Cosmetic Spoon

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A cosmetics container made around 1300 BC in Ancient Egypt:

“Tusk cosmetic spoon: in the form of a duck, which turns her head to offer a fish to the two ducklings which ride on her back. The duck’s eyes were carved to hold inlays, now lost. The closed wings form the lid of the spoon and swivel to either side so that the bowl hollowed from the bird’s body might be used to receive a scented fat or oil. In order to stabilize the lid when closed, a knob is set at its end, around which a cord could be tied to join it with a corresponding knob at the very back of the duck’s body.”
~ The British Museum

1350BC – 1300BC (circa)

Lysippos

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Lysippos was a Greek sculptor of the 4th century BC. Together with Scopas and Praxiteles, he is considered one of the three greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek era, bringing transition into the Hellenistic period. Here is an example of his work above.

#ArtHistory #ClassicalGreece #HellenisticPeriod #Lysippos

Aristophanes

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Classical history profile —> Aristophanes

Aristophanes (c. 448-385 B.C.) is the only representative of Old Comedy whose work we have in complete form. Aristophanes wrote political satire and his humor is often coarse. His sex-strike and anti-war comedy, Lysistrata, continues to be performed today in connection with war protests. Aristophanes presents a contemporary picture of Socrates, as a sophist in the Clouds, that is at odds with Plato’s Socrates.

Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and are used to define it.

Also known as “the Father of Comedy” and “the Prince of Ancient Comedy”, Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates, although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher.

His plays include: The Acharnians, Assemblywomen, The Birds, The Clouds, The Frogs, The Knights, Lysistrata, Peace, Plutus, Thesmophoriazusae, The Wasps

#ClassicalWisdom #ClassicalComedy #AncientGreece #Aristophanes

Aeschylus

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Classical history profile —> Aeschylus

Aeschylus (c.525 – 456 B.C.) was the first great tragic poet. He introduced dialogue, the characteristic tragic boot (cothurnus) and mask. He established other conventions, like the performance of violent acts offstage. Before he became a tragic poet, Aeschylus, who wrote a tragedy about the Persians, fought in the Persian War in the battles of Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea.

Only seven of his estimated seventy to ninety plays have survived, and there is a long standing debate regarding his authorship of one of these plays, “Prometheus Bound”, which some believe his son Euphorion actually wrote.

Only seven tragedies have survived intact: The Persians, Seven against Thebes, The Suppliants, the trilogy known as The Oresteia, consisting of the three tragedies Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, together with Prometheus Bound.

The only complete trilogy of Greek plays by any playwright still extant (save a few missing lines in several spots) is the Oresteia (458 BC), although the satyr play that originally followed it, Proteus, is lost except for some fragments. The trilogy consists of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroi), and The Eumenides. Together, these plays tell the bloody story of the family of Agamemnon, King of Argos.

#ClassicalWisdom #ClassicalTragedy #AncientGreece #Aeschylus

Longmen Caves – (龍門 石窟) Henan, China

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The Longmen caves (in Chinese: 龍門 石窟, which means “dragon door caves”) are a series of rock sanctuaries located in Henan province, China. These caves dot the Xiangshan and Longmenshan mountains, and represent one of the best examples of Chinese Buddhist art. The construction of the caves began in 493. The complex consists of 2,345 caves and over 100,000 statues of the Buddha and his disciples. There are also 2,800 inscriptions, 43 pagodas and different steles. Some of the caves date back to the Wei dynasty, but most of them were built at the behest of the Tang dynasty. In 2000 Longmen caves were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Chigusa and the Art of Tea

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Written originally in 2014:

Yesterday (Sunday) I decided to jump on the metro and head into Washington DC and go to a museum.  It is one of my favorite activities when I have the time after all.  I am so lucky to be living in an area with so many high-caliber museums and even luckier that the vast majority of them are free.  Having just moved to the area it is definitely something I am not used to and have been taking advantage of whenever I’ve had the opportunity.  I glanced on the internet to check what temporary exhibitions were going on and my choice was simple as I settled upon the Freer / Sackler Museums of Asian art.  After my morning coffee, a short walk, forty-five minutes of Zazen and a blueberry-banana smoothie I was ready to go.

I grabbed my copy of The Three Pillars of Zen that I have been re-reading and headed to the metro.  I was rather excited to get to the museums as there were several exhibits that were ending today.  Sorry folks if you are interested in them you won’t be able to see them.  Among those exhibitions was one “Chigusa and the Art of Tea,” I was particularly interested in.  If you are wondering what Chigusa is then join the club because I had no clue.  Turned out it was, “a utilitarian piece, a large stoneware jar made in southern China in the 13th or 14th century and exported to Japan for use as a commercial container” (Smithsonian Institution).

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My interest was piqued for sure and I grabbed my seat on the metro and heading into town.   I have for a long time had an interest in asia and their affinity and significance they hold in tea with the Japanese Tea Ceremony in particular.  This exhibit would have Japanese, Chinese and Korean tea artifacts as well as Chigusa of course.

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I wouldn’t say the exhibition disappointed, but it was a lot smaller than I expected.  I learned some interesting and valuable information such as “This mill for grinding tea leaves into fine powder is made of black granite from the Kamo River, which flows through Kyoto. The leaves are added from the opening in the top, and the powder emerges from between the stones, accumulating in the trough. It takes about an hour to grind enough tea for a bowl of “thick tea,” which is shared by all the guests, typically two or three people” (Smithsonian Institution).

Truth be known I don’t usually get all that excited about pottery or ceramics.  I appreciate them and their historical significance, but usually my interest begins to mane after about half an hour.  I spent a good hour examining the artifacts in this collection as other people at the museum came and went.  I found the a tea caddy named Ueda Bunrin especially beautiful.

Chigusa

 

Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Autumn and Winter

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Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Autumn and Winter 
late 15th-early 16th century

Sesshu Toyo , (Japanese, 1420-1506)
Muromachi period

Ink, and color on paper
H: 178.3 W: 375.7 cm
Japan

After a period of travel and study in China in from 1467 to 1469, the Zen Buddhist monk and painter Sesshu returned to Japan. Recognized during his stay in China as a gifted artist, Sesshu directed his experience and skills toward creating a distinctive new Japanese interpretation of Chinese artistic traditions. In the pair of screens, he follows the Japanese convention of creating a landscape with a seasonal progression from spring at the far right to winter at the far left. The focus on birds and flowers, however, derives from a traditional subject of Chinese painting.

Sesshu’s painting style also reflects Chinese sources in its emphasis on three-dimensional form and observation of the natural world. His interest in dramatic compositions emphasizing spatial depth can be seen in the large, gnarled branch in the foreground of the screen at left, which disappears into water and reemerges to frame a view of the distant, snow-covered mountains. Precise control of ink tones and brush technique, which Sesshu learned from his study of Chinese painting, enhance the expressive quality of this image.

Source: Smithsonian Institution – Freer Museum of Asian Art Collection

 

French Frigate Méduse

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On July 2nd in 1816 the French frigate Méduse struck the Bank of Arguin and 151 people on board had to be evacuated on an improvised raft, a case immortalised by Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa.

The famous painting above:

On 5 July 1816, at least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation and dehydration and practised cannibalism. The event became an international scandal, in part because its cause was widely attributed to the incompetence of the French captain.

The Sphinx: An Introduction

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The Sphinx

The Sphinx. What words could describe this epitome of architecture? What hints could decipher the mystery in his gaze? Most likely built during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu (4th Dynasty), the Sphinx is composed of a human head accompanied by the body of a lion.

Some people believe the Sphinx serves as a guard – protecting the pyramids from the destructive force of time. Yet several people made studies and predicted that the Sphinx gazes into that specific direction by no ordinary chance. They believe that the sphinx looks at a certain point, in the horizon, where Gods descended to earth.