Religion, Humanism, Hearts and Armour
The plague caused a cataclysmic shift in religious belief. The populace was acutely conscious that nothing the clergy did was effective in stopping the progress or recurrence of the horror. Explaining the Black Death required a newer paradigm. And that new perspective was not long in coming. Beginning in the fourteenth century, there was a yearning for the good old days of Antiquity. A vigorous search for ancient Latin manuscripts commenced. The man whom the Encyclopedia Britannica has adorned the founder of humanism, Francesco Petrarca or Petrarch, was in the vanguard of this quest. He is credited with the re-discovery of two speeches by Cicero and of the Confessions of St. Augustine. But it is the Ferrarese poet Ludovico Ariosto who may have coined the term humanism. Ariosto is mostly famous for his Orlando Furioso, which gives an account of Charlemagne’s legendary champion, Roland. It is a tale that has captured many imaginations. Twice, it was set to music, as opera, by Antonio Vivaldi: first in 1714 (RV 819) and then in 1727 (RV 728). And part of the story has been retold in the Italian film: Hearts and Armour (1983).
Egyptian Princess Beaded Watch
A watch with a design taken from a beaded pectoral belonging to Princess Sit-hathor-yunet who lived some 1,800 years before the birth of the Christ.
The pectoral, discovered in a niche of the princess’ tomb, is of gold with veneers of carnelian, feldspar, garnet and turquoise, interwoven in the body. Since the tomb was constructed alongside the mud-brick pyramid at el-Lahun bearing the remains of Senwosret II, it’s very likely the princess stood in some special relationship to the king. There is speculation she may have been his daughter.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905) was the scion of a moderately successful French merchant family. He was a prolific painter, leaving behind over 800 works, and is generally regarded as a model product of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, that bastion of the French academic tradition. According to Fred Ross of the Art Renewal Center, prices for Bouguereau paintings skyrocketed over the past twenty years. In 1998, L’Eveil du Coeur (The Heart's Awakening) sold, at Christie’s, for $1,410,000. A year after, Cupid et Psyche, Enfants (Cupid and Psyche as children) sold for $1,760,000 also at Christie's. The very next day, Sylvester Stallone sold Alma Parens (The Motherland), through Sotheby’s, for $2,650,000. And, in 2000, La Charité (Charity) changed hands at Christie’s for $3,528,000. All three of these are now in private collections.