SAINT JEROME – 30 SEPTEMBER

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (c. 347–420) is a confessor saint, a church father and one the four Doctors of the Catholic Church.

After Augustine, Jerome is the second most prolific of the patristic authors. A tireless scholar, he composed a large body of exegetical, theological, polemical and pastoral texts, all of which which were staples of medieval and early modem libraries. He made the first complete, Latin translation of the bible, the Biblia Sacra Vulgata, rendering the Hebrew Old Testament and the demotic Greek New Testament himself over the years 382-405. Of this monumental task he said:

I am not so stupid as to think that any of the Lord’s words either need correcting or are not divinely inspired, but the Latin manuscripts of the Scriptures are proved faulty by the variations which are found in all of them.

Jerome’s Vulgate is not without errors; his most notorious mistranslation gave rise to the depiction of the Horned Moses.

Depictions of Jerome in his study were popular among Renaissance scholars and humanists, in northern and southern Europe, who viewed the saint as a divinely-inspired exemplar of their own profession.

Jerome was also famous for his asceticism, celibacy, and the mortification of the flesh, which he practiced after a period of youthful debauchery and enjoined his fellow clerics and followers among the laity to do as well, not always with happy results.

Prosper of Aquitaine recorded Jerome’s death at the age of 73 on 30 September 420. Initially interred in Bethlehem, his relics were later translated to Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. He was canonized shortly after his death, although the prwfiser year is not known. In the Roman Catholic Church, his feast day is 30 September and he is recognized as the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopedists.

Jerome is traditionally depicted as a cardinal, but the cardinalate was formed in the 6th century, some 250 years after Jerome’s death, so he never wore the red hat which serves as an attribute in many depictions of the saint.

Advertisements

EILEEN QUINLAN

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


EILEEN QUINLAN (American, b. 1972)

Read this introduction to the work and person of Eileen Quinlan by Steel Stillman (Art in America, 8 March 2011)

– and –

this review by Maika Pollack of the New Photography 2013 show at the Museum of Modrern Art, in which Quinlan’s work is discussed (Gallerist NY, September 24, 2013).

IN LIVING COLOR: Greco-Roman Polychrome Sculpture and Architecture

Unadulterated whiteness is an essential component of Winkelmann’s interpretation of classical statuary and the search for the flawless, snow-white marbles by Neo-classical sculptors indicates that artists who measured the success of their work by the degree to which it adhered to classical conceptions of beauty felt that anything other than a clean, monochrome finish was an unthinkable violation of <i>le goût grec</i>. The restrained good taste of this late 18th-century conception of antiquity is compelling and still very much with us.

It is also completely wrong. In the early 19th century, a preponderance of irrefutable, archeological evidence forced Europeans artists, critics and collectors to accept the disturbing proposition that ancient sculpture and architecture was not only painted, it was polychromed in garish, high-key, saturated colors.

Ancient texts about art production had alluded to sculptors “painting figures,” leading some scholars to suspect that ancient sculpture was painted, but the conclusive evidence for polychromy was discovered by French architect and archaeologist Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, while he was excavating the archaic temple precincts in Agrigento, Segesta and Selinunte. Archaic Greek art had been largely ignored in the early modern period, when the taste for classical and Hellenistic art prevailed. Methodical digging at the sites in southern Italy, Sicily and, later, the Athenian Acropolis itself, unearthed fragments of kouroi and kore statues, and deposed stones from Doric temples that retained traces of polychromy.
While working in Paris in the late 1820s, German architect Gottfried Semper became aware of Hittorff’s controversial theory, and after returning to Germany to assume the seat of Professor of Architecture in Dresden, he published his Vorläufige Bemerkungen (1834), wherein he argued that Archaic Greek architecture was polychromed so that it would visually accord with the quality of light he observed in the Mediterranean.
Hittorff promulgated an even more noxious threat to the Neo-classical model in his monumental study, La Restitution du temple d’Empédocle à Sélinonte, ou l’architecture polychrôme chez les Grecs (1851), where he fully proved that archaic art was polychromed, providing 30 colored plates in support of his work, thus putting the evidence before the general public for the first time, and he speculated that his theory could be extended to the classical period, a hypothesis that later generations or archaeologists subsequently confirmed to be true.

Over the last 100 years, the application of modern scientific technologies to the polychromy question has yielded a wealth of detailed information proving the near universal use of fill or partial polychromy in ancient sculpture, all of which Hittorff and Semper surmised merely by looking and thinking. Microscopic traces of colored paint have been found on masterpieces of greco-roman sculpture, such as the Augustus of Primaporta, that have been known and on view for centuries.
These discoveries led to the collaborative exhibition of polychrome reconstructions of well-known sculptures, called Bunte Götter (The Gods in Color),which traveled to 13 cities between 2003 and 2010. The initial encounter with the show’s loud, garish, even lurid, color-corrected figures was shocking, even visceral. The art of the Greeks, who invented philosophy, politics, aesthetics, history and logic, has, according to the restorers and curators more in common visually with the Simpsons and Pokémon than it does with Wedgewood. The familiar characters from AH101 all look like they just got back from Burning Man. The Chios Kore shared a wardrobe with Stevie Nicks and the Peplos Kore, previously assumed to be a sensibly-dressed maiden who wore flats, made the scene in Miami and Ibiza wrapped in a high-key, patterned yellow beach towel. H.W. Janson said that the deified Augustus was clad in body armor, when, in reality, he wears a skintight, Dolce & Gabbana spandex t-shirt with magenta and azure highlights. Janson didn’t mention the lipstick. When compared to the MDMA-induced Trojan archer or Cheshire Lion, Jeff Koons’ white sculptures look, well, Neo-classical.

SELF-PORTRAITURE IN THE 17th CENTURY II

THE TERM SELF-PORTRAIT, which first appears in the early 19th century, participates in the Romantic cult of the self, narcissism and interiority. The assumption that the act of self-representation is always already personal and subjective distorts 19th and 20th century criticism about self-portraiture.

PORTRAIRE. v. a. Tirer la ressemblance, la figure , la représentation d’une personne au naturel, avec le pinceau, le crayon. &c.Portraire au vif, au naturel, il s’est fait portraire. II vieillit & ne se dit qu’à l’infinitif.
PORTRAIT, s. m. v. Image, ressemblance d’une personne, par le moyen du pinceau, du burin, du crayon, &c. Beau portrait, portrait au naturel, portrait en grand, en petit. faire un portrait, portrait resssemblant, qui ne ressemble point.

La Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise, 1694).

According to this period definition, the purpose of portraiture, and the standard by which it is judged, is ressemblance. What that concept meant to a 17th-century viewer, emerges from a study of self-portraits by Alexandre-François Desportes (French, 1661-1743) and Pierre Mignard (French, 1612-1695).

TO GAIN ADMISSION to the Académie royale in 1699, Desportes submitted a picture of himself dressed for the hunt, with hounds and recently bagged game arrayed before him. Hunting scenes and trophies, his intended generic concentration with the academy, required an aptitude in still-life composition and an ability to render fur, feathers, and lustrous fabrics, which the picture more than demonstrates. In situations where the artist wished to have special control and/or constant access to a model, he or she could serve as the model, as Desportes did for his morceau de réception. The fact that the resulting picture included a portrait of the man who painted the picture, however, is secondary and third to the picture’s purpose.

While there academy judges may have noted the degree to which the image captured the likeness of the sitter, the degree to which a 17th-century viewer would have considered Desportes’ self-image to be a portrait at all is debatable. In a culture where the default is the portrait d’apparat, an effigy-like genre which represents the external, public, official self through surfaces, outward signs, and attributes, can a picture showing a person dressed in a manner unlike his normal attire, situated in a fictive location, engaged in an aristocratic pastime of which he had no experience—be thought of as ressemblant?

Despite these facts, the picture hangs today in the Louvre, its modern title, Autoportrait à la chasseur, implying the picture is au fond a schizophrenic act of self-representation as someone completely other.

MIGNARD’S PICTURE OF 1670, on the other hand, is an act of pure portraiture, by 17th-century standards. The picture is a visual statement of the sitter’s official self, including his rank, profession and comportment, which are announced almost allegorically by means of attributes, objects, materials and possessions. Mignard locates his profession in the worlds of learning, judgement and intellect by showing himself surrounded by classical sculpture, theoretical texts and a geometer’s tools, not by picturing himself standing in front of an easel with a palette. This is not an attempt to convince the viewer that painting is a liberal art and not a form of manual labor—his portrait clients, who were obliged to participate in the process, were all aware of the labor the job involved. In its emphases, the picture accurately portrays the official, period conception of the nature of painting, indicating the underlying qualities and capacities that inform and enable its practice. It is a representation of the idea of painting, which, as an erudite abstraction, requires articulation; it is not a representation of the material realization of that idea, which everyone can see for themselves. In this way, Mignard’s picture of himself is très ressemblant.

The fact that he (one assumes) accurately represented his own features is, as it was with Desportes, not worth remarking—it would be like praising a mechanic for starting the car. The picture depicts Mignard as the representative as a class of persons, whose collective behavior is representative of a way of conceptualizing the world. It is utterly impersonal, and obtains for that reason.

POP ART & THE COLD WAR II: Andy Warhol’s Mao

Andy Warhol consistently made use of imagery related to Communism, the Cold War, and Marxism throughout his career.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon made a historic state visit to China, where he met with Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. The summit established diplomatic ties between the two nations and inaugurated a series of cultural exchanges. In 1973, Warhol began an extensive series of paintings and prints based on the official portrait of Chairman Mao, visible everywhere in China at the time.

Responding to Mao’s vanity and global fame, Warhol used the format and style of his commissioned portraits of socialites, celebrities, and capitalist entrepreneurs to depict the ascetic Communist leader. The plain grey worker’s clothing and neutral background are transformed by beautifully-harmonized colors and extravagant, painterly brushwork, while the impassive face is given a makeover. Taken as a whole, the sumptuous and glamorous Mao paintings were the most unabashedly beautiful images Warhol had made to date.

Warhol also used Mao’s image as a wall paper design, his official reason being that Mao rhymed with cow, the image used in Warhol’s first foray into wallpaper design in 1965.

Warhol visited China in 1982, where to his surprise, no one knew who he was.

DISEGNO IV: Annibale Carracci

In 1582, Bolognese cousins and painters Agostino, Annibale and Ludovico Carracci founded an artist’s studio called the Accademia degli Incamminati (roughly, the Progressive Academy). As the seat of the oldest university in Europe, Bologna was an academic town, and the ambitious Carracci school, which included history, anatomy, natural science and classical art, taught by Agostino, with practical painting and drawing lessons provided by Annibale, fit right in. The liberal arts curriculum offered aspiring painters with an alternative to a purely artisanal apprenticeship in a established painter’s workshop.

The Carracci disapproval of the artificiality and stylization of Mannerism and support for the Council of Trent’s reform of religious images informed every aspect of the academy’s pedagogy. Those concerns were addressed by an emphasis on the direct study and initiation of nature, the human body and classical sculpture, all of which was achieved through drawing. Annibale, one of the greatest draughtsman of the long Italian Renaissance, encouraged students to work outside the studio, drawing landscapes and nature studies directly, and to draw the human body from live models.

Within a very short period of time, the highly-successful Incamminati attracted promising young artists from Bologna, including Guido Reni, Domenichino and Lanfranco. When Annibale and Agostino were called to Rome to fresco the palace, designed by Michelangelo, of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese in 1595, they brought their students with them to work as assistant, leaving Ludovico behind to supervise family business. The academy ceased operations at this point, its personnel and principles having been transferred from Bologna to Rome.

The spectacular reception of the Palazzo Farnese frescoes in 1600, for which Annibale composed hundreds of preparatory drawings, catapulted the Bolognese artists to highest levels of artistic renown and patronage. Their success was such that the straightforward, naturalistic, Counter-Reformation values of a quirky, provincial art school effectively became the universally-admired and imitated Roman Baroque.

AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL ART XII: The Cave Churches of Cappadocia

THE CAVE CHURCHES OF CAPPADOCIA

Cappadocia is situated on the Anatolian plain in what now eastern Turkey. The region is well-known for its bizarre topographical formations created by water erosion of the soft volcanic stone, called tufa. Like the Roman catacombs, the tufa is very easy to carve, thus giving the region its second claim to fame: troglodytes. Early Christians fleeing Roman persecution exploited the softness of the stone, at first digging out simple warrens of interconnected hideouts and after the establishment of Christianity, corridors, houses, markets and places of worship, and finally whole cities, some descending 8 stories beneath ground level.

The images here show two churches in Goreme, the largest city in Cappadocia. They both are designed according to the standard church plan of the middle Byzantine period: an equilateral cross inscribed in a square surmounted by a circular dome; one entered the church from the narthex, a transverse vaulted area preceding the nave. The vaults and domes were either decorated in mosaic or with wall paintings, the iconography of which was dictated by the liturgical calendar. The Cappadocian churches (and monasteries) follow this formula, with some local deviations.

What is unusual about these structures is not so much their design, but their method of construction: unlike a free-standing building, where pre-cut or pre-formed elements such as bricks, masonry, columns, and capitals are assembled, the Cappadocian churches are created, like sculpture, by a subtractive process of removing the amount of tufa equivalent to the desired volume of the church, or more accurately, the church space. Features like blind arcades, columns and capitals are not cut and fit into place — they are continuous with the vaults and domes, with no breaks in the living stone at any point. The columns are not decorative—the support not only the weight of the vaults and domes, but the entire mountain above, and one imagines that the number of load-bearing supports required was often discovered when too few columns were left in place, causing the cave to collapse in on itself, which meant finding a new location and starting all over again. Given this danger, the churches spaces in the Cappadocian caves range from intimate to small —the largest nave is only 25’ 22’ long.

Twenty-five years ago, Cappadocia was a remote site, visited only by adventurous archaeologists and architectural historians, driving Land Rovers and equipped with flashlights. Now, the region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in the wake of that designation, which was intended to preserve the cave cities, came developers who promptly carved luxury hotels with swimming pools, malls, restaurants, and parking structures into the tufa and on the surface, roadways, which brought cars and exhaust, which now threaten the region’s fragile eco-system. Like the caves at Lascaux and the Roman catacombs, the number of breathing, perspiring tourists in the cave churches caused the humidity to spike, which makes the tufa erode and the wall paintings to flake. Lascaux is now closed permanently to visitors, as are the frescoed areas of the catacombs, so if you want to see Goreme, you may wish to book your seats now.