History walking tours, followed by music, poetry and wine.

Image2 Drawing Rooms                Photo credit Declan Hackett

Could there be anything nicer to do on a Sunday afternoon than a History walking tour, followed by wonderful concert of ultra- high quality music, performance, poetry,  with a sociable glass of wine after?   Well, what about if the concerts took place in some of the most beautiful historic interiors in Dublin?    Dublin Decoded is delighted to collaborate with the Drawing Rooms, concerts and recitals in Dublin’s historic spaces.  At least twice in the next couple of months we’ll have the walks below, followed by musical programmes, curated by architecture and music historian Aine Nic an Riogh of the Drawing Rooms.

Sunday afternoon March 22nd:   the Drawing Rooms presents the Elva MacGowan Ensemble, at 25 Mountjoy Sq.  From 16:30 to 18:00 (GMT)  To book tickets for concerts only * see this link.     Dublin Decoded are proud to run a special walk to link with this concert, North Georgian Splendour. Meet at the Parnell Monument top of O’Connell Street, staring at 2pm, walk concluding by 4pm, at least 30 minutes before the concert, to allow a rest. (We will finish just a short few minutes walk from the concert venue in Mountjoy Square).  The walk will look at the adjoining area, including an architectural appreciation of the Rotunda, Ambassador and Gate Theatres, Parnell Square, on to the Black Church and adjoining area, Denmark Street, Belvedere College and a visit and exploration of an historic 18th century interior, on either North Great Georges St, or on Mountjoy Square itself.  The fee for a walk-only ticket is our normal €20, including booking fee) but Dublin Decoded is offering a 25% reduction for people who book a walk plus concert joint ticket, at the combined price of €30.  For combined tickets please see this link, and then press the 3rd option “walk + concert”.

Then, on Sunday April 19th:  Dublin in the First World War, a history walk.

QUIZ 10  Dublin DEcoded Picture Quiz 10

Dublin Decoded collaboration with the Drawing Rooms takes place Sunday April 19th.     Meet 2pm at Campanile, middle of Front Square, Trinity College, for a special walk discussing Dublin in the First World War, especially this central-south area from Trinity college to Stephen’s Green and St Patrick’s Cathedral.  We’ll explore how the war was perceived, commemorated or denied, how it divided and polarized or united, and how it intersected with the dramatic events of Easter Week in 1916.   Tour finishes 4.pm at South William Street, with a short 30 minute break, to continue and dovetail with a wonderful concert and performances there…

Aerial engraving

“Words and Music from the First World War”,  in the lovely Octagon Room at the Irish Georgian Society/ City Assembly Rooms, South William Street.  Starts 20 minutes after conclusion of our walking tour.   Please note you can book tour only €20 (inc booking fee) at this link:      But for joint walk + concert combined ticket at special total price €30, please look for the 3rd option after you press on this link.

a month later, on Sunday 31st May:  Dublin Decoded, walk of the North Georgian City, followed by a concert at Number 12 Henrietta Street

Nrth Georgian Watercolour

featuring the 18th century Rotunda Lying-In hospital, including Ambassador and Gate theatres; Parnell Sq (formerly Rutland Square) as well as Charlemont House; the King’s Inns and a history of Henrietta Street itself.  Walk commences 2pm.  Meet at the Parnell monument, top of O’Connell Street.  Finishes 4pm, to allow a quick 20 minute rest- break before the concert…     where…   @TheDrawingRoom with the Association of Irish Composers presents,  Anne-Marie O’Farrell – harpist and composer, in the spectacular Georgian interior of number 12 Henrietta Street.  Concert Sunday, 31 May 2015 from 16:30 to 18:00 (Irish summer time)    This wonderful concert is preceded by the Dublin Decoded walk of the North Georgian City, as above.    To purchase tickets for walk + concert at special combination price of €30, please look for the 3rd option “walk + concert”.  after you press here.

Image1 Drawing Rooms    Photo credit Declan Hackett

* Sunday March 22nd:  Elva MacGowan Ensemble Sunday afternoon, at 25 Mountjoy Sq.  We may have a walk to announce soon, to coincide with this lovely concert, walking tour would start around 2pm (two hours before concert)  If we do, it will take place in the Mountjoy Square area, will focus on that area, including notes on buildings, history of the street-scape and decor, and at least one rarely seen interior.   Tour will commence 2pm,  and there will be a special price for anyone presenting a concert ticket for the concert later that day.  Keep you eye on our website for details next week! We look forward to seeing you at the concerts and walks.    – Arran,  Dublin Decoded.

Georgian

Georgian architecture for Schools, Leaving Cert Art-History.

We’re making our well-known Georgian East tour available to secondary schools for the first time, now adjusted for students sitting the Leaving Certificate this summer, and delivered with notes and a special worksheet.  Please share with Art history teachers (or History teachers) whose students might benefit. 

The tour. The Dublin Decoded Georgian architecture walk is a 2 hour approx. walking seminar, focused for Leaving Cert Art History groups.

IMG_9949

By concentrating on relatively small group of key buildings, terms, ideas and architects from the Georgian era, (approximately 1720 to 1830) it helps understanding and bring the era, concepts and creative personnel to life. It is designed to give teachers and students an edge in forthcoming exams.

The walk and talk takes place in and around the College Green and Trinity College area. Architects and designers include Thomas Burgh, Edward Lovett Pearce, James Gandon, Richard Cassels and Hugh Darley, among others.

The tour features the origins and underlying principles of the Georgian style, as well as notes on materials, and a glossary of terms and ideas.  Interpretation and discussion of buildings is by Arran Henderson, an art historian and writer who conducts tours for the Irish Georgian Society and many other leading cultural organizations.

College Green Dublin Decoded

Worksheet:

To assist teachers and classroom/exam performance, the tour concludes with two useful study sheets.   One is handout for students, a summary of notes on key Georgian Dublin buildings, both those featured on the tour and other important examples of the style to visit and review.  The other is a “refresher” test. This is given to teachers/ group leaders at the end of the tour, for follow-up work later back in the classroom.

Notes, fees, and how to book all available via this link.

Leaving Certificate Art History Teachers may also be interested in another excursion, discussing religious (and secular) symbolism in historic paintings at the National Gallery, from Italian Quttrocento and Renaissance to 17th century Dutch Art.  Please see here.

Reynolds Parody Sch of Athens

Answers to Italian Renassaince Artists Quiz…

Recently we posted a picture quiz on Italian Renaissance artists.  Press that link to have a go?  before you read the answer below!    Readers simply had to try to identify the artists, and/or their works, using the questions and hints below… Here are the answers!

First section. Proto- Renaissance.

Question #1 What’s the name of the author of this beautiful work, below?  and where did he hail from?

Ambrogio Lorenzetti Annunciation _1344 ! .

#1. This above is a work by Ambrogio Lorezetti, c1290-1348, fro  Sienna, in Tuscanny, central Italy.    It’s not hard to see below why he’s generally acknowledged as being the first in Italian Art to use true, mathematical linear perspective, something we usually associate with later artists like Paulo Ucello in the, (significantly later) quttrocentro in Florence.  Astonishingly, Lorenzetti was much earlier. He was a younger contemporary of Giotto, (c1267-1337), only dying 11 years after Giotto.

Q#2 This work below, (by the same artist as above) what does it depict? Who is kneeling before the Pope.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti The Oath_of_St_Louis_of_Toulouse_-_WGA13468

It’s a another, second work by work by the same Ambrogio Lorezetti,  this time showing St Benedict,  kneeling in front of the Pope.   The, very early use here of mathematical linear perspective is even more marked.

#3- A work by Giotto. Where would you find it?

Giotto Scrovegni Chapel Lamentation_(The_Mourning_of_Christ)_adj

A#3- In the Scronvegni or Arena Chapel, in Padua, an iconic and in its time, an immensely influential work, now often regarded as a s bridge from the medieval to the early Renaissance in Western Art.

Next section, Quattrocento

#4- This astonishing achievement was the first large dome constructed since antiquity. What is the building? and who was the architect?

Brunelleshi-and-Duomo-of-Florence

A#4- The distinctive dome belongs of course to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence.  The legendary architect was Filipo Brunelleschi.  (1377-1446)  He was the first to construct a large dome since antiquity, since the time of the ancient Romans.

Q#5- Who is the sculptor? and who is the subject of, the saint, depicted in this work below?

St George_Donatello_Orsanmichele_n1

Answerr to #5:  – This is a work by Brunelleschi’s friend and contemporary, the Florentine sculptor Donatello (c1386-1466)  It represents St George, in one of the exterior niches in the Orsanmichele, which was the chapel, offices, grain-store and general home, of Florence’s powerful trade guilds.  All the guilds had to commission statutes of their different patron saints, and the statues are by some of the greatest sculptors of the age.  St George was, and still is, the patron of the Arte dei Corazzai,  the gild of armourers.  The originals of all the Orsanmichele sculptures (and there are others by for example Andrea Pisano, by Lozenzo Gibertti and by other Florentine greats)  have in fact now all been taken to different museums, like the Bargello and the Academia, to protect them from the elements.  But you’d hardly know the difference, the replacements  in the niches are such perfect replicas.

#6- Another, even more extraordinary work by the same sculptor, Donatello…    But who’s the subject? And in what city would you find this monumental masterpiece?

Donatello Gattamelata

Answer to #6- :   The amazing equestrian statue above is another work also by Donatello.  It depicts the mercenary general or “condottiere” Gattamelata.   It’s in Padua.   This, and the equally superb work depicting another condottiere, Bartolomeo Colleoni sculpted by Andrea Verrocchio in Venice, (picture below) are the greatest two equestrian statues to come out of the Renaissance.  Large-scale bronze casting, especially of complex shapes like these, is notoriously difficult.  So each work represents an amazing technical as well as artistic achievement. 

condottiere

above: not part of our quiz, but another brilliant, huge equestrian statue: Bartolomeo Colleoni. by Andrea Verrocchio, Venice.

   

Question #7- And which early Italian Renaissance painter is responsible for this work, below?

Fra Angelico San Marco Altarpiece

Answer to #7- This lovely gracious Madonna and child Enthroned, is by Fra Angelico, (1395-1455)  the painter and Dominican friar.  He  painted as part of a whole series of works decorating San Marco in Florence, a complex of church and convent,  (the convent is today a museum, and so this work is still there in its original home).  It was commissioned and paid for by Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder, and completed sometime c1438-42.

Question #8  -what Florentine quattrocento genius painted this marvel of perspective below, still in situ at the church of Santa Maria Novella?

Masaccio_trinity

Answer to #8-  Anyone who’s ever arrived in Florence by train will have faced the church of Santa Maria Novella, as they stepped out of the lovely 1920s train station of the same name.  The station is directly opposite the church, and named after it.  The amazing fresco above is inside:  The Holy Trinity, by Massacio, a tragically short-lived but highly influential artist of the quattrocentro.

Question #9- okay, moving on, A little bit later now. There are even more famous work than this one, (work below) by this so-called “third generation” Florentine painter.   He painted some of the most instantly recognizable, most iconic images of the Renaissance. By the way that’s his self-portrait on the right, looking straight at you. What’s his name?

Botticelli_-Adoration_of the Magi (Zanobi_Altar)_-Uffizi

Answer to #9:-  This is an Adoration of the Magi, a famous work by Sandro Botticelli,  painter of even more iconic works Primavera (first image below) and Birth of Venus. (to right)

Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_Primavera_-_Google_Art_Project

Birth_of_Venus_Botticelli

#10- Here below is a detail, from another work, by the same artist pictured above. But what iconic book of poetry was it designed to illustrate?

Botticelli Drawings for Dantes Devine Comedy c1490

Answer to #10:-   Well, you already know its another work by Sandro Botticelli.  And we’re sure you knew or correctly guessed, the famous book of poetry was Dante’s Inferno,  a work that inspired some of the greatest artists in history.  I’m a particular, and very long-term fan of the illustrations of 19th century French artist Gustave Doré.  Anyway, the work above is by Botticelli.  Look at those devils!   A truly nasty, vicious, vision of hell!

Question 11- This work (below) was started by one famous Florentine artist, famous both in his own right, but also for leading a studio that contained and trained some of the greatest names of the Renaissance. So two questions here: 11a- Who started this work? and 11b- Who finished it?

Andrea_del_Verrocchio_-_Madonna_with_Sts_John_the_Baptist_and_Donatus_-_WGA24995

Answer 11  We asked you two questions here, firstly, who started this work?  The answer is Andrea del Verrochio, who sculpted that second, incredible Bronze horse we mentioned in the extra information to answer number.   Verrocchio also ran a studio that contained and trained some of the greatest names of the Renaissance.

We also asked you 11b- Who finished the painting above?  The answer to that is Verrocchio’s favored apprentice and sucesssor, Lorenzo de Credi   (1459-1537)

Question 12- we spoke above Andrea del Verrochio,  whose busy studio trained a whole stable of great artists. This work below was also a collaboration, between the same master, but a different apprentice. Who was this second apprentice, who reputedly painted the angels here below?

220px-Andrea_del_Verrocchio,_Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Baptism_of_Christ_-_Uffizi

Answer to #12:  The two angel kneeling on the left, are reputedly, and famously, by a young Leonardo Da Vinci.  They almost certainly are by Leonardo, scholars agree.   But the story, I think first put about by Georgio Vasari, (who was full of these old canards) says that when the master saw the dazzling work done by his young apprentice, he threw down his brushes,  and swore he’d never paint again.   That, I think we can safely say, is apocryphal.

Section 3- High Renaissance.

question #13    Okay, pretty confident you either guessed the answer to the last question or more likely, already knew it.    So  not too worried about giving too much away with this one either.   Below is a mature work, an iconic work, by the “apprentice” involved above.  As you know it’s in a refectory, a dining room, in an old monastery or priory. But in what city?  This is question #13 by the way, – (an aptly numbered 13)

Last Supper Leo da Vinci_5

Answer 14:    The Last Supper, by Leonardo.  It’s in Milan.

#14- and this work, below, in Rome, is by his slightly younger, equally legendary contemporary?  Part of a huge, and immensely complex scheme, that took around seven years to complete. There’s a ahem, clue on the image but I decided not to cut it out. If you’re still here, this will be a breeze anyway. Artist and location?

Ceiling-Of-The-Sistine-Chapel--Sybils--Erithraea

It is of course a detail, one of the Sybyls, from Michelangelo huge series of frescoes on the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

#15- And two works below, by the third member of the traditional High Renaissance apex trio. Firstly, what is his name?

156px-Madonna of the Meadow Raphael

Answer to #15- The work above and below are of course both by Raphael.

But Question #16- and far more difficult, who was the female subject of this portrait, scion of a powerful dynasty who ruled Milan in Lombardy?

Caterina_SforzaLorenzo de Credi

This is Caterina Sforza.  A truly formidable woman.

Section 4- Venice.

Question #17-  We’ve glanced at the sons of Sienna, Florence and Rome. Let’s not forget the Venetians. This man who painted this beautiful, enigmatic Allegory below came from an entire family of famous Venetian painters, and his brother in law was even Andrea Mantegna. But what’s the name of the artist of this Allegory?

Giovanni Bellini Saccred Allogory

Answer #17:   Giovanni Bellini

Question #18 - We all know the patron saint of Venice is St Mark, (whose body the Venetians, not to put too fine a point on it,  basically stole from Constantinople! )    Here below is a moment from that famous theft, dignified by this dramatic work “Finding the body of Saint Mark”   But who’s the artist?

Finding of Body St Mark-Jacopo Tintoretto

Answer #18:   the artist was Tintoretto.

Question #19-  and our Penultimate question and artwork, here by the most famous Venetian painter of them all.  He was famous for his use of colour.  A certain type of red in women’s hair is even named after him.   He exerted a huge influence on later artists, notably Peter Paul Rubens.  Here he paints a woman with a mirror, perhaps echoing Jan Van Eyck’s Arnofini Wedding portrait, and also pre-figuring later painters, like Velazquez  (and indeed Ireland’s own genius Sir William Orpen). But who was this legendary Venetian artist?

825px-Portrait_d'une_Femme_à_sa_Toilette,_by_Titian,_from_C2RMF_retouched

Answer #19:   It is of course a work by Titian.

Last work: Baroque.

20- Final work. Last, but very definitely not least, this superb female artist of the 17th century, painting very powerfully in the style of Caravaggio.   Preconceptions and social conventions made it almost impossible for women to be painters in the Renaissance or Baroque era, but this woman’s father owned a studio and so she worked alongside him, becoming an accomplished artist in her own right. A thug working for the family studio raped her, but, although clearly marked by the experience, she recovered and prevailed, to become one of the greatest Italian painters of the 17th century.

So, last question- who is the brilliant artist, responsible for this work?

judith

Answer #20:   This is Judith and Holofernes,  by the brilliant 17th century artist Artemesia Gentilesschi.  It depicts the Israelite, the beautiful widow Judith who saved her people by seducing, then decapitating, the besieging general Holofernes.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures, questions, and bits of hints and extra information. No need to leave your answers, but by all means leave a comment, it’s always great to hear from readers.

Arran Henderson Dublin Decoded at National Gallery of Iteland How to Read a Painting

For people in Dublin, or passing through Dublin, if you’d like to become a real Robert Langton, and do our Dublin Decoded famous “How to Read a Painting” symbol tour at the National Gallery of Ireland, (pictured above) then 2 things are advised.. 1-see the tour spec here. but more crucially 2- sign up for the newsletter, which will alert and advise you each time we run the tour, (usually once a month).

“How to Read a Painting” also bookable as a private event. See you there sometime

Until the next post, all the best!

Dedicated to Emmeline. who always matched, then surpassed her brother in art history. xx

Italian Renassaince Art, a picture quiz.

A bit of innocent fun, for the art lovers among my readers.   I’m teaching Italian Renaissance to my A-Level class at present and dragged these images off various sites to make a slide talk presentation.   Thought i\d post them here too, for your pleasure and interest.   It’s not a Dublin Decoded competition, there are no Dublin tours or prizes to give away.  (sorry!)   So you don’t have to write me the answers, honestly, it’s just for your own enjoyment.   Although if you enjoy, it’s always lovely tyto hear from people,  so of course readers are very welcome to say hello, thanks or to share the link.   But no need for answers here, I simply thought you might enjoy these.

Just try to identify the artists, and/or their works, using the questions and hints below…

First section.  Proto-Renaissance.

#1.  Amazingly, astoningly in fact, this artist below, was a contemporary of Giotto.  Not hard to see below why he is generally acknowledged as being the first to use linear perspective.  But what is his name?  and where did he hail from?

Ambrogio Lorenzetti Annunciation _1344 ! .

#2  This work below, (by the same artist as above)  what does it depict?  Who is kneeling before the Pope.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti The Oath_of_St_Louis_of_Toulouse_-_WGA13468

#3- A work by Giotto.  Where would you find it?

Giotto Scrovegni Chapel Lamentation_(The_Mourning_of_Christ)_adj

Next section, Quattrocento

#4-  This astonishing achievement was the first large dome constructed since antiquity.  What is the building?  and who was the architect?

Brunelleshi-and-Duomo-of-Florence

#5- A work below, by a friend and contemporary of the architect mentioned above.   Who is the legendary sculptor?  and who is the subject of, the saint depicted in,  this work below?

St George_Donatello_Orsanmichele_n1

#6-  Another, even more extraordinary work by the same sculptor…  Who is the subject?   And in what city would you find this monumental masterpiece?

Donatello Gattamelata

#7-  And which early Italian Renaissance painter is responsible for this work, below?

Fra Angelico San Marco Altarpiece

#8-what early, short-lived but highly influential Florentine quattrocento genius painted this marvel of perspective below, still in situ at the church of Santa Maria Novella?

Masaccio_trinity

#9-  okay, moving on,  A little bit later now.  There are even more famous work than this one, (work below)  by this so-called “third generation” Florentine painter.       He painted some of the most instantly recognizable, most iconic images of the Renaissance.  By the way that’s his self-portrait on the right, looking straight at you.   What’s his name?

Botticelli_-Adoration_of the Magi (Zanobi_Altar)_-Uffizi

 #10- Here below is a detail, from another work,  by the same artist pictured above.  But what iconic book of poetry was it designed to illustrate?

Botticelli Drawings for Dantes Devine Comedy c1490

11-  This work (below) was started by one famous Florentine artist, famous both in his own right, but also for leading a studio that contained and trained some of the greatest names of the Renaissance.   So two questions here:  11a- Who started this work?  and 11b- Who finished it?

Andrea_del_Verrocchio_-_Madonna_with_Sts_John_the_Baptist_and_Donatus_-_WGA24995

12-  we mentioned above the artist whose busy studio trained a whole stable of great artists.    This work below was also a collaboration, between the same master, but a different apprentice.   Who was this second apprentice, who reputedly painted the angels here below?

220px-Andrea_del_Verrocchio,_Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Baptism_of_Christ_-_Uffizi

Section 3-  High Renaissance.

#13-  (the aptly numbered 13)  Okay,  pretty confident you either guessed the last question or, more likely, already knew it.  So I’m not worried about giving too much away with this one!   Below is a mature work, an iconic work, by the “apprentice” involved above.   As you know its in a refectory, a dining room, in an old monastery or priory.  But in what city?

Last Supper Leo da Vinci_5

#14- and this work, below, in Rome, is by his slightly younger, equally legendary contemporary?   Part of a huge, and immensely complex scheme,  that took around seven years to complete.    There’s a ahem,  clue on the image but I decided not to cut it out.  If you’re still here, this will be a breeze anyway.   Artist and location?

Ceiling-Of-The-Sistine-Chapel--Sybils--Erithraea

#15- And two works below, by the third member of the traditional High Renaissance apex trio.  Firstly, what is his name?

156px-Madonna of the Meadow Raphael

16-  and far more difficult,  who was the female subject of this portrait, scion of a powerful dynasty who ruled Milan in Lombardy?

Caterina_SforzaLorenzo de Credi

Section 4-  Venice.

17-  We’ve glanced at the sons of Sienna, Florence and Rome.  Let’s not forget the Venetians.  This man who painted this beautiful, enigmatic Allegory below came from an entire family of famous Venetian painters, and his brother in law was even Andrea Mantegna.   But what’s the name of the artist of this Allegory?

Giovanni Bellini Saccred Allogory

18- We all know the patron saint of Venice is St Mark, (whose body they basically stole from Constantinople! )  Here below is a moment from that famous theft, dignified by this dramatic work “Finding the body of Saint Mark”   But who is the artist?

Finding of Body St Mark-Jacopo Tintoretto

19-  Penultimate question and artwork,  here by the most famous Venetian painter of them all.  He was famous for his use of colour.  A certain type of red in womens’ hair is even named after him.  He exerted a huge influence on later artists, notably Peter Paul Rubens.  Here he paints a woman with a mirror, perhaps echoing Jan Van Eyck’s Arnofini Wedding portrait, and also pre-figuring later painters, like Velazquez and indeed Ireland’s own genius Sir William Orpen.   But who was this legendary Venetian artist?

825px-Portrait_d'une_Femme_à_sa_Toilette,_by_Titian,_from_C2RMF_retouched

Last work: Baroque.

20-   One final work.  Last, but very definitely not least, this superb female artist of the 17th century, painting very powerfully in the style of Caravaggio.  Preconceptions and social conventions made it almost impossible for women to be painters in the Renaissance or Baroque era, but this woman’s father owned a studio and so she worked alongside him, becoming an accomplished artist in her own right.  A thug working for the family studio raped her, but, although clearly marked by the experience, she recovered and prevailed, to become one of the greatest Italian painters of the 17th century.  She often painted powerful women, sometimes taking terrible revenge on abusive men.  Here she depicts the Israelite, the beautiful widow Judith, who saved her people by seducing, then decapitating, the enemy, besieging general, Holofernes.

So, last question- who is the brilliant artist, responsible for this work?

judith

Hope you enjoyed the pictures, questions,  and bits of hints and extra information.  No need to leave your answers, but by all means leave a comment, it’s always great to hear from readers.

Arran Henderson Dublin Decoded at National Gallery of Iteland How to Read a Painting

If you’d like to skip straight to the answer to the quiz,  just hit this link.   For people in Dublin, or passing through Dublin, if you’d like to become a real Robert Langton yourself,  come along to our Dublin Decoded famous “How to Read a Painting” symbol tour, a couple of times each month, at the National Gallery of Ireland, (pictured above)

2 things are advised if you want to get alerts on when this, and our other tours,  go ahead each month..  1-see the tour spec here.  but more crucially 2- sign up for the newsletter, which will alert and advise you each time we run the tour, (usually once a month).  “How to Read a Painting” also bookable as a private event on flexible dates,  by contacting dublindecoded@gmail.com   Please include the tour title How to Read a Painting” and your prefered dates i the subject header, thank you.

See you there sometime.   :)   Until the next post, all the best.

Heavens’ embroidered cloth: Medieval buried Treasure.

Heavens’ embroidered cloth: – Medieval buried Treasure.

Look at these…   They are the last complete set of mass vestments left intact in Northern Europe.  And they are  extraordinary in their history, their conception, and in quality.

IMG_3566

They sit now, in their light-controlled, temperature and humidity controlled, bullet-proof glass cases, in Waterford’s wonderful medieval museum. This is a purpose-built exhibition centre dedicated to the city’s wonderful history. It was opened only in May 2013.

IMG_3565

These garments are the standout exhibits. Which is saying something, in a museum full of wonderful things, like the wonderful Great Charter with its hand-painted portraits on velum of the Plantagenet kings of England, (detail below)

roll_landing

Or look at this hat for another example. It once belonged to Henry VIII. It was called his Cap of Maintenance.

HenryVIII's Cap of Maintanaince

I can’t quite convey how remarkable these garments are. Not just aesthetically, obviously they are ethereally beautiful. But also for what they teach us, and what they signify too, politically, religiously, and economically.

When we modern-types think of the medieval to Renaissance period we now think first and foremost of exquisite, beautiful paintings. But in one sense that’s ahistorical, since during that era embroidery and tapestries were highly prized and in fact were vastly more expensive.

Henry VIII’s court painter, the German master Hans Holbien was paid perhaps £50 per year for his position, plus what he made on private portrait commissions.   By contrast Henry paid around £1000 for each one of his best series of tapestries, displayed at Hampton Court.

That figure in modern values: £1000 would have built Henry a state of the art battleship, with enough left over to fit it out with sails, rigging and cannons. In other words, no mere barons, nor even very wealthy merchants could not afford the best tapestry. It was the exclusive preserve of mighty magnates and rulers, of Dukes, powerful princes, of Popes and Kings. One final example: of the two best tapestries in Farmleigh House today (previously home to the Guinness family) the Duke of Parma formerly owned one, the other was owned by the Queen of Spain.

The reason for the enormous values placed on them was of course the sheer amount of labour needed. Entire teams of highly skilled workers were required. To this one must add the cost of very expensive materials and dyes used. The fantastic wealth of the city of Albi in Languedoc for example, was almost entirely founded on the wode trade, the primary blue dye of the era.

IMG_3571

Let’s look at the materials in these vestments in the Waterford Medieval museum. The silk came from China originally. In ancient times it would have traveled across Asia and the Middle East on the Silk Road. Or later, after Marco Polo and the great Portuguese and Genoese explorers, sometimes shipped by merchant adventurers, across the Indian Ocean and around Africa.

The silk was then spun, typically in Florence. Again, silk spinning was one of the main sources of that city’s extraordinary wealth. Like Albi and like Bruges (see below) the trade accounted for much of its great wealth, indeed as well as its preeminence in the late Medieval-early Renaissance period.

Once spun, the silk then went from Florence to Bruges. This Flemish city was the centre of weaving in Europe, and where all the best work was done. This time-consuming practice was then carried out with great skill and experience, and, as you’ve guessed, commensurately astronomical expense.

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These particular vestments in Waterford have something else, which would have pushed up the price even higher.   They each contain a large amount of gold thread. Our guide told us he’d once had the opportunity to briefly wear one before it was encased in glass. He said the weight was such he could barely stand.

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The set is comprised of three copes (large cloaks) two dalmatics (a T-shaped garment) and a chasuble, which is the full length, outermost gown, used for celebrating the Eucharist.

They are all embroidered with panels, depicting scenes from the Old or New Testament, depending on the individual cloak, or from the life of the Virgin Mary.  This one below, as you see, depicts the Nativity.

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They were made in the 1400s, commissioned by the Dean of Waterford’s Cathedral for a special new chapel, commenced in 1468. It was a chantry chapel, in other words dedicated to masses and daily prayers for the dead.   As the excellent museum website explains.

“In Waterford in 1468, John Collyn, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral decided to build a chantry chapel adjoining the cathedral and in this special place of worship Masses would be said for the souls of the dead. Those who supported the building of the chapel with gifts of money or property would have their names or the names of their loved ones included on the daily round of Masses celebrated by the chaplains of the chantry chapel.

It seems certain the man who paid the lion’s share was a very rich merchant called James Rice.

Rice may have been 11 times mayor of Waterford. But the vestments are so fabulous in quality, so extraordinary; I was still scratching my head. I’ve rarely seen anything like internationally, and never before or elsewhere in Ireland.

True, there are superb vestments at the very old Diocese of Clonfert, traditionally associated with St Brendan. These are now in the small, excellent museum attached to the wonderful 19th century St Brendans’ Cathedral at Loughrea, the gift of the wonderful Edward Martyn.

That eclectic collection of religious garments includes a mass vestment sent over by Napoleon III in memory of the Marquis de St Ruth, (a French field Marshall who perished at the Battle of Aughrim, 1691). That is also full of gold embroidery, knotted in the shape of bees (symbol of the Bonaparte family).  But even that splendid item is much later, and not anything like these ones in Waterford. The quality of these puts me in mind of things one sees in the Vatican, or the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle in the Museé d Moyen Age in Paris. They are extraordinary. I’ve never seen portable medieval items of this quality anywhere else in Ireland.

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However successful Rice was, it doesn’t appear to make sense. I was still scratching my head.   Until perhaps you realize that of hundreds of years, Waterford had a royal charter granting it a monopoly; on the import and distribution of wine in Ireland. This provides some part of the answer. So does the massive sale of indulgences, rampant at this time across Europe, and of course one of the practices that triggered the Reformation.

The vestments were worn for perhaps a hundred years, until era of the Reformation, when iconoclasm became a genuine threat. They survived the initial incursions of Cranmer’s men in the 1500s Ireland but a hundred years later, with the Catholic side loosing the Confederate wars in Ireland and Oliver Cromwell about to take Waterford, the decision was made to hide them.

They were hidden in lined boxes, in a specially-created cavity dug into the floor of the chapel then covered over with flagstones. The caution turned out to be prescient. Their survival is something of a miracle. The Vatican, naturally, and some other major Catholic centres have equivalents. However no other full medieval set has survived in Northern Europe. They’ve all been destroyed, stolen, broken up and or have perished away.

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This Waterford set remained hidden as war and rebellion and then more brutal wars bruised and battered Ireland though the 17th century. They were in fact forgotten in their hiding place, ultimately left there for over a hundred and twenty years.

Until in 1773, the old cathedral, now Anglican, was being demolished for the process of rebuilding. At that point they were finally rediscovered. The Anglican bishop to his credit did the right thing and returned them to the catholic diocese of Waterford. They are now on perpetual loan to the city’s medieval museum.

The choice of lines by the museum to title the exhibitions perfect.  You’ll recognise them.  They come from one of the most famous poems by W.B. Yeats.    I’ll leave you with that. Thank you for reading.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

The museums website is here. 

If anyone would like to learn more about the Anglo-Normans coming to Ireland, there’s a blow by blow,  but hopefully readable account here.

Iveagh Market Buildings

arranqhenderson:

wonderful article on the Iveagh Markets, by the consistently excellent “Wide and Convenient Streets” blog. Superb stuff, and a wonderful resource.

Originally posted on Wide and Convenient Streets:

Nearly one hundred and nine years ago, Colonel George W. Addison R. E. represented the Iveagh Trust at a ceremony to formally hand over the new Iveagh Markets to Dublin Corporation. Giving his thanks on receiving the deeds of conveyance and keys, the Lord Mayor expressed the hope that the city would continue to benefit from Viscount Iveagh’s munificence, and that he would be spared to continue his noble works.

Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection - click to go to source) Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection – click to go to source)

This exchange is captured in an Irish Times article in June 1906 which thankfully recorded the ceremony and some detail about the markets; for there is surprisingly little source material elsewhere. The markets themselves came about after clearances around St Patrick’s Cathedral to remove some of the slums there as part of the Iveagh Trust building development. There was a need for a new space for market…

View original 592 more words

What is satire for?

The novelist Will Self, and cartoonist Martin Rossen debate, or rather seem to generally agree on, the limits and responsibilities of satire, who the easy targets might be, and critically, where the real scrutiny and ire should be aimed, but usually isn’t.

It made me wonder why not?  The Charlie Hebdo editors, artists and staff were victims of a brutal murder by lunatics. They were fully entitled to print and draw what they like,  in a free society, which includes the right to offend.  But why bother offending, for its own sake?  Rossen makes the excellent point that Charlie operate in the “Situationist” tradition, of Guy Debord etc, ie. they provoke for its own sake, then wait to see what happens.   But why bother (?) when Muslims living in the west are an easy, 99% innocent, yet tabloid-popular target?   Who in the west does the tough work and picks on the powerful?  Who targets the media barons,  on industrialists exploiting Chinese workers (and often poisoning the earth, rivers and soil), the financial billionaires who write their own laws, the moguls and the oligarchs?  Nobody, it appears.

That made me wonder in turn why this Paris story is so, not over-reported, the murders were disgusting and naturally created outrage and revulsion.  But who decides the news?  So is torture repulsive, (as well as useless, apparently) So is rendition, so is imprisonment without the possibility of trial.  Where’s the satire, outrage and comment there?   Interesting to see the right-wing press suddenly falling over themselves to emphasize with Paris.  Their empathy is conditional, convenient and suits their own agenda.  Where was the empathy for the local innocent Iraqi taxi drivers who was the victim of local tribal score-settling and who ended up being water-boarded to death?   Where are the satirists and novelists and cartoonists then?  Who picks on the powerful anymore?

Urban traveller. Night owl.

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