Friday, July 16, 2010

Arty Farty Friday ~ Astrological Graffiti

Is graffiti art? My husband will hold at length, and with some passion, that it is definitely not. Graffiti, my husband holds, is pure vandalism. I'm not quite as adamant on this, depending on circumstance.
Graffiti (singular: graffito; the plural is used as a mass noun) is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is any type of public markings that may appear in the forms of simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Graffiti has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Wikipedia

Grafitti has been part of the human experience for centuries - aeons in fact when petroglyphs are taken into consideration. Graffiti created by prisoners through the centuries is one type that holds special fascination. The Tower of London has several exceptional examples - they must have imprisoned some very skilled craftsmen and artists!

There's an interesting and lovely example of ancient graffiti in that part of the Tower of London known as The Salt Tower. Carved by a prisoner held in the Tower in the 16th century. It is described thus in the Tower of London Tour ( Electronic Library )
.....the Salt Tower, on the E. side,containing the curious sphere, with the signs of the zodiac, &c.,engraved on the walls. May 30th, 1561, by Hugh Draper, of Bristol, committed to the Tower in 1560, on suspicion of
sorcery and practice against Sir William St. Lowe and his lady.

This inscription in the Salt Tower reads 'Hew Draper of Brystow made this spheere the 30 day of Maye anno 1561'. Imprisoned for sorcery, Hew Draper surrounded his 'sphere' with the signs of the zodiac. Copyright Historic Royal Palaces

"Salt Tower: This was formerly called Julius Caesar's Tower and is of special interest as containing more prisoners' inscriptions than any other, except the Beauchamp Tower; they are moreover in their original places, which many of those in the Beauchamp Tower are not." Here
Goodness only knows what mischief old Hugh/Hew was up to, though I doubt it had much connection with his astrological know-how! Astrologers in those days dabbled in alchemy and occasionally "the dark arts" - whatever they may be. Astrology itself wasn't defined as sorcery in those days, as far as I know. Queen Elizabeth the First herself consulted astrologer John Dee:
When Elizabeth I has to set the date of her coronation, she asks 'her noble intelligencier', the astrologer John Dee. After casting a horoscope, Dee comes up with 15 January 1559. He is a mathematical whiz kid, who also studies astronomy, cartography and medicine. But his belief in the spirit world leads him to have conversations with angels, search for the fabled philosopher's stone.(Time Travellers' Guide to Tudor England)

History never fails to draw me in, so I delved a little deeper to find out more about "William St. Lowe and his lady". It turns out that "his lady" was Bess of Hardwick - described in the synopsis of a biography written by Mary S. Lovell: see extracts below. The relevant sentence perhaps: "She survived sorcery, a poisoning attempt by her brother-in-law and charges of embezzlement."
Bess of Hardwick - First Lady of Chatsworth (1527 - 1608)

Bess Hardwick, born into the most brutal and turbulent period of England's history, the fifth of six daughters of an impoverished Derbyshire nobleman who died before her first birthday, did not have a particularly auspicious start in life. Widowed for the first time at sixteen, yet she outlived four monarchs, married three more times, founded dynasties that still wield influence today, and died one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in England's history.............. Bess Hardwick bore eight children and built an empire of her own including the great houses of Chatsworth and Hardwick.
She survived sorcery, a poisoning attempt by her brother-in-law and charges of embezzlement. She negotiated the tortuous Elizabethan laws of succession and inheritance, endured the probable murder of her third beloved husband, married a fourth time to a senior peer (the Earl Marshall of England) and became co-guardian of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Bess of Hardwick by Mary S. Lovell


gian paul said...

You are both right, your husband and you, Twilight. Graffiti on todays city buildings or subway cars are more vandalism than art.

But the type of historic ones shown here are close to art, if not art.

As a youngster I used to give a hand to my teacher of design in decorating renovated old houses in the Engadine where I was born. It was done "al fresco", onto the still wet mortar of the house in question and is called "Graffiti". Same as in northern Italy or the Alpine part of Austria.

PS. Re astrology and "why that thing works" - Who ever tries to do some posthumous investigation will be positively surprised. I did that with Alberto Giacometti and Coco Chanel: For Giacometti it was at the occasion of one of his sculptures (the Cat) being sold at an extraordinary price about one year ago. Complete match with the sculptor's birth horoscope!

Chanel recently had a movie about her come out. Again, only an astrologer could have chosen the extraordinary timing after looking at Dame Chanel's birth map.

Twilight said...

gian paul ~~~ Oh my, what a beautiful part of the world you came from! So some of your graffiti will still be around there, and for ever too probably!

Re posthumous astrology - I've not investigated this at all, though I've seen mention somewhere that the natal chart can retain function long after death. I'm not sure what to think on this, but your examples do sound persuasive. :-)

Wisewebwoman said...

Eye of the beholder for street art, eh?
I've seen some lovely efforts and it is gaining some recognition.
Wonderful story told there, T. Fascinating lady.

Twilight said...

Yes, Bess of Hardwick was quite a gal!

Wall murals outdoors can be wonderfully creative, yes. I suppose some of these can be true graffiti, though many are commissioned or painted with permission from property owner.
We're always looking out for good examples. :-)