Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pompeii No.14: The Remaining Garlands

Last week, I painted the central garland in the Pompeii Room. This week, I'm finishing the remaining three.

 In order to keep things simple, I'll just call them Garlands A, B and C.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Fall 2009
I'm continuing to draw inspiration from Andrea Mantegna's San Zeno altarpiece, and for Garland A, I'm combining the garlands from the areas above that are boxed in white.

click to enlarge   |   I Maestri del Colore: Mantegna   |   Alberto Martini
Here's what they look like enlarged. So often garlands are comprised of stylized flowers, so it's such a pleasure to see how Mantegna incorporated cucumbers, beans, raspberries, and everything else that was at hand.

click to enlarge
And here is Garland A completed. I get a kick out of those elements that appear to be from the squash family — you won't see that in many garlands!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Fall 2009
For Garland B, I'm using the garlands from Mantegna's San Zeno altarpiece that are boxed in white above.

click to enlarge   |   I Maestri del Colore: Mantegna   |   Alberto Martini
They look like this enlarged.

click to enlarge
This is Garland B completed. I've added some extra vegetables at the lower right so that the weight of the garland is evenly balanced.

Now, if you've been keeping track, you know that I've run out of garlands to borrow from Andrea Mantegna! So it's time to invent my own Garland C, below.

click to enlarge

Of course you know that the Pompeians never knew corn, or as others call it, maize. But as I am my own client, I'm free to take some artistic license, and I've surely done so here!

The Pompeii Room as it appears today. In the photo above, I haven't added the garland's hooks and ribbon ties, and yet the garland defies the Law of Gravity!

click to enlarge
Next week I'll be on a little expedition to gather further inspiration and reference for the Pompeii Room (but sadly, I won't be traveling to Pompeii). I hope you'll come along with me on the trip!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pompeii No.13: Adding the Garlands

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Spring 2010
Many Pompeian villas had murals that featured garlands, and we must assume that for festive occasions, real garlands were hung as well. The garland above came from the house of P. Fannius Synistor, whose color scheme I've adapted to my own Pompeii Room.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the mural fragment resides, this garland celebrates the god Bacchus. The bull's head represents a real one that would have been used as sacrifice. If you look closely you can see that a strand of pearls adorns its horns. The bearded satyr head represents a mask, a snake rises from a cista mystica, which was used in Bacchic initiation rites, and on the far right is a cymbalum, used to make Bacchic music.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Fall 2009
In Pompeii No. 1, I mentioned that Andrea Mantegna ranks as my favorite Renaissance artist. He and many other Renaissance artists employed garlands in their paintings, doubtlessly as a nod to Ancient Greece and Rome, for to be an intellectual during the Renaissance was to be immersed in Classicism. Above is a detail from Mantegna's ceiling in Mantua's Palazzo Ducale.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Fall 2009
Here's a detail from Mantegna's altarpiece from the Church of San Zeno, in Verona. I've chosen it as the source for my Pompeian garlands. I'll start on my wall with the center garland, under the clipeus, and I'll use the garlands that are surrounded by the white box above.

click to enlarge   |   I Maestri del Colore: Mantegna   |   Alberto Martini
Here's what they look like enlarged. One of the things I like about Mantegna is that he brought the same eye for detail to absolutely every inch of his paintings.

What I have to be conscious of is that the central garland will be a different shape than the others, though at the same scale and hanging depth. And if I keep the clipeus garland's foliage in scale with the other garlands, I will need to invent extra foliage to "span the gap" at its center.

L'Art de Vivre   |   The Vendome Press
I started painting my garlands in greens and reds, as Mantega had, but quickly realized that the ones with auburn backgrounds wouldn't pop out as much as I would like. As I've said before, it's only paint, and I started over. I looked at this handsome book cover, which features a 19-century French wallpaper design, and realized that it was a bolder, more effective garland for my purposes.

click to enlarge
Here's the first garland finished. Next week, we'll take a look at the remaining garlands, also based on Mantegna designs. I hope you'll check back then!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pompeii No.12: A Griffin for the Entablature

modified for this posting from a more detailed engraving by Wenceslas Hollar, 1600s

This week I'm adding a griffin to the top of the entablature — I think an element is needed to break up the entablature's straight line.

The Pompeians used the griffin in their murals, but this mythical creature goes back thousands of years, to India, Assyria and Persia.

I'm starting the posting with this 17th-century engraving because it's true to what a griffin should look like. The creature is basically the combination of an eagle and a lion. The head and front of the body — including the front legs and wings — are represented by an eagle. In addition, the eagle head features long ears that are sometimes feathered. The rest of the body belongs to a lion. Altogether, the creature symbolizes strength and wisdom. Because the griffin traditionally guards treasure, he also symbolizes vengeance; I think he's perfect for my home security.

Mark D. Ruffner, 2014
Sometimes the griffin is represented more as a winged lion, as in this mirror detail from the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. In that case it's not really a griffin, though it might be more aesthetically pleasing.

The griffin is going to be at the end of the entablature,
so that he can survey the entire structure.

I begin the painting by putting down a flat color, either a middle tone or the prevailing color. Note that I am conscious of making the griffin's base equal to the capital's cap, and that together they form a square.  I have two goals here — first, to have elements align so that as the composition becomes more and more complex, the eye unconsciously recognizes order. And second, though the griffin rests atop the entablature, there is a sense that he's also atop a column, not unlike the winged lion of Venice, below.

Here's the finished griffin. His front legs are from a lion and he doesn't look particularly vengeful, but I'm confident that he'll still be an effective guardian.

Next week we'll start working inside those auburn panels, and the room will take a big step towards looking more Pompeian!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pompeii No.11: The Clipeus

Mark D. Ruffner
This week I'm adding a clipeus to the Pompeii Room.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Spring 2010
The clipeus was a shield that was hung by the Pompeians over their entrances for protection. Today, some people do the very same thing with horseshoes. This mural detail is from the house of P. Fannius Synistor, and can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside
This is a detail of a mural from the Villa Poppea. Though it's not in P. Fannius Synistor's house, the clipeus looks as though it may have been painted by the same artist.
The late Garth Benton, who painted this clipeus on the south porch of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, probably looked to the first two images for reference. Notice that all three shields include the same star.

Mark D. Ruffner
It's a star found on many shields from antiquity. We know that the Romans borrowed heavily from the Greek culture, and this star can be traced to Macedonia, which was originally a Greek city state.
Appropriately, prior to 1995, this was the flag
of the Republic of Macedonia.
Having said all that, I decided to go a different route and decorate my clipeus with a lion's head. I was attracted to this Chanel logo — the photo originated from my blogger friend at Square With Flair.

Chanel, who was a Leo, loved the lion as an emblem, decorated her apartment with lions, and even incorporated the lion on buttons for her fashion creations. Terry was kind enough to send me additional reference of this particular lion.

And here is my own clipeus.

Next week I'll be adding a mythical animal to the mural,
one that represents both strength and wisdom.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pompeii No.10: Painting the Frieze Scroll

Wallpaper: A History of Styles and Trends

Wallpaper: A History of Styles and Trends  |  Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz  |  Flammarion
I decided to decorate my frieze with a scroll, and this design caught my eye as the sort of look I wanted to achieve. It's a detail from an 1808 wallpaper design by the French company Dufour. Looking at the image below, you can see that the wallpaper design accurately reflects a Pompeian temple frieze.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside
This was a small temple in Pompeii, dedicated to Aesculapius (Asclepius in Greek), the god of medicine and healing. Aesculapius was a son of Apollo and carried the snake-entwined rod that remains the symbol of medicine to this day.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside
Here's a scroll from a Pompeian interior mural. It comes from the salon of the House of the Painters at Work, so called because evidence suggests that the eruption of Mount Vesuvius interrupted a mural in progress.

The Grammar of Ornament   |   Owen Jones   |   Portland House
Owen Jones published The Grammar of Ornament in 1856, and included this frieze design from Pompeii. He wrote of it, "We have here the acanthus-leaf scroll forming the groundwork, on which are engrafted representations of leaves and flowers interlaced with animals, precisely similar to the remains found in the Roman baths, and which, in the time of Raphael, became the foundation of Italian ornament."

Florid Victorian Ornament   |   Karl Klimsch   |   Dover
I settled on this scroll, which is simpler and more refined than the others I've shared. It's a design by the German artist Karl Klimsch (1867-1936), a portrait painter who is widely known today for his ornamental designs, reissued by Dover Publications.

Here's the Pompeii Room as it looks today.

In my next posting, we'll take a look at that brown circle on the far right of the photo above. A good Pompeian mural wouldn't be complete without it!