Today is World Book Day! Did you know that with estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, the Bible is the all-time best-selling book? Saint Jerome is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin in 382. By the 13th century, his version became the version commonly-used by the Catholic Church. It only took about 1,000 years. 'Saint Jerome Writing' by Caravaggio is part of the collection of the Galleria Borghese in Rome.
Let's take a look at 'Primavera' by Sandro Botticelli. On the right, Zephyrus (the blue faced young man) fecundates Chloris with his breath. Flowers come out of her mouth while she becomes Flora, goddess of spring. In the center, Venus represents the benevolence which protects men. Above her is her son Cupid who shoots arrows blinfolded. He aims at the Three Graces who represent feminine virtues (Chastity, Beauty and Love). On the far left, Mercury dissipates clouds of winter with his staff.
Do you have a friend who would buy you a house? French printmaker and caricaturist Honoré Daumier did have a friend like this. By the end of his life, Daumier was poor and almost completely blind. He could not afford to pay the rent of his house in Valmondois near Paris. His close friend Camille Corot, also an artist, secretly bought the house and gave it to him as a present. "The Chess Player" is in the collection of the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris.
Did you know that Hofmann had a profilic scientific career before he became interested in creative studies? He developed and patented devices such as a portable freezer unit for military use, an electromagnetic comptometer, a radar for ships at sea and sensitized light bulbs. He later put a hold on his career in science and mathematics to begin his art training. 'The Gate' is in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Happy birthday Elaine de Kooning! The American Abstract Expressionist and wife of Willem de Kooning was born on March 12, 1918. In 1962, she was commissioned to paint a portrait of US President John F. Kennedy. She said he was difficult to sketch because of his "extreme restlessness... he read papers, talked on the phone, jotted down notes, crossed and uncrossed is legs, shifted from one arm of the chair to the other..." She made more than 20 finished canvases and hundreds of sketches.
'The Birth of Venus' by academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau is one of his best known masterpiece. It is the finest expression of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of female beauty. The work doesn't depict the birth of Venus as the title mentions but rather her transportation in a shell from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. If you look at the cloud on the left side, you might recognize the silhouette of the artist with a head, shoulder, arm and a fist that seems to hold a paintbrush.
'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by the Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch is a triptych (a work of art divided into three sections) that dates from between 1490 and 1510. The three panels represent Adam and Eve in paradise (left panel), the "earthly delights" (center panel) and hell (right panel). The work is generaly described by art historians as a warning on the perils of life's temptations. The painting is on view at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
Did you know that Piet Mondrian didn't use a ruler in order to paint the black lines in his work? These lines were handmade and could take a while to execute. They also had a special meaning. The vertical lines represent masculinity and spirituality while the horizontal lines represent feminity and worldly qualities. Mondrian was born on this day, 7 March 1872. 'Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray and Blue' is on view at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, The…
In the Roman Calendar, March 15 was also known as the Ides of March. This date became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic. He was stabbed to death by Brutus and several other Roman senators (as many as 60) on this day in 44 BC. 'The Death of Caesar' by Vincenzo Camuccini is part of the collection of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy.
Today is Absinthe day! Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was notorious for his consumption of the 'Green Muse'. Apparently, Lautrec carried a hollow cane filled with absinthe during his long nights out in Paris. Other painters such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh were known for drinking ferocious quantities of absinthe. Lautrec featured absinthe in 'Monsieur Boileau au café' which is in the collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art.
German painter Franz Marc was killed in action during World War I on March 4, 1916. He had enlisted in the German Army at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. The government made a list of notable artists to be reassigned and Marc made the list. Unfortunately, he got killed by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun. The orders for his reassignment arrived too late. 'Fighting Cows' is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Michelangelo's 'Madonna of Bruges' had her share of travel. First, it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. It was bought by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni. They were members of a family of wealthy cloth merchants in Bruges. In the early 16th-century, Bruges was a leading commercial city in Europe. In 1944, German soldiers smuggled the sculpture to Germany. It was found by Allied soldiers in 1945 hidden in the Altaussee salt mine in Austria.
'Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole' depicts the French general leading his troops to storm the bridge near Arcola. Painter Antoine-Jean Gros was present when Napoleon planted the French flag on the bridge after the French defeated the Austrian forces. This version of the painting is the one held at the Hermitage in St Petersburg. I saw it last summer while it was on loan at the Hermitage Amsterdam (and it was forbidden to take pictures). Antoine-Jean Gros was born 16 March 1771.
Did you know that French painter Georges de La Tour passed into a complete oblivion for three centuries? His work was forgotten after his death in 1652 until it was rediscovered by a German scholar. Some of his works had been falsely attributed to other painters such as Vermeer. The authorship of many of his works are still debated such as this one from the Frick Collection. It is called 'The Education of the Virgin' and it shows what he did best: religious scenes lit by candlelight.
French Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot died on this day, March 2, 1895. Did you know that she died of pneumonia contracted while she attended her daughter Julie Manet's similar illness? Julie was only 16 when her mother died. They are depicted together in this portrait made by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1894, a year before she died.
"Women in the Garden" by Claude Monet is quite a large canvas: 255 cm x 205 cm (100 in x 81 in). Monet had to dig a trench in order to lower the canvas in the ground. This allowed him to paint its upper half and maintain a single point of view. Monet was 26 when he created this work. He had no money. His friend and fellow artist Frédéric Bazille bought the painting to support him. This work was rejected at the prestigious Paris Salon on the grounds of subject and narrative weakness.