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Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Madonna of the Harpies TCB

The original Madonna of the Harpies (1517) currently resides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It was painted by Andrea del Sarto (1486 – 1530) during the High Renaissance. This likely 19th century reproduction, artist unknown, resides in the hallway of a local church. Like similar paintings I’ve found in churches as I photograph their stained glass windows, the history of their paintings, tucked oftentimes in out of the way places, has faded over time. The how and the why of their existence is hard to discern without deeper research. And then in the end, as I have been reminded, one must keep in mind that during the late 19th century as wealthy Americans made grand tours of Italy there was a great demand for reproductions of Renaissance art (assuming one couldn’t buy the art outright).

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Andrea del Sarto self-portrait

Andrea del Sarto was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Raphael. This painting is considered to be one of his finest works. Much has been written about this painting. I especially enjoyed reading David Franklin’s description of the artist’s creative process on page 136 of his book Painting in Renaissance Florence, 1500-1550.  I don’t know that I shall ever make it to Florence but it was a treat to learn of this powerful work of art by walking down a hallway.

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Madonna of the Harpies by Andrea del Sarto (1517)

Sources & Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Harpies

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_del_Sarto

http://www.uffizi.com/painting-madonna-delle-arpie-uffizi-gallery.aspx

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I have read too many headlines this morning. My head is full of thoughts. I think I shall take a break from the computer screen until I can sort them. Meanwhile, I share these last images from my recent visit to the Boston Public Library’s Abbey Room and painter Edwin Austin Abbey’s expression of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.

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Panel XIII. Sir Galahad crosses the sea in Solomon’s Ship

As for what’s happening in this scene, from the BPL website: “Sir Galahad crosses the seas to Sarras in Solomon’s Ship, guided by the Grail borne by an angel. Sir Bors and Sir Percival accompany him, while three spindles for the Tree of Life rest upon the stern of the ship.”

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157647672175522/with/15074561737/

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detail from The Arthurian Round Table and the fable of the Seat Perilous

Between 1893 and 1902 fifteen panels were installed in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square depicting the story of The Quest for the Holy Grail. Conceived of by artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) he based his work on Lord Alfred Tennyson’s  version of the Arthurian legend. In recent years the BPL has done a magnificent job of capturing the beauty of the full panels and sharing each panel’s story with the public through Flikr. That link is below. When I walk in with my camera I tend to focus in on the details and this is what I recently saw.

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detail from King Amfortas and the Castle of the Grail lie under a spell

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This time one of my favorite panels to focus on what the last in the sequence, The Golden Tree. According to the BPL summary, an adaptation from an outline by Henry James, “Sir Galahad, now the King of Sarras, builds a golden tree. When he is presented with the Grail, his spirit and the Grail ascend to heaven. Like other elements throughout the mural cycle, the golden tree and the Grail are depicted in gilded raised relief, a method that Abbey may have learned from his studio partner John Singer Sargent.”

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Well worth a visit to see in person but until then you can see the full cycle of panels here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157647672175522/with/15258034891/

And if you have a large cup of tea at hand, or something else, you can read Tennyson’s Holy Grail upon which the murals were based. They don’t write poems like this anymore. 🙂 http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/tennyson-the-holy-grail

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Happy New Year! No doubt it will be an interesting one.

Best wishes for peace and prosperity and an awareness of the beauty in the world around us.

Strength and courage will be necessary I suspect. As for New Year goals …

… I’ve made none, not really, except perhaps a commitment to continue to pause and to pause without expectation. These photos I took while pausing inside Trinity Church.

It has been my pleasure to photograph there many times over the years.

Each time there is always something new to see in the tower, on the walls, in the windows and even on the doors.

We’ll see what 2017 holds. 🙂

http://trinitychurchboston.org/visit/tours

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Hope by George Frederick Watts

In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr would open a sermon with these words about shattered dreams, “Our sermon today brings us face to face with one of the most agonizing problems of human experience. Very few, if any, of us are able to see all of our hopes fulfilled. So many of the hopes and promises of our mortal days are unrealized. Each of us, like Shubert, begins composing a symphony that is never finished. There is much truth in George Frederick Watts’ imaginative portrayal of Hope in his picture entitled Hope. He depicts Hope as seated atop our planet, but her head is sadly bowed and her fingers are plucking one unbroken harp string. Who has not had to face the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams’?

English painter George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) would paint the first of several versions of Hope in 1885. Its symbolism would prove very popular and over time it would be massively reproduced. I read that by the 1930s however his work fell out of fashion and major galleries like The Tate removed his work from permanent display. So I do wonder when, where and how Martin Luther King first saw Hope. I do know when a young Barack Obama learned of the painting. It was in 1990. Pastor Jeremiah Wright would deliver a sermon, The Audacity to Hope. Wright’s words would move the young student who would eventually rouse a whole nation (mostly) with a notion that he would call, The Audacity of Hope.

So where is hope these days? In part its a personal question that we each have to grapple with on any given day depending on what’s happening in our lives.

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Hope by Edward Burne-Jones, 1896

Watts and later his friend Edward Burne-Jones each painted variations of Hope during dark periods in their lives. For Watts that period included the death of his adopted daughter’s child. Burne-Jones had been commissioned by a wealthy American to paint a dancing figure but as he dealt with the death of his friend and colleague William Morris he asked if instead he might paint Hope. I think of hope as something you hold on to or reach out for. And sometimes it even settles around you like a warm blanket when you least expect it. Or, as Emily Dickinson wrote,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Sources & Additional Reading

http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/shattered-dreams

http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol06Scans/July1962-March1963DraftofChapterX,ShatteredDreams.pdf

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/victorian-painting-g-f-watts-inspired-obama-harp-hope-article-1.358686

Watts Magazine, p.14+

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42889

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The inspiration was William Merritt Chase’s Just Onions painting now on view at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is a lovely still life of a few onions next to a copper pitcher. Given that I know a certain fellow who is currently obsessed with collecting and restoring copper pots, I figured why not try my own series of “just[fill in the blank]” with the copper pots in the background.

Who knows? This may turn out to be a fun winter project, to sketch out still lives with these refinished copper pots, and then to see if I can bring these ideas to life.

Just Onions by William Merritt Chase, 1912

Just Onions by William Merritt Chase, 1912

Learn more about the actual painting here. And visit my JustFood shop for other food images.

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to photograph its stained glass windows and along the way I stumbled upon Raphael’s Transfiguration (1516-1520). Not the original of course. That’s in the Vatican. This painting, which my guide at the time knew little about, appears to be a 19th century reproduction. The history of this particular painting – its creation and who gave it to the church – may be lost to history.  However, I’ve since learned from a research fellow at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that such reproductions were popular and prints being produced as early as the 16th century.

Transfiguration was Raphael’s last painting. He died at the age of 37 leaving the painting incomplete. It is considered one of his most beautiful works out of a very large body of work. It was a treat to chance upon the reproduction and perhaps one day I will see the actual painting in person. Meanwhile, below is a photograph of Raphael’s handiwork and you can read details on the Vatican Museums website here.

Raphael’s Transfiguration, photo by Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43522641

Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael

http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-transfiguration-of-christ-31006

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