Monday, September 15, 2014

Pompeii No.28: The Golden Tripod

In my last two postings, I created a sense of depth in the mural's window panel by painting a cityscape in the background and then hanging an olive branch in the foreground. I could have heightened the illusion of foreground by having the olive branch partially obscure the cityscape, but I didn't want to go that route.

So this week, I'm going to accentuate the mural foreground by painting an authentic Pompeian tripod in the area below the cityscape.

photo-illustration, Mark D. Ruffner
The Romans made sacrifices to their many gods at stone altars, and they also conducted rituals and made offerings using bronze tripods. The Greeks before them had done the same, and gave tripods to important citizens as gifts for their civic service.

Shapero Rare Books   |
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) created many fine etchings of ancient Rome, including these two fantastic tripods, above.

click to enlarge   |   sources below
Pompeii, Coarelli, Riverside   |   The Treasury of Ornament, Dolmetsch, Portland House

Tripods in Pompeii were no less finely designed, and above is one of the more famous ones. It comes from the estate of a wealthy Pompeian woman named Julia Felix, daughter of Spurius. On the left is a photograph and on the right is a Victorian era representation of the same tripod. As you can see, the Victorians were wont to exclude certain details.

Period Paper   | 
An equally well-known Pompeian tripod is pictured above, and this is the one that I'll incorporate into my own Pompeian Room.

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I could have rendered the tripod in a green to give the impression of a bronze with patina, but as with the cityscape, I wanted this new element to pick up some of the existing colors of the mural.

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I have no evidence that the Pompeians would have used a white cloth for a ritual, but I have included it for three reasons:
  • I want to fill more of the alaea* panel without otherwise crowding it,
  • I do want to give the impression that a rite is happening before the temple, and
  • I want whatever I place in the basket to stand out against a lighter background.
*Sherwin Williams calls the color of that lower panel alaea. "Alae" (in an ancient Roman house) referred to an alcove opening into a larger room or courtyard. I was unaware of that when I chose the color, but love the serendipity of the choice!

click to enlarge
 Next week I'll be filling the tripod's basket.
I hope you'll join me then!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pompeii No.27: The Olive Branch

The Pompeians regarded the olive branch as a symbol of peace and prosperity, because of course the olive was one of their primary crops.   |
The founders of the United States, who adopted much symbolism from ancient Greece and Rome, incorporated the olive branch into the Great Seal of the United States of America, shown above as it appeared in 1782, and as it appears today.

I decided that the Pompeian Room should include an olive branch for my own good luck, and that I would hang it from a substantial blue satin ribbon.

I bought blue satin for reference and enlisted my friend Sandy to sew the cloth as it appears above. (I've looked at any number of murals with delicate ribbons and decided I wanted something with a little more gravitas.)

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As luck would have it, Sandy also has an olive tree in her yard, and that provided great reference, at least for the leaves.

The center panel "window" is now complete, and I'm satisfied that there is some sense of depth.

Next week I'll add some elements to the foreground, and that should help accentuate that sense of depth. What would you put in the foreground?

Join me next week!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pompeii No.26: The Ideal City

This week, I'm painting a cityscape in that blue portion of the mural that suggests a window, but which so far has looked very blank and flat. My intention is to create fantasy architecture as the Pompeians would, and also to add some depth to the mural.

L'Ornement Polychrome, Series I & II   |   Auguste Racinet, 1873
During the Third Style of Pompeian mural painting, which I described here, a unique depiction of architecture evolved. At a glance one sees buildings, but upon closer inspection, the structures are usually simply multi-layered facades with elongated, spindly columns, much like stage settings. The Pompeians were avid theater-goers, and it is as though they desired theatrical backdrops in their homes, for the drama of their own lives.

Before I started painting my urban area, I deliberated over what colors to use. I initially considered using blues and grays, which would have given the impression of distance. In the end, though, I decided to use golds and greens to complement the Muse of Architecture, the garlands, and the trophy walls.
The caryatids that I've incorporated into my city's grand arch were designed by Henry Hering for Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

click to enlarge  |  Karl Friedrich Schinkel: A Universal Man
The city's striated green marble was inspired by the red marble panels of the Altes Museum in Berlin, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel between 1822-1830.

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The pediment of my mural temple
is the same proportion and design as
the pediment of my house, seen below.

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Above is the finished city.

Note that the temple is open to the front and back,
and that the temple door is
a portal, within a portal, within a portal, within a portal.

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I hope you'll join me next week
when I include an element above the city's grand arch!