Dreams: Happy New Year

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Langston Hughes

Charles R. Knight, American (1874-1953)
Sukenobu, Japanese (1671-1750)
Al-Jazari, Mesopotamian (1136-1206)

Blue Winter: Happy Holidays

Winter uses all the blues there are.

One shade of blue for water, one for ice,

Another blue for shadows over snow.

The clear or cloudy sky uses blue twice-

Both different blues. And hills row after row

Are colored blue according to how for.

You know the bluejay's double-blur device

Shows best when there are no green leaves to show.

And Sirius is a winterbluegreen star.

Robert Francis




Harald Sohlberg, Norwegian (1869-1935)

Errol Le Cain, British (1941-1989)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German (1880-1938)

Animal Versus Man: Happy Birthday Sagittarius

We are now in the astrological sign of Sagittarius the Archer. It is also the sun sign of Porcelains and Peacocks' friend Kirk Phillips of Shears & Window. The Archer is a centaur, half- man and half- horse symbolizing the conflict between animal nature and civilized man. Those born under the sign share with the centaur of Greek mythology an adventurous spirit and the wisdom of Chrion. They are also honest and direct like the point of an arrow. A sixteenth century Persian tile mosaic of Sagittarius depicts the Archer aiming at his own dragon headed tail. In the constellation card from the English Urania's Mirror of 1825, he is shooting into the heavenly sky. Lithuanian painter and composer, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) painted Sagittarius as a man hunting a large bird of prey, part of his Cycle of Twelve Pictures (1907).

Happy Birthday Kirk!

From the Fairy Realm or Rats in High Heels

A dear friend of Porcelains and Peacocks refers to deer as "rats in high heels" because they dine on his perfectly landscaped property. P & P is seduced by their graceful independence. Many cultures have viewed them as supernatural; the Celts believed they were connected to the fairy realm. American artist Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931) illustrated the fairy tale Princess Blondine with the cat Beau Minon and his mother, the deer Bonne-Biche. Franz Marc (1880-1916) was a German Expressionist who is remembered for his vibrant renderings of animals including deer. A WPA poster created in the late 1930's reminds us Don't Kill Our Wild Life, especially those controversial deer.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.
~ Meister Eckhart

The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621 was a harmonious collaboration between the Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag nation. Celebrating the colony's first successful harvest it featured cornbread made from the crop that the Native Americans had taught the staving Colonists to grow. The banquet also included venison, wild fowl, eel, lobster, onions, squash, and berries. Relations between the settlers and the original inhabitants did not remain cordial. In the early nineteenth century the American artist Charles Bird King (1785-1862) was commissioned by the government to create portraits of Native American leaders and their vanishing life. William H. Bradley (1868-1962) introduced Art Nouveau style to America in his 1895 Thanksgiving color lithograph for the literary journal The Chap-Book. The Boston born artist depicted two women wearing voluminous pumpkin shaped dresses and carrying abundant trays of food. A poster from 1880 promotes California as The Cornucopia of the World. It encouraged farmers to migrate West to a new land of health and wealth leaving behind cyclones and blizzards.

Change and Transformation: Autumn in Art

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.
Faith Baldwin
The vivid colors of Autumn's foliage and harvest have inspired many writers and artists. Belgian painter and decorative artist, Xavier Mellery (1845-1921) depicts leaves as women dancing through air catching on a spider's web. Autumn is also portrayed as a woman by Polish-Armenian artist Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938). She lies languorously in a bed of leaves covered by cobwebs and supported by a mischievous fawn. In The Tuileries Garden a marble term of Vertumnus, the roman god of seasons, change and transformation hides amid the leaves ready to seduce Pomona the goddess of fruitful abundance.

Golden November: Topaz and Chrysanthemum

November is a golden month with the birthstone of yellow topaz and the birth flower Chrysanthemum. During the Middle Ages the topaz was thought to be a talisman that could heal illnesses of both the mind and body while postponing death. One of the largest known deposits of the gemstone is located in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The stone was incorporated into Portuguese jewelry of the eighteenth century like the intricate bodice ornament. Sprays of flowers composed of rock crystal set in silver flank an oval sherry topaz that terminates in a bow with a large pear drop. Alphonse Mucha, the Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist depicted the gemstone as a beautiful tawny woman. Chrysanthemum is from the Greek meaning gold flower. Because it is a perennial it is a symbol of returning wisdom. Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) painted a white Chrysanthemum, signifying truth.

Photo of bodice ornament from Victoria & Albert collections.

Vilian or Vision: The Changing Face of the Witch

In the painting Love Magic, the unknown artist from the Lower Rhine depicts an alluring witch. Painted at the end of the fifteen century it shows her naked except for a diaphanous veil and phallic shaped patten slippers. The witch is pouring an intoxicating liquid over a red heart while being observed by a mysterious man in black. Is he a voyeur or her conjured lover? This erotic image is in contrast to the terrifying reality of the witch hunts that went on in Europe and North America between 1480 to 1750. The world was in chaos with rapid social, economic and political changes resulting in the witch becoming a symbol of life out of control. With the Age of Enlightenment there came an end to the hunts, trials, and executions of those accused of witchcraft. A more romanticized view of sorcery is seen in the watercolor by Australian artist Christian Waller (1894-1954) of Morgan le Fay. The figure of Arthurian myth was schooled in not only witchcraft but also powers of healing. In a 1930s illustration from Child Magazine three young witches dance under a full moon, happily unaware of any discord in the world.

Visions in a Mirror: Husband or Skull

October is a favorite month for Porcelains and Peacocks because of the wonderfully pagan holiday of Halloween. Going back to the Celts. the last night of October was viewed as a portal between the worlds of the living and the dead which gave the Druids clarity to see into the future. Perhaps this is where the tradition of an unmarried woman peering into a mirror on Halloween originates. She would sit in a darkened room with a candle lit and if she were lucky she would see the visage of her future husband in the mirror but if she saw the image of a skull she would die unwed. American illustrator C. Allan Gilbert (1873-1929) played with the theme by creating an optical illusion of a woman gazing into a boudoir mirror that forms the shape of a skull in All is Vanity. A happier outcome is revealed in a Halloween card of the same era. Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545) was a German Renaissance artist; when his maiden gazes into the mirror she is met with an image of a skull as she accidentally treads on a deadly serpent.

Fire & Ice on the Bay: California Homes Magazine October 2011

Truth and Balance: Happy Birthday Libra

Porcelains and Peacocks is blessed to have two very special Libra friends whose birthdays are this week: Heidi Gerpheide of California Homes Magazine and Kelly Hartgraves of Epoca San Francisco. Each of them lives their life in truth and balance much like the figure of Libra holding the celestial pair of scales.

Imagery for Libra is associated with the personification of Justice dating back to antiquity. The Roman Goddess Justitia, was shown wearing the blindfold of objectivity holding the scales of truth and fairness in one hand and the sword of reason in the other. In ancient Egypt she was known as Ma'at and would assist Osiris in the judgement of the dead by weighting their hearts

Dutch painter and draftsman Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) was greatly influenced by Italianate style as seen in his illustration Justitia, His fellow countryman Johan Vermeer (1632-1675) painted an interior scene of a housewife holding an empty balance with a painting of The Last Judgement behind her. The Litany of Loreta Embroideries are a mysterious set of panels that incorporate Pre-Raphaelite style with exquisite needlework. From it the Mirror of Justice depicts the Virgin Mary holding a pair of balanced scales.(Image courtesy of Stitch Magazine)

Happy Birthday to our Just Friends.