28 September 2014

Looking out, looking in

Andrew Wyeth, Frostbitten, 1962.
watercolor on paper. 16 x 23 ½ in.

Of the more than 370 entries I have written here, the second-most popular has been Rooms with a View which offered small 19th-century Scandinavian paintings of mostly bare rooms with windows.  The National Gallery in Washington, DC is presenting until the end of November another window exhibition, this of paintings by Andrew Wyeth.  I have followed Wyeth since I first discovered him  Christina's World in the late 50s, and have made many pilgrimages to Brandywine, PA to his countryside (where I saw a pair of foxes courting in the snow).

One painting in this exhibition might at first glance be at home in the Scandinavian exhibition:

Andrew Wyeth, Big Room, 1988,
watercolor on paper. 22 ½ x 30 in.

but it makes clear the differences.  Where the little paintings showed the love of detail, this begins to melt away detail, to merge outside with inside, tree branches with man-made bricks.  Wyeth has always seemed to me to paint death.  I see each of his paintings not as lament or scare but as a statement of infinite calm: death is apples on a windowsill, sunlight in an empty room, a wind from the sea.  That wind is the poster picture for this exhibition.

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947.
tempera on hardboard 18 ½ x 27 ½ 

The sea is invisible. So much in Wyeth's paintings is invisible, like the lovers looking out the blue window, or "Her," or the fog, or the spring, or the window itself in paintings below. Like Piero della Francesca he paints the silence between the notes of music. But visible here in the lace of these wind-torn curtains are returning swallows, swallows coming toward the viewer whose face is about to be touched by the curtains, about to be touched by the incoming fog.

Andrew Wyeth, Rod and Reel, 1975.
watercolor on paper 21 ½ x 29 ½ in.

Andrew Wyeth, Love in the Afternoon, 1992.
tempera on panel

Andrew Wyeth, Her Room, 1963.
tempera on panel

Andrew Wyeth, Blue Door, 1952.
watercolor on paper 29 x 21 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Incoming Fog, 1952.
watercolor on paper 29 x 21 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Drying Room, 1973.
watercolor on paper 19 x 30 in.

Andrew Wyeth, The Reefer Study, 1948
watercolor on paper 22 x 30 in.

Andrew Wyeth, Spring Fed, 1967.
tempera on masonite 27 ½ x 39 ½ in.

Andrew Wyeth, North Light, 1984.
watercolor on paper 21 x 29 ¼ in.

Andrew Wyeth, Bird in the House, 1979.
watercolor on paper 29 ½ x 21 ½ in.

Pictures from Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In.
Nancy K. Anderson & Charles Brock. National Gallery of Art, 2014.

20 September 2014

Oranges, salt pork, and grain

This picture and the one below are from Michael of Rhodes.

In trying to find out how Greeks lived their lives in the fifteenth century, I have come across a few – a very few – references to Greeks in commerce who owned their own ships. Almost all these references come in records from Ragusa (Dubrovnik), where permission is being granted for ships to enter the harbor. There are more references for Greeks from Corfù and Crete, but my focus is the Morea. I am reading a French summary of medieval Latin entries, and I am getting very few indications of types of ship. The ship above may be generously-sized. It is likely that quite a few are like these:

I have one reference from Nauplion in 1450, to an Andreas Fantalouris whose family owned a ship.  Andreas was a large landholder, and may have been involved in a court case with Anonymous of Nauplion who has been a guest of this blog. Otherwise, all the sources I have now are from Ragusa.

Other Naupliots transacted business in Ragusa.  In 1408, Costantinos reported that 20 dozen bread knives were stolen from him while he was drinking in a tavern.  In 1428 a Yannis Canakis brought a ship of merchandise.  In 1435 a Yannis spent 3 1/2 ducats to buy 300 pounds of ship's biscuit for his ship.  These don't give us much information about Nauplion shipping.

There is more for Koroni. In 1428 George arrived in a griparia with salt meat, oranges, and cheese.  Kyriakos Maropoulos brought salt meat, oranges, and cotton.   In 1437 Kosta brought a ship of cheese, barley, fats, and other merchandise to Ragusa.  In 1439 Theodoros brought salt meat.  In 1442 Nikola Mortato brought oranges and merchandise.  In 1443 Maropoulos and Nikolaos brought ships with cheese, lard, and linen.  I've not found ships from Methoni.

In 1441 Nikolaos of Patras brought wheat and salted meat.  There are a number of entries which identify merchants as "Greek" without the name of a port.  If I can assume as does the editor that all the Greeks are from the Morea, that gives me a few more merchants. Yannis arrived with merchandise on his ship in 1446.  In 1428 Greeks brought saindoux, a high-quality rendering from pork fat.   in July 1436 Dino imported 600 steres of millet for which he was to be paid 300 hyperpera. That was 600 cubic metres of grain, perhaps not requiring a large ship, but one larger than the two boats in the picture above.  In 1421 so much grain was offered for sale by a Greek that it was necessary for the grain commissioners to set the prices.

So this is about all I have on Moreote merchants and ships, but it begins to suggest a picture of Greek trade.  I would be delighted if readers could contribute more.

The Ragusan sources are from B. Krekić, Dubrovnik et le Levant au moyen âge. Paris. 1961.

12 September 2014

Crow Summer 2014: Part Two

Crows in moult: the view from my desk.

Watching the crows this summer, we have learned to distinguish several of them by a combination of size, curve of the beak, amount of feathers hanging down under the neck, bushiness of leg feathers, and so on. We have lost track of Wow, Tak, and Futhark: there are about eight young the same size. They have lost the red in their mouths, and they no longer scream to be fed. I suspect it is Futhark who dive-bombs a sibling and yanks on his tail. The moult is nearly completed, but so many crows replacing all their feathers has made tremendous demands on supplies of protein.

Korax continues to visit. Washcrow and Her continue their late afternoon quiet time. Her is quite shy and continues to be skittish about our presence, but Washcrow visits, making a quiet rattle which I try to imitate, and then we will exchange assorted clicks and rattles for a bit. At least two other crows have followed his lead, and sometimes from the feeder there will be a wonderful, brief, flourish of crow sounds. One makes a series of small sneezy sounds when he sees me, while one makes small coughs. Washcrow will also, when the feeder is inadequately supplied, come near and let out a blast of two caws, demanding food which I immediately provide.

Watching the crows this summer, we have also gained information we would prefer not to know. Crows get sick. They have crippled feet. They have deformities.  They have avian pox with white spots and tumors. One has a blind eye.  The unwell crows are cranky, snap at other crows on the feeder. The healthy crows don't seem to discriminate against the unwell when we are watching. There is ultimately nothing we can do about the unwell.  The number of them is distressing -- do we have an accurate view of the ratio of well to unwell, or do we see more of the unwell because we provide a reliable food supply?

Sometimes we can help them a little. Pierre constructed a feeder so the crows have three different possibilities for standing – on a rounded perch, on the narrower edge of the pan, on a flat plank. The crow with the crippled foot will land on the plank, foot curled, and then press it down on the plank until it opens up to support him. I discovered that the two crows  with poxy faces liked soft bread – the pox makes sores in the mouth. After a week they rejected it, and I saw that one was getting better: the other has disappeared.

The unwell crows are more difficult to photograph.  They stay at the feeder a shorter time, their  movements are jerkier, and I have wondered if they see the lens of the camera as the eye of a predator.

Skin problems on the chin. These seem to be much improved.
This is the crow who makes sneezy noises at me.

Crippled foot.

Avian pox and damaged beak.

Avian pox.  

Tumors of avian pox.  The one on the left foot has become
larger, and the one on the right began since we 
started noticing.  

This crow, a relative of Hork, has the pox tumors
on one foot, and is blind in his left eye.  

To end on a more pleasing note, the young
squirrels of late summer have discovered
the crow feeder.

04 September 2014

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Eleven

Possibly Guillaume Dufay.

Cleofe probably never had a pavane –it was a slightly later development of a dance form she knew -- but at least two pieces of music were written for her wedding by two composers whom her father, Malatesta “di Sonnetti” Malatesta employed at his court. Guillaume Dufay, just beginning his career, wrote a motet. Hugo de Lantins wrote a ballata. These were written in 1419 or 1420, before Cleofe left in August for the Morea.

Listen to Vasilissa ergo gaude here or here or here. The performances differ greatly. My own recording, and the performance I heard of Vasilissa one week ago, is by Capella Romana, but I cannot find this one on the internet. However, you can hear it in person with Capella Romana in their extraordinary program of music around the Fall of Constantinople, if you can get to Utrecht for the afternoon of Sunday, 7 September.  Here is my translation of Dufay's motet for Cleofe, and then his Latin.:

Vasilissa, therefore rejoice,
worthy are you of all praise,
Cleofé, glorious from the deeds
of your family Malatesta
princes in Italy,
great and noble.

More glorious from your husband,
for he is nobler than all;
Despot of the Rhômaioi,
whom the whole world reveres;
born in the purple,
sent by God from heaven.

Radiant in youthful bloom
and in beauty,
fecund in your wits,
eloquent in both languages,
more glorious for your virtues
before other human beings.

The ruler has desired your beauty;
now that he is your Lord.
* * * * * *

Vasilissa, ergo gaude,
quia es digna omni laude,
Cleophe, clara gestis
a tuis de Malatestis,
in Italia principibus
magnis et nobilibus

Ex tuo viro clarior,
quia cunctis est nobilior:
Romeorum est despotus,
quem colit mundus totus;
in porphyro est genitus,
a deo missus celitus.

Junvenili estate
polles et formositate
ingenio multum fecunda
et utraque lingua facunda
ac clarior es virtutibus
prae aliis hominibus.

Concupivit rex decorem tuum
quoniam ipse est dominus tuus.

Text from Capella Romana: 
The Fall of Constantinople

I find the use of vasilissa fascinating – it suggests that the marriage arrangements included information as to her title. In the four letters that survive in Cleofe's hand, she uses the title only once, after the birth of her daughter Helen, when she is desperately depressed. I like the motet's suggestion that she knew Greek, and I particularly like the comment about her fertile wits. (Compositions in honor of brides never make a point of intelligence.)  Her family and friends commented on her cleverness, as did Bessarion. The last lines are ironic, given what we know about her husband's six-year refusal of a sexual relationship.

Hugo de Lantins' ballata for Cleofe seems not to have ever been recorded. I would appreciate being corrected on this. Here is my translation of Hugo, and then his version. Hugo was Franco-Flemish, working in a Pesaro where they used a variant of the Venetian dialect. Spelling was quite flexible in 1419  or so.

Across how many regions, does the sun so moving
turn and view with absolute confidence,
and see, O Sparta, none so happy as you.

You were the home of Queen Helen,
who through everything she did
drained the strength of all who ever wrote.

Now you possess something more divine,
Madonna Cleofe,
born of the Malatesta, as you well know.

These are the glories and powers
you have added to the empire of Constantinople
with its many lords, so great and noble

Tra quante regione el sol si mobele
Gira e reguarda cum intiera fede
Quanti ti, Sparta, beata non vede.

To fosti albergo di Elena regina,
Che per tanto che fe
Stancho le force de che scripse may

Ora possedi cosa piu divina
Madona Cleophe
De Malatesti, mata come say.
Quest'en le lode e le possance c'hay
Gionto a l'impero de Constantinopele
Cum tanta baronia si grande e nobele.

Text from Wikipedia.

It is not, I think, as interesting as the first, but it does show that he knows of Helen of Sparta, and he knows that Mistra is at Sparta. Both songs suggest that her family line is more than adequate to be matched with the imperial family of Constantinople.

Dufay also wrote a short composition for Cleofe's brother, Pandolfo, to celebrate his restoration of the cathedral of St. Andrew when he was Archbishop of Patras. You can hear Apostolo glorioso here. It is called an “isorhythmic motet” and is written for five voices. This will also be in the Utrecht concert.

Glorious Apostle, chosen by God
to preach to the Greek people
His incarnation, for it was blind to it,
and (who) did so without any blame,
and chosest Patras for thy resting-place
and for thy tomb this holy cave;
I pray thee, pray that I may find myself with thee,
by thy mercies, in the sight of God.

With thy teaching thou didn't convert to Christ the
whole country, and with the passion and death that
thou borest here on the cross above the olive tree.
Now it hath slipped into error and is made evil;
wherefore win grace for it again by prayer so strong
that they may recognize the true and living God.

Apostoloso glorioso, da Dio electo
A evangelegiare al populo greco
La sua incarnacion, ché v'era ceco,
Et cusí festi senza alcu suspecto,
Et elegisti Patrasso per tuo lecto,
Et per sepulcro questo sancto specco:
Prego te, preghi me retrove teco,
Per li tuoi merci, nel devin conspecto.

Cum tua doctrina convertisti a Cristo
Tuto el paese, et cum la passione et morte
Che qui portasti in croce in su lo olivo,
Mo' è prolasso in errore et facto tristo,
Si che rempetraglie gracia sí forte
Che recognoscano Dio vero et vivo.

Andrea Christi famulus.

Text and translation, Capella Romana.  The second

 The second section is not politically correct, but Pandolfo's appointment, and Cleofe's marriage, had been arranged by Pope Martin V as part of his effort to bring about Church Union.  This piece was certainly heard in Patras, and was probably written in Venetian-Italian rather than Latin as that would have been the main language heard in Patras other than Greek.

A page of Dufay's music. The West had not yet agreed
on the number of lines to a staff.