Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pompeii No.18: The Right Trophy

Last week, I unveiled the finished left trophy, but I've actually been working on both trophies simultaneously.

Like the left trophy, the right trophy features a helmet that is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Metropolitan Museum of Art  
The helmet is called a burgonet, a term that is derived from the word Burgundy. This one is embossed steel and dates to between 1545 and 1550, and it was probably made in Milan, Italy. The Metropolitan rues the fact that early conservators polished a subtly engraved background pattern completely away!

I've mentioned that I like to use as much reference as possible, and when I was designing the trophies, I had a clear vision of heavily grained poles upon which to mount the paraphernalia. Where would such wood exist? I ended up photographing weathered telephone poles that face the Gulf of Mexico, near my neighborhood.

Moving down and behind the shield are a number of implements that are historically correct. (I have taken a little license with the baton in the form of a battering ram, if only because I wanted the pleasure of painting the ram's head!) The hand is the top of a Roman standard.

Unlike the shield of the left trophy, the design of this shield was never seen in Rome. Instead, I have borrowed the design of a cameo from the collection of Catherine the Great, below.

photo-illustration, Mark D. Ruffner  |
Looking at the collections of Catherine the Great, one quickly realizes what a discerning eye she had. She loved cameos, and especially jeweled ones, but it was her habit — one can clearly see by looking at her collection — to replace any jeweled frames with very simple ones. She evidently didn't want anything to detract from the artistry of the cameo itself.

The base of the right trophy complements, but is not identical to the left trophy.

Below is the finished Right Trophy Wall.

click to enlarge
That panel on the right is looking quite bare now, don't you think? In the next week we'll figure out what to put there. I hope you'll join me then!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pompeii No.17: The Left Trophy

This week and next, we'll be looking at the mural's narrow "Trophy Walls." Both of my trophies will be on stands, as though all the paraphernalia is ready to be donned at a moment's notice.

Mark D. Ruffner  |  Metropolitan Museum of Art
I've chosen to use this helmet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates from 1788-90, and was part of a costume used in the French theater. Though it is of a later period, I'm of course using the helmet because of its spectacular Neoclassic design.

The armor is a composite of historic examples that I've found in reference books, and on the Internet. Yes, there really was armor with such a scallop shell design.

Moving down, the shield is modeled after an actual design used by one of the Roman legions, below, though it would have been a bright red. Note the Macedonian stars, about which I spoke here.   |

The round shield was called a parma, and it would have offered less protection than the body-length shield on the right, which was called a scutum. The soldier holding the scutum would have been in a tight formation in front of the soldier holding the parma.

U. S. Military Shoulder Patches of the United States Armed Forces, 5th Edition
Above are several insignia of the United States Army, and one can see here the influence of Roman design into our contemporary time. From left to right: the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, the 18th Field Artillery Brigade, the 30th Field Artillery Regiment, and the 197th Field Artillery Brigade.

The base of the stand continues the Imperial Roman theme with a golden eagle, in turn supported by lion claws.

Below is the finished Left Trophy Wall.

click to enlarge
Next week we'll look at the right wall, which has the same format, but completely different details.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pompeii No.16: The History of the Trophy

The Universal Penman   |   Dover
This week, I'm back from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and ready to start painting trophies.

Today when we think of "trophy," we probably think of sports cups or mounted safari heads, but of course the trophy goes far back into the mists of time. Trophy actually comes from the Greek word tropaion, which means a rout, or turn of the battle.

The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration   |   J. G. Heck
When the Ancient Greeks won a battle, it was their custom to adorn tree trunks with the weapons of the fleeing enemy, as shown above. The Romans did likewise, and these arrangements served as memorials of victory. My own theory of this practice is that designated trees may also have been collection points for the booty that would eventually be carried as part of triumphal processions (but I could be wrong about that).

Antiques in Italian Interiors | Roberto Valeriani, Mario Ciampi | Verbavolant
It became the custom in European and especially Italian palaces to show a grouping of battlefield remnants to allude to a family's victorious heritage. In some cases the depiction celebrated a specific event, and in some cases it was pure decoration.

Antiques in Italian Interiors | Roberto Valeriani, Mario Ciampi | Verbavolant
Here's a wall filled to the ceiling with booty . . .

Antiques in Italian Interiors | Roberto Valeriani, Mario Ciampi | Verbavolant
. . . and here's a wall with the booty depicted in three dimensions.

Handbook of Ornament   |   Franz Sales Meyer
When speaking of architectural ornament, trophy more often refers to a column of military relics, usually strung together on a pike, pole or ribbon, as above.

Antiques in Italian Interiors | Roberto Valeriani, Mario Ciampi | Verbavolant
Here's a fine example of the trophy painted to look like bas relief on a vaulted ceiling.

As I looked at the narrow spaces on either side of the Pompeii Room's window, I thought that they would be perfect for trophies. Don't forget, the owner of this room is not a native Pompeian, but rather an important Roman who just happens to have retired there. Who knows, perhaps he's even a little homesick for Rome.

click to enlarge
Here's the layout for the trophies, each painted in their flat, base colors. In the next two weeks we'll look at the left trophy and the right trophy respectively, and have fun with the details. I hope you'll join me then!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pompeii No.15: Reference Trip to the Met

Mark D. Ruffner
This week I'm in New York City, visiting my friends Yvonne and Chris, and collecting Pompeian reference from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met is such a treasure to behold from the outside — and from the very moment one walks through the door. The photograph below doesn't do justice to the lobby's dramatic weekly floral arrangements.

Mark D. Ruffner
My primary mission is to look first-hand at Pompeian fresco details, but I'll photograph anything from antiquity that might be useful to the mural. (Incidentally, photography is permitted throughout the museum because digital cameras allow for great images without the use of flash.)

click to enlarge  |  The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Spring 2010
I had seen these panels from the home of P. Fannius Synistor many times, but I wanted to study them in person. These are the very same panels that inspired my unusual column design.

The vibrant color in the panels is amazing, especially considering their age. On one hand, it's a shame that so many pieces of fine art were removed from their sites in Pompeii, but on the other hand, it should be noted that many of the murals that have remained there are degrading at a rapid rate.

Mark D. Ruffner
I like this doorway for its stylized marble, and for those inset panels that have a pure Art Deco look.

Mark D. Ruffner
The surface of this image is actually darker than the photograph shows — we're getting some reflection here. But I love the simplicity of the image and the character of the bird. Looking at this, one might wonder whether such Pompeian images influenced the later macro-mosaics of Florence, below.


Mark D. Ruffner
I'm making a record of some of the Pompeian borders. Note that they're very flat at close range, but quite 3-dimensional at a distance.

Mark D. Ruffner
Another good border, and I like those panels at the bottom of the image — expect to see those incorporated into my own room. Now look to the center of the image, at the white decorations that are acting as supports.

Mark D. Ruffner
Those are a decoration the Pompeians borrowed from Greek design. Occasionally, the bottom "limbs" are fish tails, but more often they are represented as Acanthus leaves.

Mark D. Ruffner
The Pompeian artists created fluted columns with believable shading by simply painting solid vertical lines in analogous color combinations.

Mark D. Ruffner
Moving to the Greek and Roman galleries, I came upon this fragment and fell in love with the tremendous attitude expressed here.

Mark D. Ruffner
I view museums, galleries and sometimes even retail stores as catalogs for ideas and reference. I'm often gleaning details that I can put to later use. Here, though the torso was lovely, I documented the expressive hand and the folds of drapery.

Mark D. Ruffner
I made a mental note that eagles can rest atop garlands, and garlands can hang from the horns of rams. Look at the eye of the ram on the right. Sheep and goats have such strange eyes, and the sculptor captured the expression perfectly, don't you think?

Mark D. Ruffner
Here's a satyr from the underside of a huge urn. Have you ever known anyone that mischievous? I have.

Mark D. Ruffner
In another part of the museum I recorded paintings with metal reflections. I could have used this when I was painting the clipeus!

Mark D. Ruffner
It's worth a trip to the armory gallery just to see the helmets! This beauty dates from the 1500s. Surely it was only used for triumphal processions — I'd hate to see that get dented!

Mark D. Ruffner
This is a composite photograph of three halberds. I thought it was interesting that all three had tassels and hobnail patterns.

Mark D. Ruffner
My reference collection isn't restricted to the Metropolitan; walking the streets of New York, I photographed this handsome architectural detail. I can use that for the base of my own mural columns.

Mark D. Ruffner
Likewise, this carved border is wonderful reference.

Next week, I'll start incorporating some of my finds
into the Pompeii Room.