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Archive for the ‘Modern & Historical Art’ Category

The Mayan Ruins – Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras

Posted in Modern & Historical Art, Sculptures & Monuments  by admin on October 27th, 2008

The Mayan knowledge of astronomies is unrivalled by any other culture and the traditional calendars till not many years back were brilliant pieces of astronomy. Their enduring ability show through all the ruins in Central America, cities that declined long before Columbus. The traditions and values, however, live through the art and architecture of the modern Maya.

The ancient Mayan world was situated round the Yucatan Peninsula stretching to the rainforests of Mexico in the east and to the west to Belize and all the way up the highlands of Guatemala. The Mayan world also touched the eastern edges of Honduras and El Salvador. With the changes over hundreds of years, today’s Mayan people are numbered at four to six million and speak around 30 different languages divided into different ethnic groups!

Not only the architecture and astronomy, the world today is also deriving a lot of knowledge and medicines from the Mayan herbal medicines. The social organization of the villages has also remained the same through centuries and so has the various cultivation methods like the slash and burn method. Thatched roof houses and people who still grow corn, squash, beans and tomatoes takes you back into history amalgamating the modern and the historical into a journey of discoveries.

Similar to the other factors Mayan root that show through their present day lives, perhaps the most obvious is the religious and spiritual connect. Like every other civilization, spiritual connotations in the buildings and temple complexes have endured. Most of the Mayan cities were sites of ceremonies rather than trade or commerce. For the decentralized network of farmers, these cities were the focal point of spiritual and magical healing and prowess! The weaves to date show the carvings of the sacred symbols on the walls and stones. Each symbol has meaning and the modern Mayan still makes offerings to the same deities.

Palenque, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking Mayan ruins is situated in the Palenque National park in Chiapas. Situated at the base of a hill, the city could be seen for days from the coast and Mayans walking back home could know their direction of travel. Many decorative motifs are one of a kind and even show Chinese influences. The temple of inscriptions is an interesting pyramid which houses the crypt of a powerful priest called Pa Kal discovered in 1952. Untouched for almost a millennium, many objects from the crypt have been taken to various museums for studying them and display. The subterranean passages and the fine structure and carvings are admired by visitors to this powerful ruin everyday.

Dating back to 642, the temple of suns has the best restored roof combs of all Mayan ruins. These were false fronts beautifully carved and decorated and prevalent in all Mayan buildings. Colorfully painted, these roof combs were a symbol of grandeur and still inspire the contemporary art and architectural forms. The Temple of the Jaguar shows a lot of similarities to Cambodian and even Hindu art with the Foliated cross motif and the bas-relief motifs.

The Mayan ruins are spread across such a large area that one cannot write or read them at one go. When visiting you are bound to feel the power, grandeur and mystique through the temples and cities.

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Baalbek’s Ancient Ruins

Posted in Modern & Historical Art, Sculptures & Monuments  by admin on October 24th, 2008

A part of the Roman Empire, the ruins at Baalbek constitute some of the largest temples. The Baalbek ruins are located in the Bekka valley at a distance of 85 kilometers from the city of Beirut. Though the actual date of the foundation of Baalbek is not known, Canaan is believed to be closely associated with Baalbek. It was translated into Greek as Phoenicia was translated from Phoenix.

The phoenix comes from the fabled bird believed to live for 5 to 6 hundred years and then burning itself into ashes. Ever more powerful and youthful, this mythical creature is then believed to rise from its ashes with more energy and vigor to last another 5 to 6 hundred years. Thus symbolizing resurrection and immortality, for the Canaanites, Bal was considered a sacred city.

The ruins of this city and its temples still reflect that sacredness, though the sacred sites and the shrines within the caves of the Canaanites have been since replaced by newer sanctuaries. The sights everywhere are even then a balm for soothing the senses. High columns, stunning cornice that are completely carved and the high drums can only be photographed so well into your memory. The temple of Bacchus and the temple of Jupiter have columns which area as high as 57 feet. The Parthenon’s columns in Athens are only about 24 feet in height while the stones used for the Egyptian Pyramids are a maximum of 18 feet long.

Some of the blocks used in the Baalbek’s ruins are about 64 feet in length and can weigh a whooping 800 tons! These together build the Cyclopean wall that makes the base for the structure of the temple of Jupiter. In the year of 1751, the temple had been drawn with nine columns and in the next 8 years high intensity earthquakes destroyed three of them. The Cyclopean wall is on three sides of the temple. Upon the six columns on the west side of the temple of Jupiter are placed the Trilithon. These are huge blocks, probably the only time such large rocks were handled by man; about 12 feet thick, 64 feet long and 14 feet 6 inches high. Due to the presence of these Trilithon, the temple at one time was called the temple of Trilithon and even Baalbek was referred to as the City of Trilithon.

The temple of Bacchus probably signifies the power and immortality of the state through its architecture the most. The lintel of the temple consists of 3 stones with the one in the center having dislodged in 1202. It was propped up and resurrected by British consul General Richard Burton in the year 1870, though the prop was later removed and the structure made much more secure in 1901 by the German Archaeological Mission. This lintel is not ordinary, showcasing a huge phoenix with caduceus in its claws. The phoenix is shown carrying a garland of pomegranates and pine cones is in its beak and there are two genii with wings holding onto the ends of the garland. Perhaps this showcases the immortality and power of the city through the phoenix!

The temples of the Roman Empire were quite unlike other dynasties. Continuously added onto, subsidized, construction of courtyards, other tributary temples and sculptures make them the most spectacular sights even when they are so ruined today. Though only a small part of the structures remain, when you stand among these ruins, you shudder at the power and capacity of the Romans, at how big they thought and how huge they dared to build!

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Old World Wisconsin

Posted in Modern & Historical Art, United States  by admin on September 21st, 2008

Old World Wisconsin was established in 1976 commemorating 200 years of American History. Old World Wisconsin is the largest museum of rural life history in the world. European Immigrants, from the late 19th century to early 20th century, have been preserved on 600 acres of land in Eagle, WI. The natural prairie and woodlands have been untouched to represent the rural heritage of the 1870’s villages.

Countless historians searched, documented, and authenticated historical buildings of the Midwest. The over 60 historical structures were relocated to Old World Wisconsin. The reconstructions of the buildings were perfected to original form. Upon moving the buildings and ethnic farmsteads, the bricks, boards, logs, and stones were numbered to assure precise reconstruction.

To visit Old World Wisconsin is to take a walk into history. The 2 ½ mile walk from settlement to settlement is astonishing. There are live oxen and horsed tilling the land showing the traditional farming methods. Dressed in full costume the wives are preparing dinner over a wood burning stove. You can visit the general store, observe a school classroom, and walk inside the church. The blacksmith will teach and talk to you about blacksmithing as he has his irons in the coal fire. The ladies will shear the wool from the sheep, spin it on the spinning wheel, and make hand crafts.

In 1998, Old World Wisconsin added Pleasant Ridge. This replica of an African-American homestead was originally located in Grant County near Lancaster. Freed slaves from Virginia arrived in 1850 and helped found Pleasant Ridge. Pleasant ridge consisted of over 50 African-American, Germans, Irish, and English farmers. The diverse group bonded and built a log schoolhouse in 1873 and the United Brethren Church in 1884. This group of dedicated farmers formed and shaped a community.

Old World Wisconsin is dedicated to the immigration and resettlement of America. It is a piece of American History for all immigrants. The 10 farmsteads have furnished log houses, barns filled with hay and animals, a school, a church, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a general store, and a well tended garden with heirloom plants. The furnished houses and costumed workers bring back American History for yesterday, today, and generations to come.

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Piazza Navona

Posted in Europe, Modern & Historical Art, Sculptures & Monuments  by admin on August 30th, 2008

Rome is an outdoor city. Though, of course, there are several churches, museums, restaurants, theaters and other indoor attractions, the city shines best when seen from one its piazzas.

The word means public square. But unlike some other internationally famous cities, the piazzas of Rome is truly gathering places for people who love the beauty of outdoor art in all its forms.

Navona accommodates one of the finest examples of Bernini’s fountain work: the Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) built in 1651. Arrayed around the central rocky mass supporting the almost-obligatory obelisk are four large sculptures executed by his students. One of them, the Ganges, was sculpted by Claude Poussin who would later become a master under his own name.

The fountain is a tour de force with a sea monster, a lion, cacti, palm tree and a dozen other pieces woven together around the central column.

The funding was so large for the piece that taxes were levied on bread, prompting outcries from Roman citizens both poor and rich. But with the controversy now a part of history, the visitor can simply relax and have a cup of coffee while watching the busy city.

The Fountain of the Moor is at the other end of the piazza and features a Triton – one of the many gods of the sea – riding a dolphin. From this vantage point, there is ample opportunity for people watching, enjoying the warm Roman sunshine or planning the next stop around the Piazza Navona and its environs. Because there is a good deal to do besides admire one of Rome’s many instances of outdoor waterworks.

There are dozens of merchant stalls, interspersed among the many cafes and restaurants. You could stop near one and have your portrait sketched by one of the many artists dotting the piazza.

There’s nightlife until early in the morning, with mimes, beggars, artists and a hundreds of natives and tourists threading through the oval plaza. The piazza was built around one of the ancient circuses – a circular area where streets converge, not a show with animals.

Make sure to stop in at the Tre Scalini and indulge yourself in a Tartufo. Or visit the oldest extant bar in Rome nearby, the Caffe della Pace. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a Campari and take in the ambiance. Confess your sins at the Church of Sant’Agnese, set not far from three of Bernini’s famous fountains.

The Fontana dei Calderai (Fountain of the Coppersmiths), later on renamed the Fountain of Neptune is also here. Festooned with sea figures, Neptune slaying an octopus, sea horses, dolphins and Nerieds (sea nymphs) it carries Rome’s fountain-sea creature theme to the ultimate peak. The fountain is made of the same Portasanta rose marble used for St. Peter’s doorjambs.

Or, you can take a short walk to the Piazza Sant’Eustachio, between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona and listen to some classical music. Or catch the bus to the Pantheon.

Don’t miss an opportunity to visit one of Rome’s most well-known public squares, even if it is round.

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