27 May 2010

The Month of June: Juno and the Peacock

June is soon upon us; the month was named for the ancient Roman goddess Juno. Her Greek equivalent Hera became associated with the peacock after Alexander the Great brought them back from his conquests. As goddess of the heavens she rode in a chariot drawn by the proud bird. Like the peacock that was visually beautiful but had an ugly voice, the consort of the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter was full of contradictions. She was the protector of marriage and family but was also jealous and vengeful. The goddess carries a pomegranate symbolizing both fertility and death. Juno is shown with Jupiter in Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci’s (1560- 1609) fresco The Loves of the Gods. Along with her companion peacock there is an eagle symbolizing the god's strength. French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau's (1826-1898) visionary scene in The Peacock Complaining to Juno has an eagle looking down from heaven. In The Peacock's Complaint by English illustrator Walter Crane (1845 - 1915) Juno is resplendent in her carriage drawn by peacocks.

21 May 2010

The Beautiful Blogger Award: To Read, To Write and To Explore Together

Thank you Little Augury for nominating Porcelains and Peacocks to the BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD. I am honored as I greatly admire her esoteric musings. In return I would like to name these seven beautiful blogs that I regularly visit.
  • http://babylonbaroque.wordpress.com Snotty opinions and a fondness for excess
  • http://thebluerememberedhills.blogspot.com A dilettante interior design historian and decorator
  • http://chintz-of-darkness.blogspot.com A celebration of dark decorating and other diversion
  • http://diamondsandrhubarb.blogspot.com Jewelry Brand Specialist, Design/Identity, Jewelry/Accessories
  • http://silentstoryteller.typepad.com/blog A collection of stories that inspire and amuse
  • http://le-style-et-la-matiere.blogspot.com Interiors, art, objects, elegance
  • http://vanessabrunner.wordpress.com tea & crumpets
These writers are encouraged to share seven of their favorite reads.

16 May 2010

Syrie, Somerset, and Liza Maugham: Of Human Bondage

British interior design legend Syrie Maugham (1879 –1955) created the first “white room” using varying pale shades, painted French antiques, plaster tables, reflective mirror screens. milk glass and white peacock feathers. Later glamorous rooms also featured pops of bold color and attracted the patronage of London’s elite including The Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson. Syrie who was photographed by Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) was not as successful in love as business. Her first marriage to Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome was unhappy and she separated from him after eight years having several affairs including one with brilliant Paris born English author William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965). Maugham who was gay fathered a daughter with Syrie who would be called Liza after his first successful novel Liza of Lambeth. Beaton captured the successful writer as Graham Vivian Sutherland sketched him. Maugham married Syrie after her divorce but he proved to be a poor husband and father. The union ended and while he walked his daughter down the aisle for her first wedding, he would wrongly question her paternity at the end of his life. Syrie and Somerset Maugham’s genius lives on in their great grandson Derek Paravicini who although a blind autistic savant is also a gifted musical prodigy.



07 May 2010

Alice, Georgina, Agnes and Louisa: The MacDonald Sisters

Rudyard Kipling (1865 -1936) the British author and poet is celebrated for many works of fiction including The Jungle Book which his father John Lockwood Kipling illustrated. The elder Kipling (1837- 1911) in addition to being an illustrator was an English art teacher and museum curator known for his career in India. His wife Alice MacDonald (1837-1910) was one of the four MacDonald sisters who though of middle class upbringing went on to marry very influential men of Victorian Britain. Georgiana (1840-1920) an artist would marry Edward Coley Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer who painted her portrait. Her sister Agnes (1843-1906) married Edward John Poynter the neo-classical painter who ultimately became President of the Royal Academy. He painted his wife’s portrait as well as that of her sister, novelist Louisa (1845-1925) who married industrialist Alfred Baldwin. Their son, Stanley Baldwin became prime minister of the United Kingdom.




05 May 2010

Vanitas and Memento Mori: The Ephemeral Nature of Life

Vanitas or “emptiness” was a form of funereal art popular in Northern Europe during the seventeenth century that dealt with the ephemeral nature of life. The still lifes featured skulls to remind the viewer of the certainty of death. Other motifs included bubbles, smoke, burning candles, and hourglasses to symbolize the finiteness of time. Cut flowers were also used to remind man that earthly pleasures are fleeting; just as the skin and flesh leave the skull so do the petals fall from the bloom. Memento mori, or “remember you must die” was a form of the genre that dates back to antiquity. These were more varied in style as in Dutch painter Frans Hals’ (1580 -1666) Youth with Skull. Philippe de Champaigne (1602 – 1674) was a Flemish born Frenchman who painted Vanitas showing a skull flanked by a cut tulip and an hourglass. Dutch artist Jacques de Gheyn the Elder (1565 -1629) painted the earliest known vanitas in which the scull gazes on useless coins and is haunted by a bubble containing grim images: a wheel of torture, a leper’s rattle and a flaming heart. A twentieth century interpretation of the subject can be seen in American abstract expressionist Walter Kuhlman’s (1918-2009) Memento mori.



01 May 2010

The Lure of Nature: Romanticism as a Reaction to Rationalism














Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) was a German Romantic painter. His oil painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog shows a young man looking into a mysterious landscape representing the unknown future. Romanticism was a reaction to the rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment and the soulless factories of The Industrial Revolution. It dealt with emotion, spirituality and disenchantment in materialism. German-American Albert Bierstadt (1830 -1902) was apart of the Hudson River School whose artists painted landscapes influenced by Romanticism. He was known for his dramatic depictions of the American West as in Storm in the Rocky Mountains. The landscapes and seascapes of American Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847- 1917) took romanticism into Tonalism as in his moody The Flying Dutchman. Like Friedrich’s Wanderer, Ryder often chose man and his relation to nature as the subject of his paintings.