Notebook, 1993-

DECORATIVE ARTS AND ANTIQUES - Motif - Narrative - Perspective

Murals - References

NOTE: This area is under construction [not to become a comprehensive view, but to serve as an introduction and inspiration]. Underlined topics may now be viewed.

De Silva, Anil and photographs by Dominque Darbois.
The Art of Chinese Landscape Painting in the Caves of Tun-Huang. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1964. " . . . . Thus space is like a musical pause, filled with mystery before the next phrase begins, giving it meaning and uniting it with what went before."

Prehistoric Thera: Akrotiri - Excavations at Thera Vi. [1972 Season]. By Spyridon Marinatos, Prof. of Arch., EM., Uiversity of Athens. Athens. 1974. With 6 Figures in the Text, 112 Plates in Black and White, and 11 Colour Plates with 7 Maps in Spearate Pocket. Athens. 1974. " . . . . One of the principal characteristics of the art of Akrotiri is that the artist had complete command of the space in which he moved unhesitatingly. He infallibly selected a subject suitable for filling the surface offered by the arrangement of the area. Door and window jambs, small surfaces of wall between two such openings, zones which are of necessity created for the opening of cupboards or windows and finally large expanses of wall, always bear the composition best suited to their shape and size. A representation of a pithos plant pot with lily adorned the jambs of the window in the West House . . . . "

Doumas, Christos, Prof. of Archaeology at the Univ. of Athens, Director of Excavations at Akrotiri. "Wall Paintings," in Santorini, A Guide to the Island and Its Archaeological Treasures. Athens: Ekdotike Athenon S.A. 1995.

Minoan Art. Walberg, Gisela. Tradition and Innovation. Essays in Minoan Art. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp Von Zabern. 1986. " . . . . Minoan art is not commemorative; there are no scenes celebrating victorious kings and armies or showing prisoners of war or their slaughter as in official Egyptian and, to an even greater extent, in Mesopotamian art. But there are also scenes which do not fit into the idyllic Minoan world which is so widely believed in, such as the Knossos Town Mosaic, which seems to have been a siege scene. One of the factors that has contributed most strongly to the idea of Minoan spontaneous joie de vivre is an interpretation of the movement of the figures in Minoan art as dancing or playing. But was it actually the artist's intention to show these figures as dancing? A study of human figures, animals and plants will show that the qualities described as spontaneity and fluidity and the "playful" movements can be linked with the origins of these motifs and are the result of a long Minoan artistic tradition, but usually have little to do with dance or play [Chapter V]. The traditional element is strong in Minoan art, in spite of the fact that creative spontaneity is seen by many as its most characteristic feature . . . . . "

Hauser, Arnold. "Crete" - in The Social History of Art. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books/Random House. 1951.

Evans, Sir Arthur. The Palace of Minos. A Comparative Account of the Successive Stages of the Early Cretan Civilization as Illustrated by the Discoveries. Vol. II: Part II. Town-Houses in Knossos of the New Era and Restored West Palace Section, with its State Approach. New York: Biblo and Tannen:. 1964. ". . . . The egg-like pebbles of the frieze--derived, we may suppose, from cut conglomerate--with their cross striations, are also paralleled by similar examples on fragments from the present deposit. These banded pebbles are a very persistent feature in Minoan Art, which [p. 450] was taken over at Mycenae and elsewhere in Mainland Greece. Throughout we see the same decorative device--originating, it may be supposed, in a very ancient acquaintance with intarsia work--of depicting the face of the stone as if cut in section, which is also so characteristic of Minoan painted borders. Many of the rocks here present the appearance of brilliantly veined agate or of artificially coloured onyx, sliced and polished . . . . From the rocks spring wild peas or vetches--the pods shown simultaneously with spiky flowers--clumps of what seem to be dwarf Cretan irises, blue fringed with orange, and--for variety's sake--rose edged with deep purplish green. To the left, for the first time in Ancient Art, appears a wild rose bush, partly against a deep red and partly against a white background, and other coiling sprays of the same plant hang down from a rock-work arch above . . . . "

Isthmia. Broneer, Oscar. "Topography and Architecture." Vol II. Isthmia, Excavations by the University of Chicago under the Auspices of The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Princeton, New Jersey: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. 1973. " . . . . At the bottom of the walls was a low dado in the color of the stucco, set off from the painted panels by broad bands in a deep maroon color [Pl. B]. These stripes also run vertically in the corners. On the inside, between the maroon bands and the painted panels, runs a white stripe, ca. 0.008 m. wide. The background, in mottled marine green and a somewhat darker bluish green, is a convincing rendering of water in which fish and crustacea are represented swimming. The largest and best preserved panel on the right, northwest wall, shows five marine animals, preserved in whole or in part [Pl. A, top]. In the upper left corner is the end of a tail in red, apparently part of a lobster. Next to it is a fish of medium size, rendered in two shades of red, with splashes of white. Although the shape is not exactly right, the color is perhaps sufficiently characteristic to indicate that this is likely to have been meant as a barbouni [red mullet], a great favorite in the Greek fish market . . . . " [p. 63]

Blanchkenhagen, Peter H. v . and Christine Alexander. The Paintings from Boscotrecase. With an Appendix by Georges Papadopulos. Heidelberg: F. H. Kerle Verlag. 1962. Ancient Landscape Painting / Pompeian Wall Painting. " . . . . Out of elements that have the appearance of realistic renderings of real things to [p. 40] be recognized and indeed easily recognizable, the painter has built up an entirely unreal world; yet this world evokes the mirage of a landscape that has not lost its affinity to settings which we have seen and as we have seen them.[5] Thus he produces a miraculous landscape, into which we may enter, bemused by a strange enchantment. Just as in wandering through a real landscape we enjoy continuously changing vistas; so being led into the magic world of this painting our perceptions and interpretations continuously change their relations and values . . . . "

Byzantine Painting, by Andreas Ioannides

Lavin, Marilyn Aronberg. The Place of Narrative - Mural Decoration in Italian Churches, 431-1600. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1990. " . . . . The place of narrative--its didactic role in Western church decoration--has always been recognized. Great cycles of religious stories were spread across the walls of ecclesiastical structures almost as soon as Christianity became the state religion, and they remained a major medium of public communication for over a thousand years. . . . . Art historical discussion of visual storytelling began in earnest in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Focusing on figure poses, gestures, facial expressions, and psychological interaction, the analysis centered mainly on classical art and illustrations of the ancient myths and epics. Although bibliography on the subject had begun with Gotthold Lessing's influential Laocoän, written in the 1760's, Carl Robert was the first scholar to discuss illustrations directly. Out of the issues of representation came comments on episodic sequences, where repeated figures represent more than one moment in the story. Continuing the analysis, Franz [p. 1] Wickoff observed three types of solutions to the problems of representing the passage of time in a static medium, calling them narrative modes.^ Roughly speaking, the modes are monoscenic, in which the main elements of a story are concentrated into one framed scene--the main figures are shown once in a defined space, performing a single action that telescopes much of the story; polyscenic, meaning more than one moment is represented--the figures are still shown once but are doing more than one thing, moving the story ahead by more than one episode; and continuous, in which the same figure is seen more than one time in a continuous setting, whether landscape or architectural, performing various actions of various episodes of the story. Serial format and extended spatial ambients thus seemed to reinforce the equation between literature and art." [pp. 1, 2]

Wall Decoration, The Symbolic Use of Color in Architectural Construction, The Freize, Sculuptural Relief - Manual of Oriental Antiquities, including the Architecture, Sculpture, and Industrial Arts of Chald'a, Assyria, Persia, Syria, Judéa, Phoenicia, and Carthage. Ernest Babelon, Librarian of the Department of Medals and Antiques in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. London: H. Grevel and Co. 1906. " . . . . The extensive region of Western Asia to which the Greeks gave the name of Mesopotamia was already, at the period which lies farthest back among the memories of mankind, the centre of a mighty civilization rivaling that of Egypt, and disputing with the latter the glory of having formed the cradle of the arts in the ancient East. Babylon and Nineveh were by turns, according to the course of political events, the intellectual hearth at which the bold and original genius was kindled, which marks the artistic productions of Chaldæa and Assyria, and the reflection of which is shown in the monuments of Persia, Judæa, Phoenicia, and Carthage, the island of Cyprus, and the Hittite races. Yet it is neither in the capital of Chaldæa nor in that of Assyria that the oldest traces have hitherto been found of this great civilization, extinct now for twenty-four centuries; it is not among the ruins of these famous cities that we can hear, as it were, an echo of the first wailings of the genius of plastic art, observe its groping efforts, touch with our finger its rudest attempts. In the country, formerly so fertile, called Lower Chaldæa, where, according to [p. 1] the popular tradition preserved by Berosus, the fish-god Oannes taught men in the beginning "all that serves to soften life," the traveler comes almost at every step, upon artificial mounds known as tells, concealing under a veil of dust the remains of cities which yield in point of antiquity neither to Babylon nor Nineveh; and it is there that modern archæologists have had the good fortune to disinter ruins far more ancient than those of the palaces of Sargon, Assurbanipal, or Nebuchadnezzar. Though a number of tumuli remain unexplored, and, as we may conjecture, future excavations will afford much new matter for science, nevertheless a brilliant light has already been thrown by numerous and important discoveries on the oriental origin of art and on the degree of material culture reached by the nation which founded Babel and the other Chaldæan towns of 'Genesis'."

Woolley, Leonard. The Art of The Middle East, including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine. New York: Crown Publishers. 1961. [Elam, Sumer, Syria & Palestine, Hurri & Hittites, Anatolia.] [Early Wall Decoration leading to the Decorative Frieze - Al Ubaid 3500 BC - Uruk 3200 BC] " . . . . But the same newcomers were quick to recognise the good work of the old al 'Ubaid people, with whom they lived on friendly terms and to profit by their example. Thus in building construction, where the materials were necessarily the same, the same principles were observed although a more wealthy community demanded greater [p. 50] elaboration in detail. The most striking example of this is afforded by the façade of the temple courtyard at Uruk [Warka], part of which was discovered by Loftus in 1854 and thoroughly excavated by the German Warka expedition in 1932. This façade and the terraced hypostyle hall is relieved by the half-columns which derive from reed construction; but both this wall and the huge brick columns of the temple entry are enriched with a mosaic of geometrical patterns executed in red, black and cream-colour. The technique is a curious one. The brickwork was coated with a mud plaster some ten centimetres thick, and into a wet mud were thrust pencil-like terra-cotta cones whose butt ends were either plain or had been dipped in paint; it was a laborious process, but the brilliant result fully repaid the labour. Something of the same sort was done on a larger scale by the Uruk builders of the earliest ziggurat platform; at intervals between the [p. 51] brick courses they laid large empty clay jars with their mouths flush with the wall surface, so that the whitewashed expanse was broken by horizontal bands of black circles; it was a rough-and-ready method aimed at obtaining a broad effect satisfactory enough when seen from a distance. Because the coloured cone technique was costly, and also limited in its possibilities, a variant was later introduced; large terra-cotta figures in silhouette with lightly modelled interior detail were pegged to the mud plaster of the wall and only the interstice between them filled in with cones; the figures might be human or animal figures or even architectural, and since these would naturally be arranged in horizontal rows their use led directly [as we shall see] to the invention of the ^achitectural frieze. . . . ." [p. 51] - "As regards decoration, the painting of internal walls seems to have been usual; traces of tempera painting with formal geometrical designs have been found at Warka in the Jamdat Nasr period, but in the Early Dynastic period we have animal figures, such as the leopard on the side of the brick throne-base at Tell Uqair and sufficient remains to show that the walls proper were adorned with lifesize human figures in colour. A different method of decorating a wall is illustrated by discoveries at Kish; here figures cut in silhouette from flat pieces of mother-of-pearl, with details added in incised lines, are set in slabs of black slate which were fixed to th wall's surface; the technique is clearly reminiscent of that of Uruk, when the silhouettes were of terra-cotta with a clay-cone background; this is a more sophisticated version. A variant of it occurs in the [slightly later] temple at al Ubaid, built about 2550 B.C. by the second king of the First Dynasty of Ur, A-anni-pad-da. The little temple stood on a high platform of burnt brick below and mud brick above, its walls relieved by shallow buttresses, approached by a flight of stairs with limestone treads and side walls paneled with wood. The temple entrance, facing the stair-head, seems to have had a porch, its roof supported on columns of palm-logs sheathed in copper; the doorway was flanked by copper figures [or protomoi] of lions, the eyes, teeth and tongues inlaid with white, black and red stone; against the jambs were columns also of palm-logs, overlaid with a mosaic in red and black stone and mother-of-pearl, set in bitumen, the triangular tesserae recalling the texture of the tree-trunk, and [p. 61] these sported a huge copper relief of the eagle Im-dugud grasping two stags.2 The temple itself was whitewashed; against the foot of the wall, standing on the edge of the platform, was a row of statues of oxen, made [like the lions] of copper sheeting over bitumen covering a wooden core; the statues were 1.20 m. high and were remarkably well executed, though now the decay and distortion of the metal has made them little more than caricatures of the original; behind the [p. 62] oxen the wall was decorated with large clay cones driven into the brickwork, their heads flower-shaped and bearing petals and corolla of red, white and black stone attached with copper wire and bitumen; here a development of the Uruk tradition is obvious. Higher up on the wall face there ran a frieze 0.25 m. wide of reclining heifers in copper, the bodies of repoussé work, the heads hollow-cast in the round. Above this was a second frieze, altogether 0.22 m. wide, in which, between raised copper borders, the sacred cattle-farm of the goddess Nin-khursag is represented--lines of advancing cows, cows with their calves, the byre, a milking scene, and priests straining and storing the milk, and one mythological scene of a human-headed bull and the bird-god Zu. The figures are set against a mosaic background of black shale; some of them are very finely carved from fragments of white shell, with a delicacy of relief which is quite extraordinary, the majority in rather coarse white limestone, which very probably was finished with stucco and painted; in spite of the difference of material the connection of this frieze with that of Kish is clear. Still higher up on the wall face was a third frieze, again of limestone figures set against a black background and framed with copper, giving a row of birds, apparently doves. [p. 61] [Woolley, Leonard. The Art of The Middle East, including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine. New York: Crown Publishers. 1961.]

Porada, Edith [With the collaboration of R. H. Dyson and contributions by C.K. Wilkinson]. The Art of Ancient Iran, Pre-Islamic Cultures. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Art of the World. 1962. [Akkadians, Elamites, Manneans, Medes, Achaemenids, Seleucids, Parthians, Sasanian] " . . . . Placing sculptures at the back of an iwan marks a change in the position of the reliefs. These were no longer carved on rocks in the open but were protected in the back of a vaulted hall. This change not only resulted in a diminution in the size of the reliefs but also probably brought about the application of paint to make the relevant parts stand out more clearly. Gradually the effect of such reliefs would become more closely related to painting than to sculpture . . . . The royal hunting reliefs on the side walls of the iwan at Taq-i Bustan certainly suggest an origin in wall-painting . . . . " [Sasanians, p. 210]



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