Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Strange Miracles & Hectic Life of Saint Nicholas 270-343 AD

Saint Nicholas was born in Patara, Turkey, where the streets he walked remain

The original Saint Nicholas

Nicholas, a citizen of Pbatras, was born c 270 AD of rich & devout parents. Patras was in Lycia, a province of modern Turkey. He was the only child of his father, Epiphanes, & his mother, Johanna.

Reported miracle -The Miracles of Infancy
According to one tradition, on the day of his birth Nicholas stood up unaided in the bath while being washed. After that he took his mother's breast only twice a week, once on Wednesdays & Fridays. During this period, it was a common belief that infants & children were just miniature adults. What they did when young would reflect what they would do when they matured. When Nicholas grew up, he avoided the pleasures of other young men & preferred to spend his time visiting churches, & whatever he could learn there of Holy Scripture he made sure to remember.
Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass

Reported miracle -The Three Daughters
After his parents died he began to wonder how he might use his great riches, not to win any praise for himself, but rather for the glory of God. Now it happened that one of his neighbors, a nobleman who had fallen on hard times, was about to prostitute his three young daughters, hoping by this shameful business to raise enough money to support his family. When the saint learnt of this he was appalled at the thought of such a crime: he wrapped a sum of gold in a piece of cloth & threw it into the nobleman's house one night through a window, then stole away again. When the nobleman got up next morning, he found the gold &, thanking God, he arranged the marriage of his eldest daughter. Not long afterwards the servant of God did the same thing again. The nobleman, again discovering the gold & loudly singing the praises of his unknown benefactor, decided to sit up & keep watch, in order to discover who it was who had rescued him from his poverty. After a few days Nicholas threw double the amount of gold into his house; but the noise woke the nobleman & he gave chase as Nicholas ran off, shouting after him: 'Stop! Don't sneak away! I want to see you!' And, as he redoubled his efforts to catch him, he saw that it was Nicholas. Immediately he fell to the ground & tried to kiss his feet, but Nicholas stopped him, & made him promise never to reveal his secret until after his death.
Saint Nicholas and Scenes from his Life Saint Nicholas provides a dowry for the 3 daughters of an impoverished nobleman.

Soon after Nicholas decided to become a priest & he undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The first of many miracles concerning Nicholas’ relationship to sailors occurs during this pilgrimage.

Reported miracle -Nicholas’ Election as a Bishop
On his return from the Holy Land, the bishop of Myra died, & the bishops met to appoint his successor. Now among them was one particular bishop of great authority, whose opinion was extremely influential. He urged the others to give themselves up to fasting & prayer, & that very night he heard a voice telling him to station himself at the doors of the church at daybreak, & to consecrate as bishop the first man he saw coming to church, whose name would be Nicholas. He recounted this to the other bishops &, urging them to devote themselves to prayer, he went to his post in front of the church doors to keep watch. At daybreak, miraculously directed by God, Nicholas came to the church before anyone else. The bishop stopped him & asked: 'What is your name?' With dove-like simplicity, he bowed his head & replied: 'Nicholas, a servant of your holiness.' So the bishops took him into the church &, though he struggled hard to resist them, installed him on the bishop's throne. But in all he did subsequently Nicholas displayed the same humility & gravity of manner, he passed whole nights in prayer; he mortified his body; he shunned the company of women; he was humble in his attitude towards others; he was an effective preacher, ardent in exhorting men to good, severe in his denunciation of evil.
In approximately 303 AD the emperors Diocletian & Maximtan began a terribly cruel persecution of the Church throughout the Roman Empire, starting in the city of Nicomedia where upwards of 20,000 Christians were burned in the church. Many Christians, including Bishop Nicholas, were arrested, tortured, chained & thrown into prison. Many also died for their faith, including Saint Lucia.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Palestinae (ca. 263-339), in his Church History, Book VIII, recorded the beginnings of the persecution:
It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, in the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, when the feast of the Saviour's passion was near at hand, that royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground & the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, & ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, & that the household servants, if they persisted in the profession of Christianity, be deprived of freedom. Such was the first edict against us. But not long after, other decrees were issued, commanding that all the rulers of the churches in every place be first thrown into prison, & afterwards by every artifice be compelled to sacrifices.

The martyrs of this time suffered multiple kinds of death:
…thousands of men, women, & children, despising the present life for the sake of the teaching of our Saviour, endured various deaths. Some of them, after scrapings & rackings & severest scourgings, & numberless other kinds of tortures, terrible even to hear of, were committed to the flames; some were drowned in the sea; some offered their heads bravely to those who cut them off; some died under their tortures, & others perished with hunger. And yet others were crucified; some according to the method commonly employed for malefactors; others yet more cruelly, being nailed to the cross with their heads downward, & being kept alive until they perished on the cross with hunger.

With the accession of Constantine in 313 AD, freedom of religion was reestablished as a law of the Empire. Nicholas & the others were released. Nicolas returned to his flock in Myra. It is also stated that Nicholas took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325. However, there is no corroborating evidence of that allegation.
One Miracle Concerning Sailors

One day some sailors, in great peril at sea, tearfully offered up this prayer: 'Nicholas, servant of God, if what we hear of your power is true, grant that we may feel it now!' Immediately a figure appeared, looking just like the saint, & said: 'You have called me, & here I am.' And he promptly set about helping the crew with the sails & cables & the rest of the tackle, & all at once the storm abated. When later the sailors made their way to his church, though they had never seen him in the flesh before, they recognized him instantly. So they thanked God & the saint for their deliverance, but Nicholas told them it was due to God's mercy & their own faith, & not to any merits of his own.
Reported miracle -The Three Schoolboys
Three boys were returning home from school for the holidays & had stopped at an inn overnight. The innkeeper, thinking to profit from this, took the boys, killed them, cut up their bodies, & put the parts into pickling casks. The parents of the boys were worried & appealed to Saint Nicholas who searched the road until he came to the inn. When confronted by the Bishop, the innkeeper admitted his sin. With a wave of his sceptre, Nicholas caused the boys to be reassembled & resurrected from the casks.
Reported miracle -The Famine & the Grain

At one time a serious famine was ravaging the whole region, & no one had food to eat. Now the man of God, hearing that some merchant ships loaded with corn had put into harbor, immediately set out there, & asked the sailors to come to the aid of the starving by supplying a minimum of a hundred measures of corn from each vessel, They replied ‘We dare not, father. It was measured out in Alexandria, & we must deliver the full amount to the emperor's granaries.' The saint said: 'Do as I tell you, & I promise you, by the power of God, that your cargo will not be found wanting when the emperor's steward inspects it.' They did as he ordered, & delivered to the emperor's officials exactly the same amount as they had taken on board at Alexandria. They told everyone of this miracle, & praised & glorified God for his servant Nicholas. As for the corn they had given him, Nicholas distributed it to everyone according to their need, & miraculously provided not only enough food for two whole years, but grain for sowing as well.
Russian icon dating back to 1294

Reported miracle -The Cleansing of the Temple of Diana

Now in the past this whole region had worshiped idols, & the people had long held in particular veneration an image of the infamous goddess Diana. Even in the time of St Nicholas some country folk still adhered to this abominable superstition & performed pagan rites to Diana beneath a sacred tree. In an attempt to stamp out these rites the saint had the tree cut down. This infuriated the Ancient Enemy, who made up a magic oil which could burn even in water or on stone. Then, taking on the appearance of a nun, he put out in a little boat & drew alongside a band of pilgrims who were travelling by sea to meet Nicholas. 'I would have liked to go with you to see the saint,' he told them, ‘but I cannot. So please, would you take this oil to his church as an offering &, in memory of me, anoint the walls of the building with it?' He then vanished. And suddenly they saw another boat, full of honest souls, & among them someone very like St Nicholas, who said to them: 'Ah! What has that woman said to you? What has she brought you? They told him the whole story & he said 'that was the shameless goddess Diana! And to prove the truth of what I tell you, throw that oil into the sea!' They did as he said & a great tongue of flame leapt up from the water &, as they watched, the flames burnt away for hours with supernatural vigor. They completed their journey, & when they found the servant of God, they exclaimed: 'You really are he! You are the one who appeared to us out at sea & saved us from the snares of the Devil!’
St. Nicholas Novgorod

Reported miracle -The Three Princes & the Three Soldiers
Around this time a certain tribe had rebelled against the Roman Empire & the emperor sent three princes, Nepotianus, Ursus & Apilio, to quell them. They were compelled by contrary winds to put in at the port of Andriaca, & St Nicholas invited them to dine with him, hoping to get them to restrain their troops from the usual thieving on market days. Meanwhile, during the saint's absence, the Roman consul was bribed to condemn three soldiers to death by beheading. When Nicholas heard the news, he asked his three guests to join him as quickly as they could, & when he reached the place of execution, he found the condemned men already kneeling with their heads covered & the executioner brandishing his sword above them. Ablaze with zeal, Nicholas charged at him, dashed the sword from his hand, freed the three soldiers & took them home unharmed. Then he hurried to the consul's residence &, finding the door locked, he forced it open. Presently the consul came hurrying to greet him, but Nicholas rebuffed him. 'Enemy of God!' he cried. 'Subverter of the law! How dare you look me in the eye when you have committed so heinous a crime!' And he continued to hurl abuse at the man until finally, yielding to the princes' pleas, he acknowledged the consul's repentance & good-naturedley forgave him. Then, after receiving the saint's blessing, the emperor's envoys resumed their journey, subdued the enemy without bloodshed, & were given a splendid welcome by the emperor on their return.

But certain of their countrymen were jealous of the princes' success, & bribed the imperial prefect to accuse them of treason before the emperor. When the emperor heard the prefect's charge, he flew into a rage & had the princes thrown into prison, with orders that they should be executed that night without the formality of a hearing. The princes, learning what had happened from their guard, tore their clothing in despair & began to weep bitterly. Then one of them, Nepotianus, recalling that Nicholas had saved the three innocent soldiers from execution, urged the others to pray for his protection. In answer to their prayers, St Nicholas appeared that night to the emperor Constantine. 'Why have you been so unjust?' he demanded. ‘Why have you arrested these three princes & sentenced them to death, when they have done no wrong? Get up now, quickly, & have them released at once, or I will ask God to start a war in which you will be overthrown, & your corpse will be the prey of wild beasts!' The emperor replied: 'Who are you that dare burst into my palace & talk like this?' Nicholas replied: 'I am Nicholas, bishop of Myra.' He also terrified the prefect in the same way, appearing to him in a vision. 'You fool!’ he said 'You senseless man! Why have you consented to the murder of innocent men? Hurry now, make sure to set them free, or your body will be riddled with worms & your house collapse in ruins? The prefect replied: 'Who are you to threaten me like this?' 'I am Nicholas,' the saint replied, 'bishop of Myra.' Immediately both emperor & prefect awoke & recounted to each other their dreams. They sent at once for the prisoners. 'What is this sorcery of yours,' the emperor demanded, 'that you send such dreams to delude us?' They replied that they were no sorcerers & had not deserved to be sentenced to death. The emperor then asked them: 'Do you know a man called Nicholas?' When they heard his name, the princes stretched their hands to heaven in prayer & asked God, through the merits of St Nicholas, to save them from the peril that threatened them. And when the emperor learnt from them about the life & miracles of Nicholas, he said 'Go free, then, & thank God for saving you through the intercession of Nicholas. But take the saint some jewels as gifts from me, too, & ask him to threaten me no more, but to pray constantly to the Lord for me & my kingdom.'

A few days later they prostrated themselves at the saint's feet & exclaimed: 'You are a true servant of God, a true worshipper & lover of Christ!' And when they told him all that had happened, Nicholas raised his hands to heaven & thanked God from the bottom of his heart &, after instructing them fully in the faith, he sent them back home.
Icon c 1500 St Nicholas

Reported miracle -The Death of St. Nicholas
Now when the Lord decided to take Nicholas to him, the saint prayed that he might send him his angels, &, with his head still bowed in prayer, he saw them approaching him. He recited the Psalm 'In thee, O Lord, have I trusted' (Psalm 30 (31), & when he reached the words: 'Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit' (v. 5), he breathed his last, and at his passing, the heavenly choirs were heard. This was in the year 343.

Reported miracle -The Myrrh from the Bishop of Myra & The Bishop’s Successor
When he was buried in his marble tomb, a stream of oil flowed from his head & a stream of water from his feet, & holy oil still issues from his body today & heals many sick people. Nicholas's successor was a good man, but he was expelled from his see by the jealousy of his rivals. While he was in exile, the holy oil stopped flowing, but as soon as he was recalled it began to flow again.
Saint Nicholas died in Myra, Turkey where the ancient Rock Cut Tombs remain

Guace (or Wace), a Norman French scribe, wrote the life of Nicholas as Metric Poems for use as sermons in 1150. The poem was nearly 1500 lines long, & included descriptions of the 21 miracles of the Saint.

Other reported miracles of Nicholas include:
Reported miracle - In the excitement of going to see her archbishop, a woman left her baby in a tub of water over a fire. Remembering, she appealed to Nicholas & the baby was found unhurt, playing in the bubbling water.

Reported miracle -A child, so afflicted by a demon as to be uncontrollable, was brought to the bishop who drove out the demon & healed the child.

Reported miracle -The saint healed great numbers of the sick & freed many from evil spirits.

Reported miracle -A pagan who had crossed the sea to rob Christians found an image of St. Nicholas & was told it would protect his ill-gotten gains. However, thieves stole his loot, so he struck the image of the saint. Nevertheless, the saint saw to it that the monies were returned, & both robber & thieves were converted to Christianity.

Reported miracle -A Christian borrowed money from a Jew & pledged repayment on the image of St. Nicholas. When the debt was due, he declared he had paid it. The Jew said he would consider the debt satisfied if, at their next meeting, the debtor would swear on the saint's image that the money had been returned. On the day of the meeting the Christian enclosed the money due in a walking stick & asked the Jew to hold it while he took the oath. Retrieving the stick, he started homeward only to be struck by a cart, which broke the stick & exposed the fraud. The Jew got his money, the Christian was returned to health & integrity, & the Jew's entire household was converted.

Reported miracle -Fulfilling a vow, a man had a costly cup made to offer at the saint's tomb. Then, considering it too beautiful to give, he had a cheaper one made. With his wife & son he went on a pilgrimage to Myra, & on the voyage his son, while holding the finer cup, fell overboard. At the church, the bereaved father laid the second cup on the altar, but it repeatedly fell off. The repentant father confessed, causing the son with the finer cup to come running to him.

Reported miracle -A long-married couple made a pilgrimage to Myra to pray for a son. Their prayers were answered. The child, who was born on St. Nicholas Day, was later stolen & sold to the Saracen emperor & grew up in his service. Every December 6 the couple prayed for his return until finally their prayers were answered. Their son was returned to them on St. Nicholas Day.

Reported miracle -While sleeping at an inn, the innkeeper killed a merchant on a pilgrimage to the church at Myra, his mangled remains put into a barrel. The saint came, restored the merchant to life, & left in the night. The next morning the innkeeper, in fear & amazement, joined the merchant on his pilgrimage.

Reported miracle -A man of Lombardie celebrated the saint's feast day annually. On one such occasion, his young daughter was left alone in the house. The devil appeared at the door disguised as a beggar asking for bread & strangled the little girl. Then, after the father had returned, St. Nicholas appeared at the door disguised as a pilgrim asking for bread. The father showed him the child's body, & she was soon brought back to life.

Reported miracle -A baron-pilgrim, wishing to take back to his country a relic of the saint, made off with a tooth. Through its wrappings came a steady flow of oil. Then, after the saint appeared to the baron in a dream saying that his body must not be divided, he awoke to find the tooth gone.

Reported miracle -A paralytic who could not even raise his hand was carried to the monastery of the saint, who anointed him with holy oils & prayed--& he was healed.

Churches in Asia Minor & Greece were being named in honor of him by 450. An elaborate Basilica was built over his tomb in 540 & dedicated to the saint by the Roman emperor Justinian I, at Constantinople, now Istanbul. By 800, he was officially recognized as a saint by the Eastern Catholic Church. An early life of St. Nicholas listing all his miracles, was written in Greek by Saint Methodius, Bishop of Constantinople in 842; it was translated into Latin by John the Deacon in approximately 880. And in 850, the Clergy of Cologne Cathedral were commemorating the death of the saint by giving fruit & cookies to the boys of the cathedral school, on the 6th December. By the ninth century, the first hymns to Nicholas were created.

Nicholas became Patron Saint of Russia in 987 by decree of Duke Vladimir; he was readily adopted as Nikolai Choodovoritz (Nicholas, Miracle Maker). In 1084, the Turks took Antioch. Three years later, in 1087, 47 Italian soldiers stole the bones of St. Nicholas from his tomb in Demre & on May 9th brought his body to Bari, Italy (for this reason he is sometimes known as Saint Nicholas of Bari.). The theft was unofficially approved by the Church, which was anxious in case the shrine of the saint was desecrated in the many wars & attacks in the region. Also, by that time, the break between the Universal Church creating Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox, was a contributing factor. The Roman Church felt that the bones of this most popular of saints should be in their safekeeping. This removal greatly increased his popularity, & Bari became one of the most crowded pilgrimage centers. His relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century Basilica of S. Nicola at Bari. Pope Urban II was present at the enshrining of the relics of the saint in the basilica.

Life of St. Nicholas written by the Norman monk John (or Jean) of Saint Ouen in Rouen in 1119. At about the same time, nuns in Belgium & France were giving gifts to the children of the poor, & those in their care, on the Saints Feast Day, 6th December. This is among the first instances where gift giving is performed in the name of Saint Nicholas. By 1400, over 500 songs & hymns had been written in honor of Nicholas. And in 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti on December 6th, naming the port St. Nicholas in thanks for the safe journey. By end of the 1400s, St Nicholas was the third most beloved religious figure, after Jesus & Mary. There were more than 2000 chapels & monasteries named after him, exceeded only by the Virgin Mary. More than 700 churches in Britain alone, were dedicated to St. Nicholas.  The date of his death, December 6th was commemorated with an annual feast, which gradually came to mark the beginning of the medieval Christmas season.

The text & research for this biography of Saint Nicholas was compiled by Doug Anderson of the amazing website Hymns and Carols of Christmas 

Christmas -12th Night - A Tiny Bit of English Literature

First Folio William Shakespeare wrote the play Twelfth Night, circa 1601.

William Shakespeare wrote a play called Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, but it did not deal with the traditional religious holiday. Steve Sohmertells us that Shakespeare wrote Twelth Night for two performances: (1) on Twelfth Night 1602 Gregorian, and (2) on Candlemas 2 February Julian. The title 'Or What You Will' refers to Queen Elizabeth's decision to retain England's Old Julian calendar (27 Dec Julian = 6 Jan Gregorian).

Those interested in Elizabethan Christmas - Twelfth Night customs in literature might be interested in the details imparted in Steve Roth's “Hamlet as The Christmas Prince: Certain Speculations on Hamlet, the Calendar, Revels, and Misrule” in Early Modern Literary Studies 7.3 (January, 2002). Among cited sources of this article, one might read, Popular and Popish Superstitions and Customs On Saints’-Days and Holy-Days in Germany and Other Papist Lands A. D. 1553, Being the Fourth Booke of “The Popish Kingdome, or reigne of Anitchrist, written in Latine verse by Thomas Naogeorgus (or Kirchmaier), and englyshed by Barnabe Googe. . . Anno 1570.

Ben Jonson's The Masque of Blackness was performed on 6 January 1605 at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. It was originally entitled The Twelvth Nights Revells. The accompanying Masque, The Masque of Beauty was performed in the same court the Sunday night after the Twelfth Night in 1608.

Robert Herrick's(1591-1674)poem Twelfe-Night, or King and Queene, published in 1648, describes the election of king and queen by bean and pea in a plum cake, and the homage done to them by the draining of wassail bowls of "lamb's-wool", a drink of sugar, nutmeg, ginger and ale.

Twelfth Night: or, King and Queen

NOW, now the mirth comes

With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here ;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

Begin then to choose,

This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.

Which known, let us make

Joy-sops with the cake ;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and queen here.

Next crown a bowl full

With gentle lamb's wool :
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too ;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the king

And queen wassailing :
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part from hence
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.
Charles Dickens' 1843 A Christmas Carol briefly mentions Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present visiting a children's Twelfth Night party. "It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until they left a children's Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey."
In Chapter 6 of Harrison Ainsworth's 1858 novel Mervyn Clitheroe, the eponymous hero is elected King of festivities at the Twelfth Night celebrations held in Tom Shakeshaft's barn, by receiving the slice of plum cake containing the bean; his companion Cissy obtains the pea and becomes queen, and they are seated together in a high corner to view the proceedings. The distribution has been rigged to prevent another person gaining the role. The festivities include country dances, and the introduction of a "Fool Plough", a plough decked with ribands brought into the barn by a dozen mummers together with a grotesque "Old Bessie" (played by a man) and a Fool dressed in animal skins with a fool's hat. The mummers carry wooden swords and perform revelries. The scene in the novel is illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). In the course of the evening, the fool's antics cause a fight to break out, but Mervyn restores order. Three bowls of gin punch are disposed of, and at eleven o'clock the young men make the necessary arrangements to see the young ladies safely home across the fields.

The Magi travel the long Silk Road

 Salterio de Ingeborg de Dinamarca S XII-I

In Christianity, Epiphany refers to the moment that a person believes that Jesus is the son of God.  To symbolize this, Western Christian churches generally celebrate Epiphany as the arrival of the wise men from the east at the birthplace of Jesus (The Adoration of the Magi) 12 days after Christmas. Traditionally, Eastern Christian churches celebrated Epiphany (or Theophany) in conjunction with Christ's baptism by John the Baptist on January 19th. Some Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany as an entire religious season, extending from Christmas Day until Ash Wednesday.

The biblical Magi, also referred to as the Wise Men or Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh.  Matthew is the only of the 4 canonical gospels to mention the Magi. Matthew reports that they came "from the east" to worship the "king of the Jews." The gospel does notmentions the number of Magi, but most western Christian denominations have traditionally assumed them to have been 3 in number, based on the statement that they brought 3 gifts. In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number 12. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to the anticipatory Psalm 72:11, "May all kings fall down before him."

The phrase "from the east" (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, apo anatolon), more literally "from the rising [of the sun]," is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea & Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism. Although Matthew's account does not cite the motivation for their journey, the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the 3rd chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).

There is an Armenian tradition identifying the "Magi of Bethlehem" as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, & Gaspar of India. Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (near Islamabad in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China & the Far East with the Middle East & Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China & closed them.

Sebastian Brock, a historian of Christianity, said: "It was no doubt among converts from Zoroastrianism that… certain legends were developed around the Magi of the Gospels."  Central Asian Christian king, Prester John's Mongol descendants were sought as allies against the Muslims by contemporary European monarchs & popes.

Sempad the Constable of Armenia visited the Mongol court in Karakorum in 1247–1250 & in 1254. He wrote a letter to Henry I King of Cyprus & Queen Stephanie (Sempad’s sister) in 1243, in which he said: “Tanchat [Tangut, or Western Xia], which is the land from whence came the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Lord Jesus which was born. & know that the power of Christ has been, & is, so great, that the people of that land are Christians; & the whole land of Chata [Khitai, or Kara-Khitai] believes those Three Kings. I have myself been in their churches & have seen pictures of Jesus Christ & the Three Kings, one offering gold, the second frankincense, & the third myrrh. & it is through those Three Kings that they believe in Christ, & that the Chan & his people have now become Christians”

Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the 3 tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s: In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; & in this city they are buried, in 3 very large & beautiful monuments, side by side. & above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair & beard remaining. (Marco Polo, Polo, Marco, The Book of the Million, book I, chapter 13)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Robert Herrick 1591-1674 The Christmas Wassail Bowl

The Wassail Bowl an excerpt from "Ah, Posthumus!"
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Next I'll cause my hopeful lad,
If a wild apple can be had,
To crown the hearth;
Lar thus conspiring with our mirth;
Then to infuse
Our browner ale into the cruse;
Which, sweetly spiced, we'll first carouse
Unto the Genius of the house.

Then the next health to friends of mine.
Loving the brave Burgundian wine,
High sons of pith,
Whose fortunes I have frolick'd with;
Such as could well
Bear up the magic bough and spell;
And dancing 'bout the mystic Thyrse,
Give up the just applause to verse;

To those, and then again to thee,
We'll drink, my Wickes, until we be
Plump as the cherry,
Though not so fresh, yet full as merry
As the cricket,
The untamed heifer, or the pricket,1
Until our tongues shall tell our ears,
We're younger by a score of years.

Thus, till we see the fire less shine
From th' embers than the kitling's eyne,
We'll still sit up,
Sphering about the wassail cup,
To all those times
Which gave me honour for my rhymes;
The coal once spent, we'll then to bed,
Far more than night bewearied.

Christmas Before Colonial British America - Tradition of Wassail

William Hogarth (1697-1764) 'The Midnight Conversation', Detail. c 1732

"Wassail" appears in English literature as a salute as early as the 8C poem Beowulf, in references such as "warriors' wassail and words of power" and:
The rider sleepeth,
the hero, far-hidden; no harp resounds,
in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.

An anonymous Anglo-Norman Poet, who witnessed the Saxon toasting cry before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, wrote:
Rejoice and wassail
Pass the bottle and drink healthy
Drink backwards and drink to me
Drink half and drink empty.

In Saxon times the original Wassail was was a greeting meaning: "be in good health." In 12C, it became a toast, the response to the toast became drink hail, or "drink good health." Norman conquerors who arrived in the 11C regarded the toast as distinctive of the English natives.

A story told in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, written in 1135, purports to explain the origin of the toast:
The story of toasting 'wassail' begins when Renwein presented King Vortigern with a cup of wine and the salute 'Was hail.'
The story of toasting "wassail" begins when Renwein presented King Vortigern with a cup of wine and the salute "Was hail."
While Vortigern was being entertained at a royal banquet, the girl Renwein came out of an inner room carrying a golden goblet full of wine. She walked up to the King, curtsied low, and said "Lavert King, was hail!" When he saw the girl's face, Vortigern was greatly struck by her beauty and was filled with desire for her. He asked his interpreter what it was that the girl had said and what he ought to reply to her. "She called you Lord King and did you honour by drinking your health. What you should reply is 'drinc hail.'" Vortigern immediately said the words "drinc hail" and ordered Renwein to drink. Then he took the goblet from her hand, kissed her and drank in his turn.

Ronald Hutton in his The Rise and Fall of Merry England. Oxford, 1996, reports:"A 14Ctext by Peterd e Langtoft describes in detail the custom involving this vessel, to which the Tudor sources only refer in passing: the leader of a gathering took it and cried "Wassail" Old English for "your health". He was answered "Drink hail," and then passed it to another person with a kiss, so that these actions could be repeated by each. At the early Tudor court it was accompanied into the king's presence by the chief officers of the household, bearing staves. In great families it was made of precious metal- Edmund earl of March, leaving a silver one upon his death in 1382."
Wooden Lignum Vitae Wassail Bowl Owned by Arthur Chichester, Brought from Devon to Ulster in 1599

"The bowl is first mentioned by Matthew Paris in the 13C, as one in which cakes and fine white bread were communally dipped."

"Near the end of the 13C, Robert of Gloucester retold the legend of the marriage of the British king Vortigern with the Saxon princess Rowena, making the latter drink to the former with the words "waes heal."

"When Peter de Lantoft repeated the story in the 1320s, he portrayed people drinking alternately from the same cup with the exchange "wassaille" and "drinkhaille", exactly as in Tudor England. This sequence raises the possibility that the exchange became customary around 1300, but this, again cannot be proved."
English Lead Glazed Earthenware Wassail Bowl from Wilshire Dated 14-12-1682


On the introduction of Christianity, the custom of wassailing was not abolished, but it assumed a religious aspect. The monks called the wassail bowl the poculum caritatis (loving cup), a term still retained in the London companies, but in the universities the term Grace Cup is more general. Immediately after grace the silver cup, filled with sack (spiced wine) is passed round. The master and wardens drink welcome to their guests; the cup is then passed round to all the guests. A loving or grace cup should always have two handles, and some have as many as four. Loving Cup. This ceremony, of drinking from one cup and passing it round, was observed in the Jewish paschal supper, and our Lord refers to the custom in the words, “Drink ye all of it.”“He [the master of the house] laid hold of the yesset with both hands, lifted it up, and said- Blessed be Thou, O Lord our God, thou king of the world, who hast given us the fruit of the vine; and the whole assembly said `Amen.' Then drinking first himself from the cup, he passed it round to the rest."
FromEldad the Pilgrim, chap. ix."
English Wooden Lignum Vitae Wassail Bowl and Cover Late 17C

On the Twelfth Day, January 8, & Wassail from Le Neve,The Royalle Book, Henry VII: "As for the void on the Twelfth Night, the king and the queen ought to have it in the hall. And as for the wassail, the steward, the treasurer, and the controller, shall come for it with their staves in their hands; the king's server and the queen's having fair towels about their necks, and dishes in their hands, such as the king and queen shall eat of; the king's carvers and the queen's shall come after with chargers or dishes, such as the king or queen shall eat of, and with towels about their necks. And no man shall bear anything unless sworn for three months. And the steward, treasurer, comptroller, and marshall of the hall shall ordain for all the hall. And, if it be in the great chamber, then shall the chamberlain and ushers ordain, after the above form; and if there be a bishop, his own squire, or else the king's such as the officers choose to assign shall serve him; and so of all the other estates, if they be dukes or earls; and so of duchesses and countesses. And then there must come in the ushers of the chamber, with the pile of cups, the king's cups and the queen's and the bishop's with the butlers and wine to the cupboard, and then a squire for the body to bear the cup, and another for the queen's cup such as is sworn for hire. The singers (of the chapel) may stand at one side of the hall, and when the steward cometh in at the hall-door, with the wassail, he must cry thrice "Wassail," &c, and then shall the chapel answer it aon with a good song, and thus in likewise, if it pleased the king to keep the great chamber. And when the king and queen have done, they will go into the chamber. And there belongeth for the king, two lights with the void, and two lights with the cup; and for the queen as many."
English Lead Glazed Earthenware Wassail Bowl from Wilshire Dated 14-12-1682

Lead Glazed Earthenware Wassail Bowl & Cover from Wiltshire Dated 1702
The Wassail Cup Scottish 1871
Wooden Lignum Vitae Wassail Bowl Dated 1685

English Silver Mounted Lignum Vitae Wassail Bowl c. 1720

Christmas Before Colonial America - 1600s England - The Merry Boys of Christmas -

Merry Boys of Christmas OR,The Milk-Maids New-Years-Gift.

When Lads and Lasses take delight,
together for to be;
They pass away the Winter Night,
and live most Merrily.
To the Tune of, Hey Boys up go we.

Come, come my roaring ranting Boys,
lets never be cast down,
Wel never mind the Female Toys,
but Loyal be to the Crown:
Wel never break our hearts with Care,
nor be cast down with fear,
Our bellys then let us prepare,
to drink some Christmas Beer.

Then heres a Health to Charles our King,
throughout the world admird,
[L]et us his great applauses sing,
that we so much desird,
And wisht amongst us for to Reign,
when Oliver ruld here,
But since hes home returnd again,
come fill some Christmas Beer.

These Holidays wel briskly drink,
all mirth we will devise,
No Treason we will speak or think,
then bring us brave mincd Pies:
Roast Beef and brave Plum-Porridge
our Loyal hearts to chear,
Then prithee make no more ado,
but bring us Christmas Beer.

The Magi travel the long Silk Road

 Anonimo Siglo XI Codex Bruchsal

In Christianity, Epiphany refers to the moment that a person believes that Jesus is the son of God.  To symbolize this, Western Christian churches generally celebrate Epiphany as the arrival of the wise men from the east at the birthplace of Jesus (The Adoration of the Magi) 12 days after Christmas. Traditionally, Eastern Christian churches celebrated Epiphany (or Theophany) in conjunction with Christ's baptism by John the Baptist on January 19th. Some Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany as an entire religious season, extending from Christmas Day until Ash Wednesday.

The biblical Magi, also referred to as the Wise Men or Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh.  Matthew is the only of the 4 canonical gospels to mention the Magi. Matthew reports that they came "from the east" to worship the "king of the Jews." The gospel does notmentions the number of Magi, but most western Christian denominations have traditionally assumed them to have been 3 in number, based on the statement that they brought 3 gifts. In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number 12. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to the anticipatory Psalm 72:11, "May all kings fall down before him."

The phrase "from the east" (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, apo anatolon), more literally "from the rising [of the sun]," is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea & Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism. Although Matthew's account does not cite the motivation for their journey, the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the 3rd chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).

There is an Armenian tradition identifying the "Magi of Bethlehem" as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, & Gaspar of India. Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (near Islamabad in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China & the Far East with the Middle East & Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China & closed them.

Sebastian Brock, a historian of Christianity, said: "It was no doubt among converts from Zoroastrianism that… certain legends were developed around the Magi of the Gospels."  Central Asian Christian king, Prester John's Mongol descendants were sought as allies against the Muslims by contemporary European monarchs & popes.

Sempad the Constable of Armenia visited the Mongol court in Karakorum in 1247–1250 & in 1254. He wrote a letter to Henry I King of Cyprus & Queen Stephanie (Sempad’s sister) in 1243, in which he said: “Tanchat [Tangut, or Western Xia], which is the land from whence came the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Lord Jesus which was born. & know that the power of Christ has been, & is, so great, that the people of that land are Christians; & the whole land of Chata [Khitai, or Kara-Khitai] believes those Three Kings. I have myself been in their churches & have seen pictures of Jesus Christ & the Three Kings, one offering gold, the second frankincense, & the third myrrh. & it is through those Three Kings that they believe in Christ, & that the Chan & his people have now become Christians”

Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the 3 tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s: In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; & in this city they are buried, in 3 very large & beautiful monuments, side by side. & above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair & beard remaining. (Marco Polo, Polo, Marco, The Book of the Million, book I, chapter 13)

Friday, December 4, 2020

The Magi travel the long Silk Road

The Three Kings Admire the Star. Canterbury. c 1140. The British Library.

In Christianity, Epiphany refers to the moment that a person believes that Jesus is the son of God.  To symbolize this, Western Christian churches generally celebrate Epiphany as the arrival of the wise men from the east at the birthplace of Jesus (The Adoration of the Magi) 12 days after Christmas. Traditionally, Eastern Christian churches celebrated Epiphany (or Theophany) in conjunction with Christ's baptism by John the Baptist on January 19th. Some Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany as an entire religious season, extending from Christmas Day until Ash Wednesday.

The biblical Magi, also referred to as the Wise Men or Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh.  Matthew is the only of the 4 canonical gospels to mention the Magi. Matthew reports that they came "from the east" to worship the "king of the Jews." The gospel does notmentions the number of Magi, but most western Christian denominations have traditionally assumed them to have been 3 in number, based on the statement that they brought 3 gifts. In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number 12. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to the anticipatory Psalm 72:11, "May all kings fall down before him."

The phrase "from the east" (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, apo anatolon), more literally "from the rising [of the sun]," is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea & Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism. Although Matthew's account does not cite the motivation for their journey, the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the 3rd chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).

There is an Armenian tradition identifying the "Magi of Bethlehem" as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, & Gaspar of India. Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (near Islamabad in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China & the Far East with the Middle East & Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China & closed them.

Sebastian Brock, a historian of Christianity, said: "It was no doubt among converts from Zoroastrianism that… certain legends were developed around the Magi of the Gospels."  Central Asian Christian king, Prester John's Mongol descendants were sought as allies against the Muslims by contemporary European monarchs & popes.

Sempad the Constable of Armenia visited the Mongol court in Karakorum in 1247–1250 & in 1254. He wrote a letter to Henry I King of Cyprus & Queen Stephanie (Sempad’s sister) in 1243, in which he said: “Tanchat [Tangut, or Western Xia], which is the land from whence came the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Lord Jesus which was born. & know that the power of Christ has been, & is, so great, that the people of that land are Christians; & the whole land of Chata [Khitai, or Kara-Khitai] believes those Three Kings. I have myself been in their churches & have seen pictures of Jesus Christ & the Three Kings, one offering gold, the second frankincense, & the third myrrh. & it is through those Three Kings that they believe in Christ, & that the Chan & his people have now become Christians”

Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the 3 tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s: In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; & in this city they are buried, in 3 very large & beautiful monuments, side by side. & above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair & beard remaining. (Marco Polo, Polo, Marco, The Book of the Million, book I, chapter 13)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Summer Myth of Pomona & Vertumnus - Gardens, Orchards, & Finding Love

Pomona Portrait of a lady as Goddess by Jean Ranc (French, 1674 - 1735) 

Pomona was the beautiful goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Roman religion & myth. Pomona was said to be a wood nymph. The name Pomona comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit," specifically orchard fruit. She was said to be  a part of the Numia, the guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes. While Pomona watches over & protects fruit trees & cares for their cultivation, she is not actually associated with the harvest of fruit itself, but with tending the flourishing of the fruit trees. In artistic depictions she is generally shown with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia & perhaps her pruning knife

Pomona, the alluring wood nymph, actually cared nothing for the wild woods but cared only for her well-cultivated fruit filled gardens & orchards. And Pomona had a thing about men. She fenced her garden orchards, so the rude young men couldn't trample her plants & vines. She also kept her orchards enclosed, because she wanted to keep away the men who were attracted to her good looks. Even dancing satyrs(a cross between a man & a goat) were attracted to her beauty. Despite the fact that she preferred to be alone to care & nurture her trees, this beauty was continually besieged by suitors, in particular one persistent god named Vertumnus. Vertumnus had the ability to take different human guises & made numerous attempts to woo Pomona, but she turned him away each time.

The god Vertumus caught on to Pomona's aversion to men in her orchards & in her life generally. In Roman mythology, Vertumnus, the young, handsome god of changing seasons & patron of fruits, determined to win over Pomona.  He could change his form at will according to Ovid's Metamorphoses (xiv).  He came to her in various male disguises, which included, a reaper, an apple picker, a fisher, a solider, & more. Even with the disguises, she still never paid him the slightest bit of attention. One day Vertumnus tried a disguise as an old women. And Pomona finally allowed him to enter her garden, where he pretended to be interested in her fruit. But he finally told her he was more exquisite than her crops. After saying that, he kissed her passionately, but it wasn't enough. Vertumnus kept trying to sway her by telling her a story of a young women who rejected a boy who loved her; in despair, the boy killed hung himself, & Venus punished the girl by turning her to stone. This narrative warning of the extreme dangers of rejecting a suitor (the embedded tale of Iphis & Anaxarete) still did not seduce her. It just didn't work, of course. 

He then realized that it was the feminine disguise didn't work & tore it off.  It wasn't until Vertumnus appeared before her in his full manliness (apparently quite a good looking male specimen), that Pomona finally gave in to his inviting male charms. Vertumnus is a god of gardens & orchards & so it appears they were a match made in heaven. To his surprise, she fell in love with his manly wiles, & they became the ultimate loving couple working & playing in gardens & orchards together from then on.

The tale of Vertumnus & Pomona has been said to be the only purely Latin tale in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The subject of Vertumnus & Pomona appealed to European sculptors & painters of the 16th through the 18th centuries, providing a disguised erotic subtext in a scenario that contrasted youthful female beauty with an aged old woman. But it wasn't the old woman that ultimately won the day. In narrating the tale in the Metamorphoses, Ovid observed that the kind of kisses given by Vertumnus were never given by an old woman.  In Ovid's myth, Pomona scorned the love of the woodland gods Silvanus & Picus, but finally married the brutally handsome Vertumnus. 

She & Vertumnus were celebrated in  an annual Roman festival on August 13. There is a grove that is dedicated to her called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome. Unlike many other Roman goddesses & gods, Pomona does not have a Greek counterpart, though she is often associated with Demeter.

Monday, July 1, 2019

template Summer Myth of Pomona & Vertumnus - Gardens, Orchards, & Finding Love

Pomona, by Nicolas Fouché, c. 1700

Pomona was the beautiful goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Roman religion & myth. Pomona was said to be a wood nymph. The name Pomona comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit," specifically orchard fruit. She was said to be  a part of the Numia, the guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes. While Pomona watches over & protects fruit trees & cares for their cultivation, she is not actually associated with the harvest of fruit itself, but with tending the flourishing of the fruit trees. In artistic depictions she is generally shown with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia & perhaps her pruning knife

Pomona, the alluring wood nymph, actually cared nothing for the wild woods but cared only for her well-cultivated fruit filled gardens & orchards. And Pomona had a thing about men. She fenced her garden orchards, so the rude young men couldn't trample her plants & vines. She also kept her orchards enclosed, because she wanted to keep away the men who were attracted to her good looks. Even dancing satyrs(a cross between a man & a goat) were attracted to her beauty. Despite the fact that she preferred to be alone to care & nurture her trees, this beauty was continually besieged by suitors, in particular one persistent god named Vertumnus. Vertumnus had the ability to take different human guises & made numerous attempts to woo Pomona, but she turned him away each time.

The god Vertumus caught on to Pomona's aversion to men in her orchards & in her life generally. In Roman mythology, Vertumnus, the young, handsome god of changing seasons & patron of fruits, determined to win over Pomona.  He could change his form at will according to Ovid's Metamorphoses (xiv).  He came to her in various male disguises, which included, a reaper, an apple picker, a fisher, a solider, & more. Even with the disguises, she still never paid him the slightest bit of attention. One day Vertumnus tried a disguise as an old women. And Pomona finally allowed him to enter her garden, where he pretended to be interested in her fruit. But he finally told her he was more exquisite than her crops. After saying that, he kissed her passionately, but it wasn't enough. Vertumnus kept trying to sway her by telling her a story of a young women who rejected a boy who loved her; in despair, the boy killed hung himself, & Venus punished the girl by turning her to stone. This narrative warning of the extreme dangers of rejecting a suitor (the embedded tale of Iphis & Anaxarete) still did not seduce her. It just didn't work, of course. He then realized that it was the feminine disguise didn't work & tore it off.  It wasn't until Vertumnus appeared before her in his full manliness (apparently quite a good looking male specimen), that Pomona finally gave in to his inviting male charms. Vertumnus is a god of gardens & orchards & so it appears they were a match made in heaven. To his surprise, she fell in love with his manly wiles, & they became the ultimate loving couple working & playing in gardens & orchards together from then on.

The tale of Vertumnus & Pomona has been said to be the only purely Latin tale in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The subject of Vertumnus & Pomona appealed to European sculptors & painters of the 16th through the 18th centuries, providing a disguised erotic subtext in a scenario that contrasted youthful female beauty with an aged old woman. But it wasn't the old woman that ultimatrly won the day. In narrating the tale in the Metamorphoses, Ovid observed that the kind of kisses given by Vertumnus were never given by an old woman.  In Ovid's myth, Pomona scorned the love of the woodland gods Silvanus & Picus, but finally married the brutally handsome Vertumnus. She & Vertumnus were celebrated in  an annual Roman festival on August 13. There is a grove that is dedicated to her called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome. Unlike many other Roman goddesses & gods, Pomona does not have a Greek counterpart, though she is often associated with Demeter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Time for Sitting Outdoors with Flowers & Dogs

William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) Woman with Flower Basket & Intrigued Dog

Sunday, June 2, 2019

18C Allegory of Spring - Love & Bird Nests

1800 Spring by P Stampa published in London

This couple is in a garden with flowers in bloom & a cold frame on the right side. The man is picking a rose to add to the bunch he holds, while looking back at the woman, who carries a parasol. A boy shows passes a birds' nest to a little girl who holds out her apron.  In the background are men in a hay-field.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden - Illuminated Manuscripts


Adam and Eve in The Garden pf Edem Eating the Forbidden Fruit (detail), by Willem Vrelant, early 1460s

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Myth - Diana Goddess of the Hunt portrayed bt 17C & 18C Women

1765 Carle or Charles-André van Loo (French painter, 1705-1765) Luise Henriette Wilhelmine von Anhalt-Dessau as Diana.  She has a dog, an animal-skin wrap, a bow & quiver, & a crescent moon in her hair.

Early European portrait artists sometimes painted their contemporaries as allegories.  Allegorical portraits remained popular for several centuries, as they expanded to show the female sitter as a Biblical figure, a Greek or Roman goddess, or nymph or muse in in a rustic setting.  Diana is a Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon, & nature, associated with wild animals & woodland.  Diana was known as the virgin goddess of childbirth & women. Diana was originally considered to be a goddess of the wilderness & of the hunt, a central sport in both Roman & Greek culture. 
1751 Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Italian artist, 1708-1787) Sarah Lethieullier as Lady Fetherstonhaugh, as Diana.  She has a crescent moon in her hair, a bow & a dog.

Early Roman inscriptions to Diana celebrated her primarily as a patron of hunters. Diana was often considered to be a goddess associated with fertility & childbirth, & the protection of women during labor.  Her care of infants also extended to the training of both young people & dogs, especially for hunting. Unlike the Greek gods, Roman gods were originally considered to be divine powers of presence that did not necessarily have physical form. The idea of gods having anthropomorphic qualities & human-like personalities & actions developed later, under the influence of Greek & Etruscan religion.  Diana was not only regarded as a goddess of the wilderness & the hunt, but was often worshiped as a patroness of families.
1765 Francis Cotes (English Painter, 1726-1770) The Honourable Lady Stanhope and the Countess of Effingham as Diana, and Her Companion.  Diana has a hunting spear & a crescent moon in her hair.
"... people regard Diana & the moon as one & the same. ...her name Diana derives from the fact that she turns darkness into daylight. She is invoked at childbirth because children are born occasionally after seven, or usually after nine, lunar revolutions ..." -- Quintus Lucilius Balbus as recorded by Marcus Tullius Cicero & translated by P.G. Walsh. De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), Book II, Part ii, Section c.

1700s Unknown French artist, Portrait of a Lady as Diana, Goddess of the Hunt.  She wears a crescent moon in her hair and has an animal-skin wrap, a dog, a quiver & a bow.

1773 after François-Hubert Drouais (French artist, 1727-1775) Marie-Joséphine-Louise de Savoie (1753–1810), comtesse de Provence, as Diana with her faithful hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion.   She has a bow, & an animal-skin wrap.

1700-10 Nicolas de Largillière (French artist, 1656-1746)  Portrait of Lady as Diana with her faithful hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion. She has a bow & quiver nearby.

1771 Robert Hunter (Irish artist, fl. 1748–1780) Lady Margaret Butler Lowry-Corry (1748–1775), as Diana.  She has a dog & carries a hunting spear.

1688 Francois de Troy Lady Mary Herbert (1659–1744-1745), Viscountess Montagu, Previously the Honourable Lady Richard Molyneux, and Later Lady Maxwell, as Diana. She has a crescent moon in her hair, a dog, & an animal-skin component to her costume.

1680s Jacob Huysmans (Flemish artist, c 1633–1696)  Elizabeth Cornwallis (d.1708), Mrs Edward Allen, as Diana the Huntress with her faithful hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion. . She has a hunting spear, & an animal skin decoration, & feathers in her hair.

1670s-90s Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccio) (Italian artist, 1639-1709) Diana the Huntress with her hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion.  Her bow & quiver lay on the ground.

1674 Jacob Huysmans (Flemish artist, c 1633–1696) Portrait of a Lady as Diana.  She has dogs, a bow & quiver, a hunting spear, & feathers in her hair.

Style of Peter Lely Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Ann Fanshawe (b.1654), Daughter of Sir Richard Fanshawe as Diana with a dog or a deer.

1670s Copy of  Peter Lely (English artist, 1618-1680) Mary II (1662–1694), when Princess Mary of York, as Diana.  She has a crescent moon in her hair, a bow & arrow & only the head of her dog companion is visible.

1666 Giovanni Maria Morandi (Italian painter, 1622-1717)  Claudia Felicitas of Austria as Diana.

1650 Jan van Mijtens (1613-1670) Lady as Diana. She has a tiny lap dog/hunting dog & carries a quiver on her back.

1650 Charles Beaubrun (Charles Bobrun) (French artist, 1604–1692) Portrait of a lady as Diana. She has a dog & a bow.

1640-50s Attributed to Giovanni Domenico Cerrini (Italian artist, 1609-1681) Christina, Queen of Sweden Alexandra Maria Vasa (1626-1689) as Diana. Here she has her dog & a hunting spear. The crescent moon hangs in the sky above them.

1640 Willem van Honthorst (Dutch artist, 1594-1666) Henriette von Nassau as Diana with her faithful hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion.   She has a bow & quiver with feathers in her hair.

1630 Claude Deruet (French artist, 1588–1660) Marie de Rohan, Duchesse de Chevreuse as Diana the Huntress.  She has dogs, a bow & quiver, a hunting horn, & a crescent moon in her hair.

Jan Mytens (Dutch artist, 1614-1670) Lady as Diana

1667 Claude Lefèbvre (French painter, 1633–1675) Louise de La Vallière as Diana. She has a quiver & bow as well as her faithful hunting dogs, Syrius & Phocion.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

17C Garden Fountains Predict the Perfect, Proper Wife

Barend van Kalraet (Dutch artist, 1649-1737) Lady by a Fountain with a Parott

By the 17C & 18C, artists portrayed women & girls, often the eligible daughters of the patrons commissioning the portraits, near a fountain.  In these fountain settings, the young lady is often depicted in the mythical realm of Arcady, a fashionable conceit of the time. At the center of Arcady is the Garden of Love, where a figure of Cupid sits atop a fountain. The young lady places her hand in the flowing water...this is a motif much used by Van Dyke & Lely & it makes an allusion to her potential as a wife & mother, recalling Proverbs, Chapter 5, Verse 18 "Let thy fountain be blessed, & rejoice in the wife of thy youth."

Garden fountains were originally purely functional, connected to natural springs or aqueducts & used to provide water for drinking; water for bathing & washing; & water to nourish growing plants. The painting would announce to the viewer that the parent/patron had enough money, taste, & technological expertise to channel the water through an artistic garden fountain.  Water was now not just a necessary component of nature, the garden planner could make it an integral component of art both outdoors in his garden & indoors in the paintings on his walls.  He could not only interpret nature, he could control it.  And in this painting, he could announce his "natural" superiority, & might chose to have the portrait he has commissioned suggest that his young lady might be sexually appealing for the right marriage partner.