10 06 2016

Once more with the documentary watching … oh I know, but cold weather does induce such indulgences.

This thing of beauty caught my eye.

screen shot from documentary

screen shot from documentary

It’s thought to be the crown of the wife of Richard II, and the only known English crown surviving from the medieval period. Now it’s called the ‘Crown of Princess Blanche‘.

screen shot from documentary

screen shot from documentary

So delicate and gorgeous.

Yes … I’d like one … thank you.


How did you get there?

27 03 2016

Today I was watching an art documentary … you know, as I like to do.

During said passive education I was presented with a painting, a collaboration no less, between Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens : specifically, ‘Hearing‘ (1617-18) in their ‘The Five Senses‘ series.

Hearing ; from Prado Museum in Madrid ; click on image for original source

Hearing ; from Prado Museum in Madrid ; click on image for original source

Look a bit closer at this little birdie …

cropped from above image

cropped from above image

Unless I’m very much mistaken, and I absorbed nothing from my Grandma’s copy of ‘Complete Book of Australian Birds‘, that is a sulfur-crested cockatoo. This raucous little feathered fellow is native to Australia and New Guinea.

So … this was painted in 1617-18.

Mmm … time for me to check my history.

The Dutch apparently were visiting Australia’s coast line (north-west) from 1606 – though most of these visits seem to have been accidents of incorrect navigation and quite a proportion perished.

It seems more likely that perhaps the bird was brought back instead from New Guinea – considering the Portuguese and Spanish were gadding about there from the mid 1500s.

Or perhaps they were traded by Indonesians in touch with New Guinea, who in turn were trading with the Dutch and others.

Oh. I was hoping for a strange story.
This isn’t strange but actually quite reasonable.
Best you go about your day.

Silver tankard

4 11 2015

Once again I’ve been indulging in documentaries. Watching one I’ve watched, and written about, before … I was stunned by the silver tankard in this painting.

Look at that handle! It could be 1920s Art Deco.

screen shot from documentary

screen shot from documentary

(cropped) screen shot form documentary

(cropped) screen shot from documentary

And how on earth is that silver plate with the lemon even staying there without toppling over … to my eye the centre of gravity of the lemon is barely in line with the edge of the table. Ah you amazing Dutch still life painters!

Willem Kalf, Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and a Pomegranate, mid 1640s.

Gold of The Hochdorf Prince

11 10 2015

Documentaries … they’re just the best, right?

Recently I was indulging in my wont to watch documentaries on art and history, particularly a new BBC show ‘The Celts: Iron, Blood and Sacrifice … with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver‘, and my eyes have been opened to the amazing Hochdorf Prince (from the Iron Age, about 550BCE).

Look at his shoes!

Not strictly shoes as we know it, but decoration on (what are assumed to have been) leather shoes. Too gorgeous.

screen shot of documentary

screen shot of documentary

screen shot of documentary

screen shot of documentary

Naturally I searched the internets for more information …

  • he’s famous for the many other artefacts (including a rather massive cauldron) he was buried with, many of which are shown in reproduction at a museum near where he was uncovered
  • of course, Wiki ; though it’s a bit light-on to be frank
  • most fabulously, another documentary covering similar territory – but this one is from the mid-80s and has dated poorly; the moustaches in the reenactments had me in giggle fits
from Wiki; click on image for original source

from Wiki; click on image for original source (image credit: Rosemania, see Wiki for more details)

There just isn’t enough gold shoe-decorations nowadays.
Or massive cauldrons.

Still life paintings

5 05 2015

I was watching a documentary the other day about still life paintings (‘Apples Pears and Paint. How to Make a Still Life Painting‘, BBC).

It was pretty good.
Though one thing annoyed me, perhaps unreasonably …

Starting with the interesting observation: that a great majority of still life paintings are lit from the left. I’ve been looking at art since I can remember and admit to not having made this observation.

Another few interesting comments: that the painting of everyday objects was considered the most lowly manner of art for centuries, and that the painting now considered to be the first ‘still life’ is Caravaggio’s ‘Basket of Fruit‘ (1599).

Caravaggio 'Canestra di frutta' (click on image for original source)

Caravaggio ‘Canestra di frutta’ (click on image for original source)

Then onto the theory / justification for the left lighting: that it was due to the increasing literacy (coinciding with the time of the Renaissance) and that in western culture information is read from left to right; and therefore we ‘read’ all information from left to right, even visual information. Ergo the left-originating light in still life.

I think the simpler reason still life paintings are lit from the left is that many artists are right-handed, and that if the light were to come from the right then the paper/canvas wouldn’t be well lit and the working hand would create a shadow.

Actually, I recognise that itself contains an assumption … do you know of any evidence of left versus right hand tendencies in artists?


Apparently Leonard da Vinci drew and painted left-handed – which may actually discredit my idea above, as some of his portraits are lit from the left, with others from the right … but he’s a genius, so he could well have done whatever he liked.

Also, this article discusses claims of left-handed artists, dismissing many of them.

More research to come … I’m wondering if this hasn’t already been the subject of someone’s thesis … surely …


Stonehenge gold

2 04 2015

Regular readers will know of my love of archaeology and especially stone circles (like my Avebury pieces).

Today I watched a documentary (‘Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath‘) about a new survey of the landscape around Stonehenge and was floored by a gold lozenge found in the area. Honest jaw-dropping moment.

Below are screenshots from the documentary …. it’s from a burial in what is named the ‘Bush Barrow’, is thought to be made in ~1900BC, and likely to have been worn on the chest pinned to cloth or as a pendant (it’s approx 15-18cm).

screen shot from documentary, part 2

screen shot from documentary, part 2

The accuracy of the incised decoration is astonishing.

screen shot from documentary, part 2

screen shot from documentary, part 2

You know … I saw this and immediately thought of David Neale’s work … I think because of the demonstration of a genuine and innate connection with the material … or something!

[ I did a little more online research and found an entry in the Wiltshire Museum for the whole Bush Barrow burial – fascinating objects, especially the miniscule gold studs; and there’s more detail about the lozenge. And of course, Wiki.
And this is the project page on the Birmingham University. ]

That’s not a cameo…

12 03 2014

With Monday being a public holiday in Melbourne, and feeling like relaxing, I may quite possibly have binged on documentaries.

One was about the jewels of the Scandinavian royal families. There was much sparkle. Blinding. And so the first cameo I saw during my documentary festival was the below pearl and cameo diadem, apparently first created for Bonaparte’s wife Josephine and worn by Swedish royal brides for the last century. This post has a good historic provenance listing.

It seemed restrained and muted compared to the other gem-heavy numbers featured.

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

But in a parody of Crocodile Dundee … that’s not a cameo ….

The second cameo I discovered was while watching part 2 of the series ‘Treasures of Ancient Rome‘. Apparently cameo carving was exceptionally highly prized in Ancient Rome, even more so than sculpture. This I didn’t know. Nor did I know the scale of some of the cameos …

click on image for original source

click on image for original source

I present the ‘Great Cameo of France‘ … it’s bigger than an A4 sheet of paper.
Woah. Now that’s a cameo.

That’s all I have to say about cameos for now.