29 May 2009

Cupid and Psyche: The 17th Century

Moving on to the 17th century, the Royal Collection has a series of paintings by Luca Giordano illustrating the story of Cupid and Psyche, which were painted in the mid 1690s. London's National Gallery has a picture by Claude Lorrain of Psyche outside Cupid's palace, painted in 1664.

This picture from the late 1620s by Simon Vouet, showing Psyche spying on the sleeping Cupid, is in Lyon's Musée des Beaux-Arts, but does not appear on their website.

The 1634 picture below showing Cupid with Psyche, who has fallen asleep after opening Prosperina's box, is also in the Royal Collection. It was painted by Anthony Van Dyck.

Orazio Gentileschi's picture below of Cupid and Psyche, with them both awake, was painted in the late 1610s. It is now in St. Petersburg's State Hermitage.

27 May 2009

Cupid and Psyche: The 16th Century

The story of Cupid and Psyche from books 4-6 of Apuleius's The Golden Ass has been a favourite subject for artists down the years.

San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums have a set of 37 engravings by Bernardo Daddi illustrating the whole story. A plaque (showing the old woman telling the story) and two plates (showing the adoration of Psyche by the people and Psyche being carried to Cupid's palace by Zephyr) from 1560 painted by Pierre Courteys, which are very similar to the engravings, can be seen in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A 1593 statue by Adriaan de Vries now in Stockholm's Nationalmuseum shows Psyche with a jar -- presumably containing the beauty potion Venus sent her to borrow from Proserpina. Also by de Vries is the 1593 statue shown below, which is now in Paris's Louvre.

Andrea Schiavone (aka Andrea Medulich or Andrea Meldolla) painted the picture below of Cupid and Psyche's marriage in around 1550. It is now in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is reproduced by permission.

Another picture of Cupid and Psyche's marriage, this time by Bartholomeus Spranger, is in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Its date is uncertain, but probably before 1587. A third picture of the marriage, by Abraham Bloemaert, is in the Royal Collection and dates to 1593 to 1597. (All images are in the public domain and taken from wikicommons, unless stated otherwise.)

25 May 2009

Happy Bede's Day

25 May is the day the Anglican Church commemorates the Venerable Bede, patron saint of English historians. Here is the collect for the day:

God our maker,
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede
grace to drink in with joy
the word that leads us to know you and to love you:
in your goodness
grant that we also may come at length to you,
the source of all wisdom,
and stand before your face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Celebrating Bede's Day last year, Michelle of Heavenfield, posted an alternative collect and some of Bede's prayers in her blog, Selah.

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated one of his audiences to Bede. The Vatican has posted an official text of what he said.

The Orthodox Church celebrates Bede on 27 May. Donna Farley, who is a member of that communion, is also promoting Bede on his day this year on Haliwerfolc, one of her many blogs.

Youtube has a brief clip discussing Bede from Channel 4's Christianity: A History. You'll have to watch it on Youtube's site because embedding is disabled.(public domain picture from the Nuremberg Chronicle via wikicommons).

17 May 2009


Apuleius, the 2nd century AD author of The Golden Ass, the next book in the calendar for the Roman History Reading Group, came from Madaurus in what is now Algeria ( photos).

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After he married a wealthy widow, he was accused by her family of having persuaded her to marry him by using black magic and his "Apology" or speech in his own defence against the charges still exists. Nowadays he is most famous for his novel "The Metamorphoses", better known by the title St. Augustine uses for it, "The Golden Ass".

James O'Donnell has a site devoted to Apuleius's Apology. It is a very old site (1996!), so most of the external links are long broken, but the site itself is well worth exploring. Vincent Hunink is another scholar who has studied the Apology and others of Apuleius's works.

More specifically related to "The Golden Ass" is this page. Apuleius's novel was loosely based on a story also used by someone who may or may not have been Lucian of Samosata (French translation here).

There is a house in Ostia, which belonged to someone called Apuleius, who it has been argued was the same person as our author. Information about the house and the related buildings can be seen in the ostia-antica website, while the YouTube video below takes us on a guided tour.

16 May 2009

Cadmus and Hermione

Ovid now resumes the story of Cadmus, which was the first story in Book III. Cadmus and his wife Harmonia (aka Hermione) are turned into snakes. (public domain picture of Candice Marie Johnson right taken from wikicommons)

Faenza's Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche has a decorated dish painted around 1565 from the workshop of Virgiliotto Calamelli. It is not on their website but can be seen on the Iconos website. In the next century Lully wrote the first tragédie lyrique in 1673 and took as his subject Cadmus and Hermione. The prologue below comes from YouTube where other extracts can also be seen.

The story of Cadmus and Hermione forms part of Matthew Arnold's 1852 dramatic poem Empedocles on Etna. Evelyn de Morgan painted the picture below of Cadmus and Hermione in 1877. It is now in London's De Morgan Centre. (public domain picture from museumsyndicate)

15 May 2009

Public Libraries in Ancient Rome

Although Julius Caesar had planned to build a public library in Rome, he was assassinated before he could put his plan into operation. It fell to one of his adherents, Asinius Pollio, to build a public library in the Atrium Libertatis financed from the spoils of his 39 BC war against an Illyrian tribe, the Parthini. His library contained both Greek and Latin works, possibly in separate wings. Augustus, Octavia, and Tiberius also founded public libraries.

Unfortunately, we don't know precisely how the libraries worked: whether people were allowed to borrow books or only read them in the library, who was allowed to use the libraries and many other details. We do know that an east facing room was recommended to take advantage of the light, so presumably opening hours were in the morning rather than the late afternoon or evening.

Two general articles on libraries in the ancient world, one in French and one in English. An article on the location of the public libraries in Rome.

08 May 2009

Cuthbert and Aidan To Be Amalgamated

Donna Farley of Haliwerfolc draws our attention to a post by Michelle of Heavenfield on her other blog, Selah.

The USA's Episcopal Church is considering amalgamating its celebration of the two Lindisfarne saints, Cuthbert (currently on 20 March) and Aidan (currently on 31 August) with a joint celebration on 31 August.

07 May 2009

Patrick Hunt's Hannibal Lectures -- a review

I've now finished listening to Patrick Hunt's series of lectures on Hannibal I referred to in my post on the Punic Wars. I thought the first few lectures in the series, on the history and cultural background to Carthage and on the first Punic War were the best, full of interesting information with insights from many different fields of study. The lectures on Hannibal's great battles and strategy in Italy were competently done and interesting, with close textual attention to Polybius', Livy's, and Appian's accounts. (picture of Carthaginian double shekel from wikicommons)

As we all know, Hannibal's most famous exploit was crossing the Alps to attack Italy from the north. However, I did feel that the amount of time given over to the discussion of this pass vs that pass as Hannibal's route was excessive (though the account of the 1950s British expedition taking an elephant over the Alps was fun).

No doubt it's a personal quirk on the part of the speaker and shouldn't really matter in the larger scheme of things, but something I did find very grating was his curious pronunciation for horse-borne troops. There were times I felt I would scream if I heard one more mention of Hannibal's (or the Romans') Calvary.

05 May 2009

The Vespasian Psalter

The Vespasian Psalter dates back to the first quarter of the 8th century and is now in the British Library. It is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, surviving manuscript with historiated initials. It also contains an Anglo-Saxon gloss on the Latin text and again is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, surviving examples of translation of part of the Bible into English. The Medieval Writing site has more information about Psalters (click the links in the text to go to the very useful glossary of terms), while Fathom's Introduction to Medieval Manuscripts sets t the Vespasian Psalter in a wider context.

The manuscript came to the British Library from Sir Robert Cotton's library. Each bookcase contained the bust of a Roman emperor and this particular Psalter was in the case which had the bust of Vespasian, hence its name.

The above picture shows King David as the author of the Psalms (public domain image from wikicommons). The British Library's Introduction to Illuminated Manuscripts (scroll down) shows the same page in its context opposite a historiated initial for Psalm 26 (27 in the usual numbering for English Bibles) showing David and Jonathan.

The Vulgate text of the Psalm:

1. David Dominus lux mea et salutare meum quem timebo Dominus fortitudo vitae meae quem formidabo
2. cum adpropinquarent mihi maligni ut comederent carnem meam hostes mei et inimici mei ipsi inpigerunt et ceciderunt
3. si steterint adversus me castra non timebit cor meum si surrexerit contra me bellum in hoc ego confidam
4. unum petivi a Domino hoc requiram ut habitem in domo Domini omnibus diebus vitae meae ut videam pulchritudinem Domini et adtendam templum eius
5. abscondet enim me in umbra sua in die pessima abscondet me in secreto tabernaculi sui
6. in petra exaltabit me nunc quoque exaltabit caput meum super inimicos meos qui sunt in circuitu meo et immolabo in tabernaculo eius hostias iubili cantabo et psallam Domino
7. audi Domine vocem meam invocantis miserere mei et exaudi me
8. tibi dixit cor meum quaesivit vultus meus faciem tuam Domine et requiram
9. ne abscondas faciem tuam a me ne declines in furore tuo a servo tuo auxilium meum fuisti ne derelinquas me et ne dimittas me Deus salvator meus
10. pater enim meus et mater mea dereliquerunt me Dominus autem collegit me
11. ostende mihi Domine viam tuam et deduc me in semita recta propter insidiatores meos
12. ne tradas me Domine animae tribulantium me quoniam surrexerunt contra me testes falsi et apertum mendacium
13. ego autem credo quod videam bona Domini in terra viventium
14. expecta Dominum confortare et roboretur cor tuum et sustine Dominum

02 May 2009

Juno in the Underworld 2

In my previous post I started looking at Juno's trip to the Underworld. In addition to the male villains we looked at last time, she also saw the Danaides.

Salieri's opera Les Danaïdes was first staged in 1784. The YouTube extract below has the Danaides's entry after murdering their husbands.

Liverpool's Walker Gallery has Rodin's Danaid, with extensive commentary and a downloadable gallery talk on the piece. Perhaps the most famous picture of the Danaides is the 1903 painting by Waterhouse shown below (now in a private collection). (public domain image from wiki commons)

Sargent's 1922-1925 picture of the Danaides is in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. (public domain image from museum syndicate)

Juno's purpose in going down to the Underworld was to recruit Tisiphone, one of the Furies, to drive Athamas, Ino's husband, into a state of madness in which he would cause the death of his family. Muziamo's 1548 picture of Athamas is in Tivoli's Villa d'Este.

Two reviews of Telemann's 1765 dramatic cantata, Ino, are reviewed here.

The 1801 picture of Athamas below is by Migliarini and is now in Rome's Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, but is not on their website. (public domain image from wikicommons)

01 May 2009

Juno in the Underworld 1

In Ovid's next story, Juno gets angry with Ino, Semele's sister, and decides to punish her. This involves a trip down to the underworld, where she comes across some people being punished for their crimes on Earth. In this post we'll be looking at the punishments suffered by four of these people:Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, and Ixion. (all of the images below are in the public domain and taken from wikicommons)

Both Titian and de Ribera painted sets of four paintings, one for each of the four. The two paintings by Titian above show Tityus (top) and Sisyphus (bottom). Dating from 1548-1549, they are now in Madrid's Prado ( here and here). The other two paintings in the set, Tantalus and Ixion, were unfortunately lost in a fire in 1734. Two of de Ribera's 1632 paintings are also in the Prado: Tityus and Ixion (below).

Michelangelo's 1532 drawing of Tityus is in the Royal Collection, and was used by Bernardi as the design for the intaglio shown below, which was cut around 1530 and is now in London's British Museum.

A drawing of Tantalus by Hans Holbein the Younger dating from between 1535 and 1540 can be seen in Washington's National Gallery of Art. Assereto's picture of Tantalus is from the first half of the 17th century and is now in Graz's Landesmuseum Joanneum (scroll down). Eric Henry has an animated version of Tantalus's torments called Sometimes I Feel Like This on his Moving Pictures site.

The picture of Sisyphus below was painted in 1920 by Franz von Stuck and is now in a private collection. The contemporary artist Michael Egbert took the theme of Sisyphus Sleeping for a 1993 painting.

To finish off this post with, here is Jankovics Marcell's short animated film called Sisyphus, which was nominated for a 1976 Oscar.