Light and Warmth: The Sun Chariot

Blue of the most excellent blog The Blue Remembered Hills commented onthe sun chariot in the tympanum of Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry. In mythology chariots, asymbol of wealth and power were believed to carry the sun across the heavens from East to West. The Trundholm sun chariot dates from the Nordic Bronze Age. Foundin Denmark it depicts a mare pulling a chariot with a large disk representing the Sun. In Greek mythology Helios was a young man wearing a radiant halo driving the sun chariot and four winged horses as seen on the red-figurepottery. He brought light and warmth to mortals and because he was all seeing he provided information to the immortals. Helios' horses breathed fire; English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake 1757-1827 shows God and a Chariot of Fire in God Judging Adam.

Dreamscapes: Parisii and Paris

The name Paris derives from Parisii the Gaulish tribe that lived on the banks of the Seine from the third century BC until the Roman era. The Celtic people left behind coins and genes. Many others followed including Romans, Franks, Vandals and Visigoths each contributing to French culture. To protect the city from invading Anglo-Normans The Louvre Palace was built by Philippe Auguste (1180–1223). The fortress as depicted in Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry evolved into the Musée du Louvre of today and is visited by millions. La Ville-Lumière became a center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century. Russian Marc Chagall (1887- 1985) is among the many painters who have interpreted the city of light. In his Paris Through the Window he shows a surreal landscape with a yellow anthropomorphic cat, a blue Janus faced figure and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Renewal after Destruction: San Francisco and Lisbon

The tragic disaster in Port-au-Prince, the courage of the Haitian people and the compassion of the world recalls past earthquakes. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 is remembered as one of the worse disasters in our countries history. Although reliable counts of fatalities do not exist the destruction of the 8.5 quake and subsequent fire are well documented in photos and film. Much of the “Gateway to the Pacific” had been destroyed but the city was quickly rebuilt in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. The fair showcased San Francisco’s triumph over adversity. The Palace of Fine Arts remains in the marina as a reminder of the event. As painted by American Colin Campbell Cooper, Jr. (1856 -1937) the building designed by Bernard Ralph Maybeck (1862 – 1957) evokes classical architecture. Lisbon, Portugal similar to San Francisco in geography and climate suffered what is estimated to have been a magnitude 9 earthquake in 1755. Tsunami and fires followed that led to near total destruction. The tragedy changed not only the landscape but also the European psyche. Voltaire (1694 –1778), wrote Candide and his Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne in response to the event. Prime Minister Sebastião de Melo rebuilt the city in Pombaline style that was one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. The Carmo Convent, a Gothic church was not rebuilt and stands today as a beautiful scar against the sky.

Health and Happiness: The Ardagh Chalice

The Ardagh Chalice is considered one of the premier examples of Insular or Hiberno-Saxon art and craftsmanship. Dating from 8th century AD the footed silver cup is embellished with complex gilt bronze filigree application, cloisonné and enameling. Decorated with fanciful fauna, geometric interlace and the names of the apostles it was found near the village of Ardagh, County Limerick in 1868 by boys digging for potatoes. It is considered the crowning jewel of the National Museum of Ireland. The hope symbolized by the chalice and Holy Grail is significant to Christianity as well as the Arthurian Legends. Chrétien de Troyes the French poet of the 12th century wrote Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Although the work was not completed it had a tremendous impact on the culture of the Middle Ages. The healing and restorative powers of the grail continue to captivate us as in the Celtic Revival chalice painted by Scottish artist George Bain (1881-1968).

The Fortunes of Love: Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu

Now that the red and green of Christmas and the blue and silver of Hanukkah are gone scarlet hearts will replace them for Valentines Day. The day named for martyred saints became a holiday associated with noble love during the High Middle Ages. Courtly Love developed in contrast to the violence and wars of the times. Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu is a heart shaped songbook, elegantly bound in red velvet from the early Renaissance. When it is opened it represents two lovers hearts with forty-three corresponding songs in French and Italian. Created for a nobleman who sadly did not practice courtly love, Montchenu was known for his vices rather than his virtues. This is one of the few heart books that have survived. Master of the View of Sainte Gudule of the Netherlands features one in his painting Young Man Holding a Book, ca 1480. The illustration of the Chansonnier is from a facsimile and depicts Cupid throwing arrows at a maiden. Next to him is a Janus faced Fortune figure with one side showing light and an illuminating mirror and the other side dark with a dangerous sword much like the fortunes of love.

Lucky Seven: The Kreativ Blogger Award

Thank you Lynda at Elegance Reclaimed for nominating me for Kreativ Blogger Award. You can catch her excellent blog at: / And now for the seven required items that you may or may not know about me:

1. I grew up in Mill Valley, California.
2. My father's family were oil field workers in Bakersfield. They had colorful names: Tinker, Red, Blackie, and Wink. If I'm having a bad day I think of them.
3. My mother's family worked on farms in Sacramento. They were all named after Saints.
4. I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and studied art history.
5. I lived in Coconut Grove, Florida briefly when I was married also briefly.
6. I love listening to Fado music especially in Portugal.
7. I'm looking forward to my upcoming trip to Paris with my dear friend Kirk.

Even more daunting than revealing seven aspects about myself was selecting the seven blogs to nominate for Kreativ Blogger Award. These have all amused and informed me and if you are not already familiar with them please look them up:
Diamondsand Rhubarb
TheBlue Lantern
TheBlue Remembered Hills
TheErrant Aesthete
TheStyle Saloniste

Panthères and Leopards: Capturing the Wild in Art

The “Cartierand America” exhibit is currently at the California Palace of theLegion of Honor. Of the many bestiary designs created by theFrench jeweler perhaps the most iconic is the leopard. The Panthère broochwas created for American Wallis Simpson in the 1940's. Itsinspiration was Jeanne Toussaint who was photographed in 1920by Adolph de Meyer. Toussaint who had been employed byCartier since 1907 was made Director of High Jewelry in 1933. Shewas nicknamed panthère by Louis Cartier because of her elegantstyle and independent nature. This jewelry collection that followed wasnot the first Gallic fascination with the large feline. Naturalist andauthor Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) depicted theleopard in his Histoire Naturelle,générale et particulière, a comprehensive study of flora and fauna. Buffon was appointed to head the Parisian Jardin du Roi in 1739. He wasresponsible for its expansion and the acquisition of botanical and zoologicalsamples. Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875) animalier sculptor and painterwas particularly known for his studies of wild cats and leopards that he did atthe Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes formerly the Jarden du Roi.

Bones and Skulls: Capela dos Ossos

On the last day of 2009 Chintz of Darkness posted intriguing photos of Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic that contains skeletons of 40,000 to 70,000 people used as architectural decoration and furnishing. As a result of the Black Plague mass graves of bones existed in Sedlec and in the 19th century the artisan František Rint was employed to put the bones creatively in order. He was not the first to use funereal artistry. Capela dos Ossos a small chapel at the Igreja de São Francisco in Évora, Portugal is another example of macabre art. The city located in the Alentejo Province is home to a Roman Temple dedicated to the Goddess Diana. The contemplative chapel was built in the 16th century and has the warning Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (“We bones here, for yours await”). As with the ossuary the chapel's unique design motif was the practical solution for the contents of monastic cemeteries that needed relocation. The Franciscan monks covered the walls and pillars of the chapel with skulls and bones to remind the wealthy inhabitants of the town of their own mortality. Displaying the dead is not unique to these two locations: Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo, St. Michan's Church, Dublin and Museo de las Momias in Guanajuato are a few other places where death is on display.

Thanks Seraph + Splendor for the inspiration!

Inspired Muse: Pre-Rapahelite Artist Marie Spartali Stillman

Muses of Ancient Greece were Goddesses who inspired the Arts and Sciences. Mortal muses have also influenced artists. Marie Spartali Stillman (1844 –1927) was known as one of "The Three Graces" of London. Along with Maria Kassavetti and Aglaia Ionides she was celebrated in artistic and intellectual circles for her classic Greek beauty. The trio modeled for The Pre-Raphaelite artists including Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones who painted them dancing as the Graces in The Mill accompanied by Apollo. Stillman chaperoned her sister Christine Spartali when she sat for James McNiell Whistler's The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. Around this time she began her own art studies with Ford Madox Brown. Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron captured her as Zoe, the Greek heroine. Stillman went on to become the best known of the Pre-Rapahelite women artists. producing over a hundred works.