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.
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.
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.
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.
A look at three Buddha heads from the 6th to 8th Centuries A.D. and how we can date them stylistically.
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
detail of photo taken by Susan B. Anthony last year with the Kuanyin to the far right. This is a tale of the art world and how some dealers operate and what can happen. It also illustrates the arbitrary nature of prices and how hard it is to place value on these objects, whose artistic quality and historic significance makes them truly priceless. About a year ago, or so, I was in my colleagues place and on a counter top full of objects from all sorts of cultures and times, was a small intense dark stone sculpture of a Bodhisattva, of the most amazing quality. Upon looking at it, and seeing the incredible detail of its carving I had to have it and after a reverse negotiation, i.e., I offered what I thought was a high price, higher than I had been accustomed to paying, my colleague agreed to sell it to me. He loved the piece as well and said that if I ever needed cash, he’d happily buy it back from me. I […]
Col. Bogdanos speaking in 2003 at the Pentagon One of the most quotable and influential public personalities to have emerged from the chaos and destruction following the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 has been Colonel Matthew Bogdanos. He wrote a book following the invasion and looting of the Iraqi National Museum and his efforts to retrieve its treasures, Thieves of Baghdad published in 2005, which I am reading now. He is often featured in documentaries and television interviews. CBS featured him in their report on conflict antiquities, which we were shown as part of the symposium held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last Tuesday September 29th. CBS report on Conflict Antiquities http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/antiquities-expert-on-black-market-for-historical-treasures