Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pompeii No.20: The Muse of Painting
As I studied this engraving by the 19th-century illustrator, Hugo Bürkner, it occurred to me that he had in turn studied Michelangelo, and that my color interpretation of Bürkner's engraving would benefit from my revisiting Michelangelo and his work.

The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
The great irony of this resplendent painting by Michelangelo, the tondo of the Holy Family, is that its creator didn't consider himself a painter and vigorously resisted most painting assignments. Even more amazing is that the man who commissioned this as a wedding gift for his wife was dissatisfied with the result.

The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
In all of Renaissance painting, one will be hard pressed to find a more sensitively rendered infant Jesus.

I've chosen the tondo primarily as a color reference, and in particular, I'm looking at Michelangelo's sumptuous fabrics.

I begin with lots of color reference at hand, and by working upon a light, neutral silhouette. To work directly on those dark background colors would be difficult for me (though I have known artists who do like to work from dark to light).

I've made a number of changes to Bürkner's original design to suit my own purposes:

  • The image is reversed so that the shadows fall in the same direction as the mural's adjacent columns.
  • I'm guessing that the two small figures, which are male and female, represent the yin and yang of creativity. But as all the muses will be feminine, I have decided to make all their attendants masculine. We'll just have to come up with a different allegory for these two.
  • I've added height to the pedestal, and that has everything to do with adjusting the figures so that they bisect the two background colors in a pleasing manner.
  • I've also lengthened the muse's paint brushes, just to add a little more generous dimension.
  • The muses's face is more mature, and I've indicated that she actually does have a jaw!
  • I wasn't sure what instrument the boy was resting his hand on, but I've painted it to look more like a prism. Then I added reflected light to the bottom of his leg.
  • One of the biggest changes is getting rid of all that fussy Victorian underbrush. For a sparer, more classic foliage, I turned to Mr. Wedgwood, below.

 Below is the final Muse of Painting.

click to enlarge
No matter how much color correction I do, the purple of the base translates more vividly on the Internet. It is in actuality less intense.

click to enlarge

Next week we'll go to the opposite wall
and look at the Muse of Sculpture.
I hope you'll join me then!


  1. Dear Mark - your muse and her attendants are charming, and how very clever of you to be able to do the whole image in reverse.
    Cleverly your columns have now become far more imposing and impressive.

    1. Dear Rosemary,

      Thank you for that comment because I have been so close to the project that I had not seen that the nature of the columns have changed. Were the figures life-sized in comparison to the columns, then the columns would indeed be much more massive. But the figures are small in comparison to the trophies and the garlands (!), so in my own storyline, I have to believe that the figures are a painting within a painting. And that would actually be in keeping with many Pompeian murals.

  2. Greetings, Mark! Very impressive!! I like your thoughtful changes, especially the cleaner backdrop without all that foliage. Your muse looks fresher and quite striking! Well done, once again. Cheers~

    1. Greetings, Loi!

      I'm glad you agree that the foliage was over the top, but much as Bürkner channeled Michelangelo, he was also a product of his time. I am a great lover of the art of Wedgwood, and I knew right away that a review of his pottery would inspire more classic foliage.

      Have a great weekend!

  3. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. I'm even more impressed than I was previously, Mark. The only thing I would add (if you don't mind my design two cents) is a thin lined large rectangle (just an outline) from behind the muse, left, top, right. Know what I mean? But maybe that's too much? Just thinking out loud. But I love this interpretation anyway. Beautifully done, my friend.

    1. Dear Yvette,

      Thank you! I do appreciate your design sense, and what you have suggested I have actually incorporated into other pieces of art. But I'm going to ask you to hold that thought for a little bit longer, because much more detail is going to be coming down the road. So many Pompeian murals were decorated like the veritable Christmas tree, and this one will be no exception!

  4. Dear Mark, First and foremost, the colors are spectacular. So nice to see the children NOT looking like diminutive adults.
    We are all getting so involved. May I ask if there is anything that will go above her head? The empty space seems to cry for something.

    1. Dear Gina,

      Yes, it really is crying out for something, isn't it? Well, not only will there be something above the muse's head, but it will be part of what I consider the primary theme of the room. But that comes later . . .

  5. Hello Mark, How could I have missed this one of my favorite series? Travel combined with computer issues must take the blame.

    I love your addition of the prism, which is beautiful and adds an intriguing touch to the composition. The original object reminds me of those No-Pest Strips that one still sometimes sees hanging in old garages!

    Your comments about Wedgwood illuminate the special way he was able to make imposed restraint coexist with incredible detail.

    1. Hello, Jim,

      I hope all your travels have been pleasant and that all computer issues are well behind you. I know every time I have a major computer issue, I have a fleeting thought of chucking out the machine and taking up a quill pen, but I guess we're all beyond that point . . .

      I've read a little on the life of Wedgwood, and he apparently was that rare combination of artist and good businessman. He was astute in reading trends and I have no doubt that if the British were not so enamoured of Neoclassism, we would remember Wedgwood today for something completely different, but equally stunning. I look to him often for inspiration.