Sunday, 22 December 2013

Happy Holidays!

An illustration from Eliza F. Manning's book The Coming of Father Christmas (1894).
It's time to rejoice! The breaking news of the month was that British Library has published one million public domain images on their Flickr account. What a splendid Christmas present for all us history enthusiasts! Coming from 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and covering all kind of themes, the pictures offer an endless treasure trove for studying, crafting and graphic design. The museum is also planning to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year to gather more knowledge about the images. Next year you will also hear of me again. Merry Christmas and My Best Wishes for 2014!

Monday, 2 December 2013

A Cavalcade of Sculpted Lions

A lion roaring in Musei Capitolini.
The shimmering white landscape - what does it make you think about? Well, lions of course! More precisely, Aslan, the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, the lord of Narnia, the great Lion himself. C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) was one of my beloved childhood books and it inevitably belonged to the winter season. I'm not sure which came first: was Aslan fascinating because he is a lion, or are lions fascinating because of Aslan? In any case, I'm always spotting lions everywhere, along with other intriguing beasts such as dragons and gryphons. You may remember my previous posts about the study trip to Rome last spring. Indeed, I did take around 5,000 photos during those two hectic weeks, so not surprisingly I was able to capture a whole pride of lions while there. In this post I concentrate on the most presentable shots of sculptural art. A cavalcade of one-dimensional lions will follow soon.
A lion guarding the courtyard of Lateran cloister.
A black lion on the top of Corinthian column in the Lateran cloister yard.
Here is an interesting composition I don't recall seeing before. A lion holding Baby Jesus? The pair on the right (not shown in the photo) holds a lamb. The lion here could refer to the Lion of Judah, the symbol of the tribe Jesus originated from. The statues guard the entrance of Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
A nicely tarnished lion head on the lid of an antique sarcophagus, close to the entrance of  Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
A lion attending the holy Mass, Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
A lion relief in the staircase of Palazzo Barberini.
A lion relief outside Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
A clumb of lions in Musei Capitolini.
A great lion lying in Musei Capitolini.
A hook-nosed lion on an antique sarcophagus, Musei Capitolini.
A majestic lion in black marble, Musei Vaticani.
A lion with very conscious eyes. Note also the lion shaped table feet on the back. Musei Vaticani.
An intricate lion head on an antique sarcophagus, Musei Vaticani.
A lion attacking a wild boar. A fragment of sarcophagus (AD end of the 3rd century), Musei Vaticani.
Daniel in the lions' den. On the left you see Habakkuk bringing him food. The lions look rather obedient. A detail of so called Sarcophagus of Two Brothers (AD 325-350), Musei Vaticani.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Winter Fanfare

Blue Rhinestone Earrings by Arx Rosarum; Sapphire Engagement Ring and Diamond Snowflake Pendant by CaiSanni; Blue Kanzashi Flower Crown by Norda Brilo; Blue Fabric Christmas Ornaments by hennihennidesign. For the other elements, see the original collage in Polyvore.
It is snowing - and I am back! Not sure which is more surprising or long-awaited. The last months have been quite occupied, but I have been looking forward to start posting here again. I have got a lot of news.... and I haven't even told about Roman mosaics, relics and skull sculptures yet! Today, as a blogging comeback, I made my very first post to the blog of Finland Handcrafters Team. I asssembled some creations of our team's artisans into Polyvore sets. This collage is a tribute to the Snow Queen. Hurray for the arrival of white!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Friday Outfit: Casual Romantic

Organic Cotton Bolero by Joik (Finland); Organic Cotton Bloomers by eleven44 (Indonesia); Leather Tote Bag by Cita D'Elle (Romania); Floral Filigree Earrings by Arx Rosarum (Finland).
I had to skip the game last week, but today I'm playing again! So here are my picks for mid-July My Friday Night Outfit. This time I chose handmade items both casual and special: a cream white crocheted bolero, chocolate brown ruffled pants, a pinkish light beige tote bag and Victorian inspired earrings with filigree and candy pink glass. You can admire all entries in the blog of our team captain Star of the East.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Wooden Poorboys of Western Finland

Do you know what is vaivaisukko, a wooden poorboy? I have always been intrigued by those human-shaped sculptures silently waiting for your handouts in the shadows of a church. Created by local craftsmen in Western Finland, they replaced the ordinary coffers for donating money to the poor. Who first came with this creative idea, is unknown, but about 180 poorboys are traced, a couple as far as to 17th century. There are about 145 poorboys still existing, one of them being a poorgirl. Recently, I visited an exhibition presenting around 40 poorboys from the churches of Western Finland. The fellow above was sculpted in 1853 in Saloinen. Before going into a more detail, let me say first a few words about the exhibition location itself.
The exhibition takes place in the wooden heart of Eastern Finland. Built in 1847, the Kerimäki Church is no less than the biggest Christian wooden church in the world. The architect was Anders Granstedt and the master builder Axel Magnus Tolpo, followed by his son Theodor Tolpo.
There have been speculations that the imposing size was a result of a measuring error. In truth, the original plan was extended so that half of the current parish residents could fit in. There is seating for over 3,000 persons; for 5,000 if some are standing. Despite its size, the interior looks delicate and harmonious.
Outside the summer, the church is closed - with one exception. On Christmas morning, there's a Mass here. These stoves have not been used since 1940's, and during the winter it's freezing inside. The people are dressed in their warmest and wrapped in blankets. The church is lit up with an array of real candles. Needless to say, it's really beautiful, really cold - and the fire service is keeping a tight watch.
Now back to the poorboys! (The poorgirl of Soini was also here, but she returned home before Midsummer.) Among the poorboys still existing, many of them were created in style of the veterans of the Finnish War (1808-1809). They have peg legs and canes and they were used to collect money especially for war invalids. This poorboy from Evijärvi was made in 1842.
Many poorboys are accompanied with a short text, like a citation from Psalms (41:1): Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble; or a fragment from Proverbs (19:17): He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.
Some one had placed coins in the begging hand of this poorboy. Actually, the coins should be dropped into the hole like filling a piggy bank.
This beautiful young man looks so innocent, fragile and frightened. Coming from 19th century Jurva, he resembles midshipman Wellard, played by Terence Corrigan in Hornblower movies. There is no evident physical injury, but his pale face tells about the terrors of war.
The oldest still existing Finnish poorboy is this Blind Bartimeus of Hauho which was created in the end of 17th century. Looking like a pilgrim, he resembles renaissance and baroque sculptures. His body has expressive movement, whereas the other poorboys are rigid as Finnish folk dancers. In 1710's, during the Greater Wrath, when Russia occupied Finland, a Cossack stroke Bartimeus in the head with a sword. Doesn't the scar just emphasize his calm devoutness?

This elegant blue gentleman is from 1870's Kurikka. For some reason he reminds me of Marc Chagall's painting Above the Town, of which a printed copy used to hang on the walls of my childhood home. There's something Slavic and surrealistic in this man. Isn't he like dropped from a dream? I'm convinced his cane is actually an umbrella; some day he will open it and fly back to the skies.
Well here's a healthy looking chap! Coming from 19th century Rautio, he is wearing a black frock coat, white pantaloons and an imposing top hat.
This tortured uncle from 19th century Haapavesi made me think of captured Hannibal Lecter. The poorboy was moved to the open-air museum Seurasaari already in 1930's. Long years outside took their toll, the fellow is quite weathered. I even heard birds nested in his coin box hole!
What a charmer! This mustached chap from 1860's Alaveteli must be my favorite. His broken chest makes him look a bit like an instrument or a mechanical doll. His eyes are quite mesmerizing; I'm sure he is a magician.
This old man looks poor indeed. There is something very genuine in his expression.
Would you give your money to this man? This fellow from Ylistaro looks quite confident that you would - or at least should!

The exhibition is open daily until 31.8.2013. In addition to the poorboys, there are also artist Antti Ojala's naivistic and charming portraits of them. More info (in Finnish) about poorboys on the website of Pelastakaa vaivaisukot ry.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Outfit: Let Me Fly

Cotton Scarf by Shovava (Australia); Barefoot Sandals by Modern Crochet Club (Poland); Peacock Lady Necklace by Arx Rosarum (Finland); White Dress by la petite nina (Belgium).
It's a sunny Friday night and I still got time to make my outfit. It's so hot... I can only dream about winds and refreshing breaths of air. Wish I was a bird! For this mood, I picked a versatile scarf with wide open wings, a white full skirt dress, a medallion shaped necklace featuring a bird-costumed lady and lightweight barefoot sandals - you really could fly with them. As always, all the outfits are shown in the blog of Star of the East.

Cats of Rome

Historically layered, Rome offers many nice surroundings for cats. In Forum Romanum and other ancient locations, many cats enjoyed taking naps in the holes of ruins. Their lazy look was rather concealing as they all became active before I had my camera ready. This one I encountered in the Communal Monumental Cemetery of Campo Verano. It’s a gorgeous graveyard; I should share some other photos of the place too.
Places like Largo di Torre Argentina are like reservations for cats. This ancient area is situated in the center of Rome; it’s fenced and never open for visitors. Famous for its temples and the supposed assassination stage of Julius Caesar, it’s now a kingdom of cats. It was funny to spot all those lazing felines. I think I can see at least one in this picture – can you?
A wanderer in Via Appia.
Outside the Etruscan nekropolis of Cerveteri, there were many curious cuties.
And one grumpy one.
Why do fat cats look like they could talk but they are too lazy to?
Yezzz, I'm the guardian of this cemetery. Need something?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Friday Outfit: Midsummer Night

Floral Crown by Ella Gajewska HATS (Poland); Chandelier Earrings by Arx Rosarum (Finland); Shawl by Knitty Stories (Lithuania); Maxi Dress by naftul (Israel); Gladiator Sandals by All To Leather (Spain).
It's Friday night again, but not the usual one. It's the brightest one we have, yötön yö, nightless night – Midsummer Eve! To celebrate the sun and the summer, I picked sun-yellow earrings, a cozy dress, a comfy shawl and a pair of extravagant leather sandals. The final touch – of course – is the lushy floral crown of the Midsummer maiden. Hyvää juhannusta! See all outfits in the blog of Star of the East.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Giveaway: Win Art Deco Style Earrings!

Would you like get these ornate Art Deco style earrings - for free? Well, this must be your lucky day! Arx Rosarum is holding a giveaway in Handmade Europe until 25th of June. I have to say these vintage glass jewels are one of my favorites - they sparkle like diamonds. Welcome and good luck!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Friday Outfit: Blooming Water

Victorian Earrings by Arx Rosarum (Finland); Ceramic Water Lily Coasters by Damson Tree Pottery (UK); Cocktail Hat by Aka Tombo Millinery (Japan); Teal Clutch Purse by Red Ruby Rose (UK).
The thunder celebration turned out to be probably too succesful. Since last week, we have had looots of rain. I should have dug a hole in the garden - now I would have a perfect pond for water lilies! For this Friday I chose shades of teal and aqua. As you can see, I didn't strictly stay in the fashion side but picked some fabulous home decor as well. Find all collections in the blog of our team captain Star of the East.

Villa Lante al Gianicolo

I promised to present you the Renaissance villa where I had the honor to live during our Rome expedition. So... here it comes, a story about Villa Lante!

Villa Lante was originally constructed by Baldassarre Turini (1481-1543), the datary of Pope Leo X (pontifical years 1513-1521). Turini was suffering from the heat of the town, and decided to build a villa on the lush Janiculum hill full of vineyards. The architect was Turini's close friend Giulio Romano (1499-1546), the student of Raphael (1483-1520). Painting was performed by other Italian artists belonging to the same school: Vincenzo Tamagni da San Gimignano (1492–1530), Polidoro da Caravaggio (1499–1543) and Maturino da Firenze (1490–1528). The construction work was started in the late 1510's and the villa was finished in 1531. Later after Turini's death, his nephew rent the villa for the French cardinal, Ambassador Georges d'Armagnac (1501-1585). In 1551 the villa was bought by Lante family, who didn't sell it onward until in the beginning of 19th century. For a period of time, the villa belonged to Prince Camillo Borghese (1775-1832), the brother-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). The Borgheses reformed the interior of villa to more fashionable neoclassical look. In year 1837 the Borgheses sold the villa to the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865), who was later canonized. The villa was used as the halls of residence for nun novices. Later the society started to lease the villa. German archeologist Wolfgang Helbig (1839–1915) and his wife, Russian princess and pianist Nadine Schakowskoy (1847-1922) rented the villa in 1887. During their reign, the villa became one of the best known salons in Rome. Many famous visitors such as aristocrats, musicians and scholars gathered there. Helbigs' son, chemist and general Demetrio Helbig (1873–1954) bought the villa from the nuns in 1909. In the year 1946 he started to lease the upstairs for Göran Stenius (1909-2000), who was the chargé d'affaires of the Finnish Embassy to the Holy See. Amos Anderson (1878-1961), who was both a wealthy Finnish businessman and a generous patron, had already founded Institutum Romanum Finlandiae in 1938 and the institute was looking for a residence in Rome. Later in 1940's, Stenius informed that the old general was willing to sell the villa for the Finns with a very affordable price. With Anderson's funds, the state of Finland bought the villa in 1950 to be used by the institute. During the time, the villa was in very bad condition and it needed an in-depth renovation. Let's take a look to Villa Lante's reception rooms. The plaster reliefs are neoclassical, they were created by the famous Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) and were mounted here in the beginning of 19th century. When the salone was restored 1974, part of the wall was left in the neoclassical style and part of the original, marble imitating painting was dug up. On the other wall you can see a huge painting. It's Historia d'Italia by famous French artist Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632). On the back you can notice a small fortepiano. It was a gift for Nadine Helbig - from no one else than the great piano virtuoso, Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886) himself. In the centrum of the ceiling there is the massive coat of arms of Pope Paul V (pontifical years 1605-1621), who belonged to Borghese family. The eagle and the dragon are the insignias of Borghese. Above them are the papal tiara and the crossed keys of Saint Peter, the insignias of pontificate. In the next photo you can see red framed ovals. They are the emblems of Turini and Pope Clement VII (pontifical years 1523-1534). I liked their enigmatic look a lot. Somewhere in the future I must write a post dedicated to emblems! Do you see the empty white slots in the ceiling? There were originally frescos, which were removed and sold separately when the Borgheses sold Villa Lante in 1837. Eventually those frescos were bought to Palazzo Zuccari, which has been the home of Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History since 1912. We had the honor to visit the institute and see the frescos now mounted to a ceiling with a bit different shape as you can see in the photo above. This fresco depicts the finding of the grave of Numa Pompilius (753–673 BC), the legendary second king of Rome. His burial place was believed to be located on the Janiculum hill. On the background, you can see Villa Lante. In the side rooms of Villa Lante, the the ceilings are also decorated. The big coat of arms belongs to Cardinal Marcello Lante della Rovere (1561-1652), the Bishop of Todi. Three white eagles are the insignia of the Lante family. The red ecclesiastical hat, galore, is the sign of cardinals. The symmetrical and ornate grotesque paintings depict mythical characters, flowers and animals. They were inspired by paintings found from ancient Roman houses buried in fill and became underground like caves, grotto - hence the name grotesque, so typical for the school of Raphael. In another room one can see how furiously the nuns tried to scrape away paintings they considered inappropriate for the halls of residence of nun novices. Some characters are long gone, only ghosts are left. Destroying probably turned out to be too time consuming, and they eventually painted over the whole frescos. In the middle you can see a portrait, which is believed to depict Raphael. The date on the wall of loggia indicates the time when the villa was finished. The columns in the loggia are from the classical era. It was rather common in Rome to transport useful building elements from ancient ruins. Nowadays the space is protected with windows. I have to mention the acoustics are brilliant. In our last meeting one of the participants performed us an amazing aria from Puccini - wow, that gave me goosebumps! One the most striking aspects of Villa Lante is no doubt the location. The villa is facing towards the east and from the roof terrace it looks like the whole of Rome opens in front of you. This is the place where we enjoyed our meals and we often wondered could one get bored with such an amazing view. The convent of nuns is still located below Villa Lante. You can see their garden in the photo. The convent building is quite hidden behind the trees. The big cross resembling building on the left is a prison. We could also take a look to the park next to the villa. Every night courting couples gathered there to enjoy the romantic view and (assumed) privacy. I got an attic room and this was the view from my window. Some runaway princess or black hooded courier really should have come to the gate during the midnight! I'm afraid I'm now on the other side of the gate. Next time I wish to visit Villa Lante I probably have to ring the doorbell during the visiting hours, which are by the way from 9 am to 12 am on every business day. If you got interested, the address is Passeggiata del Gianicolo 10 - it's very easy to get there by the bus number 115. Even if you wouldn't visit the villa, I greatly recommend the view from the top of the hill!

As the main sources for this article, I used the website of Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the profound presentation we were given by the institute's intendant. If you are interested in all those exciting moments the villa has had during its Finnish reign, I recommend the excellent Finnish book Villa Lante. Suomen Rooman instituutti 1954-2004 (2004).