Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kazakhstan's equestrian tradition

PD Photo: Kazakh horseback riders in traditional dress demonstrate a kissing game, Kyz kuu (Chase the Girl), one of a number of traditional games played on horseback, taken on 13 September 2000 by SSGT Jeremy T. Lock, USAF. In the photo, the Kazakh woman is ‘winning’ by whipping the man.

As part of the Gala concert of CentrAsBat 00, Kazakh horse-riding performers demonstrate Kazakhstan's cultural tradition of the equestrian game called Kyz kuu (also known as Kyz kuumai, known outside Central Asia as ‘Girl Chasing’, ‘Catch the Girl’, ‘Chase the Girl’, or ‘Kissing Game’), a traditional sport among the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. CentrAsBat was formed on 15 December 1995 by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, under the aegis of the UN and NATO's Partnership for Peace program/ US Central Command (US CENTCOM).

In the game a man on horseback waits at a given point. When a young riding woman starts her horse galloping from a given distance behind him and passes him, he may start his horse galloping. They race towards a finish line ahead. If the man is able to catch up to the woman before the finish line, he is then rewarded with a kiss, which is a victory for him. If the man cannot catch up with her before the finish line, the woman rider turns around and chases the man back to the finish line. If she reaches the man, she may use her whip to beat him, which signifies a victory for her.

PD Photo: Kazakh bride in traditional Kazakh wedding dress on horseback (1911-1914), photo by Russian photographer Sergei Ivanovich Borisov (1860-1935). In the background, there is a yurt, a portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structure, a home, traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

Richard Nixon escorts Tricia Nixon at her wedding in 1971

PD Photo: Richard M. Nixon escorts daughter Tricia Nixon down the aisle at her wedding to Edward Finch Cox

Tricia Nixon married Edward Finch Cox in a White House Rose Garden ceremony on 12 June 1971. Since then she has lived a private life, staying home taking care of her son Christopher Nixon Cox who was born in March 1979. She and her husband Edward Finch Cox, a corporate attorney, live just off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Patricia Nixon Cox, aka Tricia Nixon, born on 21 February 1946, is the elder daughter of the 37th U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon, and is sister to Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Currently Tricia Nixon serves on the boards of several medical research institutions, the Richard Nixon Foundation, and the Nixon Center in Washington D.C.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Swedish Gilded Silver Bridal Crown

Public Domain Photo: Gilded silver bridal crown by Swedish master goldsmith Bo Stefan with photos of four brides who had worn it in the period between 1938 and 1978. The brides are Eva Sterner (Mrs. C. J. Stefan Ridderstedt), Birgit Anderson (Mrs. C. Erik Ridderstedt), Märta Enbäck (Mrs. R. Stig Stefanson) and Ingegärd Stefanson (Mrs. Arne Klum), photo taken at the Church of Sweden, Täby, Sweden.

The Judgement of Paris, Capodimonte porcelain

PD Photo: The Judgement of Paris, Capodimonte porcelain, Capitoline Museums, Rome

Capodimonte porcelain is created by the Capodimonte porcelain manufactory, which was established in Naples in 1743, when the Spanish King Charles (VII of Napoli, V of Sicilia) and his wife Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony instituted the Royal Factory of Capodimonte. Capodimonte porcelain was an emulation of Meissen porcelain.

For the manufactory, the chemist Livio Ottavio Schepers improved the composition of the soft paste porcelain body. The sculptor Giuseppe Gricci and the decorator Casella contributed to the creation of important works of art. Capodimonte is famous for its molded figurines and its decorative modeled flowers on cups and vases. With this factory they gave birth to one of the most famous Italian forms of art.

Prince Paris with Apple by H. W. Bissen

PD Photo: Prince Paris with Apple, marble sculpture by H. W. Bissen, located at The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (an art museum) in Copenhagen, Denmark

Danish sculptor Herman Wilhelm Bissen or H. W. Bissen (1798-1868), changed styles of his sculptures from romanticism to neo-classicism, and finally settled in realism. Bissen’s famous sculptures include the monumental Landsoldaten (1858) in Fredericia, The Isted Lion (1862) that was originally in Flensburg but now Copenhagen, Iðunn (also spelt as Ydun, Idun, Idunn, Ithun, or even Iduna and Idunna) created in 1858 and the gold-plated statue of Bishop Absalon in the front of the Copenhagen City Hall.

Johannes Vermeer: The Girl with a Pearl Earring

PD Image: Girl with a Pearl Earring (Dutch: Het Meisje met de Parel, old title: Head of a girl), a 1665 oil on canvas painting by Dutch painter and art dealer Johannes Vermeer (aka Jan Vermeer or Jan Vermeer van Delft), size 46.5 cm x 40 cm (18.31 in x 15.75 in), located at Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands. This image shows ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer some time before it was restored.

PD Image: a restored version of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.

The painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, sometimes referred to as The Mona Lisa of the North or The Dutch Mona Lisa, is one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's masterpieces and as the name implies, uses a pearl earring for a focal point.

Though not much is known about Vermeer and his works, this painting is signed ‘IVMeer’, but not dated. Recent studies on Vermeer suggest the image being a ‘head’, it was not meant to be a portrait, though it is not known who commissioned it, or who the subject is. A recent restoration in 1994 has greatly increased the effect of the subtle colour scheme and the intimacy of the girl’s gaze on the spectator. A.A. des Tombe purchased the work at an auction in The Hague in 1881 for only two guilders and thirty cents. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this painting and other collections to the Mauritshuis in 1902.

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in depicting scenes of middle class life of his times. He seems never to have been wealthy as he left his wife and children in debt on his death. Vermeer worked slowly but with great care using bright colors and expensive pigments, and was renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his works.

Johannes Vermeer’s modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death for over two centuries. In 19th century Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who attributed 66 paintings to him but only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him now. However, Vermeer's reputation found new heights so that now Johannes Vermeer is recognized as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The cave of Orpheus' oracle in Lesbos and other stories

PD Image: The cave of Orpheus' oracle in Antissa, Lesbos, Greece

Orpheus has a special importance in Greek mythology, with the inspiration for Orphic cults, literature, poetry and drama of ancient Greece and Rome and Western classical music.

According to one myth, in the later part of his life, Orpheus disdained the worship of all gods except the sun, whom he called Apollo. One day he went to the oracle of Dionysus at Mount Pangaion to salute the sun at dawn, but was rent to pieces by Thracian Maenads for not honoring his previous patron (Dionysus) and buried him in Pieria.

Ovid’s account of his death gives it a bizarre twist: the Ciconian women, Dionysus' followers, killed him, when they were spurned by Orpheus, who had hated women after the death of his wife Eurydice, who died of a snake bite, after which he had taken only boys as his lovers. First the women threw sticks and stones at him, but his music was so powerful and beautiful that even the stones and sticks refused to hit him. However, finally, the enraged women tore him to pieces. In an Albrecht Dürer drawing a ribbon high in a tree is lettered ‘Orfeus der erst puseran’ (‘Orpheus, the first sodomite’); an interpretation of the passage in Ovid where Orpheus is said to have been ‘the first of the Thracian people to transfer his love to young boys.’

His severed head and lyre, still singing mournful songs, floated down the Hebrus River (Maritsa or Evros) to the Mediterranean Sea, and the winds and waves carried them on to the shores of Lesbos island (now in Greece), where the inhabitants buried his head and a shrine was built for him near Antissa. There his oracle prophesied, until it was silenced by Apollo.

Lesbos, the Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea, is the third largest Greek island and the largest of the numerous Greek islands scattered in the Aegean, and separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait.

Interestingly, one meaning of the word lesbian is derived from the poems of Sappho, who was born in Lesbos and who wrote with emotional content towards other women. It is due to this that Lesbos and especially the town of Eresos, Sappho’s birthplace, are a hot destination for lesbian tourists/ LGBT tourism. But, the deeply conservative Greek Orthodox population of the island disapproves of it strongly. In 2008 the Lesbian islanders lost a court battle against the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece. The Lesbian islanders had requested a legal injunction to bar homosexual groups from using the word ‘lesbian’ in their names, because the petitioners’ claim it violates their human rights as it is ‘insulting’, and the usage of the word ‘lesbian’ to refer to certain sexual preferences of women disgraces the people of Lesbos island.

Hermaphroditus and Hermaphrodites

PD Photo: Hermaphroditus, marble sculpture at Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, England, photo taken on 15 July 2006.

PD Image: The metamorphosis of the nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (alternatively known as ‘Verwandlung von Hermaphroditos und Salmicis’ or ‘De gedaanteverwisseling van Hermaphroditus en de nimf Salmacis’) by Flemish painter Jan Gossaert (1478-1532) created in the year ± 1517, oil on panel, size 32.8 cm x 21.5 cm (12.91 in x 8.46 in), located at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

PD Image: The Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus (1828) by Belgian neo-classical painter François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869).

The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is derived from the Greek mythological character Hermaphroditus, who fused with the nymph Salmacis, resulting in one individual possessing the physical traits of both male and female. Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.

Salmacis is an atypical naiad (nymph) whose attempted rape of Hermaphroditus places her as the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, she becomes one with Hermaphroditus, and Hermaphroditus curses the fountain to have the same effect on others, or whoever comes to the fountain of Salmacis (located near the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus) will become effeminate.

Earlier, the word ‘hermaphrodite’ was used to describe a person incompatible with the biological gender binary, but it has recently been replaced by the word ‘intersex’ in medical science.

People with intersex conditions (hermaphrodites) may choose to live exclusively either as male or female, using clothing, social cues, genital surgery and hormone replacement therapy to blend into the sex they identify themselves with more closely. Some intersexual people outwardly appear completely female or male, without realizing that they are intersexual. Intersex is hypothesized to be caused by unusual sex hormones that may be caused by an atypical set of sex chromosomes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Abraham Bloemaert: Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

PD Image: ‘Parable of the Wheat and the Tares’ (1624) by Abraham Bloemaert, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) was a Dutch painter and printmaker and one of the ‘Haarlem Mannerists’, who later picked up Baroque trends. He mostly painted historical themes and landscapes.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (also known as Parable of the Weeds, Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, or the Parable of the Weeds in the Grain), is a parable told by Jesus. It refers to the final judgment when angels will separate the ‘sons of the evil one’ (the tares or weeds) from the ‘sons of the kingdom’ (the wheat).

The parable, as contained in Matthew 13:24-30, New International Version, is as follows:

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Portraits of fornarina Margherita Luti by Raphael

PD Image: La fornarina (1518-1519), also known as The Portrait of a Young Woman, oil on wood painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael, dimensions 85 cm x 60 cm (33 in x 24 in) located at Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini, Rome.
The woman portrayed in this painting is traditionally identified as the fornarina (daughter of a baker) Margherita Luti, Raphael's Roman mistress, depicted in an oriental style. Click and enlarge the photo so that you can read the signature of the artist, RAPHAEL URBINAS on the narrow band on her left arm. The same artist’s model Margherita Luti appears in another portrait by Raphael, La Velata.
PD Image: La Velata, or La Donna Velata (The woman with a veil or The Veiled Woman) by Raphael (1514-1515), oil on canvas, dimensions 82 by 61 cm (32 by 24 inches), located at Palatine Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy. La Velata is considered one of the most famous portraits by Raphael.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stivan Beach on Island Cres, Croatia

PD Photo: Stivan Beach on Island Cres, Croatia, is located south of Lake Vrana at an altitude of 100-120 meters, photo by Thomas Musich.

'On the Sand, Valencia Beach' by Joaquin Sorolla

PD Image: ‘On the Sand, Valencia Beach’ (1908), Oil on canvas painting by Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923).

Naturism: sign at a swimming pool forbids clothing

PD photo: Cozies Forbidden, photo dated 1 August 2007 featuring a sign at a swimming pool showing no clothing is to be worn, and other forbidden things/ requirements.

It is believed that the word ‘naturism’ was first used in a notable manner in 1778 by the French-speaking Belgian Jean Baptiste Luc Planchon (1734-1781) for promoting the natural style of life and health. The international definition adopted by the XIV Congress of the International Naturist Federation (France, 1974) defines for naturism as ‘a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterized by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.’

It is generally felt that in the United States, naturism and nudism have very similar meanings, but in Britain there is more specific. In Britain ‘nudism is the act of being naked, while naturism is a lifestyle which at various times embraced nature, environment, respect for others, self-respect, crafts, healthy eating, vegetarianism, teetotalism, non-smoking, yoga, physical exercise and pacifism as well as nudity’.