Thursday, April 27, 2017

18C Personifications of Spring - Fashion-Forward Maidens


1752 Spring published by Elizabeth Bakewell After Philippe Mercier London

Here Spring is a well-dressed young woman with bows down her bodice and a tipped hat, sitting on a grass garden ledge. She is holding a fan in her right hand and a flower in her left.

Morning Madonna

Giampietrino, possibly Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli (active 1495–1549), Madonna and Child 1520s

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

18C Personifications of Spring - Fashion-Forward Maiden

1774 Spring print Anonymous artist painted in the style of Italian artist Rosalba Carriera 1675-1757 Published by Sayer & Bennett 1774-1784 in London

This young woman portraying Spring is shown wearing flowers in her hair, pearl earrings and bracelets. She is dressed in a loose gown which slips from her shoulder and a cloak, and she is holding up a bunch of flowers in her left hand.

Morning Madonna

Workshop of Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1460–1523), Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1514.

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

16C Spring Allegories - Birding, Fishing, & Tending Sheep

Sebastian Vrancx (Flemish artist, 1573-1647) Allegory of the Seasons Spring

Morning Madonna


Unknown Master, French Virgin and Child with Angels 1395

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 24, 2017

17C Spring Flora - Jan Brueghel II, (1601-1678) & Abraham Govaerts (1581-1642)

Jan Brueghel II, (1601-1678) and Abraham Govaerts (1581-1642) Flora Seated in a Wooded Landscape Surrounded by Flowers

Here, Flora, the ancient Italian goddess of flowers, is draped in luxurious cream & scarlet robes & contrasting with the blue landscape behind her. Set in a secluded wooded clearing filled with an astonishing variety of wild flowers, the classical subject matter blends with Flemish realism in the 2 rustic huts depicted on the hill at the right.

Flora is framed by flowers. At her left side, rests a myriad of luscious pink roses, narcissi, buttercups, violas, primroses & poppies; while on her other side, tulips & bluebells mingle together. Nestled in the lush grass next to a wicker basket overflowing with blooms are 2 small rabbits. Throughout the ages the rabbit has been a symbol of fertility & lust. Perhaps these rabbits allude to the licentious nature of Flora’s ancient Roman festival, the Floralia which was held in April & included theatrical entertainment featuring naked women. 

Both Ovid & Lucretius describe the goddess Flora in their works. Lucretius, in his explanation of the origins of nature, De Rerum Natura, describes how Flora followed in the footsteps of Zephyr (the east wind) in the spring time, strewing his way with blossoms.1  Ovid, from whom Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) later drew inspiration for his Primavera (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), tells of Flora fleeing from Zephyr: "When he at length embraced her, flowers spilled from her lips; & she was transformed into Flora."

Abraham Govaerts’ paintings typically incorporate mythological or biblical subjects within a mannerist landscape. Figures, in this case flowers, were often added by other artists.  Brueghel II & Govaerts frequently collaborated on works, particularly those with mythological subject matter. Govaerts arranged the landscape, & Jan Brueghel II painted the flowers. The tradition of lush flower painting was established by Brueghel II’s father, Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625).

¹ Lucretius, De Rerum Natura V.736-739.
² Ovid, Fasti V.193-214. 
See original article plus more information here. 

Madonna from the 800s

800s Madonna and Child Book of Kells folio 7v  Trinity College, Dublin

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1616 Spring, Summer, & Autumn - Locus amoenus, Allegories by Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 & Hendrick van Balen 1575-1632

Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 & Hendrick van Balen 1575-1632 Spring, 1616

As in these paintings, allegorical characters in stories & in art of this period were often located in garden settings. The locus amoenus was one of the traditional locations of epic & chivalric literature. As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose & verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of Medieval & Early Modern Europe.  Locus amoenus (Latin for "pleasant place") is a literary term which generally referring to an idealized place of safety or comfort, usually a beautiful, shady parkland or open woods, sometimes with connotations of Eden. A locus amoenus usually has 3 basic elements: trees, grass, & water. 


Often, the locus amoenus garden will be in a remote setting & with only components or suggestions of a more formal, geometric, walled garden, such as the flower pots seen above. The locus amoenus can also be used to highlight the differences between urban & rural life or be a place of refuge from the processes of time & mortality. In some works, such gardens also have overtones of the regenerative powers of human sexuality marked out by flowers, & goddesses of springtime, love, & fertility. Ernst Robert Curtius formulated the concept's definition in his European Literature & the Latin Middle Ages (1953). 


Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 & Hendrick van Balen 1575-1632 Summer, 1616


Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 & Hendrick van Balen 1575-1632 Autumn, 1616

Morning Madonna

Giampietrino, possibly Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli (active 1495–1549), Madonna and Child 1520s 

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

1536 Spring & The Elements Allegories by Jan Brueghel the Younger 1601-1678 Frans Francken the Younger 1581-1642

1636 Jan Brueghel the Younger (Flemish, 1601-1678) Frans Francken the Younger (Flemish, 1581-1642) A remote Landscape Setting with Allegories of the Four Elements

Here 4 seated women representing water, air, earth, & fire are surrounded by a lush landscape. The fish flowing from the water jug & the cornucopia of abundance cradled in the arms of the figure on the right correspond to the tactile elements of water & earth. The birds in the sky & trees & the accoutrements of battle in the foreground correspond to the intangible elements of fire & air. The figures, the still life objects, & the landscape work together as a unified scene, yet two different artists worked to create this painting. Frequent collaborators, the skilled figure painter Frans Francken II painted the women & background figures, & Jan Brueghel the Younger described the landscape. 


Jan Brueghel the Younger (Flemish, 1601-1678) Frans Francken the Younger (Flemish, 1581-1642) A remote Landscape Setting with an Allegory of Water and Earth


Such collaboration between artists was common in Antwerp during the 1600s, as artists often specialized in either landscape or figure painting. Flemish artists of the time repeatedly painted representations of the 4 elements, suggesting that it was a popular subject with buyers. Brueghel the Younger depicted the senses, the elements, or the seasons as allegories many times throughout his career, either together or individually.  


1630s. A remote Landscape Setting with Ceres (Allegory of Earth). Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Younger figures after Hendrick van Balen. 

Here, earth is represented by the goddess Ceres, who is surrounded with a satyr, putti, & a figure holding a sheaf of wheat. Ceres, whose name means "creator," was the goddess of agriculture, worshiped over a large part of ancient Italy.

Those winged toddlers over Ceres' head in the painting clutching her crown, are they religious cherubs or secular putti?  A putto (pl. putti) is a figure of a human toddler, usually male, often naked with wings, depicted especially in Italian Renaissance & Baroque art. The Latin word "putus" means boy or child. During the early modern period, artist Donatello revived & popularized putti figures in Florence during the 1420s.

Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Two Putti, 1490-1510

In the European culture of the 1400s & 1500s, Cherubs & Putti had distinctly different roles. Biblically, Cherubs & Seraphs (Cherubim & Seraphim) were sacred angels in heaven closest to God. Putti, arose from Greco-Roman classical myths, not the Christian tradition, and were associated with Eros or Cupid as well as with the Muse Erato of lyric & love poetry.

Raphael Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483–1520), Sistine Cherubs

As in these paintings, allegorical characters in stories & in art of this period were often located in garden settings. The locus amoenus was one of the traditional locations of epic & chivalric literature. As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose & verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of Medieval & Early Modern Europe.  Locus amoenus (Latin for "pleasant place") is a literary term which generally referring to an idealized place of safety or comfort, usually a beautiful, shady parkland or open woods, sometimes with connotations of Eden. A locus amoenus usually has 3 basic elements: trees, grass, & water. 

Often, the locus amoenus garden will be in a remote setting & with only components or suggestions of a more formal, geometric, walled garden. These paintings employ this setting.  The locus amoenus can also be used to highlight the differences between urban & rural life or be a place of refuge from the processes of time & mortality. In some works, such gardens also have overtones of the regenerative powers of human sexuality marked out by flowers, & goddesses of springtime, love, & fertility. Ernst Robert Curtius formulated the concept's definition in his European Literature & the Latin Middle Ages (1953). 

About these confusing Breughels - 

Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel) 1525-1569 was a Netherlandish Renaissance painter & printmaker known for his landscapes & peasant scenes (later called genre painting). From 1559, he dropped the 'h' from his name & signed his paintings as Bruegel.  

Pieter the Elder had 2 sons: Pieter Brueghel the Younger 1564 -1636 & Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 (both changed their name to Brueghel). Their grandmother, Mayken Verhulst, trained the sons because "the Elder" died when both were very small children. The older brother, Pieter Brueghel, copied his father's style but without the same great talent. Jan was more successful, as he turned to the Baroque style & collaborated with many fine artists.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger or Pieter Bruegel the Younger (before 1616 he signed his name as 'Brueghel' & after 1616 as 'Breughel') 1564 -1636 was a Flemish painter, known for numerous copies after his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder's work as well as his original compositions. The large output of his studio, which produced for the local & export market, contributed to the international spread of his father's imagery.

Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder & father of Jan Brueghel the Younger 1601-1678. Many of his paintings are collaborations in which figures by other painters were placed in landscapes painted by Jan Brueghel; in other works, Brueghel painted the figures into another artist's landscape or architectural interior. The most famous of his collaborators was Peter Paul Rubens who collaborated on about 25 paintings.


Jan Brueghel the Younger 1601-1678 was a Flemish Baroque painter. Jan the Younger's best works are his extensive landscapes, either under his own name or made for other artists such as Hendrick van Balen as backgrounds.  He collaborated with a number of prominent artists including Rubens, Hendrick van Balen (1575–1632), Adriaen Stalbemt (1580–1682), Lucas Van Uden (1596–1672), David Teniers the Younger, and his father-in-law Abraham Janssens. His pupils were his older sons Abraham , 1631-1690, Philips, & Jan Peeter 1628-1664, his nephew Jan van Kessel, & his younger brother Ambrosius. 

Morning Madonna

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543, German) Darmstadt Madonna

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Morning Madonna


Madonna and Child by Tytus Czyżewski (1880-1945)

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring Allegory 1700s

Jan Josef Horemans the Elder (Dutch artist, 1682-1759),  Spring & Dancing Around The Maypole


Morning Madonna

Roberto Ferruzzi (Italian artist, 1854–1934) Madonna of the Streets 1887

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

18C Allegories of Spring - Love & Bird Nests

1800 Spring by P Stampa London

This couple is in a garden with flowers in bloom & a cold frame on the right side. The man is picking a rose to add to the bunch he holds, while looking back at the woman, who carries a parasol. A boy shows passes a birds' nest to a little girl who holds out her apron.  In the background are men in a hay-field.

Morning Madonna


Marianne Stokes (Austrian-born English artist, 1855–1927) Madonna and Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

1811 John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) writes his mother, Abigail Adams (1744-1818) of Easter traditions in Russia & Greece

1818 John Quincy Adams by Gilbert Stuart

From John Quincy Adams to Abigail Smith Adams, 24 April 1811

St: Petersburg 12/24 April 1811.

The Russian People pass their lives in a continual and alternate succession of feasting and fasting. Every individual whether of high or low degree celebrates two days in every year; one for his birth and the other for his baptism, which is called his name day, and is kept on the day marked in the Calendar, as devoted to the Saint of the same name; for it is a religious principle that every body must be named after some Saint, and a rule of the Greek Church never to give more than one Christian name to the same person—

The days of public solemnity are all of a religious character, and all annually return—The ecclesiastical year commences at Christmas, which is celebrated the 25th: of December—From this day the people are allowed to eat flesh untill eight weeks before Easter; that is for a time of varying duration, Easter being in the Greek as well as in the Latin Church a moveable feast—It is the Sunday following the full moon which happens on or next after the twenty-first day of March—

Christmas day and two or three after it are Holidays during which the People amuse themselves with various sports, and drive in procession sleighs, round a Corner of the Winter Palace in this City—For a week before Christmas there is a market of frozen meat brought from distant parts of the Empire, and from which the lower classes of People in St: Petersburg stock themselves with their whole Winter’s provision of fresh meat—The bullocks, sheep and Swine are all brought in sledges and without being cut up into quarters—Most of the Marketmen think it a good piece of wit, or at least an expedient to attract notice to set them upon their legs, and it is a curious show for a stranger to walk through a succession of fleeced and embowelled flocks and herds, and droves, amounting to many thousands.

The Russian Calendars all inform the people how long they may eat meat—Thus in the almanacs of the present year it is announced that meat may be eaten 6 weeks and one day—That is from and including Christmas day to the 5th: of February—Then began what they call the Butter-week; that is a sort of ambiguous week, half fast and half feast, during which they must renounce flesh, but may eat fish, and butter, (from which it has its name) and when the Christmas sports, the races and Ice hills upon the river, and the processions of sleighs before the Imperial Palace are resumed with double ardour—The Butter-week is extended to the Sunday which succeeds it, and from that day follow seven weeks of rigorous lent, called by the Greek Church the great lent, during which according to the severity of the Church rules they should eat absolutely nothing but bread and salt.—

Something of this rigour is however abated in practice in the interval between the first and last day of these seven weeks, and among the highest class of the nobility there are persons not extremely scrupulous about observing the fast at-all.—This laxity however affects their reputation in the popular opinion, and there are few even of the highest ranks, but choose to be thought regular in their practice—

The Imperial family are punctilious in setting the example—During the last year’s lent the Empress-Mother, and her unmarried daughter the Grand-Duchess Ann, paid a visit to the Grand-Duchess Catherine, a Sister of the Emperor’s, who is married to a Prince of Oldenburg, and usually resides at Twer, a City between this place and Moscow—On their way they pass’d through the City of Novogorod the antient metropolis of Russia—They were received and entertained by the magistrates of that place, in the most distinguished manner. That is to say, the magistrates met them at the gates of the City, accompanied them to Church where they attended the divine service, and afterwards presented them—bread and salt.—All which was publicly announced in the official Court Gazette—

During the whole seven weeks of Lent, all the Theatres are closed—The only species of public amusements, that are allowed, are Concerts and Oratorio’s—No entertainments are given, and the families which profess to be scrupulous in their duties neither pay nor receive visits—

There are religious solemnities three or four times a week throughout Lent, and in the last or Passion-week every day—On the Thursday of Passion-week, the Metropolitan of St: Petersburg the highest ecclesiastical parsonage of the Empire washes the feet of twelve poor persons, in commemoration of the same act, performed by our Saviour to his Apostles the day before his crucifixion.—

The next day, that is on Good-Friday, there are in the Churches religious ceremonies specially allusive to the crucifixion, and a regular funeral procession to a place within each church where a scenical representation of the holy sepulchre is exhibited, and remains, lighted with lamps untill Easter day—

I saw this scene on the last Good-Friday, at the Roman Catholic Church in this City—It was in a chapel adjoining the great altar. In the middle of the Chapel was a transparent tomb within which was the image of a corpse, large as a man’s body. In the background was a view of Calvary with three Crucifixes standing and at a distance the temple of Jerusalem—At the foot of the tomb were the figures of two women, the Virgin Mary in the attitude of fainting, and Mary Magdalen: at the head were the images of two Angels, one of them bearing a canvass unrolled with the head of John the Baptist painted on it and in front of each end of the tomb, at a small distance from the figure of a soldier in the antient Roman armour to represent the guard mentioned in the gospels.—

This and similar exhibitions in all the Greek Churches are preparatory to the solemnities of Easter which celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and which are the most remarkable of all—

They begin precisely at Midnight by a religious ceremony which lasts between three and four hours—The signal for their Commencement in all the Churches of this City, is a Cannon fired from the fortress.—

I attended this year the celebration at the chapel in the Imperial Palace, where the foreign Ministers are not on this occasion invited, but where they are admitted and have a good stand secured to them as Spectators, if any of them chuse to be present—

I say a good stand, because it is one of the peculiarities of the Greek Church, that all their religious acts are performed standing—The only exceptions are occasional kneeling, and prostrations; but no person is ever allowed to sit—there is neither chair nor bench, nor seat of any kind in the Church. Between eleven and twelve at Night of Saturday, the day preceding Easter, I went to the Palace in full dress as to Court, and just before the Ceremony began was introduced into the Chapel, and placed at a station the most advantageous for witnessing all that was to take place.—

Precisely at Midnight the Cannon sounded from the fortress, and the Emperor entered the Chapel. He was accompanied by his Mother, and followed by two of his brothers, one Sister, and all his Court.—He took his stand within the Chancel on the right hand; and his Mother stood at his left—The princes and princess stood without the Chancel surrounded by the crowd of Ministers, Generals and Courtiers which filled the Chapel—

Eight or ten officiating Priests stood in a line before the Sanctuary, the doors of which on this occasion alone are open—and a Quire of Male singers was stationed behind a railing on either side of them—The singers are partly men grown and partly children; but the Greek Church allows no instrumental music, and no female voices.—

Some of the attendants in waiting, presented immediately to the Emperor and Empress Mother, and then to every other person in the chapel a small lighted wax taper, which every person took and held in hand during a part of the Ceremony—

Then the Quire of Singers commenced chanting a hymn, and marched out in procession, followed by the Priests, and the Emperor and Imperial family, walking two by two, and every one with the lighted taper in the hand—

They went out of the Chapel, and performed three times the round of three or four halls adjoining the Chapel, into which they then returned in the same order & resumed their respective Stations—

At the ordinary Churches this procession marches out into the Church-yard, or Street, and thrice round the building itself. It was followed at the Chapel by what I believe was a Mass; for my total ignorance of the language in which the solemnities are performed prevents me from understanding any thing that is said or sung—

At the close of it however, seven of the Priests ranged themselves in a line, each of them having a holy relic in his hand—The Emperor went up and kiss’d the relics and afterwards embraced the Priests themselves—The Empress mother and the other members of the Imperial family followed in succession and went through the same process, excepting that the Priests instead of being embraced by the Ladies, kiss’d their hands.—This however is a recent innovation, as the antient rule was that the women as well as the men should always on this occasion salute one another with a holy kiss.—

And the ceremony being considered as emblematical of the primitive equality of all Christian believers, and of the purity of Christian innocence, I find many persons here and of various ranks in Society who are by no means edified at the substitution of hand-kissing, for the good old smack upon the cheek and lips, which they boast of as having always been given at Easter, by the Empress Elizabeth, with indiscriminating favour, alike to men and women. The kissing is not confined to the Priest-hood—

Every individual in the chapel (not including strangers) was understood to have the privilege of going up and embracing the Emperor, and so many of them exercised it, that for a full hour he was employed in bestowing this mark of kindness upon everyone who chose to approach him—At the same time in every part of the chapel each individual was exchanging embraces with all the others around him, and in the course of the hour, I was witness to a multitude of kisses which it seemed to me would have satiated the greediness of Joannes Secundus—

After this operation was over a new religious ceremony began, the most remarkable part of which was the reading of the four gospels—There are four of the Priests, standing at desks, each one with his face towards one of the Cardinal points, who read in alternate succession, and by three verses at a time, a chapter from each of the four gospels, beginning with the first Chapter of St John—

This is meant to commemorate, and mark the fulfillment of the Saviour’s injunction to his disciples to preach the gospel to all the Nations of the Earth—It concluded by the Principal Priest’s taking the Communion; but without administering it to any other person. We came home between three and four in the Morning.—

This was the mere introduction to the Easter Holidays—I shall give you an account of them in another letter—The time draws near when I hope to have opportunities of writing to you directly—The lock of ice upon the Neva river was last-night broken open.—We are all Well.

From John Quincy Adams to Abigail Smith Adams, 
St: Petersburg 2. May 1811.

The religious ceremony of which in my last Letter I gave you an account, began at Midnight and terminated between three and four in the morning.—

It was accompanied by a Salute of 21. Guns fired from the Fortress, two or three times, at particular stages of the performance—This was conformable to the customary practice; which always ushers in Easter day at St: Petersburg with an expence of gunpowder and a volume of Sound, equal to that which in the good Town of Boston, introduces our Independence-Day—

This is only one of many particulars in which there are characteristic resemblances in the celebration of the two days—Thus, for example, they are both days of military Parade—At ten in the morning the Emperor reviewed all the troops then in this Metropolis, amounting to more than thirty thousand Men—Our military exhibitions are not so numerous, nor so splendid; but of these thirty thousand heroes, how many may never stand again to be reviewed on Easter-day!

In front of the Imperial Winter-Palace is a large and Magnificent Square, connected by a public walk in front of the Admiralty, with another square equally spacious and magnificent; In the centre of which is the marble Church of St: Isaac; with the incomparable equestrian Statue of Peter the Great before it, and further on in the same line a Bridge of Boats crossing the Neva, and the commencement of the Granit-sided Quay, which is one of the wonders of the reign of Catherine.—

A minute and sufficiently correct description of all these objects is contained in Porter’s sketches, which in one of your letters to me, you mention having read.—It is on these two Squares that the troops are drawn up, when reviewed by the Emperor, which he usually does every Sunday morning; but with peculiar solemnity on Easter-day—

But besides the splendor of appearance derived from this Parade, the Square of St: Isaac on these occasions is the scene of all the popular amusements which enliven the festivities of the Season—A number of slight buildings are erected on one side of the Square, in which from Easter-day untill and including the ensuing Sunday, continual exhibitions during the day-time are presented of Rope-dancers, Chinese-Shadows, puppet-shows, mechanical and optical representations, strange animals, and the like delights of the Populace, to the successive Crowds of People, who can afford a few copeeks for admission to each of these places of entertainment—

And to some of these temporary theatres, there are adjoined, an external stage or Balcony, upon which Punch and his wife, Jack-Pudding and Merry-Andrew occasionally sally from within, to allure by their antic tricks and the delicious sample of their Sports, the wavering Prudence of the simple youths, whose parsimony struggles with their love of pleasure, and whose Copeeks still linger in their pockets.—On each side of the Church are raised a number of Swings and Whirligigs, filled by a succession of men, women and children who keep them in perpetual motion,—The Swings consist of a suspended plank upon which three or four persons sit side by side, while upon each end of them stands a man or woman, who by the alternate pressure of their own weight keep the vibration constant from side to side, untill weariness puts an end to their sport.—

The Whirligigs are cross bars something like the wings of a wind-mill, with a large chair, or bucket suspended at the ends of each bar; in each of which two or three persons are seated, and which are swung round perpendicularly by machinery.—

Twenty or thirty of these two sorts of machines are ranged along close to one another, and intermixed together, which from Noon to Sun-set of every day, are incessantly whirling and balancing, all together, and as one set of the occupiers tires, instantly filled with another—Beyond them, on the side of the Equestrian Statue, are two sliding hills, another of the amusements peculiar to this Country.—

At the amusements of the Butter-week, which are in February, they are erected on the river, and are called ice-hills—an accurate description, is given of them in Porter’s 15th: letter, and they have indeed so often been described that I shall spare you the repetition of the same thing here—At Easter–time the Ice upon the river is usually so much weakened, and the weather in the day time so warm, that the real Ice–Hills can no longer be enjoyed—But so fascinating is this pastime to the common People here, that they substitute these artificial Imitations of the Ice-hills in their stead—

The Construction of the Stages is the same—But the inclined planes down which they slide, and the flat between the Stages at their feet, are laid with Planks, and the sledges upon which the Sliders go down are upon little wheels or rollers, confined on each side by a small channel in which they must run.—Of these Sports, only the lowest classes of the People partake; but every afternoon during the week, the People of better condition, that is every body who owns or can hire a Carriage, ride in procession round the two Squares for two or three hours, beholding all these amusements of the nobility, and at the same time exhibiting themselves, and their Carriages, and Liveries and Horses, in Spectacle to one Another—

The Imperial family occasionally appear two or three times every year in these processions, and the Emperor himself sometimes attends them on horseback.

On Monday, the day after Easter, a levee or Diplomatic Circle is held by the Emperor, at the Winter Palace, where according to the appropriate phrase of Etiquette, he and the Imperial family receive the felicitations of the foreign Ministers.—Felicitations for what? do you ask?—For the Resurrection of Christ: to the celebration of which all these festivities are devoted—

In all the religious ceremonies and in all the traditionary usages of this Week, there is some allusion to that great event.—The kiss promiscuous, so disgusting to Porter, and so delightful to Carr, (for these two British travellers, both rapturous sentimentalists, were very differently affected by a fashion, which custom here soon flatters into indifference as much to those who behold, as to those who practice it)_this kiss which levels all distinctions both of rank and sex, and which the Imperial Consort of Russia must in the rigour of principle bestow upon the meanest moozhik who presents her an egg, is nothing more than a recognition of that universal equality and brotherhood which Jesus came to proclaim to the whole human race; and as to the egg, which puzzles all the travellers so much to account for, what more expressive emblem could have been chosen to express that eternal life, bursting from the shell of mortality, of which the Resurrection of Jesus was the first fruit, and the most precious pledge?—

The custom of giving eggs, is as universal as that of kissing—Servants give them to their masters—Friends interchange them with one another, and it is an act of delicate gallantry from a Gentleman to a Lady—On presenting the egg, the giver pronounces the words “Christos Voskrest”—Christ is risen—to which the receiver answers “Voistinnoi Voskrest”—He is indeed risen; and then the salutation succeeds. The common people who can afford no more, give real, hard boiled hens eggs, with the shells dyed red—But persons in easier circumstances give artificial eggs, of paste-board, wood, glass, marble, porcellain, candied sugar, and in short of almost every material that can be fashioned into the shape—

Boxes of Sugar-plums assume this form in presents for children, much to the entertainment of master Charles; and it can take even the shape of a Lady’s work-bag; not to call it on so serious an occasion a Ridicule—The windows of innumerable shops in the City are decorated with multitudes of these artificial eggs, of various sizes, suspended by silk ribbons of all the gaudy Colours, and of various prices from five Copeeks to a hundred rubles—

They are also hawked about the streets by the Carriers of Ginger Bread, and sugar-candy—In short these objects are so multiplied at these times before the eyes of a Stranger to the Custom, that he would almost be induced to believe that in Russia, breeding eggs, and kissing, was the business of human life.

On Easter-day the seven-weeks Fast is at an end. Many of those whose abstemiousness has been carried to an excess which physical Nature can scarcely support, now plunge into the other excess, of bestial gluttony and drunkenness. The habits of intoxications to which the Russian Populace are addicted, have often been noticed—It is the natural vice of those who have not the means of indulging others.—

But there is a singular character of harmlessness in the ebriety of this People—Among the multitudes whom I daily meet staggering and sprawling about the Streets, I have never witnessed any thing like a fray, and scarcely ever any thing like a brawl—This quietude is partly owing to the submissive Spirit of the Nation, and partly to the rigorous vigilance of the Police—

Every Police officer, of the lowest class has the privilege of using the cudgel over the backs of the populace at discretion; and so faithfully is the privilege exercised, and so numerous are the Police–Officers, that on the slightest symptom of disorder by a moozhik in the Streets, he receives the immediate admonition of a severe bastonade, from some little, spare green-coated Beadle, who seems as if to start out of the ground for that single purpose, administers the discipline without speaking a word, and then vanishes with as little noise as he appeared. The regularity and absolute power of the Police is equally visible in the tranquility with which the crowds of People assembled at the Sports disperse immediately after Sun-set—

In the course of half an hour the sliding-hills are deserted, the Whirligigs and Swings are emptied and unmoveable, the hundreds and even thousands of equipages have retired, the bustle of the throng has given place to silence and Solitude, and the Square just swarming with festive myriads is as quiet and unfrequented as the Streets of an American City On a Sunday.—

The change of its appearance after the close of the Holidays is still more remarkable—In twenty-four hours the Sliding-hills, the whirligigs, the Swings and the Theatres have all disappeared, the Square resumes its customary appearance, and not a trace remains of the motley multitudes which have been eight-days reveling upon it.

Besides the Great Lent, before Easter, there are three other fasting terms in the course of the year—One called the Fast of St: Peter—thirty–one days in May and June—One from the 1st: to the 15th: of August, called the Fast of the Mother of God—and the fourth from the 15th: of November to Christmas day—They are not quite so rigorously kept as the great one, but they are all preceded and followed by one or more days of festivity and intemperance.

Thus much for Russian Holidays and Fasts—If you incline to slumber over this account of them, or any other of my frequent letters, I can only beg you to consider them as apologies for repeating to you as often as possible, that we are well, and ever faithfully your’s.

“From John Quincy Adams to Abigail Smith Adams, 24 April 1811,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-1956 [last update: 2015-03-20]).

Morning Madonna


Vittore Carpaccio (Italian High Renaissance Painter, ca.1450-1525) Madonna and Child 1505

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, April 17, 2017

1785 John Adams (1735-1826) & Abigail Adams (1744-1818) write of Easter Week celebrations in France

John Adams by William Winstanley, 1798

John Adams noted in his journal Easter Week activities in France.
Good Friday. Went in the afternoon to Longchamps. This is the last Day. Every year; the wednesday, thursday, and friday, of the week preceding Esther, which is called Semaine Sainte, there is a kind of procession in the Bois de Boulogne, and it is called Longchamps. There are perhaps each of those Days a thousand carriages, that come out of Paris to go round one of the Roads in the wood one after the other. There are two rows of carriages, one goes up and the other down so that the People in every carriage, can see all the others. Every body that has got a splendid carriage, a fine set of horses, or an elegant Mistress, send them out on these days to make a show at longchamps. As all the Théatres, and the greatest part of the public amusements, are shut all this week, the concourse is always very considerable for those, that cannot go there to be seen, go to see, and as it commonly happens upon the like occasions, there are always twenty to see for one there is to be seen. It is very genteel, for there are always there some of the first people in the kingdom. The hours are from five to seven, by which time very few carriages remain there; for they all go off together, so that one quarter of an hour before the place is entirely deserted, the concourse is the greatest. The origin of this curious custom, was this. There is a convent of women called Longchamps, somewhere near the Bois de Boulogne, where formerly, there was some very fine music, performed on these days, which drew a vast number of Persons out from Paris to hear it: but one year there was an uncommon concourse, and some disorders happened, which induced the Archbishop of Paris, to forbid this music on these days, but the Public, who had commonly taken a ride round part of the wood after hearing the music, continued taking the latter part of the amusement, when they were deprived of the first, and the custom has been kept up, to this day.
After it was over we went and drank tea with Dr. Franklin. Saw Mr. Dalrymple there. The weather is very cold and disagreeable yet.

See:  The Adams Papers, Diary of John Quincy Adams, vol. 1, November 1779 – March 1786, ed. Robert J. Taylor and Marc Friedlaender. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981, p. 239.

John Thaxter (1755-1791) had written to his cousin Abigail Adams (1744-1818) of the pre-Easter celebrations at Longchamps in 1783. Thaxter was a law student of John Adams, tutor to the Adams children, and John Adams's foreign secretary.

Paris 18th April 1783  Madam
For about three Weeks in the Time of Lent, the Play Houses are shut up, on account of its being a Season for the Care (not Cure) of Souls. To a City so much accustomed to Amusements as Paris, this is a Time of Mourning and Sadness. Horse racing and Bull baiting have been invented to fill up a part of this Interval of Sorrow. But what is called the Fête des longs Champs, or long Fields, is the most brilliant. About five Miles from Paris, there is a Place by the Name of Longs Champs, where formerly there was a Chapel, to which the Citizens and others peregrinated in this holy Time, to hear Mass. They made this Pilgrimage three times a Year, on the 16. 17. and 18th. of April.1 But as all human Institutions are imperfect and perpetually subject to Change, even this holy one has not been exempt from the common Lot. From a Pilgrimage to hear the word of God and sing his Praises, it has been metamorphosed into a Procession, to shew elegant Carriages, splendid Liveries and Equipage, &c. &c. Whether the Transition is natural or not, I am not to determine, but I believe one to be quite as rational as the other. They are both ridiculous enough. Upon the whole, I think the Procession much more sensible than the Pilgrimage. I am an Enemy to all Pilgrimages, except those which a Lover is obliged to make to a distant Mistress. There is good Sense in this, but to travel under Pretence of praying to this Saint or that Apostle, is a mere blind, and a villanous Tax on the Charity of the benevolent, given to the Drones of Society. But to return to Longs Champs—I went yesterday to see the Procession. All the Beauties of the Court and City were there, many of them in elegant Carriages, with Horses beautifully harnessed, and Servants in Livery. There were several thousand Carriages. The Crowd of People was immense. There were all Sorts of Characters of both Sexes. A ragged Coachman, an old or dirty Carriage or a slovenly ill dressed Servant, were objects of Ridicule and Hissing. It was diverting enough to hear the Speeches that were made yesterday, and to see the different Effects they produced on different Characters. The Crowd press so near the Carriages as they pass, that one hears every Observation they make on Men, Women, Servants, Horses and Carriages. Whoever can brave Laughter and Ridicule may venture out with an old Coach and poor Horses, but the bashful and timid had better remain at home. In one word, they are three days of Show of new Carriages, new Harness for Horses and new Livery for Servants. There is a kind of Emulation and Rivalry among them. And very often a Miss surpasses every one in Elegance and Brilliancy. Last Year, I was told, there appeared a Miss, in an elegant Carriage drawn by six superb Horses. She so far exceeded in Grandeur and Splendor every one else, that She was forbid ever appearing at Longs Champs again. I dare say, You will think this Circumstance a sufficient Comment on the whole Business, and that it is unnecessary to give any Opinion about the Matter. There are Hints enough as to Origin, Change and present Stage of the Amusement of Longs Champs. Your own Reflections will be infinitely more judicious than any I can make, and therefore I will be silent as to the Impressions this Entertainment has made on my Mind. I am happy to close this Account of the Entertainment of yesterday, by informing You, that notwithstanding the Crowd of Gentlemen on Horseback and Carriages was so prodigious, yet the excellent Arrangement of the Foot Soldiers and Dragoons was such, that not a single Accident happened. This was the Work of the Police, who at other Times experience as large a Share of Maledictions as any Class of People whatever.

See: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 127–130.


Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart


Later in the 1785 spring, Abigail Adams  (1744-1818) wrote to her niece Elizabeth Cranch, 8 May 1785.

Auteuil May 8 1785
Yes my dear Neice, it was a Ceremony that one must study Some time to find out either utility or pleasure in it. I own tho I made one in the procession I could not help feeling foolish as I was parading first up one side of a very wide road, for a mile and half and then turning, and following down a vast number of Carriages upon the other as slow as if you was attending a funeral. By this adjustment you see, one row of Carriages are constantly going up, whilst the others are comeing down, so that each calvicade have a fair view of each other, and this is call’d going to Long Champs.
About the 3d of Feb’ry the Carnival begins. During this time there is great festivity amongst the Parissians, the operas are more frequent, and Mask’d Balls succeed them. The Theaters are crowded, and every place is gay. But upon the 27 of March, or the Sunday upon which the celebration of the passion of our Saviour commences, the Theaters are closed, and continue so during 3 weeks. Lent lasts six weeks, all of which is fill’d up with Church ceremonies, one of which is the Kings washing the feet of a dozen poor Boys, and the Queen as many Girls, after which they give them a dinner in the Palace at which their Majesties and the princiss of the Blood, attend them at table, the princes and Lords carrying the plates. There is an other ceremony which is call’d the day of Branches. The people go very early to mass, before day light and continue a long time at it, after which the Priests go forth preceeded by some Church officer, with a large picture of our Saviour, and an other with a silver cross. The people follow two, and two, Men Women and Children with Branches in their hands, and Book[s] chanting their prayers. They go to kneel and pray before the crusifix one of which is placed upon the Road in every villiage. There are 3 days also when a peice of the Real and true Cross, as they say is shewn in the holy Chapel of 
Paris, and every good Catholick kisses it. Then comes holy Sunday when every body goes to Church and the Night it begins the Clergy make a solemn procession into the Halls of the palace at 3 oclock in the morning, and as nothing is performed here without the assistance of the Military, the Commandant of the Watch sends two Companies to escort this procession. But neither the Concert Spiritual which is held three times a week in the Château des Tuileries, nor all the ceremonies of the Church can compensate with the sad Parissians for the absence of the Plays. To fill up the time and vary the Amusement, this parade at Long Champs was invented. It continues 3 days. The place is about one mile from hence. It is a fine plain upon each side of which are rows of trees, like Germantown Woods. Here the Parissians appear with their Superb equipages drawn by six fleet Coursers, their Horses and servants gayly drest. All kinds of Carriages are to be seen here, from the clumsy fiacre to the gilded Chariot, as well as many Gentleman on horse Back and swarms of people on foot. The city Gaurds make no small part of the shew, for the Maré Chaussee6 as they are call’d are placed along in rows between the Carriages, and are as despotick as their Master. Not a Coach dares go an inch from its rank, nor one carriage force it self before an other, so that notwithstanding there are many thousands collected upon this occasion, you see no disorder. But after all it is a senseless foolish parade, at which I believe I shall never again assist.


See:  The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 6, December 1784 – December 1785, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 130–132.

Morning Madonna


Madonna and Child with Angel Musicians, Aragonese school of the mid-15th century

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Benjamin West 1728-1820 on Easter

Benjamin West (American artist, 1738-1820) The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) 1805


Benjamin West (American artist, 1738-1820) Detail from The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) 1805.

I love the fierce turn that West took with this painting. Life everlasting & unconditional love & total forgiveness were powerful concepts - nothing to be trifled with. West had grown a lot, since he left Pennsylvania for England.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Illuminated Manuscripts - Anointing The Body

The Marys buying ointment at the ointment shop.

Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  Mark Chapter 16

Friday, April 14, 2017

8 Paintings of The Crucifixion by Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Robing of Christ 1922


 Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Disrobing of Christ 1922


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Delivered to the People 1950


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Carrying the Cross 1920

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Crucifixion


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Crucifixion 1921


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Crucifixion 1958


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Deposition and Rolling away of the Stone 1956

The Holy Women at Jesus' Death by Hans Memling (German-born Flemish painter, 1435-1494)

Hans Memling (German-born Flemish painter, 1435-1494) The Holy Women, right hand panel of the Granada Deposition Diptych

Hans Memling (German-born Flemish painter, 1435-1494) The Mourning Virgin

Burial Vault Mosaic of the Crucifixion

Burial vault mosaic (detail), Basilica di San Marco, Venice, c.1200

Illuminated Manuscripts - Good Friday

Missal and Book of Hours, Lombardy ca. 1385-1390 (Paris, BnF, Latin 757, fol. 79r)

Good Friday marks the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of the the people of the world. Good Friday is a day of mourning and sorrow over the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It's also a day of gratitude for the supreme sacrifice that he made.


The St Albans Psalter, owned by St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim now at University of Aberdeen, Scotland The Deposition from the Cross



Prayer Book (Use of Rome), Entombment, Walters Manuscript W.438, fol. 354vb11_c

Giotto 1267-1337 looks at Good Friday in 2 Paintings

Good Friday marks the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of the the people of the world. Good Friday is a day of mourning and sorrow over the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It's also a day of gratitude for the supreme sacrifice, that he made.


1305  Giotto di Bondone (Florentine painter, c 1267-1337). The Crucifixion


1303 Giotto di Bondone (Florentine painter, c 1267-1337). The Lamentation

Duccio 1255-1319 looks at Good Friday

1308-11 Duccio (Italian artist, 1255-1319) Jesus Accused by the Pharisees


1308-11 Duccio (Italian artist, 1255-1319) The Flagellation

Good Friday marks the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of the the people of the world. Some believe that its name was originally God's Friday, which, over the years, became its present name. Good Friday is a day of mourning and sorrow over the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It's also a day of gratitude for the supreme sacrifice that he made.


1308-11 Duccio (Italian artist, 1255-1319) Crown of Thorns


1308-11 Duccio (Italian artist, 1255-1319) The Carrying of the Cross


1308-11 Duccio (Italian artist, 1255-1319) Deposition