Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pompeii No.25: Adding Coral For Good Health

This week I'm adding coral branches to the mural!

Coral, once believed to be a sea plant, is actually the cumulative skeletal remains of living animals called polyps. For thousands of years, many cultures have viewed coral as a decorative gem as well as protection against disease.

In Ancient Rome, coral was believed to protect against childhood disease and to avert evil, and it's still seen as good luck in Mediterranean countries and places like India, Tibet and Japan.

Piero della Francesca  |  Rizzoli
Piero della Francesca portrayed the Christ Child with this necklace of coral, and hanging from it, a coral branch. The painting dates to circa 1475.

Mantegna: I Maestro del Colore  |  Fratelli Fabbri
Mantegna (one of my favorite artists) hung a huge branch of coral above the Madonna and Child in this painting, which dates about 20 years later than della Francesca's. Below is a detail.

Mantegna: I Maestro del Colore  |  Fratelli Fabbri
I'll be using della Francesca's and Mantegna's coral as models, but . . .

. . .  I wanted to include later images of coral to illustrate how the gem was revered through the ages. The painting above, by Jan Claesz, dates to circa 1609, and shows a girl who has both a coral necklace and a rattle that incorporates pink or white coral at its tip.

Christie's auction
Such rattles often doubled as whistles. Above are English rattles dating to the early 20th century, a full 400 years after the rattle in Jan Claesz's painting. My blogging friend Rosemary, of Where Five Valleys Meet, says of these rattles, "The coral section of the English Victorian rattles was there to sooth the baby's gums when teething. Coral did not chip or splinter, and is cool to the touch. The coral also provided some comfort and reassurance to parents because of its mystical protection, as you have mentioned."

Incidentally, these four rattles recently sold at auction for approximately $2200, total, which I imagine would make a collector of such items very happy.

I'll be hanging the coral branches
over the mural's three smaller garlands.

click to enlarge
Above are the finished corals. As you can see, I scoured the seas for three branches that were similar in shape as well as size.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pompeii No.24: Chairs for the Pompeii Room

The challenge of finding the right furniture for the Pompeii Room has been to find a set of chairs that are neoclassic — either klismos chairs or a style that was inspired by klismos chairs.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, here, my friend Sandy and I have been visiting a monthly brocante in our town of St. Petersburg, Florida. When we saw these chairs several months ago, Sandy agreed with me that they would be perfect for the Pompeii Room, so much so that she insisted on gifting me with them!!

The chairs came with this mustard yellow paint rubbed on them, which I suppose was meant to make them attractive in a "shabby chic" sort of way. The gaudy color probably worked in my favor because I guess that a lot of people could not see past it to recognize the chairs' wonderful details.

Each chair has a rope twist decoration and a handsome brass medallion, and therein lies a story:
In 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar, destroying 22 ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet, and without losing a single British ship. It was Britain's greatest naval victory, and one in which the great admiral lost his life.

The victory, plus Nelson's heroic death, inspired a British craze of all things naval, and that in turn impacted the neoclassic style that was sweeping both Britain and the Continent at the time. 
The rope twist decoration (usually seen with elements called buttons) is actually a reference to the Royal Navy and the Battle of Trafalgar!

click to enlarge  |  |  |

Here are three Regency chairs of similar design, each with the rope twist decoration and buttons that are also featured on my chairs. You can click on the image to see the details.

I'm getting my Regency chairs refinished, and I'll be showing them off at a later date, as all the elements of the room come together.

And now, back to the mural . . .

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pompeii No.23: The 4 Styles

Pompeian murals fall into one of four styles of decoration, and I thought this would be a good point in the Pompeii Room project to stop and talk about them. I'll do an abbreviated description of the four styles, and then you can determine for yourself how my own mural would be characterized (bearing in mind that it's still a work in progress).

The earliest Pompeian murals were meant to appear as a rich masonry, though they were in fact faux granite and marble in stucco relief. The wall below was scored in three dimensions, and what remains of the trompe l'oeil marble is almost lost.

Below is another example of the First Style (also called Masonry Style).

Grand Illusions  |  Phaidon  |  Cass  |  Leighton  |  1988
Above is a detail of a 1982 Art Deco wall by the great contemporary muralist, Richard Haas. Some of Pompeii's First Style surfaces probably looked a lot like Haas' rendition of marble.

The Second Style (also called Architectural or Illusionist Style) was an artisitic revolution. The Pompeian rooms, which usually did not receive a lot of light, were now painted to bring the outdoors inside, and to give the illusion of opened space. The home of P. Fannius Synistor (which is the inspiration for my own room) included a bedroom (cubiculum) with an imaginary cityscape, below.

click to enlarge  |  Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, spring, 2010
You can see a landscape in the background of Synistor's room, and some of the Second Style murals carried that one step further, with lovingly detailed gardens, like the one below.

click to enlarge  |  Pompeii: The Last Day  |  Wilkinson  |  2003
An important element throughout the Second Style was trompe l'oeil details. Bowls of fruit, vases of flowers and musical instruments abounded. Below, the scroll, ink pot, wax tablets and piles of coins were a not-too-subtle reminder of the homeowner's education and wealth.

click to enlarge  |  The Art of Pompeii  |  Magagnini  |  de Luca 
Another facet of the Second Style was the depiction of monumental figures, and there's no better or more famous example than the Salon of Mysteries, in the Villa of the Mysteries, below.

The Third Style (also called Ornate Style) was a reaction to the open vistas of the Second Style. The Pompeians were ready to reclaim and flatten most of the wall space that they had once opened up.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside  |  2002
Typical of the Third Style were pictures mounted on candelabra, small paintings centered on blank panels, and fantasy architectural details that were thin and elongated — all shown above.

click to enlarge  |  |
Walls of the Third Style were often barer and more stylized than my first example, such as these two. In the Third Style, the colors red, black and deep yellow predominated.

The Fourth Style is the culmination of all the previous styles, and probably because so much of Pompeii was rebuilt after an earthquake in 62 A.D., it's the style most often found in Pompeii.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside  |  2002
The Fourth Style incorporated all three previous styles. Walls were usually divided into three or five panels of flat colors, but some vistas opened up, revealing fantasy architecture with elongated forms. Both of these handsome rooms are from the House of the Vetti, and in the bottom room you can see a wainscoting that's a nod to the First Style.

Pompeii   |   Coarelli   |   Riverside  |  2002