working on this canvas (which is as yet unfinished), I thought it would be fun to incorporate such a moulding as an element of the Pompeii Room. Maybe a little simpler, though.

The moulding I settled on was borrowed from this exceptional stone entrance that I photographed in New York City.

As you can see from this early diagram (used in Pompeii No. 13), it was almost from the beginning my intention to have a chair rail and moulding separating the green bar from the red wainscoting. So let's get started.




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Here's how the chair rail and moulding look today. The green takes on a very different quality now that it's framed by the yellow and not immediately juxtaposed to that deep red. Below are other images of the room, and its new moulding.


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