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.

Heroes Just For One Day: Remembering 9/11

Courage easily finds its own eloquence. Plautus

As we reflect on the tenth anniversary of September 11, we remember the courage of the heroes and heroines of this tragic event. Courage or Fortitude is one of the four cardinal virtues in Christian tradition. Adopted from Classical Greek philosophy, courage is defined as an ability to confront fear, uncertainty, or intimidation. Symbolically Fortitude is represented by a calm woman subduing a ferocious lion in the Tarot deck. The fiftieth century Visconti-Sforza tarot deck was hand painted using precious materials. The Milanese model shown on the Fortitude card may have been a member of either the Sforza or Viscounti families. Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) also depicted courage as a woman in his Allegory of Fortitude using tempera on a wood panel. But our heroes are often viewed as masculine as in the subjects of Greek mythology. The hero Perseus decapitated the underworld monster Medusa resulting in the birth of the winged stallion Pegasus. Sired by the god Poseidon, the white horse is shown with Perseus as they ride across the heavens to rescue Andromeda in the painting by English artist Sir Frederick Leighton (1830-1896).

Celebrating Labor Day: The Photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine

Photography can light-up darkness
and expose ignorance
Lewis Wickes Hine

As Labor Day marks the end of Summer it also honors American workers and their achievements. It became a federal holiday in 1894 at a time when the Industrial Revolution had caused the American workforce to leave farms to toil in factories, canneries, textile mills and mines. Children along with adults worked twelve hour days and seven day weeks in what were often unsafe conditions that lacked fresh air and sanitation. Out of necessity labor unions organized strikes and rallies resulting in sometime violent conflicts between workers and police. From this turmoil came the peaceful tradition of Labor Day celebrated with parades, parties and sports events. From labor unions to photojournalism, the camera captured American workers and helped improve their conditions. Wisconsin born photographer and sociologist Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) gave us images of poverty, child labor, and workers on the job. Early in his career he documented immigrants coming through Ellis Island with the same dignity as a painter depicting the Mayflower pilgrims. These immigrants entered the work force that Wickes would passionately photograph.