Sunday, November 11, 2012
What brought me back to my blog? Not the aforementioned life milestones. No. Snakes. They are back in my dreams. At least once, if not more. This time two snakes were at my feet. My attention was diverted to something (I think it was a bird) above my head. I remember the paralysis of fear that overtook my body.
While that seems a bit scary, it wasn't half as scary as the "Grudge-esque" nightmare that I had. I think these two dreams happened in the same evening. Sheesh.
Since then though, it's been pleasant sleep. Even pleasant dreams.
Combined with these crazy dreams, Mercury is in retrograde. What does this mean? Well, nothing really. I am not a firm believer in astrology, but sometimes those things are quite in tune with what I'm dealing with at the time. So, here's a brief rundown of what Mercury in retrograde is thought to mean. Mercury is the messenger god, right? Therefore, it is believed that Mercury rules over communications. When Mercury is in retrograde, the planet actually appears to be moving backwards. So, Mercury in retrograde means that for a short period of time our communications goes awry. Now this means different things for different signs. Generally, it seems to be a time to reflect, re-examine, rethink, unthink, and simply be silent. Intuition can be high and coincidences can be extraordinary. Sometimes it's best to leave major financial decisions until after the twenty or so days have passed. Computers going on the fritz is another great symptom of Mercury in retrograde. Interesting, one of my girlfriends has attributed Mercury to the fact that she lost all of her contacts out of her phone.
For me, I've noticed that I can't seem to find the right words for anything. It's like I've lost my words. Now I know that sounds silly as I am using this time to finally come back to blog. In fact, I decided to counteract Mercury!
That's enough for now. I encourage you to look up Mercury in Retrograde. Learn about it, see if it happens to explain any oddities you may be experiencing. Is it the end all/be all truth? Probably not. Is it a great excuse to use when you can't seem to find the right thing to say? YES!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Mosaics of Venice: Building art or Building a Nation?
“Tell me where is fancy bred, or in the heart or in the head?”
--William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”
Upon entering the chapels of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, an intuitive first action would be to simply look up. The enveloping sense of warmth, reverence, and sacredness from shimmering golden mosaic tiles draws the eye immediately to the looming domes and leads the visitor mesmerizingly on a journey throughout the chapels. The journey starts in the heart, by appealing to one’s sense of beauty and amazement, and ends in the head, as one ponders the underlying political motives of these magnificent works of art. Along the journey one finds the Cappella di San Clemente, the chapel to the south of the main presbytery in the Basilica di San Mark. This chapel, also known for being the Doge’s chapel, houses a part of the life cycle of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. The St. Mark cycle in this chapel consists of seven mosaic scenes: Saint Mark’s body being removed from the tomb, Saint Mark’s relics being carried away, the ship with Saint Mark’s relics being examined by the Muslims, the ship departing from Alexandria, Saint Mark saving the Venetians from shipwreck, the ship arriving in Venice, and finally, the reception of Saint Mark’s relics by the Venetian people. The Cappella di San Clemente’s cycle of mosaics ostentatiously displays the craftsmanship of the Venetian glassmakers as well as the artists. While the beauty of these mosaics speaks for itself, the beauty also speaks within political and religious representations to the idea of Venetian independence. The illustrious mosaic representation of the Saint Mark cycle, or Translatio, within the Cappella di San Clemente not only portrays a sense of artistic identity in the realm of aesthetic mastery, but also foments Venetian national identity. The specific representations of Saint Marks’ body being removed from the tomb, Saint Mark saving the Venetians from shipwreck, and the reception of Saint Mark’s relics by the Venetian people in the Basilica di San Marco appeal to the fancy of the proverbial heart with their golden luster and sheer grandiosity, but more importantly the mosaics work to legitimize and solidify Venetian nationalism within in the minds of her people.
The mosaic of St. Mark’s body being removed from the tomb is the first mosaic in the depiction of the St. Mark Translatio (e.g. figure 1). The scene depicts four men, the Venetian merchants Tribunus and Rusticus, as well as two Orthodox custodians, standing in the background of a haloed corpse, St. Mark, floating above a coffin. The two custodians, Theodorus the priest and Stauracius the monk, attired in long robes, tall hats, and wearing long, white beards, are placed at the head of St. Mark. The two Venetians, dressed less formally and wearing little to no beard, stand at the saint’s feet with their arms draped over as in reception. In her book, Art and Life in Renaissance Venice, Patricia Fortini Brown refers to this scene as a “naïve representation, characterized as the lifting of the body out of the sarcophagus” where the body “seems to float in midair” (33). She further criticizes that “the four figures holding the body are not bending over the coffin…but standing upright” (33). Brown focuses on realistic representation of art with a critical eye on how a modern day viewer would examine the piece. The artist’s misinterpretation of physics within this mosaic representation, Brown seems to intimate, causes a disconnect for the 21st century viewer to interpret as naivety. It cannot be argued that the representation fails to portray an active, physical event such as resuming a body. Yet, the representation of the floating body and the lack of effort by the grave robbers symbolizes more than it attempts to document. Symbolically, the mosaic functions to tell a story. The mosaic elicits a response in a way that a documentary approach could not. As Otto Demus explains in The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco Venice, the Translatio, “formed an essential part of the national myth of Venice” and “begins with an ample introduction calculated to prove the divine right of the venetians to the possession of the saint’s relics” (33). The mosaic’s ethereal quality illustrates Venice’s divine right to the relics twofold. The floating corpse suggests a willingness of St. Mark’s divine spirit to leave its entombment in Alexandria. Secondly, the effortlessness of the pallbearer’s struggle furthers the symbolism of St. Mark as looking for his true final resting place within Venice. These two otherworldly aspects of the mosaic function to incorporate faith, feeling, and fraternity. Further Thomas Dale remarks:
Following closely the Translatio text, the two merchants Tribunus and Rusticus are assisted by two Orthodox custodians, Theodore Presbyter and the monk Stauracius. Their presence helps justify the Venetian theft; after much discussion with Tribunus and Rusticus, the custodians agree to help the Venetians remove the relics to Venice to save them from profanation by the Saracens. (70)
Examining the relation between the Translatio text and the public representation within the mosaic, Dale speaks of justification and salvation. Venice’s justification and salvation are represented and legitimized as from the celestial judge of all Christianity, God. Sanctification by God, especially in an ancient Christian society, provides an unyielding defense for political motives. The justification and salvation of martyrium represented within the first mosaic in the St. Mark cycle begins a sequence of art propaganda of Venice’s own justification and salvation as a nation state.
The fifth mosaic in the St. Mark cycle of the Cappella di San Clemente depicts Saint Mark saving the Venice bound ship carrying his relics (e.g. see figure 2). Tall waves are shown lifting up the ship as it sails perilously close to the edge of a rocky shore. Two crew members are enveloped within the fallen sail cloth at the fore of the ship while Tribunus, also enfolded within the sail, stands a bit removed. Behind Tribunus, towards the aft of the ship lays Stauracius, the Orthodox monk from the first mosaic. Filling the middle ground between Tribunus and Stauracius is the spirit of Saint Mark. In this rendering, as opposed to the previous, St. Mark’s eyes are open and his attention, along with his hand is resting on Stauracius. In the midst of the impending doom, Saint Mark is bringing peace to the monk. Demus describes the intentions of the mosaic as representative of “the saint himself authorize[ing] the translation of his relics back to Italy” (30). Therefore, Venice’s possession of the relics is not enough for legitimacy. St. Mark’s role presented by this mosaic represents legitimacy to Venice’s claim. Whereas in the previous mosaic Saint Mark played a passive yet implied role in the removal of his relics, this mosaic presents an active intervention on behalf of Venice. Saint Mark, by the holy power that rests within him, oversees the safe return of his relics to the rightful resting place in Venice. By portraying the power of this godly spirit, “a Venetian predilection for divine sanction” (Demus 70) is clearly defined. If the holy Saint Mark himself chooses to have his relics in Venice, who should argue against it? By having the protective hand of Saint Mark looming over them, Venice could boast a divine investor and political sponsor. Demus provides further support:
The intention of the author of the program was to give the beholder the opportunity of accompanying the relics from their first resting place to their final destination and thus remove any doubts about the reality and completeness of the TRANSLATION, doubts that might have arisen in view of Alexandria’s claim to have retained the head of the saint or Reichenau’s claim to have abducted the relics from Venice. (71)
The mosaic of the shipwreck continues the Venetian myth propaganda path. Looking at the main focus of this mosaic, other than Saint Mark himself, the biggest idol within this mosaic is the ship. Venetians were synonymous with seafaring. Therefore, what better way to solidify the Venetian myth as fact than to use their own naval iconography? Demus explains, “it was this need for a convincing statement that led to the adoption of a certain objective realism in the rendering of naval matters, the material for which Venice could provide better than any other place” (71). Since the Venetians were world renowned for their mastery in naval affairs, instilling their patron Saint as overseer and divine protector of his own sea travel would immediately foster a sense of legitimacy in their claim to his relics. The representation of maritime autonomy linked to holy providence provides a metaphorical bridge to the political realm of Venice’s struggle for sovereignty. James McGregor, in his book Venice From the Ground UP, further solidifies this idea stating that this representation “assigns the saint a new role as city founder” and that “this transformation of the saint from apostle to city founder also redefines community and its political leadership” (62). The artist creates a Saint Mark who takes control of destiny and leads Venice to glory as heavenly ordained. Again, Saint Mark moves out of the passive role of patron saint and into founding father of the new Venice nation state. McGregor furthers his argument with a metaphor of Plymouth Rock, “this is the artist’s idea of the Rivoalto, the Plymouth Rock from which Venice will grow” (61). Just as the sea travelers who landed upon Plymouth founded a new nation, McGregor argues that this scene depicts the same for St. Mark and his crew with the Rivoalto. This metaphor connects with the 21st century audience, especially an American audience, as the similarities between the two republics are vast. Whereas an etched rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts legitimized the efforts of the seafaring, freedom seeking pilgrims, the mosaic representations works to legitimize the story of St. Mark.
The next mosaic in the cycle depicts the presentation of Saint Mark’s relics to the Venetian people (e.g. figure 3). The mosaic of the presentation depicts the juxtaposition of church and state, the pageantry associated with Venetian traditions. Interestingly, the focal point of the mosaic is not Saint Mark, nor a vessel containing his relics. In fact, Saint Mark does not make an appearance in any form. This last mosaic features more representations of individual people than any of the other two mosaics. The people who are depicted within this mosaic intimate a direct attempt by the artist to display political themes juxtaposed with religious values. Prominently figured in the center of the group of recipients, dressed in colorful albs, stands the patriarch Enrico Dandolo of Grado. Six bishops Caorle, Eraclea, Equilo, Malamocco, Olivolo, Torcello, surround the patriarch “who ceremoniously support the Dandolo’s hands, a gesture denoting his ecclesiastical authority” (Madden 38). Juxtaposed with the clergy are Doge Vitalle II Michiel, his judges, and a sword bearer. The two groups are clearly demarcated with by their appearance and garb. The clergy all wear the gold decorated cleric’s hats while the Doge and his staff wear similar hats, yet more demur in color. The albs of both groups share similar differences as the clergy is decorated in the symbolic trappings of their profession while the political representatives wear plain, blue, hooded robes. “When the Doge and the Venetian community are depicted in the Mark cycle of the south transept, they are second to the bishop, though close in authority, and taking part in a sacred rather than secular right. They are congregants rather than citizens" (McGregor 314). Clearly, the division between church and state is represented, but more importantly, these two separate entities, both having claims and motives for the relics, are shown together. The balance of power sways toward the scared as these are saintly relics, yet the overall fortuitousness benefits Venice as a nation. It is important to remember also that the Cappella di San Clemente was the Doge’s chapel. “In placing him in the mosaics next to St. Mark, indubitable symbol of the doge's power, the idea was to show everyone that patriarch and Doge coexisted peacefully in the doge's basilica” (Basilica di San Marco). This last mosaic, set against the other mosaics of Saint Mark, depicts the powers who wielded temporal authority over the saint’s relics. The glorification of the Doge’s role had to be kept in check to pacify the clergy. Not only did the relics belong to Venice and the Doge, but they also belonged to the powerful church. The division of church and state had to be delicately handled in order to proliferate the divine myth and secure the future of a sovereign Venice.
Once the upward gazing Basilica di San Marco visitor has traveled through the beauty and nationalism that the Cappella provides, he or she may wonder, “Why mosaics?” The choice of mosaic representation over a mural or other artistic rendering allowed Venice to visually manifest its nationalism within a medium inherent to Venice. What better way to showcase Venice’s national pride than to write it in the art that they were famous for? Brown asserts:
The mosaics of San Marco thus remained a living monument for the artists of Venice. They drew from them a subtle approach to color, attitudes about the physical craft of art, models for composition, a respect for surface, and perhaps most important of all, a way of perceiving and of representing light as a powerful revealer-and, at the same time, dissolver-of form. (33)
That the mosaics were a “living monument” meant they could function both as a story, as any art piece can, but also as a storyteller. The mosaic itself, not just the scenes depicted, has the innate ability to be part of the story because the craft is intrinsic to Venice. The use of light to reveal and dissolve manages to mesmerize and astound at the same time. “The gold background of the mosaics does not only give unity to the mosaics themselves but, in accordance with the oriental conception, has a precise symbolic value as the colour of the Divine, the image of that light which, for the theologians and Fathers of the mediaeval church, was God himself” (Basilica di San Marco). The lustrous effect of the gold background presents a common, saintly visage throughout the presentation of the mosaics possibly exemplifying the steadfast provision of God and his church. While the scenes in one’s life may change, the providence of God remains steady throughout. For Venice’s purposes of balancing the sacred with the secular, the story of Saint Mark infused in this golden divinity legitimizes the sacred myth. Demus explains, “The story of the Translatio was for Venice more than a legend; it was an integral part of the ideological foundation of the Venetian Church and State” (Demus 36). Therefore, the mosaics needed to not only be grandiose and awe inspiring, but also needed to be grounded in Venetian culture to maintain legitimacy. The use of glass mosaic art fomented the Translatio’s legitimatization by grounding the legend within an art medium synonymous with Venice.
In summary, the specific representations of the Translatio of Saint Mark including: Saint Mark’s body being removed from the tomb, Saint Mark saving the Venetians from shipwreck, and the reception of Saint Mark’s relics by the Venetian people, legitimize and solidify Venetian nationalism by appealing to the fancy of the Venetians’ proverbial hearts, with golden luster and sheer grandiosity as well as to their minds, with cultural iconography. Working within an art medium inherent to the national identity of Venice, the artists of the mosaics are creating fact from legend. By cementing mosaic representation of St. Mark’s posthumous travels from Alexandria to his rightful resting place in Venice, the artists worked to cement Venetian nationalism. In the mosaic of St. Mark’s relics being removed from the tomb, the representation of St. Mark’s corpse floating out of the grave portrays the saint’s willingness to leave Alexandria. The effortlessness to remove the body suggests divine intervention condoned this action. With the heavens seemingly on their side, Venice could boast their claim to St. Mark’s relics, as well as martyrium, was rightfully theirs. The mosaic of St. Mark saving the ship from shipwreck depicts St. Mark actively taking part to assure his relics are delivered to the Venetians. Since Venice was a world renowned naval authority, the use of Venice’s naval iconography further legitimized the St. Mark legend as well as fomented a sense of national pride. Recalling the story of the pilgrims landing at Plymouth, a present day visitor may connect with ideas of forming a nation and the relics that instill patriotic nostalgia. In the mosaic representation of St. Mark’s relics being presented to the Venetians, Saint Mark does not make an appearance. Instead, the focus is on the religious, political, and cultural factors of Venice. The idea of pageantry within Venetian culture is displayed as the church and state both form a receiving procession. The depiction of both the clerics and the laity presents an idea of separate, but equal effect to the political and religious rights of the relics. All of the mosaics within the Cappella Di San Clemente present the visitor with the golden warmth and glittering beauty of the art form. The Saint Mark cycle of mosaics ostentatiously displays the craftsmanship of the Venetian glassmakers as well as the artists. While the beauty of these mosaics speaks for itself, the beauty also speaks in political and religious representations to the idea of Venetian independence. The illustrious mosaic representation of the Saint Mark cycle, in the Basilica di San Marco not only portray a sense of artistic identity in the realm of aesthetic mastery, but more importantly these mosaics art pieces encourage Venetian national identity. To answer William Shakespeare’s question, “tell me where is fancy bred, or in the heart or in the head?” the visitor to the Basilica di San Marco may say, “both.”
Brown, Patricia Fortini. Art and Life in Renaissance Venice. New York: Prentice Hall, 1997. Print.
Crivellari, Domenico, and Maria Da Villa Urbain. "Basilica Di San Marco." Basilica Di San Marco. Procuratoria of St. Mark. Web. 02 Nov. 2011.
Dale, Thomas E.A. "Inventing a Sacred Past: Pictorial Narratives of St. Mark the Evangelist in Aquileia and Venice, Ca. 1000-1300." Dumbarton Oaks Papers 48 (1994): 53-104. JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.
Demus, Otto. The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco Venice. Chicago U.a.: Univ. of Chicago, 1988. Print.
Madden, Thomas F. Enrico Dandolo & the Rise of Venice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2003. Print.
McGregor, James H. Venice from the Ground up. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2006. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and John Russell Brown. The Merchant of Venice. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Interesting that my nightmares as well as my forked tongued friend, employ snakes as their weapons of choice.
INTERESTING. As I'm writing this, I am also searching the meaning of snakes in dreams. Look what I found:
What do dreams about snakes mean?
"Snakes represent the dreamer's creative urge toward wisdom," says Condron. She explains that the snake is a neutral symbol and that it's up to the dreamer to assign the slant. "This slant is often defined by cultural view," she says. "For instance, in the West, snakes are generally feared while in the East they are revered. This can influence the dreamer's interpretation of the dream."
Are there any tricks to avoiding or inducing dreams about snakes?
Condron says that individuals who have a more developed sense of consciousness -- like healers, yogis, meditators or creators -- are more likely to report snake imagery in their dreams. If you want to induce a snake image in your dream, practice creativity or develop your sense of conciousness.*
While presently I do not consider myself a yogi, I know that "yogi" has defined me in the past. It is a label which I treasure.
I still do not understand though why my dreams are so scary. Two of the most recent snake dreams have been concentrated efforts to subdue the fear, but ultimately fail.
Just some interesting thoughts for today.
*For the full article:
Sunday, November 27, 2011
There was more to the dream, but I cannot remember.
Just a note to self in case the nightmares resurface.
Monday, October 10, 2011
I finally quit my job. After four years of what could be classified as verbal and sexual harassment, not to mention the racial slurs, belittlement, unstable personality, and all around unethical behavior, I put in my resignation.
My boss was shocked; I don't know why he would be. Normal people don't treat other people they want to keep around in a manner that degrades them.
No matter. The emotions that I am feeling are varied. I am worried. Worried that I may have put my family in a poor financial situation. Worried that I made the wrong decision. I am sad. Sad that there are people in the world like him. I am regretful. I regret that I didn't stick up for what I believe is right more often. I regret that I would nod when he would spout off his stupid rants because that was the fastest way to shut him up.
I am supposed to feel relief. Maybe that will happen soon.
Overall, I feel temporarily lost. Whereas before I thought I was sinking on the Titanic, no hope but to go down into they abyss, now I feel like I'm floating on a life raft. Quite fortuitous, but just waiting for something to happen..........don't quite know what to do, never been in this situation before. Just waiting. Going with the flow.