28 February 2009

Lucretia: The 17th Century

In my last post we looked at some 16th century art featuring the story of Lucretia. Roman History Books and More came up with another example by Raphael, which is now in New York's Metropolitan Museum. I've also found another two paintings from the 16th century: Il Sadoma's 1518 Death of Lucretia, now in Budapest's Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, but not on their website, and Tintoretto's 1578-80 Tarquin and Lucretia, now in The Art Institute of Chicago.

Moving on to the 17th century proper, the picture below was painted by Rubens from 1609-12. The painting was looted from Germany by a Russian soldier during WWII, and has been exhibited in St. Petersburg's The Hermitage and Moscow's Pushkin Museum. The history of the painting and Germany's attempts to have it returned are covered by The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, and Passport Moscow.

Guido Reni's workshop seems to have churned out quite a few paintings showing Lucretia's suicide in the second quarter of the 17th century. The one below is now in Museu de Arte de São Paulo, but they seem to be having problems with their website. At any rate, I couldn't get the picture to display. Other examples are in Rome's Pinacoteca Capitolina (not on their website), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Barnard Castle's The Bowes Museum.

1650 seems to have been a bumper year for Lucretias. The two pictures below are in private collections. The upper one is by Cagnacci, and the lower one is by Simon Vouet (image courtesy of www.simon-vouet.org under creative commons licence). Carlos Parada's website Greek Mythology Link has a picture by du Fresnoy, which is in Kassel's Hessisches Landesmuseum, whose website I find totally baffling.

Giordano painted both a rape and a suicide of Lucretia. The rape was painted in 1663 and is shown below. The painting is in Naples's Museo di Capodimonte, but I cannot find it on their website. No date is given for the suicide, which is now in Stuttgart's Staatsgalerie.

Rembrandt painted two versions of Lucretia's suicide. The first (1664) is now in Washington DC's National Gallery of Art, while the second (1666), shown below, is in Minneapolis's Institute of Arts, which discusses the painting in detail here.

Sebastiano Ricci's 1685 painting, Lucretia, shown below, is in a hospital in Parma, though sources differ over which one.

Crespi's 1695 painting of the rape of Lucretia is now in Washington DC's National Gallery of Art. (all illustrations are in the public domain and are from wiki commons unless otherwise credited)

Encroaching a little bit into the 18th century, let's finish this installment with Handel's Cantata "Lucrezia", composed around 1708 when Handel was in Italy.

22 February 2009

Lucretia: The 16th Century

Chapter IV in Saylor's book deals with the end of Rome's regal period and the beginnings of the Republic. The part of this story that has most inspired artists is the story of the rape of Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius, the nephew of Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh and last king of Rome, and her subsequent suicide. Scenes from the story can be seen in almost strip cartoon fashion in the two pictures below. The upper picture was painted in 1500 by Botticelli, and is now in Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The lower picture was painted in 1528 by Breu the Elder and is now in Munich's Alte Pinakothek but not on their website.

This 1518 picture of Lucreitia's Suicide by Durer is also now in Munich's Alte Pinakothek, but not on their website.

Lorenzo Lotto's 1530-32 picture shown below is actually called a Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia. It is now in London's National Gallery.

Cranach the Elder seems to have been very fond of the subject of Lucretia. According to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, his workshop produced dozens of pictures on this theme. One can be seen below, with others in Vienna's Liechtenstein Museum (3rd picture down), Nizhny Novgorod's Art Museum (scroll down and click on middle thumbnail in the bottom row), and Helsinki's Finnish National Gallery.

Titian painted two pictures of Lucretia. The earlier one, painted in 1515, shows Lucretia with her husband trying to restrain her from committing suicide, and is now in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, while the later one (shown below), painted in 1571 near the end of Titian's life, shows the rape. The picture is in Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum, whose website has a detailed discussion of the painting.

Veronese painted Lucretia's suicide in 1580. The picture (shown below) is also in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum (scroll down and click on leftmost thumbnail in the bottom row).

Let's close this look at Lucretia in the 16th century with the 1592 publication of Shakespeare's poem, The Rape of Lucrece. (all illustrations are from wiki commons and are in the public domain)

14 February 2009

The Punic Wars

For some reason the Punic Wars seem to have been popping up rather a lot just recently. They naturally form the background to some of the action in Steven Saylor's Roma, which I am currently reading, though most of the military action in the wars takes place off stage. (public domain image of Hannibal as a child swearing eternal hatred of Rome, from the Comic History of Rome, via wiki commons)

I recently got round to listening to Dan Carlin's series of three podcasts on the Punic Wars (scroll down to find them). His forte is trying to evoke a sense of what it was like living through these events, rather than exactly what happened when.

I've also been listening to what is shaping up to be an
excellent series of lectures on Hannibal from Patrick Hunt of Stanford University. The first lecture on the Carthaginian background to Hannibal's career was wide-ranging and informative with some interesting ideas. The second lecture, which was on the 1st Punic War, was equally informative, though there were times I wished I had some maps in front of me.

Brendan McGinley and Mario Vargas are respectively writing and illustrating an online comic book version of the story of Hannibal. It's still a work in progress, and so far Hannibal has only just reached the Alps and is dealing with the tribes before he crosses the mountains. The generally humorous style reminds me a bit of Asterix. I do wish, however, that they could fit a whole page onto the screen. Even in full screen view one still has to scroll up and down to see the top or bottom inch or so, which is fine for one page but can get a bit tedious.

This week's topic in Melvyn Bragg's series "In Our Time" from BBC Radio 4 is The Destruction of Carthage and it will be available in downloadable format until 19th February, after which it will still be available in the programme's archives, but you will have to listen over an internet connection. One of the contributors to this programme was Mary Beard, who has blogged about the experience.

12 February 2009

The Rape of the Sabine Women

As I mentioned in my previous post, "rape" here means abduction or kidnapping rather than sexual assault. For those unfamiliar with the story, this song about the 'sobbing women' from the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" gives a good summary:

The above 1525 picture by Il Sodoma is now in Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, but does not appear to be on their website.

Rubens's 1635-1640 picture of the Rape of the Sabine Women is now in London's National Gallery. Contemporary with it are Poussin's two pictures on the subject shown below. The upper picture is now in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the lower one is in Paris's Louvre.

In the early 1670s Giordano painted a Rape of the Sabine Women now in Canberra's National Gallery of Australia. Ricci's 1700 picture on the same theme is now in Vienna's Liechtenstein Museum. The picture below was painted by Tiepolo in 1718/19 and is now in St. Petersburg's Hermitage.

David chose a later episode in the story for the 1790s picture below, showing the Intervention of the Sabine Women to stop the battle between their Sabine relatives and their new Roman husbands. The picture is now in Paris's Louvre. The painting was the inspiration for Eve Sussman's recent video musical, The Rape of the Sabine Women.

In the 20th century Picasso also chose to show a battle between Romans and Sabines over the women in his 1963 Rape of the Sabine Women now in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. (all pictures in the public domain. The Il Sodoma and Poussin pictures are from wiki commons, and the Tiepolo and David pictures are from Museum Syndicate)

10 February 2009

Romulus and Remus

I'm reading Steven Saylor's Roma in preparation for the Roman History Books Group's book chats on 19 February and 5 March. Chapter III is based on the story of Romulus and Remus, the foundation of Rome, and the Rape of the Sabine Women (this is what it's usually called, but to clear up any misapprehensions, "rape" here means kidnapping or abduction). Saylor is not of course the first person to be inspired by these stories. Let's have a look at some of the art they have inspired. (all images apart from the book cover are in the public domain and taken from wiki commons)

Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, who was seduced by the god Mars. The upper picture above from 1616/7 showing Mars and Rhea Silvia is by Rubens, and is now in Vienna's Liechtenstein Museum. The lower picture above showing Mars and the Vestal Virgin is by Blanchard and is slightly later (c. 1630). It is now in Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales. Rubens had already painted the next part of the story with a picture of Romulus and Remus as babies in the 1614 picture shown below, now in Rome's Pinacoteca Capitolina.

Cortone's 1643 picture, now in Paris's Louvre shows the next step in the story with the twins having been found by the shepherd Faustulus and taken home to his wife Acca Larentia. Sebastiano Ricci shows a domestic scene with Romulus and Remus as infants in the house of Faustulus and Acca Larentia in a 1708 picture now in St. Petersburg's The Hermitage. Gauffier, painting in the late 18th century, shows a similar scene in a picture now in Bordeaux's Musée des Beaux-Arts.

A series of tapestries showing the story of Romulus and Remus dating from the 1560s and now in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum is travelling to the USA in 2010. Unfortunately the tapestries do not seem to be on the museum's website, but details of the travelling exhibition can be seen here. The tapestries also show the Rape of the Sabine Women, a theme I'll be looking at in my next post.

06 February 2009

The Codex Amiatinus

In the life of Ceolfrith in his Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, Bede says of Ceolfrith:

For, among other arrangements which he found it necessary to make, during his long government of the monastery, he built several oratories increased the number of vessels of the church and altar and the vestments of every kind; and the library of both monasteries, which Abbot Benedict had so actively begun under his equally zealous care became doubled in extent For he added three Pandects of a new translation to that of the old translation which he had brought from Rome; one of them, returning to Rome in his old age, he took with him as a gift; the other two he left to the two monasteries.

One of these bibles Ceolfrith took to Rome still survives as the Codex Amiatinus, which ended up in a monastery (it is not known quite how) on Mount Amiata (hence the name). It stayed there for the best part of a thousand years until the monastery was closed in 1780, when the Codex Amiatinus was taken to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, where it remains today. This article gives more details about the history of the Codex, including the story of how it was discovered to be one of Ceolfrith's Bibles.

A replica of the Codex was given in to the city of Sunderland in 2004 to commemorate the city's adoption of Benedict Biscop, the founder of the monaster of Wearmouth and Jarrow, as its patron saint. A 2001 congress in Florence called "The City and the Book" included two papers on the Codex Amiatinus, one, with illustrations, from the Director of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, and the other from Lucia Castaldi, arguing, amongst others, for Bede's involvement in the production of the Codex, a view which Michelle of Heavenfield firmly rejects in this blog entry.

This page shows the handwriting in the Codex Amiatinus and another handwritten page is discussed here.

To put the Codex into a wider context, this page comes from a series on insular manuscripts, including the Book of Durrow, which I blogged on earlier. (public domain images from wiki commons)

04 February 2009

Actaeon Update 2

Titian's "Diana and Actaeon" is to stay in the UK after the National Galleries of Scotland and London's National Gallery raised enough money to buy the painting from the Duke of Sutherland.The Guardian, The Scotsman, and the BBC have coverage. (public domain image from wiki commons)

The Independent has a detailed discussion of the symbolism and artistic techniques used in the painting.

01 February 2009

My Follower

It seems I have acquired a follower. It rather makes me feel like I'm a Victorian maidservant liable to incur the wrath of her mistress at any moment, but never mind. My follower goes by the name of William Hone Jr. and is kind enough to describe Matters Arising as a wonder room. The description for his blog, symbolpond, reads "A journal in the spirit of William Hone about symbols, folklore, rituals, aesthetics, culture theory,and contemporary crap values and miseducation".

For those who, like me, have never heard of William Hone, he was an early 19th century pamphleteer and journalist whose satires against the government led to him being unsuccessfully prosecuted for blasphemous libel three times in 1817. The fact that the prosecutions were unsuccessful marked an important stage in the struggle for freedom of the press.

A biography of Hone, with a link to some of Hone's works.

The William Hone BioText has more on Hone and his works.