Friday, June 20, 2014

Arty Farty Seasonal Friday

As Summer Solstice approaches and the season turns, it's an apt time to feature some artists' impressions of seasons personified.
(For larger versions please click on the images)

 Allegory of the Four Seasons by Bartolomeo Manfredi, c.1610.

Manfredi's picture has been interpreted as an allegory of the Four Seasons, linked to the iconography of the Five Senses and explained as the four ages of man exemplified by various phases of love. There can be little doubt that its primary theme is the Four Seasons. The four figures, crowded behind a stone slab laden with fruit, are clearly identifiable as Spring (a young woman crowned with roses and playing a lute), Autumn (the young man adorned with a Bacchic crown of grapes), Summer (a bare-breasted woman who turns and stares directly at the viewer) and Winter (a shivering old man in a fur hat who is wrapped in a blanket). Nevertheless, their arrangement does not suggest the normal progression of the year and their interaction suggests a second level of meaning.

The rich array of fruit carefully placed before the figures is composed entirely of autumnal produce: grapes, pears, apples, figs, a pomegranate and a squash. This is clearly the domain of Autumn, who kisses the lute-playing Spring but at the same time embraces Summer, who wears a sprig of his wheat in her hair. Summer holds a small round transparent mirror as a symbol of the Origin of Love. Autumn's kiss and embrace signify that music is born of love, while Winter's exclusion is a sad reminder that in old age one is less inclined towards amorous sentiments.

Manfredi's facial features and tightly compressed composition find close parallels in Caravaggio's Musicians. The brightly illuminated fruit, so carefully displayed on cold, grey stone, and Summer's frank confrontation of the viewer over her bare shoulder seem to recall Caravaggio's Sick Bacchus explicitly. Although two other versions of Manfredi's Four Seasons are known, he painted no other allegoric subjects.
(From HERE)

Helios & Phaeton with Saturn & the Four Seasons by Nicholas Poussin, c.1635.

On the painting the sun-god, having Apollo's appearance and attributes, sits on a cloudy throne framed in the zodiacal belt, a lyre beside him; Phaeton kneels in front of him.In Greek mythology Phaeton was the son of Helios, the sun-god. (To the Greeks the nature and functions of Apollo and Helios were distinct and separate. Apollo's identification with the sun was a later development, and was particularly associated with his cult in Roman times.) Helios drove his chariot daily across the sky. Ovid tells of the palace of Helios and his retinue - Day, Month, Year, and the Four Seasons and so on. Here Phaeton presented himself and persuaded an unwilling father to allow him for one day to drive his chariot across the skies. The Hours yoked the team of four horses to the golden car, Dawn threw open her doors, and Phaeton was off. Because he had no skill he was soon in trouble, and the climax came when he met the fearful Scorpion of the zodiac. He dropped the reins; the horses bolted and caused the earth itself to catch fire. In the nick of time Jupiter, father of the gods, put a stop to his escapade with a thunderbolt which wrecked the chariot and sent Phaeton hurtling down in flames into the River Eridanus. He was buried by nymphs. Phaetons's reckless attempt to drive his father's chariot made him the symbol of all who aspire to that which lies beyond their capabilities.
(See HERE)

 The Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1572-3

 The Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, 1896.

Due to their popularity other versions of The Seasons were painted by Mucha, among them these, in 1897 and 1900.

 Masque of the Four Seasons by Walter Crane, c.1903-09

The final two paintings are by Albert Moore (1841-1893) - (thinks:I should do a Friday post on him). The first was painted just 10 days before he died. The second is very appropriate for our time of year.

The Loves of the Winds and Seasons

"The Loves of the Winds and Seasons" is said to reveal the eternal cycles of life. Despite its glorious colours and optimistic message, it was Moore’s last picture, painted from his death-bed.

 Midsummer.  1887.


mike said...

The four seasons have been expressed by many artists over the years and the two artists you selected did exceptional portrayals. Maxfield Parrish is one of my favorite artists and he painted a number of vivid, seasonal depictions that, if hung side-by-side, would capture the change of seasons very nicely. The depth of information conveyed can be boggling in some paintings, as in Bartolomeo Manfredi's.

Here is a link that has some artists' versions of the seasons...from old school to new:;_ylt=AwrTHQ0FOqRTTFMAECJXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0YmNyajFyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDQ1Nl8x?_adv_prop=image&fr=moz35&va=paintings+of+the+seasons

I enjoy the seasons and the transformations each presents, but it depends entirely upon the aspects of the location. I've lived in many different geographical locations, and each has a truly unique performance played-out against the solstices and equinoxes. Some, like my present deep south, have barely distinguishable transitions, and are only recognizable when contrasting the extremes...June 21st compared to December 21st. The March and September equinoxes are too similar...we harvest our winter gardens here in March and April, so the spring equinox is more like the northern fall equinox.

Twilight said...

mike ~ In looking back at my old Maxfield Parrish posts I realise it's time for a re-do. I had, at the time, made a video of some of his paintings to feature in the post, but the video is no more because I closed my account with, I think it was, Photobucket, where the video was held - so the post is now spoiled.

One of these summery Fridays I shall give Mr Parrish a do-over, possibly in honour of his July birthday - I like his work too.

I don't envy your location, climate-wise, I don't like my own either, and would prefer to be somewhere more northerly - but fate, possibly with tongue in cheek, brought me here. ;-)