Art in Bloom 2018: Greece and Rome

Let’s go from Mesoamerica to the ancient Mediterranean with the floral arrangements inspired by works of art in the Classical galleries.

Inspired by Herakles
By Trisha Bettencourt

Dare I say it? Yes, I do. I’m disappointed.  It’s too easy to use white flowers to create a design inspired by a marble sculpture.  It works for an elegant Venus or Aphrodite, but for this statue? Nah.  It’s Herakles!!!  The guy has been plagued by Hera all his life and Eurystheus has given him 12 Labours that are so crazy as to appear impossible. He’s had a hard day, he’s exhausted and, here, he’s possibly drunk!  While I sort of see in the arrangement the club he holds in his right hand, those flowers and twigs are just too delicate to represent a mythological hero who’s just about had it…


Inspired by the Etrusco-Corinthian Neck Amphora

By Stacey Burkert

Ah! That’s more like it. Much better!  What is absolutely fantastic about this floral arrangement is how the colours of the flowers and plants actually match those of the rather colourful amphora. A perfect colour match! You really need to see the amphora in person to see these incredible earth colours. On the down side, those same autumnal colours also make the flowers look dead even though they are live flowers.  I don’t like dead flowers (dead leaves on trees in autumn, yes; dead flowers, generally not). So that puts a damper on my enthusiasm for this arrangement. However, the designer gets a gold star because she did exactly was she set out to do (read the label) and she did that to perfection.

In my next post, we’ll see what arrangements were placed in the Egyptian galleries. Stay tuned!

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Art in Bloom 2018: Mesoamerica

It’s been an odd winter and it’s hard to believe that spring has sprung… Yet, that blooming time of the year has arrived at the NCMA!  Art in Bloom was held on March 22-25 and, of course, I attended with friends and took photos of the floral arrangements in my galleries. My personal impressions are below and I’m starting with the Mesoamerican gallery.

Inspired by the Standing Male Figure
By The English Garden

 

There’s always a first. In the past, I have always enjoyed the arrangements created for the works of art in this gallery, but this floral design does nothing for me. I really cannot feel the Mesoamerican-ness (yes, I just made up that word) with the combination of plants selected here. I don’t feel the earthiness, the traditions, the culture…  I don’t see or feel the warrior either… I just don’t.

Digital Learning

February 22 was Digital Learning Day and the NCMA participated by streaming a live session with multiple schools from our Egyptian galleries. Several people–including me–had a role to play in those 30 minutes and it went extremely well.  You can see our setup in this very cool picture! (No, our galleries are not circular and this post is a lame excuse to show you this great photo! Ha!)

Ludovisi Gaul

My ARCHAEO-Crush for February is one of the most famous marble sculptures at the Palazzo Altemps in Rome and it is related to the January ARCHAEO-Crush.

LUDOVISI GAUL

Type: artefact (sculpture)
Civilisation: Ancient Rome
Date: 2nd century C.E.

ARCHAEO-Crush: This statue, which represents a Gaul and his wife, is part of the sculptural that includes the Dying Gaul and a third statue at the Louvre. As mentioned in my ARCHAEO-Crush for January, these statues are Roman marble copies of earlier Greek bronzes (now lost). Here, the Gaul is not mortally wounded during a battle; he is depicted after a battle won by Attalus I. (We remember that during the 3rd century B.C. the king of Pergamon defeated Celtic people who had settled in Galatia (modern Turkey), a victory commemorated by the original bronze sculptures). Instead of being captured by the enemy, the Gaul choses to kill his wife and commit suicide–another name for this sculpture is Ludovisi Gaul Killing Himself and His Wife (also occasionally referred to as the ‘Galatian Suicide’). The man is depicted holding the figure of a dying woman in his left hand and, with his right, plunging a dagger under his his collar bone. His nudity (in no way hidden by his chlamys), his moustache and his bushy hair help identify the man as a Galatian, while the elaborately dressed woman can be identified as the wife of a Celtic chief.

This sculpture struck me because of its subject and the unusual position of the man’s body. Once we know the historical context of the original Greek bronzes and the later Roman marbles, the figures can be identified and the theme and symbolism understood.While the composition can be admired from multiple points of view, this appears to be a very awkward way of committing suicide.  The man’s weight is on his left leg and his body is twisted towards the right, with the right leg trailing behind. He holds a dagger in his right hand, but plunges the tip of the weapon on his left side, below the collar bone. The resulting movement of muscles is spectacularly depicted by the sculptor–this is an amazing rendering of musculature and anatomy.  However, is it even possible to pierce one’s heart while holding a dagger in one’s right hand, a collapsed woman in the left and looking behind one’s self?  Perhaps it is the Gaul’s last and defiant look at the enemy before the fatal moment, when he lets go of his wife and plunges the dagger in his heart with both hands?

Bucket list status: I saw this sculpture during my one and only visit to the Palazzo Altemps in 2014.

Additional information: If you are in Rome and you like ancient sculpture, take time to visit the Palazzo Altemps. You will find there one of the oldest private collections of ancient sculpture still extant today–that of the Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. Today the Palazzo is part of the Museo Nazionale Romano . The palace, which dates to the Renaissance, is located just north of the Piazza Navona and it’s a hidden gem.

Conservator vs Conservationist

It’s a pet peeve of many friends of mine (and, by extension, one of mine as well).  Did you know that conservators and conservationists are not one and the same?  That even though they both conserve something, conservators and conservationists have very different jobs?

A conservator is a person who works to keep works of art safe, ensuring that precious artefacts and paintings are in stable condition in a museum or repairing those that have suffered some kind of damage.

A conservationist is a person who advocates for the protection  and acts for the preservation the environment and wildlife on our wonderful planet.

 

These two words are constantly confused, most often by the media, and for a museum professional (even if you’re not a conservator), it is frustrating when people don’t use the correct word. Now that you know the difference, dear readers, spread the word!

This post is dedicated to all my conservator friends.  I’ve got your back, guys!

Book Review – ‘Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon’ by Joyce Tyldesley

My prolific colleague Campbell Price at Manchester Museum is at it again! Nice post on Joyce Tyldesley’s new book on Queen Nefertiti. Must add that to my ever growing list of books to read…

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

Joyce Tyldesley’s new book concerns Ancient Egypt’s most well-known poster-girl: Nefertiti, or – more accurately – a painted limestone and plaster bust of her now in the Neues Museum in Berlin. Tyldesley has already written an excellent biography of the lady herself, and uses this opportunity to discuss her most famous representation – and how it skews our entire impression of who she was. The book follows the successful format of the biography of a single object adopted by Laurence Berman, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in his accessible study of the Late Period ‘Boston Green Head’. As a fellow curator, the idea of spending a whole book on a sole museum object is particularly appealing to me.

nefertiti-s-face-the-creation-of-an-icon.jpg

Now, I must confess personal bias here – Joyce is a friend and University of Manchester colleague, and we have discussed the content of the book extensively. Yet…

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