Thursday, June 30, 2011

Boguslawski: The Blossoming of Middle Ages

The Blossoming of Middle Ages (Villard's World)
(70" x 30" oil on canvas)
Alexander Boguslawski
(Image Supplied by the Artist)

About three years ago, I posted several blog entries on "Blessed Silence" and related icons, through which I became acquainted with Professor Alexander Boguslawski -- art expert as well as artist -- and learned a great deal from him about these icons. He graciously allowed me to post images of his art on my blog, and he hasn't fogotten our discussion, for he recently contacted me:
It's been several years since our discussion of Blessed Silence. Every so often I return to your fascinating blog to check what's going on. I'm happy to see you are doing well. I decided to send you the photo of my latest painting, The Blossoming of Middle Ages (Villard's World). It is a triptych, 70 x 30 inches, oil on canvas. Four months of work. You can see details on my website . . . . I hope you like it!
I do like it, and have therefore posted it above -- as readers will already have noted. For those interested in a larger image, simply visit Professor Boguslawski's website and scroll down the "Alphabetical List of Paintings" to find The Blossoming of Middle Ages. You'll also find some details and an explanation of the work:
The Blossoming of Middle Ages was created for a friend, a professor of humanities at Valencia College in Orlando. Since his doctorate dealt with medieval technology, and one of his favorite subjects was Villard de Honnecourt, the canvas is saturated with allusions to Villard and to Middle Ages in general. However, in addition to this, the painting includes my renderings of the Temptation of St. Anthony (on the left) and of St. Francis with Animals (on the right). For the monsters surrounding St. Anthony I used my imagination, but added a few creatures from Villard's Sketchbook: a griffin, a fly, a lobster, and a snail. For St. Francis, I included mostly real animals (with the exception of two wacky birds and a strange antelope-like ruminant. The other creatures were selected for their unusual appearance, their uniqueness, or their compositional flexibility. The major feature of the group is the purple dragon petted by the saint. In the center of the painting, at the bottom, we see the owner of the painting in red robes, sitting on a barrel filled with his home brew, Dragon Ale, and guarded by his favorite dog, Luke. In front of him are books related to Villard -- Portfolio, Le 'probleme' Villard, and Architector. In the hands of the owner is a book with my signature and date, as well as Villard's initials and some imaginary design. The stone masons working on the wall are inspired by medieval manuscripts as are all the carpenters with a hoist building a bridge from the monastery to the cathedral. It is important to notice on the facade of the cathedral gothic figures in the portal, the figures of kings and saints, the images of 'green men' above the doors, the labirynth on the wall, and various details present in many real gothic cathedrals. The monastery is romanesque and features a small garden attended by monks but based on the garden of the owner of the painting. A tiny figure of a flying monk alludes to the legend of Elmer of Malmesbury who, in 1010, supposedly made a pair of wings and flew from the Abbey's tower. More workers are shown building a small model of a church on the left. Bridges, windmills, water mills, a medieval gusli player and a burger discussing something with a lady in blue complete the story. Of course, many slopes of this imaginary town have faces hewn out of stone, one of my trademarks and favorite things to paint.
Very informative. And appropriate for my interests and this blog, given the prominence of art and technology in the life of Villard de Honnecourt, a thirteenth-century artist from northern France.

Professor Boguslawski notes "the images of 'green men' above the doors" of the cathedral (and a green man seems to be tormenting St. Anthony), and on his website, he has also posted a photograph of such a green man: "the green gargoyle from one of the French cathedrals."

I'm curious if these 'green men' had any connection to the Green Knight of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Or, for that matter, if there has been any influence on the Green Goblin of the Spiderman comics. Perhaps Terrance Lindall would know . . .

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At 6:28 AM, Blogger dhr said...

St Antony holds an icon (based on a famous Medieval picture) in which God-the-Word, featured as Jesus, creates the universe using a pair of compasses. An interesting innovative detail in this over-pictured scene.

At 7:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dario, what does "over-pictured" mean?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:29 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

I'd guess that it means "[a scenario that has been] depicted too many times." As hyphenated adjectives go, it's much more graceful than "too-frequently-depicted."

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:45 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I like "over-pictured."

At 3:12 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Thanks, friends. Yes, the meaning is the one Kevin said: I thought it was a common phrase, or sort of, like "overexposed" (in media). But, sometimes I coin words in Italian, as well.

Anyway, it would be interesting to know more about that detail in the painting.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Perhaps Boguslawski will stop by and explain about the compasses.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:46 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Maybe something like, the Saint "sticks to" the idea of a perfect universe, while the devils try to show him a chaotic, hideous world.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Now, I understand your point. St. Anthony's temptation has been often depicted.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jeffery and all commentators,
Thank you for your comments. I particularly like DHR,who seems to interpret the famous picture from Bible Moralisee almost exactly the way I imagined it. St. Anthony is protecting himself with an icon of Christ believing in the perfection of the world. By the way, Christ is holding just one compas... And notice that St. Anthony, for greater protection, also holds a cross... As far as "over-pictured" scene is concerned, besides the famous Matthias Gruenewald's painting with incredible monsters, there aren't too many memorable representations. I wanted to create a gallery of interesting monsters; notice that some of them aren't so scary, after all. Would you be afraid of a snail, or a fly, or a lobster? And personally, I am not against a drink or a game of cards! But here, in the painting, everything creates a colorful mosaic. I hope everybody noticed a barrel with Leffe beer and the big barrel of Dragon Ale, which my friend brews. Jeffery would have a lot of fun talking to George!
Be well, my friends!

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Alex (i.e., Professor Boguslawski), for sending the image in the first place and for dropping by to comment, thereby providing an explanation that expands upon Dario's -- who, by the way, is a Renaissance Man par excellence! You should visit his blog and see what he does with Milton . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:47 AM, Blogger dhr said...

Dear Prof. Boguslawski, many thanks for answering!

there aren't too many memorable representations

Many indeed, but just few of them are memorable. The other "greatest hits" are Max Ernst's and Salvador Dali's.

P.S. Thanks Jeffery, too.

At 3:58 AM, Blogger dhr said...

N.B. My Milton works are not on exhibition in my blog, which is a more recent "creature." I will send a PDF file to Jeffery, who will be able to forward it to Prof. Boguslawski, in case.

Another Paradise-Lost series (PL 575), currently in progress, can be seen in the Milton List website.

At 6:01 AM, Blogger dhr said...


Another memorable representation of St Anthony being tempted ---well, it is not the same episode... or, is it?

At 6:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll forward it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dario, you slipped a comment in while I was posting one!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:13 AM, Blogger dhr said...

you slipped a comment in while I was posting one!

The devil is in the details.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The devil is in the intervening details.

Jeffery Hodges

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