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!


  1. Hello Mark,

    We are now beginning to see quite a likeness between you and Michelangelo!

    First, the sense of devotion to the task in hand. After all, Michelangelo did paint in some very peculiar positions in order to realise his ultimate works.

    Secondly, your painstaking attention to detail knows no limits. We have to say that we are painfully unobservant in comparison.......we would be no good in an identity parade that is for sure!

    We look forward to the Muses becoming immortalised in paint on your walls.....

    1. Hello, Jane and Lance,

      I know about your beautiful garden of yore, so I also know that you are artists in your own right!

      I think that one of the gifts that makes an artist — whether it be in architecture, sculpture, music, painting or some other form (like gardening) — is the ability to see relationships. I know that's been true for me and I'm guessing that that is also true for you, who are very modest in your self-appraisal!

  2. Dear Mark - Muses depicting painting, sculpture, and architecture seem to be entirely appropriate for your Pompeian Room reflecting perfectly your own talents and interests.
    I recall visiting Vasari's tomb in Santa Croce when I took my youngest son to Florence whilst he was studying for his History of Art exam.

    1. Dear Rosemary,

      I'm having fun planning several themes for the Pompeii Room, and the trophies and muses are the first two. But there will be a couple more.

      I spent a week in Florence, but missed Michelangelo's tomb. For some reason, Santa Croce was closed, I think for repairs. I like the combination of actual architecture, sculpture and painting for Michelangelo's tomb, and would love to see in person how the painting is incorporated around those architectural elements.

    2. Dear Mark, What a surprise! Muses! I expected handsome warriors. What a juxtaposition! Looking forward to seeing the soft curves being coaxed out of your chosen designs.

    3. Dear Gina,

      I expected handsome warriors, too, but fell in love with the muses since they have a more classic feel. I think the warriors are more in line with Renaissance interiors. Actually, if I had wanted to be truly Pompeian, I might have chosen actors holding masks or musical instruments.

  3. That Schinkel interior makes me squeal! I just got back from Florence, Sta Croce is finished and in very fine shape, and I visited it several times because I was staying only a block away. My own photos are not yet sorted, but I found excellent high res images of Michelangelo's tomb here:

    SO looking forward to seeing your fabulous room finished.

    1. Dear Lynne,

      That Schinkel interior was the study for the crown prince of Prussia. One of these days I'll do a door surround using gilt picture framing — I really love all that beading!

      I was sorry not to have had access to more of Michelangelo's sculpture when I was in Florence, but did see the Medici tombs and David, of course. Thanks for the link to Michelangelo's tomb.

      And thanks for your last comment — it means much to me that you are enjoying the progress.

  4. Hello Mark, What impresses me about the pictures you show here is the freedom of movement and direction exhibited by the characters, even though they are grounded and pedestaled.

    I liked the idea shown in several, especially the Venetian Lodging one, of having a lighter background, which not only highlights the figures, but also helps to prevent too much of an "inside of a jewel box" feeling.

    As always, I am looking forward to your solution and interpretation.

    1. Hello, Jim,

      The video that features Consul Smith's Venitian lodging is an interesting account of 18th-century art collecting. Just as the British were getting serious about collecting Italian masterpieces, Venice was going into an economic and political decline. Smith, who must have been a real charmer, was a networker who became a major art agent.

      I'll have fun with the muses because I'll be making a few tweaks to serve my own taste . . .


  5. I love how you are giving us the background on each step you take. I think the muses are a perfect touch. I can't wait to see them.

  6. Hi, Theresa!

    I think the background makes it all that much more personal because what inspires us is what makes creativity click. Stay tuned because there will be big changes to the room in the next three weeks with the addition of these muses!

  7. Can't wait to see your work on the muses, Mark. (Did you see Rosemary's post today? Among other things she showed a room with wall murals. Very beautiful. I think they were by Fragonard so much different than what you're contemplating, but I did love the whole wall thing. Will there be borders?

    Yes, I too am usually looking at the set and the art director's work in a movie.

    1. Hi, Yvette,

      Yes, I took a good look at the wall paintings at Rosemary's blog. I like how the collection of individual paintings give the impression of one continuous scene.

      The green bar that is above my red "wainscoting" will be a border of sorts, but it will have a very different character to it by the time I'm finished.

  8. Good morning, Mark. I continue to be so impressed with each and every step of this project. By any chance, are you on Instagram? This project would be perfect for that form of social media. Anyway, I have recently discovered a man who is painting a room in a Grecian style and I thought you might get a kick out of seeing his project. If you do Instagram, his handle is ashleyhicks1970. I've left him a comment about your project and I hope you two find each other if you haven't already.

    1. Dear Barbara,

      Alas, I am not on Instagram (because I find that the blog is as much time as I want to devote to social media and be away from my projects). But I am very aware of both Ashley Hicks and David Hicks, who has been a great inspiration to me. A room painted in the Grecian style sounds like it would be right up my alley, and if you go back to Pompeii No. 2, you'll see that Alan Dodd's Grecian room was in fact a point of reference for my own room.