There is a certain capriciousness to most things and the success or failure of art exhibitions is one of them. The Nazis experienced this first hand when they simultaneously organized the Degenerate Art Exhibition and The Great German Art Exhibition. Germany may have been great in Goebbels’ mind, but the art of his exhibition certainly wasn’t. Except for the most ardent party card carrying member, the Great German was a difficult dish to savour; not many visited the one dedicated to the eternal genius of the Aryan race, whilst more than 20.000 people per day queued to see why Weimar artists were attempting an “Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist Rule”. If the Degenerate Art Exhibition was the success story, albeit unintended, of 1936, the Masterpieces of the Prado Exhibition in Geneva was the art event of 1939. Because of the actions of another war mongering, power hungry dictator, the hastily put together exhibition was effectively the transposition of one of the best art collections in the word to what was effectively a minor museum in a Swiss city, a free city.
On November 16 1936, Francisco Franco’s planes bombed Madrid. Nine of the incendiary bombs dropped on the centre of capital of Spain by the rebel general hit the Museo del Prado, which caught fire. This prompted the Republican Government to try to save the collection, the most important in the country and one of the most valuables in the world. The decision was made to move them further away from the frontline and the push for Madrid that the Nationalist were attempting. The paintings were loaded in 71 trucks and carried to Valencia, where in less than a month a propaganda exhibition was organized “as a testimony to the civilized world of the culture saved by the anti-fascist people”.
La carga de los mamelucos, Francisco de Goya, 1814
But, alas, neither propaganda nor bravery could stop the slow but unrelenting advance of the Nationalists. Although Valencia, the city where almost 1000 years earlier El Cid had died withstanding another invader, would go on uncaptured until the very last day of the war, the government decided that it would be prudent and safer to move the Prado once again, this time to Cataluña. Trucks were loaded and the long and dangerous convoy started to move north. Bombs fell, as they usually do in wars. Paintings were damaged. One of Goya’s, La Carga de los Mamelucos, severely so. Crossing the Ebro with such voluminous paintings, like Las Meninas, proved difficult, but the collection finally arrived, relatively unscathed, to its new destination: two castles and a talc mine where they were hidden for a while.
But the enemies continued their advance until the imminent fall of Cataluña made the evacuation out of Spain necessary. The French gave the paintings the same safe passage that were giving at that point to the sea of people crossing the Pyrenees, the one that they refused to the last remnants of the Republican army, trapped in Valencia and Alicante and that chose suicide rather than falling in the hands of the enemy. The paintings left Spain at the beginning of February 1939 and arrived in Geneva one week later. At that point the war was practically over and the Republic had fallen. By the time the exhibition opened, in June, there was a new government in Madrid, one that would stay in power for almost 35 years. The exhibition was a success: Van der Weyden, Velazquez, Goya were exhibited for the first time in Swiss soil but the government that had protected the national treasures was no more.
By then it was Franco who ripped the benefits: the exhibition, following Hitler’s example, but with the advantage of Art on his side, became a celebration of Spanish nationalism. The main gallery was named the Imperial Room. He managed with the help of the Gestapo to throw in jail some of those who for years had risked their lives to save the national patrimony. There is also a lack of justice to most things, but at least the paintings were not destroyed by the bombs of a war that should have never started. On September 2 1939, one day after another, longer deadlier war began in Europe, the exhibition closed and the paintings made their way back to Madrid, after three wandering years.
In 1848, a group of painters, which included a very young and promising Dante Gabriel Rossetti, formed the seven member’s Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood., whose credo, penned down in an unusually latitudinarian manifesto for such a dogmatic group, was properly issued. The main tenets of the Brotherhood was the rejection of all painting that came after Raphael, and the promotion of the Quattrocento, with its bright colours, florentine predilection for the line and pre-mannerist style of composition. They also had, especially Rossetti, who would later bequeath it to William Morris, an avid interest in all things Medieval.
Exhibitions were held; magazines published; each painting was signed with the name of the painter and the initials PRB. Critics and academics hated them as much as the Pre-Raphaelites hated the critics and established painters. Effervescent, the Brotherhood split after 5 years, consumed by its own intensity. Rossetti continued its style and subjects, producing a stream of well-delined medieval femme fatales from his numerous models and muses. Fanny Cornforth, Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, Alexa Wilding, Marie Stillman. Some of them, besides the more chaste role of muses, were his lovers, not always sequentially.
Elizabeth Siddal, who became Rossetti’s wife, died of a drug overdose of laudanum in 1862, at just 32 and only 2 years after marrying Rossetti. Her husband had painted hundreds of portraits, in different mediums, of her future wife. He wrote poems to her. They gave each other nicknames and lived in isolation, basking in their mutual love. When she died, the grieving husband, ridden with guilt, buried her with the unpublish collection of poems he had written for her, the meticulous manuscript deposited by the head of the muse that he had painted so often, her long Hayworth hair carefully wrapped around the book.
Dante Alighieri had been a source of inspiration for Rossetti from the beginning of his career, his Medieval sensitivities attuned to the works of the Florentine poet. He had altered the order of his names, so Dante would come first. He had translated La Vita Nuova into English. After Siddal’s dead, using some of the drawings he had made of her as a model, Rossetti painted her as Beata Beatrix, Dante’s undying chivalric love, his cult object, the woman who had conquered death and guided him through Paradise. Beatrice had also died young, at 25, in the Republic of Florence.
But neither pain nor mourning last forever and soon Rossetti found comfort on Cornforth’s embrace again, his ideals of courtly love unable to check his natural propensities. He also started an affair with another of his muses, Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris, with whom he lived in a more or less public menage a trois. Contradicting not only his Medievals notions, but John Keats, the poet he tried to emulate, Rosetti went to Lethe and allowed himself to be persuaded by Jane and others to publish the poems that he had carefully put down by his dead wife’s brow. He had a friend unbury the coffin, open it, and recover the impure manuscript which he published the following year, in 1870.
But the poems were not well received, he had a mental breakdown, and in order to sleep, took chloral hydrate, with whisky chasers to remove the bad taste of the drug or of his conscience, and spent the last 10 years of his life in a state of sopor, now himself a drug addict. In an appropriate Dantean contrapasso, Rossetti was condemned by failing to keep his ideals with the same punishment that Elizabeth had suffered, the wife whose love and body he had desecrated.
Almost 200 hundred years ago, in a day like today, May 12, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born in London. He died in Kent at 53.
Here are some of the main Ancient Greek Pottery Vessels that were most prominent.
Oinochoe: A wine pitcher that has only one handle
Chytrai: These were very large and designed for cooking purposes. Chytrai were made of rough clay as they didn’t need to look pretty and polished when they were only used in the kitchen behind the scenes.
Hydria: A hydria is used as a water jar. It has three handles on it, used for carrying and pouring out water.
Amphora: Mainly used for the storage of grains or sometimes wine, the amphora is a large vessel with a lid and two handles.
Kylix: This is a drinking cup that has a few different designs.
Kraters: There are multiple styles of Kraters, including the calyx, column, bell, and volute styles. Kraters are used for mixing wine and water.
Lekythos: A narrow-necked flask that is used for both pouring oils and fragrances.
Some of the most iconic Greek Pottery pieces
The First Signed Ancient Greek Vessels:
The artist Sophilos’ Dinos (cauldron):
This Dinos depicts the scene of Peleus and Thetis’ wedding, present with multiple different orientalizing motifs, dating this piece back to the Orientalizing Period and is from about 580 BC. Overall, this piece is incredibly unique as it is one of the first to be signed by its artist, “Sophilos painted me” was painted by Sopilos between the columns at Peleus’ house. This was unseen and unheard of before this.
The François Vase:
This large Attic style krater has classic black-figure motifs and is dated back to 570 BC. Erigotimos was the potter while Kleitias was the painter. Both of the had signed the vessel, showing us many different clues into Ancient Greek life. For example, the fact that there is both a potter and a painter, we can deduce that there was a specialization of work even back then. The krater was found in Etruria which shows that trade of various vessels were still carried out in Athens at this time.
Other Unique Works:
Yet another Archaic period potter, Exekias used an increase in the of black on his black-figure pottery, allowing for only the middle section to be the classic orange color. In general, his pottery was quite unique not only because of this but with how he portrayed quite serious scenes with high emotions. For example, with the use of emotions in his depiction of the suicide of Ajax. Normally, it would be quite the somber event, but Exakias added emotion to it.
The Andokides painter painted six different “bilingual” vases. Bilingual vases are when both red-figure and black-figure paintings are used on the same vessel, which was very unique and needed to be done by a highly skilled artisan. The one pictured below depicts Hoplites with Athena and Hermes.
These are a few of the different Ancient Greek Pottery shapes and some of the most iconic pieces on display today!
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