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.

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

click to enlarge

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.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pompeii No.25: Adding Coral For Good Health

This week I'm adding coral branches to the mural!

Coral, once believed to be a sea plant, is actually the cumulative skeletal remains of living animals called polyps. For thousands of years, many cultures have viewed coral as a decorative gem as well as protection against disease.

In Ancient Rome, coral was believed to protect against childhood disease and to avert evil, and it's still seen as good luck in Mediterranean countries and places like India, Tibet and Japan.

Piero della Francesca  |  Rizzoli
Piero della Francesca portrayed the Christ Child with this necklace of coral, and hanging from it, a coral branch. The painting dates to circa 1475.

Mantegna: I Maestro del Colore  |  Fratelli Fabbri
Mantegna (one of my favorite artists) hung a huge branch of coral above the Madonna and Child in this painting, which dates about 20 years later than della Francesca's. Below is a detail.

Mantegna: I Maestro del Colore  |  Fratelli Fabbri
I'll be using della Francesca's and Mantegna's coral as models, but . . .

. . .  I wanted to include later images of coral to illustrate how the gem was revered through the ages. The painting above, by Jan Claesz, dates to circa 1609, and shows a girl who has both a coral necklace and a rattle that incorporates pink or white coral at its tip.

Christie's auction
Such rattles often doubled as whistles. Above are English rattles dating to the early 20th century, a full 400 years after the rattle in Jan Claesz's painting. My blogging friend Rosemary, of Where Five Valleys Meet, says of these rattles, "The coral section of the English Victorian rattles was there to sooth the baby's gums when teething. Coral did not chip or splinter, and is cool to the touch. The coral also provided some comfort and reassurance to parents because of its mystical protection, as you have mentioned."

Incidentally, these four rattles recently sold at auction for approximately $2200, total, which I imagine would make a collector of such items very happy.

I'll be hanging the coral branches
over the mural's three smaller garlands.

click to enlarge
Above are the finished corals. As you can see, I scoured the seas for three branches that were similar in shape as well as size.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pompeii No.24: Chairs for the Pompeii Room

The challenge of finding the right furniture for the Pompeii Room has been to find a set of chairs that are neoclassic — either klismos chairs or a style that was inspired by klismos chairs.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, here, my friend Sandy and I have been visiting a monthly brocante in our town of St. Petersburg, Florida. When we saw these chairs several months ago, Sandy agreed with me that they would be perfect for the Pompeii Room, so much so that she insisted on gifting me with them!!

The chairs came with this mustard yellow paint rubbed on them, which I suppose was meant to make them attractive in a "shabby chic" sort of way. The gaudy color probably worked in my favor because I guess that a lot of people could not see past it to recognize the chairs' wonderful details.

Each chair has a rope twist decoration and a handsome brass medallion, and therein lies a story:
In 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar, destroying 22 ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet, and without losing a single British ship. It was Britain's greatest naval victory, and one in which the great admiral lost his life.

The victory, plus Nelson's heroic death, inspired a British craze of all things naval, and that in turn impacted the neoclassic style that was sweeping both Britain and the Continent at the time. 
The rope twist decoration (usually seen with elements called buttons) is actually a reference to the Royal Navy and the Battle of Trafalgar!

click to enlarge  |  |  |

Here are three Regency chairs of similar design, each with the rope twist decoration and buttons that are also featured on my chairs. You can click on the image to see the details.

I'm getting my Regency chairs refinished, and I'll be showing them off at a later date, as all the elements of the room come together.

And now, back to the mural . . .