25 February 2010

The Flawed Hero: Lord Byron, Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester

The literary characters of Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester are both Byronicheroes. Yorkshire writers Emily (1818 – 1848) and Charlotte Brontë (1816 –1855) were influenced bythe poetry of the English Romantic Lord Byron (1788 –1824). Byron as described by his ex-loverLady Caroline Lamb, was "mad,bad and dangerous to know". Helooks the part of the flawed hero in the moody green portrait by French Romantic Jean-Louis-André Théodore Géricault. The painter merged art with life by dying a slow lingering death from anuntreated riding injury at the age of thirty-two. Géricault was painted by colleague HoraceVernet, the portrait seems to foretell his fate. The German born Fritz Eichenberg(1901–1990) illustrated the haunting Heathcliffunder the Tree for a 1943 edition of WutheringHeights. A brooding Mr. Rochester on horseback is by contemporary Portuguese artist PaulaFigueiroa Rego. Eichenberg who was Jewish escaped from Hitler'sGermany to America and Rego who now lives in England grew up during António de Oliveira Salazar's authoritarian regime. They could both identify with the outcast hero.

22 February 2010

Dangerous Beauty: Narcissus, Dorian Gray and Des Esseintes


Narcissus was a Greek hero of renowned exterior beauty but a flawed interior. Both nymphs and youths loved him and he cruelly rejected them. Unable to love others Nemesis condemns him to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. When he realizes he cannot posses the handsome image he dies and goes to the Underworld where he gazes at his visage in the river Styx. Many artists including Hungarian Gyula Benczúr (1844 – 1920) and Italian Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 –1610) have depicted the myth. Irish author Oscar Wilde (1854 –1900) retold the story in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Pictured is a 1925 edition of the work illustrated by Henry Keen. The reflection that the young and beautiful Gray falls in love with is his own portrait. Gray sells his soul so that the painting will age instead of his physical being. Influenced by an unnamed corrupt French novel he goes onto live a hedonistic and debauched life. It is believed the book was the 1884 Against Nature or A Rebours, by Joris-Karl Huysmans. The protagonist is Des Esseintes a perverse aesthete who insulates himself from the real world with beauty and culture. At one point he decides to gild and encrust a living tortoise's shell with esoteric gem stones in an ornate Japonesque pattern. The turtle is to wander back and forth across an Oriental carpet catching light in the stones' facets. Sadly the weight and wealth are too much for the common animal and he dies. Illustration is by Arthur Zaidenberg for the 1931 edition.

20 February 2010

Suzanne Tucker Home: California Homes Magazine Jan 2010



Entrudo: Entry into Spring


Lent has begun and Carnaval is past. The origins of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro are European but havebeen embellished by the traditions of Portugal’s other former colonies. Going back toancient Greece and the pagan festival of Dionysus, the god of wine, both master and slave would transform themselves by exchanging clothes. They would celebrate the end of winter with wine, food, dance and sex. This evolved into Portugal’s and Brazil’spre-lent festival entrudo or "Entry into Spring". The wealthy would throw fragrant lemons at each other Entrudo Familiar, while the slaves and poor would use dirty water, flour and eggs, Entrudo Popular. In the nineteenth century elements of French and Venetian Carnival were imported to discourage entrudo and separate Brazil from its colonial past. Incorporating costumes and masks, wealthy and poor revelers danced to European waltzes until thesamba developed: a combination of Angolan semba, Cape Verdean batuques,European polka and Cuban habanera. Carnaval in Rio was immortalized by Marcel Camus' 1959 film Black Orpheus or Orfeu Negro. The somber panel is from Nuno Gonçalves' polyptych The Adoration of Saint Vincent showing The Prince. The five additional panels represent the other important elements of fifteenth century Portuguese society; clergy and the common man.

16 February 2010

Flawed Pearl: Pérola Barroca


The Baroque period was named for a misshapen, flawed pearl. Portuguese navigators found the pearls in 1510 in the East Indian town of Broakti that they called Baroquia. The imperfect pearls became known as Pérola barroca. Jewelers were inspired by the unusual pearls to create fantastic pendants. The Canning Jewell which is probably Italian in origin, features a merman with a large pearl designating his torso. It is embellished with solid gold, diamonds, rubies, pearls and enamel work. Other depictions of pearls were more direct as in the exotic Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (1632 -1675). His Dutch Baroque Masterpiece shows pearls as a status symbol of the seventeen century. Josefa de Óbidos (1630–1684) the Portuguese painter did not require jewelry for her saints figure. Her Baroque works were devoted to religious themes with their own imperfections.

13 February 2010

Blue and White Azulejos: Palácio de Fronteira



The grand and whimsical palace was built in 1640 on the edge of Monsanto Park in Lisbon. It is a masterpiece of decorative tiles, frescoed panels, oil paintings and formal gardens. Originally it was a hunting pavilion for Dom João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira. The Mascarenhas family had distinguished themselves during The Age of Discovery in India, Asia, Brazil and Northern Africa. Blue and white glazed azulejos are featured in both the interior and exterior; an exterior walk is lined with allegories to the arts and sciences along with statuary of mythical gods and goddesses. Other azulejos depict important battles such as Guerra da Restauração or fanciful cats and monkeys playing musical instruments. A chapel, which, dates from the 16th century, is comprised of mosaics incorporating broken porcelains, glass, stones and shells. The china fragments were from the king's visits, once he ate from a dish it could never be used again.

Cups and Hearts: The Evolution of Playing and Tarot Cards

Lorraine artist Georges de La Tour (1593-1652) painting The Cheat is a social commentary. A shrewd card shark is about to cheat a vacuous young man. Compliant in the scheme are the well-dressed woman and her servant. Playing and Tarot cards started out as a diversion for the aristocracy and wealthy of Medieval Europe and probably were Middle Eastern in origins. The cards engraved and painted by artisans were very expensive. In the fifteenth century woodcut decks developed. Suites evolved from Islamic symbols of the chalice, swords, coins, and polo sticks. The queen of hearts is from a Claude Valentin playing cards deck and the queen of cups a Jacques Viéville tarot deck. Both are mid-seventeenth century. Cups the precursors of hearts, were emblematic of love and happiness.

12 February 2010

Flights of Fantasy: The Hot Air Balloon



Bartolomeu de Gusmão (1685-1724), the Brazilian born priest and scientist had a vision of faster communication for the Portuguese Empire. His flying machine was called the “large bird” or Passarola. The aerostat debuted in Lisbon in1709 but sadly never flew between Portugal, Brazil and India as was envisioned. Later the FrenchMontgolfier Brothers would invent an equally fanciful airship. Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740–1810), Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745-1799) along with wallpaper manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon (1725 -1811) created the montgolfier style hot air balloon. The silk and paper envelope was a vivid sky blue embellished with gold suns and flourishes. Called Aerostat Réveillon it was launched in 1783 originally "manned" by a sheep, duck and rooster. This was followed by the successful flight of Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes both regarded as pioneers of hot air ballooning. The Swiss scientist Johann Caspar Horner (1734–1834) took the technology to the East when he visited Japan in 1805. Fabricating a hot air balloon from Japanese paper it was flown in front of thirty Japanese delegates.

08 February 2010

Blue and Green: The Sky, Water and Flora of Paris







Paris often appears to be composed of varyingshades of gray. These illustrations show the City of Light in a spectrum of cerulean blues and viridian greens. Neo-Impressionist painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859 –1891) created a luminous river scene using Divisionism. Whereas illustrator George Barbier(1882-1932) depicted a fanciful Fêtes Galantes by Symbolist poet PaulVerlaine with a lady dressed in 18th century costume set against alush outdoor park. She seems to have emerged from the contemporaryphotograph by Lynn Geesaman of Parc de Bagatelle, Paris1995. More of Ms. Gessaman’s workcan be found at The Robert Koch Gallery SanFrancisco.

02 February 2010

Love and Loss: The Romance of Doomed Love

The month of February is associated with love. The most memorable lovers are tragic. William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet has been adapted to many art forms; stage, opera, musical and film. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version of the 16th story depicted the two teenage actors in a visually lush world that reflected the Italian director’s early art and architecture studies. The theme of doomed love can also be found in the medieval story of Tristan and Isolde. Originating from the Celts it became a popular subject of Arthurian Literature such as the English writer Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (1470). The tragic pair is shown drinking the love potion in Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse’s 1916 painting. São Miguel Island in the Azores has the legend of the Green and Blue Lagoons of Sete Cidades. In ancient times a king separated his blue-eyed daughter from the green-eyed shepherd she loved. The tears they cried created two small lakes in the center of a caldera. One lake is the color of the sky, the blue of the Princess’ eyes and the other is the color of the land, the color of the shepherd’s eyes.