A Moment of Zen

The Buddha, a little shy hippopotamus and a dream robe.

Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai), ca. 1150-1200
Cryptomeria wood

This sculpture was originally the main figure of worship in a temple, surrounded by other Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and guardian figures. Visitors would have come to pray or attend rituals and sutra readings performed by monks. The RISD Museum acquired the statue in the 1930s. Records state it was the principal image of Rokuon-ji, a Shingon sub-temple in Hyogo Prefecture, along Japan’s Inland Sea. Legend has it that the temple was destroyed by fire hundreds of years ago but that the statue was stored in a nearby farmhouse until 1933, when it was brought to the U.S. by the Japanese art dealer Yamanaka. The largest wooden Japanese sculpture in the United States, it was constructed from 11 hollowed and carved pieces of wood. Its simple surfaces and serene expression are representative of the late Heian Period.

Middle Kingdom to Second Intermediate Period, Dynasty 11-13
Hippopotamus, 2040-1638 BCE

Robe, 1800s
Silk tapestry weave (kesi) with handpainted decoration and applied compound-weave ribbon

RISD Museum, Providence, RI

November 23rd, 2018

Niobe’s Hubris

Fragmentary Sarcophagus front and lid depicting the slaughter of the Niobids
end of the 2nd century CE
Marble (from Luna, modern Carrara, Italy)

Only the fronts of this sarcophagus’s lid and chest survive; together they show the slaughter of Niobe’s children by the gods Apollo and Diana (the Greek Apollo and Artemis). Niobe, a mortal woman with fourteen children, demanded more honor than Leto, mother of the two deities. To punish Niobe’s pride (hubris), Apollo and Diana killed all of her children.

On the lid of the sarcophagus, Apollo stands at left and Diana at right, both taking aim at the persons portrayed in the scene below. Between them are Olympian deities, including the central figure of Zeus, king of the gods. To the left of Zeus, Athena stands with Apollo and Diana, depicted as children. On either end of the relief is a bearded male head with an open mouth and wings in his hair. The heads may be personifications of the winds, but their meaning remains unclear.

On the chest, Niobe’s dying children gaze up at the vengeful gods. Older figures support the fallen children, including their father, Amphion, on the left. Presumably, the missing portion on the right showed Niobe herself. The myth was popular from the classical age of Greece to the end of the Roman Empire.

RISD Museum, Providence, RI

November 23rd, 2018

San Francisco is… the eclectic Legion of Honor

A haven for European Art spanning 4000 years; paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, frames as precious as the works they adorn, ancient art from the Mediterranean basin and  mummies from Egypt, all under this beautiful French neoclassical structure, a replica of the French Pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, itself a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, an 18th-century landmark on the left bank of the Seine. Michael Sweerts (Flemish, Brussels 1618-1664 Goa)
Portrait of a Youth, ca. 1655-1661
Oil on canvas

Louis Léopold Boilly (French, 1761-1845)
After Clodion (Claude Michel)
Triumph of Amphitrite, ca. 1785-1799 (details)
Oil on paper mounted on canvas

Honoré Daumier (French, 1808-1879)
Third-Class Carriage, 1856-1858
Oil on panel

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)
The Bath, ca. 1880-1885 (detail)
Oil on canvas

Konstantin Makovsky (Russia, 1839-1915)
The Russian Bride’s Attire, 1889
Oil on canvas

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
The Broken Pitcher, 1891
Oil on canvas

Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848-1884)
Sarah Bernhardt, 1879
Oil on canvas

John Anster Fitzgerald (British, 1823-1906)
Fairies in a Bird’s Nest, ca. 1860
Oil on canvas

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (French, 1824-1887)
Mary Queen of Scots, ca. 1860-1869

Celestial and terrestrial globes, Dutch, ca. 1600
Jodocus Hondius, the elder (Joos de Hondt, 1563-1612), cartographer
Metal, walnut and paper

Table from Italy, Bologna, 17th century

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
The Three Shades, 1898

Paneled room
France, ca. 1680 and later
Painted and gilt wood and mirror

William Blake
”Time in advance… ”and ”Time, having passed on…,” from The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts, by Edward Young

[Night Thoughts was first published in 1742 and its continuing popularity more than fifty years later inspired publisher Richard Edwards to bring out a new, deluxe edition, for which he commissioned William Blake to provide illustrations.]

Legion of Honor

July 7th, 2017