Merry Christmas, one and all! Thank you to the many customers who have patronized LEO Design this Holiday Season—including those who have just discovered us and those who have been supporting us for years. Shown here, a painting of "The Virgin and The Child" painted by the Medieval Venetian master, Paolo Veneziano (who lived approximately 1324-1358). During his life, he was the premier painter of the Venetian Republic and, with his sons, painted the "Weekday Altarpiece" in Venice's Basilica of San Marco. He is considered the founder of the Venetian School of Painting and, though he is influenced by the earlier Byzantine style, he points the way toward the Gothic style, yet to be fully developed. This painting hangs in...
In 1494, nineteen year old Florentine sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti contributed the male angel (and candlebearer) to the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna, Italy. The female partner had been carved by the late Niccolo dell'Arca, who had intended to complete the pair. Michelangelo was hired to finish the male half of the couple. By now, the tomb—inside the Basilica of San Domenico—was already in its 230th year of construction. Many artists contributed to the work which took 500 years to complete. The angels above are a late Twentieth Century recreation based on the Michelangelo (and Niccolo dell'Arca) originals. In 1995, during my first Holiday season at LEO Design, I purchased this pair of Italian painted terra-cotta angels. I received them the week before...
Edward Burne-Jones intended to become a churchman, studying theology at Oxford College where he met William Morris. The two men—and a few others—created a "brotherhood" of ideas and aesthetics, eventually publishing a periodical called the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. They were influenced by Aestheticism—the philosophy that art should be appreciated for its beauty alone, no moral lesson or message required—and developed an affinity for Ruskin, Tennyson and the Middle Ages. They were also influenced by the artistic philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (founded 1848), especially painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Soon, Burne-Jones abandoned his religious calling and joined William Morris in founding a decorative arts studio, manufacturer and design firm which later would be called Morris and Company. Burne-Jones pursued his painting...
The Pond—Moonlight (detail) by Edward Steichen (1904) On this day in 1879, Éduard Jean Stiechen was born in Luxembourg. Éduard would eventually become an American, changing his name to Edward and would make tremendous contributions to the field of art photography. His photo, “The Pond—Moonlight” (detail shown above), shot on a friend’s property in Mamaroneck, NY, would […]
Though William Morris designed and produced many different types of home furnishings, the public best remembers him for his wall paper. Morris & Co. made nearly 100 patterns, half of them designed by William Morris himself. Additionally, patterns were sometimes offered in several color ways. Funnily enough, Morris didn’t really like wall paper! He considered […]
William Morris, probably England’s most-influential Nineteenth Century designer, was born on this day in 1834. With two other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood—artist Edward Burne-Jones and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti—William Morris started the design firm that would one day become “Morris & Co.”. Morris & Co. designed homes and churches, plus they designed and produced […]
The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1647-52) Saint Teresa of Avila was born in Gottarrendura, Spain in 1515. After a rather normal girlhood, Teresa lost her mother, plunging the 14 year old girl into profound sadness. She developed a strengthened devotion to Mary but also took solace in “frivolous” books about knights, […]
“Narcissus” by Caravaggio, c. 1597-1599 (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome) 29 September seems to be a day for painters. Venetian Baroque artist Jacopo Comin (aka: Tintoretto, 1518)), Milanese bad boy Michelangelo Merisi (aka: Caravaggio, 1571), and Parisian Rococo painter François Boucher (1703) were all born on this day. Sadly, artists have left us on this […]
On this day in 1896, Queen Victoria became the longest-reigning monarch in British history—surpassing her grandfather, George III. And she still had four and a half years to go! Victoria still maintains this distinction, though Elizabeth II is closing-in; within two years from now, Elizabeth II will inherit that crown. The portrait of a mature […]
On this day in 1860, England’s then Prince of Wales—who would one day become King Edward VII—arrived on a visit to the U.S., making him the first British heir to the throne to visit North America. For four months he toured Canada and the States, inaugurating bridges, viewing monuments, and drawing enormous crowds wherever he […]
Self-portrait of the artist at the age of 24 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) On this day in 1780, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born to Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres, himself a bit of an artistic dabbler and would-be Renaissance Man. With his father’s encouragement, the son would develop his skill and eventually become one of France’s most […]
On this day in 1486, Florentine artist Andrea d’Agnolo di Francesco di Luca di Paolo del Migliore was born to a tailor and his wife. At eight years of age, the boy was apprenticed to a goldsmith, and, later, to a woodcarver and painter. Before long, Andrea opened his own studio (with a partner) […]
Lev Samoilovitch Rosenberg—later known as Léon Bakst—was born on this day in Grodno, Russia (which is in modern day Belarus). He grew-up in Saint Petersberg where his grandfather was a skilled tailor whose service to the Tsar was rewarded with a large house and generous wage. Though his middle-class parents didn’t encourage it, Léon was […]
If one artist is responsible for “inventing” the image of the American male in the early Twentieth Century, surely it was Joseph Christian Leyendecker, born on this day in 1874. Leyendecker was born in Montabaur, Germany and his family immigrated to Chicago when the boy was eight. In time, he got work in an engraving […]
Only one person can be “The Best Ever” and, in the world of art, that person is Michelangelo Buonarroti. Born on this day in 1475, Michelangelo was in the right place at the right time. Or, perhaps thanks to Michelangelo, his time became the right place and the right time. A sculptor, painter, architect, engineer and poet, […]
“The Skating Minister” by Henry Raeburn (1790’s) Nat’l Gallery of Scotland On this day in 1756, Henry Raeburn was born in a small Scottish village, now a part of greater Edinburgh. Orphaned very young, Henry was supported by his older brother for a while until being placed in Heriot’s Hospital, an orphanage founded by goldsmith George […]
Madame X (detail) by John Singer Sargent (1884) In 1870, a group of American businessmen, artists, and society types joined forces to establish a grand, new American art museum—its goal to bring art and culture to the American people. Perhaps they also wished to show Europe that “the new country” had the taste, money, and wherewithal […]
Tonight begin the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. And what an interesting region to spotlight! Happily, it seems that South Korea was able to defuse the "Peninsular Tension" by inviting a few North Korean athletes to participate alongside the Southerners. While generally not a sports fan, every two years I find myself strangely-fixated on the details (and competition) of some niche Olympic sporting event. Perhaps I like the fact that lesser-broadcast sports (at least in America) are given a beautiful platform on which to perform. I like the international aspect of the competition. And I enjoy the camaraderie between competitors who love their chosen sports as much as they love winning. Competitors—and their families—have made great sacrifices to get...
While we’re talking about Tragic Monarchs, let’s turn to England’s Charles I. On this day in 1649, King Charles I was beheaded after being convicted of High Treason. Born the second son of James I (who was already King of the Scots), Charles moved to England when his father acquired the English crown. When he […]
I've been told that this print depicts Turn-of-the-Century American boxer Jack Johnson—who toured the world as a prizefighter. Of this, I'm not certain. What I do know is that the print was made by Sir William Nicholson, RA in 1898. Nicholson was an accomplished fine artist, a painter, who paid the rent with his recognizable prints of sporting events, fictional characters or people of arts, letters and politics. He would create the original artwork by carving into a woodblock from which he would make his first prints. Once a good woodblock print had been produced, Nicholson would use the newly-invented lithography to create quality reprints, usually in portfolios of a dozen (or so). Two other things which Nicholson produced were...
Norman Rockwell: “Freedom from Want” (1941-1943) Based on President FDR’s speech. While this image does not look like most American families—it doesn’t look like mine—I believe all Americans can aspire to (and hope for) a Freedom from Want. Wishing our LEO Design customers and staff a Happy and Relaxing Thanksgiving. We look forward to […]
The Holiday Season draws to an end—there are just eight days ’till the New Year. Tonight we celebrate a LEO Design Holiday tradition as we have for nineteen Christmas Eves past: the procession and installation of our Italian terracotta angels into the shop window. I bought the angels in 1995, fully-intending to sell them. I […]
On this day in 1898, Maurits Cornelius Escher was born in Leeuwarden, capital of Friesland, Northern Netherlands. Poor Maurits suffered poor health which affected his academics—he was always a poor student except when it came to art and drawing. He was accepted into The Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, where he studied architecture […]
On this day in 1828, Anglo-Italian painter and poet Gabriel Dante Rossetti was born in London to a Sicilian father and half-Italian mother. As a young man, enchanted with the literature, art and culture of Medieval Italy, he rearranged the order of his name to Dante Gabriel Rossetti—an homage to the towering 13th Century poet. […]
Sculptor extraordinaire, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, was born on this day in 1827, in the little French village of Valenciennes, near the Belgian border. His father was a stone mason and the boy inherited his father’s talent for working with stone. Carpeaux is among the greatest sculptors of the Nineteenth Century, much-commissioned for Emperor Napoleon III and […]
On this day in 1751, the first reported cricket match was played in America. Both the New York Gazette and the Weekly Post Boy report the match between the London and New York “sides.” (New York won.) Three years later, Ben Franklin picked-up a copy of the rules book in London, helping to regularize the […]
On this day in 1785, Jean Rabin Audubon was born on the French colony of Saint-Domingue—now called Haiti. His father was a French naval officer who owned a sugar plantation there; his mother was the man’s mistress. The senior Audubon was an “active man”; the young Audubon grew-up amongst a number of half siblings of […]
The date 19 April 1775 marks the Battles of Lexington and Concord—the first two armed conflicts which began the American Revolutionary War. And, since 1894, Massachusetts has commemorated the day as Patriots’ Day. Costumed re-enactments are staged at Lexington Green and Concord’s Old North Bridge. And, naturally, a mounted horseman re-traces the route of Paul […]
It was just before sunrise on this day in 1387. A group of religious pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark (part of modern-day Central London), about to begin their four day journey. 60 miles to the west stood their destination: The Canterbury Cathedral, specifically the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Beckett, who had […]
Henrik Ibsen is considered by some the greatest playwright since Shakespeare. He is called “The Father of (Theatrical) Modernism” by others. His great plays include “Hedda Gabbler,” “Peer Gynt,” “A Doll’s House,” and “An Enemy of the People.” He was born and died in his home country of Norway (1828-1906), and was captured in the […]
In the ancient Roman calendar, the “Ides” were the mid-point in a month—either the 13th or 15th, depending on the length of that particular month. Each month’s Ides were celebrated in honor of Rome’s top deity, Jupiter, and a “scapegoat” was paraded and sacrificed to that god. The Ides of March—15 March—was extra-special since March […]
Daumier’s The Third Class Carriage (detail) 1862-64 (MMA) On this day in 1808, French artist Honoré Daumier was born in Marseille. Daumier’s father, a working class tradesman with dreams of becoming a poet, moved his young son and family to Paris in pursuit of his goal. Young Honoré soon became interested in art and eventually […]
As England’s longest-reigning monarch (to date), Queen Victoria’s passing was a significant moment in that country’s history and, naturally, required a funeral befitting her legacy. As was her custom, the Queen had spent Christmas 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, just off the southern coast of England. The residence, created in the […]
A Merry Christmas to you and a grateful Thank-you, as well. LEO Design will be closed today. Please visit us tomorrow; we will be open from Noon until 6:00 pm everyday through (and including) New Year’s Day. And—if you cannot help yourself—our on-line shop is always open. Thanks again.
San Francisco de Asis by Francisco de Zurbarán, c. 1660 The Triduum of Hallowmas is a three day observance in the Catholic (and the greater Christian) church: All Hallows’ Eve (31 October), All Hallows’ Day (1 November), and All Souls’ Day (2 November). All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ Day) is when the church […]
On this day in 1609, Captain Henry Hudson began exploring the river that would one day bear his name. At the time, the area was yet-to-be settled by Europeans. The Native Americans, however, had experience interacting and trading with whites in the past. It was Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano who had discovered the mouth of […]
Leon Bakst: Costume rendering of Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1912) After relocating the company from Russia to Paris, The Ballets Russes continued to grow in fame and ambition. Its captain, Sergei Diaghilev’s genius was in identifying and recruiting exquisite talent (dancers, composers, choreographers, and designers) and pulling from them new, wonderful, and (sometimes) shocking […]
Georges Barbier: Vaslav Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1913) Yesterday, in Washington D.C., I had the great fortune to see a wonderful exhibit at the National Gallery: “Diaghilev & The Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music.” Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929) sampled many fields—law, music, art, publishing, art curation—before he discovered his great […]
To wrap-up this little series on “Leos in Art,” let’s return to Venice—the city of St. Mark and his lion. Last month, my partner and I ended our summer holiday with a few days in Venice. Having been there a couple of times previously, we steered-clear of the well-worn “highlights,” choked with summer tourists (including […]
In the “modern” world, the lion has maintained pride of place in art and architecture. St. Mark, the evangelist, is usually depicted as a winged lion. He is the patron saint of Venice (at least since the Venetians smuggled his remains out of Alexandria, Egypt in 828 AD), therefore lions—winged or otherwise—are plentiful in that […]
Scuola di San Rocco (c.1902-04) by John Singer Sargent In my opinion (for what it matters), “Art” is the accomplished manipulation of a medium. Some artists manipulate paint, others marble; some artists will manipulate words, while others manipulate vocal notes. Great artists—by definition—are great at doing it. On Sunday I witnessed a Master’s Class […]