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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Henri Alphonse Barnoin

Market in Day in Front of the Closed City, Henri Barnoin
I love looking at old photos, whether those from the archives of social history or my own family's considerable contribution to that vast "picture" window into the past. Of course, photos do have their limitations. First, in terms of history, they simply don't exist before about 1840, and for the first couple decades after that they were so few and stiffly formal they might just as well have not existed. The American Civil War in the early 1860s changed that. Photography, though still not without its awkward difficulties, became portable, as wartime photographers of death and destruction perfected the "darkroom on wheels." George Eastman brought Kodak photography to the vast middle-classes and much later added color to this art and science. I don't know who, specifically, invented digital photography, but that too was groundbreaking. However, before all this, before photographs became "photos," which soon became "pictures," which later became "pix," there was the painter. Their pictures were highly developed, in color, highly detailed, quite archival, extremely diverse, and fortunately, quite plentiful. And before photography freed them from the abject bondage of realism, they were an even broader, more important (and much more beautiful) "picture" window into the past. The French painter, Henri Alphonse Barnoin was one of the human cameras who maintained their clarity and focus, but with an interesting twist (noted at the end).

Breton women at the Sainte-Barbe fountain in Le Faouët,
Henri Barnoin
Nothing can replace a good painting in bringing the past to life (at whatever level of society). Historian can record the facts with some degree of human detail, but seldom the ambience. A few outstanding novels have come close to filling in the blanks of the ongoing eras from the past, but both literary efforts have much the same limitations of antique photos--they're stiff, dry, and have relatively little color. Moreover, at they're best, they offer only a brief "snapshot" of the life and times of their protagonists and antagonists. Their greatest asset is also their greatest limitation--they use words. Worse still, they rely on the profit motive of publishers to be read by the masses. Painters are, in effect, self-published, except in rare instances when a printer sees a few bucks to be made in a broader distribution of their most popular images. Henri Alphonse Barnoin was quite prolific in painting his marine, harbor, and market scenes. He was one of the self-published best.

Henri Barnoin seems to have had an affinity for market days.
Born in Paris in 1882, Henri Barnoin's father was an artist as were two of his uncles. Henri studied at the École des Beaux Arts under the academicians, Luc-Olivier Merson, and Émile Dameron, the latter becoming the most significant influence on his style. He introduced Barnoin to Impressionism. The young artist began to paint professionally around 1909 at the age of twenty-seven. Some ten years later he set up his studio in the far northwestern port city of Concarneau where he'd often been summertime visitor. His studio on the "Quai Pénéroff" became a favorite meeting place for fellow artists inspired by the light and lively scenes of fishing boats, village markets, and the sea. In 1926, Barnoin became official Artist to the French Navy (in lieu of an official photographer one might assume).


Fishing Harbor, Concarneau, Brittany, Henri Barnoin

Portrait of the Artist's Brother,
Henri Barnoin

Although Barnoin painted an excellent full-length portrait of his brother (right), he left behind no portrait of himself. There's not even a single, solitary, blurry photo of the man to be found. Among Barnoin's favored subjects were marine, harbor, and coastal scenes, mostly painted in the rich settings of Brittany. This is exem-plified in his painting Fishing Harbor, Concarneau, Brittany (above). As a win-dow into the past, Barnoin's work is especially valuable in that he seems, himself, to have been peering into the past. He died in Paris in 1940; thus Barnoin painted well into the 20th-century, yet not once, in any of his paintings, do we see any evidence of the modern-day world. As seen in his The Market in Quimperlé (below), dating from 1928, and in his Fishing Harbor, Con-carneau (above), there's nothing but sailing ships, no cars, no contemporary dress, not even so much as a utility pole. Henri Alphonse Barnoin was an artist from the past painting his past.

The Market in Quimperlé, ca. 1928, Henri Barnoin
Woodland River at Dusk, Henri Barnoin.
Getting away from it all in the countryside.













































 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sign Design

Eye-catching, simple image, memorable message.
It's no accident that some universities in the U.S. (and quite a few more elsewhere) offer a degree they call the Bachelor of Arts and Science (BAS). It's basically a double major but a single degree. This course of studies recognizes the fact that in many professional endeavors there is often quite a fine line between that which could be termed an "art" and what we usually recognize as a "science." Frequently that which at one time was considered an "art" has now been studied to such a degree that many of its aspects have been boiled down to a science. One such area is that of sign design. Where once the client and artist painting the sign put their heads together and instinctively decided what would be both attractive and effective (two major criteria) with one usually taking precedence over the other.
 
The warning sign (center) says way too much.
The exclamation mark (upper-right), far too little.
Road signs are an example. As art goes, they're seldom very attractive, though sometimes quite creative (even humorous, as above). Their main aim is to impart critical information as to what lies ahead. They must do so quickly and unambiguously. History and common practices have turned this type of sign into a science that saves people's lives. Art has little to do with that. However, along the same highway, we find giant billboards in which, as my wife sometimes notes, "Someone got paid a lot of money to come up with that stupid idea." She's right of course, the fact that the theme of the sign appears rather "stupid" or at least unconventional, is, in reality, what make the sign eye-catching in the first place, and even more important, memorable (below). A sign noting a curve in the road need only be memorable for a few seconds before having served its purpose. However a massive billboard depicting the birth of a baby with the giant words, "ABORTION KILLS" first stuns the viewer, perhaps even offends, but in any case grabs attention and, finally, may be memorable for years to come.
 
Someone got paid a lot of money...
Speaking of years, road signs have been around about as long as roads, if for no other reason than to identify the name of the road and perhaps as mile markers so travelers could mark their progress. Advertising signs, if there were any, were largely haphazard and incidental. It was hardly worth the bother in that so few people did much traveling, and in any case had little need for information on roadside products and services. Of course the automobile changed all that. Roads multiplied and improved. They grew longer, wider, smoother, and straighter. Speeds increased. Signs of all kinds proliferated as did, eventually, the science of size, placement, images, and messages. Not only that, but often they were vitally important economically as whole towns lived (and sometimes died) in relying on a well-traveled highway passing through. U.S. Rt. 66, as it beat a paved path across the west, is a near-perfect example.
 
Signs such as the five-cent Coca-Cola sign (above-right) seem
quaint to us today; but actually, the bottled carbonated
beverage sold for five cents for some seventy years.
While sign painting and messaging were once strictly the domain of artists and advertisers, today, thanks to the ubiquitous portable signboards seen along streets and highways everywhere, virtually anyone can say about anything their freedom of speech allows. Very often there's more than a grain of truth in the wit and wisdom which such lighted signage proclaims. Our church once posted with their ever-changing letters the question: "What on earth are you doing for heaven's sake?"
 
Democracy at work--tweeting for the masses.
Road signs of the future.















Solar signage.








































Friday, August 26, 2016

Giovanni (Guercino) Barbieri

St. Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin, 1652-53, Guercino
One of the interesting, and very valuable research assets with which art historians have been blessed is the Guild of St. Luke. To the layman, this may seem a rather strange reference as they ponder what connection one of the followers of Jesus Christ has to do with painting. On the theory that a painting is worth a thousand words, take a look at the one above. It's titled, St Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin, painted around 1652-53, by an artist named Guercino (pronounced gwer-tee-no). Translated from Italian, the name means "the squinter." It was a nickname the artist picked up as a child in an age (he was born in 1591) when eyeglasses were an uncommon luxury, and highly unlikely in the case of a young child. His real name was Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, all of which may be somewhat interesting, but says nothing about the original question regarding the biblical physician, St. Luke.
 
Guercino was one of the most prolific painters of his time, turning out
during his lifetime some 106 altarpieces alone, plus another 144 other
paintings, not to mention a huge portfolio of pen and ink drawing's.
First of all, from medieval times on, all the major trades had their own guild, which was part fraternal organization, and in larger part, something akin to a labor union as we know them today. Insofar as art historians are concerned, their records provide a highly reliable chronicle of all the professional artists (and their students) working in a given city at a given time. For those researching the art and artists of the past, that's almost like owning a time machine. Now, inasmuch as Luke was a physician, all physicians in every major city belonged to the Guild of St. Luke. Artists, being the social climbers we all are, reasoned that since Luke was also a painter, they should be permitted to rub shoulders with members of what was undoubtedly the most elite guild of their time. It's more than a little doubtful just how artistic Luke may have been (if at all), though a church we once visited on the Island of Malta, in the medieval city of Medina, proudly displays a painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus supposedly by St. Luke. I've seen it from a fair distance, though it wasn't much to see, so coated with centuries of filth as to be nearly black overall. The attribution is probably about as reliable as that of the guild's physicians, who claimed that Luke was Mary's obstetrician (which, if true, would likely have made him in his seventies by the time he traveled the high seas with Paul).
 
Though the church likely kept him too busy to paint portraits,
Guercino's self-portraits indicate he could have. The one on
the left suggests that he appears to have eaten quite well
from his painting efforts.
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri was born in the small Italian village of Cento, located about halfway between Bologna and Ferrara. There he seems to have pretty much taught himself to paint while also acquiring his nickname. (He was cross-eyed.) Records of the local Guild of St. Luke indicate that by the time Guercino was sixteen (about 1607) he was working as apprentice in the shop of Benedetto Gennari, a painter of the Bolognese School. By the time he was twenty-four, Guercino had, himself, moved to Bologna, while gathering the praise of no less a painting master than Ludovico Carracci. His paintings from this period have a stark naturalism characteristic of Caravaggio, though it's unlikely that Guercino saw any of the Roman artist's work first-hand. His style seem to vacillate between the typical Mannerist renderings of his day and the highly popular Baroque which was starting to gain favor about this time.

Guercino's secular subjects were as popular as his religious works.
Most large-scale paintings brought him around 300 gold ducats each
(roughly $25-thousand).
About 1618, Guercino painted one of his most famous works, The Arcadian Shepherds also called Et in Arcadia ego (below). Its dramatic composition is typical of Guercino's early works. He often claimed that his early style was influenced by Ludovico Carracci whose work he saw in the Capuchin church in Cento. His later works are closer to the style of his contemporary Guido Reni, and are painted with more lightness and clarity. The Latin title, Et in Arcadia ego, translates: "And I am in Arcadia" which doesn't help much. Some scholars add the word "even" in the middle as being understood but omitted. It helps some to know that Arcadia was the ancient Greek equivalent to paradise. The skull was, of course, the symbol of death, so in "reading" the painting next to its title, the context would suggest that there is death, "even" in the heavenly realm. Actually the title discourse goes much further than that, but my eyes glazed over before I ingested much more.

Et in Arcadia ego, 1618-22, Guercino (Giovanni Barbieri).
The title derives from the words carved beneath the skull.

The years 1621–23 found Guercino in Rome, where he was extremely productive. From this period come his frescoes Aurora at the casino of the Villa Ludovisi, the ceiling in San Crisogono (1622) of San Chrysogonus in Glory, the portrait of Pope Gregory XV, and The Burial of Saint Petronilla (sometimes called the St. Petronilla Altarpiece) for the Vatican. Following the death of Pope Gregory XV, Guercino returned to his hometown where he began his frescoes in the Duomo of Piacenza. Guercino's career after 1629 is well documented in an account book that Guercino and his brother, Paolo Antonio Barbieri, kept updated, and which has been preserved. In 1642, after the death of Guido Reni, Guercino moved his workshop to Bologna where he became the city's principal painter. The prices he received for his work would seem astounding, even today. In 1655, the Franciscan Order of Reggio paid him 300 gold ducats (about $25,000) for the altarpiece of Saint Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin and Child (top). In 1657 the Corsini family also paid him 300 ducats for the Flagellation of Christ(pictured above among the Life of Christ paintings).

Guercino also specialized in figures from the Old Testament
as well as those from the parables of Christ.
Although Guercino was remarkable for the extreme rapidity of his executions, he was also an excellent draftsman. His many drawings, usually in ink, washed ink, or red chalk, naturally include preparatory studies for his paintings, but also landscapes, genre subjects, and caricatures, apparently done simply for his own enjoyment (bottom). Guercino's drawings are best known for the fluency of his style in which rapid, calligraphic pen strokes combine with dots, dashes, and parallel hatching to shape his forms. Guercino continued to paint and teach until his death in 1666; and in the process amassed a considerable fortune. Since he never married, his estate went to his nephews (also his pupils), Benedetto Gennari II and Cesare Gennari. Both came to be outstanding Baroque artists.

Notice that only Guercino's early works, from around 1615, suggest the  influence of Caravaggio, while his later "mature" work, though definitely Baroque, tend toward a style all his own.

One of Guercino's more amusing
caricatures.






































 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Millennium Park, Chicago

Millennium Park, Chicago. Michigan Avenue is to the right,
Columbus Drive to the left. The Art Institute is seen in the
top center of the photo on the left side of Michigan Ave.
In the spring of 2014 my wife and I spent three days in Chicago seeing the sights and sites I had read about and written about over the past few years. We saw the Art Institute, the Willis (Sears) tower, Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, ate at the top of the John Hancock Tower while staying in one of the city's oldest and grandest hotels, the Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Since then, I could kick myself for not doing a more thorough canvas of all there was to see and do in the city. We missed Chicago's two most popular attractions, the Navy Pier (not entirely by accident); and one of the most outstanding urban parks, not just in Chicago, or even the U.S., but the entire world--Millennium Park.
 
A map of the lakefront area (top) featuring the Art Institute, Grant Park, Maggie Daley Park, and Millennium Park. The lower map indicates the
layout of Millennium Park. (Both maps are oriented the same direction.)
What makes this omission all the more aggravating is that the Art Institute of Chicago is practically in Millennium Park--just across East Monroe Street. The aerial image (top) is oriented toward the south, just the opposite of the map, but still gives some idea as to how close I was to this community treasure without realizing it. Our hotel was a couple blocks south of the Art Institute. The aerial photo of the park (top) depicts mostly the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Great Lawn (center), the Serpentine Bridge (left) and Cloud Gate (right).
 
The architectural and cultural centerpiece of Millennium Park
Located near the center of the park, built over the Illinois Central rail yards (as is the entire park almost), is the architectural and cultural centerpiece of the park, the Pritzker Pavilion (above). The pavilion is an outdoor concert shell which stands some 120-feet high, with a billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frames the stage opening, while also connecting to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound system, which spans the 4,000 fixed seats as well as the Great Lawn, which accommodates an additional 7,000 people. The state-of-the-art sound system, the first of its kind, was designed to mimic the acoustics of an indoor concert hall by distributing enhanced sound equally over both the fixed seats and the lawn. Jay Pritzker Pavilion was designed by the famed architect, Frank Gehry, and is classified as a work of art to avoid legal restrictions as to its height. All concerts are free.
 
The bridge is closed in winter due to the difficulty
in removing ice from its wooden floor.
Also designed by Gehry is likely the most unique bridge in the world (some might also say the most beautiful). Called the BP Pedestrian Bridge (the park was largely finance by corporate sponsors, everything from chewing gum to jet aircraft) it is clad in brushed stainless steel panels, intended to complement the Pritzker Pavilion in function as well as design by creating an acoustic barrier from the traffic noise below. It connects Millennium Park to the old Daley Bicentennial Plaza (now Maggie Daley Park), to the east. The 925-foot-long winding bridge, provides incomparable views of the Chicago skyline, Grant Park, and Lake Michigan while also providing access to a subsurface parking garage.
 
Cloud Gate, 2006, Anish Kapoor. How do they keep it so shiny?
Flanking the Pritzker Pavilion and the Great Lawn to the west, just off Michigan Avenue, is the park's most famous attraction, British artist Anish Kapoor's 110-ton elliptical sculpture he called Cloud Gate. The shiny sculpture (financed by AT&T)is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A twelve-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see themselves reflected back from a variety of perspectives. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high. I regret missing this more than anything else.

Crown Fountain, 2006, Jaume Plensa.
Just south of Cloud Gate, bordering Michigan Avenue, is another major addition to Millennium Park, further augmenting what amounts to a massive outdoor art museum. The Crown Fountain (above) was designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video of the faces of a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. Plensa uses the faces of Chicago citizens projected on LED screens, having water flowing through an outlet in the screen to give the illusion of water spouting from their mouths. Plensa's fountain references the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths spouting water. His images were taken from a cross-section of a thousand Chicago residents.

The Boeing Galleries feature the work of living artists.
When I referred to Millennium Park as a massive outdoor art museum, I wasn't kidding. The Boeing Corporation has sponsored two sculpture galleries (above) while the three Chase (Bank) Promenades are used as outdoor (and waterproof) fine arts displays featuring flat works, both aimed at promoting the work of living artists (below). If you've ever had the urge to visit an art gallery while under an umbrella, Millennium Park has you...uncovered.

Since Chicago is known as the "Windy City," I wonder how
such displays stand up to a stif breeze off Lake Michigan.
In addition to these truly unique features of the 25-acre park, Chicago's urban landscaping masterpiece also contains those delights which have traditionally made such community rest and recreation areas so attractive. The Lurie Gardens (below) supplies the flowers. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel, this five-acre garden pays homage to the City's motto, "Urbs in Horto" (City in a Garden), which refers to Chicago's transformation from its flat and marshy origins to a bold and powerful city. Highlights include dramatically lighting, and a fifteen-foot-high “shoulder” hedge, a visual representation of Carl Sandburg’s famous description of the “City of Big Shoulders,” which encloses the garden on two sides and protects the delicate perennial plants. A graceful hardwood footbridge over shallow water divides the garden diagonally between “light” and “dark” floral areas.

Millennium Park's Lurie Gardens, a refuge among the city's
soaring towers keeping Chicago's skies "well-scraped."
Along with the ubiquitous flowers, fountains, and footbridges, Millennium park also boasts a theater (indoors), a monumental peristyle of columns dedicated to the park's many founders and sponsors (Wrigley Square), a bicycle rental center (McDonald's),and four welcome centers (one at each corner of the park). It's far from the largest urban park in the world, nor is it, by any stretch, the oldest (actually, probably the youngest). It was first proposed in 1997 with construction starting the following year. Cost overruns brought the city's total investment to $270-million with private donations approximating a similar figure. Millennial park was officially opened in 2004, though some might argue that it's been "under construction" ever since.

The Harris Theater, located on Randolph Street behind
and adjacent to the Pritzker Pavilion.
In memory of all those who died supporting the park.




































































 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

John Huston's The African Queen

It's hard to imagine a more unlikely couple, but it worked.
There is a phenomena in moviemaking commonly referred to a "chemistry." It has to do with a certain, largely indefinable, personal magnetism between two stars (usually of the opposite sex) that lifts a film from the ordinary to the exceptional. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh had it. So did Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Winslet and DiCaprio nearly saved the Titanic with their steamy formula. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman also come to mind as do Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise (on screen, if not in real life). Perhaps one of the best known and oft-repeated examples of film chemistry was that of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn; or perhaps topping even that, Bogie and Bacall. Speaking of these two couples, perhaps the strangest chemistry experiment of all time was Director John Huston's mixing Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn together in his 1951 film classic, The African Queen.
 
Two powerful screen talents. Mixing them could just as easily
have blown up in John Huston's face.
Director, John Huston, 1951.
It would seem that some film stars got better grades in chemistry than others in that Bogart could be mentioned as the male half of several such couplings (Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman and Key Largo with Bacall, for instance). Had it not been for this unexpected combination, and an excellent script by Huston and James Agee, which brought them together, The African Queen would have been little more than an overblown, second-rate, adventure film. Of course, we can't slight Huston's role as chief chemist, given his long, illustrious careers on both sides of the camera. The best reasoning as to why there sometimes develops this chemistry between two stars (but more often does not), has to do with the talent of the two and their ability to convincingly pretend to fall in love. And of course, sometimes (as with Tracy and Hepburn) it's not pretend. It's interesting also to note the Bogart's wife, Lauren Bacall, never left her husband's side during the long, arduous filming of African Queen, especially when he was around Hepburn.
 
The chemistry at work.
The book, by C.S.
Forester, 1935
Referring to the on-location filming of The African Queen in what was then the Belgian Congo (today, The Democratic Republic of Congo) as "arduous" might be considered an understatement. Treacherous might be more accurate. The cast and crew had to battle perils including dysentery, malaria, bacteria-filled drinking water and several close brushes with wild animals and poisonous snakes. Most of the cast and crew were sick for much of the filming, except for Bogart, who drank only whiskey. Huston tried hiring local natives to help the crew, but many would not show up for fear the filmmakers were cannibals. The script, based on the 1935 novel of the same title by C.S. Forester, has the couple also surviving harrowing rapids, a trip over a waterfall, an attacked by a horde of mosquitoes, and becoming lost in stagnant shallows. Thick reeds bog down the boat, forcing Charlie Allnut (Bogart) to pull it through the water only to find, when he boards the boat again, dozens of leeches covering his body. Then there's the constant threat of the Germans with forts and gun emplacements along the river. The movie is set in 1914, during the prelude days of WW I.
 
Heat, humidity, dysentery, flies, wild animals, snakes--
fun and games mid-summer on the Congo.
Most of the action takes place aboard the African Queen. Scenes on board the boat were filmed using a large raft with a mockup of the boat on top. Sections of the boat set could be removed to make room for the large Technicolor camera. This proved hazardous on one occasion when the boat's boiler – a heavy copper replica – almost fell on Hepburn. It was not bolted down because it also had to be moved to accommodate the camera. The small steamboat depicted in the African Queen was built in England in 1912, for service in Africa. In April of 2011, it was fully restore and is now on display as a tourist attraction at Key Largo, Florida.
 
The steam boiler amid ship in the film has been replaced with a diesel engine in the restored version.
The African Queen opened on December 23, 1951 in Los Angeles, just in time to qualify for the 1951 Oscars. The New York City premiere had to wait until February, 1952. The film earned an estimated £256,267 at UK cinemas in 1952, making it the 11th most popular movie of the year. It earned an estimated $4 million in US and Canadian box office receipts. The film was budgeted at one-million but ended up earning some ten times that. Although The African Queen was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Direction, only Humphrey Bogart took home an Oscar.

Robert Morley played the missionary brother of
Rose Sayer  (Hepburn). He's killed by the Germans
in the early part of the movie.

Check out the film's trailer below.


Katherine Hepburn as you've never seen her before...or since.
 
Wading through the weeds...and the leeches.
















Dumping Charlie's gin
 (it was really just water).




































Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jacopo de' Barbari

A maze of narrow streets and waterways
--even Venice loses much of its charm when it rains.
Imagine, if you will, visiting the city of Venice, Italy, around 1500, and attempting to make your way around this urban Renaissance landscape, on foot, without the aid of a map. Not only is there a veritable maze of narrow waterways zigzagging their way through the city, but overlying it all is a second, equally complex, maze of narrow streets (some barely what we'd call alleys), which cross over the canals via dozens of nearly identical arched stone footbridges (above). The city is divided into two main areas separated by the winding Grand Canal over which there is but one (at the time) bridge--the Rialto. Although there are a plethora of treacherous gondolas at your service, there are times when you might have the feeling you could get where you want to go easier by swimming...assuming you didn't mind taking a dip in an open sewer. Of course, your sojourn is made somewhat easier by the towering campanile of San Marcos which serves as an orienting landmark. But still, frequently getting lost is more the rule than the exception. Asking directions in such an unfamiliar environment is quite acceptable...provided you speak the Venetian dialect of Italian. And traveling about the city at night...forget it. Yes, the streets are dimly lit by torchlight (some of them, anyway), but then, as now, there is always the danger of getting mugged...provided you don't stumble into a canal first.

Virgin and Child Flanked by St John the Baptist and St Anthony Abbot, 1490s, Jacopo de Barbari
Jacopo de Barbari, around 1497, decided to do something about this sorry state of affairs. De Barbari was a consummate woodcut artist and so-so painter (above) as compared to the many other Venetian painters of his day. Virtually nothing is known of de Barbari's early life. Art historians have no idea where he was born and can't seem to come within twenty years as to when he was born (between 1450 and 1470 is a best guess). Some argue he may have, in fact, been a German immigrant. At any rate, he turned up in Venice apparently in the late 1490s, paint, brushes, and woodcutting tools in hand, whereupon he took it upon himself to draw a map of the city for the benefit of the growing tourist trade just starting to become noticeable at the time. This was no small undertaking even for such an experienced artisan. The work required six blocks and the printed map measured about six feet horizontally and some four feet vertically. Moreover it was also exceptional for its time in that it took the form of an aerial perspective. Rather than clutter the work with street names, de Barbari simply drew them in along with detailed views of each and every building in the city (below). It was as if he'd hovered over the city in a hot air balloon to draw his map. Actually its likely he relied on detailed surveys drawn at ground level. In any case, the results, having taken more than three years to create, are stunning in their details and accuracy, especially for a time more than five hundred years ago.

King Neptune is likely just a fanciful decoration.
Although, given its size, the map may have been a bit unwieldy (not to mention expensive) for the city visitors of his day, having been there, done that a few years ago, there were times when I would have welcomed de Barbari's map despite its size and publication date. Just as a contrast, compare the map image and details (above) with a modern-day map similar in details (below).

For orientation purposes, start at San Marcos on this and
Barbari's map in comparing the two.
Portrait of Hendrik
(the peaceful) Graaf
van Mecklenburg,
1507, Jacopo de Barbari.
Perhaps, having seen far more of Venice than he ever wanted, Jacopo de Barbari took the profits from the sale of his maps and departed the city for Nuremberg, Germany, becoming the first artist of the Italian Renaissance to take his talent to the Teutonic tribes to the North. For about a year he worked for the Emperor Maximilian I. He then worked in various places for Frederick the Wise of Saxony in 1503-05, before moving to the court of the Elector Joachim I of Brandenburg during the years 1506-08. He may have returned to Venice with Philip the Handsome of Burgundy, for whom he later worked in the Netherlands. However by 1510 de Barbari was back in Germany, then on to Brussels where he worked for Philip's successor Archduchess Margaret. In January of 1511 de Barbari fell ill and made up a will. In March of that year the Archduchess gave him a generous pension for life, due to his age and infirmities. By 1516 he was dead, leaving the Archduchess in possession of twenty-three engraving plates, some of which have not survived.


Portrait of Luca Pacioli, ca. 1500, Jacopo de' Barbari. The artist's work
fits much more neatly into German traditions of portrait painting than those of the Italians. Notice the cut-glass
Still-Life with Partridge and Gauntlets, 1504,  Jacopo de' Barbari,
considered the first fool-the-eye still-life since the time of
ancient Rome.

































Allegory, (verso) Portrait of a Man,
1497-1500, Jacopo de Barbari.
While in Venice, the artist seems
to have had a sideline of erotic
art. The title, for some unknown
reason, seems to ignore the feminine
element of his so-called "Allegory."