Monday, April 7, 2008
Here's a beautiful set from the Met.
Chess set, late 18th century
Pfeiffer Fund, 1960 (60.146a-pp)
Three of the pieces are modern replacements
Chess was avidly played in Russia by czars, princes, and merchants. The design of this chess set reflects the Indian influence in the introduction of the game to Russia, probably during the eighth or ninth century. Initially, the moves were a bit different from the European version of the game.
Although the two sides of this set—Russian Christians versus Muslims—are not differentiated by color, it is easy to distinguish them and the type was a standard Russian design. As in Indian sets, there are ships for rooks and elephants for bishops. The king is seated on a throne. Also as in Indian sets, next to the king is his vizier, here represented as a Roman officer. The pawns are Roman and Muslim soldiers. The elephants of the Christian side have mahouts but there are none on the Muslim side. The pierced, ajouré bases of these pieces are attached with ivory pins. They are carved with Neoclassical acanthus-leaf tips, which helps to date this set.
The town of Kholmogory, roughly fifty miles up the river from Archangel, was famous for its carvers, who used bone and walrus tusk for their productions. The sea mammal was landed in Archangel and every part of the walrus—the meat, skin, feet, and ivory tusks—was valued, for food and other products.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
From the Telegraph.co.uk:
Raphael's Madonna shines forth beneath grime
By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 1:45am BST 01/04/2008
A Raphael painting has been revealed in its true colours after centuries of neglect.
The Madonna del Cardellino, or Madonna of the Goldfinch, was in a poor condition after successive restorations left it with fading colours and splits in the wood panel on which it was painted.
But following a repair and cleaning lasting 10 years, it now boasts the bright blue sky and brilliant red drapery which the artist intended.
The Madonna was a wedding gift from Raphael to his friend Lorenzo Nasi in 1506. In 1548, the panel broke into 17 pieces when Nasi's house was destroyed by an earthquake.
Marco Ciatti, who was in charge of the restoration, said yesterday: "When we unwrapped the painting and I saw it horizontal for the first time instead of on a wall I was actually filled with doubt.
"It was a wood sandwich: full of nails, glue and various layers of paint from other restorations carried out during the centuries.
"The beautiful blue sky of the background had turned a dull grey. The problem was that after it was damaged it was badly restored with nails and oil paint."
As part of the process, the panel was X-rayed from several different angles to distinguish Raphael's brushwork from that of later artists who tried to cover up the damaged surface.
Mr. Ciatti said: "There were also other materials that had ruined the splendid colours of the original painting."
Special thinning agents were used to clean away the grime of 500 years so as not to damage Raphael's original paintwork.
By removing the grime they managed to uncover details such as countryside scenes in the background that had been hidden for years.
The colours on the painting were restored using as closely as possible oils that Raphael himself would have used.
Raphael arranged the three figures - Mary, Christ and the young John the Baptist - in a triangular composition favoured by Renaissance artists.
The Virgin is holding a book, which identifies her as Sedes Sapientiae ("Seat of Wisdom"). The goldfinch is a symbol of Christ's future death on the cross. St John offers the goldfinch to Christ as a warning of his fate.
Mr. Ciatti blamed one of the painting's past owners, Cardinal Giovan Carlo of the Medici family, for much of the damage. He said: "The decision to use those nails and glue was dramatic because it hid the colours of the painting.
"But we have managed after 10 years of hard, painstaking and careful work to bring the painting back to its original glory."
The painting is due to go on display in Rome in December before returning to the Uffizi gallery in Florence.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
- North Chicago (March 29, 2008)
- Town of Milton, Rock County, Wisconsin (circa January, 2008)
- Alberta, Canada (sighting in 2005, recapped in article March, 2008)
Evidently, reports of sightings of "big cats" (cougars) go back dozens of years in the midwest and Canada. Guess the zoologists don't know all there is to know (well, of course not, but I expect the majority of them are like the majority of chess historians - hide bound and tunnel vision to 19th century "knowledge" that is wrong-headed and just plain wrong!)
From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets." (Image: not from Walker - Nakht and wife holding water lily, a large water lily also to the right of the couple, resting on the offering table, another water lily wrapped around Nakht's wife's right wrist, also notice the lotus intertwined with the pilar to the far right - that is classic. Nakht's tomb, ancient Egypt - the symbolism will become apparent when you read the entry below!)
Asia's primary symbol of the yoni (vulva), often personified as the Goddes Padma, "Lotus," also known as Cunti, Lakshmi, or Shakti.
The central phrase of Tantrism, Om mani padme hum, meant the Jewel (male) in the Lotus (female), with interlocking connotations, the penis in the vagina, the fetus in the womb, the corpse in the earth, the God in the Goddess representing all of these.(1)
The father-god Brahma claimed to be a universal creator, nevertheless, he was styled "Lotus-born," for he arose from the primal Goddess's yoni. Egypt's father-god Ra also claimed to be a creator but owed his existence to the Goddess called "great world lotus flower, out of which rose the sun for the first time at the creation."(2)
Virtually all Egyptian Goddess-forms were symbolized by the lotus.(3) Pharaohs were sexually united with the World Lotus to achieve rebirth after death. The funeral hymn of Unas declared that he "had union with the goddess Mut, Unas hath drawn unto himself the flame of Isis, Unas hath united himself to the lotus."(4)
One way of uniting oneself with the lotus was the custom of ritual cunnilingus, widely practiced throughout the east as communion with the feminine life-principle.(5) This was probably the true meaning of the Land of Lotus-Easters visited by Odysseus and his crew. The sensual Land of the Lotus-Easters was described as a tropical place beyond the southern sea, which could apply to any land from Egypt to India.(6)
Ascetic Jain Buddhism tried to eradicate the lotus symbol because of its erotic implications. Nevertheless, a few centuries after Buddha's time, the most prominent figures on Buddhist monuments was again Padma, openly displaying her genital lotus.(7) A similar resurgence of erotic imagery overtook ascetic Christianity, when "obscene" figures proliferated in cathedrals and chruches, for example the Irish shelia-na-gig.
Most Oriental mystics held that spiritual knowledge began with carnal knowledge. The lotus was the Goddess's gate, and sex was the Way through the gate to her inner mysteries. With proper sexual exercises, a true sage might achieve the final flowering of revelation described as the thousand-petaled lotus of invisible light emanting from the top of the head after ascending the spinal chakras from the pelvis.
Worshippers of Vishnu sometimes painted their god as the source of the World Lotus, which grew on a long stem from his navel. But since "the primary reference of the lotus in India has always been the goddess Padma, 'Lotus,' whose body itself is the universe, the long stem from navel to lotus should properly connote an umbilical cord through which the flow of energy would be running from the goddess to the god, mother to child, not the other way."(8) Some Hindu cosmogonies saw the whole world as the lotus flower, with seven petals representing the seven divisions of the heavens where the cities and palaces of the god were located.(9)
In the Middle East, the lotus was lilu, or lily.(10) It was the flower of Lilith, the Sumero-Babylonian earth mother claimed by the Jews as Adam's first wife. The three-lobed lily or fleu-de-lis, like the shamrock, one stood for the Triple Goddess's three yonis, which is why the lily was sacred to the trune Queen of Heaven. The Blessed Virgin Juno conceived her savior-son Mars by the lily, and the same flower was adopted as a conception-charm of the Blessed Virgin Mary.(11) When Isis was assimilated to the burgeoning legends of the Virgin, her Egyptian images held the phallic cross in one hand, the female lotus seed-vessel in the other, like the Goddess shown on the Isiac Table.(12)
(1) Rawson, E.A., 151.
(2) Budge, G.E., 1, 473.
(3) Angus, 139.
(4) Budge, G.E., 2, 32.
(5) Rawson, E.A., 103.
(6) Thomson, 176.
(7) Campbell, Or. M., 301.
(8) Campbell, Oc.M., 157.
(9) Lethaby, 124-25.
(10) Summers, V., 226.
(11) Simons, 103.
(12) Knight, D.W.P., 50.
About ancient Egypt, the symbol of the lotus figured greatly in tomb art and official carvings, as far as I can tell, from the earliest pre-dynastic days right through to the final collapse of the ancient Egyptian identity, beginning with the destruction of the last of the old temples by the Christians in about 400 CE or so and then the onslaught of the Mohammedists in the 7th century CE. An ancient Egyptian god, Nefertem, who was later personified as the god of perfume (scent), wore a lotus on his head and engendered physical characteristics of both male and female (like the Indian gods so often do), appearing as a hermaphrodite. See Caroline Seawright's excellent short piece, "Nefertem, God of Perfume, Water Lily of the Sun..." for information. See also "Nefertem, Ancient Lord of Perfume" at Tour Egypt.
What was the Isiac Table?
According to the Theosophical Society (yes, they still exist):
Isiac table: Spiritual Theosophical Dictionary on Isiac table
Isiac table. A true monument of Egyptian art. It represents the goddess Isis under many of her aspects. The Jesuit Kircher describes it as a table of copper overlaid with black enamel and silver incrustations. It was in the possession of Cardinal Bembo, and therefore called "Tabula Bembina sive Mensa Isiaca ". Under this title it is described by W. Wynn Westcott, M.B., who gives its "History and Occult Significance" in an extremely interesting and learned volume (with photographs and illustrations). The tablet was believed to have been a votive offering to Isis in one of her numerous temples. At the sack of Rome in 1525, it came into the possession of a soldier who sold it to Cardinal Bembo. Then it passed to the Duke of Mantua in 1630, when it was lost.
(See also: Isiac table, Theosophy, Spirituality, Body mind and Soul, Spiritual Dictionary)
But, according to information at Sacred Texts (under entry "The Bembine Table of Isis"), the Table (tablet) was NOT lost/destroyed! There is also a enlargeable line drawing of the Table which would take days to try and decipher - I see so many interesting things in it! Wow. Who knew? I sure didn't and I've been studying this stuff since 1999!
Added 4/5/08 - from Isis:
I read the article about the Lotus, and I thought you might like to know that the famous blue lotus of Egypt, now exstinct, had aphrodesiac properties...Pharmacologists test dryed lotus from tombs and discovered that the lotus was a form of natural Viagra. The Egyptians would soak the lotus in wine to extract the lotus viagra. I wrote about this in our Showgirls article, Aphrodesiac Cooking.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By Helen Briggs Science reporter, BBC News
A necklace found near Lake Titicaca in southern Peru is the oldest known gold object made in the Americas, archaeologists say.
Radiocarbon dating puts its origin at about 4,000 years ago, when hunter-gatherers occupied the area.
The researchers say it appears to have been fashioned from gold nuggets.
The discovery suggests that the use of gold jewellery to signify status began before the appearance of more complex societies in the Andes, they report.
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), they say the artefact is the earliest worked gold found not only in the Andes, but the Americas as well.
Study leader Dr Mark Aldenderfer of the department of anthropology at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said it demonstrated an emerging social role for gold beyond simple decoration.
He told BBC News: "The gold reflects a universal tendency for human beings to strive for prestige and status.
"The gold reflects that process in people living in a simple society which is in the process of becoming more complex."
The necklace was found alongside the jawbone of an adult skull in a burial pit next to primitive pithouses at Jiskairumoko, a hamlet that was settled from 3,300 to 1,500 BC.
The researchers believe it had been worn by an adult, probably an elderly woman.
Marks on the necklace suggest that gold nuggets had been flattened with a stone hammer and then carefully bent or hammered around a hard cylindrical object to create a tubular shape.
The gold would have signalled the prestige of its wearer, "not at all different to today," said Dr Aldenderfer.
"This reflects a lot more than just a lovely object," he added. "This is a major piece of how people lived their lives and how they competed for status in the past."
Here is coverage from Archaeology News - Inthenews.co.uk
Oldest-known American gold necklace found in Peru
Tuesday, 01 Apr 2008 10:44
Archaeologists believe a nine-bead necklace recently found near Lake Titicaca in Peru is the oldest-known gold artefact in the Americas.
The necklace was found by the jawbone of an adult skull in a burial pit next to a primitive dwelling at Jiskairumoko.
Scientists believe this small hamlet was settled from 3300 to 1500BC
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the US researchers say radiocarbon dating of nearby material places the necklace's origin at about 2100 BC.
The necklace's gold beads are thick and cylindrical in shape with different lengths.
One of the beads had been perforated and a small greenstone bead was found in the soil.
Archaeologists are unsure how the necklace was made as no obvious tools to create the beads were found at the site. [Why would they even assume it had been made at the site??? It could have been - and probably was - made elsewhere and traded for, or gotten as booty during a war - or came to the person as part of a marital settlement. There are lots of different possibilities about how the necklace could have got where it ended up.]
But they say as each of the beads has distinctive hammer marks it is likely the raw native gold was hammered first and then bent and/or hammered around a hard cylindrical object to create the tubular shape.
The necklace's discovery at a settlement of seasonal hunter-gatherers shows that the use of gold jewellery to distinguish wealthy and important people began before the appearance of more complex societies in the Andes, the researchers argue.
"This discovery lends support to the hypothesis that the earliest metalworking in the Andes was experimentation with native gold," they conclude.
"The presence of gold in a society of low-level food producers undergoing social and economic transformations coincident with the onset of sedentary life is an indicator of possible early social inequality and aggrandising behaviour.
"[It] further shows that hereditary elites and a societal capacity to create significant agricultural surpluses are not requisite for the emergence of metalworking traditions."
Was the jawbone that of a woman? How do they know the wearer of the necklace was a woman? How do they know that their assumption that the "gold would have signalled the prestige of its wearer" is correct? They haven't said anything about where the gold came from or what it might have meant to the person wearing the necklace. In the absence of compelling evidence otherwise, they are just assuming based on our greedy western avarice for gold (which, after all, is pretty but cannot be eaten or planted, so it's not much good after all, is it).
There is also nothing to support the purported age of the artifact. Just because the necklace was found in a layer dating to 4000 years ago doesn't mean the artifact is that age; it could be older, for one thing. It might have been made hundreds of years before, or even thousands of years before the layer where it was buried. But can that ever be determined? It is also possible that the layers might have been disturbed where the necklace and burial were found and the necklace could be much younger than where it ended up being buried. The restored artifact is beautiful, though!