February 12, 2013

Hutsul Men

This image is part of an album probably published in about 1920 that contains 20 photographs of scenes in Carpathian Ruthenia, a mountainous region, most of which was part of the Austria-Hungary before World War I, but which became part of the new Czechoslovak state in 1919. Today the largest portion of it forms Zakarpattia Oblast in western Ukraine, with smaller parts in Slovakia and Poland. This image shows a group of Hutsul men. The Hutsuls are an ethnic and cultural group who speak a dialect of Ukrainian, influenced by Polish. They have lived in Ruthenian Carpathia for centuries. Men traditionally wear a blouse with dark embroidery and a stand-up collar, fastened over the trousers usually by a woven woolen belt but sometimes by a broad red-leather belt with several buckles. The men’s hats have braided colored cords. They wear high leather boots or thick woolen oversocks and sandals.

Carpathian Ruthenia. Ceramics

This image is part of an album probably published in about 1920 that contains 20 photographs of scenes in Carpathian Ruthenia, a mountainous region, most of which was part of the Austria-Hungary before World War I, but which became part of the new Czechoslovak state in 1919. Today the largest portion of it forms Zakarpattia Oblast in western Ukraine, with smaller parts in Slovakia and Poland. Ceramics have been one of the crafts of Carpathian Ruthenia for centuries, as the region has large deposits of kaolin (china clay). Decorated pottery of all kinds as seen here was made particularly by the Hutsul population, but also by other local peoples.

History of Byzantium

This Greek manuscript on parchment dating from the 12th to the 13th centuries is one of the most valuable codices in the National Library of Spain, treasured for the richness of its illumination. The work, by Ioannes Scylitza (flourished 1081), is a history of the Byzantine emperors from 811 to 1057, covering events from the proclamation of Michael I Rangabe in 811 to the reign of Michael VI in 1056–57. The manuscript contains 577 miniatures by different artists. Most of the scenes are accompanied by a caption that explains their meaning. The miniatures illustrate the passages in the text, and include views of fortresses, war scenes, scenes of life at court, depictions of corporal punishments, and other more refined and delicate scenes of a religious nature, such as baptisms and the ordination of patriarchs. The first illuminations, in clear tones, are distinguished by their simplicity and the realism of the figures. These are followed by complex scenes drawn with rough lines, sometimes with grotesque traits of naturalism, followed by larger compositions of vigorous and vivacious design, with simple costumes, well-modeled bodies, and realism in the popular types. The manuscript was probably written in Palermo, Sicily. It belonged to the monastery of San Salvador de Faro de Messina until the end of the 16th century, when it passed to the cathedral at Messina. In 1690, it became the property of the dukes of Uceda, until Philip V confiscated the rich ducal library, after which it came into the custody of the National Library in Madrid.

The Art of Making Mechanical Timepieces for Church Towers, Rooms, and Pockets

Manuel del Río was a Spanish Franciscan, said to have been a skilled watchmaker, who probably learned the trade in Oporto, Portugal, with Tomás Luis de Sáa. Del Río belonged to the Franciscan community in Santiago, where in 1759 he published Arte de los reloxes de ruedas (The art of making mechanical timepieces). The work was reissued in 1789 in Madrid by del Río’s disciple Ramón Durán. That edition is presented here. The prologue states that one of the reasons for writing the book was the lack of manuals on the subject. In fact, two other Spanish books on watchmaking were published in the second half of the 18th century. The singularity of del Río’s work resides in its being the first to describe church clocks and to provide instructions on their manufacture. Del Río flourished in the favorable cultural environment created by King Charles III, who promoted the teaching of industrial and artistic trades and the publication of scientific and technical works. The king’s policies also led to the founding of centers such as the Royal Clockmaking School in 1771 and the Royal Clock Factory in 1788. By this time, use of mechanical clocks had become so widespread that there was a demand for manuals to help owners to maintain them and to correct their timekeeping. The work shows many of the characteristics common to 18th-century books intended for the spread of utilitarian knowledge. Included are engravings of instruments, gears, and other objects, arranged to help explain how they functioned. The illustrations are by Cipriano Maré, an engraver who contributed to other important popular science works. The book is well organized and includes a question and answer section in the first volume and an alphabetic subject index and a glossary in the second that reflect its didactic purpose.

Theatrical Design

Francisco Rizi was a painter of Italian descent who trained in the workshop of Vicente Carducho. In 1637 he began to work for King Philip IV of Spain, who appointed him the royal painter in 1656. His most productive period coincided with the reign of Philip, for whom he worked both on decorations of a mythological character for the Alcázar de Toledo and on the design and construction of theater sets from 1657 on. This drawing probably was made for a theatrical presentation at the Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid. It is a finely done work, clearly in the Baroque style, with emphasis on color and decoration. The composition is of simple materials embellished with tempera paints to portray marble, decorated with reliefs, cartouches, and shields that are iconographic symbols in which mythology and the glorification of monarchs are combined. Apollo, as the personification of the sun and patron of muses, is carried in a chariot in the upper cartouche. Allegories of spring and fall are found in the lateral niches. In the background, the figure of Pan appears with a musical instrument, alluding to the arts. Over the pediment of the second arch is the royal seal. The undulating structures reinforced by columns create dynamism in the composition and are arranged at various angles to create an illusory perspective. In the work, Rizi demonstrates his mastery as a painter and stage designer. It is also possible that this painting is related to one of the triumphal royal entrances, which were already well-established at court. Rizi was fundamentally a painter of religious themes. His work is linked to the cathedral at Toledo and to the predominant churches associated with the court, such as Descalzas Reales, San Antonio de los Portugueses, and Colegio Imperial de Madrid. He is considered the first great Baroque painter of the Madrid school. He contributed to the renewal of Spanish painting by combining the influences of the school of Rubens with the color of the Venetian school.

An Examination of the Talents Required for the Sciences

Examen de ingenios para las sciencias (An examination of the talents required for the sciences), first printed in 1575, is the only known work by Juan Huarte de San Juan, who was born in Navarre, Spain, in around 1529. The work seeks to clarify various questions regarding human knowledge and the capacities and abilities found in some persons but not in others, and such questions as what makes a person skilled in one science but not in another and how to recognize which art and science are best suited to each man. It is possible that in writing this work the author was attempting to solve the problem of Spain’s great need in the 16th century for skilled men, especially in government administration and the army, to confront the immense challenges facing the kingdom and its empire. The dedication of the work to King Philip II is one indication of that aim. Some of the chapter titles suggest their contents: “Chapter 6: Which states that the body must be well exercised so that the boy will be skillful;” or “Chapter 11: Wherein it is proved that eloquence and politeness in speech cannot exist in men of great understanding.” The author states that only men have aptitude for sciences, as evidenced by the chapter that explains “What steps must be taken for males to be born, rather than females,” because men are more useful than women. The work was highly successful and underwent several reprints and translations. However, a complaint to the Inquisition forced Huarte to revise the text by removing one chapter and adding others, which resulted in a second revised edition of 1594, presented here. The author died in 1588 and thus did not live to see the reprint, which was completed by his son.