Friday, July 27, 2012

Mandala Meditations 3

Back when I was in college, I often doodled as I listened to lectures. (Incidentally, studies have shown that doodling while listening makes the mind more retentive.) One of my recurring doodles was the image seen above, a very basic mandala. I was intrigued that a design so simple could be such a successful 3-dimensional illusion. Can you see the areas that are concave and convex? If not, just back away from your screen several feet.
Later, as I was reading the work of the psychologist Carl Yung, I discovered that he interpreted my doodle-mandala as representing separation from parents. That got my attention because I was, in fact, producing the mandala while I was away from home for the first extended period. I started to read more about Jung and his own interest in mandalas.

Jung himself saw the mandala as a healing tool (or an expression of healing), and he created mandalas — circular meditations — on a regular basis. His mandalas were often dream interpretations. Above is Carl Jung's first mandala.

Here are some wonderful 19th-century type ornaments. Jung believed that circles and squares, and certainly circles within squares, were symbolic of wholeness. I'm always collecting images that could be mandalas or elements within mandalas, which is why I put these handsome ornaments aside in a file.

Or how about this 1827 utopian town plan by J. B. Papworth? The town center is a classic mandala, what's called "the circle squared." Perhaps Mr. Papworth was a student of Tibetan mandalas . . .

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The Mandala of Yamantaka, above, comes from the fascinating book,
Mandala, by José and Miriam Argüelles, 1972.

Here's one of my own mandalas — I call it The Blue Light Special. If you focus on it long enough, those blue dots will become quite hypnotic!

You can read more about my mandalas and how I create them here and here. In my next posting, I'll talk about a couple of mandala exercises. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Garbáty Cigarette Balloon & Blimp Cards


Regular readers of this blog know that I collect antique ephemera and trade cards. You can read more about that on my side bar or right here. While the trade card fad ebbed at the turn of the last century, cigarette cards continued to be popular a little longer.

This posting features balloon and blimp cigarette cards that were issued in the early 1930s by the Garbáty Cigarette Company of Berlin. The cards were lovingliy pasted into the above album, but for the sake of your viewing, I've regrouped them below.

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Left to right and top to bottom: Höhenforschungsballon Bartsch v. Sigsfeld; Kugelfesseballon, 1878; Drachenfesselballon; Stromlinienförmiger Fesselballon, 1918; Andrees Polarflug; Andrees Ballon nach der Auffindung

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Left to right and top to bottom: Deautscher Freiballon Wettbewerb; Fesselballon; Aufstieg des Piccardschen Höhenforschungsballons; Piccards Höhenforschungsballon landet in den Alpen; Parseval I (erster Parseval), 1906; Parseval (späterer)

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Left to right and top to bottom: Siemen-Schuckert, 1911; Erstes Militär-Luftschiff MI, 1908; Veeh-Luftschiff; Ruthenberg-Luftschiff; Clement Bayard, 1908; Astra "Adjutant Reau"

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Left to right and top to bottom: Ville de Paris, 1908; "Pilgrim" der Good-Year Gesellschaft, 1925; La Liberté, 1909; N-I Norge, 1923; Zeppelin Z I, 1900; Afrika-Luftschiff

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Left to right and top to bottom: "Deutschland" (L Z &), 1910; d L Z 127 "Graf Zeppelin";  L Z 120 "Bodensee", 1919; L Z 121 "Nordstern", 1919/1920;  L Z 126 (R Z III "Los Angeles", 1924; Marine-Luftschiff "L 3"

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Left to right and top to bottom: Marine-Luftschiff "L71", 1918; Z 4 (Zeppelin des Unglücks bei Echterdingen); 1. Schütte-Lanz, 1915; Schütte-Lanz (späterer); Gerippe eines Zeppelin-Luftschiffes; Motorgondel eines Zeppelin-Lunftschiffes

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Left to right: Führergondel eins Zeppelin-Luftschiffes; Navigationsraum eines Zeppelin-Luftschiffes; Schlafraum und Wohnkabine ("Graf Zeppelin")

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Discovering Leonardo
The title of this posting comes from a recent National Public Radio broadcast of The Story, in which New York art restorer Dianne Dwyer Modestini described receiving a many-layered and almost cartoonish painting from an art dealer in 2005. The painting was so overworked that Modestini initially suggested that one of her students work on it, but she was finally persuaded to take on the project herself.

The subject of the painting is Jesus Christ portrayed as Salvator Mundi, which in Italian means "Saviour of the World." To merit the title, a painting must show one hand in a gesture of blessing while the other holds an orb symbolizing the world.  |
The one area of Salvator Mundi that was not badly obscured was the raised hand, which had the look of Leonardo da Vinci's style. As Modestini removed layers of varnish and paint, she saw that the artist had changed the position of the thumb. When an artist makes a correction to his own work such as this, it's called "pentimenti," and to Modestini it was an indication that the painting was an original work and not a copy of another painting.  |  The World of Leonardo, Time-Life
As she worked removing discolored varnish around the Salvator Mundi mouth, the restorer was looking at an enlargement of the Mona Lisa's mouth. It was then that Dianne Modestini came to the realization that she was probably uncovering the first da Vinci painting to be discovered in 100 years. At that point, and before final restoration, the painting was authenticated by da Vinci scholars.
Da Vinci was known to have painted Salvator Mundi between 1490 and 1519, and by the 17th century it belonged to England's King Charles I. Charles' widow, Henrietta Maria, asked Wenceslaus Hollar to make an engraving of Leonardo's Salvator Mundi (above), and a comparison between the engraving and Modestini's project was a vital part of the authentication process.

The painting passed from King Charles II to the Duke of Buckingham by 1660, and was sold by the Duke's descendants in 1783.

The location of Salvator Mundi between 1783 and 1900 is unknown, and perhaps it was in this period that someone tampered with the painting, essentially hiding it from view.

In 1900, Frederick Cook bought the painting, and in 1958 his descendants sold it in a lot for the equivalent of $100, to a buyer named Kuntz. It was in turn sold to an American family who sold it in 2005, at which time it was brought to Modestini for restoration.

The painting is one of 16 surviving da Vinci's, and is currently valued between $100-200-million.

Salvator Mundi and a detail from The Last Supper  |  |
Today Leonardo's Salvator Mundi is owned by R. W. Chandler and is on loan to London's National Gallery, where it was displayed this year.

According to CNN, when the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini was finished with the restoration and parted with Salvator Mundi, she "described suffering separation anxiety and depression over losing the painting, and with it her connection to the enigmatic painter who was its author."


Friday, July 13, 2012

Ford Motor Company Consults a Poet

In October of 1955, Robert B. Young of Ford's Marketing Research Department contacted the American poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972) with an interesting challenge. It seems that Ford was in the process of designing an exciting new car, and they were looking for a name that would be distinctive. They would pay Ms. Moore "on a fee basis of an impeccably dignified kind."

Moore was up to the challenge. In a series of letters to Mr. Young she made interesting suggestions; here are a few:

Though Honda made a Civic and Mitsubishi produced a Diamanté, the Ford Motor Company never used Marianne Moore's suggestions. Ford's Marketing Research Manager, David Wallace, sent her a letter of apology, saying in part,

"We have chosen a name out of the more than six-thousand-odd candidates that we gathered. It has a certain ring to it. An air of gaiety and zest. At least, that's what we keep saying. Our name, dear Miss Moore, is — Edsel.

I know you will share your sympathies with us."

The Edsel was introduced in 1958. It was a spectacular failure, in part because it had been so hyped that the public was expecting a radically new kind of auto. Today, the Edsel is quite collectible — only about 10,000 exist.

Information for this posting comes from Letters of the Century, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler. It's a portrait, through fascinating letters, of the United States from 1900 to 1999. Twitter will never rival this!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cameo Apperances in Paint

The World of Salvador Dali  |  Robert Descharnes  |  1962

When Salvador Dali painted his monumental masterpiece The Oecumenical Council in 1960, he was following an age-old tradition by inserting his self-portrait. He was of course familiar with the masters of the Renaissance, who often signed equally monumental altarpieces and frescoes by including their own portraits. Here are several:

Andrea Mantegna, one of the greatest masters of the Early Renaissance, painted the family and court of  Ludovico Gonzaga in 1474. He added himself to the scene, for he was in fact a part of the Gonzaga Court of Mantua. His work was so highly regarded that he was by no means a hanger-on, though. Mantegna had his own estate and achieved a knighthood.

Before Michelangelo was called upon to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Perugino planned the wall paintings of the chapel and painted a number of them, of which the Surrender of the Keys is regarded the most important. Perugino placed himself behind St. Peter, prominently.

In an earlier project, the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, Perugino went so far as to frame his self-portrait. It's interesting to see the age difference — clearly the Sistine Chapel project was the culmination of Perugino's career.

Another artist who framed himself for eternity was Pinturicchio, who decorated the Baglioni Chapel, Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello. Vasari, in his Lives of the Painters, spoke harshly of Pinturicchio but noted that he finished commissions on time!

Luca Signorelli painted the walls of the Orvieto Cathedral of Umbria, noted especially for its depiction of Hell. His blond self-portrait includes a portrait of Fra Angelico, who had begun the cathedral's painting. Fra Angelico earned his name not just as a painter of angels, but also because he was respected and loved by all who knew him.

Domenico Ghirlandaio painted the altarpiece in Florence's Santa Trinità, Sassetti Chapel, in 1485. Here he depicts himself as one of the shepherds in Adoration of the Shepherds. Ghirlandaio was by far the most popular fresco painter of his time. Not only did he have extraordinary talent, but he also peopled his paintings with his Florentine neighbors and reinterpreted biblical events in the dress and locale of his time.

Perhaps Domenico appreciated what a handsome face he had, for he inserted himself into commissions with frequency.

Sandro Botticelli, a contemporary of Ghirlandaio, included his portrait in the 1475 Adoration of the Magi. He was 30 years old at the time.

All images after Dali's in this posting come from two excellent books on the Italian Renaissance:
Italian Frescoes; The Flowering of the Renaissance  |  Steffi Roettgen
The Art of the Italian Renaissance  |  H. F. Ullmann

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Presidential Scraps

I hope that all my American friends had a happy and safe Fourth of July celebration. Did you paste images of our President into a scrapbook? No? Well, Americans of the 19th century did just that. Here are some presidential scraps from my collection of ephemera . . .

James A. Garfield was the 20th U. S. President (March-September, 1881) and the second to be assassinated. He was a Major General for the Union Army during the Civil War, and served nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives. Garfield was a scholar of Greek and Latin (he met his wife when he taught Greek) and there is an account that he could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

Grover Cleveland was the only U. S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He was the 22nd and 24th President (1885-1889 and 1893-1897). He was a reformer who had served as Mayor of Buffalo and Governor of New York.

Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886, while he was in the White House. It was an unusual match because as the best friend of her father, and the executor of her father's estate, Cleveland had actually supervised Frances Folsom's upbringing.

"Frankie," as she was known, became the youngest First Lady at 21, and was extemely popular with the American public. The Clevelands raised a family of five children.

Grover Cleveland died in 1908.
Frances remarried several years later and lived until 1947.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ybor's Jewel, the Columbia Restaurant

In my last posting, I shared a little history of Ybor City, once home of a large Cuban community. At the heart of Ybor is the Columbia Restaurant, in business since 1905, and today run by the fourth generation of the Hernandez-Gonzmart family.

The Columbia is Florida's oldest restaurant, the first restaurant in Tampa to be air-conditioned (a big deal in 1935!), and today it boasts a modern 5000+ square-foot kitchen.
The Columbia's interior still has the ambiance of a 1905 establishment, and it looks as though some of the heavier Spanish furniture might even be original to the building.

The restaurant is famous for its "1905 Salad,"  a hearty meal and customer favorite!

The entire outside of the building is decorated with beautiful antique tile work.

The Columbia Restaurant isn't the only building to boast such beautiful tiles. The store across the street, which happens to be a tile gallery, features the work below:

While this tile has coloration one might associate with Spain or Portugal, the original design is actually by the 19th century German artist, Karl Klimsch.