Friday, May 2, 2014

Busting out all over....

I have had another whistle-stop trip back to NZ, with more weddings, catching up with family, and checking the progress of le petit projéct. We have just ordered all the marble for the flooring, kitchen and bathrooms. It should arrived from Italy and Greece within 10 weeks.  At the same time we are looking at having some full-size replica statues and busts made for the manor.

At the bottom of the stairs in the curved alcove around which the staircase spirals we would like to place a replica of The Rape of the Sabines...

The rape of the Sabine women is a legendary story in the history of Rome and does not refer to any act of sexual violation, but rather to abduction. The early Romans arrived in Rome to find that there were no women with which to procreate, so according to legend, around 750BC they decided to carry out a raid on the nearby Sabine tribe and carry off their woman to make wives out of them. According to Livy, the women were given all the civil rights of Roman citizens once they agreed to marry the men. 

This famous depiction of the legend was carved by the Flemish artist Giambologna (Jean Boulogne, 1529 - 1608). It stood in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, where today many people admire its replica (above). The original, along with Michelangelo's David, is in the Galleria dell' Academia. It is famed because it truly has no dominant view point and was created in a fluid helical movement, as you can see from the three photos above.

Having ascended the stairs, in the middle of the landing gallery we would like to have a replica of the Wrestlers (Pancrastinae). This is a sculpture I fell in love with at the Ufizzi in Florence. It is a Roman statue after a lost Greek original depicting two young men wrestling. It takes its name in Greek from the sport of Pankration, a type of mixed martial art / free-style wrestling. The lost original is thought to have been created by Myron of Eleutherae, a 5th century Athenian sculptor, and was likely made out of bronze.

You can notice the statue at the back right of Johann Zoffany's painting of the Tribuna of the Ufizzi:

The Long Gallery at the front of the house was always designed as a bust gallery. We are having six marble plinths made upon which the marble busts shall stand on one side of the gallery, against the balustrade of the void into the foyer. On the other side, under the two oval windows, will be two stone console tables, each with several busts on them.

Above and below: The many busts in the Museo Chiaramonte at the Vatican.

We have already collected quite a few busts and bronzes for various places around the house. My favourite are a pair of large marble busts of Apollo Belvedere and Diana Chasseresse. A similar matched pair of 20th century busts of Apollo and Diana sold at Christies for almost 14,000 GBP (ours were nowhere near that dear!). 

At this stage we are bursting to have the project finished so we can start decorating, but that looks like it will be a job for the new year as we are just starting to track over time on the project by a couple of weeks. I will also have fun arranging and framing the 600 intaglio that I have collected since my last post Living with monuments of the past. I was lucky enough to stumble across a couple of collections at auction, all of loose intaglio yet to be framed or mounted.

The hómage to the collectors of the enlightenment continues back downstairs in the foyer. On either side of the front door below the long gallery shall have a pair of replicas of The Townley Urn, upon which it is said that Keats was inspired to write his Ode on a Grecian Urn...

Above: The original Townley Urn, now in the British Museum.
Below: The first known transcription of Ode on a Grecian Urn.

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Although there is only one urn, we would like two replicas so that both sides can be seen at the same time without guests having to manhandle them:

Charles Townley's urn was not a Grecian urn. It was a 2nd century Roman urn, discovered at a villa in Monte Cagnolo, near Rome. It depicts a Bachanale with Maenads and Satyrs, Bacchus and Pan. It was found in a terrible condition 10 feet underground, and was bought by Townley in 1774 after it had been restored. It can be seen below in Johann Zoffany's painting of the Townley Collection (Charles Townley seen seated on the right behind the sphinx.

We can't let the gardens miss out. It was so hard to whittle down a huge wish list of statues to an affordable few, but these two have been chosen as musts. The first is the Discobolus, also attributed to Myron. Like the Pancrastinae all that remain are a few Roman marble replicas of the lost bronze original. There are two famous replicas of the original. The first is known as Discobolus Palombara and the second is known as the Townley Discobolus.  The Palombara was the first copy to be discovered, in 1781. It now resides in the National Museum of Rome, however, it was previously in the Glyptotech in Munich after Adolph Hitler purchased it in 1938.

The Townley was discovered in 1790 at Hadrian's villa. Townley bought it for his Park street collection in 1791. It was later acquired by the British Museum in 1805. The main difference between them is the position of the heads. Scholars hold the Palombara to be the original head position, although, of course, this was contested by Townley. I prefer the Townley, even if it is not the original nor the most athletically correct position for the head....

The other statue we would like is known as the Laocoon group. The Aeneid was one of my favourite books as a teenager, and so I was familiar with the story of Laocoon and his sons when I came across the Laocoon Group in the gardens of Versailles. Although a tragic story, I do like the movement captured in the composition (I think that is what I like most about the Sabine statue as well - it is a static representation of a dramatic and energetic scene). 

For those of you not familiar with the Laocoon story from Virgil's Aeneid, Laocoon was a Trojan priest of the God Poseidon. He tried to show the people of Troy that the Greek horse was not safe - "Do you think that any Greek gift is free from treachery? ... Whatever it is I'm afraid of Greeks, even those bearing gifts". He thrust a spear into it and the hollow cavity rang out. But the foolish Trojans would not listen and wheeled it in. Meanwhile, he and his sons Thrymbraeus (left) and Antiphantes (right) paid the price for his wisdom, when the Goddess Athena sent sea serpents to kill them.

The original is in the Vatican Museum. Pliny attributes the work to three sculptors from the Isle of Rhodes and says that it was carved for the Palace of the Emperor Titus. The style, known as Pergamene Baroque, dates to the second century BC. 

I have had a bit of a break from blogging around the Easter period, as I have had a lot of paper work, redesigning and sourcing to complete for the build. I do hope, however, to share some more pictures of the progress this coming week.

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