Monday, March 4, 2024

My Philippe Le Roy Door

I have a hallway door that's been nondescript the whole time I've lived in the house. It leads to my utility closet and I pass it multiple times every day. I finally decided that it was time to bring it up a notch in appearance. The theme would be a portrait of Philippe Le Roy (1596-1679), a Flemish financier and diplomat.

Philippe Le Roy, the illegitimate grandson of a wealthy Antwerp merchant, became very successful through his own financial dealings, and that allowed him to acquire the rights to two villages and take the title, Lord of Ravels. As a diplomat, Philippe was instrumental in helping end the Thirty Years' War. I chose to paint him in large part because I think he has a marvelous face.

Here's the top panel of the door. I posed for the arm akimbo, and although I have relatively long fingers, they appeared a little stubby in the reference shot. So I lengthened them in PhotoShop. I also painted a Germanic sword that is of the proper time frame. It's called a "Katzbalger."

Katzbalger swords

I chose a quatrefoil design for the lower panel of the door, and I filled it with a Roman lion.

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 The crown is actually proper for a Flemish earl of the 1600's.

Heraldry  |  McGraw-Hill

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Thanks for watching!

Monday, June 26, 2023

My Second Renaissance Portrait

After collaborating with my brother Cliff on the first Renaissance portrait, we were both inspired to create a second portrait and frame. Besides, I wanted to have a companion piece for Umberto di Palma.

My inspiration was the portrait on the left by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448-1494), a popular Florentine artist under whom Michelangelo apprenticed. On the right is my portrait in its early stage. As you will see, I used the Ghirlandaio portrait only as an outline, literally. The background will change entirely, and the features will of course become more refined.

For the tunic, I borrowed from the forceful portrait of Giovanni Emo, by the Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516).

I look at many, many faces, taking a mouth from here and hair from there to create a composite face. I want it to be an attractive one, because it will be staring at me from my own wall!

And here's the finished portrait. I'm naming the sitter Lorenzo Venuste, which translates from Latin as "Charming Lorenzo."

Now it's time to frame Lorenzo. My intention is to match Umberto di Palma's frame in size and general style, but to make the details different.


I became intrigued by carved frames of the Renaissance. This is Belinni's "Resurrection" from the Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. I decided to do my own version with the use of a laser. The design for the frame's side panels is drawn in black & white, and what is black, the laser cuts into the wood, and what is white, it skips. (Thanks to Richard Radice for his help arranging the laser cutting.)

My brother and I also had the capitals 3-D printed.

Here is the finished, framed portrait. My brother, Cliff constructed the frame, which I in turn painted. Inner frame by Richard Radice.

The legend translates as "Glory is in the Shadow of Virtue," which we can only wish was always the case!

And now Umberto di Palma and Lorenzo Venuste share a wall in my house, one on either side of a window.

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Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Creating a Renaissance Portrait and Frame

Several years ago, my brother Cliff and I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. We focused on the Renaissance paintings there, a favorite of which is Fra Filippo Lippi's Modonna and Child, below.

Cliff is a talented woodworker and was intrigued with the beautiful workmanship and construction of this frame — and of the other ornate ones there, too. He mentioned that he'd like to attempt making one, and I thought it would be equally fun to create a Renaissance portrait. And so a collaboration was born.

This is Cliff's initial frame design, and it's worth noting that all the wood and molding in this photo is from Home Depot. We made several modifications, and especially wanted classic capitals atop those fluted sides.

We opted for capitals made to size by 3-D printing. On the right, I've shined a bright light through the capital to show that the 3-D printing fabricates an inner honeycomb for strength and support.

I chose to create a variation of this portrait by the Flemish artist, Hans Memling (1430-1494). The sitter is unknown, but it is supposed that he was Italian. I admire the work of Memling, though I am bothered that the hand is crowded into the bottom corner, a format that Memling repeated in other portraits. Memling's clouds are also usually these sketchy suggestions. My biggest change is to alter the face to my liking, making the sitter a little less dour.

Here is my rendition, considerably brighter. The landscape hasn't changed much, but I've gone to town with the clouds — they look almost Art Deco! I've defined his tunic, and enlarged the hand and medallion. Below is a comparison.

Once the painting was finished, I returned to the frame, which was in pieces. Cliff and I determined that it would be easier to paint each part of the frame separately, then fit it together.

And here is the finished painting, with Cliff's frame. The inscription translates as "The High Reward of Honor," and I like to think that our sitter — whom I've named Umberto di Palma — has been rewarded with a medallion bearing the likeness of Marcus Aurelius.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pompeii No. 59: The Roman Grille

Dear Blogging Friends,

When I said good-bye to blogging exactly 20 months ago, I said that I'd continue to give occasional updates on the progress of the Pompeii Room. And so it's time to do that today!

You may remenber that I wanted to replace unsightly venetian blinds with the sort of bronze grille that would have been familiar to well-healed Romans. Then a most serendipitous event occured! As I was in the process of designing the grilles, an antique room divider showed up in a nearby gift shop.

When the room divider was separated into three screens, they were a near-perfect fit by width (as shown above), and would fit equally well in length with a little adjustment. Each screen would require cutting one design unit from its bottom.

That's when my brother Cliff came on board, excited by the vision, and offering to help with the use of his beautiful shop and carpentry abilities. His contribution to the completion of the Pompeii Room has been huge!

Below are images of the screens getting cut and assembled to a new length.

It certainly looks as though these screens went through a lot of wear and tear! Below, Cliff is filling some cracks and holes with epoxy.

Now it was my turn to get to work. Because I wanted to suggest bronze metal, I took several months caulking, spackling and sanding every surface for a smooth look. (Cliff wondered whether it wouldn't have been easier to build the grille from scratch, but I was very attached to the fact that a found object had appeared at just the right time.)

As you can see in the previous images, the five intersected squares are doubled on the reverse side of the screens. That meant that painting so many nooks and crannies would be tedious and time-consuming. I solved that challenge by finding a bronze-colored spray paint for those areas, and then having Sherwin-Williams match the spray paint for the rest of the job.

We spaced the screens by creating pseudo-hinges from an old broomstick. It's interesting to note that a broomstick has a harder grain than regular store-bought dowels.

Click to enlarge.

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Here is the Pommpeii Room as it appears today.
A very special thanks to Cliff,
and as always, thank you for watching.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A is for "Adieu"

Dear Blogging Friends,

Today marks the 5th anniversary of All Things Ruffnerian, and my 416th posting. I hope you've enjoyed my subject matter, and my graphics as well.

We've covered a lot of territory together these past five years, haven't we?

I've especially enjoyed sharing the creation of my Pompeian Room with you. Your interest and encouragement in the project has brought me as much pleasure as the project itself. Indeed, you were a great part of the process.

I hope in your own lives you are surrounded by all those things that bring you joy and have meaning for you. After all, to have passion for something, whether it be a mighty idea or the tiniest of objects, is to be that much more alive.

This is my last posting. It's time for me to go in a different direction and to focus attention there.

I want to thank my readers and especially a dozen+ friends who have been consistent commentors and who have shared regularly of themselves, often outside of this blog. You know who you are because you're each on my blog list. I'll continue to visit your blogs and to comment from time to time, and so this will not be a good-bye, but only "adieu."


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Golden Triangle

 click to enlarge   |
This 1859 map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shows how the Allegheny River (at the top) joins the Monongahela River (on the bottom) to form the head of the Ohio River. This point was valued even in America's colonial days as strategic for both trade and military defense, and today it is often referred to as "The Golden Triangle."

Fort Pitt   |
When the French established Fort Duquesne on the triangular spit in 1754, the British sent troops led by 21-year-old Major George Washington to serve an ultimatum and retake the land. Washington was defeated by the French, as was General Edward Braddock, in 1755.

These were early battles of what became known as the French and Indian War (1754-1763), so called because Native Americans sided with the French.

The French eventually retreated from Fort Duquesne, burning it to the ground as they left. The English, led by General John Forbes, reclaimed the point and Forbes named the area around it "Pittsburgh," in honor of William Pitt the Elder, the Prime Minister.

Fort Pitt (shown above) was built between 1759-1761.
George Washington, who surveyed more of the United States than most Americans realize, surveyed much of the land in the vicinity of Fort Pitt with the aim of parceling it to French and Indian War veterans.

Pittsburgh Then and Now   |   Arthur G. Smith
Now, you would think that with a history like that, the Point — as it became known — would be prized and preserved. But that was not the case. By the mid-1800s, the area was an industrial site. The 1908 photograph above shows that there was a huge logging trade along the Monongahela, and that the heavy industry of the city was already establishing Pittsburgh as a notoriously smoggy, dirty place. In fact, well into the 1940s and 50s, Pittsburgh was so dark with smog that it was not unusual for streetlights to burn throughout the day, and for traffic police to wear masks.
This 1948 view shows railroad tracks leading to the Point and water in which one wouldn't want to swim.
Then in 1945, Pittsburgh elected Democratic Mayor David L. Lawrence, a remarkable man. Over the course of four consecutive terms, he forged alliances with Democrats, Republicans, bankers and industrialists, and through his own vision and determination created an urban renewal that the people of Pittsburgh called "The Renaissance." It took more than two decades of work, but today the Point looks as you see it below.

click to enlarge   |   shutterstock
My very first job was in "Gateway Center," and I looked out from a window where there's a red "X." By that time, Pittsburgh was working hard to clean its sources of pollution, though people who hadn't actually visited there still referred to it as "the Smokey City." Eventually Pittsburgh's steel industry died (the tallest building in this photograph is the U. S. Steel Tower), and Pittsburgh became a center for computer technology.

Today one can visit Point State Park and walk along inset granite markers that delineate the foundation of Fort Duquesne. Then at the very tip of the triangle is a basin with a 150-foot (46 m) fountain.
The interesting thing about that fountain is that it's fed by a fourth, subterranean river that runs approximately 54 feet below the city. Water is pumped up from the river, which is a remnant of ancient glacial flows.

click to enlarge  |  the course of the Ohio River  |

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
Three Rivers