Thursday, October 31, 2019

Revisitando "Maléfica"

Tenía muchas ideas de lo que quería para hoy, entre ella, traducir al inglés y compartir con ustedes una texto, “Maléfica” (publicado hace 2 años en Bocadillos de arte), y revistarlo en este blog. Como suele suceder, la vida pasa y uno tiene que hacer lo que tiene que hacer, antes de lo que quiere hacer. Igual quisiera marcar el día así es que les comparto el enlace al original, en castellano, lo cual les permitirá, también visitar las extraordinarias publicaciones de mis compañeras blogueras: Cristina Dreifuss, Liliana Checa y Liz Cárdenas. 

Encuentran la publicación aquíMaléfica

En esta fecha, reitero este pensamiento que compartí antes en FB y refleja mi espíritu: “Yo soy la bruja de mi propio cuento, y no dejaré que príncipes, reyes o lobos vengan a jodérmelo. La hoguera la enciendo yo.” (Autora desconocida, de la página de FB de Mocha García Naranjo, ed. mcc)

Happy Hallows Eve!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

From Loukaniko to Greek Gods

It’s curious how certain things work as memory triggers. A few days ago, my son-in-law, Michael, prepared a simple but, nonetheless, delicious Greek meal for us: chicken souvlaki, barbecued veggies and the tasty smoked orange loukaniko, a typical pork sausage I love. As it is usual when we get together, we talked about many things and, at one point in the evening, the conversation turned to *throwbacks*.

After the family dinner, on the way back home, I thought back to the delights prepared by Michael and the many ideas we touched on; one thing led to another and I ended up recalling one of many visits to the Royal Ontario Museum years ago, when I was a student at the University of Toronto. That particular visit had a specific purpose, I needed to take photographs of some Greek vases in order to complete an assignment for Professor Catherine Rubincan, my Ancient Art prof. Naturally, the memories also brought back the paper I wrote for the assignment.

The text below is a throwback to a very gratifying exercise on the development of Greek art.

In painting, as in any other artistic manifestation, it is difficult to mark the beginning as well as the end of a current or movement. However, ancient Greek art steadily provides guidelines about the evolution of its artistic substance. (Schuchhardt, 1972, p.14) One of the most fascinating stages in this development occurs in the Late Geometric Period when the function of vase painting shifts from merely ornamental to narrative, marking a very important transition in Greek art.

To illustrate this change, I have selected two vessels.[i] 

The first one, attributed to the Birdseed painter, is a pitcher, or olpe, from Attica, dated 730 – 720 B.C.[ii]

The second one is an amphora, also produced in Attica, dated c. 700 B.C.[iii]

Prior to analysis of the aforementioned transition, a few facts about the vases:

Clearly, medium and support of these two pieces are the same: paint on clay.

The most evident difference is in their shape. This is indicative of the different functions of the vessels. Whereas the olpe was used to serve water or wine, the most ornate amphorae served as a grave markers, ash containers and prizes for deserving athletes in the Panathenaic games.[iv]

Both examples call to mind the symbiotic relationship between potter and painter: the potter created the most harmoniously shaped vase, and the artist worked hard to emphasize the beauty of the pot’s forms.  The olpe and amphora presented here show the potters’ sensitivity to form in the suave contours of the vases' swelling bodies and bell-shaped necks. In the same way, their decoration exhibits the abilities of two gifted artists capable of enhancing the beauty of the ceramics with the chosen patterns and images, and their articulation.

The techniques used for the making and painting of the pieces were most probably quite similar.[v] Both present a smooth surface in the natural colour of clay with the ornaments painted in a contrasting colour, most often black. As Metzer explains, the substance used for the decorations of Attic vases resulted from a clay composition that owed its colours to a process of chemical oxidation and reduction. (La Céramique Grecque, 1973, pp. 10-12) The brown colour of the decoration on the pitcher is, in all probability, due to a variation in the chemical process of its paint. The shine, common to the most refined Attic pottery of the time, represents the beginning of vitrification, which occurred when an alkali, like wood ash, was used. (Metzger, 1973, pp. 10-12)

In terms of the painting technique, whereas the earlier vase displays its figures strictly in silhouette form, the later one presents an innovation introduced in the Late Geometric Period: the incorporation of reserved areas. These were blank spaces reserved for the eyes of the human as well as the animal figures.

In what concerns the articulation and motifs displayed on the two ceramics, they are closely related and interdependent, as it was the case in all vase painting of the period. However, in comparison, the amphora exhibits a remarkable development in these two elements. The mere lapse of twenty years, or so, was a determining factor for substantial differences with respect to the function of the images depicted.

First, let’s look at the olpe.

Its surface flaunts the horror vacui characteristic of the Geometric Period and a design articulation typical of the Late Geometric Period: patterns of zigzag, meander, lozenges, checker board, diamonds, little hooks and birdseeds are arranged in thin horizontal bands at the edges of the neck and shoulder and at the bottom of the vase. These thinner bands are used as frames for the emphatic bands located on the neck, shoulder and body of the vase. A large meander and a smaller diamond frieze, both common at the time, fill the two higher bands respectively. However, the main band, the one on the body of the vessel, presents an innovation which may be considered the beginning of an aesthetic revolution: this, the thickest of all bands, is broken into rectangular decorated panels running all around the vase and carefully separated by two vertical lines flanking a thicker, also vertical, band formed by a sequence of oblique lines. This articulation was a novelty. Moreover, some panels repeat an individual motif, a horse accompanied by sparse ornament fillers. The other panels, decorated with rows of zigzag pattern are, evidently, subordinate to the horse motif because they are arranged in such a way that they flank the animal figure all around the vase,.

Even if the inclusion of an animal figure is of note, we mustn't overstate its importance for this figure is similar to the kind represented in animal friezes; in this case, it has been isolated and placed, as an *object*, to fill in a panel. Be that as it may, the end result is similar to that of any black figure Geometric pot: very repetitive to the point of becoming monotonous. What is meaningful here is the break from a design based on horizontal bands decorated with geometric and animal friezes. Also significant is the insertion of a single animal motif with so few filler forms around it.

Now, let's look at the decoration of the amphora in order to ascertain the course taken by Greek artists in view of these changes.

The articulation of the decoration on the amphora is very similar to that on the pitcher. The amphora also displays thin horizontal bands confined to the pot's mouth, neck, shoulder and bottom. Likewise, these thin bands are filled with small and repetitive patterns of geometric designs and are used to frame the emphatic thicker bands placed in analogous areas: the neck, shoulder and at the higher part of the body, where the vase swells the most. In remarkable contrast, however, the amphora’s emphatic bands are not broken into panels, they display figure scenes. Although, the scenes are accompanied by some filler figures, the overall appearance of the amphora is not loaded; in fact, the effect is that of an aery composition that invites the observer to focus on the most relevant areas, those with the narrative scenes: the soldiers driving on chariots, the horses grazing, and, most remarkably, the lion attacking the doe.

Detail of the olpe above.

To resume, despite the similarities between the vessels, the changes presented in the articulation and motifs on the amphora represent a drastic transformation in the essence of vase painting in particular and that of Greek art in general. In the first place, the geometric patterns decorating both vases have a different character: an essential one on the pitcher, opposed to a subordinate one on the amphora. Furthermore, the central images on the amphora mark a true revolution in Greek art. The fact that the figures represented in these central zones take on an active role - albeit the fact they recount uncomplicated events - marks the begining of what will be, later on, the essence of Classical art; that which narrates the stories of men, heroes, fabulous creatures and gods.

Battle between Centaurs and Lapiths, (c. 432 B.C.) Originally on a metope, south side of the Parthenon, Athens, today in the British Museum.[vi} 

The Birth of Athena, part of the remains of the East Pediment of The Parthenon, Athens. On the image, the godesses Hestia, Dione and Venus witnessing the birth of Athena. Today in the British Museum[vii]

[i] I have changed the examples used in the original paper because of the ROM’s photo sharing limits.
[ii] Image taken from: "Birdseed Painter Pitcher" (66.10). Bloomington: Indiana University Art Museum, 2014. Consulted : April 25, 2015.
[iii] Image taken from: Beazley, John Davidson. Development of the Attic Black-Figure, Revised Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Consulted : April 25, 2015.
[iv] In their more simple forms, they were used for storage and transport of commercial goods. Evidently, the example above belongs to the first group. and is of the most sophisticated variety.
[v] Despite the evident difference between the images, one in colour and the other in black-and-white, the recurrence of characteristics presented in ceramics produced in the region at the time allow the making assumptions in this regard.
[vi] "Sculptures du Parthénon (British Museum) (8706164801)" by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France. Cette image a été téléchargée depuis Flickr par Medium69. - Sculptures du Parthénon (British Museum). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -  Consulted: April 25, 2015.
[vii] "British Museum Greek & Rome 11". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Consulted: April 25, 2015.

Works Cited

Metzger, Henri. (1973). La Céramique Grecque. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. 

Schuchhardt, Walter-Herwig. (1972) Greek Art. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On the History of the Middle Ages

Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace in Split, early 4th century AD (cropped) [1]

After a long pause, I retake my blog publications with a great deal of enthusiasm.

In this post I wish to revisit the subject of students' many gaps in their preparation for Art History courses. This does not mean I wish to debate the issue, nothing further from my mind. Lack of background preparation, especially in the Liberal Arts area, is a fact but debating the issue and its possible solution(s) are questions that escape my competence. What I propose to do is, simply, to share a find that may help fill up a specific void.

While perusing the material available in iTunes U, I found:  

This series is part of the Open Yale Courses offered online, which provide a selection of introductory material in different fields of study (Open Yale Courses).

As it is stated in its presentation, the course reviews 

Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of Western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the "Dark Ages," Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.                  (In, consulted 4/9/2015)

The material presented is important for those interested in acquiring some knowledge of the period. As well, it is useful for those interested in or studying the art and architecture of the epoch and who are inspired to achieve a better understanding of the subject. 

I find Professor Freedman's lectures engaging. His teaching style is somewhat traditional, or should I say *formal*. Whereas I am inclined toward a more interactive method; he, definitely, lectures. However, this does not detract in any way from the interesting and solid content of his presentations.

The course is also available through the iTunes Store and You Tube.

To those who venture into this very interesting Early Middle Ages journey: enjoy!

[1] In's_Palace_in_Split_(cropped).jpg, consulted 4/9/2015. According to Wikimedia Commons: "This scan or this PDF-file was created within the Austrian Wikipedia-project Denkmalpflege Österreich (German only) supported by Wikimedia Germany and Wikimedia Austria as part of the Wikipedia community-project to collect public domain documents from the library of the Heritage Monuments Board of Austria.
This document describes or depicts an object which is located in Croatia today. Texts are written in German language."
Furthermore, "This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less., and, This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Philosophy and Art

Raphael SanzioSchool of Athens (1509), in the Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican. 
Fresco (5.0 m x 7.7 m.) [1].

When teaching a survey course in the history of art and architecture, the blank stares at the mere mention of Philosophy are unavoidable. In my experience as a professor, most students are not sufficiently prepared in this very important area; especially those who enter faculty right away after high school.

I always tell my students that, among other things, art is a conversation; a conversation between the artist/architect and his public, and, perhaps more significantly, a conversation between artists themselves in which the cultural context plays an important role. Very difficult to make sense of any such dialogue if we do not have an idea of the milieu that nurtures the artist/architect and his work.

The need for a philosophical background applies to everyone, even to those for whom art and architecture is an interest outside the academic arena. As Peter Hacker puts it:

The history of philosophy is a capital part of the history of ideas. To study the history of philosophy is to study an aspect of the intellectual life of past societies, and of our own society in the past. ... the study of the history of philosophy is essential. For we cannot know where we are, unless we understand how we got here.  (“Why study Philosophy”, in iai news. Consulted: October 29, 2014.)
I am not suggesting everyone studies advanced courses in Philosophy; what I propose is that the subject should be part of everyone’s comprehensive education, especially that of people interested in the Humanities.

For those interested, the series of lectures by Professor Charles Anderson – “Political, Economic and Social Thought” (University of Wisconsin-Madison) – will get you off to a good start. You can download the series from iTunes”

Professor Anderson is a solid an engaging lecturer with a sense humor. 

[1] Source:
According to the source: "This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:  This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less." And, "This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights." Consulted: November 4, 2014.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The constructive system of *Il Duomo*

Giovanni Stradano, Processione in Piazza della Duomo (c. 1700), etching. [1]

Undoubtedly, the cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Florence) is a sublime example of architecture. 

Many attributes have been ascribed to the realization of this amazing structure and all of them are accurate. With the construction of il Duomo (1420  1436), Filippo Brunelleschi revolutionized architecture, renewed the identity of Florence and the Florentines, and added stimulus to the paradigm shifting towards modernity. Brunelleschi successfully completed a task using mind-boggling technology, erected a monument that, physically, dominated the city and its surrounding ratifying, in turn, the leadership of Florence and its citizens as a driving force in the development of knowledge and know-how, and illustrated the Humanist view that architecture represents, in general, the dignity of human kind, and, in particular, the ethos of a society. Buildings were (and, for that matter, are) perceived as “historical documents useful for evaluating the past and for transmitting the desired image of the present to the future.” 
(President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2013:  Consulted on October 15, 2014.)

 Masaccio, Portrait of Filippo Brunelleschi in the Brancacci Chapel  ( 1423 – 1428),   Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence. [2]

One of the most fascinating  and for many years mysterious  aspects of Brunelleschi’s duomo is the method(s) used for building his monumental cupola which has 42m of diameter, stands 87m tall, and weighs approximately 40 tons.                                                                                                   (Jean Catex (1990) trad. Juan A. Calatrava. Renacimiento Baroco y Clasicismo, historia de la arquitectura, 1420 – 1720. Madrid: ediciones Akal)

Filippo Brunelleschi, Cupola od Santa Maria del Fiore (1420   1436). Vew from Giotto's Campanile. [3]

As it is well known, the cupola was built without any buttresses or scaffolding, and, for many years, the question was: How did Brunelleschi do it?!
Massimo Ricci (Florence, 1946), architect, alumnus and professor of the Facoltà di Architettura dell’Università degli Studi di Firenze, has spent many years trying to solve the mystery.                     (Massimo Ricci – Curriculum, in Consulted on October 15, 2014)
The results of his arduous endeavor have been presented in a documentary produced by the National Geographic Society and Nova (WGBH Boston). The film explains, in detail, the complex means by which Ricci achieved his objective: that of the discovery of Filippo Brunelleschi’s intricate constructive system for Santa Maria del Fiore"s cupola. Certainly, Ricci fulfills his purpose and reveals the extraordinary achievement of the architect’s sophisticated mind.  

You can see the documentary Secrets of the Duomo at Be advised that the documentary will be available on this site until November 8, 2014 only.
[1] Source: Wikipedia : (Consulted on October 15, 2014) . Acording to the source: "This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights."
[2] Source: Elena Capretti, Brunelleschi, Giunti Editore, Firenze 2003 in Wikipedia:,_cappella_brancacci,_san_pietro_in_cattedra._ritratto_di_filippo_brunelleschi.jpg (Consulted on October 15, 2014). Again, according to Wikipedia: “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.”
[3] Photo by Saiko. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

About Francesco del Cossa (c.1435 - 1477)

Francesco del Cossa, Aprile (c1470) Fresco, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara, Italia. [1]

Summer is over and, after a seasonal break, it is time to return to my activities as a blogger, which I have missed tremendously.  I noticed people have been checking to see if there was something new; I thank you for your interest and patience and I hope you continue to visit *mcc about art, art history, etcetera*.

Today I would like to re-direct you to a fascinating Podcast: CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel, host of “Writers & Company, interviews Scottish writer Ali Smith to talk about Smith’s book How to Be Both. The latter has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Laura Miller reviews the book and here part of her description:
Depending on which version you pick up, this conversation comes either late in the book, or somewhere in the middle. The novel consists of two parts, both numbered One; half the copies will be printed with George's portion of the narrative first. I read a copy from the other half; mine begins with a disembodied spirit being wrenched up through the earth to find itself, invisible and inaudible, in a museum gallery, staring at the back of a boy looking at a painting. The painting is the work of the spirit itself, made back when it was Francesco del Cossa, an artist in 15th-century Ferrara. The "boy", as this reader found out about 150 pages later, is a girl named George living in present-day Cambridge.     
...                                                                                                                              (in The Guardian, Saturday 13 September 2014: [Consulted: October 5, 2014])
Naturally, what I found most captivating is Smith’s interest in frescoes, but I don’t want to spoil the podcast for you, so I will leave there.

Francesco del Cossa (c. 1435 – c. 1477) was born in Bologna but is considered an important representative of the 15th century Ferrarese School.

His frescoes in the Palazzo Schifanoia (1458 – 1478) are part of his most notable œuvre. The Duke of Ferrara commissioned del Cossa, Cosimo Tura and Ercole de’ Roberti  the decoration of this place meant to “to chase away boredom”.   Francesco del Cossa was leading master in the trio and, with his work, he proved he deserved the distinction. 

Francesco del Cossa, Aprile (detail) [1]

Returning to the Podcast, during her talk with Eleonor Wachtel, Ali Smith comes across as a bright, spontaneous and entertaining speaker. Wachtel is in top form as an interviewer, as usual.

You can download the Podcast at:

[1] This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domainwork of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years. Source: (Consulted: October 5, 2014.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Berthi, con amor...

Hay personas que a su muerte merecen el reconocimiento público, Bertha  fue una de ellas. Indudablemente, quien la conoció y tuvo algún tipo de relación profesional y de amistad con ella, vio necesario rendirle homenaje  cuando partió prematuramente, hace ya 7 años. Hubo un sinfín de gente en su sepelio, discursos, despedidas, homenajes, publicaciones; incluso el CEPES – Institución de la que fuera directora ­ – inauguró la sala de reuniones Bertha Consiglieri Nieri en su honor.[1]

El trabajo, la militancia, las ideas y la calidad humana de “la flaca, como la llamaban sus colegas y amigos, se resume en la publicación XXII Canto a la vida:

Bertha Consiglieri Nieri
Mujer combativa, ejemplo de integridad y coherencia tanto en su vida personal como en su desempeño político y profesional, ligado siempre a la defensa del campesinado de nuestro país.

Directora de la Revista Agraria, del Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales, aportó al análisis y el debate sobre los temas del agro, destacando el derecho de mujeres y hombres del campo a una vida digna.

Acompañó también a los movimientos de mujeres en incontables jornadas de lucha, particularmente en el proceso de expulsión del dictador Kenya Fujimori, responsable de la esterilización masiva de mujeres indígenas y de otros crímenes de lesa humanidad.

“La flaca” partió el 18 de junio del 2007, pero su recuerdo y ejemplo de lucha nos acompañan para siempre.

Todo esto tiene mucho valor y es digno de orgullo para nosotros, pero no da cuenta de Berthi, la mujer de familia: hija, hermana, mamá, firme protectora, generosa quizás hasta el defecto, amiga solidaria, enamorada, alegre, jaranera, amante de las flores. Hoy, 21 de mayo, es cumpleaños de mi hermana – la mayor, la matriarca – y yo quisiera recordar estos aspectos maravillosos que, mientras estuvo entre nosotros, nos hicieron sentir  protegidos aunque, por alguna razón, estuviésemos ‘en capilla’, y también fueron motivo de momentos de gozo y diversión. Lindos recuerdos.

Berthi nos hace falta.

Marcel Proust escribe a Georges de Lauris por la muerte de su madre:

… Permanezca inerte, espere a que la incompresible fuerza… que lo ha quebrado se mitigue un poco; digo un poco porque, de aquí en adelante, le quedará algo quebrado por siempre. Dígase usted eso también, porque es dulce saber que uno nunca amará menos, que no se consolará jamás, que uno recordará cada día más y más.[3]

He perdido a mi madre y a una hermana. Ambas pérdidas me causaron un dolor profundo, aunque el dolor no se puede medir y creo que así es mejor. Sin embargo, siento que el pensamiento de Proust aplica mejor a la experiencia de la muerte de mi hermana; con su partida algo se quebró, hemos quedado incompletos.

Falta Berthi y esa falta no se aliviará jamás pero hoy duele un poco más. 

Los cuatro primeros...

Los Consiglier Nieri, todos.

Natalia, el regalo que la vida le hizo a Berthi y que ella,
para nuestra felicidad, nos deja.

Hoy he plantado un cedro esmeralda en memoria de mi hermana.

[1] Fuente: CEPES Consulta, 21 de mayo, 2014.
[2] Fuente: XXII Canto a la vida Consulta, 21 de mayo, 2014.

[3] Carta publicada en Les cendres et le plumeau Consulta, 21 de mayo, 2014.
El texto original de la carta dice: "... Soyez inerte, attendez que la force incompréhensible (...) qui vous a brisé, vous relève un peu, je dis un peu car vous garderez toujours quelque chose de brisé. Dites-vous cela aussi car c'est une douceur de savoir qu'on n'aimera jamais moins, qu'on ne se consolera jamais, qu'on se souviendra de plus en plus." Trad. MCC