The Apollo and Cyparissus Gem from the Poniatowski Collection

In this video we take a close look at one of the more beautiful Poniatowski gems in my possession, a large oval amethyst set in its original gold frame depicting the story of the cypress tree as told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. I have told this tale when I first acquired the gem here: The story told by Ovid is beautiful, relating the story of a handsome boy, a tame and beloved deer, and the god who loved the boy.  The gem shows the pivotal moment when the boy realizes he has killed his beloved deer and wants to die, with Apollo trying to pull him back from the scene of the tragedy. Ultimately Apollo loses the boy to grief, and transforms him into the cypress tree, which are found at the abodes of dead to this day, mourning forever.  

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Saying Goodbye to the Old Year: a look at three Stone Age Tools

As we close out 2017 and look forward to 2018, I’d like to take a look at long, long ago, to a time relatively unknown to us today, and mostly forgotten, but which in fact represents the majority of the time of human existence on the planet earth; the Stone Age. Human beings have been on this earth for over 2 million years, and we know very little about this long and important period, it is truly prehistoric. Modern thinking about this period of man’s existence is changing from that of man being in a hobbesian state, in which, “the life of man, (was) solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”, to one where the hunter gatherer life was actually quite good. The wonderful book, Sapiens, a brief history of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, sums up much of this new thinking in a highly readable manner. The fossil evidence shows that individuals then had more leisure time and better nutrition and overall health than seen in the early agricultural societies. This surprising turn of thought […]

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An Olmec Perforator

A look at an Olmec perforator, ritual object, from about 1000 B.C. Carved of green jade and beautifully polished, with a awl like slender pointed end, with double spoon like basins at the other end, it was used in ritual blood letting. Blood sacrifice is particular to the mesoamerican world, and the Olmecs were the mother culture of this region. The Olmec sites are in the low-lying tropical Gulf regions of Veracruz and Tabasco, and are best known for the giant stone heads.

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Greek Bronze Inkwell

A look at a very well preserved Greek Bronze inkwell from the 4th Century B.C. It is remarkably complete with its suspension chains and lid, and the pyxis like body of the inkwell is decorated with finely granulated bands, as is the base and top. It is one of the finest examples of its type I have seen.

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Liangzhu stemmed cup

A Black Glazed Stemmed Cup

When I first purchased this delicate, thin walled stemmed cup, I was unclear as to where or when it was made. I had no doubt it was ancient, and it reminded me of Etruscan black bucchero ware. However, it is much finer than Etruscan bucchero ware, and I discovered that it is in fact Chinese, and Neolithic in date, about 5,000 years old. It is an amazing object.

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The Plumed Serpent

Here we look at the subject of the serpent in Mesoamerican art, one a contemporary version of the Aztec motif by Robert Graham, the other two Aztec stone sculptures.  The plumed serpent was the symbol of Quetzalcoatl, one of the main deities of the Mesoamerican pantheon.

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Bronze Vessel Edited

An Inlaid Bronze Vessel

A look at a beautiful Chinese bronze Hu vessel, inlaid with copper, and dating to the Warring States Period, 475 – 221 B.C. What is amazing about this piece is the use of copper to inlay into the bronze, related materials that we do not consider precious today, but was treated as a precious material by the ancient Chinese. The amount of technical skill and labor to inlay the thin pieces of copper into precisely cut depressions is quite remarkable and we are able to see it clearly in this video.  

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Version 2

The Face of Glory

A look at a beautiful Chinese jade sash buckle of a fierce monster mask. Dating to the Han to Six Kingdoms period, the image is very much like protective monster faces from Buddhist monuments of the Wei to Zhou periods, and brings up a wonderful Hindu myth of the god Shiva.

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A pair of Statuettes; a Buddha and Bodhisattva

  We look at a pair of marble statuettes, one a Buddha and the other a Bodhisattva, which allows me to discuss the difference between them. The statuettes are carved of the same marble, have the same well preserved surfaces and remains of paint remaining, and must have come from the same site, and appear to have been intended as part of the same group, either just as the pair as they are here now, or they might have been part of a trilogy, with another Bodhisattva, as often the Buddha is seen between two Bodhisattvas. Whether always just a pair of two of a larger sculptural assembly, there is little doubt that these sculptures were intended to be together, made at the same time, and found together. To summarize the difference between a Buddha and Bodhisattva, a Buddha is the fully enlightened one, who has transcended our reality and reached Nirvana, the state of liberation from this plane and the cycle of rebirths known as samsara. It is the realization of non-self, the ultimate […]

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Berkshire Museum sale, a terrible idea

One of my favorite small museums up here has decided to eviscerate itself in order to fund itself, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. On their website they say they are taking a “new direction”, what this really is a money grab, as the board and director cannot figure out how to raise funds to keep the place open. The plan is to sell 40 of their most important paintings and works of art, to raise money to fund their endowment and become more of an educational institution. I think this is a terrible idea. I love small regional museums, and the Berkshire Museum is a fine example. Housed in a handsome compact Beaux art brick building, it has a fine small collection of paintings including pieces by such luminaries such as Frederich Church, Norman Rockwell, an Alexander Calder, and many others.   Frederic Church’s, Valley of the Santa Ysabel, 1875 I was just in Pittsfield this past April and took the photo above, as it is a particularly beautiful Frederic Church painting. Unfortunately it is […]

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The Bronze Eagle, revisited.

Dear Reader, it has been a while since I’ve written about the eagle and serpent. But I’ve been working on it slowly. Currently it is the custody of Frank Aon of Orenda Labs to be examined and tested.  I’m not sure the exact nature of the testing but he has access to some very sophisticated laboratories, which have specialized equipment that one cannot access easily. He believes in its antiquity, but the repairs done to it have eliminated much of the evidence of its age one generally looks for, patina, and core material. This June I went on trip to Florence, Naples and Rome, looking for parallels. The collector/dealer from whom the eagle came, believed it to be 17th Century Italian, and by Giambologna. Florence is where I was able to see the most bronzes from that period and by Giambologna and his followers.  In Rome and Naples I hoped to find parallels for the eagle in marble and or bronze.  It was in Florence however that I got the most helpful parallels, however no […]

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