Friday, March 19, 2010

Arty Farty Fresco Friday

Today, 19 March, in Roman times marked a celebration known as Quinquatria (5th after the Ides (15th) of March), honoring Minerva, goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music. Wikipedia also tells that, as this festival was sacred to Minerva, women were accustomed to consult fortune-tellers and diviners on this day.

A dip into Google Image set me on a cyber route to Italy in search of art featuring Minerva, the month of March, and a touch of astrology.

Renaissance artists Francesco del Cossa and Cosmè Tura, between 1460 and 1470, designed and painted a set of frescoes in the Palazzo Schifanoia - a pleasure palace belonging to the Dukes of Este who ruled Ferrara, in northern Italy, for several centuries. In the palace's Sala dei Mesi (Hall of the Months) were originally 12 huge separate fresco panels, floor to ceiling, one for each month.

The panels depict "allegories of the months" combining scenes from mythology, astrological references and illustrations of local life with its ruling Dukes. Each panel is divided into three horizontal sections- top: month, its planet and ancient divinity in triumphal procession; middle section shows the appropriate sign of the zodiac, bottom section depicts events relating to the time of year. Astrological input was, it is reported, overseen by Pellegrino Prisciani, professor of astrology.

Most panels have been lost to time and/or layers of whitewash later applied, but those for March, April and May have survived well. It's the March fresco "Allegory of March - Triumph of Minerva" which interests me today, and links back to Minerva and Quinquatria.

First image shows the complete March fresco, below it some enlargements of various sections. Minerva is being carried in procession in the top panel, which also depicts, on the left a group of poets and magistrates, on the right women with symbols of feminine labour. The middle layer represents the zodiac sign Aries, while the lower layer shows a hunting scene.



Wisewebwoman said...

It struck me, studying these gorgeous frescoes that Christianity soon put a stop to the reverence of women, eh? (Unless they were virgins, of course!).

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Ain't that the truth!